September 4, 2011

Lectio Divina and More Senseless Legalism

Some of the Christian persuasion are too content determining their doctrine and belief systems by what they do not like about other denominations or other belief systems. As best as I can tell this is a product of immature faith and knee-jerk reaction. The more intrusive they view the denomination the more ablative they make their own belief system. In many cases I have had this charge leveled on me when it comes to Catholicism. This is not true. I simply mention what is errant in their doctrine or dogma and then walk away. I do not allow what I do not agree with in their camp define what I am or what I believe. The idea of camps and division in general is repulsive to me. I only allow the distinctions and separations in the case of ideologies that can become detrimental to other believers. This is especially true of the believers that are not fully versed in the faith or those that are easily led down errant paths. I need to make these discernment's and distinctions. Please note I did not say judgments. I have been told when I voice these distinctions that I am either being hateful or I am delivering things "without love". Nonsense. To think this of me is to condescend and assume I do not understand a biblical concept of love or am not versed enough to know the difference. As much as I try to maintain the servant attitude of humbleness...these types of assumptions are insulting and presumptuous and quite frankly they usually unintentionally (or intentionally) demean me.

On the other hand, if I vehemently attack and am purposely belligerent with others I am without recourse as I am flawed in both my approach and logic. I would not be Christ-like or biblical in this approach. The thing is this: I would press anyone on this issue to tell me where I have crossed that line. I avoid it like the plague and am hyper-sensitive to it. If it’s in my blog, show me where as I am not aware of it having written nearly all the posts on it. If it is there I will most certainly remove it and apologize.
I’ve digressed…back to my original thought.

The impetus of this post comes from what I see as mounting legalistic dogmatism. Lately I have begun practicing with Lectio Divina which is an ancient Catholic practice of praying or worshipping via the Scripture. Since bringing this up in the presence of other brethren I have, in some cases, been ruthlessly criticized and beat-up for it for slipping over to the “dark side” Catholicism. I have even been accused of trying to work towards salvation by works. My immediate gut reaction to this accusation in particular is, “Are you insane?” For clarity, Lectio Divina is a way of praying with Scripture that calls one to study, ponder, listen and, finally, pray and even sing and rejoice from God's Word, within the soul. In particular I am using the Psalms. If we can make music from the Psalms for worship, what is the difference if we use it as a pattern for prayer? Not everything that has come out of the other denominations or is part of other denominations is evil, wrong or “of the Devil”. This myopic and narrow-minded nonsense made humanity endure centuries in the Dark Ages and had people like Tyndale burned at the stake. When I say dark, I mean ignorance. It also kept the Jews of Jesus' time from recognizing Him as their Messiah. Sorry folks, in my book this is not good company to be compared to or grouped in with *vomit*. To clear the ignorance of this practice or dispel the darkness I will explain myself and what Lectio Divina means to me. If there is more to this on the Catholic side...I really don't care because (1) I am not catholic (2) I practice this in a manner that helps me relate and communicate with God better and (3) did I say that I am not catholic?

Element One: Time

I select a time for Lectio Divina/prayer as with anyone who wishes to spend time with God. You make sure nothing else is going to creep in and distract you. Time with God is paramount. Duration to me is important. 2-3 minutes doesn’t cut it. That is not even enough time to divest myself of the garbage I accumulated in my head during the day. Once you have selected a time and schedule…I keep it. I use the same time every day to form a habit of prayer that becomes highly effective…it is not a scheduled work! It is a practice like the way a baseball player practices his get better at it not to earn favor with the coach.

Element Two: Location

Prayer should always be free from distractions. Isolation from outside influences of the world (as the world system is of the Devil) and is to be avoided as it will purposely annoy and distract you. Avoidance of other people, telephones, visual distractions, seems to work for me. A location builds a familiar atmosphere that breeds comfort and reduces the possibility of distraction away from the prayer.

Element Three: Preparation

Prior to reading, it is imperative that I have shifted gears, this is why I most often will be found doing this at night before bed. The work of the day is done, kids are in bed and I know there is little chance of a phone caller, or other distraction (baring emergencies). This time may not work for all as some people go narcoleptic when they combine reading, prayer and late evening hours. Relaxing and waiting on the Holy Spirit helps too. The main idea if you do this late at night like I do is to take God seriously and not to be falling asleep. I would never dare. To me this is too important.

Element Four: Focus & Contemplation

This is simple people. When in the Scripture...focus on God. Jesus Christ. See how the passage leads you to Christ. Scripture revolves around Jesus. You should be able to find Him in every verse.

I have heard the detractors on this one. "You [meaning me] are practicing some syncretistic form of Eastern Philosophy and Catholicism." That my friends, is hogwash. I need to ask this: Since when is meditating on God’s word and praying the Scripture a bad thing? I thought the Scriptures is the main revelation of the mind and heart of God outside of Jesus Christ Himself? Is all meditation Eastern? This sounds an awful lot like legalism to me. Legalism that reeks of fear and ignorance and an inability to see beyond the acts themselves and labeling them “evil” before even asking what is in the person’s heart and mind. Is all meditation bad? That's like saying all prayer is bad because Muslims pray. Say what? Don't be so dopey.

Folks need to stop being so tied up into the legalism of the acts themselves. In Christianity, one size shoe does not fit all. We are a diverse body with different gifts, loves, desires and purpose. Although we were all made with the capacity to love God, not everyone was made to love chocolate ice cream. Worship for some looks different than others. Get over it and get used to it. Not everyone is like you and nor do they need to be. Only on the core salvation issues do we need or are we absolutely required to have unity. If we are truly are in Christ (which many aren’t) we will find common ground even in our diversity and we will embrace it. What good is an entire society of plumbers and mechanics? We will have the best piping and best running cars in the world but nowhere to put either of them because we do not have any carpenters and stonemasons to build our houses. Duh.

Sometimes…I just want to do something different from you. Nor do I need to like everything you do exactly the way you do. That would make for a really boring and monochrome world. The beauty of the flower garden is not in all the green stems it is in the diversity of the colors of the flowers. Sunsets are not beautiful because they are all a monochrome colorless gray but because they are vibrant with different colors and depth.

Unity in Christ…in the rest we need a little color, tolerance and diversity. By-the-way, when I say tolerance and diversity I mean what that words originally meant not what it has been twisted into by our modern culture. Am I purposely trying to be nebulous and postmodern here? Is that what it sounds like? I believe I have been pretty clear here and Biblical too. Am I being ecumenical here and merging faiths together? Am I merging religions here?

The real question that needs to be asked is: Have I violated the Bible? No, I have not. Did I cause a brother or sister stumble? No, I do not believe I have. If I did cause someone to stumble is it by telling folks they should be meditating on God's word or was it by putting a barefoot women reading a Bible as the post photo? Please. Folks that are legalistic will find fault with just about everything someone else does if it is not what they thought the other person should do. What do I say? Not everyone likes chocolate ice cream...'nuff said.

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