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Holiness and Christian Hygiene

A sink for ritual hand-washing at the entrance to the Ramban Synagogue.

A Recent Church Facebook Post:

The closer you get to Jesus, the more everything else seems so unimportant.

To truly love Christ is not only to desire to be more like him, but to honor him in duty and character. My God is HOLY ♥

Yes, God is LOVE, and that is so integral to understand, but HIS Holiness is of equal if not more importance. HOLINESS looks like something, HOLINESS acts HOLY, HOLINESS loves with a HEAVENLY love, HOLINESS lives a life that honors GOD, and furthermore HOLINESS does not turn on and off, it is there in the dark and in the light, it is there at home, on the street, and church, and on social media, or Snapchat. HOLINESS honors their elders, and treats the house of God with reverence. HOLINESS holds onto the things that are important to GOD.

It is not an exploitation, a ticket to popularity, or self-exaltation. HOLINESS is always HUMBLING.

My brothers and my sisters, it is that HOLINESS that sets us apart. When we seek the face of God there should always be a pulling to separate ourselves from the things that don’t look like him! The more I know him, the more I love him, that much MORE am I aware of my unholiness, Lord let us be more like you!


A friend recently ran across this from a neighborhood church, sent it on to me, and asked what I thought of it. She said there was something about it that didn’t sit right with her, although she didn’t disagree with anything specific in the words.

I could not agree more with all of this. Even a brief look at Isaiah 6 fills the soul with this tremendous sense of reverence at the intimate unmediated presence of the HOLY.

Jesus preached constantly of the HOLY. Of the immediate presence of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven. Lots of the people around Him thought they understood what HOLY meant. Obviously… HOLY means wearing the proper godly clothes, carrying oneself in the proper righteous manner, associating only with those religiously and morally acceptable, vilifying those who were unclean, irreverent, unholy, or sinful, and certainly behaving properly in/at the Temple… respectful of her customs and leadership.

Here Jesus came… not only talking… but WALKING a lifestyle that appeared (to those who were the most expert in godly holiness) entirely UNholy… associating with fallen women, embracing sin riddled lepers, freeing demoniacs from their bondage, consorting with publicans, tax-collecting collaborators with the Romans, healing or telling others to carry forbidden things on the Sabbath, even discussing sacred things with pagans and women, defending the morally irredeemable like fornicators and adulteresses.

And yet… scripture makes clear… HOLINESS does, indeed, have an appearance. The Father is utterly HOLY. But only ONE knows what that looks like… “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.” [John 6:45b-46] Jesus, in fact, NEVER ONCE uses the word “Holy” as a descriptor of the Father. This word HOLY, (ἅγιος, -ία, -ιον), appears only 40 times in the Gospels, Twice referring to the City of Jerusalem, once describing what is not to be given to dogs, once describing a location for the Abomination of Desolation, once uttered by a demon addressing Jesus, once describing John the Baptist in the knowledge of Herod, twice describing angels, once as an angel describes Jesus, once describing the prophets of old, once describing the covenant of the law, once declaring the firstborn male of all species to be holy, and once referring to God in Luke’s rendition of the Lord’s Prayer. Matthew’s rendition uses the word “hallowed” (ἁγιάζω), more often translated “sanctified” or “rendered holy”. Every other Gospel referent to the word “Holy”, primarily spoken by Jesus, is as part of the phrase we translate “Holy Spirit”, (hagios pneuma – ἅγιος πνεῦμα).

So what? Why take so much time to look carefully at what Jesus, the Gospels, and the Bible have to say about Holy and God? Simply that humanity has a tendency to think we know better than God. That God can say something simple, like Jesus’ and John’s revelations that God IS LOVE, and that we will be known as Christians not by our apparent self-righteousness or image of holiness, but by our love for one another. [CF 1 John 3:10-5:3; John 13:34-35] Frail and foolish humanity, all too often deceived by the “appearance” and “status-driven” appetites of power, politics, economics, and social esteem, tend to look upon the “appearance” of the self-righteous and holy-sounding, without seeing the heart as God sees people.

Jesus was both grieved and sickened by such hypocrisy. One day, the religious leaders (whose job they felt it was to defend the Holy at all costs), pointed out the sinful way Jesus and his disciples were eating, having neglected to wash properly, thus disrespecting what they called the “tradition of the elders”. Jesus names them outright, “hypocrites”, quoting Isaiah’s excoriation of them and stating, “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men… You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’;, and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God); you no longer permit him to do anything for his father and mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many such things as that.” [Mark 7:6-13]

Those consumed with religiosity and theology, tend to succumb to the arrogance that they can “define” such words as “righteousness” or “holiness” as things in themselves… free standing concepts apart from the character and nature of God Himself. The problem is, such concepts have true meaning only WITHIN the character and nature of God Himself.

Both Jesus and John assure us that LOVE is not simply a “characteristic”, or an “accidental or subsequent descriptor” of God. Love is not just “one among many features” of God. Love is an essential NAME of God. And SO is HOLY, by the way. And so is RIGHTEOUSNESS. None of these words, these concepts, these names, have meaning or can reflect Truth, without being grounded in one another.

That is… without Love, there is no Holiness. Holiness is one expression of Perfect Love. And Love is one expression of Perfect Holiness. Righteousness is an expression of Love, and Love always expresses itself Righteously… never by corruption or exploitation or cruelty.

I agree wholeheartedly with the initial thesis of the Facebook post… but it seems incumbent upon any careful scriptural scholar to hasten to point out that just as God is Himself Indivisible, so too is His Nature and are His Names.

Fortunately, for those of us who diligently seek to know, love, and see the face of God…

Philip shared that passion. “Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” [John 14:8-15]

An Ultimate Definition of HOLINESS Perhaps?

Holiness is patient, Holiness is kind and is not jealous; Holiness does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Holiness never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.  [CF I Cor 13:4-10]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What is Sin… Really?

accountability pageYou see this article on “Accountability”, and read this Inventory List for Conscience. It helps you know how and when you’ve “sinned” so you can get forgiveness for it. And your heart responds that there’s value to this, it isn’t “bad”… but somehow you feel it hasn’t quite hit the mark.

USCCB You do more research, you find a Catholic treatment for the Examination of Conscience, and you look it over. Again, not that it’s “bad”, but it just doesn’t seem to scratch the itch in your spirit as you ponder the questions of living in righteousness, versus committing sin. Somehow, virtue and sin don’t seem so cumbersome, so convoluted.

You decide to teach on this topic, and so you begin…

Sin… righteousness… love… peace… one day you are sitting and pondering, studying, working on a lesson or a sermon, and you find yourself grieving, praying, seeking how effectively to communicate something you see in your heart as so simple… You lean back, your brow furrows, your eyes close for a moment…

And suddenly, you no longer seem to be at your desk… You realize that God has heard your heart and your prayers, and He is going to teach you something, show you something, to help you understand and teach…

You find yourself standing out in a large empty space, dim but not utterly dark, neutral neither warm nor cold, with just a sense of vastness, not fearful or threatening. There in the distance you see light on the horizon and you choose to walk towards it. Startled with surprise, you find that each step moves you very far, as if your will moves you forward by thought, not physics.

As you approach closer to the light that a moment before was on the horizon, you realize that you are about to look upon the Father… God… the Almighty over All. Somehow, you know you are at the very Beginning, the Before the Beginning. This, is the Void, the Formless Void, and God (in whatever form and manner you perceive Him/Her) is smiling in welcome at your arrival. Amazingly, when He smiles, He smiles all over… His eyes, His hands, His heart… all welcomes you, and you stand just steps away from Him, unsure of whether to look up or down, to bow or to stand.

He takes your hand, raises your chin, smiles, and simply says, “Behold…”

He turns towards the Void around Him, extends His arms, and the radiance from His heart moves outwards reaching to touch all around Him. You realize, you are watching Creation. As you stand there, awestruck, you know that matter and energy have come into Being.

With another sweeping gesture, His arms raise again, and with a pulsing motion forms take shape all around you, near and far. You see planets, stars, sand, rocks, the forms of grass, trees, even animals. But all seems still.

“Now watch…” He says with a smile, as He turns to you, then back to His work.

You see a richer glow begin at His heart, as it flows upwards and outwards through His arms and fingers. You know, without knowing how you know, that He has just brought forth Life… and you see all these living things now begin to move.

Then, in a way you cannot describe, you see Him touching all of this… Everything… all at the same moment, and you realize that He is loving, He is feeding, He is upholding… All that is. All that He has created. That all of this is from Him, part of Him, has come from Him and is yet Him and His.

He turns to you again, and says… “Here is the best part…”

Again He faces His creation and the glow from His heart moves out through both His hands and His lips as He sings forth music unspeakable. Now there appear… “children”… is the word that goes through your mind. You hear Him sing, “My Children”. And you see that He is singing forth everyone, everywhere, everywhen. The beauty of it all leaves you breathless.

He turns to you again, reaches forth, and puts His hand on your chest.

You are filled with warmth, as a glow lights you up and flows outwards from your heart through every part of your being. You can feel and see that this warmth, this glow, are extending themselves from your heart outwards to your hands, and upwards to your tongue and lips.

You feel moved, without knowing why, and you embrace Him… God… the Father… the Lord of All. Fear doesn’t even enter your mind, though you’d never have imagined doing such a thing before. And He returns the embrace, kisses you on the top of the head, and you are filled with a fullness of love, safety, and nurturance such as you have never known before. You realize, for the first time all the way through you, that He is truly, utterly, and only Good… and you never need doubt, never need ever but to trust Him completely forevermore.

He directs your gaze to the world we know. And He bids you observe His children, their hearts, hands, and lips.

As you look at the world, you see people. Myriads of people… good, bad, young… old… confident, frightened, hurting, healing… You see all kinds of people, doing all the kinds of things people do.

You see some people with dim hearts, laying hands on other people who glow a bit, and where they touch their hands glow as the object of their touch grows dimmer. The heart of the takers has a reddish dim glow, while children start with brilliant white and gold.

Here and there you see clusters of brilliance, often among whom are hearts that reach out with pulsing connection with this heart of God alongside you. You see that God continues to touch, to nurture, to maintain all His children, all these people. But there are vast differences among individuals how they respond to His touch.

Some people welcome, embrace, and reach towards it. Others simply receive it without response or seeming to notice Him. While still others, those with the dimmest glow, seek to avoid His touch and His love and life (for you realize these all are one in Him).

But as you watch longer, you see that everyone, even the most golden or brilliant, have moments when their hearts flash red, and they touch others with a dimming effect. And much touching seems not to have impact. And some touching, brings light to others and eases their way.

“What am I seeing, Father? (or Lord?)” you ask.

“You are seeing the answer to your questions, My child. Righteousness, sin, virtue, love, life… all of it. It is as simple as ‘relationship’… with Me, with others, with yourself. I, and Only I, give life through love. That is all I do, always. And life only comes through love. But children of free will as you are, you may choose at any given moment to GIVE life through loving another and giving from Me through your heart, your hands, your words… to love another and so give them life. Or, you may choose to TAKE life from another, deprive, neglect, injure, or wound another… diminishing their life, feeding upon them, to love yourself.

“It is quite simple, but very difficult to put in words. Nothing living stands still. Life requires consumption. I Alone am the source of life. I alone can feed you with love, life, and being. When you feed from Me, (I once expressed this as ‘eat My body’), I can fill you utterly and beyond. Water that you never thirst again, bread that you never die. To let Me fill you, and then to pass along such love, such life, such abundance to those around you through your heart… this is love, this is righteousness, this is virtue.

“But to choose instead to feed on others, to love the self at the expense of others, is to deprive them of life. This is to consume others for the sake of the self. Whether materially, or emotionally… to feed the ego by belittling others and making them smaller, is no less a taking of their life as to wound them physically. This is predation. This is vampirism. This… is sin.

“Not only is it wrong, for it takes life from another. It is also ineffective. You cannot truly live on ‘second hand life’. Only I Alone can give full life through love. To steal the life of another will never fill or sustain a person. It can barely maintain them. Eventually, such predation leaves only the empty shell of a life.

“Sin leaves you empty and hungry, no matter how much you grasp or take. Like ’empty calories’, there is no real life to it. The hunger gnaws, and will continue to do so until real life, real love, real Light is found.

“So there you are, Blessed child. To give life to others through love of them and Me, is righteousness. To take life from others for love of yourself, without Me, is sin. Any questions?”

You shake your head, a bit bewildered. This really is quite simple. He hugs you again, kisses you atop the head, and your eyes open…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

You are again seated at your desk wondering how in the world you can ever find the words to explain this.

Then you remember, Jesus said,Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.” [Matthew 15:17-20]

And you get it… everything is sacred. It is ALL held together in His hands, His heart, His love. To treat anything, especially ANYONE… as less than sacred… to fail to love anything or anyone that He died to redeem in the greatness of His love… Yeah, that’s just not OK. You get it now. Righteousness is treating sacred things that He loves as precious. Not to do so… well, yeah, that’s sin. And we do it, because sometimes we choose to… but still He breathes us, He touches us, He loves us… and thus, He lives us.

“Ain’t that somethin’?”  you ponder, silently…

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 6, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Spirituality of Letting Go:”The World”

From: Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Living in this consumer-driven world, we are all deeply infected by what some call “affluenza,” a toxic and blinding disease with the basic assumption that more is always better and more of self is always good. It is fair to say that such invisible assumptions of any culture are as toxic and as blinding as the so-called “hot sins” of drunkards and prostitutes, though they are much harder to recognize as “sin” because we are all inside the same agreed-upon bubble.

John’s Gospel uses the words “the world” in precisely this way. John does not mean nature or creation; he means “the system”—as humans invariably construct it—which is all about security, status, pleasure, and power. These are not bad as such, but they are only limited goods, and most people let them become absolute goods—and that is when they do us in! They become gods or “idols.” John writes: “God did not come to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved” (see John 3:17).

This is indeed why so many of our saints speak about “leaving the world” or the normal systems of illusions. This dramatic beginning invariably ends up being much more subtle and difficult in real life. We finally have to learn to be “in the world but not of the world.” That is, we must compassionately accept the strange way we humans choose to operate and be willing to work inside it, but never really buy into it. We must see things for what they are and also for what they aren’t. Unless we in some way “leave the world,” I think we can safely assume we are utterly beholding to it.

Mature spirituality creates willing people instead of willful people. We slowly unfold in response to love and grace and freedom, rather than in mere reaction to the illusions of others. Without this insight, religion largely creates rigid, unhappy, and judgmental people. When we try to take charge of our own “enlightenment,” when we try to be fully in control of our own “purity” and superiority, our attitude becomes pushing and demanding—ego assertion, even if it looks like religious ego assertion. I think is what so many people rightly dislike and mistrust about religious people: in the name of the good, will power creates a well-disguised bad. Jesus was a master and genius at recognizing this problem.

Immature religion creates people who know what they are against, but have a very poor sense of what they are for. They are against sin, always as they narrowly define it; but they are seldom for love or actually for anything except the status quo where they think they are in control. This is indeed “the world” and will never get them very far if they are trapped within it—unless they recognize this same world as pervaded with heaven. For me, this is the genius of the Gospel. The world is good in its wholeness, but our little portion of separated parts is never the whole, so we must leave our addiction to the system to discover the Empire of God. We must always let go of full control over the parts to love and accept the whole.

Gateway to Silence:

Let be. Let love.

 

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About the Busy God

244px-messier-42-10-12-2004-filtered-e1401834586474 Over the past several months… off and on for a couple years, now… I have found the Lord capturing my mind, my prayer times, by one or another single word. A single concept that He seems to draw me into with such intensity and clarity that it’s as if He were “teaching class” to a student body of one alone. And upon return to the here-and-now of IRL (in-real-life), the experience of this time just changes everything, changes perspective, changes the standpoint from which I live.

One of these words has been “Infinite”. Another has been “Kingdom”. Another, “Beauty”.

For just a moment, I’d like to look at “Infinite” with you, and see if sometime you, too, will ride out to this wondrous zone where we can experience what we cannot possibly comprehend or certainly explain. Our “prayer maps” should include a border warning that says… “Caution: Beyond here there be Mysteries”… knowing that while we may get there, while we may experience them and survive, upon return our most sublime words will sound like incoherent babblings.

Let us start with an obvious proposition as we consider “Big”… Let’s look at Douglas Adams’ statement in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, that “Space is really big”.

Now, let’s try a thought experiment for just a moment: Think… “Infinite”… and “Big”. And then “Infinitely Big”. Just let your mind move to the Cosmos, and just keep expanding with the universe, and imagine all of that INSIDE GOD… no matter how far or how long you go outward. The mind will tend to numb fairly shortly, and that’s good.

But wait! There’s more! Now, think… “Infinite”… and “Small”. And then “Infinitely Small”. And let your mind move downwards in size, from Planets, and Stuff, and Mountains, to Hills, to Mounds, to Boulders, to Rocks, to Stones, to Pebbles, to Sand, to Grains, to Crystals, to Molecules, to Atoms, to Protons, to Electrons, to all those little oddly-named particle-wavy things we don’t know what they are, but they help hold everything together bits… and realize that God is on an intimate first-name basis with the smallest conceivable bit of reality that you can imagine! (And more than that…)

But wait! Let’s look at this another way! We’ve only been thinking of “space”… big and small. What about TIME?

When one is Infinite… how long is “a long time”? I mean, really… we think about the history of man, or the history of life, or the history of the planet we ride. And the mind boggles. But when we think of that against a backdrop of “Eternity”… really “Infinite Time”… that’s but an eyeblink. There is “no time” that applies to the Eternal. And, again, that goes the other way as well! How quick is “too fast” for the Infinite Eternal? I mean, a decision, a thought, an action, a movement, whether hours, seconds, nanoseconds… God can enter into any scale of time at all, even the pause between thoughts, decisions, aspirations in our own hearts and minds… as though they were separated by stops and starts.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now, I’ve said all of that in about 500 words. And yet, I can assure you, God has patiently worked with me on those things time and time again over a couple of years. The implications of the Eternal Infinite God are a mine of jewels that can never be adequately plumbed or exhausted. Why? Because while WE are limited in myriad ways… He is not. While WE have boundaries and edges… HE does not. We, as human beings, use religion to find “the rules”, the “definitions”, the “theologies” that will adequately describe, contain, and constrain Him. While HE simply “IS”.

I invite you to enter this ponder at your own pace, in your own way…

And, as far as a “practical application” for the “take away” to this post…

How many times have we prayed, or we hear someone else pray, “Dear Lord, I know You are really busy running the Universe and all. And I know that I’m just a simple nobody (or simple child) here with this little piddling problem. I know I don’t deserve Your time or attention, and I don’t mean to interrupt or bother You… but… if You don’t mind very much… I have this need/problem/concern/want that I’d like to pray for. So, if it’s OK with You, please…” whatever… “Amen”

So many think God has so much “important stuff” going on, and that we just barely rise to the level of His patient tolerance. We hear preachers tell us that He seeks true intimacy, that He desires nothing more than our company, that He is always there for us and to “pray always”. But we’ve grown up in a world, in relationships, in families… with “limited attention and time”… with “time management issues”… where we have to compete or excel to merit attention, praise, or companionship.

What is my heart’s desire that you “take away” from this post?

An Infinite Eternal God has MORE than “all the time in the world”, and “all the attention in the world” to lavish on His children. When you seek Him out, when you speak with Him, when you share your concerns (big or little, important or piddling) with Him… He ATTENDS! He is fully, totally, infinitely PRESENT in every single moment (long or short) that you spend with Him. (Truth be told, He is present in each moment that you breathe and live, whether you attend to Him or not.)

So… live in the “As If”… world. “As if He really loves you. As if He is really there. As if He is really listening, responding, and attending to your every need and your wholeness and wellness.”

Because, whether we know it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not… this is what it means to be Eternally Infinite God… and so He IS.

Grace to you, Gentle Reader!

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2016 in Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Your Grace Box: An April Pearl

Grace III-page-001(1)

 

How wondrous!


If the audio will not play, here is the YouTube of the original composition:

 
5 Comments

Posted by on April 15, 2016 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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The Resurrection – What’s the Big Deal?

Empty Tomb

From time to time across my life, the Lord has granted me the grace of some “new” understanding of Him, of me, of “stuff” relating the two… of Him and the world… just… “something”… on Easter morning. This effect is always the most profound when He guides me along some “path of preparation” (rather reminiscent of John the Baptist’s “prepare ye the way of the Lord… Make straight paths…”) during Lent.

I put the word “new” in quotations opening this post, because what I learn is often not “new” at all… It is something, some word or phrase, that we ALL know… that we’ve ALWAYS known… maybe all our lives. And yet, the learning opens before me with unimagined depth and breadth, such that it seems I had never heard or seen it before.

This Easter, this Resurrection Sunday just past, has been one of those times and, to be perfectly frank, I’m still “recovering” from it.

I awoke, gently… quietly… and the Lord spoke just one single word. “Resurrection”

That’s all He said. But…

I could not even move from my bed before He just “unfolded” that word before me… took me inside of it… let me watch in an entirely new way what HE means/meant by it… that it felt as if I lay there for two hours, though it may have been seconds, minutes, or half the day. Time just stood suspended.

Jesus, sitting up naked, clearing Himself of His winding sheet in Joseph of Arimathea’s borrowed tomb? Yes. That was there. But… but… there was just so much MORE! I had never thought about the actual technical “meaning” behind the word “re-surrection”. It means… “breathing again”. It became this “coming-again-to-life” of not only Jesus, but all of mankind, and all of the fallen world, and all of the Cosmos, all of Creation.

The Re-surrection was, is, the “Fresh Start of Life”, buried with Jesus in His death, raised again in Newness of Life…

Not just Him, not just “us”, but ALL!

Is that a big enough deal?

How about this, then?

Two things, ONLY two things, denote the Christian… the one translated from domain of darkness to kingdom of light, Kingdom of God… to trust and acknowledge that The Father sent Jesus, the Son… and raised Him from the dead.

Why is that “all we need to know”? Because within THAT, all else is contained and subsumed.

How many times have I heard the protest, “Being a Christian is too hard. I go to Church and I don’t know enough. Everybody in Sunday School knows all this ‘stuff’ and I feel like an ignorant fool! And the Bible is too complicated, all these rules, verses, books, stories. I just don’t get it. I’m not SMART ENOUGH to be a Christian or go to church!”

Oh, the pain in my heart at such words!

What did the APOSTLES require of a “new church” just “getting with the program” in the First Century?

Three Things: (1) No fornication. (2) No eating the meat of strangled animals. (3) No eating meat sacrificed to idols.

I mean, they had a big MEETING about it and everything! And that’s what they settled on. Now, how “complicated” is all that for a Church Covenant?

There wasn’t any Bible at the time to impress one another with, or make gentiles memorize.

Paul repeats time and time again, he preaches(preached) only Jesus, and Him crucified!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Christian life should never get so complicated, Gentle Readers.

Believe in the Father, His love, His provision. Believing in the Son sent from the Father, born true man, living as true man yet truly God son of God. Believing in the Passion, the Cross, and… AND… the RESURRECTION!

Life, pulled from the maw of death… destroying death and darkness once and for all in the glory and power of Life and Light!

Love God, love neighbor, love self. Love as Jesus loves…

Complicated? Hardly!

But this word, Gentle Reader… the Power of this Word… Resurrection!

When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in Jesus of the Cross, and Jesus of the Gospels, and Jesus of the Manger. When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in God the Father who raised Him. We believe in God and the Old Testament, and the Covenant God made with man, to care for him as his God, and receive him as His people. When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in God who walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day, and who fashioned man in His own image, and who fashioned Adam and Eve as created He them.

Many many peoples have worshiped gods who bring death from life. Many peoples have worshiped gods who demand sacrifice in payment for their blessing and good will. Many peoples have worshiped gods who generate fear to constrain and rule men.

Our God is none of that. Our God brings Life at the destruction of death. Our God sacrificed Himself, to feed and bring blessing to men. Our God generates Love that conquers fear, and has removed punishment having taken that upon Himself.

This is not complicated. We need not make it so. This is simple relationship. And we can decide… each of us individually… whether or not we CHOOSE to TRUST in such relationship. And… we can invite others to do so, generally in words of nearly one syllable.

God is so urgently, so intently, so intimately present… right here, right now… seeking relationship of touch and immediacy with His children…

One friend I had used to put it this way:

  1. Do you believe that Jesus truly lived, and was sent by Our Father, God?
  2. Do you believe that Jesus truly died, hung on the Cross?
  3. Do you believe that Jesus truly rose again, resurrected by the Father?
  4. Has he ever died since?
  5. Then He must be alive right now!!!

Let us all be Resurrected, freed of deadness, numbness, decay, atrophy. Let us all be made alive! Wonderfully alive! Totally Alive! As only HE knows and makes Life!

It’s just not that complicated, is it? Be joyful in the grace of New Life!

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2016 in Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Angel’s Journal, Entry Six: “Who Could Believe This?!!”

Journal Entry:

I still can scarcely believe this day myself, but I have to get something down about all this. It all began so bleakly…

The vulgarity… the violence… the contempt… I cannot even write down my thoughts or feelings about what happened between The Master’s betrayal by Judas, and His final breath on the Cross. Perhaps later, but not now, not yet.

And then… He died.

He really, totally, died. Just like most every other man born of woman. He died. The groan throughout heaven was nearly palpable. The higher ups looked grave, but unsurprised. Even *I* realize that He had spoken clearly that He was going to die, but still… I mean… how could this be? So often, He spoke “figuratively”. I guess I had hoped this was one of those kinds of thing. But it wasn’t. He died.

His Body was taken down, laid in a borrowed tomb, and he was hurriedly washed and anointed, as even His friends had to get home before the sun fully set.

But then… then… the strangest thing(s) happened! (For one thing, “time” got really muddled between the celestial and the material. Because He remained fully Him, and yet His natures… Well, I don’t really understand HOW this all happened, but I’ll just note down what DID happen!)

Anyway, He was washed, anointed, wrapped, and left in that tomb. The Temple officials (not caring about their OWN people getting home for the Passover night), posted guards and rolled this megalith in front of the entrance so that no one could get to Him. (Ha! Little did THEY know. But I get ahead of myself…)

Anyway, no sooner had the tomb been sealed, than a little messenger sprite pops in front of me with a sealed scroll with gilt edges. I open it, and find I am summoned to the commissioning desk… I have an assignment. I shook my head… “REALLY?” I thought… “in the midst of all THIS, now it’s ‘business as usual’, and I have an assignment?” But it was better than doing nothing, I figured, so I zipped to the desk to serve as I was called.

Never did I imagine!

Twelve of us had been summoned, and the task director was just beaming all over as he congratulated us, and said if he were capable of envy he would envy us. He seemed to take delight in our puzzled expressions, and said very little as reverently he handed each of us various garments of exquisite crafting. Sandals, undergarments, finest linen tunic, sash… it wasn’t until he got to the final garments, a magnificent Robe and covering cloak that we realized Whose these were. This clothing was woven of spirit and truth, had indefinable texture as fine as spidersilk, and shone with colors no human eye has ever seen.

These… were The Master’s robes… His Kingly Robes… His Priestly Robes. These were the garments He would wear upon His return to Earth at the end of man time… and they were here… HERE… in OUR HANDS!

Our assignment was simple. We were to proceed, the dozen of us, to and into the tomb, and await The Master’s need for His clothing.

We were stunned… but delighted.

With the speed of thought, we entered the Tomb. It was large enough, with a stone niche in which The Master’s body, wound with His gravesclothes, lay. We arrived, each bearing our items, and waited.

It was not but moments before we… er… “felt”, more than “heard”, the melodious voice of The Father, His Majesty, entone with the greatest love…

“Awaken now, My Son. Well, well done, My good and faithful Beloved. Come, now, as We complete Our tasks!”

The Master arose, in the fullness of His Glorious Body, as His flesh remained within the winding sheet. Confused though we were, we knelt and sang in joy and wonder at His return. Our presence had already brought light into the space, but His arising prompted a golden glowing brilliance never seen since the Shekinah.

Always knowing the thoughts of those about Him, He smiled as He donned each garment in order, answering the confusions in myself.

I have already said, the whole “time” thing got a bit muddled in this space between sundown Friday and sunrise of Sunday (as men name these days).

“You wonder why my flesh remains here for the moment… Well, I have said My body must remain in the earth for these three days, as Jonah was in the whale. I will not appear to any on earth, until that flesh arises and the stone is rolled away. But, in this meantime, I have things to accomplish… and a dinner date at home this night with a thief.” And He smiled at us, touched us all, and allowed us to serve Him as we fitted His garments to Him.

“You may remain with Me for this time, if you wish…” He said.

We wished.

Together, He and we twelve singing praises to Him, His Majesty, and The Radiance… sped towards heaven. We thought He would return to His Throne first and foremost, to see The Father. But we were wrong…

Instead, He headed first to the Temple Not Made With Hands… the one foreshadowed and copied by the Tabernacle and Temple of Jerusalem. We stood, six to a side, as He made the Once For All Offering of His own Life, His Own Blood, in total and utter satisfaction of all debt owed by the sin of Creation. It was amazing.

Having thus completed Reconciliation, He THEN went to The Father’s Throne, to bring “closure” to His offering. They only spoke a few moments, as His Majesty raised His hands and blessed both The Master and all of Creation, in the completion of this Sacrifice of and by The Lamb of God. They embraced, The Master bowed (as did we all), and strode from the Great Hall.

Each of us were very silent, wondering how long we could tag along before being dismissed, as we fanned out from Him something like an Honor Guard. All around us cheered and bowed, as The Master passed… and He seemed vibrant with joy and celebration as He touched as many as reached out to Him.

We got to the boundary of paradise, the threshold between our dimension and others, as He said, “I have one more task to complete for the moment. Would you care to come along?” We all eagerly assented. “Very well,” He continued. “You’re about to go somewhere you have never been, and may well never go again. We depart.”

Following Him, we were shocked to find ourselves at… the Gates of Hell. More precisely, we were at the veil of the underworld, the land of shades of those passed on. Great symbolic chains, locks, bars, and barriers kept the living, the ever living, and the dead apart and separated. With no more than a mighty sweep of His arm, and a cry of, “People of faith! Walk free into the Light! Welcome to My Kingdom, ye Saints!”… all the obstructions vanished, and those whose hopes had ever been in the Lord, were now able to come to Him, touch Him, kiss Him, hug Him.

Being Who, and what, and how, He is… He could (and did) greet and embrace them each by name. Together, we all made our way home to Paradise.

When we had returned, all tasks done, The Master passed through His quarters and emerged dressed once again in His typical simple style.

He called ten of us to be privileged to care for His things for a time, and serve at a banquet being held for Him, the Father, the Radiance, the returning saints, and one recently deceased thief. Two of us (myself, disappointedly) were not among the chosen. I tried not to show my disappointment… but you can’t “hide thoughts” around Him.

“Don’t be dejected,” He said as He smiled. “I have a different task for you and Heracles, if you don’t mind.” (We smiled broadly, nodding our assent.) “I would like you to return to My Tomb, and stand vigil over My Body. In ‘our time’ here, it will only be a few moments from now. But in ‘man time’ it will be about 36 hours, and I will return. You will then break open the Tomb as I exit, and remain behind to explain what has happened. Will you deliver these messages for Me?”

We could scarcely contain our glee!

And so it came to pass. On the Third Day, Heracles and I participated in a great earthquake and rolled away the stone, watched The Master rise in His Resurrected Body of Flesh, saw Him disappear, folded His graveclothes, and awaited the women who came to anoint His corpse properly.

Should I live forever (which of course, I shall… but still…)… Should I live forever, I shall NEVER forget the privilege…

I got to sit atop a great heavy sealing stone and say to some of The Master’s very Best Friends…

“Why do you seek the Living among the Dead? He is Risen, just as He said He would…”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Who could ever believe such a thing?

No… wait… apparently THAT is now a very important question. One of those “choice” things I spoke of before…

Oh well. Enough for now. A bit more, later. Allelujah! He is Risen!

Journal Entry by — Makarion Nous, Angel 3rd Class, General Duties

P.S. I know this entry is a little longer than normal… But… well… the day was a bit unusual, too! MN

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2016 in Lenten Journey, Uncategorized

 

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Angel’s Journal, Entry Four: “Utter Shock!”

Journal Entry:

Finally, bleakly, a bit tremulously, I take up quill to install another episode in this journal. I hope one day, someone puts these events together into some sort of document for the humans. It’s all just so extraordinary, it would be a shame to lose it all with one generation.

Anyway…

“Yesterday”, so to speak, I could not even attempt to get my thoughts down. Even now, they will just come in patches as I sort this all out.

But after settling down in The Temple to teach after His entry, The Master and His disciples did some preparation for the Passover Supper they would celebrate together. Again, a couple of the messenger angels here got to forewarn some of what The Master would need… a room, utensils, food and such. (There was much excitement and just the teeniest bit of jostling, as angelloi crowded the assignment desk pointing out excellent reasons that THEY were the perfect one to deliver a given instruction. Nothing discordant, mind… just a bit… er… enthusiastic. Yeah, that’s the right word… “enthusiastic”.)

So, most of us settled back a bit relaxed, thinking all was well. After all, we’ve watched for years as The Master gathers friends for dinner and parties. He heals, He teaches, He relaxes, He enjoys. It was so strange. Some of the higher ups just became ever more tense as the time approached, where most of us (myself, certainly) thought things were going well.

The meal certainly went well… as John (the youngest) entoned the traditional words, “What makes this night different from all other nights?” and His Majesty was praised for His unflagging faithfulness and love for His children. But then The Master got up, stripped down as if to fish, and washed His disciples’ feet. He spoke so incredibly of being servant to one another, and servanthood. Brought tears to the eyes of many of us angels, as we are PURELY servants, and we love our role. But never have we heard it so exalted, nor realized how fully The Master is the Ultimate Servant. We did not know we could love Him more than we always have, but indeed we do. He taught all of the disciples to become servants, and so to teach others. And then… He renamed them “friends”, no longer “disciples”. It was quite beautiful.

Then, when supper was ended, all became still and quiet when The Master took the bread and named it His flesh, and the cup of wine and named it His blood, saying they were to consume these as He was giving these over for them. That they ever were to do this in remembrance of Him.

The Host began to hum as He spoke, and ended with a choral “Amen” as He exited for the Garden.

We all saw His tragic exchange with Judas Iscariot, and poor Jemireh (Iscariot’s guardian angel) broke down in tears as The Master gave his charge the sop, and Judas dashed out to the echoes of “what you must do, do quickly.” We all tried to comfort him, knowing Judas’ choices were his own and this had ever been foreseen. But poor Jemireh yet grieved the choices his charge had made, and questioned if he could have done more to bring Judas into the light rather than the darkness. None of this was helped by the taunts of the Dark One who had captured Judas’ heart with his ambitions and fears.

But when the party moved to the Garden of Gethsemane, everything felt faster and tighter.

Oh, one odd thing at the supper… just before they went out to walk, The Master asked if they had a sword. Michael’s head shot up as if dashed with water. All his cohort began to ready their armor and weapons, thinking they’d be mobilized within moments. When they found a sword there, The Master said to take it. Never before had He commanded them to be armed. It was very odd, but He explained nothing, so we just waited.

It wasn’t very long before we saw His need… but I cannot write more of this now. It’s all yet too fresh, and all this has seemingly drained me.

More in a little bit…

Journal Entry by — Makarion Nous, Angel 3rd Class, General Duties

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2016 in Lenten Journey, Uncategorized

 

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Angel’s Journal, Second Entry: “Maybe they’re getting it?”

Journal Entry:

I want to get this down, now, while things are still so up in the air.

Clearly, His Majesty’s warning informs us that bad things are yet to happen, and there’s a whole lot of plotting and planning going on behind closed doors. (Of course, no doors are really “closed” to us, so we just have to bear with all the deceit, motionless.)

But a couple “days” ago, The Master entered Jerusalem, earth’s Holy City, where once He resided with them at the Ark of the Covenant and where He instructed (in great detail) how His temple was to be built. (Of course, that has seen better days, since that whole Babylonian debacle… still, the Temple is quite a monument to Him… and The Master always pays a great deal of attention to its goings on… But I get ahead of myself.)

Anyway, like I was saying, The Master rode into Jerusalem. Darius and Erich, on the message delivery rota for that day, were THRILLED when tasked to go to a nondescript farmer in a village near Bethpage outside the city (not the Bethpage on Long Island, but the other one outside Jerusalem), and visit his dreams with the message that The Master would need his small white colt that day, and would send a disciple to pick it up. We angels have been bound to watch these events unfold in something very close to man-time, rather than our own eternal time. But still, at least we sometimes get to participate in LITTLE ways, even if not in the “big stuff”.

Anyhow, The Master mounted the cute little colt and entered Jerusalem, packed with people, visitors there from all over the known world. As he entered, his vehicle striding relaxedly down the main road, a current seemed to move from the outskirts into the metro centre. At first just a few, the young and the quick, dashed off to inform the crowds…

“He is COMING! He’s HERE! Jesus! Jesus! He’s riding into town! He’s Here!”

It reminded me of so long before, the message some of us got to deliver… shepherds, kings, a blind man, an old woman, a priest… of course, Gabriel got to do THE Message. But still, lots and lots of us got to sing with that heavenly host as the Star shone above the Stable. It was magnificent!

And here now, these kids got to do the same. They dashed into the City, telling everyone who would listen… He’s HERE!

Ah… yes… my point. Sorry, I keep forgetting. Anyway… it was just so AMAZING! Makes me wonder if maybe this week stuff won’t be so bad. I mean, you’d swear they GET IT! The people, and I mean just about EVERYBODY, cheered Him! They cried out “Hosanna”, just as we do! They proclaimed Him “Blessed!”, just as we do! They called Him “Son of David”, and “He who comes in the name of the Lord!”, just as we do!

Could it be? Is it possible? Do they really see?

They cheered, bowed, and threw their cloaks and fronds down in front of Him. They greeted Him as the King He truly is!

Those who track the Dark Ones and monitor the conspirators against Him did not seem terribly encouraged, but *I* certainly was. Who knows, maybe this will all work out after all! I can live in hope, no?

Maybe… just maybe… they really ARE getting it?

More later, as things unfold!

Journal Entry by — Makarion Nous, Angel 3rd Class, General Duties

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2016 in Lenten Journey, Uncategorized

 

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Great Questions — The Littlest Question

©1982KatherineBrown

©1982KatherineBrown

“How do I LIVE in Christ, right here, right now, day to day?”

THAT, I call “the littlest question”. That is a question of “how?”, not of “Who?” or of “What?”. That is a question of “little me”, not “All Mighty God”, or “The Mighty Counselor”, or “The Messiah”, or “The Savior”. That is a question of right here, right now, not “In Eternity”, “In the Cosmos”, or “From the Beginning of Time”.

As Christian bloggers, as ministers of the gospel, as church people, as teachers/preachers, we spend much of our time dealing with “The Great Questions!” “Who/What is God and His Nature?”, “What is Truth?”, “What is Forgiveness and how Often?”, “How Should the Bride of Christ, The Church, Run?“, and so on. Those are decidedly GOOD questions. They explore our relationship with God as we seek to know Him intimately and thus experience eternal life. Nothing wrong with such questions. I spend much time in them, as do others.

But, once in a while I am reminded of the fundamental simplicity of Christ. Recently I was reminded, by someone INSISTING that I address a single, very simple question. It shames me to confess, their question was so fundamental and so simple, and I spend so much time “in my head” with the great and mighty questions, that for far too long… I couldn’t even HEAR their question properly.

What was the question?

“HOW… in practical terms… How am I supposed to LIVE, as a Christian?”

Every time I answered, the person shook their head and said, “I HEAR that, but I don’t know how to DO that! I hear that from you, I see that in Scripture, I hear that in Church… but when it comes right down to it, I don’t know what that all MEANS outside of church, prayer and religion. HOW do I DO that?”

I realized that THEY were not the one “not getting it”. THEY weren’t “dense”. *I* was. *I* wasn’t getting it, *I* was being slow on the uptake. I didn’t know why communication wasn’t happening, so I backed up a moment to take my confusion to Jesus, and He showed me the problem. It made me blush then, and it makes me blush now.

I kept giving them “Great Question” answers. You know… “Love God with all your…”, “Love as Jesus loves…”, “Forgive always…” so on and so on. I kept answering the “What?”‘s of Christian living. They weren’t ASKING me about “What?” or “Why?” or “Who?”… they got all that. They knew all that. They were asking “HOW?”, and I was utterly failing to respond. What’s more, truthfully, I didn’t KNOW. I hadn’t “thought about it”. It all seems so complicated… “How do you live a perfect (as Jesus commanded at the end of Sermon on the Mount) Christian life?” So many rules. So many opinions. So many interpretations. So many traditions. What was I to say?

So, as I stopped my speaking, closed my eyes, backed up… and “punted”… I prayed, then shut up and listened. “Lord? What’s wrong here? Why are we not connecting? I’m missing something critical here.”

And, at first, all I could hear was Jesus’ laughter. Rather like we laugh when watching a kitten tie themselves up in a big ball of yarn. Not “making fun” so much as “recognizing the absurdity of the moment”. His laughter calmed me in the sense that I knew I wasn’t “misleading” or “speaking less than Truth” here, but I remained confused for the moment.

“You’re just making things all too complicated,” He said. “HOW do you live out love? If you want to focus on one, single, behavior that will have the greatest impact on letting Me be Me in you… ‘be KIND’! The closest human label and emotion to ‘agape’ in behavior, is ‘kindness’. Tell him to go out tomorrow, and every day, in every encounter, making every decision, in the kindest way and being kind to everyone. He will know, as do you and everyone else, when he is being ‘unkind’ and ‘selfish’. Tell him, simply to ‘be kind’, and then follow up from there with him later.”

And so I did.

That has affected me since. I’ve looked at that aspect of my Crystal Rose now from many angles. It’s true. “Kindness” in the way we mean that, is central to all of the Old Law. Central to the Gospels. If we were to line up all the encounters of Jesus, and ask what central characteristic they hold in common, His kindness would be atop the list.

Kindness… to be consistently Kind… is very very simple.

It is also very very hard!

Want the Scriptural take on all this?

Read over the entirety of 1 Corinthians 13 for a moment. (It’s a comparatively short chapter. Go ahead and look at it… I’ll wait here.)

<<     Hums the Final Jeopardy theme music tune here, waiting patiently….  >>

Finished? Good. Now watch this…

In all that chapter, Paul deals with “love”, and simple behaviors, after opening with matters of Great Questions. After all, Paul’s epistles constantly deal with Great Questions and Weighty Matters… the nature of God, the nature of the Church, the nature of Salvation, discipline in the church, the nature of ministry, the qualifications of ministers… and on… and on… and on. We base much of our Great Question dialogue grounded in the writings of Paul. As I said, nothing wrong with that.

But! We can lose sight of the simple fact that over and over and over, Paul is ALSO “making new believers”! He is evangelizing. He is sharing the SIMPLE Good News of the arrival of Jesus, His Kingdom, and the freedom in our lives of our redemption. Paul doesn’t plunge new believers into heady debate about “to meat or not to meat”, or lots of other things. He speaks of Christ, of His love, of Christ come, and crucified, and risen.

The KEY verse, in all of 1 Corinthians 13, I believe to be Verse Four:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant…”

As I’ve looked and pondered these things, the opening verses deal with the Great Questions! You can have all the “Great Answers”, and do all the “Great Things”… but without this bedrock, this “love” thing… that’s all meaningless. Everything before verse four, seems to lead up to verse four. Everything after verse four, seems only to expand on and refine it.

“Patient, kind, no jealousy or ego…”

To brag and be arrogant are based in pride, and pride (wounded) is part and parcel of jealousy.

So… right here, in front of man and God and everybody, I say openly… “If you want to live out the perfect Christian life, and have the love of Christ flow through you to others, focus behaviors on ‘patient, kind, not ego-bound'”.

There’s HOW!

One last note. Think about, in your own life, those persons… those (usually) handful of persons… who have really “shone Christ” in your own life to you. You know who I mean, the one’s who, when you spend time with them, leave you sensing the nearness and presence of Christ more strongly than you did before. Those ones that just ‘cover you up in’ the Father’s love, the Son’s Forgiveness, the Holy Spirit’s presence. The ones you reach towards when you feel that need for the tangible presence of Jesus.

Now, ask yourself,  “is that person patient? kind? and humble (ego-free)” in their dealings with me?

Let us, then, go and do likewise.

Grace to you, Gentle Reader — The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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