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Spirituality of Letting Go:”The World”

From: Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Living in this consumer-driven world, we are all deeply infected by what some call “affluenza,” a toxic and blinding disease with the basic assumption that more is always better and more of self is always good. It is fair to say that such invisible assumptions of any culture are as toxic and as blinding as the so-called “hot sins” of drunkards and prostitutes, though they are much harder to recognize as “sin” because we are all inside the same agreed-upon bubble.

John’s Gospel uses the words “the world” in precisely this way. John does not mean nature or creation; he means “the system”—as humans invariably construct it—which is all about security, status, pleasure, and power. These are not bad as such, but they are only limited goods, and most people let them become absolute goods—and that is when they do us in! They become gods or “idols.” John writes: “God did not come to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved” (see John 3:17).

This is indeed why so many of our saints speak about “leaving the world” or the normal systems of illusions. This dramatic beginning invariably ends up being much more subtle and difficult in real life. We finally have to learn to be “in the world but not of the world.” That is, we must compassionately accept the strange way we humans choose to operate and be willing to work inside it, but never really buy into it. We must see things for what they are and also for what they aren’t. Unless we in some way “leave the world,” I think we can safely assume we are utterly beholding to it.

Mature spirituality creates willing people instead of willful people. We slowly unfold in response to love and grace and freedom, rather than in mere reaction to the illusions of others. Without this insight, religion largely creates rigid, unhappy, and judgmental people. When we try to take charge of our own “enlightenment,” when we try to be fully in control of our own “purity” and superiority, our attitude becomes pushing and demanding—ego assertion, even if it looks like religious ego assertion. I think is what so many people rightly dislike and mistrust about religious people: in the name of the good, will power creates a well-disguised bad. Jesus was a master and genius at recognizing this problem.

Immature religion creates people who know what they are against, but have a very poor sense of what they are for. They are against sin, always as they narrowly define it; but they are seldom for love or actually for anything except the status quo where they think they are in control. This is indeed “the world” and will never get them very far if they are trapped within it—unless they recognize this same world as pervaded with heaven. For me, this is the genius of the Gospel. The world is good in its wholeness, but our little portion of separated parts is never the whole, so we must leave our addiction to the system to discover the Empire of God. We must always let go of full control over the parts to love and accept the whole.

Gateway to Silence:

Let be. Let love.

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Joyfulnouncing! The Gospel!

A week or so ago, I posted “Joyfulnouncing Jesus!” and ended that with a question:

Schnauzer Who Rules

“Commander Samuel L. Vimes” (“Vimes” for short. My resident Joyfulnouncer.

How do you personally, define “the Gospel” (feel free either to include that in the comment section, responding, below… or just note it down for yourself for next time.)

Thank you, for considering the question and for the responses that came. They were wonderful, spirit-filled, responses, and I am grateful to have prompted the reflection that yielded them.

I mentioned last time that when the Lord prompted me to go to scripture to find the “Biblical definition” of “The Gospel”…

As I started to work, and dug into scripture a bit, I discovered some amazing things about these two words we use…. “the Gospel”…

What I discovered was that when we go to the New Testament in original language, there’s this “gap” anywhere the English translations say “the Gospel”. There’s just this big white space corresponding… that what the Gospels SAY is this really cool descriptive VERB of the action… “happy-good-true-heralding”.  (Hence the post “Joyfulnouncing”.)

But here’s the thing… the “joyfulnouncement” is always “arrival”, “come-to-us-ness”, and “celebration”. The “good news” part of euangelizo CANNOT be “separated” as an “object” from the “joyfulnounce” part. But often, in English, we do that.

So, the essence of “proclaim the Gospel” (which can never be separated as a concept… the Gospel must ALWAYS be ATTACHED to “announcing”) is something like…

“Hey! Listen! He’s HERE! Love has ARRIVED! Your Lover has arrived!”

So, you see my problem with the “Index Card”/”Elevator Gospel” situation. The “announcing” is of a “relationship”. Just as my old friend put it, when I asked “what someone needs to know for baptism?”…  the answer isn’t WHAT they need to know, but WHO they need to know.

This got me thinking two different things…

The first, doesn’t help me at all as “an evangelist”. In the terms my former Pastor/Boss was thinking, an “evangelist” needs to have a “message”, a “script”, a “set of doctrinal propositions” to communicate and persuade someone to adopt. I could never develop such a script.

Nonetheless, there definitely IS, an “essence” to “the Gospel”. I’ve always “felt” it… (messy, sloppy word that, I know… “feelings” not a good guide, etc., etc.) but deep in the soil of my heart, I’ve always “known” it. But when I chase this cat, when I became utterly determined to “find ‘the Gospel'”…

I discovered myself at the foot of the Cross.

And this is true of every other single person I’ve ever known who “gets it”… who has entered into the beams of “grace”… who has gotten past the elementary principles of the world and eats meat rather than drinking milk. There is an “experience”… in every single one’s life that I’ve ever known, even though this experience can happen in a vast array of symbols, environments, traditions, styles, idioms, cultures…. every person who brings this testimony seems utterly unique,  yet utterly parallel, that…

There is a one-to-one encounter with Jesus, and in this encounter (which is undeniably REAL, though seldom, if ever “material”), Jesus’ love in its Infinite magnitude, washes over and through the person.  We can never effectively speak of, describe, the experience of another in these moments… but for one friend it was at their kitchen table one evening… for another, it was at the edge of the Miami River after throwing themselves into it to drown three times, and failing… for me, it was in prayer, at the Cross, looking at His eyes, face, hands, and hearing those words “Father, forgive them…”

In each and every case, what came about was the absolute “realization” (as in… “a truth becoming REAL to the individual”) of Jesus’ specific, individual, personal committed Infinite love for that person. It’s the “supernatural spark of the living connected relationship” between person and Jesus! It is a “moment”, an “experience”, a “realization”… after which, life is utterly changed and can never go back as it was.

And, of course, that spark, that moment, is “ineffable”… no matter how hard we try. That MOMENT, that RELATIONSHIP, is… as I’ve come to embrace it… “the Gospel”. And THAT, is simply lightning I’ve never managed to put in a bottle. I can talk “about” it. I can describe the circumstances, even the “feelings” to some extent. But the experience? The reality itself? No way… no words I know can wrap around that living Divine Spark.

The closest I’ve come is to invite someone to consider the following notion… “Jesus’ love for you, personally, is so great, so committed, so passionate and intense, that if you were the only person in all of time ever to have fallen… He would BEG Our Father for permission to come, take your place, and suffer all that He did… leaving His throne, living a sinless life, being rejected, betrayed, tried, condemned, tortured, and murdered in disgrace… all of that, just because He loves you that much, and wants you seated with Him at His throne.” Just imagine!

And, even more challenging for many… “The Fathers’ love for you, personally, is so great, so committed, so passionate and intense, that if you were the only person in all of time ever to have fallen… He would grant that permission, and DESIRE that Jesus… His Beloved Firstborn Son… leave His throne, come to earth as mortal man, take your place, and suffer all that He did… just because He loves you that much, and wants you seated with Him at His throne.” Just imagine!

Now, I’ll be honest… I “got” the first part of that… the “Jesus loves me this much” part… when I was very young. But it wasn’t until I was older… much older… and my daughter was grown with children of her own, that the FATHER approached me with the extent of HIS love! He challenged me… I could imagine, fairly readily, giving up my OWN life for someone I loved, yes. But! Could I imagine, even for one moment, loving someone so much that I would turn over MY DAUGHTER… my most beloved, who has never deserved such treatment… to the sufferings of Jesus, not for her own life debts… but for the sins of others?

Gentle Reader, that was a hard afternoon for me. I had never thought in those terms. I had never imagined the true depths of the FATHER’s love for us! For YOU, alone. For ME, alone. For him, and him, and her, and her, and them… alone.

Why? Because this is Who He is, and WHAT He is… He is not merely “a loving god”. He IS LOVE! Love Himself! He has no other way to be. No love happens but from, by, through Him. No one and nothing can love or be loved but by the “wiring” and “energizing” of Grace, of God Himself!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Anyway, sorry, Gentle Reader. I get carried away with the magnitude of it all… God’s love… just… wow.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But as to the Second Thought on Evangelism… on euvangelizo… on joyfulnouncing…

Suddenly today, I realized that my problem is that it’s like a “Fanfare!”, a “Trumpet Call” like Reveille, or Taps, or Ruffles and Flourishes, or Call to the Post. Here is a particular and peculiar sound, that has a specific meaning!

Well, for some reason this morning, this concept of “Fanfare” kept kicking me as I thought of drafting this post. I didn’t know why, but just let it roll on.

And then… the “trumpet will sound”… at the coming of Jesus ahead of us…

And then… the trumpets of Jericho…

And then… the Shofar… that the shofar or shofars travelled in front of the Ark of the Covenant, playing fanfare and calling the people to worship….

And something, suddenly, went “click” for me. (And I share it here, not to convince you… or persuade… or even “educate”… simply to share this thought, and see if it “fits” for you. If not, throw it away…)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Suddenly, John the Baptist lit up in my spirit as a human “Shofar”… like the trumpet call in Godspell that introduces… “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”  There he was… John, the Herald… a human ram’s horn… making way for He who would follow… for the joyful arrival of the King!

A “voice crying in the wilderness” announcing… not a new “religion”… but the person… The Person… The Relationship of Unimaginable Inexpressibly Infinite Love and Embrace of Love Himself!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And, what has all this got to do with us? Simply this…

Perhaps we are all called to be human Shofars… perhaps we joyfully announce the Arrival of the Beloved… and embrace one another, and total strangers, aliens, sinners… in the grace and acceptance of our expressing the Spirit’s Infinite Love for them. Perhaps we transparently reflect and refract that “lightning in our own bottles” to light up the dark places.

The Good News isn’t Bad News! Thieves, cheats, fraudulent tax collectors, adulterer’s, prostitutes… didn’t go traipsing miles up and down dusty rocky hills to John at the Jordan to be made to feel bad, guilty, miserable and worthless. Zaccheus (a wee little man), was bubbling over with joy upon being called down from his perch by Jesus, even though he was so snubbed by his townspeople they wouldn’t even let him get a view of the street!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Anyway, that’s getting into the next post… This has just been about the “Lightning in the Bottle”.

Next time, a bit more on, “The Good News isn’t Bad News!”

Let me again, leave you with a question…

I’ve heard it said that “repentance” has to come before “forgiveness” and “reconciliation”.

Think a moment, and ask yourself…. is this true? Or not?

Until next time then… Grace to you — The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2016 in 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.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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 – Toxic Waste

fruiteeth

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

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

Except…

We haven’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did this happen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Where’s the “Purity” issue?

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

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

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

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

How?

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

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

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

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

How amazing is this?

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

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

 

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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

 
4 Comments

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.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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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Pick Your Planet

earth deadSome days, it can seem as if the world is dead. Covered in a  coating of ash and choking dust. The evening news, calls from friends or family about tragedy, painful memories and regret of past decisions, misunderstanding by those we love… Some days, it seems difficult to look about us and see any light at all, see any purpose, see that we are making any difference with our little candle flames against what seems the overwhelming force of darkness and shadow.

Yes, life can seem like that at times.

And if we aren’t careful… if we stay in that posture… if we continue to see only the darkness and shadow… it can seem to leach the very life force from us, and we can find ourselves in a very dark place indeed. A dangerous place. An empty and painful place.

What then? What are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to put on “Rose Colored Glasses”, pretend to be Pollyanna, just ignore all the pain and hurting people around us? Are we supposed to lie? To ourselves, to others, to God? What do we do, to be honest and truthful… and yet not be overwhelmed by the sorrows we open our hearts to?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We exercise our Super Power. We use our power of Choice and Free Will to see Truth beyond the appearances. We can grasp and embrace a deep spiritual truth, at the same time that we heed the advice of one of the greatest realists of all time… The Apostle Paul.

Paul gave this instruction to the Philippian Church: Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Paul is hardly a “Pollyanna” guy. He’s been chased hither and yon by both Religious Authorities and Romans… he’s been stoned, flogged, shipwrecked, thrown in jail, threatened with execution… you name it, he’s been there, done that. He’s seen friends and co-workers tortured and killed. Nothing “warm and fuzzy” about Paul, or rose-colored to his view of the world.

We all “know” these verses. We could probably recite them. But do we ever really LOOK at them? Do we ever really see what he’s saying here? Let’s do that…

Let’s look at this from the bottom up. Let’s see that Paul is giving a very PRACTICAL instruction here, revealing a very profound spiritual secret, a “technique” here.

We, in general, people, seek “peace”. “Peace of mind”, “peace of heart”, the kind of peace that lets us sleep easily and sit quietly without a thousand worries wrinkling our brow when the noise dies down on a quiet day. Paul says, “the God of peace will be with you…” That’s an extraordinary promise. The number one pharmaceuticals, the biggest money makers in the drug world in the U.S. today, are anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications. Astonishing, no?

So… for the “God of peace” to be “with us”… Paul says, “dwell on” and “practice” this dwelling as he’s been observed to do… Dwell on whatever is “excellence and worthy of praise”.

WHAT?

What about all the Bad Stuff? What about the occupation army? What about the Temple Guards breaking into our homes and dragging us off to be flogged or executed? What about our families turning us in? Is Paul CRAZY?

Nonetheless… Paul says for the God of peace to come to us… dwell on the excellent and worthy of praise. He even gives specific examples, whatever is: true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good repute.

Any questions? Pretty straightforward, isn’t it? Let’s be even MORE clear. Here’s what NOT to dwell on… Whatever is Untrue, False, Dishonorable, Wrong, Impure and Corrupt, Ugly, and Shameful.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gentle Reader, I’m not finger-pointing. This is as much confession as exhortation… But if you want to know “Peace”… DON’T let your mind revolve on all that negative, toxic, “stuff”. Just DON’T. It is poisonous, it is stress-inducing, it will rob us of peace, joy, and love. I’m not saying to ignore it, or deny it. When bad stuff happens, when toxic stuff happens, acknowledge it, embrace it, then release it and let it go. DON:T DWELL ON IT! Don’t ruminate, contemplate, meditate, and cling to it.  Minister in difficult situations as you can, embrace, affirm, encourage, acknowledge, love… and then refocus and re-sensitize to the good, the true, the lovely.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here’s the deep spiritual truth underlying this “technique”…

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 1:5

Jesus taught:“You are the light of the world. A city set on a [hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” [Matthew 5:14-16]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Practical Application: Here’s the thing I’ve noticed in/for myself and my own life… When I focus on the “stuff out there”, the darkness and ash, I can lose my peace and joy, lose my center, and grow heartsick and weary. This leads me to a rather pathetic form of self-pity that takes away all my effectiveness. When the Lord gently leads me out of this spiral… when I again heed Paul’s advice… when I focus on Light instead of darkness, then two things happen.

earth beautifulOne, the God of peace joins me, feeds and nurtures me, and I focus again on the “I”… (what I can do, how I can help, how I can love), rather than on the “me” (the situation doesn’t heed me, appreciate me, acknowledge me). I get to bask in the radiance that is God, His love, His care, His glory… rather than the mud and the muck.

Two, (and this may sound a bit strange), but I “see” an entirely different world. I see a world of people doing unexpectedly kind and loving things. I see the flowers growing out of the sidewalk cracks, rather than just the concrete jungle. I see the grace, the joy, the laughter, the redemption and blessings, even in the midst of the most challenging environments and situations.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’ve come to realize that my Super Power, this Power of Choice and Will that God has given us, being created in His Image, allows me to “pick my planet”.

I can choose to see, focus, and dwell on that first one at the beginning of this post. I can glue myself to the “all bad news, all the time” channels on my mega-cable boob toob. OR… I can choose to get out amongst people, encouraging love, understanding, grace and embracing one another… whether for better or worse, in good times or bad, sickness or health.

That’s MY Choice! I can pick my planet! So can you. What’ll it be?

Grace to thee!

The Little Monk

 
 

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