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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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Compromising Purity – Corruption

water pour 2“Purity” – that’s the topic. We’ve dealt with “Adulteration” as a means for compromising purity. That’s watering down the good stuff with other stuff that makes no difference at all, except that there’s less good stuff because of the space taken up by the other stuff. Right.

So now, let’s consider the second way to compromise purity. There’s “Corruption”. Corruption is when the good stuff is spoiled by bad stuff that awakens or results from what is already in the vessel to begin with.

We usually think of corruption as “spoilage”. Food, meat, milk… get “corrupt” when they rot. When organic processes once a part of their life, or passively contained in their life, now activate in a new way and produce bad stuff along the way. We think of corruption in politics or business, when someone (or someones) inside an organization, start doing bad stuff that spoils the ability of the public to rely on the good stuff they have come to expect.

Jesus dealt with it. He addressed “Corruption”. He confronted the reality of people looking towards those from whom they should expect “good”, and instead finding rotten spoilage from within…

Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’  But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother[’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:

This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”

After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”

Then the disciples *came and *said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

Peter said to Him, “Explain the parable to us.” Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also? 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 15:1-20]

Long passage, perhaps, but fairly short lesson…

The heart… the thoughts and feelings that generate our words and our actions. When the heart within is unhealthy, corrupt, death-rotten, then our purity is compromised. Our words, deeds, our relationships… defiled. And the placement of this lesson by Jesus is very telling. He doesn’t speak of “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders“, these “things which defile the man”… while He is speaking with an adulterer, a Samaritan, a Roman pagan, dishonest tax-collectors, or even a thief on the cross.

Jesus speaks of these defilements, these destroyers of purity, among the hyper religious, among the churchmen teachers (pastors) and leaders (deacons). He speaks of these things embedded in a huge indictment of those who abuse their moral authority to guilt trip people with legalism, while their own hearts seek to fulfill their own needs and desires.

These were not notorious public scandal sinners. These weren’t lawbreakers. They didn’t engage in adultery, or idolatry of pagan gods, or petty common theft. Their sins, their violations of purity, would never have shown in an exterior view. Their impurity was inside themselves, from the heart, and showed through their fruit.

So how bleak would all this look?

What hope is there ever for purity, if it can be compromised both from without and even from within? Why would we even try to attain or maintain something so apparently impossible?

We’ll address that, next time.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Spiritual Warfare – The Medieval Meets High Tech

candle book Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. [Matthew 19:8]

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ [Matthew 28:16-20]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I have… “struggled” seems too dramatic a word… but I’ve seriously pondered whether or not to pursue a line of discussion that I’ve felt called to engage for a very long time. I’ve decided to open the question to you, Gentle Reader, and listen to your response(s). Feel free, if you wish to remain private, to direct any thoughts to me directly by email at Little_Monk_60@yahoo.com if you wish.

Spiritual warfare is real. Personalities of darkness and shadow are real. All of us interact with such shadows daily to some extent or another. (Do we experience temptation? Yes? Is that from God or any other entity of Light? No? Well then…)

K, now, having said that… there is lots and LOTS of drama that can be made from this fact, and lots and lots of stories, books, movies, and (nowadays) reality TV that can exploit that drama.

Right about there, all consensus falls apart on this subject. From that point forward, worldviews vary along a spectrum of “the collective consciousness of human ‘bad intention'” to the wildly frightened seeing of horned beasts behind every closet door and the need to wrap the self in bubble wrap and cotton wool before getting out of bed.

THEREFORE, the general “polite Christian response” to such matters… is to ignore them utterly. Pray privately, yes… preach by strict scriptural quotation, yes… go with the flow of the politically and socially correct fotm on matters of Halloween or the hottest paranormal movie, yes… but, in general, just hope all this goes away quietly when it comes up.

THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is a real problem.

This “blind eye to the glass” approach leaves lots and lots of hurting people, really struggling in battles of spiritual warfare, cast off out there in a sea of uncertainty as to where and how to get help or support.

As a counselor, a minister, a pray-er, I am periodically deeply involved in spiritual warfare. Whether in the dramatic or the mundane, I feel that it is of paramount importance that Christians be aware and knowledgeable on this.

The problem is… how? The fundamentals of worldview difference means that “dialogue in common language and understanding” is very difficult. Holding the “respect line” when speaking with someone of a radically different worldview is challenging. Denominational, historical, cultural difference… both on the fundamentals of cause, effect, etiology… and in the response and mechanics of ministry to need… The challenges to meaningful dialogue can seem insurmountable.

At the same time, the reality that there is “something there”, and the adventurous spirit of the young and their boldness… combined with the “spiritual vacuum” so often experienced from the public face of the Christian community… have made a situation where this deeply religious matter is more and more entering our homes and minds through the “scientific” application of technology to spiritual entities through prime time television.

For professional reasons, I watch such programming fairly diligently. I’ll be frank, some episodes just scare me to death. NOT as to the “reality” or “power” of the entities involved… I’m painfully aware of that quite on my own, thank you. Rather I am terrified for the risks many of these adventurous and curious persons are taking, often with only minimal awareness or acknowledgment.

Ironically, the “young and the bold” who undertake such endeavors, within a season or two, quite apparently “learn” to have respect for these risks and dangers, as “on the job training” bears fruit. You see initial postures of arrogance or omniscience, fairly quickly be tempered by learned respect for significant forces beyond one’s own control. My general response is to pray for these investigators, and those they help.

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This blog seems a unique venue, if any exists, gently and carefully to begin such a dialogue. But I seek your input on how to meet a number of challenges…

How do we discuss such things without offending one another’s traditions or worldviews?

How do we discuss “experiences” without concern for mutual judgments of one’s “sanity” or lack thereof?

How do we discuss mechanics and realities of such warfare, as a matter of “equipping the saints”, and not see such discussion devolve into either a set of lessons on “DIY Exorcism” (disastrous)… or encouragement to “fear” (which is no part of the Christian walk)?

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I don’t have the answer to these questions, and I’ve known I didn’t have them for a long time now. This is not a “comfortable” area for discussion.

But now, I feel better at least to throw a light on this “elephant in the room”… fling it on the table (a big, sturdy table for this mixed metaphor)... and open the DISCUSSION to possible discussion. I don’t have a solution, but I’m at least “brave enough” (at last)… to ask the question.

So… *BONK!*… ball is served and in the air… heading for your court. Any ideas? By the way, about half our readership is “professional” in ministry, and about half is not. That’s PERFECT! It’s that MIX of viewpoint I so seek to hear!

So, please let me know what you think!

Grace to you — The Little Monk

 

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Ripples and Birthdays

WisdomIn the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. [Genesis 1:1-2]

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,  in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. [Luke 2:4-7]

While I know that technically it is “Christmas Day” as I write, Gentle Reader, for me it is the ending of Christmas Eve for I’ve not yet slept. These several days, I’ve yet been struck with the awesome power of “silence’ and “waiting”. I know there are those who decry the customs and traditions of the Liturgical Year, and the cycle of holidays such as Christmas and Easter in the Christian Church. I realize, with all educated theologians, that the decisions to select the dates we have are more dependent on the incorporation of customs by pagan peoples into Christian practice, than any scriptural seasonal basis. But it has always seemed more to me an apt unification of God’s people, rather than any denial or wrongful compromise.

Paulfg (Just me being curious) speaks often of dropping pebbles and watching the myriad ripples that follow. So much of grace is like that. God, or one who follows Him, drops a pebble, and the Holy Spirit echoes and reverberates among many others like variations on a theme of music. I was recently struck by the rhythmic nature of reality, of the necessity of opposites. In order to know true freedom and choice of good over evil, we MUST of logical necessity, have the capacity to choose evil. In order to know light, we must have the ability to apprehend darkness. For me, limited as I am by my own culture and upbringing, I’m coming to consider this the nature of yin and yang. Even Paul’s ripples have peaks and troughs, a zenith and nadir to define them.

This “silence”, this “fasting”, this preparation for the annual commemoration of the Great Events of the Nativity and the Resurrection that comprise Advent and Lent… these are important, and can do much to enrich our experience of God. Why? Because they are, in and of themselves, some sort of “magic times”? No. Because God takes special note of those who are devout enough to honor these penitential periods, and rewards the faithful with special Brownie Point Blessings? No. Because we have to “purge ourselves of our worldliness and sin”, in order to benefit from these sacred feasts? Well, such exercise may well bear some fruit, yes… but not in such a transactional way, no.

Now, I know you’ve heard this before, but let me say it again. I write from my own experience and subjective perspective. My opinions and conclusions are my own, and if they do not agree with yours I am NOT implying that you are wrong. For you, in your life, your world, your walk with the Lord, these ideas may not fit at all… and if that is the case, please cast them aside without hesitation. But perhaps these reflections will spur a new thought or idea to explore with Him, and that may bring additional grace or blessing. I share to expand our sense of the Possible in the realm of the grace of God.

This night, I’ve been struck with the Ripples of the Nativity. With this transition from Advent into Christmas. From pregnancy to parenthood. I was struck with those TWO texts quoted at the beginning of this post. All of “Not-Yet-Created” waited silently and darkly for “Creation”. The verb there for God “formed” is a word that means “brought forth from nothing at all”. This is not like a conjurer’s trick, the magician who unveils and releases a dove from a handkerchief and his “empty” hand. No, this is vastly more profound. This is God the Father and God the Son and God the Breath of God speaking, extending, and hovering over the expanse of darkness to bring forth… EVERYTHING. Birth!

And then, much later on, we see this scenario play out into our world, our time and space, as the Father sends forth Gabriel and speaks, the Son extends, and the Holy Breath overshadows Mary in her home. Nine months later, according to the rules of biology established in our lives, we have… Birth!

In my own life, this is a night each year when the universe itself holds its collective breath and gazes upon THE miracle of birth. It is God’s glory, God’s act, God’s love, God’s grace. It is entirely and wholly His, and it could well be said that He alone has the right to rejoice in it. But… just as He invited the shepherds and the maji so long ago to take part, to come, to witness, to celebrate… so too, He invites us. Isn’t that wondrous?

But watch this, it gets better! It is not only the celebration of the Birth of Jesus that is going on here.  Jesus said, “you in Me and I in you and together we in the Father.”  John the Apostle calls you a “Child of God”. Paul the Apostle waxes eloquent about “joint-heir with Christ,” including the training and discipline involved. We never see any of these texts grovelling in any sort of “worthless worm theology”, as so often undermines Christians in the name of humility.

The Nativity is not only Jesus’ Birthday… but ours as well. We are here to commemorate a birth… your birth, my birth… as sons and daughters of God… joint heirs… princes and princesses of kingdom… called to do the works of Jesus and greater yet because He is risen to the Father.

God Alone creates something from nothing. God Alone chose to lay down His divinity and become a man like us in all things but sin. God Alone moves the Holy Breath Spirit to dwell within us and among us. Why? Because He chooses to. Because that’s what Love means to Him.

And God Alone could make royalty of you and me. “Holy and Royal Priesthood” is all well and good as long as we speak of it in some vague corporate collective of “The Church”. But people become vastly less comfortable when one points out that means that YOU, are a sacred prince/princess priest/priestess. *I’m* not saying that… Scripture says that.

So… for tonight… let us continue to be silent, waiting, and ready. For, tomorrow, there will be Birth. And there will be a Gift. And the Gift will be an entirely new life… not just a “getting by” life… but a holy and royal life. A life filled with life, love, joy, truth, beauty, goodness, power, authority, and duty. Life that gives itself away and pours itself out for others…

Why? Because that’s what God has chosen to do. Because that’s what Love means to Him.

Happy Birthday, Your Highness.

 

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2014 in Advent Devotions, Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

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Elpis is in the House

arc For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. [Romans 8:18-25]

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The Greek word for “hope”?  ἐλπίς (elpis)

A friend and colleague called me a while back to discuss “hope”. He had encountered a very young man, a 20-something, who, in great anguish disclosed that he felt utterly without hope… that he had lost all hope in life. My friend dealt with this young man and his father, and then phoned me in his own anguish to deal with the question… “How? How can one so young, be living in such a vacuum of hope?”

I’ve worked long and hard with people who have come to lack hope, both through suicide work and a variety of destructive lifestyles… and pointed out how very common this view has become. It is amazing.

  • The singular characteristic recognized in suicide “lists” of signs and symptoms, as pretty much universal, is that the person has lost all hope. “Hopelessness” is usually top of the list.
  • The principal predictor of survival in a disaster or critical situation, is the hope held out by the survivor. Both tales of survivors, and journals of those who survived for a period after the disaster, show that longevity is strongly connected to the degree of hope held by the person.

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“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” [Romans 15:13]

A couple years ago, a friend prompted me to a serious study of the implications of this verse. That led to a number of realizations. Among them:

  • God Himself, cannot “hope”, because to be omniscient means that all is “seen”. Love can persist, yes. God loves. Yes. But God cannot know either “faith” or “hope”, as He “sees all”. (cf 1 Cor 13:13]
  • Hope may be thought of as “forward-looking faith”. Faith looks primarily to the present, hope looks primarily towards the future.
  • Hope requires trust. If one can no longer trust, one can no longer hope.

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Only one more puzzle piece here, and then I can lay this before you complete…

Over the past few days, I’ve been drawn to consider the season of “Advent”. I’ve been challenged by a question asked of me by the Lord, as this passage buzzed through my mind and spirit…

So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. [Galatians 4:3-5]

The Question: “What made this… this moment of Christ’s Incarnation… the ‘fullness of time’?”

In other word, “Why now?”

Israel was in an horrible state… defeated, occupied, garrisoned by Rome. Northern and Southern kingdoms in shambles. Hardly recovered from the Babylonian captivity. No longer a military force of note against Assyria and other nations of the region. Samaria constituting nearly a “nation within a nation” in their midst. Intrigues everywhere. A half-mad Herod mixing human blood in sacrifices, corruption of the Temple bleeding the devout dry, tax collectors and publicans making the most of Roman law to line their pockets.

And THIS… was the “fullness of time” into which Divine Wisdom and Love had chosen, from before the beginning, to let the Son of God take on the additional name, Son of Man.

I could not fathom it…

But slowly, a niggling thought seemed to inch its way to the surface of my mind. Perhaps this was, itself, the key to the answer. Perhaps it was the very pathetic hopelessness of Israel at the time…

I mean, what seemed ALWAYS to call God forth in the greatness of His power and majesty throughout the Old Testament? The sincere cries for rescue of His children in bondage.

From the flood, through Egyptian Exodus, conquest of the Promised Land, the wars of David and establisment of the Kings, and eventual relief from the Babylonian Captivity…  from the Burning Bush, through Shekinah, and Pillar of Fire/Cloud by Day… God seems to manifest and come forth the most clearly, when His children are in the greatest need of rescue.

So, why should it be different for the Incarnation?

And yet, when Jesus comes, we see an utterly new dimension of rescue occurring. He stated His “agenda” clearly in one of His first moments of public revelation and ministry:

And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” [Luke 4:17-21]

The “poor”, “captives”, “blind”, “oppressed”…. these were the focus of Jesus’ mission. This was the purpose of His anointing and the agenda of the Spirit of the Lord. Well, if THIS is the mission, then indeed one could say the fullness of time had come. Israel certainly had these in abundance.

But rather than restoration of Israels military, political, economic greatness among the nations… as so many people of the time anticipated, Jesus arrived as Messiah to work in an entirely other dimension. His concern was to reveal the Father in spirit and in truth.

So, how does this “fullness of time” thing relate to THAT? To the relationship between man and God in prayer and spirit?

Israel had “perfected” religion. Scribes, pharisees, priests, teachers of the law… had so studied what requirements it took, as to custom, tradition, behavior, food, and clothing… that it may be said that the Temple represented the absolute pinnacle of religious attainment. Every move, every sound, every crumb and thread, were legislated and covered by scholarly authority as to how it would be pleasing or displeasing to God.

The Law now permeated every institution of Israel’s life… business, family, education, relationships, worship, care of the old and care of the young… EVERYTHING had been infused with “what the Law requires” for man to be right with God. Every moment of the day, was clearly scripted, as to what would bring about the blessing and good favor of God.

Whatever else could be said of that moment in economic and political history…

“Religion… the Worship of the Law… had attained absolute Perfection by the efforts of man.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

THIS… I realized…. could be thought of as the hallmark of the “fullness of time”.

It was now time for God become flesh to come and dwell among us… because man’s pride had now attained the ultimate hubris. Religion had now given us management of the means to become righteous before God. Religion… was perfect now.

And, of course, man had quite utterly missed the point. The Law, Religion, can never perfect. Law, in fact, highlights imperfection. The Law is the indicator of hopelessness.

Jesus Alone, Christ, the grace-filled Son of Man/Son of God… came not to bring peace but a sword. He fulfilled utterly the Law. He satisfied the demands of righteousness, and totally defeated Religion. Religion murdered Jesus, but in rising… He defeated it completely. “Religion”, the caring about whether one must worship God in the Temple or on the mountain… cannot stand in the face of the God of spirit and truth.

In the presence of Jesus, such foolishness withers as chaff in the face of a blazing furnace.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Bottom Line: The fullness of time came when religion believed that the Law could provide righteousness and satisfy God. Jesus came because such a view is not the liberty and freedom that the Father intends for His children, but simply another form of bondage and enslavement to 600+ rules and regulations that would determine one’s immortal fate.

When man’s bondage reached its pinnacle… enslaved not only to other men, but to regulations of men laid down in the Name of God… NOW, Jesus could come, reveal in His person the fullness of God Himself, and redeem all of Creation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What is Advent? I’m thinking that Advent is the moment, the season, wherein we realize we are bound up and enthralled to enslavement of any sort… even to religion. When we cry out to God, in our own despair of powerlessness, it seems that it is simply God’s way… to appear, to manifest, and to reveal Himself in great power and majesty…

His is an ongoing mission of rescue of His beloved children… the poor, the blind, the captive.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thank You that You have come, Lord Jesus!

What is the key to hope? The permanent, life-changing key? To trust to the love and mission of Jesus. To know, beyond all evidence, doubt, and facts that seem to deny it… that God’s very anointing and mission, is to rescue any and all who are trapped and enslaved! Do you, or anyone you know, feel stuck and hopeless? Trust to the mission of Jesus… for He is worthy of our trust!

Grace to thee — The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

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Compassion

 

Image: The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Compassion

God-in-Me Loving God

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Last year I had the honor of representing the Christian tradition at the Festival of Faiths in Louisville, Kentucky. Leaders of many faiths, including the Dalai Lama, came together to talk about the role of compassion in our spiritual practice. The following is what I shared from the Christian perspective:

The Christian who has gone to his or her own depths—not all of us, I am afraid—uncovers an Indwelling Presence, what might even be experienced as an I-Thou relationship (to use the language of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber). In Christian theology this would be described as the “Holy Spirit,” which is precisely God as immanent, within, and even our deepest self. Some saints and mystics have described this Presence as “closer to me than I am to myself” or “more me than I am myself.” Many of us would also describe this as the True Self. It must be awakened; it is never “created” by our actions or behavior, but naturally “indwelling,” or our inner being with God.

Much of culture and religion encourages us to cultivate our False Self or reputation, self-image, roles, and possessions. It is only as this fails us, and it eventually does, that the True Self stands revealed and ready to guide us. The True Self does not teach us compassion as much as it IS compassion already, and from this more spacious and grounded Self we can naturally connect, empathize, forgive, and love all reality. In Christian language this is “God-in-me-loving-God.”

The False Self does not know how to love in a very deep or broad way. It is too small and self-referential to be compassionate. The True Self also does not choose to love as much as it IS love itself already. Loving from this spacious place is experienced as a river within you that flows of its own accord, as Jesus promises us so beautifully (John 7:38).

Adapted from Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation, pp. 46‑48

Gateway to Silence:
May I see with eyes of compassion.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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First Church of Mars

Mars OneImagine, if you will…

*use your best Rod Serling voice right there*

Anyway, imagine that you (and your spouse, if applicable) have been selected as an “Anchor Member” of the First Christian Church to be established on Mars, as part of the 21st Century Mars settlement project scheduled somewhere between 2025 and 2040.

Imagine that by whatever process you’ve been selected as part of a 10 person team to establish Christianity on Mars by your own denomination or other appropriate religious authority. Your mandate is unique. You have no denominationally specific theological constraints. Your mission is not to proselytize for your sect, it is to lift up Christ and provide for the needs of exploration teams and future colonists. Your assignment will be permanent, and you are establishing what may be a foundation for generations to come.

What would that be like?

What would be your goals and priorities?

How would you develop consensus with other members of your team from other Christian denominations? (In this… how, in fact, would you DEFINE ‘Christian denomination’?)

If your only agreed upon standard of unanimity were the Holy Bible itself, how would you approach this task with your team?

Open to ideas, questions, and discussions now…

 

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