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Worship without but within words…

earth beautifulFrom some years ago…

Sleeping… waken… open eyes… beautiful… lights dancing, but small lights. Seemingly in random motion, yet not… as I rest, relax, cease striving, I see pattern, beauty, praise. This is life itself… rather, Life Himself. Truth, beauty, goodness, love, peace, joy, music, praise, thanks… worship. Somehow, I have wakened inside worship.  How amazing.

“Lord?” I whisper, reverently, sacredly… awed.

And there is caress, a tender hug and enfolding… no words… direct impression of idea… He unspeaks… “Hush… be… I AM… you… be.” Can’t really translate the impression into words. That is as close as I can come. I was simply to exist in Him, and hush. So I did.

And then… I was inside of Someone with no boundaries or limits. Strange, to be inside One Who has no “outside”. But then He spoke, He uttered, and I flowed with that tide, that current from within Him to “other”, to “beyond” Him… He had spoken The Word.

And now, with infinite others, I was inside that Other… Holy Other… spoken forth from the First, from the Prime Mover… still dancing lights, all the same, identical pattern, Life Himself. Truth, beauty, goodness, love, peace, joy, music, praise, thanks… worship. No different, yet different, for now all this worship and praise had an Object, a Focus, the Other, the Prime Mover.

And This One, This Holy One, spoken forth from the Object of His Love, now spoke forth His Own First Word… it was, “Father”, as He wholly and entirely adored the Prime Mover. And again there was movement, the lights, we, flowed from Him, outwards, back to the Father. Amazing.

And then, between them, forevermore, remained that “word” that “bridge” the relationship between Them. And it grew, expanded, encompassing all and everything, in its own light, as This Too became Alive and Whole in and of Himself… the Relationship Between Them, as the Prime Mover spoke again… the word “Son.”

There was nothing to say, nothing to do, nothing to think, but to flow with this Life, this Love, these Words… There was no awareness of anything beyond the moment… the “I”… the “Now”… the “Here”… and Here, was, distinctly, worship.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Oh, sweet irony. I do not wish to speak. I am yet There… and when I “hush”, when I now “relax” and allow Him to draw me into Him with “no distance”, “no apartness”, then my mind stops thinking, there is no more I/Thou, and I am there! Such… no, no words. The sweetness, the joy and light of that, is so immediate, so poignant, that it pierces the heart and soul. Seems strange to say… joy so great it is nearly painful in its intensity. A moment more… then work… then obedience…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There are some who pray, who have discovered God in Silence. I never understood before. Trappists, Carthusians… My Jesuit father frequently said, if God did not command his obedience and service as a Jesuit, or if the Order ever chose to release him (as he had a request before them to do for years)… he sought to join a Carthusian monastery he knew. I asked why, and he said, “They are forever silent. They live ever in His immediate presence, and hear only Him. God grants me that only when I contemplate… but then commands me to teach. So I obey. But someday, if He grants my wish and reward, I shall be a Carthusian.”

I did not understand. I do now.

The Music! The Harmonies of the Silence! Would that I never again spoke or uttered a sound. The irony. It seems I very much am “my father’s child”. Now, that finally I desire no speech… now I am properly prepared to craft words. Now, it is time… to teach. Though all I would seek is solitude and silence.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Persistence of Words…

Shamelessly I have stolen this fabulous video from Paulfg of Just Me Being Curious. But after watching it, I was struck with this story told by Jesus, and thought what an awesome illustration this clip would be in an average Sunday Sermon!

Here’s the Text:

18 Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge *said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

We can trust… that He hears, responds, cares, and does not delay. Always! And even those who have no desire to hear, will hear nonetheless.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2015 in Sermon Seeds

 

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Can You Hear the Bacon Sizzle?

bacon sizzleDiving or snorkling off the Florida Keys, this sound haunts you at all depths. You can’t see why, you can’t explain it, but there it is… always… the distinct sound of bacon sizzling right next to your ear.

It’s creepy.

When I asked around about this, I was told that it was a sound audible in the ocean anytime it is quiet enough. That it is the sound of “sand being made”, as Parrot Fish, from every quarter, rasp algae off hard surfaces… rocks… coral… ship hulls… anything… by scraping the hard wall with their beak-like raspy snouts, consume the mineral mouthful, and eventually eject sand from their gill slits or other orifice.

parrot fishI don’t know if it is true or not, for I’ve not dived or snorkeled in all the waters of the world, and I can’t be sure that all of them ever truly get “quiet”. But I can tell you that wherever I HAVE been, when I am still and silent underwater, and there seems no other sound… I have heard this buzz of sizzling bacon.

I was reminded of all this today when I read some bits and pieces on prayer by some very wise, grace-filled, experienced… um… authors from ages past. The who, what, when isn’t the point here. The topic was “Stillness”, “Silence”, and “Hearing God”. Or rather… “BEING in/with God” beyond hearing or any other sensation.

We tend to be such “people of action”. We want to DO FOR God. Or DO WITH God. Or GIVE TO God. Or GET FROM God. We like to ACT, to DO, to BEHAVE, to somehow perform something that is pleasing to God.

And that it, far and away, a good thing. Yes.


But when we slow down a bit, when we focus on the Him as Him, a bit more… and the Us and Him a bit less… we are sometimes moved simply to HEAR Him. Not to do, or talk, even pray, not even to “worship” (which is often for us another “act for Him”)… but when we just settle down to ATTEND to listening to Him, hear His words, hear Him speak. In such moments we enter into a different kind of prayer than our petitions and intercessions, or even our praises. We enter in to “meditation”. We allow the Holy Spirit directly to teach, in His own words, in our own personal language.

It is like “Sunday School” with the One Teacher we need. It is “Tutorial Time”, as God Himself makes sense of the written words of Scripture, and how the living and active Word of God (Jesus) imbues and exhales His Spirit into our being, our lives, our relationships (with Him and with others). This process challenges the mind, stretches the understanding, expands our boundaries… as we grow in our knowledge (and therefore love) of God in all Persons.

This too, this other form of prayer, is an assuredly good thing. Yes.


But from time to time, at first very much at HIS behest, as He teaches us to find stillness, but then as gradually we learn the path to silence, we become ever more welcome into this… this… “garden”… this “meadow”… this “pool” where all is silent, we can come to sense what I can only call God’s very “Pulse”. It seems to reverberate below all else, and when nothing but the resonance of His pulse fills all of our being, it is as if we (as separate) cease to be at all, and all there is is this pulse, this beating heart, which is both Him and us at the same time.

When I first tried to describe this to a friend… this odd “silence”… this “still place”… and the profound effect it seemed to have for me, where there were no words, no quotations, no lessons… just HIM… and that that very HIM-ness was so profound that it left me gasping and changed in ways I did not understand at all and could not describe… that friend responded with these words:

“There is a life and aliveness in silence and stillness that is ‘other than’ the best and richest of life that is sound and action.  While there will almost always be, in our waking hours, sound and action – at the center of life there is silence and stillness.  We do not ‘go to’ this silence and stillness, we live continually in it and our outward sounds and movements are profoundly informed and changed by it.  Outward sounds and movements are important but not essential to our aliveness.  It is the silence and complete stillness that houses the well spring of our aliveness, which is Jesus Himself.”

And this also, is a different form of prayer. It has many labels and descriptions, lots of books written about it. But I’m not going to go there because all that contains the implication that these labels denote something “superior”, “higher”, “more advanced”, or even… heaven forbid… “unattainable”.

Once upon a time, (please forgive me), I believed that. I was trained that way, and had not yet learned how corrupt and humanistic so much of my training was.


I have come to realize that all such thinking is rubbish. God IS… God expresses constantly ALL that truly IS.

Here is what seems to be the first and last “complete and true” statement to be made of God…

“God Alone is God in Whom All IS. All that is not God, simply is not.”

There can be nothing beyond God. There can be nothing without God. There is God… or nothing. And “nothing” is not. Nothing, cannot be.

Hence, when Moses asked God who he should say sent him to pharaoh, God accurately (and completely) named Himself… “I AM who AM.” There is no more, or less, that can be accurately said completely to denote God.

We can say many other truthful things, yes. But to be honest, we must always acknowledge that while these may be truthful, they are all partial and incomplete. They are “fragments”, “aspects” of Him. They do not come near to “describing” or “naming” Him in a meaningful way. He is just so much bigger, so much greater, so much more, than we can find any words or concepts to relate for Him.

Only one thing…

Only one way…

Only one means, that I have found, to get near enough to “touch” that One Alone…

Silence… to find the Point of Stillness… to “float” or “drift”… to simply “BE”…  in His Ever-Presence… and then halt the mind, the constant interior monologue of thought, question, ponder, wonder, worry, even praise or prayer. To stop the flow of all the words, even for a brief time.

Simply to “Hush”… and “Be”…

This is not an arcane mystical practice, or the effort of decades of monastic asceticism… (or it doesn’t have to be).

This is a simple… “hush”… “Be still, and know… the I AM… God.”


When we dare to seek and embrace the silence… when we seek out not even His words… when we utterly relax in the palm of His hand…

Wait… listen… trust… do you hear it?

Do you hear the Pulse of God? It is there. Just be still, and that Pulse, which is your life, will fill and transform…

That pulse is always there, in the silence, in the stillness, where you may rest and breathe!

 

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Antigravity and Joy

earth beautiful 2Ever felt joy-less, depressed, overwhelmed, stressed out? (I think “Compassion Fatigue” is the new phrase.) Me too. Here’s how God unexpectedly dealt with all that, one dark night.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This is a “non-sequitur” post, not specifically dealing with Spiritual Warfare, or Authority, and yet… somehow connected with those topics as I have been considering them. I have other things going on a bit, in terms of teaching or counseling, and a little bit ago I went through a bit of a personal “rough patch”. In fact, it was quite rough indeed. I don’t often share of my own frailties or struggles, except in terms of anecdotes or illustrations more or less long after the fact.

But I do have a few… accountability partners, close friends, brethren… call them what you will… close “family members” in this Kingdom Family with whom I am willing to be utterly transparent… generally because they’ve known me for so long, and seen all my warts and blemishes so clearly, that my own failures and slippages cannot possibly cause them shock or offense. I can also be so boldly honest because even when God grants some ridiculously undeserved grace to this pitiful servant, they know me far too well to mistake this for “merit” on my part.

This post is an email I sent to one of these “transparency brethren”. I shared this content with another one, and his response was, “Why don’t you put this up as a post on your blog?” I had a lot of excuses, but in the intervening days I’ve realized they were just that. So, in case you will be scandalized to know that I too can hit deep depths of “shadow attitudes” when my heart and emotions aren’t squared away with the Lord… don’t read any further. If God extending an utter miracle of grace, love and mercy to such a servant as I, tempts you to think (even in your wildest flight of imagination) that I am any more “worthy” than any other sinner-saved-by-grace on Earth… don’t read any further. There is nothing about me that “merits” the kindnesses of God that I experience. And there are none available to me, that are not showered upon every child He has.

But having said all that, and from the safety of my anonymity here on this site… I will open this to you, in a spirit of utter encouragement, worship, wonder, and gratitude that we share such a Father, Savior, and Spirit… who abound with such love and constant care.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Antigravity and Joy

Hey there, [Pastor “X”[.

Happy Anniversary, Happy Birthday, Happy Summer, Happy VBS & Summer Camps and all the other cool stuff you’ve been into since last I darkened your doorway!

I have a profound “interior urging” to write you today about this… which I neither understand (apparently it’s not my business), nor for which will I apologize. If these words make sense to you, accept them with my blessings. If this makes no sense at all, well, just cast them aside… with my equal blessings.

I’m going to cut through all the “backstory”, (to which you are more than welcome, let me know if you want the context)... and start this in the middle.

10 days ago, I was in deep spiritual trouble… actually, I was rather drowning in “muck”… (you know the kind… we normally flush it). Too many days, too many people, too many surprises, too many disappointments… too many shadows and shadow creatures… and I had apparently picked up an “infection”. I was sick, heart sick, soul sick. Saying things like… “What’s the point? I’ve had enough of this. This isn’t worth it, Lord.” and THINKING, though not quite saying, “I’m done. Put a fork in me. I give up, I can’t do this anymore… Gonna do something different now.”

The amazing thing was that even in the worst of it, I could see “two me’s” in that “Pauline Schizophrenia” sense… (“the good that I would do… the evil that I would not do”)… Almost like an out-of-body (or out-of-soul) experience… I could see my “wrong self” (this one… this depressed… discouraged… give it all up… self)… at the very same time as I could see my “right self” standing in Jesus as He seemingly shrugged in confusion at my despondency, saying, “We don’t do what we do for ‘payoff’, what’s the problem? What’s any of that to Me and to you, Little Monk? We do what we do because it is what we do… because it is His will, His words, His works, not because we depend on people listening. We speak the words, and let His words work… some will hear, some will not, that’s not up to us.”

I KNEW that. I had conviction on that. I had scripture on that. My WILL was conformed to that. But my heart… my heart was sinking, I felt I was sinking in this sea of “muck” and I would soon drown. All I could do was resist, continue to tread water and hold on, and endure. But all that with the dwindling strength and resolve that heralds eventual inevitable defeat.

I prayed, studied, sang, pondered, read… all of that… seeking relief. None came. I knew I was in a bad place, a dark place, I rebuked… repented… sought Him… (though He never left, and I could feel/know that)… all of that. I expected Jesus (in His own good time) to “set me straight”. I had the sense of being “unclean”, of holding myself in a place and a mindset that was out of order, of entertaining and tolerating the company of shadow spirits with whom I had no business. Yet, try as I might, I could not rid myself of this.

Why am I telling you all of this? Just so that you embrace the absolute wonder, with which God dealt with the moment, and how utterly “counter-intuitive” it all seems to my “theological/religious” mind. I was, in those evenings… Jonah… with the singular exception of my “will”. My mood, psychology, sense of hope… all that… right there with Jonah… pitiful. The only difference, I sought that my will disappear into His will, regardless how ignoble my vessel at the moment.

At the very nadir of this “pathetic-ness” I was drained, exhausted, anxious… and yet unable to sleep well. Nonetheless, exhaustion took me in the early hours…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And then God took me…

The modality of my subjective prayer experience is not important, so I’ll not waste the words trying to describe the ineffable symbologies with which He communes in my own consciousness. (I’m happy to share that, if you have interest… but I find everyone’s experiences of this kind are unique and different.)

But the Father took me. (Unusual, that).

He was utterly Light, Clean, Him… and He grasped me without hesitation. (Unexpected, that.)

He had lifted me onto His hand in my mucky, stinky, filthy, exhausted, depressed state without hesitation, and drew me into the Wonder of His Heart. (Inexpressible, that.)

I lay there, too weighed down and exhausted to move, almost panting for breath through the stench in which I was drowning, and as He drew us into His heart… ALL THAT was instantly and marvelously gone. I felt as if I had been being “Pressed”… an archaic form of capital punishment by adding one stone at a time on a board on one’s body, until the ribs are crushed by the weight and breathing is no longer possible… But then suddenly, in the blink of His eye, not only was all the weight gone, but He’d breathed helium into me instead. Instead of heaviness, there was affirmative lightness.

I was revived. I was hale, whole, strong. I stood up. It was wondrous.

A thought came to me… “Duty”, and I knew a twinge of sadness, knowing I needed to return. I had an important appointment coming.

He spoke, “No. Not yet. Tarry with Me a while.”

Delightedly I obeyed.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The next now, I will only summarize, without any of the imagery or symbology of the experience… but…

I had a sense of wonder, as I knew I had entered here… “out of order”. I had been in a wrong place, wrong spirit, wrong attitude… and I am accustomed to “correction” in such times, “teaching” of where I was wrong, and reinforcement of what was right.

As this thought flashed across my mind… as I was simply experiencing waves of “Joy” pouring off from Him, out from Him, I felt a bit “guilty” about that. “Ashamed”, or “unworthy”… my faith, my resolution, my grace had been eroded to paper thin-ness when He grasped me.

His response? Just one word… “Irrelevant”

WHAT?

And He just continued to fill me with “Joy”.

Um… [Pastor “X”]? Stop just one moment and find the greatest joy in your heart. Maybe moments with [your spouse], or playing with your kids, or when you first held them… Maybe a moment with Jesus… or… All of that put together. Capture in your mind/memory that incredible rush of supernatural joy that just makes us laugh and cry at the same time, when we simply need to shout out, or maybe (if we’re not TOO Baptist… even… “dance” for a moment). Now just ramp all that up to the absolute red-line of the meter, and beyond…

And you have a sense of what those next seconds-minutes-hours (who knows) were like, as He held me in His heart. “Ecstasy” is a fancy theology word I’ve never been real happy with, but sometimes (like now), it actually fits.

Jesus came, and joined in. The Holy Spirit came, and joined in. And we all “rejoiced”… sang, danced, played, flew, um… nvm…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now here’s why I’m writing this… actually I’ll paste in this last section from my notes on this event…

But then, it wound down in “activity”, though not at all in “mood”. There we all were, the Four of us… as if sitting on a picnic blanket in sheer contentment on a warm Spring day. And yet… this was the midst of the Father’s heart, and the monk could look outwards and see with His eyes of sheer love.

Again… the word came… “Duty”… and the monk knew they had to return. But didn’t want  to… and yet did want to, if that was their duty. Yet even that thought didn’t bring sadness. It was as if the joy were a furnace of its own. There was the awareness that the monk didn’t want to go back, but there was no feeling of revulsion or resistance about it.

The Father spoke again… “It is time to return. You must go back.”

Little Monk said, “I know. And I shall, though You know I would rather stay.”

“I know, but it is not yet time. You can come, whenever you choose. But understand… THIS is REAL! THIS is what it is to be here, to be with ME, to let Me be Me in you. THIS is what I have ever intended for Life to be! No guilt. No grief. No darkness. No despair. None of that. All that is shadow-stuff… optical illusion generated by embracing the lies of those who want you separate from Me.

“I need you to go back, because I need you to keep telling them, keep showing them, keep loving them, that THIS is Me! They see it in you, at least some do. I need you to bring more Here… that I may play with them, sing to them, dance with them, and hug away their fears and shames. You will keep this Joy… it will protect you. And you need to share it there, with those who cannot see or feel it. When they are ready… bring them Here. Bring as many Here as you can, as soon as they are willing to trust that I desire only their Live, Wholeness, Good…

“You must go back, for so few know Me as “He who brings Life through Love”… so many fear Me instead… My Son will help. Our Spirit will reach through you… We need you to go back, Little Monk… though it will not be forever. And you can come here, rest, dance, renew, sing… whenever you need. I can protect you this way now. You have discovered this part of My Name… Joy.”

“Yes, Father.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And this has changed me a great deal.

What if the Father’s Name could be expressed, “Joy Who Gives Life Through Love”?

What if “in Jesus’ Name” wasn’t the “abracadabra” added on to the “white magic spells” of prayer according to the “white magic grimoire” of the Holy Bible… but rather what if Jesus’ Name were “God With Us” — the perfect reflection of God the Father, as Word Made Flesh and so able to enter in to our own spatio-temporal dimension?

What if the “Beatitudes” as expressed in Sermon on the Mount were better translated “Joyful are the poor… Joyful the meek…” etc.

What if Jesus intended the Church to be His Bride? And reasonably expected that that would fill us with Joy, not Dread?

If so, why are so many churches and churchmen filled with fear, and guilt, and shame, and dread? Why do so many spend so much time finger-pointing and accusing… when Accuser is the name of God’s enemy, not His Bride?

What if χαρά (chara) (as in “joy of your master” Matt 25:21) were inextricably linked with χάρις (charis) (as in “grace upon grace” Jn 1:16)? (oops… they ARE… we’re just not at all comfortable with that in English theology.)

What if “grace” and “gift” and “spiritual gifts” and all that… were ongoing expressions of the Father’s very PULSE as “Joy”… and humanity (and religion) simply shrink from the possibility?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

All these things have flowed through me for the past 10 days.

Don’t read me as denigrating or belittling speaking truth with grace, or conviction, or repentance, or regeneration. I think from “our side of the veil”, subject to the distortions and “glass darkly” of “original sin” and our subjectivity to temptation, error, and illusion… yes, those are all necessary tools.

BUT… I am now equally convicted and convinced, that those are tools and vehicles meant truly to get us “elsewhere”… that we come to KNOW Him in His preferred name… as Joy, and God of Hope.

There are few with whom I can share so “irreverent” a thought without causing offense. I trust I have not offended… I pray so. But I know you know this God, this God of Joy… for the very first time I ever heard you preach I was utterly stunned by a single line you intoned. You said,

“We don’t seek the Kingdom of God because it’s our duty. We seek the Kingdom because it is our JOY!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, receive this email as encouragement, as a prayer request, as a praise of Him, as a testimony of sheer wonder…

But above all, THANK YOU for persisting in “lifting Him up that He may draw all men to Him”… and pointing consistently at the Joy of this Family and Kingdom, rather than threatening with the fear, guilt, and accusation of threats for ticking Him off.

Here’s what’s becoming one of my favorite verses:

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)

Blessings and grace to you and all yours!!

The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

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Spiritual Warfare: Authority, Part Deux

In an earlier post on Spiritual Authority, I leapt over a huge amount of narrative and explanation because I wanted to avoid a convoluted discussion into which I am easily sidetracked and swallowed up. But I knew, even as I posted that, that I would need to follow up with some more concrete discussion. A few of the comments reinforced that.

So I’d like to sit back a moment and, without letting this get too tangled up, just look at one way of considering the whole matter of “Authority” as a whole. I want to consider our general, human, normal, relational experiences of authority… and then, from that perspective, look at the divine. I’m not trying to limit God to a human template, but I feel confident that especially in matters such as this, our social nature made in His image, and frequent scriptural referents and instructions on the conduct of such fundamental relationships as parenthood and marriage, along with the profound use Jesus Himself made of these two relationships, validates this discussion. As ever, though, if these words do not ring true as the Spirit guides your heart or conscience, cast them aside.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First of all, what is “Authority” anyway? Well, we can look it up in the dictionary of course, but in general I teach that it is the “ability and right to impose one’s will onto and over the will of another.” The idea of “authority” has no meaning without the idea of “will”. Authority is only an issue where there is choice, or the possibility of a contrary action or thought.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

OK, so let’s consider our human experience on Jesus’ illustrations for a moment. How do we see “Authority” as relating to these two critical human relationships — parenthood, and to marriage?

I propose that we can see human development, relational development, the development of relationships in four distinct stages:


First: Childhood Stage. In the first seven or so years of life, children cannot provide for themselves, protect themselves from danger, or make considered judgments of prudent action based on experience, reasoning or wisdom. Even the legal system does not yet consider them responsible for their own actions or consequences. The parent(s) hold responsibility for all that.

Parent(s) exercise authority over their children, being responsible for them and their actions, and for their well-being and upbringing. When the will of a child differs from the will of their parent(s), the child is expected (scripturally, morally, and legally) to honor their parent(s) and obey. That is their will is to yield to the parent, and penalty or punishment is a reasonable expectation for defiance of that authority.

Children’s initial experience of “authority”, then… (and thus, the experience all of us share)… is based in “Fear”. Children (all of us), initially learn to yield to authority by being programmed with a fear of punishment.

Four scriptural verses address the “beginning of wisdom”, and all of those associate it with knowledge or understanding. Three of those four, associate “fear” or “fear of the Lord” as well. That is, “fear” may be seen as a legitimate BEGINNING point, but that’s all it is… the beginnings of an infant or child, whose knowledge and understanding is only beginning, not yet matured. (Cf Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 4:7; Proverbs 9:10.


Second: Transactional Stage. When a youngster is “too big” for physical pain or superior size to generate fear to enforce authority in a conflict of will, and (on a more positive note) when communication and reasoning skills have improved, resolution is more likely to come from “bargaining” or “transaction” rather than “threat”.

While this is easy to relate to when we think of dealing with adolescence (or remember being one), it is important to note that this same approach to authority persists well into early vocational and professional maturity as well.

A parent or a boss CAN enforce their will in a conflict by using authority to threaten or generate costly punishment, generating fear. But it is more likely, before reaching such a pass, that a system of incentives and “earned privileges” is in place  That is, there is reasoned dialogue and negotiation, setting up a mutually beneficial transaction.

“If you yield and submit to my will, then these benefits will ensue. If you do not, then those benefits will not result, or these detriments will ensue.”

Like… Parent to Teen: “If you do your chores and keep your grades up, you may access our computers, game systems, and drive the car on Friday night. But if you defy me(us) or you fail in school, you will lose your privilege of playing in sports, or your curfew will be lowered.”

Or… Boss to Subordinate: “If you perform your duties well, dress appropriately, report to work on time, and follow my instructions, you will get good job performance evaluation reviews, a steady progress of pay increase and promotion. But if you do not follow instructions, perform according to my expectations, or execute company policy and procedure, you will receive a verbal warning, a written warning, and then be terminated from our employment.”

Both of these expressions and exercise of authority are “Transactional”, a “trade” based on the child (or subordinate) wanting to acquire something of value (whether liberty and privileges, or professional earnings and prestige)… in exchange for their compliance with the will of the superior.

We see this type of authority expressed a number of times in scripture, but perhaps the clearest of such expressions as God trains His children is

If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. [2 Chronicles 7:13-15]

Here we see this very clear “carrot-and-stick” transaction of authority and obedience, very much as we (as parents) could imagine ourselves dealing with our developing teen, or an employer dealing with a new employee.


Three: Exploration and Honeymoon Stage. Let’s change gears, change generations here for a moment. Let’s move from the “Parental” paradigm to the “Sweetheart” stage of intimate relationships. (Bear in mind, this really has no gender significance, particularly. There are no erotic overtones here. Jesus used a marriage and wedding illustration often as He considered growing intimacy and commitment between Himself and us.)

Authority, as the imposition or subordination of will, becomes very interesting when “opposition” is no longer an issue. If you have ever been married (as I suspect most of Jesus’ listeners had been), it is not hard to remember or relate to a time when a committed relationship had been formed, but partners were yet coming to know and understand one another.

Here again, “fear” becomes a factor… but it is not a matter of “fear of punishment”. When one is committed to the happiness and well-being of the other, but does not yet KNOW them through and through completely, then there is effort made not to do something that causes the other (the beloved) discomfort or displeasure.

Early years of a marriage of partners in love, or early years of a professional who loves and is deeply committed to his/her company or employer, doesn’t see a lot of overt “exercise of authority” between the superior and the subordinate. Rather, one seeks to consciously align the will of the self with the will of the other in order not to displease him/her. When there is anxiety over a decision, it is based on “not doing the wrong thing”, “not making a mistake”… but not out of fear of consequence in punishment, rather out of “fear of displeasing the valued other” (whether the partner or work colleague).

This is a “functional” stage. Many long term marriages never progress beyond this stage. Many career employees stay in this perspective all the way to retirement. And it has been my observation that a vast number of Believers attain this degree of intimacy with the Lord, and never ever get past it. Such people are adult enough to get beyond a fear of childish punishment, loving enough to get beyond bargaining and negotiation for advantage, and are deeply committed to the happiness of the significant other. But what “constrains them”, what exerts “authority over them”, is the fear of causing the significant other displeasure… of “hurting their feelings”.

I remember, when I was young, being told that “every time I sin, I add to the scourging of Jesus”. The thought horrified me. I vehemently sought to reject sin in all forms… “not to hurt His feelings”, and despised myself and my own frailty when I failed in my efforts. Only VERY recently, did I finally come to understand the Truth… that He has always known, and embraced me WITH all my frailties. I finally could embrace an instruction, a correction, I must have been given 100 times when I was an intern under a very wise mentor/boss/pastor who repeated over and over… “Little Monk! God is not NEARLY so concerned with your getting it all RIGHT! As He is concerned that you learn to relax, and simply enjoy His love!” (That made no sense to me… I could not grasp that… couldn’t embrace it. Decades it took, before Jesus Himself finally helped me see the truth of it.)

I present Stage Three to you with NO disrespect whatever! I lingered there for more years than I will admit. It is often marked with a tremendous sense of “rules and regulations”, of “do’s and don’ts” lest we displease Him. It is not BAD. But it is not yet complete. It contains fear, it contains shame, it contains a degree of mistrust for our total safety in Him. It is adult, yes… but not yet fully matured.

We want to unify our wills with God’s, but we haven’t yet learned and practiced the relaxed surrender of conscience to the Holy Spirit, so we cling fearfully to our “religious report cards” and “Do/Don’t” Lists. Paul seems to address this…

If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? [Colossians 2:20-22]


Four: Unitive Stage. Harmony. Here is a fascinating stage of “Authority” where the word itself seems to disappear. Why? Because the exercise of authority only emerges when there is a conflict of will between two parties, and when relationship is close enough, intimate enough that one party knows exactly what is pleasing to the other… and when the love and commitment is so strong that the desire of each is to create, to generate, pleasure on the part of the other… there is only harmony.

I described this to a friend the other day as, “remember the early stages of marriage, where we worked so hard to learn, to realize, what pleased and displeased our partner? We were more concerned not to inadvertently hurt their feelings, than anything else. And that was good. BUT, let a few decades of ongoing love, commitment and intimacy go by, and we learn them… we know their will… we know what pleases or displeases. And when you look at one of those incredible, grace-filled, beautiful marriages of half a century or so… when the partners are still as in love (or more so) than when they first met… there is no more fear. Each partner lives with the simple goal of pleasing the other, of making him/her smile. They look for little ways to surprise or delight the other. THAT’s the mature state of love… no more fear, simply the enterprise of walking pleasing to the other, because that is what is most pleasing to the self.”

I have seen this in this life. Haven’t you? Here is the living out of the intimacy of Jesus and the Father… all through John 13-17. Jesus only does His will, does His works, speaks His words. Why? Because the Father has “Authority”, and requires this of Jesus? NO! Because this is the JOY of Jesus, He is so intimately One with the Father that to see Him, He says, IS to SEE the Father!

“Well!” one might respond… “That’s all well and good for GOD! But what about US! This can’t possibly be something WE can aspire to, or live in! Where’s your humility!?” But see… Jesus disagrees.

Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” [John 17:1-3]

That’s US He’s talking about, Gentle Reader. You, and me, and him, and her… right here, right now, just as we are… “that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” And that word “know” there… is “intimate know”… as in biblically knowing… all the way through.

So many shy away from this thought. “Too intimate”, “too close”, “not reverent enough”, “need more distance”, “He’s too holy”, “He’s too scary”… so strange. Some paint this incredible revelation of grace and available relationship as some sort of cheap grace or feel-good message. Well, grace it assuredly is, but not the least bit cheap… It cost Jesus’ life to provide. Is it “feel good”? Well, I certainly hope so! The JOY of the Lord is to be our strength, not some sort of “no pain, no gain” hubris. The Gospel is GOOD News, and the churchy-folk leaders of His time killed Him for preaching it.


Here is the challenge God issues to my own life, and I pass it along for whatever use you choose to make of it. Embrace it, or cast it aside as the Holy Spirit leads you in your life and conscience.

“Do you want to love God with all your heart, mind and strength? Do you want to love others as Jesus loves?

“Then you have to mature beyond fear. We cannot…. CAN NOT… fully love what we do not fully trust. We can never feel truly and utterly “safe” with what we cannot trust without condition or flinching. And we cannot utterly trust, anything or anyone, we fear.”

Simple truth that. Obvious and self-apparent. The Apostle John got this utterly. He wrote the Gospels that most clearly documented the Lord’s teachings on all this. Ultimately, he left these words in legacy to the generations of his churches as he sensed the end of his own earthly life drawing near….

Consider this, and see if it does not summarize all I am saying here of “authority”, “harmony of will”, and our loving relationship with God…

By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. [1 John 4:17-19]


Bottom Line: “Authority” only has meaning when there is a conflict of wills. As to Spiritual Warfare, there is always a conflict of wills between unclean spirits and the will of Our Loving Father, Our Lord, and His Spirit. God has invested the fullness of His authority in and to us, by virtue of our Love of Christ and belief that the Father sent Him forth. That authority can and does flow through us unimpeded when our will aligns in faith with His.

But BEYOND that is the richer truth of “authority” and OUR relationship with God. Union, the union of will, love, knowledge of Him… complete with His words, works, and will… is not only our EVENTUAL destiny “up there, out there, somewhere…. in heaven… after we’re dead”…. but rather it is the living, here and now, process we are going through and intended to fulfill in all its richness, as we learn simply to trust Him to do what only He can do in and through us. How?

Paulfg says it the most directly of anyone I know…

“The answer is love. Now, what is the question?”

I hope this is some help on the whole issue of “Authority” and God.

Grace to thee, Gentle Reader.

The Little Monk

 

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Spiritual Warfare: The Foundation

holy spirit“Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’” [Luke 24:45-49]

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Thank you, to all Gentle Readers who have responded to the first post, the initial thoughts and questions I proffered, on Spiritual Warfare. Reading prayerfully through all the contributions, I see a couple more steps ahead. It is my hope to cast some light on significant pieces of value to ALL Christians, particularly in areas where we have little contention over interpretations or techniques, and see how far we can get in practical application without generating any discord.

We have just passed Pentecost Sunday. We have celebrated Jesus’ fulfillment of a tremendous promise…

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.  In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you... These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” [John 14:16-20, 25-27]

O Gentle Reader… my heart becomes so full at such passages… there is such a movement within to speak, to sing, to praise, to worship… to fill this space with words of wonder, grace and love… for Him, for you, for all that is…

But none of that is necessary, or… in THIS moment… edifying. THIS, this Truth, is the foundational, fundamental grounding of our entire Christian lives, made possible through the Birth, Death, and Rising of the Anointed Jesus. Here is the taproot of our life, our abundant life. Here is the connection to the Lover, the Beloved, through this Spirit of Love. And here, in this present context, is our capacity to serve our God of Light and minister to others in need, even in a world populated in part by creatures of shadow and servants of darkness.

So, very simply, very quietly… before discussing anything else on this, I want to ask:

Are you indwelt of the Holy Spirit? Have you and Jesus embraced one another and entered into the state of Him in you, you in Him, together in the Father?

If so… then… How Much Holy Spirit dwells within you? A little, a fair amount, some, a lot, a whole lot? Have you been allocated a quota of “Holy Spirit” for your own life? Like some have more than you, or less than you?

Look at these verses, look over the report of the Pentecost in first chapters of Acts, and ask yourself, “CAN God be divided? Can He give ‘less than All of Himself’? Is that even conceivable?”

Ask yourself, in that you are in Him, and He in you, and together ye are in the Father, what are the implications of that? What authority do you bear? What power dwells within you, your voice, your hands, your fingertips?

Do you have just “some”? Do you have just “a little”? Do you have just “enough”?

A friend preached a short time ago, using the Gospel of John’s text on the Wedding Feast at Cana. I started this post yesterday, but could not finish it… I knew I needed to wait a bit. Today, I heard this sermon and I knew immediately, that this 32-minute sermon needs to be part of this post. I strongly encourage you to listen and follow this link… (Be aware it is a “Senior Sunday” sermon, but bears only a little bit on “seniors” per se.) The main idea of this entire message revolves around “sufficiency” or “adequacy” of Jesus’ provision.

The Love of Christ

May all these words bless you. Please feel free to respond, reflect, comment, disagree, or engage in this dialogue in whatever manner suits!

Blessings and grace to thee!

The Little Monk

 

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Hearing the Stones!

triumphalentry As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord has need of it.” They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting:

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord;
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” [Luke 19:33-42]

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I have wakened this day, and felt each moment filled since, to the echoes of a single phrase…

“I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

“I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

“I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”
  “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

We are surrounded this day, yesterday, every day… by this world, this life, this creation that we — as humans, rational beings, scientists — marvel at and usually readily admit that we do not understand. This creation supports us, sustains us, permits us life, love, relationship, growth, breath, heartbeats.

Isn’t that amazing? We live in a “cocoon”, an incredible supporting matrix that allows life as we know it to go on through time! Does that ever make us stop? Think? Thank? We did not design this. We do not know what makes it run. We could not repair this universe, if somehow it broke down. We are utterly dependent.

And why? Why does this all “work”? That is the even more amazing part. God created… God loved… God quickened, enlivened… God spoke! Yes, all of that. But look! Behold! God not only did all of that… He not only “creat-ed”… but always, at all times, every second, moment, nanosecond… He does… He “creat-es”… He utterly revealed Himself, but IS utterly REVEALING Himself through all that is, that everyone have opportunity to know Him.

I… I almost feel like apologizing here… because in this moment I am experiencing “worship” on a personal level, and normally… those are not moments I share with others. Those are “prayer closet” moments… just me and Him. If they are shared with others, that’s one-on-one, or perhaps a small group prayer or worship. I’ve never been called, or given permission, to sit here typing to blog, in this state.

But perhaps it is this content… this Triumphal Entry thing… that is creating this moment. The people, witnessing the King Himself enter into Jerusalem, are overwhelmed with their amazement and adoration. Regardless of politics, of public reputation and possible problems with the Temple and pharisees, they cry out from their hearts their praises. Their passion overcomes their prudence, and they praise without candor!

A pressure wells up inside, a pressure of Truth itself, of Truth Himself… and they cannot contain it or constrain it. They praise, they adore, they worship, they cry out.

And, they are rebuked. They are criticized, having been threatened and bribed to betray this Truth. The Churchmen, the Church Leaders, the Religious… knowing the threat to their power base that the actual Truth Himself posed… they beseech the Lord to “shush” those proclaiming His glory and His Truth.

And… He… can… not… He says, outright, were He to do so, things would go even MORE badly for the Churchmen. It would not be merely PEOPLE shouting His praise and glory… but Creation Itself… the very stones! O my! *Psst! Pharisees! Be thankful it’s only people, that you can bully and bribe! What would you do if the very environment began to sing for Him?!*

[In seeking a graphic for this post, I came across a blog post from a couple years ago by another minister I had never seen before. The post just wrapped itself into my worship, and pulled me along into the train of Jesus’ following disciples that day. Please have a look at this, and see if it blesses you as strongly as it did me. It just enriched this experience, this moment of worship so much. It made my heart just “amen” with a consistent “Yes!” “Triumphal Entry — Story Behind the Story”. ]

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But here is where this morning leaves me.

This Triumphal Entry… this parade of the victory of Jesus the Christ… came in its precisely correct moment in an incredibly dense weave of moments leading up to the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Pentecost. All these “Lenten Events”… the miracles, the marches, the anointings, the anguished discussions or arguments with Companion Disciples, the raising of Lazarus… all these events heralded what Jesus called His “baptism” as He drank from the cup the Father had prepared for Him from the beginnings of the world.

And we, both as His children, His disciples, His friends… and as part of Creation itself… have our own role to play in this dense weave.

The King has come. He has done all that He was sent to do. Now there is only the finish, the closure, yet to endure. And we can SEE that, ENGAGE that, or not. That is OUR choice.

But whether we do, or whether we don’t… still, it is going on. Still He is revealing Himself.

Where is the chorus? Where are the voices? Where is the wonder? The joy? The Love? The passion?

I am blessed. Many days, there are those around me who “hear the music, and sing along”. Yes. But also, many days I am surrounded by only pharisees… only those trying to “shush the children”. You know them! You hear them! They can be intimidating, can’t they? Some days, they even quench MY spirit.

But then there’s THESE days. There’s these incredible… “‘Hey, Ya’ll! I”m right HERE!’ — Signed, Jesus” Days. There are these days where the very Tide of Worship draws us forth so strongly that it can scarcely be resisted.

So, let us all let go! Let us all yield to that tide. Let us be drawn to Him as He begins to be lifted above the earth in this time.

Let us listen. Let us hear. Let us hum along… Do you hear it? Do you hear the rocks beginning to hum, the trees clearing their throats, the stars tuning their instruments?

No? Well, sometime this week, make some time to get apart with Creation… stars on a clear night away from city lights, back yard garden in early morning, sunrise or sunset, quiet lake or chuckling river, seaside, mountain, or moor… whatever it takes, whatever you have. Just get apart… and LISTEN! Listen to a tree, or the grass, or the stars, or the stones.

Hear them sing, hear them praise Him. Hear them, ever so quietly, call out…

“Hosanna to the King who comes! Hosanna to the Prince of Peace! Hosanna to Our Lord, Our Creator, Our Sustainer, Our Redeemer!”

You may not be able to defeat the Pharisees in your life, but you can get apart from them from time to time… to worship, and acknowledge the wonder who is the Ever Revealing Lover God…

Just a little while more… the Cosmos trembles on the brink of rebirth!

Joy and grace to you in these moments of worship! — The Little Monk

 

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