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3 x S = 42

Have you ever wanted “The Answer”?Cosmic Twist

“What answer?” you reply.

THE Answer. You know… THE ANSWER.  Like the Answer to The Question. The Great Question. The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything!

For those of us who are Douglas Adams fans, we know how he dealt with the Question and the Answer… thus:

 

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Well, this has never entirely satisfied me, though I applaud Adams’ willingness to take on the subject. Libraries for centuries untold have been filled with the efforts of sages to solve the Mystery of Life. And, while my conclusions may well differ from Sage Adams here, I must say that a lot of my cogitation shares some strong commonalities.

So, here and now, I’d like to submit my own, subjective, non-scientific, anecdotal, take-it-or-leave-it-as-you-please, contribution to…

The Answer… to Life, the Universe, and Everything…

It is… 3 x S (Read as: “Three times S”)

[Consistent with the style of Adams, we will first describe the Answer, and then consider… What is the Question?]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

S1 = “Superabundance”

The First “S” is “superabundance”, the provision for needs vastly beyond the degree of need. Quantity, quality, diversity… so overwhelming that the result is not merely satiation and satisfaction, but actual delight. Take the Garden of Eden, for example… all the foods available there, all the grains, grasses, fruits, vegetables. The delight and companionship of animals of every description. The mist of the morning, the clarity of the stars, the cool of the evening, the wonder of the sun and moon. Or Psalm 23, being led beside the still waters, sitting at a prepared table, being comforted.

This is to be free of need, and free of greed.

Could it be that the very first requirement of true “Happiness”… of “Wholeness”… is to be free of need?

S2 = “Safety”

The Second “S” is “safety”, the protection from or absence of anything that could threaten or cause harm. Was there anything unknown in Eden to be afraid of at the start? It has never ceased to amaze me that God set man to nurture and tend the Garden (often super-interpreted to mean “God sent man off to WORK, first of all!”… but… what was the “work”? He was assigned to do two things… tend/serve/nurture… and protect/hedge about. But, what did Adam need to DO? Mist rose in the morning to water all, the soil was rich with the vibrancy of pure primal life, there were as yet no “weeds” or “bad plants”, nor any pests or predator bugs or animals. A Garden initially arranged and landscaped by God wouldn’t require a lot of transplanting and corrective design. All that “sweat of brow” and “thorns and thistles” thing came AFTER the fall.

This is to be free of threat, and free of fear.

Could it be that the second requirement of true “Happiness”… of “Wholeness”… is to be utterly safe and free of fear?

S3 = “Significance”

The third “S” is “significance”, the sense that one is meaningful, important, and treasured to at least one other person. In the Garden, there was first… Adam. Adam and God, there they were. Made in God’s image, male and female, Adam and Eve created in God’s own image. Given free reign of the Garden. Able to eat of all but one tree. Naming each animal as presented by God. Called forth to walk with Him in the cool of the evening. Important to God, you think? Significant? Treasured? Or as in Psalm 23, sitting down at a table prepared for man by the Lord in the presence of enemies? Head anointed with oil? Cup running over? To dwell in God’s house forever?

This is to be acknowledged, important, treasured. This is to be free of the all too common fear that we and our lives are meaningless, that we are but cattle in a herd, a nameless cipher among a crowd of equally insignificant parts.

Could it be that the third requirement of true “Happiness”… of “Wholeness”… is to be utterly significant and treasured?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As I pondered these potential “Answers”, and began to focus on the “Question”, I realized that this is a bigger answer than I can even define. This seems to hold true on every scale, in every application. Countries, races, kingdoms, empires go to war over a lack in one or another of these. Wars and genocides happen when a people gathers strength in order to meet what they consider a “need”, or a “threat”, or the hunger for “prestige”. States go to civil war for what seem to be the same reasons. Families feud, political parties wrangle, and individuals fight, maneuver, argue over these same perceived places of emptiness.

What to do? How do we promote joy, happiness, peace… “Wholeness” and Love?

Each of us have our own piece of Kingdom, our own relationships, our own sphere of influence. Whether this is community, home, workplace, church, or even one relationship at a time…

We know we are to “Love”, but that often breaks down at the “How do we do that?”

What if we try these three…

That every encounter be nurturing, meeting what need stands before us in the moment? Often the need is just some time and attention. Perhaps it is a meal, or a cool drink of water, or a gentle touch, or hug. (Obvious professional cautions apply, depending on the nature of the relationship.) Sometimes, the need is just silent presence.

That every encounter be safe, free of fear? Not just fear of physical harm or danger, but fear of being made to feel bad. Fear of being judged. Fear of being shamed or made to feel small or wrong. What if in each moment, someone felt their burdens lightened in your presence, rather than made heavier?

That every encounter be important and significant? That in the moments of interaction, the other person, group, party, were treasured as relationship to you? As if they were treasured by God Almighty? What if no one were an “interruption” or an “annoyance” or a “burden”, but rather they were a blessing to you as you are meant to be to them?

What’s the question, then?

What if the question is, “How has God always intended us to relate to one another?”  What does it take to live a blessed joyful life? The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything…

And, how do we bring this about in our homes, our days, and our churches?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

3 x S = 42?

Maybe so. I just ponder these things now and again…

Grace to you, Gentle Reader! Bless! — The Little Monk

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Your Grace Box: An April Pearl

Grace III-page-001(1)

 

How wondrous!


If the audio will not play, here is the YouTube of the original composition:

 
5 Comments

Posted by on April 15, 2016 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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Inner Child makes the Flying Leap!

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky/Released)

This will be a very simple, fairly short, post. A few days ago I posted “How to be Great!”  challenging all of us, Gentle Reader, to increase our awareness of the Intimate and Immediate Presence of God through developing (or rediscovering) simple childlike trust, and applying that to Our Father.

I phrased this thought in a comment below the post, thus:

“[Our Father] has LOTS of children! …  It goes on and on and on. All it takes to enjoy that play… those warm strong arms and hands… is a brisk sprint and the flying leap in His direction, trusting that He catch you. He ALWAYS does. He ALWAYS has. He ALWAYS will.”

Our Father delights in children. I’ve said before that the single unrelenting truth I see repeated throughout the Bible from one end to the other, is the ongoing saga of God seeking to live intimately among His children… to provide for us, care for us, protect us, love us… and our equally unrelenting determination to resist or eventually sabotage His efforts.

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But here’s a critical thing I neglected to mention in the challenge to Trust…

In order to know that experience… of being caught and cherished in Our Father’s strong warm arms and hands… we MUST first make that flying leap of faith.

What’s worse… Only our Inner Child can do that!

Think about it. How likely are you, or me, or anyone else… to get a sprinting running start, and then leap out into empty space? How silly do/would we feel? Ever gone to one of those… (I’ve thought of several adjectives to insert right here, but I’m resisting the impulse)... “Teamwork Building Workshops” in management or an organization? You know… the ones with the obstacle course, the ropes course, the puzzles to work out? The ones where you do the “Trust Fall” and let yourself Nestea-Plunge backwards in the hope that your colleagues and teammates will catch you, preventing a heart-stopping diaphragm-paralyzing fall that puts you in traction for a week? Ever been there? So… how silly does all that feel?

You have to “change gears” to get into all that. You have to “shift into Game-Mode”. Remember the folks who seemed to be having a great time, and did pretty well? Then, remember the grumps who just stood off to the side, arms crossed, shaking their heads at all this “waste-of-time-foolishness”?

What’s the difference between those two groups?

The first have discovered and liberated their Inner Child. The second, have him/her locked in their room for the duration (of life).

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So what has any of this got to do with Prayer, with the Bible, with Jesus, Little Monk?

Just this… does God love us any less when we grieve and confine our Inner Child? No. He loves us just the same.

Is there anything “wrong” with behaving like a mature, sensible adult in our lives? No, of course not… that’s why we bother to grow up at all!

Then what are you talking about?

Our upbringings… our parents, mentors, teachers, school, religion… teach us “Da Rules” to constrain and conform our Inner Child to adult norms of behavior. (That is a GOOD thing. Inner Child, left to his/her own devices can become a selfish little monster.) Inner Child is that essence of the “self alone”, of “me”, of “my”, without much regard for others except as they bring us comfort or pleasure. Our “Inner Parent” is the authority, the Rulegiver, the programming we carry with us telling us all the objective standards for right, wrong, acceptable, unacceptable, and what makes us OK or not.

As we grow and develop, these interactions go along, and we become the “Inner Adult”… the personal voice of judgment, reason, consideration, and decision-making on what we do, what priorities we set, what values we adopt, and how we choose to live.

Sooo… this leads into Jesus… how, exactly?

Just this. We can become utterly addicted to our Inner Adult. We can, gradually, surreptitiously, become convinced that our own judgment… our own thinking… our own reason… is the only trustworthy criterion we have for choosing lifestyle. And, to be perfectly frank… Jesus “won’t fit” inside that paradigm at all.

Jesus can certainly “work with” it. We can “believe” in Him with our head. And we can “confess Him” with our mouth. And thus… assuredly… we can be “saved”.

Is that enough?

Yes. Yes it is. That “saves… from the pains of the second death and fires of hell”. We can say all the Roman Road “magic words”… confess our sins, ask Him into our hearts and lives, declare our willingness to be His, and He is EVER and ALWAYS faithful to take that offer, redeem us, and declare us His forever. Yes.

At that point… at that moment… we are “safe forever” from the Father’s Wrath and Punishment Due Our Sin! Yes.

But again, I ask… Is that enough? Is that enough for you? Was it enough for me?

It was not. I want/wanted more. I want/wanted all God has/had/will ever have for me. I want to love God with ALL my heart, mind, strength… to love as Jesus loves… I want so much MORE than “enough”.

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And then one day, God answered the “desire of my heart”. He issued a challenge, I responded, and everything changed. I’m not going to tell you “how that went down” for me, because such words create an expectation that that’s how it “should go down” for anyone or everyone else, and that’s just not true. HOW such things progress is individual… as the Holy Spirit ushers one’s own soul along the right path.

But here was the challenge…

“Only one’s Inner Child can make the leap of faith… the Trust… that you crave, Little Monk. Put aside, for the moment, all that you know… all that you think… all that maturity and training you’ve worked to endure… embrace your Inner Child, and give that permission to leap… unrestrained… into the Void calling My Name. I shall catch you… every single time. There is nothing to fear.”

[NOTE: Please bear in mind, Gentle Reader… though this should go without saying… I speak here of a Prayer Event… a metaphorical leap. This is an experience of meditation and prayer. This has nothing to do with children’s tying a towel around their necks, and plunging off the garage eaves! Please step off no roofs, climb from no boats in deep water expecting to walk ashore… None of that, to be taken from this post!]

There is nothing WRONG with our Inner Adult. But he/she is “limited” by the horizons and boundaries of our own minds and hearts. Only when we embrace and accept our own Inner Child… allowing him/her access to our prayer lives, will we discover the trusting Leap of Faith.

I am reminded of an instruction oft-repeated to me years ago, long before I came to understand it…

“Please stop trying so hard to be Jesus. Only Jesus can be Jesus. Instead, just try to LET Jesus be Jesus IN you, because only He can.”

Jesus never lost His embrace of His Inner Child. His Inner Child always knew the Joy and Love of Our Father!

Now, Gentle Reader… go “play” for a bit!

 
4 Comments

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

 

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How to be Great!

‘At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”‘ [Matthew 18:1-6]

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When I was younger, this text mystified me a bit. I mean, on the surface its meaning is obvious… innocence… simplicity… yadda yadda. But when you know children, I mean really get to KNOW children… they can be a real pain. Hence, my confusion.

I mean, frankly, while this seems like a lovely image… have you honestly ever met a “humble” child? Really? I haven’t. Children can be brutal. They clamor for status and primacy. Some of the cruelest people on the face of the earth I’ve ever known have been children.

So… what is Jesus saying here, really?

I’ve finally resolved that for myself, but if your ponderings lead you to a different place, that’s fine, too. Just thought I’d share this.

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The disciples are in the time where Jesus is preparing them for His crucifixion. He has told them He is going to be killed, but that He will rise again three days later. He is extremely clear about who He is… Son of Man, Son of God. So, in the midst of sorting these confusing things out, they ask a question only someone in His unique position could answer…

“Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”

Pretty big question. Pretty bold question. I suspect they were expecting a pretty big bold answer. What about you? If you had been standing there listening, or even if you had had the chance to ASK this question, what answer would you expect?

Something like, “He who does the will of the Father, He is the greatest…”

Or, “He who upholds the Kingdom in righteousness, He is the greatest…”

Or, “He who speaks the truth of God, He is the greatest…”

Right? I would. Or perhaps they were thinking of all the history… the patriarchs, the prophets, the judges, the kings, King David. Perhaps they expected Him to name one of those.

But no. As per usual for Him, He does something totally unexpected. He calls a little boy to Him from among the bystanders, and has him stand in front of the disciples like an artist’s model. He answers them in a very odd way. He does NOT tell them WHO is the greatest in the Kingdom. Instead (again consistent with how He usually does things), He tells them HOW to BECOME the greatest in the kingdom. (Perhaps that’s really what they wanted to know in the first place, bless their competitive little hearts.)

“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

WHAT?

I bet they didn’t see THAT coming! Remember, they’d just shortly before been at the Transfiguration. Peter, James, and John had seen Jesus, Moses, and Elijah appear before their very eyes, and take counsel with Jesus. Peter wanted to make a shrine on that mountaintop. So I am more than certain that when they inquired about heaven’s greatest soul, they weren’t expecting some little kid in the street!

So what was so special about kids? Or… what was so special about THIS little kid? What do kids have, that we don’t have? Why does Jesus use words like “converted” and “become like” as He points to this boy? How did this boy so dramatically “humble himself” that Jesus uses him as a model for the greatest in heaven?

Only in recent years have I figured it out. What do kids have, that we don’t? What did this little boy show, that we lose over time and must be transformed to recapture?

Trust

Children raised by loving healthy parents, learn “Trust” from the cradle. At least, trust of their parents. They learn to trust that they are provided for… mom and dad will make sure they have something to eat. They learn to trust that they are safe and protected… mom and dad will make sure others don’t hurt them, that they don’t get lost or injured. They learn to trust that they are valued, treasured, affirmed… they will carry on the family legacy, delighting the heart of their father, bringing joy to their mother.

As trust grows, obedience grows apace. When a child is secure that mom and dad seek only their good, their provision, safety, and security… parental directives are far more likely to be seen in that light. The child may wonder, or even ask, “Why?”. But the question is more likely to come even as the child is assenting and obeying, as opposed to the suspicious argument and immobility of the child who has learned NOT to trust.

Are there such children? Untrusting children? Those who have learned to be insecure, suspicious, perhaps rebellious and disobedient? Oh, yes. Both kinds of children surround us all the time. We adults, parents and others, can send a child down either of these two paths. Jesus tells us how in the lament that follows:

And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;  but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Jesus didn’t pose as His model just a “little boy”, but rather a “TRUSTING little boy”. Why do I say this? How do I know this? Because the text says Jesus “called a child to Himself and set him before them“. Let’s see… Jesus calls on a stranger boy in a crowd, as He talks Kingdom-of-God-stuff with His disciples… AND HE COMES!

[Pause]

Think that through a minute. So… imagine yer a kid in the street. Maybe you’re alone. Maybe you’re passing by with mom and dad. Maybe you’re standing there with them listening to this (now) notorious or famous Preacher-Guy everyone’s talking about… and He looks your way with a simple, “Please come here a moment…” What do YOU do?

Ever been called up onstage for a Magician… or a hypnotist? Ever been there when this happened to a friend? It’s SCARY! But this kid COMES!

Why? Because the kid trusts Him and obeys Him. OR… perhaps it’s more accurate to say… this kid obeys Him BECAUSE he has been taught to trust adults in the first place.

This boy obeys, yielding to Jesus’ invitation and will, TRUSTING that nothing bad will happen to Him because of that trust. Or, he may have trusted that his loved ones nearby would make sure nothing bad happened to him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gentle Reader, I believe we’ve lost that capacity. I think the disciples, like ‘most all adults, had lost that capacity. We have to weigh the alternatives, look at it from both sides, consider the pros and cons, and come to a reasoned decision about what to do.

Want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Want to attain greatness there?

Gotta find another way to live. Gotta rediscover “trust”. Gotta get “reborn”, and then “grow up all over again”, reestablishing the sort of trust for God that we once knew as little one’s with our loving parents. When we do, we discover that God will ALWAYS provide for us, ALWAYS keep us safe, and ALWAYS cling to us as the delight of His heart and apple of His eye.

When we honor that trust in one another, dealing uprightly, sacredly, honestly with one another… we fulfill the promise of His last words on this. Sometimes, our trust is abused and we are betrayed. Sometimes, even though we walk  in trust honoring Him, we will be hurt by others. It is not our role to protect from that, or avenge it. Our part is to forgive. But Jesus is unmistakably clear that when we honor our Kingdom citizenship, living in trust and transparency, the King Himself, Our Father, will deal with those who abuse our trust.

Jesus closes with His lament of such foolish people…

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Good news? Bad news? Well, it is certainly unexpected news… do you aspire to greatness in the Kingdom? Then aspire to Trust and Reliance on the unknown will of God. Trust Him enough to obey. Treat others as equally sacred children. And as gradually our trust transforms us into yielding to Him (as we lose our self-protective fear), watch what happens!

 

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Compromising Purity – Adulteration

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

by yin yang Source

Intimacy with God… with self… with others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does carnal infidelity constitute a form of adultery? Certainly.

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Could it be that Jesus addresses this here?

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

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

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

It’s a rather passive-aggressive situation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

 
1 Comment

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

 

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In Love We Trust…

ring-for-wedding“I still LOVE him/her, but I just can’t TRUST her/him anymore…”

So often I have heard these words. So many tears, so many hearts broken when trust and love become sundered from one another.

Why is there such anguish? Why is there such pain?

Because this is impossible. Because people cannot do what cannot be done. We cannot love what we do not trust. We cannot trust what we do not love.

When we try, we cram the heart and soul into a contorted dimension, a false condition, a form of self-denial, that does not fit and never can. Like trying to wend our way through the stairways of an Escher Drawing, we pass through some mobius portal of feelings that leave us turned inside out, vulnerable, and exposed.

When we first begin to fall in love… that’s SO scary.

Why? Why is that so fearful?

Because we risk. We risk such anguish, such disappointment.

What if we finally acknowledge that we have “fallen in love”, that our hearts are now in the hands of another… and they do not feel the same way?

Who will be the first to say, “I love you?”

Who can’t recall the incredible gush of relief when we find the beloved DOES love us back?

That is a tremendous moment in life.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But then… what about the NEXT layer of trust? The NEXT risk taken? Not just to risk trust to the “unknown”… but to trust in the “committed unknown”?

It is one thing to trust to love when there is not yet a commitment, but there is another whole layer, a whole dimension, of trusting to love when there is commitment, a covenant to faithfulness, that involves what we cannot see.

Here is where many relationships stumble… “I just worry all the time, Dr. Monk. What is he/she doing when I’m not there? Sometimes I call and there is no answer.” or “He/she calls or texts me 20 times a day, wondering where I am, who I am with, what I am doing… It’s driving me crazy!”

There is no “trust” here. There is the ongoing need for “control” here. There is only the “safety of being in charge” or of “ownership” here… Not “love”.

How do we “trust” to what we cannot “see” or “control”? How do we grow to love that much?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And then… there’s the last layer… the final layer that sunders us from all that “makes sense”, all that is “rational”, all that is “clearly apparent”.

How do we “trust” in the face of apparent and obvious “betrayal”?

It is one thing to trust to the unknown without commitment. It is another thing to trust to the unknown WITH commitment. But it’s a clearly different thing indeed to CHOOSE to trust, in the face of an apparent KNOWN of untruth, infidelity, in a covenant relationship of commitment.

To be frank, most people consider this simply impossible. So many, particularly Christians, will say they “forgive”, but cannot “forget” and therefore cannot ever restore “trust”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So… “What’s going on here today, Little Monk?” you may ask. “Have we dropped through some warp from The Postmodern Mystic to an episode of Dr. Phil?”

Nope.

This post follows up from the Sizzling Bacon, and addresses the question… “How?” A few weeks ago I was intrigued by  “A Challenge”, written by Don Merritt,  wherein a listener came up to him after he had delivered a truth-filled sermon and asked, “Why don’t we believe you?” This addresses that question as well. Last, but not least, this post addresses a discussion I had with Susan Irene Fox one evening (about Don’s question), where I proposed that the answer was that “we refuse to surrender control… we are selfish”, and she disagreed, believing that, “people are simply fearful, they’re afraid.” (OK, so now you know, Susan is a kinder, more charitable, person than I…)

That conversation, those questions, kept mulling in my brain as I could sense truth in all of that, but could not put my finger on it…

Then, along with “Can You Hear the Bacon Sizzle?“, Jesus highlighted the piece I was missing… the issue is “Trust”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Few of us have trouble relating to love, trust, romance, in the terms that open this post. But now, for Christians, the transition to our relationship of intimacy with God can be a bit more tricky. But think about it, Jesus has “wedded” us, we are at a Marriage Feast, we are His Bride (NOT just “corporately” as part of some anonymous “herd” or “flock”… but individually as well). To attain eternal life is to KNOW the Father, and the Son, with the intimacy of a spouse…

What is the “limit”… the “constraining factor”… the “conditional boundary” of our “Intimacy” with God?

Our decision to limit our Trust of Him.

“But I DON’T ‘limit my trust’ of Him!” one would protest! “I trust Him UTTERLY!”

I can say that. I can truthfully say I have done so always. BUT, at the same time, I have NOT.

I can only “trust” to the extent that I see the challenge to trust, acknowledge that, and make a conscious choice to do so. (And most of the time, reacting to situations moment-by-moment as I do, no such thing happens).

So let’s take our romantic illustration above, and apply it to our intimacy with God for a moment…

Trust to the Unknown without Commitment: “Who will be first to say ‘I love you’?” The risk of that, the daring to the unknown of that. Consider…

18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He *said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. [Matthew 4]

I propose that we see “trust to the unknown yet uncommitted” here. Bold trust. Daring trust. Yet, all unknown as yet. So much of relationship to be discovered, uncovered, committed to.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Time goes on, commitment grows (both directions in relationship), fealty is exchanged. There is now the “expectation” of fidelity. We see that in human romance. But how do we remain assured and at peace with what we CANNOT see, what we DO NOT understand? We see the Gospel of John highlight such a moment when Jesus speaks of eating His flesh, and so many disciples fall away. Their orthodoxy… their religion… all those rules about blood, and flesh, and what is holy and unclean… They can no longer trust Jesus. Jesus is speaking of unclean things, of abomination, of cannibalism. They can no longer walk with Him. He has ventured into the unknown, the untrustworthy. And yet… yet there are the few, there is Peter in their midst…

66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” [John 6]

They trust in the midst of the unknown. They CHOOSE to trust, they DECIDE to trust. They could have walked away, but they did not. They simply loved Jesus too much for that. They loved Him beyond their ability to understand or know… this is Trust.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But… But… What about the third case? What about “betrayal”? Jesus never “betrayed” them, did He? Well, no. He did not. He never did, He kept His word(s) always… BUT… it certainly did not SEEM that way to them, did it? The “facts” of the matter, the “evidence”, the “appearance”… certainly lined up a convincing case that He had abandoned them, leaving them to their fate at the hands of the Pharisees, did it not?

I mean, think this through. Palm Sunday, triumphal entry into Jerusalem… “Hail! Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!”

What a high!

Then, to the Temple… driving out the money changers and animal sellers!

O My!

Then this week of controversy in Jerusalem. What confusion did they know? Prophecies and rumors of assassination plots against Him. The acclaim of the people. People giving livestock, goods, meeting rooms “because the Master has need” of them. Then… that mysterious Last Supper Passover meal… then the Garden… all His promises… “I will never leave you for forsake you… I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am you may be… I lay down My life, no one takes it from Me…”

Confusingly, He tells them outright that He is going to die, but that because of that they will live. That they are His, in His hand, and they need not fear. That they will be scattered, but… He challenges them… TRUST Him!

And then… He dies!

This.. this… Messiah. This Son of God. This Resurrector of the Dead. This Healer of the Sick… Caster out of demons… Feeder of the Thousands!!! Dead! And they… were… left… alone! And scared. (Now, lest we cover this over with a “gentle Sunday-School haze” of… “well, yeah… they were alone, but, after all, they KNEW better… they KNEW He’d be back… and there was nothing to be anxious about…”)

19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be with you.” [John 20]

These people were clustered together behind locked doors, locked in by fear. John speaks of fear of the Sanhedrin, but can we even imagine the other fears that flowed through their hearts in those days? A bit further in that passage, John tells us that they came to believe only when He showed them the wounds in His hands and feet!

They knew doubt. They doubted the reports of the women from the tomb. They doubted their own eyes until they saw His wounds. Thomas doubted even THEIR report, until he plunged his own digits into Christ’s side.

So… if even THEY doubted, what made them so special to Jesus? What sets them apart, has always set them apart, as disciples then Apostles? What are we, here and now, to see and realize from their ever-so-human frailty and relationship with Him?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Disciples did not know, they did not understand, they did not feel “confident” or “holy” of “faith-y”. None of that! They were scared, and lonely, and felt betrayed. But still, they did not CHOOSE to QUIT!

They remained. They remained in relationship with (as they thought at the time) a Dead Christ… buried and stolen. They CHOSE to TRUST, even in the face of evidence contrary to all they thought possible. They chose to remain, and to continue to love Him, continue to fellowship together, continue to encourage (literally) one another… even if He had lied to them, and had now abandoned them as orphans.

(Please understand… I know full well He HAD not…. that He ALWAYS keeps His word, and NEVER abandons us!) But realize, the Disciples had no EVIDENCE that attested to that as they huddled behind those locked doors, and frankly… you and I go through many days in our lives, where we can seem just as alone as they thought they were.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And look what happened…

21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. [John 20]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Do I “trust” God? Do you? Yes, assuredly we do. And, to the extent that we trust Him, we love Him and experience His love for us.

But true though that is, I can testify to the fact that over time my “trust” has grown! Not because I ever intend to withhold trust from Him, but simply because until challenged by fear, I am not aware that there is greater trust to be had. Does that make sense?

I have discovered that my best “response” to fear… any fear… all fear… big, little, petty, grand… is “Trust”. He is there (here), He is perfect, He is powerful beyond any measure of adequacy, and He is dedicated wholly and totally to my good! I can trust to that, whether I understand it or not.

But it is only when that trust is tested…. only when circumstances seem to belie the safety of my trust… that my love and trust can grow.

It is only when I “seem” to be betrayed, wounded, lied to… when the “evidence around me” would indicate that I CANNOT trust someone… that I can freely CHOOSE to trust them, and the love of God (Father, Son, Spirit) fully flow through me. THAT is freedom! That is grace!

And, by the way, THAT is how God loves US in the first place… regardless of how much we betray Him, wound Him, or lie to Him… or even, to ourselves.

Amazing… grace…

Love = Trust = Love = Him

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Quiet Time, Reverse Polarity, 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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