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Spiritual Warfare: Non-Linear Authority

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Have a Look at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Joy, blessings, and grace to all!

The Little Monk

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

 

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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.

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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.

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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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The World Needs More Sleep

mary jesus sleepsRejoice 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.” [Philippians 4:4-7]

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A comment to a recent post discussing spiritual warfare brought up the topic of sleep. There are times that the enemy seems able to mess with our ability to fall asleep, the content of our dreams or nightmares, our ability to stay in peaceful restful sleep, and the like. I was struck with the vivid reminder of how true all of that is, and how important is our ability to rest, renew, and refresh in peaceful sleep.

So this is a quick “How-To” post regarding peace and sleep. As per usual, while there are scriptural anchors to this, along with some traditional theology, this is not “authoritative” “finger-pointing” “take notes now, ’cause you gotta do it THIS way” stuff. This is just “here’s some stuff I’ve learned along the journey and if it helps you, use it… if it doesn’t fit, throw it away” stuff.

Background Info:

  • Jesus is/was Son of Man, Son of God… both
  • We, in His image, have physical and spiritual nature
  • We, in His image, have will and creativity… imagination, ability to form and direct the mind in configurations we design
  • We, in His image, are subject to “spiritual input of others” whether of darkness or of Light, and we can choose how to respond
  • God is Our Father, Our Mother, Our Parent… neither abusive, nor neglectful
  • NO ONE and NOTHING is more loving, powerful, and/or protective of us… than Our Father
  • Sabbath is not only a command, but a blessing, a time for “trusting God with the care of ourselves and our stuff” without our own effort or help
  • God is Light and in Him is no darkess
  • Darkness cannot bear Light

OK, I could write an entire post (and often have), and more (and sometimes have) on EACH of those bullets… but not here, not now. If any one (or more) of them need more words from me… leave a comment or send an email.

The enemy can, at times, intrude on our thoughts and minds to prompt anxiety, stress, and restlessness. God, on the other hand, brings peace, trust, joy.

Before bed, take a few moments to prepare:

  • “Count blessings” – Childish as it sounds, “enter His gates with thanksgiving” is real, true, and grown-up. You are preparing to “sleep like Samuel” in the Holy of Holies of the Temple that is you, your own life. Begin, simply with a heart of gratitude (“gratitude is foundational”, a friend of mine says… True ‘dat.)
  • Leave worries outside the gate – Don’t deny or repress, just acknowledge all the stuff on the To Do list, pat them on the head, wish them a good night’s sleep, and resolve to see them tomorrow. For right now, you all need rest. They will manage without you for this time.
  • Wash up to change clothes – We all accumulate “road dust” through our days. Without making any big deal of it, take some time to reflect and acknowledge those moments of the day where conscience prompts that “this could have been handled better”, and resolve to improve. No archaeology here… no deep digging… just the thanks for what was done well, acknowledgement that not all was done perfectly, and resolution to do better… in our role of “clear vessel” for Him in our days.
  • Put on Your Night Robes – Draw onto your clean washed self, the fullness of your Private Interior Robes of the righteousness of Christ. He clothes you in His power, love, grace, and righteousness. Such clothing is embued with the very aroma of His grace and care. NOTHING can damage these, or pass their protection.
  • Enter the Holy of Holies, and settle in for the night.
  • Let Daddy tell you a bedtime story. Go to the Gospels, let the Spirit select a scene. Read it over, close your eyes. Use your sacred imagination to “apply the senses” to the scene. Envision it utterly, including sights, sounds, smells, textures, flavors… Then put yourself into the scene, AS A SMALL CHILD, hanging on to Jesus’ robes, or hand. When He sits down, climb into His lap and listen to Him speak.
  • Let the Spirit do whatever the Spirit chooses, and let Jesus rock you to sleep in His arms, there by the fire after supper. (Btw, He often sings or hums.)

No mother bear ever so guarded her cubs, as He guards a child in His arms.

Over time, with practice, this becomes ever more fun. He not only guards His children with peace, but He starts taking them places in their dreams and sleep. And THERE, they can do extraordinary things together.

When threatened with violence by human authorities that were astonished by His lack of fear, He responded, “…do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” [Matthew 26:53]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Well!” one could say, “If we can do all this… Why isn’t EVERY night like this?! If THIS is what God intends in sleep, why hasn’t it ever happened to me before NOW??!!”

Um, it kinda depends on where we choose to sleep, dunnit? I myself, used to sleep in the scrub… at the mercy of every passing weasel and wolf. Then I figured out that I had my own “fortifications” available, and I used that. My own mansion, prayer closet, chamber. I knew I could hedge and post angels, and I did that for a long time.

Why didn’t I sleep in His arms? Um, ’cause nobody told me it was OK. Sounds dumb, I know… the Bible screams it at us constantly, but frankly… I thought it would be too “bold”, too “forward”, too “irreverent”. But then, one day I paid some serious attention to Samuel as a child in 1 Samuel 3, and found myself thinking/praying, “Wow, how neat would it be to have slept in the Holy of Holies with the Ark?”

God challenged me to try it. We actually LIVE in the presence of the Ark. The Ark dwells within us. The Holy Spirit within us occupies the Mercy Seat.

So… things have never been quite the same.

As to “night terrors” I shall say only this. The Immediate Presence of God is Light… no darkness. Darkness cannot enter that space. Evil, sin, cannot enter that space (just ask Nadab and Abihu). WE can enter that space because of the cleansing we have undergone in Jesus.

Use Superpowers… will, co-creation… following the prompts of Holy Spirit… and try an evening sleeping there.

Let me know how that goes…

Grace to thee — The Little Monk

P.S. This may help…

 

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Spiritual Warfare – The Medieval Meets High Tech

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is a real problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

So, please let me know what you think!

Grace to you — The Little Monk

 

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Beyond the Pain…

depression“Are you saying you want to kill yourself today?”

“Well, I wouldn’t have put it that way, but… yes.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I have a friend, a brother deep in my heart who, in this year 2015 has endured devastating losses. Relationships… career… finances… physical health… professional esteem… sense of personal esteem… All that — devastating.

This is not to say that he has not participated in, made decisions that have led to, much of this loss. (Some would say “all” of it, but perhaps it is more fair to say “most”.) Some people, both in general and regarding him specifically, respond with, “Well… he’s made his bed…” or its more “Christian” counterpart, “Well… he’s sinned, so if/when he repents…”

News Flash: My friend, my brother, is a “sinner”.

Stop the Presses: So am I.

Random Conjecture: So is every reader here.

So… chalking suffering and pain up to the presence of “sin”, may be “theologically accurate”, but I’ve never found it particularly “helpful”. That is not what this discussion is about. The questions I find most meaningful in these days are no longer questions of “What?” or even of “Why?”… but rather, the question of “How?” In the midst of devastating, breathtaking pain, How do we go on? How do we “live”, when even breathing hurts? How?

This post is not being written to evoke darkness, despair, hopelessness or depression. (In fact, this isn’t even a technical consideration, or intended to have a primary focus on, depression. If pieces of this discussion address some of that, good. But that’s really not what this is about.) This post is being written to communicate the precise OPPOSITE… I seek to proclaim Hope, Purpose, Life, and Light. But here we are, right here, right now, in the trenches… in the nitty-gritty of darkness… WAY past the place of “preaching” or “platitudes”. These hurts, these fears, this despair can run so dark, so deep, so bloody… that “quoting verses” doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Seldom… thanks be to God it is ever so seldom… am I in a moment where reflecting this depth of darkness is appropriate in this place, this blog, before you, Gentle Reader. But this is one of those moments, and I am irresistibly moved to repeat to you what I’ve just shared with that brother on the phone in a second call this day.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Context:

First, I will not share the sequence of events, decisions, or circumstances that have brought my brother to despair of life and its meaning. That would not be appropriate professionally, spiritually, or relationally both with God and with him. You do not need that information to hear truth in these words. Just imagine that you have lost your connection with everything in your life on earth that you hold dear, and you can find common ground with the heart of my friend/brother.

Second (last): “There but for the Grace of God…” Believe me when I say, *I* am by no means “superior” to this friend/brother in any dimension of Christianity. He is as “called and gifted” as I, most would say more so. He is as “highly trained and educated” as I, in fact… demonstrably more so. (I have one doctorate, he has two.) He is as “experienced in ministry” as I, as many years of service. He has counseled as many in pastoral counseling as I, perhaps more. He has as much “denominational stature” as I, in fact… demonstrably more. Believe me when I say to you, set the two of us side by side in columns on paper… pick ANY criterion of “evaluation and job performance” you choose… in ANY regard (Christian, community, professional, pastoral, financial, you name it…) and you’ll grade him as “superior” to me EVERY time. That’s just the truth.

And those are the only critical information you need to hear the truth I seek to speak in this post. There is not an ounce of “superiority” or finger-pointing in me towards this friend/brother… he is “better than I” in every measure for what we have dedicated our lives to, and I accept that as true, so you can as well. I am painfully aware that “there but for the grace of God go I” as I walk with him, and I walk in the holy “fear and trembling” of deep humility as I speak with him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here’s What I Have Come to Say:

My friend/brother has experienced devastating, catastrophic, losses in every arena of his life this year. He spent considerable time, energy, and resources initially in denial of these losses, and then in trying to combat them and recover lost resource. Now, only now, is his grief reaching “acceptance”, and in that acceptance he is finding is pain so great and his life so empty… that he is considering relieving his pain by ending his life.

This is the call I got first thing this morning, that my friend/brother had come to this point in his walk, in his life. This was the call that contained the opening two lines of this post.

THIS, this “bottomless pit of unrelieved darkness”, THIS is the “reality” the “battlefield” of real “spiritual warfare”. (There are many others, of course… but this is certainly one of them.) And this one is life or death, right here right now.

I embraced my friend/brother on the phone. I “loved on” my friend/brother on the phone. But I love/loved him too much to “feed into his spiral”. I was not going to say all the “warm, soft, fuzzy words” that were going to roll off him like so much rainwater off a duck. You know what I mean… words like, “Just trust in God.”, “This too shall pass”, “People love you.”, “Time will heal this.” or quoting any of dozens of appropriate scriptures.

Why? Why would I not say those words? Because in that moment, he would not “hear” them. He was trapped in a “death spiral”, a place nearly dead to hearing and vision, trapped in thrall to an image of himself in a mirror… the image of his miserable self, against a backdrop of a life he did not have and could not re-acquire… a mirror image filled with the “sorrow that leads to death”. He was trapped in what Eric Berne would call the “Yes, but… Game” (Games People Play). He wanted me to float “warm fuzzy balloons” that he could dart and destroy in his misery, justifying his resolve to quit, to give up, to die.

I floated no such balloons. Instead, I said a couple very blunt things, couched and cushioned in many “gentling words”. I’m going to put the “bald statements and questions” out here before you now, but please understand they were not expressed this starkly… but rather nested in softening words that he could hear. OK?

Statement of Observation: “My brother, you have found that when stripped of your ‘stuff’, your money, prestige, resources, and your own plans… you have lost your will to live.”

Statement Two: “Good! You and I share the same background and know the same things. I don’t have to… I CANNOT… ‘preach’ to you and I refuse to try. You’re better than this! You know better than this! You know as well as I that OUR lives, at least… CANNOT be grounded in our ‘stuff’. If you had forgotten this, and are being reminded of this, I grieve for your pain, but I am grateful for the insight.”

“WE, at least, CANNOT ground our lives, our purpose, our meaning… in our STUFF. This is what we try to communicate with others, that’s a false foundation and it will not, it cannot, sustain us. I cannot tell you this, you know it as deeply as I.”

Challenging Question: “You consider ending your life because so much has been lost. Well, then I ask you this… ‘Why are you ALIVE in the first place? Why do we have life? Why are WE here?'”

And I shut up… for a long time to silence on the other end of the phone…

His Response: “I’m not comfortable with this conversation any more, so I don’t want to talk to you. I’m going to let you go now, so God Bless!” And he hung up.

For the next hour I pondered whether I had just killed my friend and brother. I prayed, I pondered, I studied, I listened, I realized…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

An hour after that realization, I phone back… and he answered (the first of my calls he’s answered directly for weeks). I said…

“Please hear me out and don’t hang up. I’m not going to yell at you, preach at you, and I’m not mad at you or disappointed. OK? I just want to ask you a question…”

“OK, so ask…”

“OK. How much money, how much would it be worth, how much of your resources would you spend, if I could put one human soul in front of you… just ONE… who was destined to go to hell for eternity, but you could write a check and buy him/her out and head them to heaven, instead? What would that be ‘worth’ to you, of your holdings and accounts, or your reputation, or whatever?”

…. long silence… then a weary sounding, “I don’t know… I can’t answer that…”

“Well, *I* know… because I know you, I know your heart and its generosity and what you give, and have given, all your adult life to rescue souls from hell. And here’s why that’s important…

“You, at this moment, are buried in pain so terrible that you despair of life and hope all together. I understand that. I’m not denying it, or minimizing it, or any of that. Life, right now, is walking across glass shards into blazing coals. I agree…

“But here’s the thing… we, you and I, are here for a very specific purpose. A purpose of rescue. ALL Christians are, actually, but most aren’t aware of that. We ARE aware of that. If you die today… your timeline, your road, comes to an end in this world. Your pain would end, true.

“BUT… so would your encounters. You and I are not here for the ‘pretty cobblestones’. We are here because we carry Him in us, and we love, and we encounter people in their darkness with hurts as deep as any we’ve ever known, and we can offer them Light, and Love, and Hope, and Life. Not only in the here and now, but in eternity.

“If your life were to end today, there are people God has stationed along your future road, encounters He has planned to happen, people He has intended for you to love and lift up Christ to and for… who will never encounter you. They will never hear you. They will never be loved by you, and perhaps they will never hear and see the Christ you would show them, to embrace Him.

“You are here, you live, dedicated to rescue of the lost. You’ve done it your whole life. You  know what I’m talking about. You can remember those you have personally loved into the embrace of Jesus. Well, my brother, they are not the ‘only’ ones you are destined to meet.

“There are more, there are others, but they are stationed on the other side of this pain you have now. How much pain would you endure, what would you suffer, what would you pass through… how much glass, how much flame would you walk across… if I stood at the end of that track with a group of broken, suffering, lost and damned souls that it was your destiny to love, heal, and let Jesus rescue… through you and your presence in their lives?

“How much pain would you bear? How much resource would you spend?”

… long pause… hoarse whisper of response… “Everything, anything… I’d give anything…”

“Good. THAT is all I called to say. Your pain is horrible and real. I don’t deny that. I just deny its relevance to our lives. We are here to carry what dwells within us to people who desperately need to see, feel, be touched by that… through us, and embrace… Him. And when everything, and I mean EVERYTHING else is stripped away… even our “gracious feelings” and our piety, and our devotion, and our sense of His presence…. When we are left naked and whimpering in a darkness so thick we can’t even BREATHE for its choking us… when religion fails… intelligence fails… sentiment fails…

“Sometimes all we have left is sheer ‘stubborn’. You NEVER quit. You never EVER quit. If not out of obedience, or devotion, or even ‘love’… You are a competitive man, I know that. You are as stubborn as I, I know that. You simply cannot quit, because underneath all of that, ‘faith’ will energize the ‘good form’ of your pride… if you quit, the enemy wins. Ministry stops. Grace and love through you and your present life here, stop. And he, the enemy, wins.

“I am going to let you go now. I don’t know if you’re comfortable or not, but I have faith that you are too competitive, too stubborn, too proud… to quit this contest and walk off the field, losing by forfeit. If you cannot continue to rescue people out of obedience, or duty… then do it out of love. But if even THAT cannot be felt in this moment… ask yourself if you really want to throw up your hands, forfeit this battle, and concede… letting the enemy win.

“I know you. You can’t let that happen. There’s just too much to be done yet, and too many out there to love that you haven’t met yet.”

…. and we blessed one another and hung up.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gentle Reader, I don’t know if you personally have ever been in that dark place. I have. I pray I never need to return, but I know that place. We can be stripped, just like Job, of every sense and sentiment of grace and blessing we’ve ever known. When all the trappings, all the ‘stuff’ of our Christianity, all the percs and comforts, are removed from us and all we feel is abandonment, despair or hopelessness…

Within us, there is yet a Flame. Within us, there is yet a Servant. Within us, there is yet Love that Gives Life. He can resuscitate life within ourselves, but only when we acknowledge and embrace that our Purpose is to share Life with Others through Love.

I hope this has not come off as a “depressing” post, or even a “depression” post, because that is far from my heart…

My heart proclaims a wondrous Truth…

The God of Hope dwells in every Christian, seeking and saving that which is lost, lonely, hurting. He does this, amazingly, through our frail and fragile selves as vessels of love. When we lose sight of this, when we become distracted by mirrors or the barns of our stuff, we can find ourselves dizzy, disoriented and confused. But when we embrace the Light within us, when we cherish Him and rejoice in His embrace, then our feet find our right road and we encounter wondrous adventures of rescue all the time.

This is not the “Minister’s Job”, or the “Pastor’s Job”, or the “Preacher’s Job”, or the “Counselor’s Job”, or the “Deacon’s Job”, or even the “Churchgoer’s Job”… This is not a “job” at all…

This is a “definition” of our very Selves. This is Who we are, What we are, called and anointed, commanded, simply… to love.

Every one of us, when we love another and connect heart to heart, provide the conduit of Light necessary for Him to reach across and spark Life in the other. For some, for those also dwelling with that Light inside their spirit, such touch offers comfort, encouragement, endorsement, affirmation of Life. For others, for those who have never trusted to or embraced that Light and Truth, this touch brings Life Himself. We offer love, that the other may receive, embrace, reflect and refract love, and thus live..

Why are we here? To love and carry Light, Life, Love in our steps. There is Purpose in that. There is Meaning in that. There is Life in that. There is Love in that. And there is Joy in that. This, to me, is the deepest meaning of “Grace”.

Why are we here? To bring Life through Love. Why? Because we can, and we are privileged to do what Our Father does… always. Little else is worth worrying about. And, oddly enough, when we remain focused on our purpose, other worries seem to fade into insignificance.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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.

Amen

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 21, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds

 

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