RSS

Tag Archives: Sin

Saved From… Marley’s Chain

Charles Dickens“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I recently had a conversation and was asked why it seemed that so much of Scripture speaks of being “saved”. Saved from what? Is it all reference to hell, to burning flames and eternal damnation? It seems SO central a theme that there must be more to it than that, but if so… what? In our lives here and now, being “saved” or “rescued” doesn’t seem a central theme and need, and clearly Scripture is to address our lives now as certainly as in those times, so… what’s up with this?

I didn’t have “good” reply at the moment. I could sense that in the times Scripture was written down, “slavery”, “bondage”, and the ownership (or long term lease, due to debt) of other human beings was a real, relevant, immediate truth in life. “Bondage” means something vastly more significant when it surrounds you every day and war could place you into it with no notice whatever.

For those of that time and place, the Incarnation of Jesus “setting free from the bondage” of sin and evil was an extremely clear and relevant paradigm. Today? Not so much.

Today, while kind of “free worshiping”… this line from Dickens came to me. “I wear the chain I forged in life.”

I sense the immediate, relevant, truth of this in my own life.

Jesus “freed” me, not only from the very common-sensical fear of “hell” and “eternal punishment” that would be a “just” consequence of my own violation of clear precepts of right and wrong that have dwelt deep in my heart since my youngest years…

But Jesus’ Redemption, the power of His shed blood on the Cross… not only “paid the price” of all my own crimes, failings, violations of other sacred people…

Jesus not only fulfilled the foreshadowed role of the First Goat (in the Day of Atonement Sacrifice)… But He also fulfilled the mission of that Second Goat (the “Scape Goat”) as well. Jesus has “carried away” my sins from me, and from “the people”, and the “church”, and even… Our Father.

Jesus not only made the “sacrifice”, but having “made purification of sin” He sat at the right hand of God the Father.

THAT’s the relevance, for me… of “saved”, “rescued”, or “salvation”…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It’s all about “Marley’s Chain”, you see.

All through my life I have made choices to harm, rather than nurture, others from time to time. To desire or take what is theirs. To offend them. To attack, ignore, belittle them. One way or another to wound them.

In such moments, I ignore and hold Our Father in contempt. I presume upon the grace and love of God. I yield to temptation and derive pleasure and satisfaction from it. I drink from a poisoned well, knowing it is toxic and not caring.

All that wounds ME!

We are all connected! Me with every other. Me with God. God in and through every other. God in me. It’s all one in Him. We are all One Family in Him, we are not members of separate tribes! For me to wound another is to be a “cutter” in the metaphysical sense. It harms me… injures me… scars me.

Such moments forge a link of chain… a wound… a guilt… a shame… a regret… a bad memory… a bitterness… a misunderstanding… a dark mote. And each of these I forge across life, used to link together… dragging me back, dragging me down, pulling me into a shadowy morass without love, joy, beauty, or truth.

What is “Salvation”? To me?

It’s the Glory of Jesus’ coming to “set free this captive”! It’s His heroism and sacrifice to pull that hideous chain off of me (and everyone else, who will release their grasp of it)… lay all of that across His Own Shoulders… and drag all those links to His Cross with Him, to die under their weight and dispose of them totally and finally… as far as east from west… in the deepest abyss of the sea.

I am, once and forever, freed of the weight of “Little Monk’s Chain”… and I for one, am glad that He has rescued me from its dreadful burden.

 

Advertisements
 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Compromising Purity – Toxic Waste

fruiteeth

“Purity”  This outdated, “uncool” word. Somehow, deep in our heart of hearts, we know purity is central to the intimacy and immediacy of our relationship with God. We sense its importance with our transparency and intimacy with those we love. We even suspect, with that creepy sense of a hint at the back of our minds, that purity may be important to our own comfort level, our transparency, with ourselves in our innermost hearts.

So here we are, at last, having arrived at the predictable destination for any discussion of “purity”… the “Sex-Drugs-RockandRoll” part… the “hot-n-sweaty-between-the-sheets” part… the “pornography” part… the “self-abuse” part! Mwah hah haaa! Finally! We’ve gotten to the “Dirty Dancin’ Sex” part! We’ve ARRIVED!

Except…

We haven’t.

Here is where we… humanly… theologically… parentally… morally… religiously… miss the point so readily and frequently. We think this is the “end of the line”, this sexual immorality thing, when it is but a waypoint, (granted a MAJOR waypoint, but still just) a waystation on the path to our final destination.

And what’s that? What’s the final destination? As ever, it is our own hearts. Our interior selves, the place from which love comes and goes, where relationships form and are embraced. The place where we encounter and respond to God and to one another.

Paul addresses sexual immorality with the Corinthians thus: All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” [1 Corinthians 6: 12-20]

This is not a condemnation of “sex”. God commanded Adam and Eve (and many others) to go forth, be fruitful, and fill the earth with new life. This is not a condemnation of “the body”. Paul speaks of immorality as a sin AGAINST one’s own body, and urges instead that we glorify God in our body.

So… as I am so often asked, “What’s wrong with pornography, Little Monk? There’s no victim. I’m not touching anyone but myself. How can there be a sin, when no one is hurt or touched, when I’m all alone?” And all that person has for their moral compass is this vague neurotic sense of guilt and shame, laid down when they were very young (incredibly young), when self-gratification was equated with the shame they knew if they pooped their pants or failed to make it to the toilet in time to pee. All they have in their conscience is the human equivalent of the downcast whimper of a puppy whose nose has been squashed into their mess.

They’ve been taught shame. The wrong kind of shame. They’ve been taught to be ashamed of their body. Ashamed of its reactions to visual (or other) sensory stimuli. Ashamed of their body’s connection to their minds and imagination. Often, ironically, this shame bleeds into their own marital relationships, toxifying the very place, the actual place where holiness dwells in all of this. They have been taught shame of passion itself, and thus become caught in a toxic trap that negates any sense of purity or light.

How did this happen?

Their understanding of purity stopped short of the destination. They got hung up at the “somatic”, at the “glandular”, at the “body” part… and they did not carry on with the issue all the way to the mind and the heart!

Jesus addressed this right at the outset in His Sermon on the Mount:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’;  but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. [Matthew 6:27-28]

This word “lust” here, epithumeo (ἐπιθυμέω), simply means “passionate desire”. Humans like to translate it “lust”, but it really doesn’t have an innately sexual meaning. Jesus uses this same word of His own feelings from time to time, feelings of love for those He has come to save, passionate desire to gather, to protect, to embrace. I’ve always likened it to that feeling a parent has, from time to time, where you just want to hug your children (or grandchildren) so intently that you must constrain yourself or cause discomfort. The passion is where the “mind”, the “emotions”, and the “body” (the glands, the intensity, the muscles) meet and cross over into one another.

So what has all this got to do with the topic?

We are speaking here of compromising purity, specifically (at the moment) through sexual immorality. Jesus points out that where it all goes haywire is not in the bed (though that may well be a likely outcome)… but the adultery is in the “look upon her with lust [passionate desire] in his heart”. THAT… is intense focus… THAT is placing the self in the intimate sexual scene… THAT is to generate and revel in the “fantasy”.

And THERE is where the problem lies with pornography, self-abuse, and all the other little “secret dirties” that nannies, and parents, and religious shame-mongers program children with. Such programmers seldom understand the mechanics themselves, and are usually so uncomfortable with the topic (not to mention ignorant), that they never do as Jesus did… get down to the heart of the matter.

If all we focus on is the physical, the material… the video playing… the magazine purchasing, hiding, drawing out behind the locked door… the movie-going… then we miss the point. The heart of the matter is not in the material, it is in the mental, the emotional, the relational.

When we take a false relationship of intimacy into our minds and hearts through the senses… (whether pornography, infidelity, sexual fantasy in the community, church, or workplace)… or any other form of sexual immorality, we make a conscious decision to devote and dedicate our mind and imagination to a LIE. We focus, concentrate, passion and adrenalin involving a whole biological system designed for a joyful, wholesome, and holy purpose… and we poison that, devaluing that to the “merely vicarious”, of no greater significance to us than watching a scary movie for cheap thrills.

The mind… the heart… the inner person… made in the image of God… capable of imagination and co-creatiion… such dignity and power is scarcely imaginable. THIS is what sets us apart (as far as we know) from all other life on earth (perhaps beyond). Here is the essence of the soul, of the heart. Here is where Paul says we sin against our very SELVES, our own body, when we cheapen this.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Where’s the “Purity” issue?

To invest the self, the soul, the mind, the heart, the passion… the capacity we have for imagination and fantasy… into a the non-existent phantom of sexuality without relationship, call-to-oneness, or true trust and intimacy… this is utterly toxic and self-defeating. This leads, inevitably and unavoidably, to emotional desolation, emptiness, unrequited yearning.

The Serpent succeeded in seducing Eve with such a process… painting in her mind something impossible… “a good thing outside the will of God”. Once she conceived of that possibility, she yearned for it, judged it desirable, and acted upon that thought.

The irony is that the generation of “neurotic shame” and “shadowy mystique” usually strengthens the illusion of desirability. Sexual allure is largely cultural. What hairstyles, makeup, clothing (or lack thereof), is “attractive”… is largely dependent on where (and when) you are and who you grew up with. Even the “ultimate allure”, the naked form… varies in “attractiveness” from one culture to another, one era to another.

Why? Because Jesus had it right! It’s in the head, the heart, the desire, the fantasy, the “longing look”. Sin is in the “will”, the “choice”. Purity is a decision as well as a quality. Flee from sin. Refuse to pursue immorality of any kind (sexual or otherwise), and do not even remain “passive” and happy if it is upon you against your will.

How?

Ah… we can “drive out the toxic”, by “embracing the wholesome”. Darkness cannot exist where/when light is brought in to the room. We can “import purity”, and by this means counteract all of the compromises… adulteration, corruption, and toxification. Paul told us how! Watch this…

Sheri Phillips, NOAA/NESDIS/NODC/DBMD, amer0020, NOAA's Small World Collection

Sheri Phillips, NOAA/NESDIS/NODC/DBMD, amer0020, NOAA’s Small World Collection

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” [Philippians 4:4-9]

How amazing is this?

Paul teaches this TREMENDOUS truth here! And he’s not even talking about “behaving rightly”, or “being moral”, or “purity” or anything like that! He’s talking about PEACE! He’s talking about GRACE! He’s talking about how to invite the God of peace to be with us, and to guard our minds and our hearts!

Gentle Reader… God is NOT a DEAF MUTE! He is not passive! He doesn’t just sit there saying, “Well, let’s see how they handle THIS now, shall We?” or “AHA! He’s made his own bed and messed up, now let’s let him lie in it!” That’s NOT God. That’s not how God has EVER been! It’s not how God is through the Old Testament, New, or in our lives as we walk. If that were so, we’d all have been toast long, long ago.

No… if we will take what WE are and have and can… our attention, our focus… and direct that toward elements of light… “whatever is good, true, beautiful, etc.”. THEN He will bring us the rest of the way! He will purify! He will enlighten. He will guard and grant peace.

Why? Because we deserve it? Because we do such a great job cleaning house that He just can’t wait to get in here? Lol! No. Simply because it’s what He’s always wanting all along. He WANTS to dwell with us. He WANTS us to know peace, not turmoil, anxiety, fretfulness, loneliness.

I often teach that the single most persistent truth I see reflected in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments… is God’s desperate and determined desire to live intimately in, among, alongside His children in sheer love… and our equally determined efforts to resist that. (Fortunately, He’s God, we’re not. He wins!)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Purity is not hokey or out-of-date. Purity reflects the clarity of connection, intimacy, immediacy between God and us, and among ourselves in light and transparency. Compromises of purity lie all around us every day. But the restoration, the maintenance, the protection of purity… lies all around us, among us, and within us as well.

Never despair. Never reject. Never shrink away in fear or shame. “Let your mind dwell”… LEARN… learn to meditate, to contemplate, to use the tremendous gifts God gave us for entering into His consciousness, to dwell on whatever is of good, whatever is of Jesus and Truth. And such effort will bear fruit in the reduction of any and all fantasies in/of darkness.

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Compromising Purity – Adulteration

by yin yang Source:http://everystockphoto.s3.amazonaws.com/clean_simplicity_refreshing_19096_o.jpg

by yin yang Source

Intimacy with God… with self… with others.

We speak here of “Purity” and “Adulteration”, and a reader might think, “Ah… I know EXACTLY what we’re talking about here! This will be about S-E-X! Mwah hah haa!”

But no. That’s not what this is really about. Let’s deal with this bogey in the very beginning.

Adulteration (from which, indeed, we get the word “adultery”) is NOT simply about sex. It’s about “watering down”, it’s about “weakening”, it’s about “rendering impotent”.

“Oooo”, one might say. “Now we’re talking about ‘impotence’. This just keeps getting better and better.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’ve struggled with how to draft this post, because I feel like I see these “connections” among concepts that are just so clear and simple… and I want to share them with you, Gentle Reader… but I do NOT want to stand in, or even LOOK like I’m standing in, the position of telling you what to think, what to believe, what to be convicted by. That is SO the realm of the Holy Spirit… and you, your mind, heart, convictions… are such a sacred place. I don’t want to just seem like I’m traipsing through your conscience in hobnail religious boots, telling you, “You gotta believe this, or ELSE!!!”

So, I’ve struggled. How do I share, communicate, this lovely picture of connections with you… without the implication that if you don’t see things the same way, you are out of order?

The best I can offer to meet my concerns is simply to say what I’ve just said. To be open and transparent about all this with you, and if these words ring true to you… your heart, your spirit, your reading of scripture and your experience of the presence and ministry of Christ… then great! Feel free to use them in whatever way suits. If these words don’t fit, don’t hesitate to lay them aside.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There is this simplicity, this joyful and wondrous secret of “how” we enhance our intimacy of relationship with God… that Jesus shares in His opening ministry volley of Sermon on the Mount. And it’s when He discusses, of all things, “Adultery!”

And for centuries since, as all about us in religious circles today, just as people doubtless did the day He spoke… we focus on legalisms and criteria (“annulment” versus “divorce”… how do we interpret “husband of one wife”… or “is a divorced pastor now disqualified to serve”… etc.). In all of this, we rather miss the mark. We can easily miss His point entirely.

Jesus BEGINS with discussion of legalism, yes. But He then elevates the discourse to an entirely new level, as He progresses from “qualifications” to “relationship”.

“You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart... It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce. But I tell you, everyone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” [Matthew 5:27-28;31-32]

What I would point out here is simply that while Jesus indeed makes reference to sexual immorality as a legitimate reason for divorce, the crux of His teaching here on adultery is the relationship of a husband and wife. His focus is not on carnal faithlessness, but relational betrayal of trust. For Jesus, the issue of adultery is vastly bigger than “sex, drugs, rock-and-roll” as is so often oversimplified.

Does carnal infidelity constitute a form of adultery? Certainly.

But my point here is that “adultery”, as it relates to purity as an aspect of our intimacy with God, is an overarching issue of “trust” in “love”… vastly more encompassing than sexual promiscuity.

For many posts, many months actually, I’ve been struck by the reality that we trust only insofar as we love, and we can truly love only insofar as we trust. If our trust of another is limited or conditional, so will be our love. I’ve come to realize that herein lies the “love limiter” for most people in their relationship with God. Multitudes of believers “love God with all their heart, mind, and strength” insofar as they are able… But that “ability”, their capacity in their “all”, is bounded and limited by the extent to which they can truly trust Him… Him or anyone else in their lives.

It is very hard to learn to trust. Many of us never achieve the skill in this lifetime. Therefore, our capacity to love God utterly is compromised from the front, by our incapacity to trust anyone utterly… even Him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Could it be that Jesus addresses this here?

Could it be that He references the deep trust relationship that should exist between a husband and wife here?

Could it be that for Him, “adultery” weakens and waters down the foundation of trust itself in relationship? And in that denaturing, compromises the capacity to love at all?

I pose the possibility that the hallmark of “purity” is “trust”, and that trust paves the road of love. There are two means for undermining the trust of purity and love. One is betrayal, to receive and accept the trust of another, claim to fulfill the expectations of the other, and then intentionally fail to meet them. The other, less visible form of adulteration, is simply to refuse to dare to trust.

It’s a rather passive-aggressive situation.

We can adulterate love, violate purity, either by actively betraying the trust OF another… or by passively denying trust TO another. In both cases, we personally maintain the integrity of our own control, our own management, and our own defenses intact. We need not trust the other, we need not trust God, we need not risk… or so we think.

We think such defensiveness keeps us safe, keeps us strong, keeps us protected.

On the contrary… this form of adultery, this isolationism, simply keeps us from connecting. It can “feel” safer… like being wrapped up in cotton wool, or bubble wrap. But it simply keeps us cut off, apart, and alienated from others, from self, from God.

It does not strengthen, it weakens. It cuts off from light, from nurturance, from love.

When we invest our sense of safety, our passionate desire, our sense of “what-we’ve-absolutely-GOT-to-have-to-be-OK” into someone or something else that is not “right” for us… we weaken and water down our own capacity to love and be loved. The most frequent example used is that of the marital covenant… but “adultery”… the inappropriate investment of personal security and passion, can be applied to work, career, community esteem, money, education, anything.

Jesus focuses on the “relationship” with some “object” of our passion that will define us. His teaching here is much broader than just His legalistic example of “pornographic lust”… He speaks of the investment of the heart itself. As so often Jesus does, He starts with the simple and concrete, and elevates the dialogue to the simple and relational.

So… the question I am left with, the challenge I hear in my own heart, is…

Is there anything beyond the gracious gifts that God grants to me, that I look upon with the passionate desire and belief that without THAT (other, unpossessed) thing (object, person, position)… my life is just not worth living?

Such a view will weaken me, weaken my grace, water down my love and my capacity to love. When I do this, I am failing to trust… trust God, trust self, trust others who bless and grace my life. When I do this, I shall find myself hungry and wanting, because I have rendered my own pure nurturance from grace into something lesser and weaker.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Enjoy, in utter purity, the grace and blessings God showers upon us. Do not betray their trust in us… nor reject relationship with them out of mistrust of God or His grace.

God is incredibly faithful and effective in spontaneous provision, and sometimes, reaching for the blessings we wrongly think we need, can weaken the blessing we actually have.

If none of this makes sense, I apologize. This idea is very hard to wrap words around. Your comments are more than welcome.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on November 2, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Ain’t That Somethin’?!

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…

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 22, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Please Forgive You!

Five for Five by Brendan C. under Creative Commons License 2.0; Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/brendan-c/5536285460/in/photolist-9rdUMA-39p7Hj-faCoWC-wRWkfM-cyrFgm-pB6G22-aY7PT2-5s3wDn-ahsRVf-cWzXNS-7AoKFK-wbqgZi-5xuTd5-dRqNuF-ayg4m6-pvAtG9-9EQLnf-rfymR8-9fT9tH-8y6YMi-rRugd-mgioUt-evu6n-cv8VGW-7qS37A-brPrfq-eqonTq-6XSNjo-bv9T52-6yW3GR-7G2es1-aFHjbB-hZFWpE-n99svN-oYi4J-n7j6nt-mPv8Un-btqsVy-9GBMYG-eqVuhP-irFqq4-bZHsQU-kue8JM-dBEZyK-tHx8SA-99tqDR-aaTzvB-nuNods-5kanqy-oHwcRN

Five for Five by Brendan C. under Creative Commons License 2.0; Source

“How could I DO that! It’s not fair! It’s not right! That just hurt them too much! How can I say I love then, when I did that?!”

For the past couple posts, “In Love We Trust” and “Please Forgive Him!”, we have been discussing intimacy and the immediate love relationship with the Divine, and how it both reflects and is reflected by, our relationships with one another.The central theme I present (with which you are welcome to disagree if you choose) is:


We cannot truly love those we do not trust. And we cannot truly trust those we do not forgive.


One day, Jesus was asked…

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” [Matthew 22:36-40]

Now, Jesus was only asked about ONE SINGLE commandment. And He answered the question. But notice, He simply COULD NOT leave the statement at that. For Him to address our relationship with God, without addressing two other relationships was simply not acceptable to Him. That would have been wrong. And He refused to do that.

“TWO relationships?” you ask. Yes. It is easy to see that Jesus speaks of our relationship with others here. In fact, time and time again we see this text and that of the Good Samaritan circumscribing Jesus’ understanding of “neighbor”. But there is another entire relationship contained in His simple words “as yourself”. Contrary to a great deal of religious-looking thinking, writing, preaching, teaching… we are NOT to “despise ourselves”.

This may be a strange thought to some, Gentle Reader, but we are to hold ourselves in the same sacred love as we hold others… the same as Jesus holds us… the same as the Father and Spirit hold us. Please, stop, for just a moment, and consider that statement.

Why? Why are we to do this?

Because this is what God does, what God has willed, what God has done.

The Apostle Paul discusses this incredible reality in his letter to the Romans:

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” [Romans 5:6-11]

God loves us FIRST! He loves and came/comes to save SINNERS, the UNRIGHTEOUS, His ENEMIES!

We SAY these things so readily and blithely, Gentle Reader. But so seldom do we stop and think them through. Are you in Christ? Indwelt of the Holy Spirit? Does God hold you in the hollow of His hand? I suspect so. (Otherwise, this isn’t a blog likely to appeal to you, so I trust that to be so.) But beloved brother or sister… just as for myself… that didn’t happen and doesn’t happen because “we got sorted out enough to entertain His presence!” Far from it. He comes to those who NEED Him, and receive Him in that need. It has nothing at all to do with our getting “cleaned up enough to touch Him”… He is the only one who can “clean us” in the first place!

So, why am I bothering to belabor such a fundamental Truth?

Because it is so very easy to forget our own helplessness, as we grow in Him. As we grow, our conscience becomes more sensitive, more attuned to right or wrong, to godliness or dissipation, to purity or depravity, to righteousness or callousness, to love or indifference. We become more aware of the moments when we forget His presence and grace, and act out of appetite, pique, or adrenalin. The Spirit within our conscience points out such moments in our considerations, we know remorse, repentance, and we grow in our understanding, compassion, and love.

It seems an odd thing, but the more we mature in Christ, the more loving we become. But at the same time, our “internal standard” increases as well. Our expectations of ourselves rise, so that often, rather than acknowledging and praising God for our growth (our increase in loving others and decrease in wounding neighbors) we feel more dissatisfied than ever. Our guilt, our shame, our dissatisfaction can increase rather than diminish. There is a subtle trap of darkness here… undermining grace, hope, gratitude… endorsing and affirming pride and a sense of hopelessness or despair.


Now, this post could become a long, scripture-laden, multi-faceted teaching… or we can keep this simple. So I just want to put some ideas our here, let you consider them (prayerfully), and see what you think. I would appreciate comment, response, reaction, and discussion if/as you feel led. So here we go…

  • God loves FIRST. He did. He does. That’s it. We can choose to receive that or not, but we never did, we don’t, and we never will… “merit”… “deserve”… or “get good enough” to deserve or earn that love. We can just reflect it to Him, and refract it to others… but only He IS and RADIATES Love as His very essence and being.
  • In this life we yet walk subject to “glass darkly” incomplete vision and understanding. We know moods, feelings, reactions, adrenalin, illusions and temptations that from time to time we use our free will to choose, in place of God’s will. That is, sometimes we sin, treating one another or even God Himself as less than sacred and holy.
  • When we recover our peace in Him, we become aware of such past moments, and experience remorse, perhaps even shame or guilt. We can respond to such awareness with either of two kinds of sorrow, one that leads to death, the other to repentance.(see 2 Cor 7:10)
  • The sorrow that leads to death haunts us, dwells in a closet of buried regrets, and emerges in our lowest hours to foment a sense of despair, hopelessness, worthlessness, and guilt that robs us of any sense of joy or life. It drives us away from God in our shame and the desire to hide from Him. The sorrow that leads to repentance is clear and can be uncomfortable, but seeks light and cleansing and hope. It is a sorrow that seeks to reconcile and render relationships whole again, rather than distant and disrupted.
  • The crucifixion and redemption of Jesus at Calvary, the sacrifice of His blood shed on the cross, was so complete and so perfect that it forgave all sin for all time: past, present, and future. Such that there is no further room in the life of the believer for an ongoing sense of sin, guilt or shame.
  • God, in the crucifixion and redemption, paid for and REMOVED all sin and its stain, from those who believe. As far as east is from the west. There was a Writ of Transgressions (a charge sheet) against us, which has been nailed to the cross and obliterated in Jesus’ blood. Our sins are buried in the deepest abyss of the sea. There are TWO goats in the Atonement Sacrifice, one that dies to pay the price of sin, the other on whom the blood is poured and is driven from the camp (the Scapegoat). There are TWO sets of “books” at the White Throne Judgment: one BOOK (singular), (The Lamb’s Book of Life) containing the names of the redeemed, and the BOOKS (plural) (The Books of Deeds) that are opened ONLY for those NOT in the Book of Life, who are judged according to their deeds.
  • Jesus has clothed us in His own robes of righteousness, which is why and how God sees us (right now!) as clean before Him.

Now, do we all “feel” this, “realize” this, walk in full “awareness” of this all the time every day? No! We yet experience our own frailties and faults, failures and missed marks day after day. Nonetheless, God has already woven all of that, and this, into His plans, His tapestry of time… and it is all accounted for in His will.

“Forgiveness” is a yes/no proposition in life. Either we choose a universe where Forgiveness exists… for ALL… or we do not. Forgive others. Yes. Forgive God. Assuredly. But also… of great importance… Forgive yourself!

So many people “stand apart” from God, because there is something in their past (or even their present) that THEY cannot forgive, so they dare not embrace Holy God.

Know what? He knows about that. He always did. He knew about it before you did. He knew about it before you did it, before you knew it was wrong, before you repented it. He LOVES you… and LOVED you BEFORE you did it, WHILE you did it, and now. He does not, and never has, despised you or been ashamed of you.

So here’s the challenge: If God Himself loves, forgives, and embraces you (and me)… knowing full well (even better than we do) all our shortcomings, vulnerabilities, failures and habits… who are we to condemn ourselves and retain our shame and guilt? If Jesus Himself DIED, according to both His and the Father’s will… to FREE us from sin, guilt, and shame… is there any merit in holding on to those despite His sacrifice?

Do you have faults, Gentle Reader? So do I.

Does an “accountability list”, or an inventory “examination of conscience” sometimes seem to fill you with despair or disgust? Well, I do that sometimes.

But it took a really REALLY long time, before Jesus sat me down one day, hugged me, and said, “I know every stumble every time, and I always have. I know every flaw and failing, and I always have. And yet I chose to die for you, knowing all that, just because I love you that much and I want you to embrace Me as I embrace you. Now… if you are ‘good enough for Me’ just as you are, will you please let yourself be ‘good enough for you, too’? Since *I* forgive you… will YOU please forgive you, too? If you can quit focusing so much on the stumbles and frailties, and focus on My embrace, instead… you’ll find you stumble a lot less.”

So there you go, Gentle Reader. Since He has forgiven you so much, and gone to such trouble to make it so and take all stain (past, present, and future) from you… Please forgive you, too! It’s a choice we make. We can live WITH forgiveness… or not. It’s entirely up to us.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 16, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Whom to Love?

I woke this morning with this song, this recording, playing inside my head like an earworm.  I had to go find it when I got up, listen and let it wash over me for a while with coffee. (It’s just that kind of recording… one of those “wash over” kinds.) Acapella is a wonderful vocal form, but to realize this is a “Solo Acapella” just fills me with wonder.

Simple, isn’t it?

Simple, yet wondrous.

All I want to share this morning is one other “Simple, yet wondrous” Truth.

It’s about “loving all”. Jesus command it, yet we resist. Jesus did it, modelled it, demonstrated in His walk among multitudes, and then accomplished the greatest act of love imaginable as He redeemed the very Cosmos… All of Creation… with His death on the Cross.

Simple commands He left us with, right? Love God the Father with all we are. Love our neighbor as ourselves. (When the “clever folk” tried to debate Him on “who is neighbor”, it came down to being our own responsibility to show compassion to those in need… “who was neighbor to the injured man?” The fact that a Samaritan was, by definition of the time, a sinful, depraved, unclean, idolator and pagan… just didn’t strike Jesus as meaningful.)

Here’s this “simple wondrous” thing that has struck me… Jesus tells us to love, countless times. He never once tells us to hate anyone. Friends, enemies, allies, family, strangers, pagans… anyone… everyone… love them. Simple.

Humanity doesn’t really like to hear that, in general. We want clear identifiers, lapel pins, labels… “love her, hate him”… “love them, hate these”… all according to our tribes and divisions and classes and colors and languages and cultures and how we perceive and respond to God.

Do you imagine we often make Him weep?

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” [Luke 6:25]

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; Though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:6-8]


I close with just this thought today.

Look at what the Apostle Paul wrote right there. Recall that in his own mind, his own memory, when he says “ungodly”, or “while we were yet sinners”, he speaks from his own earlier career of persecuting Jesus and killing His followers.

It’s all a matter of the “sequence” you see. GOD loves the “enemies” FIRST. (In fact, WE were “enemies”.. “ungodly”… use whatever label we choose.) Grace, love, relationship, the voice of Jesus the Shepherd somehow reached through our own darkness and shadow to melt our hearts and open the eyes of our heart with His love and embrace.

I, for one, am rescued by Grace alone, despite my own worst efforts. Jesus says that I have been given Life through Love by the boundless Grace of God. And, as His child, He wants me to do the same… just love… embrace… don’t judge, don’t sort, don’t label, don’t “fix”… just love. When I do that, He assures that He will take care of the rest.


The Father loves Children. That’s what He is, that’s what He does. He loves First and Best.

He sent His Son to seek and to save that which was lost.


Have a wonderful day, Beloved Brother/Sister! Go love somebody, and let the Joy touch and wash over you!

Blessings and grace to thee!

The Little Monk

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: