Apr 17, 2018

The Divine Companionship

From the day I first met my wife, there has always been a constant background awareness of her precious presence in my life.  An now, it is just a natural part of our loving companionship.   Indeed, I have no awareness of myself, anymore, without her.  And, I think it is absolutely true that the beauty, and constancy, and depth of our companionship has shaped the quality of my life more than any other single factor, save my relationship with Jesus.      

And, in fact, the beauty of the marriage companionship is a very prominent New Testament analogy for the believer’s relationship with the Living Christ.  And, though the larger world is not privy to this facet of our faith – nevertheless, there is this simple truth.  Our Savior is risen! He is alive!  And, as a living being in Spirit form, He is completely capable of providing a deep and intimate daily companionship to believers. 

Truly, the Resurrected Christ is absolutely capable of intellectual and emotional exchanges with us.  And, every day, out of that capacity flows conversations and sharing’s which are very fulfilling and often even life changing.  Through these cherished daily exchanges come solutions to our problems, invaluable life lessons, emotional undergirding, constructive criticisms, timely encouragements, a truly empowering synergy, and much, much more.

But again, it is true.  This intimate companionship is the wonderful privilege of our faith which the larger, non-believing, self-sufficient world can never taste because of their arrogance.  And, even many in the organized Church, for similar reasons, fail to experience the sheer beauty and vibrancy of a life characterized by shared struggles and mutual celebrations with our loving Creator. 

But, to be sure, it is one thing for the larger, self-absorbed world to miss this wonderful reality.  And, it is quite another for so many in the modern Church to be missing this very basic privilege of our redemption in Christ.  But, in fact, they are. 

“How do you know, preacher?” you may be asking.  Good question.  And the answer is simple, really.  It's in their eyes.  Their eyes entirely betray them. 

I know, because when my sermons touch on the absolute wonder of God’s intimate daily presence, too many, in too many congregations, merely smile and nod - politely.  But, their eyes are missing the joy of overflowing excitement which which conveys, “I, know of that richness, preacher!  I know that deep ‘joy of two!'"

And, the tears are also missing.  Those warm, confirming drops of real empathy don’t show up for mere politeness.  They come only to confirm the emotions of that deep and intimate connection.  But, far too often these days, they are not showing up at all.

"S&N," smile & nod, I think this casual response to the most earth shaking opportunity mankind has ever known breaks my heart more often than any other.  And, how it must also hurt the heart of a loving God, who so graciously offeres the richness of who He is to our every day and to our every circumstance of life.    

But, here is the bare truth which confronts us at the end of our casual response to that opportunity.  If, for whatever reason, we miss this beautiful facet of our redemption, we have missed the point of redemption, itself.  All that Christ has done has simply been to restore this daily divine companionship to mankind. 

And so, to miss this communion, is also to miss Heaven, itself.  And, this is so because of one other immutable truth.   And, that truth is this.  It is only God’s truly intimate friends who will ever be allowed to enter His Heaven. 

Jesus was clear when He said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never *knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'"

[*Knew: In the Greek: “Genosco” = A deep and intimate knowing.]

Mar 30, 2018

East . er (ˋdo ōver) n. A Christian holiday

There is a reason why Christians celebrate Easter with such enthusiasm.  Well, actually, there are two reasons.  Well, wait.  Now that I think about it, there are actually three reasons.

The celebration begins, of course, with the Resurrection of Christ.  Celebration Reason #1:  Our Lord lives!  But, that empty tomb is not just about bragging rights over the Devil and his plan to take control of this world.  It is much more about the absolutely astounding completion of God’s redemptive process for humanity.  And, this is a twist which no one, including the Devil, saw coming. 

So, from that empty tomb springs a vibrant Living Christ.  And, from this Living Savior, springs the most fantastic human opportunity one could imagine.  Celebration Reason #2:  The opportunity for a Do-over! 

It is true.  The Resurrection is all about nothing less than the opportunity for a magnificent “Do-over,” for humanity – only this time, with a much better, Christ-enabled result. 

Jesus said, “I came that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.”  Little did the world realize, at the time, what Jesus was actually indicating by this statement.   Indeed, He was offering to share His own renewing life essence with devout believers so that their life essence might become “abundant” – both in terms of quantity and quality.    

We now know that this empowering symbiotic relationship with the Living Christ takes place through what the Church calls the “Spiritual Baptism.” This Spiritual integration is simply a personal merger with the Spirit of Christ.  And, this personal integration with the Living Christ changes everything. 

It literally, and very intimately, plugs the believer into Christ’s values and perspectives.  And, this connection to the Living Christ completely renews the believer’s core person, and, in turn, his or her larger life circumstance. 

And now, we come to Celebration Reason #3:  everlasting life!  This symbiotic richness of life stemming from the shared vitality of the Living Christ is what ultimately propels the devout believer into the transcendent, or everlasting version of this abundant life.

The Apostle Paul framed it this way in the Bible.  “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors--not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”

So, Jesus rose again to life by the power of the divine Spirit.  And so it shall also be with those devout believers who are, Spiritually enjoined to Christ in this life.   They too, shall be, not only empowered to newness in this life, but also resurrected by the power of the divine Spirit to an abundant everlasting life.

So, when you think about it, Easter relentlessly begs a very simple question.  It is this:  “Do you want to be new?”  Indeed, newness and a Christ-empowered, here-and-now transformation of our character essence is what the Resurrection and our celebration of Easter is really first about.

Many, in these more modern times, even in the Church, have lost this larger awareness of the Resurrection’s significance.  Rather, these days, we tend to blow right past this idea of a life-transforming integration with the Living Christ in the here-and-now, and jump straight to a future hope of eternal life.  Sadly, it would seem that we now tailor our faith much more toward the “quick and easy” than the “new and better.” 

Nevertheless, the telling question of Easter and the true redemptive process remains, “Do you want to be made new in the power of the Living Christ?” If your answer is a short-sighted and tepid, “Well – not really,” then, you’ve missed the point of all that God is up to in the redemptive work of Christ.  God’s true redemptive “end game” is that you would become thoroughly renewed in your core person as you share in the vitality of the Living Christ – in this life. 

Without the desire for, and, indeed, the actuality of this renewing, symbiotic life experience with the Living Christ, the entirety of the Christian faith becomes nothing more than a religious delusion.  But, to actually experience this daily transformative synergy which the Living Christ brings to the believer’s life, is to give overflowing and transcendent meaning, not only to Easter but to all of God’s redemptive effort in Christ.

In God’s authentic redemptive process, to be forgiven is a function of the Cross and the Dying Christ.  But, to be profoundly renewed is a function of the Resurrection and the Living Christ as His essence lives within and impacts the believer.  Easter only really “sings” in our heart and in our life when we unequivocally answer its unrelenting question with a desperate and delighted, “Yes! Yes! By all means, Yes!  Make me new, Lord!”

For an expanded explanation of these ideas, visit Reading Room 3 and read,   Spiritual Bearings: A Return To True North.
                                  Jump There Now

Jan 14, 2018

No Refuge In The Fog

In The Book of the Revelation, the last book of the Holy Bible, Jesus spoke of a time to come in the life of the Church when its people would be widely marked by the trait of “lukewarmness.”  Surely, these are those times; and, we are those people.  The modern Church does not see itself that way, of course.  But, that is only because of the blindness created by the present theological fog in which we hide.

We cultivate that fog by minimizing our personal investment of time and energy in the careful verification of redemptive truth.  Rather, we choose to be quite satisfied with the limited and second-hand information which the pastor or Sunday school teacher offers – which they also typically got second-hand from someone else.  

Listening to a lecture is just much quicker and easier, than verifying for yourself, right?  And, since we’re not really that interested in delving too far into the matter, anyway (for fear that we might discover more than we really want to) it works out very nicely to just go with that quick-and-easy, second-hand approach.

So, here we are, the rank and file of the modern Church, largely living blissfully unaware of the true intricacies of our faith and the sophisticated expectations of our Creator.  And, in the seeming safety of this convenient fog of mind, we simply busy ourselves with whatever is our personal brand of “busy-ness.”   And, without the burden of any significant divine requirements upon our life, what else is there to do but focus on our own favored fascinations while we wait for all of this to be over. 

And, if we do occasionally suffer a twinge of “maybe I should draw closer to God and delve deeper,” then we simply resort to the cure for all such heart pricks.  We merely reassure ourselves in the knowledge that most everyone around us is also cloaking themselves in this same insulating fog of theological vagueness

But, here’s the kicker.  When all of this is finally over, and we think to offer our ignorance to God as a defense against any divine recriminations for our failure to invest at the proper level, we will discover something.  In that final terrifying moment when we stand in that deadly serious space between this life and eternity, it will be made very clear that the fog of ignorance actually offers to us no refuge at all.  And, how could it?  Since, in the Living Christ, true enlightenment is readily available to every believer.

The great lie of our times is that redemption requires essentially no significant investment on the part of the believer.  In truth, redemption requires everything of the believer.  And, pulling the theological covers over your head in an attempt to make that reality go away is a huge mistake akin to mixing your metaphors.  You just should never, never do it. 

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save [keep control of] his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose [surrender control of] his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”- Jesus   [Brackets added]

Nov 6, 2017

Two Tears: The Children of Our Choices

Tears are often world changing for us in good ways. They can convey a depth of emotion which presses irresistibly toward forgiveness, or recovery, or the healing of a relationship. When they are connected to an apology, they convey a heart touching sincerity. 

When they are part of a vow to do better, it becomes all the more potent, and all the more believable. And, when they are connected to the joy of achievements or life’s milestone events, they help express, and even add to, the depth of the beauty of the occasion.

But, there are times when even the most visceral and overflowing tears are completely powerless to alter the harshness of our reality.  Often, these tears flow out of an indifference which causes us to wait too long, or a carelessness which causes us go too far, or an arrogance which blinds us to life’s treacheries.  And, in all of these cases, we are then left with only the completely powerless tears of too late.

Such are the bitter tears which come after lacerating words which can never be taken back. These are those hurtful words which suddenly escape our normal discretion through the portal of an angry moment - only to irrevocably diminish, and even destroy, the bonds of trust and love.  And, when these words are finished, all that is left to us is an enlarged "aloneness" and those horribly  impotent tears.

In my own life, such tears commemorate a sad and unalterable mistake that I made when I was young and too unaware of how life really works.  So, in my youthful carelessness, I gave away something of inestimable value to people who valued it very little – at the great expense of those who deeply cherished it.  That something was my relational attentions. 

What I failed to adequately recognize in those days was that life happens in ranks. And, those ranks have a time clock on them. And, those precious people who are ahead of us in the forward ranks, who gave us life, and sacrificed for us, and who love us so very deeply, are soon gone.

So, while I was lavishing the attention of my young life on shallow, transient relationships and pursuits, those precious forward ranks were quietly forfeiting their days.  But, I failed to notice that relentless march of time and its very serious consequences until it was too late. 

And then, suddenly, they were all gone.  Those treasured, wise, trust-worthy, always-there-for-me people were not there anymore.  And, only then did I realized that I had traded the irreplaceable for the mostly irrelevant.  And, this unalterable reality has become, for me, one of those which is completely impervious to my regret. Thus, even now, these many years later, the bitterness of that mistake still stings and stains my heart in my reflective moments. 

 And, that sorrow remains a hard reminder of those additional wonderful breakfasts in my grandmother’s sun drenched kitchen which could have been.  It reminds me of the days that were available for fishing with my Dad which I ignored.  It reminds me of the missed holiday gatherings when I could have listened one more time to their sage conversations and felt their overflowing love in my life.  

But, I squandered those final opportunities on the much less important.  And now, no amount of remorse can restore those opportunities.  

But certainly, I am not the only one who has made such a costly mistake. Even now, many are simply trading away the opportunity to experience the wonder of a deeply fulfilling friendship with the God who created us, and gave Himself for us, and who truly loves us.  And, they are doing it only for the very shallow and short-lived pursuits of the here-and-now.  

Thus, while the opportunity of the ages, further escapes their grasp with each passing day, they invest in the soon to be meaningless corporate climb.  They chase hard after the ownership of this life's toys and trinkets.  They immerse themselves in entertaining games, and hobbies, at the expense of the most import "game" in town. 

And, all of this, while they crassly ignore the telling implication of all those end-of-life estate sales they drive past.   Nor do they notice the consistent capacity of old age and/ or poor health to prematurily hollow out our material aspirations.

Instead, they make themselves momentarily happy with a very low-brow lifestyle of a never ending to-do list involving status, ownership, security, and comfort.  Thus, in the not too eventually, they come to their own, sorrowful "too late" end.  

And, to the person, all who make this mistake will, indeed, cry torrents of fierce tears.  But, in fact, as such tears always are, they will be completely powerless to alter their eternal remorse.

But, the tears of too late do not have to be the tears which ultimately define our life and our personal destiny.  Better those things should be defined by truly beneficial tears, tears which have the power to make a difference.  

Better those things should be defined by the joyful tears which  mark our humble embrace of the Lordship of Christ.  Those things should be marked by the intelligent tears which sets us free from such a short sighted life approach. 

Indeed, it is the joyful tears of a new, Christ-empowered beginning which truly have the energy to change everything.  And, as they  bring us to an awareness of the divine truth, and to a vital daily friendship with the Living Christ, and to His elevating guidence - our life begins to unfolds on a whole new plane of awareness.  

Truly, it is the joyful tears of faith, which bring us to the real opportunity for a deeply fulfilling life.  And, it's these very potent tears which also contain the power to entirely rewrite our personal destiny and extend it into forever - in the most fulfilling way.

In the coming day of reward and punishment, there will be only two kinds of tears.  There will be tears of great joy, flowing from those who gave themselves to the love aned lordship of Christ.  And, there will be the tears of great sorrow, flowing as a river from those who squandered the opportunity of that divine friendship.  And those who cry those tears will be forever doomed to do so in the absolutely immutable bitterness of “too late.”  

Feb 27, 2015

The Third Parent

A lifetime ago now, when I was learning to fly airplanes, I finally reached the first milestone: Solo! It was late afternoon on a sunny but chilled autumn day when my instructor decided that I was ready to go it alone. So, on our third practice landing, he told me to pull over to the hanger. There, he climbed out of the airplane. 

As I took off and climbed to altitude without my instructor for the first time, the sun’s rays were becoming dimmed and more yellow. And, as I viewed the landscape from above, it was noticeably scarred with long, dark shadows.

Turning onto final approach for my landing, I could see my car near the hanger. And, I could barely make out my instructor and my future wife standing near it. They were both observing what was probably going to be either the greatest moment or the last moment of my nineteen year life. And, I’m pretty sure none of us held any great conviction as to which way things would break.

As I began my very tense final approach, the small plane buffeted sharply up and down in the turbulence of the cool Fall air. Besides the impact those little jolts had on my already nervous stomach, they also became another reminder that the outcome of this landing was, indeed, by no means, a foregone conclusion.

It was in these moments that I realized, I think for the first time in my life, the real heartlessness of a completely objective reality. Suddenly, I became very aware, in this do-or-die situation, that I was absolutely alone in a merciless circumstance which really didn’t care whether I lived or died.

And now, the airplane, itself, seemed so much a part of that indifference. This beautiful little blue and white Cessna 150, which before had been so inviting and friendly, suddenly morphed into a much too willing accomplice to this uncaring reality.

The acrid tension of the moment now very effectively stripped away any romantic veneer about this airplane. In this moment, it was clearly no friend. It too, was merely a soulless machine fully as willing to crash and burn as to glide softly to a landing.

Before that Fall day of my nineteenth year, I don’t ever actually remember being aware of such a completely indifferent reality or the harshness of it all. It seems, before that day, there had always been someone there, hedging life's indifference for me - my parents, my grandparents, my flight instructor.

But, that was definitely not the case this day. This day, I was absolutely alone and very circumstantially exposed.

In the years since that first unsettling encounter with a purely objective reality, I have discovered a bit more on the subject. It is the fact that this I-don't-really-care-what-you-do-or-how-it-turns-out reality is what really competes with God for our devotion.

It works like this. When we're born we encounter our parents.  So, our first parental relationship is with, well, our birth parents – the mother and father we are born to in this life. They may or may not be great parents – but it’s probably safe to say that, at least most of the time, they are not entirely disinterested in what happens to us.

And, in the vast majority of cases, they are, very invested in our well-being. Certainly, most parents spend massive amounts of love, wisdom, and vigilance in defense of their children.

But, be that as it may, once we outgrow the day to day parenting of our birth parents, we have a choice to make regarding the guardianship of our adult life.

And always, the God who created us stands first in line, ready to assume this later parental role to provide a very engaged and loving involvement in our adult life path. The whole redemptive work of Christ is aimed at positioning our Heavenly Father to lovingly parent us through our life. So, in that sense, God seeks to be our "Third Parent."

But sometimes, we reject Him for this role. We do this because we intuitively understand that His love will sometimes interfere with and get in the way of our preferences.

So, God's love is, indeed, forced to compete. It must compete with the personal freedom to do as we please which is the real draw of a Godless, and thus, disinterested reality.

However, what is so well hidden in this proposition of complete freedom is the cruel randomness which is always attached to it. And, indeed, there are always surprise endings which flow out of the randomness of a totally impartial reality.

So, with absolute freedom, also comes a constant exposure and real vulnerability - not at all unlike what I experienced in my solo flight. Nevertheless, it's true, we often still venture undaunted and self-assured into the treacheries of adult life - believing ourselves to be equal to every challenge.

But, in truth, only God is equal to the challenges of a fickle reality. Only he can over rule its unpredictable whims. Only He can bring order and meaning from its random twists. No mere human being even comes close to having the resource to stand up to the extremes to which an unpredictable reality can take us.

For example, after years of business successes, raising our kids responsibly, giving back to our community, and doing it all right - it happens. Out of nowhere, the doctor says, "It's cancer; and, it's terminal."

Or, as we're happily coming home from a football game that our team won, 
a defective front tire blows out one rainy night on the Interstate. And, we wake up in the morning with a severed spine and useless legs. 

 Or, you name it, when any one of a thousand other things that we didn't expect to happen, do. There is no purely human resource which can stand up to life's harshest randomness.

So, that's it. Suddenly, without warning we're in way over our head. And, a Godless, heartless reality could care less.

And, so it goes far too often. We choose to embrace the freedom to do as we please in a reality free of divine interference.  We choose to entirely risk ourselves to the mistaken belief that we can always adjust life situations to our preferences. But, in truth, sometimes, for no apparent reason, oblivious reality just decides to break bad. And, we find that, in fact, there is no adjusting it.

The truth is this. Being solely responsible for your own self-preservation is a hazardous, draining, and a very lonely approach to life. And, in real life, the unfettered freedom which draws us to such a life in the first place is really mostly gobbled up by the constant pressure to survive.

As a loving Third Parent, God offers to unload the life process. He offers the help and joy of "Twomanship" - a life of confidence and synergy lived in league with Him. It is a life that is exponentially better than "Onemanship" - a life of constant and draining vulnerability.

But, won't God occasionally interfere with my agenda? Well - one can only hope so, dear heart. 

 Loving interventions are really what good parents, whether first, second, or Third, do best. They get us safely past the seriously damaging pitfalls of our "childhood" which, in human beings, typically lingers long past our childhood.

So, here it is. If the loving and almighty Heavenly Father doesn't have your back, you are really flying dangerously solo. And that means you are absolutely very exposed. Because, like the rest of us, some days you can fly pretty well; but, on any given day you can also crash and burn.

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." - Jesus

Jan 5, 2015

God Awareness

There is quite a difference between subscribing to the reality of God’s existence and having a vibrant “God Awareness.” Believing in the existence of God is a simple intellectual position. But, to have an intuitive God awareness is a much more lively and intense proposition.

The first situation is based in this simple idea: There is a God. But, the second is based in an energized inner reality which leaves one completely assured: There is a God in me!

Jesus put it this way. “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever - the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
(Ref. John 14:15-21 NKJV)

The idea presented here is a simple one. Jesus is explaining to His disciples that they will eventually have a level of God awareness which the rest of the world will not share. And, as He indicates above, it will be an awareness based in a true personal merger with the Divine nature. And, this very natural connection will, in turn, bring into being a true oneness of heart with God

Jesus indicates that the requisite for this privileged access is simply an active humility, as indicated by a devoted obedience to His directions. Non-believers and "game players," on the other hand, are excluded from this access simply because they refuse to truly embrace the values and directions of Christ.

And, indeed, there are many who haughtily demand empirical proof of God before they will even believe in His existence, much less embrace His values and His express wishes. But, what Jesus is offering to those who do is a level of God awareness which makes empiricism entirely unnecessary, and obsolete. So, as Jesus indicates, the arrogantly self-sufficient (the "world") will simply remain oblivious to this inner personal intimacy with God.

Nevertheless, it is this Christ-furnished God-awareness, this wonderful "Sixth Sense," which makes our friendship with God truly vital and vibrant.

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." - Jesus

Mar 10, 2014

Light Source

Within all human beings there is an imbedded truth stored deep within their subconscious. We can read of this subliminal message in the Bible where the apostle writes in Romans 1:18-21, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened."

So, here is the simple truth which we all know subconsciously: There is a God.  Already embedded within the psyche of each of us is this awareness that there is an all-powerful, eternal Being to whom we all owe homage. This awareness may be perverted or suppressed as Paul described in the verses above. But, it is there.

And yet, far more times than not – we fail to discover it. Why is that? Why do we struggle with this simple truth and the self-evident reality that it describes? It is because there is a flaw in our “Interpretative Context.” 

Essentially, it works like this. In simple terms, Truth is merely a correct interpretation or assessment of reality. When you can see reality accurately, you have arrived at the truth. But, since the fall of man, which, in short, gave each of us our own subjective view of reality, our perception of reality has become a matter of a very  personal Interpretation.

And that interpretation is typically entirely shaped by our value system. And, our value system is very much a product of our upbringing, our life experiences, and various intellectual and emotional exposures.

Eventually, all of these experiential influences produce some principles and beliefs which are so deeply held that they become more instinctive than cognitive. And these, then, simply coalesce into our personal value system, which, in turn, becomes our Interpretive Context.  So, our personal value system, in effect, becomes a kind of “life filter” through which all life's issues must pass to be analyzed and interpreted.

This is the means by which we vet everything.  And, in this way, we distill our own awareness of reality – what we believe to be it's correct interpretation.

However, the problem is that this “Filter,” is clogged, and torn, and misshaped by our personal inadequacies, prejudices, fears, ignorance etc. As a result, this interpretative context which we are depending on to show us a correct view of reality does not accurately distill a true reality at all.

Instead, it produces a view of reality that, for example, may have important elements subtracted by our fears and superfluous elements added in by our personal preferences. So, instead of actually arriving at a correct assessment of reality – the truth – we come to our flawed and very subjective version of a given circumstance. We arrive at our own, "designer truth," based in our very flawed Interpretive Context.

And then, armed with this self-concentric view of reality we enter into strident confrontations with those around us on everything from Creationism to the worth of Capitalism, to the question: "Is There A God?" And we simply can’t understand why those who oppose us can't see that truth which seems so very obvious to us.

Eventually however, objective and honest thinkers do come to an inescapable conclusion. It is this. In fact, none of us are consistently capable, within ourselves, of distilling an entirely accurate and objective awareness of reality.

And, it’s true. We actually lost that ability as a species long ago, in the very beginning of our existence.
(Learn More)

In truth, the capacity to always accurately assess reality, and thus to correctly determine truth, resides with God, alone. The Liberals in our world are convinced that they know the truth and therefore the correct way forward. The Conservatives hold the same view.

And, Muslims hold this same view, as do atheists. Yet, none of them are correct. In truth, only God is capable of rendering a completely accurate view of life's issues.

Thus, if one would know the true interpretation of life's circumstances, there is really but one available source. It is Christ, who can reintroduce us to the divine perspectives.

All other purveyors of truth are mere pretenders, who are actually disabled by their own flawed Interpretive Context. But, as God, Christ is the authoritative interpreter of life. And, it's only He can empower us to rise above the stumbling’s of our own misinterpretations to know the truly correct view of life issues.

So, the Apostle, John would write these words..."And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

"If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light,
[if we embrace His interpretations of reality]we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." [Brackets added] – The Holy Bible

         And you shall know the truth,  
                            and, the truth shall make you free - Jesus

Aug 26, 2013

The More Corps

What makes us want always more from our spouse? Why do we do that? I know a number of people in my circles with great spouses, myself included. From day one, these husbands and wives were beautiful people, a truly great catch by anybody’s standard. And yet, I observe that most all of us who married these wonderful people continue to want more from them.

They never had any great flaws to begin with. So, in the absence of bigger issues, we start harping on much smaller and less important ones. 

Maybe we do that because we have no sense of scale.  That is, there were never any big issues to give us a perspective on just how petty our demands really are. 

Nevertheless, after we have abraded away these small issues to bring these already great people closer to our specification for perfection, we pat ourselves on the back, rest a moment, And then, the process starts over. 

And, now that the smaller issues are out of the way, we start on the truly itty bitty ones.  Thus, we continue to demand that these, too, be addressed by a spouse who is probably already, far and away, our better.

And on and on the process goes through years of marriage. Until finally, having abandoned all sense of reason and scale, we find ourselves down on the microscopic level demanding that even these miniscule issues be addressed by these gracious people that we are supposedly cherishing.

And so the question is begged, “Will they ever be good enough?” Will these people, who started out twice the people we will ever be, ever be able to really satisfy our constantly escalating standards? Obviously not, unless we break this ridiculous “always more” cycle.

And, it's true.  In fact, there will certainly be some truly significant issues in a marriage which should be addressed. But, that is where the process should stop – at the truly significant issues. 
It should never be allowed to become an increasingly abrasive process. 

And isn’t it a bit arrogant, after all, to deed yourself an arbitrary right to entirely re-design the person you originally chose simply for who they already were. “Approving” and “Appreciative” are great words upon which to establish a really happy and fulfilling marriage. “More” is not, if it comes up too often.

Jun 3, 2013

For All The Marbles

Here is a question for ministers.  What would you sacrifice to remain relevant in your role as a minister?  To say it another way, what would you give up to retain a credible voice in the cultural discussion?  What would you be willing to sacrifice of your consummate self in Christ in order to continue to be taken seriously in the mainstream conversation?

Add to that, this query.  What would you be willing to sacrifice from the nature and role of the Church to maintain its relevance on the world stage?  How far would you go to accommodate the demands of the secular society in order to secure their continued attention and general respect?  This is the strategic crux of a game which is played out in our world every day. 

So, here is how the Devil’s deadly game of Risk And Relevance is played.  There are only two players at the table:  the Devil, or one of his minions, on one side; and some Representative of the Church on the other side.  The rest of humanity, as individual souls, are on-lookers.  And, they are the cherished prize to be won or lost by one opponent or the other. 

The ultimate goal for each player in the game is to maximize their own influence over humanity and while attempting to neutralize the influence of their opponent.  The play involves only one of two strategic decisions:  “Risk or Don’t Risk.”

To affect their opponent’s play, the players are allowed to employ Intimidation Tactics to manipulate their opponent to a losing position.  So, here are some typical gambits from the annals of this deadly game…

A Minister: (His opening play)    I will Risk myself to the service of Christ in order to reach humanity and save souls through the ministry of God’s Word.

The Devil:  That’s fine, because I suspect you will only be an obscure minister of little import or impact.  So, I’ll Risk it.

The Minister:  I will not be small and unimportant.  I intend to be very successful and influential in my ministry.  So, I will Risk my money, my time, and my energy.  I will invest them in education and training.

The Devil:  That’s fine, but I know the complexity of the religious politics which will be involved in your attempt to rise to a position of prominence and influence in the Church. And, I don’t think you have the political skills or the good sense to simply “play ball” with the powers that be.  So, make your investments if you will.  I’m happy to Risk it.

And so the daily game goes on until the minister eventually finds himself, after his educational years, in a five year old ministry in a smaller local church that has entirely plateaued numerically.  And the game continues…

The Devil:  Well, it seems I was right in the beginning.  Here you are, stalemated by your own stubborn adherence to your antiquated values and ideas which are becoming increasingly counter-cultural. And now, your reputation and personal standing are at risk.  Your superiors are watching and beginning to have serious doubts about your abilities. 
            And, the gap is becoming very visible between your value system and that of the laymen in your congregation.  They are obviously pulling back from you.  Is this what you understand to be success?  If it is, I’m happy to Risk your continued impact on humanity.

Beads of telling sweat begin to pop out on the young minister’s forehead.  He begins to feel the great weight of his personal exposure.  He looks away and down to ponder his next play. And then, he makes a critical decision.  As he lifts his head, there is obvious relief on his face.

The Minister:  No, no, in fact, I will Not Risk my personal aspirations, my reputation, and my influence.  That does not serve my purpose.  So, I do not think that it is the strategically correct thing to do. 
            I think this would be my better play.  I will exchange my present perspectives for new, more culturally accommodating views.  This will bolster my credibility with the secular culture and bring back the confidence and appreciation of the more shallow but influential members of my congregation. And so my own influence will be enlarged.  And through that increased influence, I will become more effective.

At this point in the game, the Referee pronounced the young Minister “Neutralized.” To his complete surprise, the young man was then instructed to leave the table to make way for the next player.  He was directed to stand on the Devil’s side of the table as one of his captured souls.

The Devil leaned back in his chair and lowered his head to smile a gloating smile as the young minister made his way around to his side of the table.  “How easy these guys are,” he thought to himself. "I had him from his second play."

As the defeated minister vacated his chair, a layman, representing a local church body sat down to take on the Devil.  He was a devout man of no small experience in these games.  The Devil had met this warrior before; and he was taking nothing for granted.  So, he opened with one of his best psychological plays.

The Devil:  Sir, I know of your local church.  I know that your numbers are dwindling.  Does that not tell you that you are out of step with your community?  I challenge you to Risk some small adjustment to the values and teachings of your church so that not so much is required of people by them, thereby making you church more attractive to the larger community.

The Layman:  No, I don’t think so.  We have every confidence in the power of the God’s Truth to draw men’s hearts to Him.  We’ll just Risk ourselves to the power of His truth.

The Devil:  You will risk it?!  You will risk it?!  Sir, do you not realize that you are risking the souls of men. Not that I mind, but don’t you know that God will hold you accountable for the loss of those souls.  However, if that’s your play, I am happy to Risk it with you. 
            But, I just have to say, it seems to me that if you want to continue to keep your doors open, and pay your bills, and get your numbers up, the smarter play would be to “slightly reinterpret” the divine requirements in your Gospel, so they are more comfortable for people.  
          But, hey, I’m certainly not going to complain.  I sat down here to win.  So, I’m happy to take those souls who are retreating in droves from your challenging Truth. 

The Layman:  Sir, there are some things that you need to understand.  First, I don’t keep the doors of my church open, God does.  I don’t pay the bills, God does.  And I am not responsible for the number of people who may or may not embrace His Truth.  I am only responsible to the Truth, itself.
            And should I fail that single task for which I am, indeed, very responsible, what real difference would it make if the whole world attended my church?  They would still end up on your side of the table at the end, anyway.
            So, speaking for my church, we will Risk it when it comes to faithfulness.  We will Risk the ridicule.  We will Risk by a wayward culture.  And, we will Risk our own accountability before God. 
            But what you need to know, too, is that these are all calculated risks.  For, in facing up to these possibilities, we have also factored in some unchanging realities: the power of God and the timeless attraction of His Truth to the human heart, to name a couple.   We are also counting on the effectiveness of our personal devotional lives and our personal and intimate friendship with God, Himself.  And, believer me, those things can easily avert any of those failures of which you speak.
            You really should know by now that the long term plan at our local church is not to accommodate the culture.  It is to challenge them to accomodate God's truth in Jesus.  
            So, just to be clear – our unchanging approach will always be a simple one.  It is for our membership to walk closely with God and to Risk everything on His love, His truth, and His help. 

One thing the Devil had learned from centuries of playing this deadly game was that there really is no counter-play for real faith.  So, with a frustrated sigh, he simply rose and walked away from the table, even before the Referee could declare his decisive loss to this opponent.

 But, even as he did so, he was contemplating tomorrow.  “There is always tomorrow,” he thought.  “And these days especially, I like my chances of finding a much less determined opponent in the next round...”

Such is the deadly game that the Church plays every day. Always the projected illusion is the same.  It is that, somehow, our relevance is put at risk by our faithful adherence to God’s Truth. And always, in the face of this insinuation, we are left to choose between one of two plays.

"Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" - Jesus

Apr 1, 2013

Grace Gets Bum Rap

A few years ago my oldest daughter called me with a problem. She and her husband, starting to fix up their first home in a distant city, had a ceiling fan to hang in a room with a very high ceiling. However, they did not understand how to connect the wires of the fan to the wires in the ceiling - all while standing atop a very tall step ladder and holding the weighty and cumbersome fan. Thus, while hubby was at work, daughter called dad, whom she knew to be fairly knowledgeable in all things “ceiling fan.”

After Sarah described the fan to me, I told her that the best way for that particular fan was to simply support the fan with a piece of heavy wire (I suggested a metal coat hanger) through the mounting bracket. I explained that, while the fan was hanging by the coat hanger, Joal (hubby) could then connect the electrical wires, with both hands free. Then it would be easy to simply remove the coat hanger and lift the connected fan into the supporting bracket. 

Sarah was duly impressed. Then she had another idea… Joal didn’t know, as yet, about Sarah’s phone call to me. So, her shrewd impulse was, “Why should I bother him with unimportant details.” So, she didn’t.

That afternoon, Joal came home and began preparing to install the ceiling fan. He set up the ladder and started for the top with the fan, apparently hoping for some mechanical revelation as he neared the top. However, none was forthcoming. 

So, as he stood atop the ladder, in no small quandary, Sarah then offered a suggestion. She said, “What if we get a piece of wire, maybe a coat hanger, and hook it through that little hole on the mounting bracket and then attach it to the fan base and that will hold the fan up while you connect the electrical wires.”

Sarah later reported that Joal was dumbfounded. Her description: “The look on his face fairly screamed, ‘You’re not supposed to know that! How could you possibly have figured that out before I did?’” 

For a short while, Sarah simply soaked up the awe and the new level of respect that she was now receiving from her husband. But, eventually, she did “fess up” to what she had done. No doubt all of this was a truly “cementing” episode in their marriage.  And, I'm pretty sure (at least, from Joal’s point of view) one never to be mentioned again (except here, for the whole world to read.) 

Now, one lesson in all of this is very obvious: Wives, no matter their age or the age of the marriage, are very, very sneaky, and never to be entirely trusted when it comes to the male ego. But, that lesson is for another article. There is really a much broader and more important lesson that we can learn from this little story.  

It starts with this idea. (Now hold on, we’re going to make a pretty tight turn here.  But, we are coming back to this very spot.) Grace, a supremely important term in our redemptive vocabulary, has gotten a bit of a bum rap over the last few decades. Pop-preaching in the modern Church has actually altered the original and true meaning of the term in many people’s minds. 

 Now, the popular understanding of Grace has largely come to be, “Unmerited Favor.”  Then, this pop-definition of Grace is often used as a basis to opt out of a real and truly meaningful investment level in our relationship with Christ. Thus, instead of being understood as the believer empowering thing that it truly is, Grace is, instead, seen to be the exact opposite: a kind of “New Testament Free Pass” for continued bad behavior.

The dictionary (choose any one you like) simply defines Grace as an innate, or naturally occurring, goodness. And that is exactly the way the word is used throughout the New Testament. So here is the short version of the true story and nature of redemptive Grace. 

We first understand Grace to be the natural goodness in the character of God. It is this aspect of God’s nature which first prompted and ultimately designed the redemptive plan for fallen mankind. It was God’s grace, His natural inclination to do good, which caused and defined His response to humanity’s need. 

What we often don’t understand about grace at first is that, through our Spiritual Baptism into the Living Christ, this divine goodness ultimately comes to be a part of the believer’s nature also. As a part of this literal merger of the human nature with the divine nature, we begin to share in the character essence of Christ. And happily, this character infusion from the Savior includes His gracefulness - His naturally occurring goodness. And so, through Christ, a natural goodness also becomes part of the character of the believer.

And this new basic instinct, which is entirely founded in the indwelling Spirit of Christ, changes everything. Instead of the wayward drives of the old nature, the believer is now driven by this new, Christ-based instinct for goodness. And this enables and establishes a whole new form of daily personal government.  

This Government of Grace is a much more natural and intuitive, heart based, government. And this new heart government is diametrically different from the former, awkward and completely unnatural discipline which struggled to conform to External Laws.  

The law forced humanity to behave against our basic wayward inner inclinations. But now, in Christ, grace allows the believer to experience goodness as a part of his or her own corrected instincts and desires.  Obviously, this changes everything.  Obviously, this is a whole new and much better way to experience life and a relationship with God. 

Under Grace, the old incorrigible waywardness simply melts away as Christ establishes his innate goodness in our inner person. Thus, we experience a new peace and closeness in our relationship with God based in this shared “essential goodness.” And it is all entirely the product of the Living Christ living within the believer.

Now, let’s get back to the ceiling fan story (almost forgot about that didn’t you?). Indeed, it gives a neat perspective on the true process and nature of Grace. Let’s begin from Joal’s point of view.

From Joal’s point of view, atop that tall ladder, it appeared that Sarah suddenly developed a keen sense of “ceiling fan know-how.” But, in fact, that know-how did not originate with Sarah. It originated with me. She simply borrowed it from me; and it then became hers – especially as far as her perplexed husband could tell.  

That is exactly what Jesus does for us through our Spiritual Integration with Him. He transfers His gracefulness, His “instinct for goodness,” to us in a way which then makes it our instinct for goodness.  

To casual observers, the process looks exactly like Sarah’s sudden acquired “ceiling fan know-how.” And they, like Joal, are usually left scratching their head and wondering where this “new us” came from. But, in fact, this new “life know-how” is just the divine sense of goodness, which we borrowed from the nature of Jesus.  

The pop-preachers and the casual religious culture which they cater to will no doubt continue to hold to the idea of “unmerited favor” as their working definition of grace. And it’s all but certain that many will continue to use that definition as an excuse to under invest, or even opt out altogether, on a truly vital relationship with God. But, that is just what pop-preachers and the pop-religion people do.  

However, serious believers are destined for the real impact of the Living Christ. They are destined to know that graceful transfer which entirely enables an easy and natural heart government in our lives and thus brings us into a perfect harmony with the heart of God.  

To experience Grace as a kind of intuitive inner goodness provided to the believer by the indwelling Christ is the life transforming reality of true, New Testament faith. The illusion of Grace as a  “Free Pass” to religious LaLa Land is nothing more than that – an illusion.

"... by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." - The Apostle, Peter