Tag Archives: scripture

Spiritual Warfare: Non-Linear Authority

jesusSpiritual warfare: Angels, demons, possession, oppression, cleansing, healing, casting out, darkness and light.

These sound like medieval issues, and yet we live surrounded by the reality that outcomes of such dramatic battles fill our lives and our media.

So, we look at the encounters Jesus had with unclean spirits, we look at history and texts and journals of our spiritual forefathers, we hear sermons, lectures, conferences and attend services dedicated to healing and wholeness, and we seek to grow. We see and hear words of “command” uttered by those who heal and restore, to banish and exile suffering and torment.

We are struck with a sense of awe and wonder, at the confidence with which words of healing, wholeness, or spiritual cleansing are uttered. “Faith!” we say, and recognize. “Power!” we see and recognize. “Authority!” we realize… and ponder the implications to ourselves, our lives, our prayer, our intercession.

Being so very human, so very normal in our social structures, culture and relationships, we tend to think of “Authority” in terms of “hierarchy”, like the military, or the law… in a line, descending from top to bottom from the Lord on High, downwards through Jesus, through Spirit, through “saints”, through “Christians”, and on downwards from there. Divine Authority seems, to us, a great “Trickle Down Theory” of godly economy, with each tier subject to the next.

Such a view seems affirmed in Jesus’ praise of the faith of the Roman Centurion in the Gospel of Matthew (the event is also reported in Luke 7):

And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus *said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” 10 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. 11 I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment. [Matthew 8]

I mean, that certainly SOUNDS like “military”, “straight-line”, authority, right? But look… Jesus didn’t have to speak TO the illness to heal the servant. The servant was healed in the moment of interaction between the faith of the Centurion, and the presence and willingness of Jesus. Would the servant have been healed without the interest, petition, and conversation of the Centurion? Who, then, “did” the healing? Who then, exercised “authority”?

Well, we know that all True Authority rightly vest in and from God. But… but… then what? What “path” does it follow in its “downward trickle”?

Slowly, looking at scripture, watching and listening to Jesus, I’ve realized a rather strange thing. It would seem that “God’s ways are not our ways”, and that He doesn’t wire things quite the way we do.

The Pharisees also struggled with the nature of Jesus’ authority, and one day they asked Him about it, point blank. The answer He gave, I had always thought of as “rhetorically clever”. But in recent years I’ve come to realize that He wasn’t being “mysterious, clever, and obfuscating”… He was, in fact, giving the only correct answer to the question that can be given.

23 When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” 24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet.” 27 And answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” He also said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” [Matthew 21]

Now, was Jesus simply being coy and clever there? Or perchance did He actually answer them with not only a truthful, but an accurate answer? Were they asking a question that did not HAVE an answer of the type they were looking for?

I want to leave you here with some passages to look at, and a “thought”. This is not so much an “answer” to all this, as simply a “response” from my own spirit, heart, mind… to/for your spirit, heart, mind. If it leads to your own “answer”, great. If not, the mysteries play on.

Have a Look at:

  • John 10:16-18
  • Matthew 28:16-20
  • John 14:8-10
  • Philippians 2:5-11

Go ahead and “run the word ‘Authority'” through your tools or concordances, and ponder all that as I did when I “paused” in my posts on Spiritual Warfare…

Ask yourself the question Jesus asked of me after all that study, saying…

“OK, now that you’ve seen all that…. Who currently holds the ‘Authority of Kingdom’? God the Father? Me? The Holy Spirit? The Bride? You individually? You collectively? The Father had all authority, gave it all to Me, I submitted utterly to Him, the Spirit judges… So… like ‘Button, button, who’s got the button?’… or the other child’s game of ‘Hot Potato’… Who NOW holds the Authority? Where did it come to rest?”

Now, that was the question… I STILL do not have what I would call “An Answer”, but I think I may have gotten the Point.

I have come to rest in the belief that this is a Trick Question. This is a question with no answer. The Point rests in “Oneness”. God, utterly and entirely, IS His own Authority. Christ is in the Father, Father in the Son, Spirit in Both, Spirit in Us, Christ in me, I in Him, together we in the Father, All of the Body, All of the Bride, All in Him, Him in All…

The Authority resides in Him, and in all the Oneness with Him in which we engage. This is “Non-Linear” Authority. It vests in the Oneness into which He draws each of us, and when we (individually or corporately) rest in His grace, His will, His words, His works…. His authority is present and effective. When we do not, it isn’t.

This there is no one at whom we can point and say, “HE has/speaks with God’s authority”…. or “SHE does”… by virtue simply of who they are, what they do, what office they hold, or what claims they make.

That authority vests in moments, in persons and events, where God’s will in love, grace, wholeness, healing, truth… is clearly expressed. No more, no less.

That is how I have come to “see things”. I may be right. You may see things differently and you may be right. And perhaps we both are. Far more important than whether I (or anyone else) is “right”, is my prayer that laying this out this way, looking at scripture and pondering the love and nature of God, opening to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, brings all of us greater love, light, and truth in our own walks and lives.

Joy, blessings, and grace to all!

The Little Monk


Posted by on August 12, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Spiritual Warfare


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The Bride’s Heart

Jesus Cup“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” [Philippians 2:1-7]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I am an opinionated person. I am also “firm of resolve”… a trait that, from time to time, has been referenced (by others, but honest others) as being “headstrong”, “stubborn”, or “stiff-necked”. If you, Gentle Reader, have been with this blog for any time at all, that confession is nothing new to you.

The deepest buried and most persistent “thorns” with which I grapple are my own pride and its consequent tendency to judge and devalue others, or their views.

I suspect I share some of these traits with Paul the Apostle. There is absolutely nothing wishy-washy about Paul. In fact, I wonder if when he wanted someone else’s opinion on something, he gave it to them? Some of what he writes is “divinely inspired imperative” (“here’s how God wants things done”). Some of what he writes is “divinely inspired and influenced imperatives of his (Paul’s) own” (“here’s how, prayerfully, *I* want things done”). Some of what he writes is disclosure and commentary. And some, very little, of what he writes is his opinion alone… and he clearly marks these places (“take this or leave it, as your conscience dictates”).

Of all the Biblical writers, no one gives us so much about the Bride of Christ, the Church. So many times, in so many ways, Paul addresses this glorious mystery. Constantly, his letters address both the practical and sublime about the lives of Christians (individual), and how they are to meld into the life of the Church, the Bride of Christ, the Body of Christ (collective).

But of all Paul’s opinions, positions, imperatives, instructions, reflections… all of that… nowhere do I so clearly hear the passion, the crack in his voice, the urgency of his heart’s need to speak clearly… than in the passage above.

“Here!”… “Here!”… Paul seems to cry… “Here is the HEART of the Bride, the Body! Here is her beauty. Here is her mystery. Here is where I pour out my life.” The mystery of the Resurrection, the truth of Christ in us the hope of glory, the heart “being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose… with humility of mind regard[ing] one another as more important than yourselves…”

There is the heart, as Paul speaks it, of the Church. I see that. I feel that. I yield to that. Yet… sometimes… more often than I care to admit, I struggle with it. How? How, in practical terms, are we supposed to do this? How does this play out in real issues, real questions, real debates? How do we direct our actions between maintaining both our integrity before Christ and one another, and maintaining the same mind, love, and spirit?

When a brother or sister expresses a view or opinion different from our own, an interpretation different, a conviction different… when and how is it right to speak, versus refraining out of deference to their interests being above our own?

I would dearly love to follow that question with… “Well, Gentle Reader, HERE is how we do this!” But that would be dishonest of me. Like so many things of spirit, grace, and truth… I cannot define a “rule” or a “law” that will definitively dispose of all cases with assurance.

But I can, and will, share the single “answer”, or rather writing of Paul’s that has given me the most guidance here. Along with a caution as to some limits of it. But the text is quite clear, as Christians of the early Church found themselves bickering and debating over “right and wrong behavior” on matters of what is sacred and what isn’t, what violates the conscience and what does not. (Which seems to be the root of a huge amount of Christian divisiveness and conflict.)

The passage is from Romans 14:

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

“One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

“But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,

As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall give praise to God.”

“So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”  [Romans 14:1-14]

C.S.Lewis, with his wondrous gift of solid spiritual direction through humorous fictional application, addresses this chapter in Letter XVI from supervisory demon Screwtape to his apprentice tempter Wormwood. Advice is offered on how to keep their “patient” (person being tempted) from experiencing true grace through church attendance, by means of this judgmental distraction as the patient “comparison worships” between two different churches:

But there is one good point which both these churches have in common—they are both party churches. I think I warned you before that if your patient can’t be kept out of the Church, he ought at least to be violently attached to some party within it. I don’t mean on really doctrinal issues; about those, the more lukewarm he is the better. And it isn’t the doctrines on which we chiefly depend for producing malice. The real fun is working up hatred between those who say “mass” and those who say “holy communion” when neither party could possibly state the difference between, say, Hooker’s doctrine and Thomas Aquinas’, in any form which would hold water for five minutes. And all the purely indifferent things—candles and clothes and what not—are an admirable ground for our activities. We have quite removed from men’s minds what that pestilent fellow Paul used to teach about food and other unessentials—namely, that the human without scruples should always give in to the human with scruples. You would think they could not fail to see the application. You would expect to find the “low” churchman genuflecting and crossing himself lest the weak conscience of his “high” brother should be moved to irreverence, and the “high” one refraining from these exercises lest he should betray his “low” brother into idolatry. And so it would have been but for our ceaseless labour. Without that the variety of usage within the Church of England might have become a positive hotbed of charity and humility, [C.S.Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Letter XVI]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Ah… yes… well. I was going to go on, but upon rereading that passage of Lewis’ I don’t think there would be much point.

I will just leave you with the confession that I still struggle with the application of this in my own life, even though I can clearly see where the grace is here. And let us together continue to move forward in our efforts to make of our Church a “hotbed of charity (love) and humility.”

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Posted by on February 23, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized


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Slice ‘N Dice – The Rest of the Story

Spine of a BibleSome of us remember Paul Harvey, a wonderful radio broadcaster and author who specialized in looking beneath the headlines of major stories or characters, and painting a context… a background… often surprising, that helped us better understand the story itself.

Most all those who read or follow this blog love the Lord, love the Bible, and seek to let the Word of God (in every form) grow our intimacy and relationship with God. That humbles me. Often, when I sit to type, it almost scares me. I want to know, with confidence, when I push that “Publish” button, that I’ve prayed, heard, and typed as clearly and cleanly as I am able.

Many of you, Gentle Readers, know this feeling very well. About half of those who follow this post preach or teach through the Word of God on a regular basis. THAT knowledge humbles me even more. One of the reasons I try to post here regularly is an interesting statistic I recently heard, but don’t know the footnote to.

Question: “What internet sites and search questions get the most hits on Saturday nights?”

(*No, it’s not pornography, which was my first guess when asked this question*)

Answer: “Sermon Notes. The highest traffic on the internet on Saturday nights, are from preachers seeking to draft their sermons for the next day.”

(This was told me by my homiletics professor, with whom I still take clinics from time to time. Learning this, I included the category “Sermon Seeds”, hoping to address some of that need.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Anyway, a couple years ago I preached a sermon that keyed on our freedom in Christ and our freedom from fear at the judgment. One of my key verses was this, Hebrews 9:27: “And inasmuch as it is [y]appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…” and I put it in its place there, and went on with the rest of my structured message.

This particular sermon was very important to me, laying out a critical truth, so afterwards I forwarded a .wav file of the message and my notes, for comment and feedback to an old friend… The Pastor (you’ve seen referred to here in different posts from time to time). He was kind enough to reply, affirmed the point and teaching, giving generally positive feedback. But he also was kind enough to point out that there was a place he recommended that I consider a possible improvement.

(I cannot express to you how gentle… how many words he uses to “buffer, insulate, and soften”… anything he says that could possibly be interpreted as “critical'”, in order not to wound or offend the other.) Anyhow, in his reply, after dealing with the “softening introduction” to his critique, I found I had pushed one of his “Hot Buttons”… through my own lack of academic, intellectual, theological… rigor. I had “cut a corner”, and thus expressed less of the truth than I want to do.

Please note, my Hebrews snippet expressed an entire VERSE of scripture, yes. HOWEVER, I did NOT present the entire SENTENCE. In doing that, in that “Slice ‘N Dice” moment (as paulfg calls it), I failed to express the full meaning of the statement. I used the clause that bolstered my position, but I slanted the meaning of the words as originally expressed by Hebrews’ author.

I had used the phrase, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment”…. to focus the listener on their own mental image of the judgment (and fear thereof)… for oratorical, homiletic, reasons. It was a “speaker’s trick”. This was dishonest. This was not the intent of the author, as is made clear when one finishes the sentence. The full sentence is this:

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. [Hebrews 9:27-28]

Do you see it? Do you see my mistake? In doing what I did, I actually REVERSED the intention of the author. I used the clause to generate fear. But the author states the full sentence to generate confidence, hope, and assurance in Christ at the moment of judgment.

My friend did NOT accuse me of laziness, sloppiness, or dishonesty. None of that. He simply stated that there is a subtle trap inherent in quoting, teaching, or preaching from a scriptural sentence fragment, and that he had seen it done so often with this particular passage that it had become one of his pet peeves. He suggested (gently) that in my own teaching I consider a resolve never to quote or teach from a scriptural sentence fragment… especially when doing so changes the inherent meaning of the sentence. Either quote the entire sentence (even if that’s more than one verse)… or move on and find another passage.

Joyfully I embraced that resolve, and have tried never again to quote less than the scriptural sentence.

Why am I discussing this? Because Paulfg’s post this morning, again has brought it to my mind. It is a perfect example of this problem… and Paul did NOT do it, by the way. It’s in one of his quoted discussion passages!

I had, just yesterday, been discussing his very passage from Hebrews 10 as I wrote, “many preachers and churchmen LOVE to admonish and rebuke people about church attendance by repeating, ‘do not forsake the assembling together as is the habit of some’… laying a burden of guilt upon those who don’t come to the church building every week, Bible under their arm, all dressed up, checkbook in hand!”

In my writing I pointed out that this “scripture sentence fragment” in fact reverses the intention of the author, (just as I had done years ago). That the entire passage gives a totally different texture and feel to these words. Behold:

 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)

See it? See the difference? There are those who quote the fragment as if to say, “we are doing CHURCH and we keep people in order because they come. You aren’t coming, so you are out of order.” While the passage actually talks about what keeps the CHURCH “in order”… the passage talks about the purpose of church in its fundamentals, why it is there, what it is supposed to do! What is that, you ask? Glad you asked.

We see three things here as the “purpose” of “assembling together”:

  • stimulate one another to love
  • stimulate one another to good deeds (love-in-action)
  • encouraging one another

In my experience, there are very few churches who see this as their fundamental purpose. Rather, many churches focus on “repeating the rules, and pointing out all the places they are broken” either by their own sheep, or by all “those sinners out there”. Many churches engage in what some have called the “Preacher’s Lie” or the “Church’s Lie”, which is a control game… controlling the behavior, attendance, and money of a congregation through either the generation of guilt over their frailties, or the generation of pride and false camaraderie of pharisaical self-righteousness.

Sorry… had a “moment” there… but anyway…

And here, in Paulfg’s post this morning, “In every moment we are together“, I find this same Hebrews 10 passage blockquoted.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, fellow travelers, especially those of us who teach… I recommend Paul’s post to you there. I recommend Hebrews to you… (all of it). And I place before you a possibility to consider… that whenever you teach, consider always using the whole sentence, and never a clause alone. It’s often very important to hear The Rest of the Story.

Sometimes, it just changes everything!

Grace to you — The Little Monk


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Journey — Seeing in New Ways

Desert CaravanToday, in our journey… it has been an unusual day. I don’t think I’ll be “letting go” of anything, particularly. But have you ever been somewhere that you are just stunned by the beauty of it all? The desert isn’t usually considered beautiful, but it can be.

So, this isn’t really “teaching” or “challenge” or anything like that. This… this evening… is just “sharing”. I just have to affirm something, that may or may not make sense, but I just put it out there because it needs to be witnessed.

Tell you something really strange, Gentle Reader. I can’t even find a Scripture that echoes this. It’s rather that ALL of Scripture echoes this. But anyway… starting a couple weeks ago, I started to be struck by the simple BEAUTY of God. When I start to pray, and there’s words, the words just sort of dwindle away into silence… and there’s just Him… and He’s just… beautiful… and there’s nowhere else to go and nothing else to do.

This may be connected to the “new vision” stuff, and that would be fine. But if so, it’s Him, not me… but, I almost feel silly to say… the “great insight” of today, simply is… “the Beauty of God”, and nothing deep or impressive to say theologically about that.

Lol. *blush* That’s it. It’s been like that now for many days, and prayer works and goes on, yes. There are those who are growing, and those who are ill, and those who have family issues, and those who are off doing incredible mission things for Kingdom… and all those are in my prayer. But, unbidden, at unexpected moments… we can hear this gentle whisper of the Father beckoning us to Him, and there He is, and He just smiles, and He… is… Beautiful.

Grace to thee, Gentle Reader. — The Little Monk


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