Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. Because everything that belongs to the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one's lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God's will remains forever. – 1 John 2:15-17

Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity (The Message).

I’ve met a few folks who were not worldly. Some of them were religious, but some were simply wise, having realized that the system does not work as advertised and the rat race doesn’t get you anywhere. Me – I’m bad for liking cool stuff – in particular books, radios, firearms, knives, and some other hand tools are my main weaknesses. At least, it’s not cats or Precious Moments figurines. I do have two utility infielder felines, but they’re kind of like kids -- except they don’t ask for money.

I used to have a rule that I would only have as many firearms as I could shoot or carry – and I’ve done pretty well. I’m about three over at the moment – maybe four – of course, I could get my wife to carry a couple. The grandkids are coming up, too, so I have to have some extras for them. There’s no point in trying to count my knives.

I don’t love the stuff I have – that is, I’m not attached to it, for the most part, but I do appreciate it, and I try to take care of it. When I was a little kid, my parents got me whatever I needed, and my oldest sister, who was already out on her own and working, got me a lot of things I probably didn’t need. While I never thought about it explicitly, my view was that these possessions were valuable – not so much in themselves, but that every toy and trinket was an expression of the love my family had for me. I derived joy from the use of a toy certainly, but I also derived joy from taking good care of what I was given so that the people who had given it to me would know I was grateful to them.

In a sense, I think it is “sinful” not to value and care for what we have been given – whether family, friends, pets or possessions. I accept the fact of wear and tear, and that eventually things wear out and have to be replaced, just as I accept the fact that people and animals pass on. But it is my job, if I possess something, to get the most out of it while keeping it in the best condition possible. I’m not supposed to stress out over equipment that breaks – I’m still working on that. I am, however, supposed to see the effort and skill that went into creating something, see the time I traded in order to possess it, see the grace of God that enabled me to obtain it, and then esteem it appropriately.

I have the utmost respect for a man so spiritual that he refuses to possess a car, but I cannot believe a man is spiritual who, having a car, fails to get the oil changed.

There are probably some who would look at John’s admonition to “love not the world nor the things thereof” as a reason to be careless with property and possessions. I don’t see it that way. Those who suffer most from the disease of worldliness are the ones who never appreciate what they do have. They want more simply to have more, or want it so someone else cannot have it.

God doesn’t care what we have, or how much we have. What He does address is making our own gods out of things, activities, or relationships. He tells us not to adopt the religion of accumulation, or bow down to self.

A simple test is that if the care and feeding of what I call “mine” eats up a significant portion of my free time, then I probably have too much. Any possession, pursuit or person that draws me away from God needs to be examined and put in its proper perspective, perhaps even abandoned. We can be balanced, appreciating the gifts in our lives but always vigilante and ready to dump anything that threatens to take over and control us.

The world is a system and a spirit rather than a place or material. From the world’s perspective, it makes sense to try and have everything our way, to get whatever we want, and to glory in how we live, and especially how clever we are. It is no surprise that as society becomes increasingly post-Christian it also becomes increasingly enamored with that which is from the world.

There is good news, though. Since the Cross, Christ reigns. Yes, I know that’s hard to see sometimes, but the Messiah’s Kingdom has come and is coming right now. In Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2:34-35), he spoke of the kingdoms of the world. Then he described a stone cut out without hands that struck the worldly kingdoms and shattered them. There will be an end of the world, but of His Kingdom there shall be no end.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Not Many Fathers

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name.
I am writing to you, fathers, because you have come to know the One who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men, because you have had victory over the evil one.

I have written to you, children, because you have come to know the Father.
I have written to you, fathers, because you have come to know the One who is from the beginning.
I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, God’s word remains in you, and you have victory over the evil one. – 1 John 2:12-14

Some days I am, at best, a child. With all that goes on, I can do no more than cling to the fact that Jesus had paid it all, and that I have access to the Father, and acceptance in Him. The Christian life begins with the Cross, a once-for-all transformation that turns us right side up in an upside down world. Through the Cross, we are delivered from sin’s bondage, the will is liberated, and we are free to walk in obedience to God. That part is easy for us because Jesus did the hard work, and we have only to believe it.

Christianity doesn’t end there, though. Every moment of every day we face the choice of whether to continue living under the deceptive rule of the soul. Some have compared the soul to a shell that surrounds the spirit man. It must be cracked in order for the spirit to take its proper place of rule in our lives. Our own personal cross must be borne day by day, or hour by hour for that to happen. There is no victory except to put to death the soul’s natural inclinations. Only in dying to self can we overcome. Attempting to defeat the enemy through self-denial either fails or leads to self-righteous pride.

It would seem that John has things out of order. We would think he should have had children then young men, and finally fathers. That is the natural order of things, isn’t it? We are born, we grow, and we become stronger. But we are dealing with the supernatural rather than the natural. In the realm of the spirit, one moves from knowing their sins are forgiven and knowing God as Father -- the position of child, to submitting to the Spirit and becoming a sort of spiritual father to the new nature. We must be fathers in spirit before we can be warriors, overcoming and conquering the soulish self.

It is an impossible move for the natural man. It is hard for me to even contemplate. It makes much more sense that we should clean up as we grow up, working from the bottom up. God appears to be making an unreasonable demand -- that we move from a newborn to a father in one swoop, and only then work out our salvation from the position of walking in the spirit -- top down.

The One who is from the beginning is certainly the Father. Father, though, is relational. God is my Father from the point I was born into the Kingdom, just as my natural father was my father when I was born in this world. But my father had an existence prior to my birth. He had other relationships, other roles – so, too, with our heavenly Father. To know Him only as Father is reassuring. It brings us peace. But to know Him as the One is to know Him beyond all knowing. Thus did the Old Testament saints – the patriarchs, that is, the fathers, know God. Those of old said, “Hear, O, Israel, the LORD your God is One.”

The father knows YHWH – I AM THAT I AM. The child knows the Father through Jesus and His finished work. The youth knows, the Logos, the indwelling Christ. Child, father, young man is not so much a progression as a dance within us. We are child in relation to the Father. We are fathers in relation to the Spirit who must impart to us wisdom, insight and discernment so that we can conquer as brothers with Christ.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Cross and the Soul

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14.26-27). Now Matthew shows us in the matter of affection how believers ought to choose loving the Lord first rather than one’s family; while Luke signifies what attitude must be maintained towards the love which arises from the soul life – we ought to hate it. Strictly speaking, we are not to love just because the objects of our affection are those whom we would naturally love. Dear and near as parents, brothers, sisters, wives and children are to us, they are listed among the forbidden. Such human love flows from soul life which will cling to its heart desires and will call for love in return. The Lord maintains that such soul life needs to be delivered to death. Though we do not see Him, He wants us to love Him. He desires us to deny our natural love. He wishes to rid us of our natural love towards others so that we will not love with our own love. Of course He wills that we should love others, but not with our natural soulical affection. If we love, let it be for the sake of the Lord and not for their sake. A new relationship comes to us in the Lord. We should receive from Him His love so that we may love others. In a word, our love must be governed by the Lord. Should He desire us to, we must love even our enemies; if He does not ask us to, we cannot love even the dearest of our household. He does not want our heart to be attached anywhere because He wants us to serve Him freely. – Watchman Nee The Spiritual Man, Chapter 4 “The Cross and the Soul”, pp. 180, 181

Here’s a little something to think about over the weekend. I think I’ve been on this topic before, but Nee states it well from his perspective of distrusting the impulses built into our old nature.

I doubt that God very often forbids us loving a spouse, child, or parent – in fact, He gives an explicit command in Scripture that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church. Yet, even then, it is stated so as to cause us to realize our lives are not merely lives but legends of God’s grace.

I could have done quite well without the trouble

Sooo … we meet again.

Last week my hard drive physically died of the sickness whereof it was sick. This week, just as I was getting on track to wrap some stuff up and take off a couple of days, my software started acting bizarre. Another day was wasted re-imaging my new hard drive, and then I lost more time because, of course, the re-image has less than half the applications that I need to do the things I do. I cancelled my mini-vacation, and, as a consolation, stayed up the next three nights until the small, dark hours rebuilding and recovering while trying to beat the drop-dead delivery dates. By last night I only had to stay up until 11:30. This is progress.

Perhaps I will now be able to get back to my regular schedule of posting and, more importantly, cruising around to read the musings of my fellows posters in the coon-0-sphere. In any case, it is good to be back to more or less normal, at least for today.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Not Better than the Rest

I wait quietly before God,
for my victory comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will never be shaken.

So many enemies against one man—
all of them trying to kill me.
To them I’m just a broken-down wall
or a tottering fence.
They plan to topple me from my high position.
They delight in telling lies about me.
They praise me to my face
but curse me in their hearts.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in him at all times.
Pour out your heart to him,
for God is our refuge.

(Psalm 62:1-8, New Living Translation)

I have to leave First John, at least momentarily, to deal with the subject of war. Earlier this week, spiritual warfare was a topic that came to my attention repeatedly. There is no advancement on the road to freedom that does not involve battle. One of the reasons a day of slack or a time of slack every day is so important to us is that it permits us get our feet set for the blows that come at us. The more the enemy assails us, the more we need our rest and refuge.

Weaponry I have. Strength I have most of the time. What I need once in a while is a place to hide. Without some slack, I get shell-shocked. Battle-rattle will cause us to do stupid things, make mistakes, stumble, and leave ourselves unguarded and vulnerable. In the political sphere we can see that this is a favorite tactic of power-hungry politicians. The opponents of political freedom want to keep throwing things at us, keep us back on our heels, on the ropes, covering. The same is true of our spiritual enemies. The prince of the power of the air prefers to keep us from thinking and, certainly, from praying and meditating.

So many enemies against one man -- I’ve said something like that dozens of times lately. A tottering fence is the perfect description of my position the last few days. It seems that any gust of wind would overthrow me. Of course I don’t have a high position in the world, but I am seated in Christ above all, and it is from there the enemy would see me toppled.

But I overcome in quietness. My battle plan is to wait quietly on the Lord. I do have a stronghold wherein I may hide safely and securely. To the world and those who oppose me I may look like I am about to fall, yet, as I trust, falling is impossible. It seems crazy to rest when so many things are happening, when everything seems to be falling apart, when there is so much that needs to be done. To fall into the frenzy of activity, to become one with the fearful words and images that flow toward us in a filthy, unending stream seems a more rational response. It is wrong.

The battle is won by stillness of heart.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Everything Old is New Again

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you; because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth – 1 John 2:7-8 (KJV)

Well, that makes no sense. Is it an old commandment or a new commandment? Make up your mind.

Let’s see how Wuest thinks it should read –

Divinely loved ones, no commandment new in quality am I writing to you, but a commandment, an old one, which you have had constantly from the beginning. The commandment, the old one, is the Word which you heard. Again, a commandment, one new in quality, I am writing to you, which fact is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is being caused to pass away, and the light, the genuine light is shining.

It almost sounds like the old commandment and the new commandment are the same except they are different.

In fact, God’s message, His Word has been coming to humanity since the beginning – more to the point, it has been coming to us, individually, since the moment we entered this world. We see it; we hear it; some of us even take it to heart and obey it. We don’t know why. It just seems to be the right thing to do. Sometimes we feel like doing something else, shutting down that voice that keeps drawing our attention to odd things, pushing us in a direction that seems contrary to our own animal interests.

Then one day, whether we have been “good” or bad by the standards of the world system, the light comes on. The old commandment, the wisdom of the ages, the insights of seers and prophets and teachers, the mythologies, and the stories of every group on earth – all suddenly becomes a new commandment. The commandment, in a way, has not changed, but, as Rick says, we see it “with eyes made new”. The Word changes in dimension. Rather than lying flat on the page, it stands up and walks around. The page becomes a portal. The stream of vibrations striking the ear drum becomes an earthquake, transforming. The mountains are moved or melt like wax.

What is the difference between the old commandment and the new commandment? In a word: Jesus. John points this out when he says the fact is “true in Him and in you.” Christ changes everything. In some ways, that is the New Testament in one line. Imagine the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus as he rose from his knees on the road and was led into Damascus. He was one of the most erudite men of his day. He knew the Scriptures backward and forward. He knew God’s word so well that he confidently pursued, persecuted, and sought to destroy the followers of the Nazarene. Now he has encountered the living Christ, been struck down and left blind. Christ has changed everything. Confused and helpless, he can do nothing but sit in a room, praying, fasting -- waiting. A man enters the room, prays, and lays hands upon Saul. That quickly, his eyes are opened. The darkness is past, and the true light shines.

All we think we know is subject to change in the light of revelation: from knowledge to gnosis.

In Your light we see light (Psalm 36:9).

Friday, June 12, 2009

How Do You Get To Heaven?

This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands. The one who says, "I have come to know Him," without keeping His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in Him: the one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked. – 1 John 2:3-6

Do we know God? Do we want to know God?

The approach is the same in every realm whether spiritual or physical. We must come under the discipline of that which we wish to know. That’s why they are called disciplines: we must make ourselves obedient to them. A doctor must keep the commands of his discipline, so we say they practice medicine. Simply knowing the doctrine without putting it into practice does the patient no good. But when one practices what he believes is correct, he knows the truth of it – seeing it is indeed as he believed.

In the natural world of theory and practice, we know there is room for a growth of understanding. We may find that the theory, though useful, is not entirely correct, or we did not understand some aspect of it. The practitioner refines his understanding in application – whether setting a bone or a fence post. This is true to an extent in the spiritual world as well.

We may tend to think that mystical revelation is enough, and it is true that God’s instructions are perfect from His side. We know this for we know that Jesus put them into practice, tested and verified the truth with His own life, death, and resurrection. We know it from the lives of saints, from those who have gone before us and some who walk with us even now. Yet until I am willing to become a practitioner rather than a professor only, I cannot know how the truth works in me, for me, and through me.

God is inextricably in the truth of His word, and His word cannot be known apart from Him – that is, if we will know His word by doing it, we cannot help but know Him. To know the Scripture as Jesus knew it, we must put it into practice in our lives. To know the Scripture as Jesus knew it is to know the Father and the Son. To do the truth is to see the Truth.

What are the commands of God? Jesus said there were two – to love the Lord and to love one another. Paul agrees saying love is the fulfillment of the law. We love our fellow man by doing right by him. We love God by doing right period, by doing what He says.

“To walk as Jesus walked” – not, obviously, to be a long-haired, sandal-wearing, itinerant preacher as I’m pretty sure Jesus would go for cowboy boots if He were here today. To walk as Jesus walked is not about our appearance, our background, the clothes we wear, our speech patterns, or what we do for a living. Jesus walked a path of complete self-sacrifice. He walked a life of prayer – always, as we said the other day, conversant with the Father. Praying and giving up self isn’t going to make the stupid people around us suddenly not be stupid. Walking as Jesus did is not going to put a sane person in the White House next week or make Kim Jong Il suddenly look at his nuclear arsenal, slap his little chia head and say, “Nukes? What was I thinking? I could have had a V-8!” It is not going to restore a job, make the kids behave, magically clean the house, or cause the wife to lose her voice or the husband to start paying rapturous attention to everything the wife utters.

No, all it will change is me.

How do you get to heaven? The same way you get to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cover Up

My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father -- Jesus Christ, the righteous One. He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world -- 1 John 2:1-2

After a couple of days of really bad stuff, including a bunged-up hand which was very inconvenient and the loss of my voice, which is much less so, we are back to John's First Epistle.

I don't like the word 'sin'. For one thing it has a built-in condemnation factor for a lot of us. I always see a fundamentalist preacher with a big black Bible looking down his nose at me. My language is sometimes less than perfect. I know a whole bunch of bad words, and I can employ them effectively in context. Not long ago I had taken time away from work and driven twenty miles to take my wife to a doctor. It was her first visit, so I filled out the long information form for her. She took it up to the receptionist, and, in a minute or two, called me over. I do not give medical people my SSN, since our insurance company has a subscriber number in addition to the group number we are supposed to use. The office would not accept us unless I gave them my SSN. I didn't tell them to go to hell or to screw themselves. I just shrugged and said we'd take our business to someone who wasn't such a bureaucratic Gestapo idiot. I then began the arduous process of dragging my foaming-at-the-mouth wife out of the reception area to the main door. She’s small but wiry. It’s a lot like giving one of my cats a bath.

As we were exiting the building, I expressed my disgust with the word "dumb-ass". Now I think that's pretty innocuous, especially given that my wife needed treatment, and I had just wasted over an hour on a bunch of medical brownshirts. I said it, though, out loud -- and my "out loud" is first of all loud. A man was coming into the building just at that moment, and I recognized him as a missionary I had met some months before. He did not recognize me, but we talked for a moment. As we parted company, he sort of gently chided me to "be careful about what you say. You never know who is going to be around." I chuckled and refrained from saying, “Ain’t that the eff’in’ truth.”

It really did strike me as more amusing than convicting. First, I'm pretty sure God thinks they are dumb-asses, too. As far as being unkind, I prefer being compared to a quadruped lacking the ability to vocalize rather than, say, an intentionally malicious jackbooted fascist. But even more to the point, I do know God is always around, and I worry a lot more about offending Him than anyone else -- even missionaries, God bless 'em.

Anyway, the work of the Holy Spirit, according to Jesus in John 16 is to "convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment". For the world, the sin is a refusal to believe in Christ (see John 16:8-11). But, as Matthew Henry and others would point out, there are "Christianized ... and unchristianized, converted and unconverted sinners" (Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on 1 John 2:1-2). Even as Christians, we, to use the most common meaning of sin, "miss the mark", fail to effectively do our job and carry out the Lord's will.

That, I suppose, is the bad news. It is inevitable that we will not love one another adequately, that we will be fearful and anxious at times, that we will act in greedy self-interest, avenge our own hurts, and dismiss the still, small voice of the Spirit.

The good news is that Jesus is the propitiation or expiation of all sin. On the Ark of the Covenant there were two cherubim carved on the cover. The cover of the Ark and especially the area between the two figures and under their outstretched wings was the “mercy seat”. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies and refreshed the covering of blood upon the mercy seat. Beneath, inside the Ark, were the commandments given to Moses by the Lord. The blood on the mercy seat blocked, you might say, God’s view of the law and man’s failure to keep it.

Jesus is the anti-type of the mercy seat sprinkled with blood, the fulfillment of what was depicted by it. By His blood, He turns aside divine wrath. It seems sad to us that the Father, even metaphorically, hides His face from the Son as Jesus bears the sin of man, bleeds, and dies. Yet it is in this turning away that we are spared the righteous wrath that is the just response to our rejection of truth. To believe now that we are “objects of wrath” is to deny the efficacy of the Cross. The only ones upon whom the wrath of God falls are those who cannot believe or refuse to believe that what Jesus did is enough. We may suffer the consequences of bad actions just because decisions and actions have consequences – even the action of no action. But we can be assured this is not God’s wrath upon us, for our Advocate has covered justice with mercy.

Monday, June 8, 2009

It’s Not All Split-pea Soup

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor – Luke 4:18-19

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how He went about doing good and curing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him – Acts 10:38

In the comments on Friday’s post, Walt quoted Gagdad Bob:
"...You don't have to be a clinical psychologist to know that the average person is at cross-purposes with himself because he is inhabited by various alter-egos with differing agendas, which we call mind parasites. Mind parasites generally operate unconsciously, while the conscious mind makes excuses for them in order to confer a spurious sense of unity upon the self -- a coherent narrative.

"But this narrative is always a lie (more or less), as it is in the service of mind parasites, not Truth."

We -- meaning mainly me -- are not really interested in debate. I find most people generally unmoved by my persuasive logic and astute mental gymnastics. What we raccoons do like is something with a little bark we can climb. We like a thick limb we can amble out on to relax, sit a spell, and maybe see how things look from this angle. So we are going to interrupt the little trip we were taking through First John to think about mind parasites and demons.

Walt went on to relate GB’s statements to some of what we were talking about Friday: His quote does not contradict anything you wrote, nor am I trying to. But let's say, when I, for example, epitomize Bob's quote one way or another, to one degree or another, I probably lack the capacity to retain or contain any of the points you bring up. At those times, I project my internals onto the world, much as your lady friend did re her late husband. This may not qualify as "sin," but it's at least B-I-G E-R-R-O-R.

While that sort of thing proceeds, I don't have the
capacity to relate to anyone properly -- how much less God? What part of me can receive Grace then?

I know the answers to those questions; my question is
"Can we do it?" I'm simply amplifying on the details of what stops us.

According to all the Gospel accounts Jesus seems to have frequently cast out demons. Sometimes these were clear cases of what the orthodox Christian would call demon possession. The demoniac of Gadara inhabited by a legion of evil spirits is one of the best known. The Catholic Church recognizes demon possession and will authorize exorcisms where appropriate. I’ve seen and heard some priests who specialize in exorcism speak about their work. It is clear that they are using their authority in Christ to set people free from some kind of conscious, intelligent entity which is inhabiting the same psychic space if not also the same physical space as the possessed victim. Among Protestants, especially evangelicals, charismatics, and pentecostals, there is generally a belief in the fact of demonic possession. I personally know reasonable, intelligent people who have dealt with cases of demon possession and believe them to be genuine. And I think they’re right.

It is an old question as to whether or not a Christian can be possessed by a demon. I suppose, as Bill Clinton might say, it depends on the meaning of the word “Christian” and the word “possession”. What I can be pretty sure about is that demons can control Christians by anyone’s definition without necessarily “possessing” them.

We all know the mind forms patterns of thoughts. This is very helpful when driving a car in traffic. A lot of what we do operates by habit, muscle memory, whatever you want to call it. ‘A’ happens and we respond with ‘B’. We’ve done it a multitude of times. We do it because it works. Sometimes we have what appears to be ‘A’ and we do ‘B’, but the conditions are not the same. It’s not really ‘A’, so our autopilot response causes trouble. You can see this in action every winter when the first snow comes. In Dallas I think it happened every time it rained.

Because there is so much dysfunction in the world, most of us picked up bad patterns in some areas of our lives. For example, I know a woman who grew up in the care of her single father who loved her very much. Every night he would come home from work and down three or four beers before he started supper. Then he would clean up the kitchen a little before hitting the sofa with the TV on and a beer in his hand. Nearly every night of her childhood her dad would pass out on the couch. When she grew up, she did the same thing – using wine instead of beer, or, later on, vodka. Her daughter would come home from school and try to find and empty all the vodka bottles before the woman got off work.

Sometimes our patterns are not so obvious – though to the one enslaved it is never obvious. We become trapped by fears, chained by subconscious beliefs, and controlled by self-perpetuating parasites that grow on us, feeding on the psychic energy we spill when they “score”. Watch the scene where Sméagol confronts and temporarily expels his mind parasite, Gollum, in The Two Towers. Gollum claims that he is the one that has held things together, kept Sméagol alive all those years. He is very much the epitome of a mind parasite. He has a life of his own and he is determined to not only continue his existence but control his host.

Gollum returns when Frodo is forced to betray Sméagol in order to save the creature’s life. This “vindication” provides an opening for Gollum to be restored to power. He is refreshed by proving he was right all along – though that’s not actually the truth. He is able to regain control over his host’s thoughts and perceptions.

We can be awakened to our need for redemption yet still have our minds largely controlled through these patterns. Nevertheless, that is not God’s plan. As prophesied a Deliverer was sent to us. Jesus came to open our eyes to the presence of the parasites and set us free from their domination. I cite again from my favorite chapter of the Bible: Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. This ongoing renewal of our thinking, perceiving and understanding is the means of transformation. Christ’s redemptive work has made it possible by allowing the Spirit of God direct access to us. Apart from the Cross, the devil, whom Jesus acknowledged as “the prince of this world”, ruled man by right. Through the Cross, Jesus rules by right, and the devil is the usurper, operating by deception. If we are willing to open the door, the Spirit will be able to come in, give us sight, heal us and set us free.

That’s the thing – as Walt said -- Can we do it? And the answer is, to some extent, no. That’s why it is called grace. It is not of our doing. God is always working through the things that impinge upon us. That’s a knock on the door. We are simply opening the door -- it may be out of curiosity or politeness or loneliness. We may be looking for answers to nagging questions. Maybe we are in pain and will do anything for relief. Parasites are not painless, though they contend that their pain is “better” than the pain of getting rid of them.

We open the door, and light comes in. A little light leads to more light as our eyes become clearer. The thing is, of course, we never know all that is going to be exposed, though we might be aware, in some vague way, that there is something is wrong. Our freewill action of surrender to God, our acknowledging of the power of the Cross then makes possible the progressive deliverance from these strongholds. He is mercifully relentless.

Keep in mind God uses human instruments in our deliverance. Some may remain bound because they want God Himself to fix them on the spot. It happens that way, but not all of the time. Very often we are released as we walk the path with the help of prayer partners, counselors, friends, family, coons, even clergy. All of those are means the Lord is using to help us know the Truth, because knowing the Truth will set us free.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Professin’ Confession

If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make Him out to be a liar, and His word is not in us. – 1 John 1:8-10

In sixty-five words, the Apostle John conveys a great deal of essential truth. He’s not just talking, and he’s not old, senile, and repetitive. There is a difference between “we have no sin” and “we have not sinned” that goes beyond grammatical constructions.

We have been talking about light as the nature of God, and of us as His children. As Walt said yesterday, blindness to our own faults makes it more difficult to love one another. The demonic sin is pride, but the foundation of sin, or perhaps the foundational sin is a lack of love, first for God and then for our brothers and sisters. We have to turn the light of God’s truth upon our lives and acknowledge what we see. Everything exposed by the light is made clear (Ephesians 5:13). That is the purpose of light, to expose and make clear that we might address it and confess it.

I need only open to one of the Gospel accounts and meditate upon some of the more difficult sayings of Jesus, like the Sermon on the Mount, or upon His acts of compassion, or His Passion to see divine love, and to see that I come up short. Even if I have not acted upon evil and “sinned”, it is clear that the “sin” is present in my impulse and motivation.

I am one of those who believe that the entire human race was separated from the Creator and unable to have any communion with Him whatsoever. I also believe that Jesus, by His death on the cross, reconciled to God the entire human race – past, present, and future, as well as the rest of creation through us. The only thing keeping any person separated from the Father is the refusal to acknowledge that we are separated and need to be reconciled. It is the refusal to recognize that my ‘I am’ is not enough. Once we confess to our Father that He is right, that we need to be connected to Him, just that instant we find ourselves reconciled, going the right direction, and connected. The Cross makes it all possible for everyone.

That’s John’s first sentence. Let’s stop deceiving ourselves, get the revelation, and be reconciled.

But then there is everyday stuff, the conflicts, the failures, the insensitivity, the selfishness, bitterness, vengefulness, etc. It does no good to deny it and try to cover it up. It won’t go away. In fact, if we deny it, we are in effect calling the Lord a liar.

Some of us have had experiences in childhood that were hard to deal with – rejection, neglect, abuse. Maybe our parents were simply less than perfect. We get strange ideas. We get twisted. We go to government schools. We end up with flaky friends. We get involved in cults or near-cults. We repeatedly do stupid things that keep us in bondage.

How do we break free and live in liberty? We confess our sins, and, just as important, we accept God forgiveness. He is faithful and righteous [or just] to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us…. Our Father obligates Himself. The forgiveness and cleansing are ready and waiting for us if we will simply admit that we’re doing wrong and can’t seem to stop. And it is not limited. Jesus told Peter to forgive seventy times seven. Will God do less? In Lamentations Jeremiah assured us that God’s mercies are new every morning.

I don’t care how many times I have to go back and confess the same stupid thing, I know the Lord will not reject me, nor will He refuse to set me free. I’m not saying it won’t be painful in some cases. Some chains Father broke and I hardly knew it happened. Others, well, He is just about going to have to take my hand off in the process.

Mediate on Scripture and address those things the Holy Spirit brings to mind. Do not be distracted by symptoms, but look for root causes. My bondage is often rooted in my own lack of forgiveness. I cannot receive the Father’s forgiveness while I am holding something against a brother, or even against God Himself.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Light Conversation

If we say we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. – 1 John 1:6-7

I always thought honesty and truth were closed related -- silly old paleo-conservative, classical liberal me. The postmodern progressive, the materialist, men like Hitchens and the former OC jester can be honest enough, even pure in a sense, yet be completely in the dark with regard to truth. When the concept of truth is divorced from its Source, it becomes nothing more than a consensus interpretation of derivative existence, conveniently useful in some cases, but devoid of light. Honest self-evaluation won't automatically lead to enlightenment, especially if we are only comparing ourselves to others or people in general.

And then there are some people who manage to be blithely unaware of their own inconsistencies while seeking Truth. In fact there are people whom I would have to acknowledge as Christians, recipients of the grace of God in Christ, who are at best blunt instruments with regard to self-examination. I have a relative by marriage that is the perfect example of this. I was talking to her the other day about her late husband, who really was a saint. She commented on how hard the man was to live with and the fact that he had a quick temper. I told my wife afterward that I was surprised blood wasn’t running out of my mouth from biting my tongue. The woman is rigid, demanding, and arrogantly self-righteous. Is she a Christian? Obviously, it’s God’s call, and I can’t be certain – I mean, but for the grace of God, she could be an ax-murderer. Always remember: when you meet an idiot who claims to be a Christian, the Lord may be doing the best He can with what He has to work with.

That brings us to the idea of walking in the light and practicing the truth. The tension in our relationship with the Lord is always about how much control we are willing to surrender. How much are we going to give Him to work with? Surrender is function of trust, of the extent of our belief, our faith in the Father. We talked yesterday about having no need to fear God, for He is pure and true in Himself with no shadow of deception. He can be fully trusted. Yet we hold back.

I think I am afraid of not being myself. If I let God have too much control, control of everything, will I cease to be me? Will I become bland and homogenized? Will I just be part of the herd?

“I Gotta Be Me” is the world’s favorite song, yet it is the world system that is peopled by poor imitations, by slavish devotion to fashion and the herd mentality. That is not God’s way. The Lord does not try to categorize us and make us fit into little pre-formed pigeonholes. He wants us to be more than we are, not less.

In my better moments I thought walking in the light meant being aware that I can’t do anything behind God’s back, and that’s true, but it doesn’t go far enough. The King James Bible uses the word ‘conversation’ in contexts which seem odd to the modern reader. Conversation once had additional meanings beyond simply talking to someone. It could mean behavior, manner of living, social intercourse, and it could even have a sexual connotation. It could mean to understand through study and contemplation, as we still speak of being ‘conversant’ with regard to some subject or body of knowledge.

We are called to have conversation with God, with light and truth. To walk in the light means that we are conversing with the Lord, aware, speaking, listening, and interacting with Him in every chamber of our being. That’s my goal today, to let the Son shine in.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Cure for Theophobia

And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all – 1 John 1:5

God is light. That’s the message that Jesus gave His disciples. We are assured that darkness -- a more comprehensive term than evil -- does not exist in Him. In fact, it is the darkness in us that is repulsed by the overwhelming light of God. We don’t really want a search light in our guts. It is too illuminating. Religion can have built in shadows for comfort. As I mentioned yesterday, we can walk through the rituals of religion without letting the light hit us in full, though nearly every ceremony is saturated with glory. When the language of religion becomes jargon, it, too, provides a little shade. We can talk about sanctification, practical or positional, all day long, but that is less illuminating to the soul than one moment of living as a holy dwelling place inhabited by Christ.

I often talk about “experiencing” Jesus but in a way that is misleading for He is too big and too glorious for me to contain. It might be better to say that I experience the anchoring of my faith upon His absoluteness. My faith touches the immovable, solid Rock of His Being and finds its rest. This is the hardest thing for most of us, and there is no sense in trying to deny it by analogies. We are constantly put in a position where we must trust without fully comprehending. But the message is that God is “of a piece” – what He is to us in a small thing, He is through and through. He doesn’t just give light; He is light. A lamp or the sun is a source of light but not light itself. A lamp may be turned off or burn out. Millions of years in the future perhaps the sun will be extinguished, but light will not cease to be.

We can know that God is not slippery or deceitful. He does not give with one hand and take with another. He does not advertise eternal life and then disappoint us with an existence as shades or a ghostly quasi-reality. When I rise in Christ, I do not know what I will be but I know I will be like Him, and I know that my life will be more not less than it is now, more, perhaps, because the stains and shadows have been taken away, but more.

There is nothing to fear in walking with God. First, there is nothing to fear from man or any other entity for God is greater and well able to see us through any difficulty or circumstance. We can rest assured that the Lord is in control of all that comes to us (I think I’ll write that on my hand). He does not allow what is not ultimately for our good. Second, there is nothing to fear from God Himself for He is good and incapable of evil. Some will dispute this. The doubters want to force the Lord into a chess match on their standard two-dimensional board. If you think you’ve checkmated God, all you’ve really done is to discover that you not only can’t see the board, you don’t even know the name of the game.

All our fears are wicked, and we fear because we will not nourish ourselves in our faith (Oswald Chambers). Reverence good. Fear bad.

The message of light is not just about God. If we are His children, we partake of His nature. The darkness we find in ourselves – well, it may be in us but it is not of us. We, too, are children of light.

But you, brethren, are not in darkness that the day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us to wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:4-9)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ice Box Visions

Sometimes things come to me in the shower. This time it came to me at the refrigerator. I am no prophet, but then what I’m seeing it nothing new if you’ve read history or Orwell.

First, we are going to enter a period of high, perhaps hyper, inflation. There is almost no question of this. It is unimaginable that we will not. Only if there is some miraculous quantum leap in technology and, subsequently, productivity, can this be avoided.

Second, we import much of what we see on store shelves. We are dependent on the industrial capacity of countries like China and South Korea for our standard of living.

I see the draft being reinstated, perhaps as a Universal Military Service with a civil service component. We are going to need a very large army. At some point, all the dire predictions of U.S. imperialism by the left are going to come true. The irony will be that imperialism will be all but institutionalized under a leftist administration and Congress.

Keynesian economic policies have been tried and failed repeatedly. The only benefit to Keynesian theory is that is serves to enhance the power of a central government. That is the only reason it continues to be lauded, and it proponents given Nobel prizes. When it has failed in the past, there have been free-market, capitalist economies around to bail the failures out and prop up global finances. That will not be the case for America this time. No one is going to bail us out or be able to bail us out.

Except at the point of a gun.

We will indeed become the world’s police department – or perhaps the world’s IRS agents.

All the talk about principles and freedom and dialog will go out the West Wing window when the American sheeple begin to bleat and rumble for their Doritos and Idols. The leftist politicians will do whatever they have to do to retain power. They will never again willingly give up the advantage they have in this country. Demographics are – for the moment – on their side. If placating the majority means something like turning South Korea into a colony (to save them from North Korea, again, of course), they will do it a heartbeat.

When you create your constituency by pandering to the lowest forms of self-serving greed, you essentially have no choice but to continue. If you can’t get any more money from your own citizens to mollify the masses, then you get it from some other country. We are already trying to economically strong-arm the Chinese into buying what will soon be worthless paper to fund our debt. Will Reid, Pelosi, Clinton, and Obama use the threat of actual force to continue supporting their power trip?

I hope I am completely wrong – and that would be consistent with my usual predictive ability.

Yet I am troubled by the nature of the “entitlement” mentality that dominates those who support the left. “Community organizing”, for example, amounts to a method of funneling government money into specific neighborhoods. It is the antithesis of productive self-reliant wealth creation. It is parasitic. It is redistribution of wealth. “Government money” means that it came out of someone else’s pocket. But what happens when currency has become so devalued by inflation that no one’s pocket is worth picking in this country? The entitlement/community organizer mindset says, Get it from somewhere else. It they won’t give it up willingly, we’ll just have to take it from them. We move from the Weimar Republic to the Reich in one swoop.

Let’s pray I just got hold of a bad hot dog.

Sign of Abandon

And being at Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply.

But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. …” – Mark 14:3-7

As humans, symbols and symbolic acts are vital to us. We just aren’t human without the symbolic. This is where the eternal and ideal intersects the temporal and derived and begins to transform it. We can’t just ignore the material world and hope it goes away because it is God’s creation and destined to be redeemed and renewed in some incomprehensible way that somehow involves man.

Honestly, there’s a good chance I’d have been with the critics who asked what the point was of wasting a commodity so valuable. I like to do things that are practical. If it doesn’t make sense to my rational mind, I have trouble with it. I can have sympathy for the working man who doesn’t understand why his wife left him for someone more romantic when he was doing all he could to provide for her. If you are bringing home the bacon, do you have to bring roses as well? The answer is, of course, yes.

We all want to hear words of love, respect, and admiration. A laundry list of “all I do for you” is not the same thing. Symbolic acts of extravagance and excess expose, if only for a moment, the mystery of existence. They point to a greater truth and a more perfect reality, to the fact of our being one in spirit.

The more prosaic among us may not see the practical virtue of traditional actions like laying on of hands, baptisms, marriage ceremonies, infant dedications, speaking a blessing over our children, or even kneeling when we pray. And done mechanically, they are meaningless. Yet these actions are powerful connectors to the Divine and transcendent when we approach them with awareness and the appropriate awe.

But Me you do not have always. The routine and practical can be done mindfully, too, as we talked about last week. Giving to help others is a good thing for both the one who receives and the one who gives, but that avenue is always available to us. It is important that we look for those unique opportunities to pour ourselves out for Lord. There are times when we may be utterly broken and lavishly spilled and be seen as fools for Christ. We need to take advantage of those moments and be fully in them, never allowing them to become mere ritual.