November 30, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XLI: To Whom Are We Speaking?

To Whom do we speak when we pray and where is He? How we answer these questions directly affects how we go about our prayer life, doesn't it? We often hold confused understandings of how and where and they probably should be clarified to some extent.

Where Are You Praying and To Whom?

Although I feel my prayers are often one-sided monologue towards God I know that they are not. It is often that I feel I am just screaming at the sky with my neighbors looking at me as if I am nuts (perhaps I am?). I now understand that this is a failure on my behalf to (1) see that God speaks and does so in a manner I may not recognize and (2) realize that I am often too blind to the spiritual things because this world has a way of distracting me from what matters.

Who Guides My Prayer?

My previous prayer life had seen me asking God for what I wanted and I prayed accordingly. I figured I knew better about what was good for me and in my best interest. I see a bit clearer now and know that I do not know what is best for me and tend to be a little more introspective when praying. I also pray in a more ambiguous and nebulous manner at times. When I need to pray with surgical pinpoint precision I will but I no longer try to “hedge” God in to what I think is best.

Prayers Should Be Relational Not Reactive 

My prayers are indeed based more on or from God’s initiatives in my life, at least the one’s I can recognize. When I cannot recognize God working in my life I pray for that also. I pray that He opens my eyes to the things I cannot see that He can. The sins of omission or the failures to feel the way I should. We all as humans have a tendency to attempt to cross a line into a state of omniscience where we cannot really go anyway. People must recognize their limitations and pray according to those limitations or there will always be glaring errors in our spiritual lives caused by our own ingrained sin nature that makes us blind to them.

Remaining "In Chirst"

The Old Testament writings tell us that Israel had frequently been spoken of as the vine which God loved and tended. But over and over again, waywardness and corruption had made God’s people barren (Isaiah 5:1–7). Now it is Jesus who is the real vine, the Chosen One from God. I abide in Him being following His commands and living them out. To abide in Him and be in His vine is to produce the same fruit that He produced. They are the fruits of the Spirit, fruits of holiness and if we do not abide in Him we are cut off and die. A vine that is an offshoot of the main vine that does not produce must be cut off and thrown into the fire. We must stay connected to Him in the vine and He has told us the main way to do this is through prayer.

The Mystery of Christ In Us
How It Effects How We Pray

Paul’s great definition of a Christian was “a person in Christ” The phrase “in Christ” or its equivalent is used at least 172 times in Paul’s epistles. Paul believed that in all His dealings with humanity God had been working on a deep plan, with a secret purpose that can only be discovered by the illumination of the Spirit. Throughout his epistles he lays emphasis on the deeper element of the gospel. The distilled meaning of these references is that God’s mysterious secret which has been hidden “even from the angels,” which men have sought to probe and decipher, has now been revealed. That mystery is Christ, but more, it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory."

It is the indwelling Christ in us…me. We/I are the recipients of the mystery which is Christ dwelling in us. The clue to the whole Christian experience, the core of the gospel, is that Christ, by whom and through whom all things were created lives in us by the Holy Spirit in a relational manner and by prayer and contemplation of Him we remain in Him and He in us.

Ephesians tells us:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. ~Ephesians 4:1-6

If He is Father of all, who is over all, through all and in all...including us. If He is speaking to us are we waiting to hear the answer from the right quadrant or area in our lives? I guess that answer depends on the listener doesn't it?

November 29, 2011

"...As It Was In The Days of Noah"



**Warning** Sexual Content**

First, I have to apologize in advance for the sexual innuendo and cursing in this video. Second I thank a person I respect and trust for bringing this to my attention because I would never have listened to this to begin with. Sometimes due to the bizarre nature of some of this stuff I just overlook it purposely and ignore it. This I couldn't ignore since it struck a cord with me. There is something more going on here than meets the eye...and this comment is coming from a guy that used to listen to Ozzy Osbourne and other drug warped music back in the day. The thing was, Ozzy and the other junk was obviously rebellious and over the top. This...eh...not so much. It's subtle...like and angel of light. It isn't even really the lyrics, its the limited "dialogue" in combination with the imagery which is much more powerful and effective at conveying the message.

"...for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light." 2 Corinthians 11:14

This though is an abomination. It speaks indirectly of cross-species sexual acts.

It is not often I offer social commentary unless someone or something really grabs my attention. This video grabbed my attention and I need to make note of it because at the time of my viewing this disaster has had  146,960,974 views on Youtube. So apparently not many have issues with it. Most of the negative critiques are over artistic issues, not moral issues.

I find this video reprehensible for what it represents. The sexual innuendo and foul langauge to me is nearly passe for our culture. I am looking past that to get at the meat of what is being shown here. Perhaps I should make the claim that this is psychological preconditioning to normalize gross sexual immorality. Sexual immorality that even transcends species. I find those reprehensible too but the problem with this video runs much deeper in its message and what its allowing.

I don't care what Kate Perry used to be...she isn't anymore. I'll stand on that one too against all comers and make that discernment. You'll know them by their fruits. This woman has backslidden to put it mildly.

Back to the horror movie...eh...music video....

Someone please explain to me how this is not of the powers and principalities of this world? This is literally the Devil flipping off God and Christians in general. It is subtle and sinister in the storyline behind this video.

Please note the words to this abomination:

Could you be the devil
Could you be an angel...

Different DNA
They don't understand you...

Your from a whole other world
A different dimension...

You open my eyes
And I'm ready to go
Lead me into the light
Infect me with your love and

Fill me with your poison
Boy, you're an alien
Your touch so foreign
It's supernatural

Tell me what's next, alien sex
Wanna be a victim
Ready for abduction

"And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire." Jude 1:6-7

"The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown." Genesis 6:4

How is this video any different than Genesis 6:4 and Jude 6-7?
Perhaps this this preconditioning for a return of what once was...as it was in the days of Noah?
In reality it is condoning the reshuffling of God's divine order. Breeding or mating with what in this video? Aliens? Angels? Demons?

"As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man" ~Matthew 24:37

Is this normalization/acceptence of manipulation of human genetics? Frankenstein type cloning? Perhaps something worse? Supernatural?

Anyone that has questions on the validity of these two passages can see a previous post I made here: Hard Sayings XXVI: Nephilim: Mighty Men of Renown

November 28, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XL: Plumb To The Cornerstone

Purest Expression of Love For God

Although this may differ person to person, the purest expression of my love for God is my pursuit of the truths in His Word. I then try to internalize those truths which inevitably will manifest in my actions if I have internalized them in the correct manner. I pray these things are spurred into action and try to maintain a constant influx of biblical truth. I know that if I stop I begin to die spiritually...and then physically. My two main links to the Almighty are through those two routes: Bible study and prayer. Without them I would be lost and cut adrift in a sinful fallen world. This idea is abhorrent to me.

Praying To Maintain Desire for God

Praying this desire to God is not hard for me. The pursuit is within me. I believe it is driven by the Holy Spirit. A spiritual man is driven by the Spirit to spiritual matters. Of like to like. God already knows the desires of my heart but He has commanded me to pray anyway for my own good. God already knows how things will be and how they will turn out. I am not so much praying so things will be different so much as I am praying to keep myself aligned to Him and linked to His holiness. Left to our own devices and abilities we do not have the strength to stay locked into God in a materialistic soceity driven by social and cultural mores that are mainly sexual, monetary and naturalistic.

Standing Silent In His Presence

What’s it like to spend time with God without speaking to Him or praying? I do it all the time. When I dwell in the Word and in the mindset that was mandated and commanded by God I am in the right place. I am comfortable. It is where I have been commanded to be. This sort of connects to Paul’s pray without ceasing. Paul’s prayer without ceasing is not necessarily “prayer” as we understand it but keeping God at the forefront of things. That is what I believe goes on here when we are not literally praying but dwelling in Him and He in us. I’d say that it is a symbiotic relationship but it’s not, God does not need us. It is a dependent relationship, we need Him.


How Silence in God's Presence Changes Me

When I have sustained periods of still time with God I can be at peace more that if I did not have this time. One place of particular note that was great for me to be at peace in and with God was when I use to hunt. I know now that I am older and have more on my plate in terms of responsibility that I am missing some of that time. I now try to dedicate it more to Bible study. As I see more worldly responsibilities begin to ramp up in my life again as I see the end of my new educational phase coming to an end, I must learn to find this quiet time with God again or I will quickly burnout and become useless to everyone in my home and in my body.

If God is truly the benchmark (which I believe He is) that all people need to be centered on we need to continually revisit him to assure that we are aligned (orthodoxy) or we become quickly out of line and diverge into bad thinking which precipitates bad behavior which quickly condemns us. We must always check to assure that we are living the life that God wants us to because in and of ourselves we are not capable of living pure and holy lives. The Bible shows this pattern ad nauseum. When God begins to disappear from our lives because we’ve pushed Him out, so to our moral compass and moral direction disappears. SpiWe need to make sure we keep God in the center of our sights. We need to stay focused and on task otherwise we fall out of balance and into disarray. If we are out of balance we need to adjust accordingly.

Are you truly plumb and level to the cornerstone that has been laid before you? Are you aligned to Jesus Christ?

November 26, 2011

Air or Aither...αήρ or αἰθήρ

Mount Olympus-Thessalonica

All evangelicals like reading about the rapture. At least that is the way it was when I grew up. Sadly, many delve into it and Revelation looking for predictions and timelines of the end times and poor motives produce poor results. The book of Revelation’s proper title is taken from its first verse: The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Its main purpose is not to be fodder for tabloids and evangelicals constantly recycling the same whacky theories with new enemies as the antichrist every ten years. It is to reveal, …to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John”. Without getting into a 50 page dissertation it is written in apocalyptic language common to Jewish culture in the time of the Minor Prophets and is routinely misinterpreted by “exegetes” today because they remove it from that context, take much of it literally and try to contemporize the words to mean something it could’ve never meant. That being said, let us return to the letter of 1 Thessalonians to review a rather explicit mention by Paul of a rather unique, supernatural and blessed event called: The Rapture.

I the first letter to the Thessalonians we see the Rapture of the Church mentioned and is often subtitled “The Coming of the Lord” in modern English translations. Often used in funerals to reassure people of the eventual resurrection of all in Christ it also bespeaks of being “caught up together in the air”. As we have seen in other studies of the Greek, “air” here in the English is accurate but its in bland terms rather than colorful. So let’s look at it.

The Coming of the Lord

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

When we look at the words "caught up” or αρπαγησομεθα / harpagesometha, we will find that the word means "to carry off by force" or to “snatch”. Why would Jesus need to take his own that have been given to Him by the Father, by force? The implication here is that there will be willful resistance or opposition to God taking His own home. The opposition that those of the Church will encounter will be in the realm of the “air” as this “snatching” will take place as believers are called up into the air. Who is the ruler of the air? You guessed it: Satan. He and is demons will try to fight them from getting to heaven as they are raptured (to no avail I might add).

This will obviously require direct intervention. It will require God's power to incapacitate the opposition of the demons and take His Church" If understood in a proverbial manner we can sort of understand this to be “rescued from the danger of destruction” or as it is commonly referred to nowadays: Pre-Tribulation or perhaps at least Pre-Wrath. The Church will be snatched away before “all Hell breaks loose”. The idea of snatching also implies a quick movement or plucking something or someone out of a situation quickly…perhaps so suddenly that no one will realize it until it has already happened. It will catch everyone except God of guard. So why would people even attempt to predict the exact time? It makes no sense, especially considering Jesus Himself said that no man knows the time or the hour. All else is vain speculation and to me that is just trying to read something into the Scripture that is just not there…and that’s what Satan does. If what we do does not bring unity, it brings division. Division in the church is not of Christ.

In this passage we also see transference from one place to another. It is a transferring of saved and redeemed humanity supernaturally and extraordinarily quick from “here” to “there”. One second here and the next we will be in glory. The relocation will be quicker than the snap of a finger or as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:52 “ῥιπῇ ὀφθαλμοῦ / the wink of a viewer’s eye”.

There is still one piece of this word puzzle that still needs clarification to bring the full illustrious color of the original statements to light. “Snatched or caught up” into the air or in the Greek αερα / αήρ / aer. This seems like a simple enough statement until we realize that the Greeks understand that there were different types of air or different levels or layers of air. “Aer” or “aera” in Greek was the denser lower atmosphere. They knew this because of the mountains in the empire and the fact that the higher you went on mountains the thinner or more rarified the air became. The rarified or thinner air was designated as αἰθήρ / aither, aether or ether. Aether in Greek mythology, is one of the Protogenoi, the first-born elementals. He is the personification of the upper sky, space, and heaven. He is the pure upper rarified air that the “gods” breathe, as opposed to the normal air / αήρ that mortals breathe.

I don't suppose that it is any accident that Paul is writing this to the Christians of Thessalonica who just happend to live at the foot of the highest and most famous mountain in Greece: Όλυμπος / Mt Olympus which supposedly was the residence of the twelve main gods of the Greek pantheon. Whom some of these new Christians my have diverged from in terms of belief. They would've most certainly understood the idea of aither or rarefied air considering Olympus was nearly 10,000 ft high.

It is here that I sense that God led the writer Paul to use αερα/αήρ/aer not αἰθήρ/aither/aether on purpose. It is here that I ask you as honest Christians to put away all the artistic renderings of Jesus literally standing in a cloud bank calling millions of bodies way up into the clouds and realize what this passage is truly saying. It can only mean that the Lord will descend into air immediately blanketing us at nearly a ground level. He will be so close that he will be below the mountain tops that the Greeks would know in the Mediterranean environment. He would literally be so low as to reach down and meet us on the ground as a father reaches down to hug a child. It is no wonder that we see Paul say, (v.18) “…therefore encourage one another with these words”. Who wouldn’t be encouraged by this?

November 25, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XXXIX: Truth

Every Knee Shall Bow
Gaye Frances Willard

This post sort of has a Christmas spin on it to help get you in the mood for the coming celebration of Jesus' birth.

Living Truth To The Glory of God

I learned a long time ago that there is no room for lying and deceit in a relationship. I learned it either vicariously through watching others get burned or I myself got burned. Having been betrayed like this made me not want to do it to other people because I know how much it hurt and how damaging it was to me and to others. Only rotten people without a conscience can continually lie to others. Most of my good close relationships I have with others are based in trust and that trust is based in reciprocal truth. One place truth has been especially beneficial was in my relationship with my wife. I made and oath to God that I would always tell this woman the truth and it laid the foundation and groundwork for a marriage of ten years and as of this year and I pray the marriage continues. Perfect? Show me someone’s marriage that is. I would not trade the relationship with my wife for anything of this world. I figure the only thing that comes between her and I is God and that is the way it should be as God is not a divider, He is a unifier and unites. The other truthful God glorifying relationship I have is with my children. I must try to teach honesty by example to my kids and that teaching comes by showing that I am an honest, honorable and upright man just as my father was before me. I really do represent my father and my Father in this instance. To show God to my kids, my wife and all others that see me in my life, I need to reflect the one that I try to live like, the one the dwells in me. Otherwise I serve as only a bad example and to me that is no example at all. There are plenty of bad examples in this world and I care not to be counted among them.

A Sliding Scale of Truth & Why We Do It

Now I need to completely contradict what I just said (sort of). I must also say that there are times I do not tell full truths. Most often this is when I discuss some of the more tragic or violent things this fallen world has to expose my children to. I call it rounding edges so they are not so pointy for the young minds of my two sons. Yes, Jesus was scourged, beaten mercilessly, spit upon, crucified and died. Other than the: “He died, was buried and rose again on the third day” part, my 5 year old and even my 8 year old do not need to know the explicit and gory details of the Lord’s mistrial and death yet. The brutality, violence and generally evil nature of mankind will become brutally evident much faster than even I would like soon enough for my boys. Children need to be able to live as children. Need we rush them to the brutal facts immediately to get them to believe in Jesus? The Gospel is God having sent His Son, the Messiah who died according to the prophecy of the Bible, was buried and rose again the third day according to Scripture. Eventually, they will be told the exacting and unadulterated truth of the Bible’s explicit details as they mature. They are literally new believers though, as such they are literally babes drinking the milk of the Gospel, not meat. Just as we would expect of new believers that are adults, they need time to acclimate and adjust, not have this tragedy of a fallen world force-fed down their throats.

Veiled Truths: Protection or Deception

Lack of honesty destroys lives. True honesty can build lives up. There is a thin line between lying and withholding information to protect others from further harm. At times this line is indistinguishable. I prefer to always lean towards honesty at all cost. If people keep pushing eventually I will give in and tell them the things that they probably didn’t need to hear but not where it will jeopardize the relationship. If we did not live in a fallen world things wouldn’t need withholding or disguised or couched wordage but we do live in a messed up sinful world and discretion is advised in delicate situations, especially with children or those that have childlike minds. If we admit the truth, we will all admit we round edges to some extent. As Christians we will not allow our children to view shows with sexual content until they are older. They are forbidden from playing violent video games and the like. Why? We are protecting them from the truth of the way the world really is. Is it right or wrong? I suggest you take this up with God in your situation. I have and my conscience tells me to protect my sons while they are very young and gradually expose them to it as needed.

The Santa Claus Moment

Everyone has their Santa Claus moment. The moment when they had been protecting someone by not telling the full truth or, as in the case of Santa Claus, allowing kids to be kids to some extent and it comes in a backlash of emotion or frustration. We hid full truths because we thought it would be best for the person we did it to and we suffer the repercussion of a person that has been deceived. Like I said before, the world is fallen and things are no longer cut-n-dry. We are often stuck between a rock and hard place. Often this “squeeze” between the two is or our own making too. It is in these times that we should've been taking this stuff to the Lord the whole time. My guess is that Jesus would’ve told the truth no matter what. We see in the Gospels that this is exactly the case. Even after Jesus turned towards intensive discipleship with the 12 on his walk towards His death in Jerusalem we see him telling the truth. Although we see a change in the way He tells it. He switches primarily to parables and metaphor. Why?

Jesus said to them, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables… Matthew 13:10-13

The premise behind Jesus’ statement here is that more people know of God and the Kingdom the more they will be held accountable for. Jesus knowing that, the more those that didn’t believe heard, the more condemned they would become. Hence we see the parables to protect them from their own sinful and reprobate natures. Jesus told the truth regardless but due to their own blindness of truth, the truth meant nothing to them when it came in “word pictures” or parables. The more our children know the more they will be expected to respond to Gospel. This comes with time and maturity.

Yes, there is an real-life type of Santa Claus and His name isn't Santa, it is Jesus and He gave an undeserved gift...

Jesus Christ...and the gift He gives isn't necessarily for here in this current world either although we see some of its effects now as the Kingdom has come in part but is not fully here yet. It is a gift vastly more valuable than any oversized bulbous elf will ever produce out of our imagination anyway. It is a gift given out of grace and it is given through faith. In this one case our mental shortcomings as finite beings limit the possibilities of what is possible. Thank you, but no...I'll pass on Santa and take Jesus in this instance. I'll take The Truth on this one because this Truth is the basis for eternal life.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

If Santa is real he can only give me things of this world and the things of this world are passing away but the things of Jesus Christ are eternal. Even Santa would be smart enough to know that... ;)

The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:17

November 23, 2011

Eucharisteo...εὐχαριστέω...To Be Grateful

Grace
1918
Eric Enstrom
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A Thanksgiving Prayer

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.
Amen.

Samuel F. Pugh

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The Harvest Moon

It is the Harvest Moon! On gilded vanes
And roofs of villages, on woodland crests
And their aerial neighborhoods of nests
Deserted, on the curtained window-panes
Of rooms where children sleep, on country lanes
And harvest-fields, its mystic splendor rests!
Gone are the birds that were our summer guests,
With the last sheaves return the laboring wains!
All things are symbols: the external shows
Of Nature have their image in the mind,
As flowers and fruits and falling of the leaves;
The song-birds leave us at the summer's close,
Only the empty nests are left behind,
And pipings of the quail among the sheaves.

Henry Wadsworh Longfellow

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We Gather Together

We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing;
He chastens and hastens his will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing,
Sing praises to his name: He forgets not his own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining his kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, wast at our side, All glory be thine!

We all do extol thee, thou leader triumphant
And pray that thou still our defender wilt be

Let thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!
Amen

Traditional Thanksgiving Hymn
A translation by Theodore Baker: 1851-1934

Psyche Profiles: Who Are You?

Although I do not lend an inordinate amount of credence to psychological profiling based on secular constructs, I do have to comment on a recent psyche profile I went through last week for an employer. 

I took a psyche profile for my employment at Mack Trucks (10) ten years ago when I was an unbeliever and did not have Christ in me. It was obvious He wasn't in me either. The profile said I was aggressive, alpha male and that I had a dominant control oriented personality...(i.e.: a control freak). In other words, according to Mack's management, I was suitable to Mack management in general. lol. What it failed to tell people is that I was also megalomaniacal (a psycho-pathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of power, relevance, and/or omnipotence) and also prone to occasional outbursts of lunacy which is synonymous with believing a person can be omnipotent. I had an uncontrolled and inflated sense of self-esteem and overestimation of my powers and beliefs...it's called narcissistic personality disorder. Luckily it is not classified in the DSM-IV, so that made it culturally acceptable and, well, normal. At the time I thought all these characteristics were good things. This is the problem with gauging ourselves by the world's standards. They are flawed and change constantly. Man by his very nature is a capricious being and prone to jerky movement and fits and starts like an ill-tuned engine. I now realize how reprobate I was. It comes as a shock and in stark contrast to 30 year old Andy, when I took a new psyche profile for a new employer today for the 42 year old Andy and I got the following results ten years on…
“Andy, you have a very strong desire to help eliminate pain and conflict in the world, even to the point of personally taking on the pain of others. You will tend to give freely of your time, talent and resources expecting little or nothing in return.”
“You have chosen a system for living that you believe in. All of the decisions in your life are made according to the principles of your system. Your principles mean more to you than money or success. Others may feel you impose your standards on the rest of the world and may see you as being judgmental. They may think you exhibit a "holier than thou" mindset. They may believe you are closed-minded”
The first question I have to ask myself is this: Are the people that host this profiling sure that they have my profile? Geeeeezzz. If I had read these less than a decade ago I would’ve thought I was reading a stranger’s psychological profile. They almost seem absurd. Life is strange. Reality in this case is stranger still. I apologize if this sounds too much like I am "blowing my own horn" but the stark contrast of what I was and what I am becoming has me in disbelief. To think this is caused by grace through faith makes it that much more amazing still. I was very few of these things a decade ago. To really appreciate how radical these statements are that you are reading, you really need to appreciate just how different I use to me. I was a vain and prideful man. Radical and extreme most certainly describes the change. I know for a fact that it had nothing to do with something that I did. It is the work of Christ Jesus in me through the Holy Spirit. There is no other way these things could be possible.

It then moves on to miscellaneous bullets points and they are as follows.

Team approach to task completion
• Being obliging and accommodating
• Leadership by example
• Sincere approach to helping others.
• Limited confrontation
• Concerned with how other people feel
• Tangible results although some tasks may be repetitive
• Sincere approach to helping others.
• Logical approach without ignoring people’s needs.
• Coaching, teaching and counseling is a strong point.
• Reflective approach to work activities
• Ability to instinctively notice and respond to people in need.
• He will have a keen interest in improving the whole of society.
• Eliminating conflict in the world is one of Andrew's passions.
• He has the ability to be empathetic toward those who are hurting.
• He will not use money as a scorecard to impress others.
• Overemphasizing the value of money will bore Andrew and turn him off.
• He will not be swayed or motivated by what he feels are excessive material goals.
• There is not a tremendous need for Andrew to have great sums of money.
• Being steady and consistent approach to work tasks.
• Systematic guidelines and a deliberate approach to problem-solving.
Accuracy and adherence to standards and procedures.
• He’s motivated by internal beliefs & isn’t compelled to impress others with material things.
• He'll have causes that cannot be won, satisfying his inner need for peace. Even if the cause cannot be won, he will still be compelled to try.

These comments about me would've been laughable to those that knew me before and probably to a few even now (including me). I sit here looking at this stuff and wonder where it came from. Having read the Bible quite a bit, I know where this stuff comes from so I tell you now.

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister." ~ 1 John 4:7-21

It is Jesus Christ and not I.

November 21, 2011

Morph...μορφή / μορφὴν

So we come to the Greek word morph / μορφή / μορφὴν. Translated to English it is usually transliterated as “shape” and this is absolutely insufficient and ten miles short of the mark. Another way that it is used is “form” in the Kenosis of Philippians 2:6-7 (ESV)

“…who, though he was in the form [μορφῇ] of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form [μορφὴν] of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. ~Philippians 2:6-7

“Form” is a closer approximation than “shape” but it still doesn’t drive home the intended point of Paul. The word "form" in the ESV and other versions is sometimes interpreted here as referring to a station in life or a position one holds, a rank. In the case of Philippians, Jesus took the form of a slave or δούλου / doulou.

So when “form / morphe” is used in this way it means that Jesus was Deity previous to Incarnation but also condescended to the rank or position of a servant/slave in His earthly ministry. Although this is sort of a correct "literal" interpretation of this passage, it falls way short of the vibrancy and color that is in this passage in the original language. When I say vibrant I am talking starburst vibrant.

Morphe / μορφή is a Hellenized philosophical term that describes the outward appearance one gives of their inward nature. An outward appearance that proceeds from and begins from that very inward nature, just like a happy person is jovial and a sad person is melancholy. So the words in the ESV that state, “though he was in the form of God” it is specifically telling us that the Lord is in a state of being deity/divine and His outward expression as He was seen as human in His life during His ministry as a human sprang from His inner substance of deity. He was through-and-through deity…yet human also.

When we move forward in this passage we see Jesus was,taking the form of a servant,” He does so during physical human ministry or His incarnation. Along with divinity we see Him giving and outward expression of inner nature as a servant, this expression is also truly representative of His inner nature also.

...and then comes the holy cow moment. It is because in Jesus’ deity He desired to give grace, to give love and to serve man to the ends of holiness and to make more sanctified.

If the word "form" is understood as meaning "rank" or "station," this passage would then imply that Jesus swapped one position for another. Bzzzzzzzzzz!!! Wrong. Unfortunately, this is exactly what many who misintrepret it, think it says...and it doesn't.

Many will say Jesus was in the rank or station of Deity before He became incarnate, but when He came to earth, He took the rank or station of a servant divesting Himself of his Deity. Wrong-Wrong-WRONG! That is not what this passage is saying. If we take this as outward manifestation of inward reality it then makes sense, since even humans can be the merger of character in one being. This allows Jesus’ fully divine/deity and fully human nature to reside in Him as He manifest the “form” of both. When we looked at the holistic overall meaning of morphe / μορφή, we have a being (Jesus) in a “state of being” where He gave outward expression of His very inner nature. It means that the outward mien Jesus gave of Himself was changed and both were expressions coming from His Deity, and while on earth He was a servant, yet He was God before, during and in His incarnation…and obviously after also.

Another thing that should be noted in this powerful passage that makes it even more impactful is the following.

The word "being / ὑπάρχων " (v.6), is also a rather loose translation…too loose for my taste. The word “being” refers only to the time denoted by the context, the context here talks about Jesus’ preincarnate state before He took on the attribute of humanity. But “being / ὑπάρχων” is talking about a pre-existing condition that exists into the “now” or the present. But ὑπάρχων cannot only mean Jesus’ condition or “state of being” from the time previous to coming to earth but ὑπάρχων because it is written as Present (Tense) Active Indicative!!! It is proclaiming that Jesus was in this state at the very time Paul was writing to the Philippians…after His Death and Resurrection!!!

This means that Jesus took upon Himself the outward expression of a servant/slave and did not relinquish His deity. He was a representation of glorified humanity. This stated condition in one word disproves any attempts to claim that Jesus emptied Himself of His Deity. Sadly, if we had stuck to the English word "being" we would’ve missed this point because the Greek ὑπάρχων means “inherently being” or of the very nature of Deity.

In Jesus we see a fully divine and fully human union of love in divine and servant form. When we look at the surrounding text we realize from (v.5) that we are to “have this mind in us” in our relationships with one another in the Body of Christ. We are to have the mind of Christ (a slave) in our relationships to others (the body). Jesus, who was and has always been (even now) in a form “being” which outwardly expresses His very core nature…which is/was and always will be Deity. Even having known this and after “weighing His options” considered it of infinite value to be equal with Deity but emptied Himself anyway of this outward expression and took on the expression of a slave instead which was truly representative of His inward nature when He took on the attribute of human existence, and “being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

People fully understanding this should be right now grabbing their heads, shaking them in amazement thanking Jesus Christ who is of infinite value to all. This should've blew people off the map. BIG TIME. Who could truly get their arms around this? It is a magnitude beyond us to fully understand what Jesus did here.

Therefore…this is why we read that…

“God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Why? Because He deserves nothing less, He owns us all, we were bought with a price that is beyond our ability to truly comprehend with our finite pea-brains. It was awesome and immense price that none truly understand because only Jesus did it. I still have not recovered from this study...nor will I ever. I am humbled beyond an ability to express it in words.

November 20, 2011

Merry-Go-Round Theology

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. ~Ephesians 2:8

The verse all Protestants walk in lockstep with. It means more than most realize. Not only does it tell us how. It tells us when and for how long. Let’s look closely at this passage, shall we? I will briefly examine this famous verse including the Greek in its surrounding context.

Saved by grace through faith. How so…?

σεσῳσμένοι/sesosmenei

In Greek the perfect passive participle gives you, "By grace were you completely saved in past time by Someone/Something else, with the result that you are in a state of salvation at the present time" (Andy translation). 

A Greek participle is a hybrid word: As its name implies the participle shares, “takes part" or "participates" in the nature of both a verb and an adjective. The best example I have ever heard is “living water”.

Perfect refers to a state resulting from a completed action.

Passive is something being done to the subject…you(s).

If we first try to view this as purely past time as it is often incorrectly viewed (without the perfect tense) we can see the following in Ephesians 2:8. In other words: If the participle had been aorist (past tense completed), the translation would read, "By grace you were saved." That would simply state the fact that the person was saved in past time with no additional details. But when a Greek specifies a tense other than the aorist like it does here with perfect, it is going out of the way to mention timebound details by the use of another/other tense. This is what we see in the passage here.

To further reinforce this we will see by backing up to Ephesians 2:5 that this is not a "one off" by Paul taken out of context either. What does (v.5) tell us also? It says: "made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved." Saved here is σεσῳσμένοι/sesosmenoi/

The believer is referred to as having been saved at a past point in time and is a state that is completed and done from that point forward by Someone else. We see something similar when Jesus announces that “it is finished” from the cross in John 19:30. As it is in John so we see here, a completed action that was perfect and needed nothing more to make it complete and continuous from the point of salvation. This can only mean that a person’s salvation is given, completely at the point where they are saved or coverted.

It is at the point of conversion that sanctification begins. If we are in a state now after conversion of sanctification we then can say that we accepted in faith perfect salvation at a time in the past. Can’t we? It is a perfect salvation right now in the present. This is an assurance to the believer that at any point of time after his or her conversion that they are still in a perfect state of salvation…even now…even if they are backslidden. It also means that salvation is solely dependent on acceptance of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross and his rise from the grave based on a past acceptance of this stated fact. What is more is that the salvation is not in and of the believer themselves but as Paul states: θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον/ a gift of God (i.e.: or a passive action to the subject: you).

To bludgeon this point home even harder I will note one additional thing written in the letter of Ephesians by Paul. He writes ἐστε/este which is the present tense plural of “you are” or “yous guys” linked to the perfect passive participle σεσῳσμένοι and has the effect of amplifying the participle "ones having been saved".

The perfect tense speaks of the existence of finished results in present time. The term ἐστε/este adds “staying power” to the state or condition of the perfect salvation. We see this back in Ephesians 2:5.

All this speaks to a durability, endurance, perseverance and persistence of finished results of salvation right now in the present.

"By grace you were completely saved in past time [at point of your conversion], with the continuing result that you are in a state of salvation which persists through present time."

There is no confusion over what Paul is stating here. None. Please note also that I have not even brought Jesus' own statement into this from John 18:9 which strengthens this argument to a concrete type consistency. ;) 

Now...do you now feel more confident and comfortable about you salvation? Good! Now go out and help save others since you have less to worry about! You've been commanded to do so. You can now stop retracing the same ground and running in circles like a carousel horse. 

Blessings to you all.

November 18, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XXXVIII: Get Off Your Keister



Injustice In The World

Where I see injustices in this world I try to call them out. Unfortunately, I know that many are beyond my control. I know deep down that God allows them and to some extent, I through the very fact that I can do nothing to avert them, must do the same. I believe sometimes we look at injustices through a very myopic lens and do not see the big picture. We assume we know why things happen and I believe this is arrogant of us to do so. It may be that God does indeed allow injustices to serve a purpose that is unbeknownst to humans. What we endure as injustice may be in reality...discipline.

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. ~Hebrews 12:5-11

We may not like it but it has its roll and purposes. I can speak from experience that not everything in my life has been easy or the primrose path. As a matter of fact I don’t know many that have not at least needed to walk through fire literally and figuratively. Some try to outrun the injustice and others try to endure it. We know that it is always darkest just before the dawn and trials and tribulations will not last forever. Th easiest way through a fire is often to walk directly through it. Believers have been given the promised land and the Promise One and in this we base our hope of future glory. We are transient, like the passing stranger in a turnstile at Ellis Island. Waiting our turn, one at a time after a long journey to see the streets paved with gold. This particular world  is a stop over point and our final destination lies beyond in a land of promise and plenty. We are immigrants here on earth and at some point we will be going on to be with Jesus and find our true home where our true citizenship resides...first in Heaven and then some on the New Earth. In the process of getting there some people will need to struggle more than others.

I try to fix the things where I can but where I cannot I must trust that God allows the injustices to transpire as often and as long as they do to His greater glory. I don’t have to like it I just need to understand that God is sovereign and even He Himself opted for the hard path in His life, why should I expect any different in my life being less then He?

Serving The Poor, The Oppressed & The Needy

Before I converted my attitude towards the needy of society and those that needed help was, “Let someone else do it”. Even after my conversion I was apprehensive about “going out in the streets” to help those less fortunate because I had believed the hype that they were bad people or somehow deserved the condition they were in. But then there was a day that I just sat there and said, “If not me, then who?” These people were not someone else’s burden, they were mine. Their ministry was my responsibility. I got this laid on me heavy by the Holy Spirit. If things around you are not going right and no one is stepping forward to fix the issues, it is perhaps because they are mine/yours to fix? Justice in these situations comes from me…or us. Perhaps the injustices to others are not just others ignoring and neglecting those in need…perhaps the injustices are being perpetrated by me or us out of apathy and ambivalence? We all know the saying from Jesus in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats and the separation at judgment…He first speaks of those that were righteous and did for others…

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:34-40

Then He spoke of those that sat on their “keisters” and did nothing…

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:41-46

When Jesus says truly…you had better be paying attention closely! Sometimes the only thing that allows evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Sometimes you need to get off your keister [German-Yiddish word for suitcase] and move! Keister: To the English speaking immigration agents on Ellis Island it meant your buttocks but they didn’t realize that it was the suitcase immigrants came with and not their bottoms/butts they were referring to when they told the immigrants to “get off their keisters.” A phrase eventually morphed to mean “stand up and do something!” It meant to do something productive, not to got on vacation with your suitcase. In a strange way this is the idea behind much of what build America too...sadly, it is very little in effect now. We do not get up and go out to help others. Frankly, many do not even get up and go out and help themselves, preferring to have things given to them because they feel they deserve it. They sit and occupy space but serve no purposeful function. This is not the biblical way of things, nor is it the mentality that built this once great nation.

The truest sign of a righteous and caring heart for the needy is worn-out soles on shoes and dirty calloused hands

Treated Unfair or Unreasonable Expectations

Is it that I am being treated unjustly or is it because I think too highly of myself? When I get treated unfairly (if that’s what it truly is) I take in on the chin and deal with it. I pout and often get angry or disappointed about it but I know now that It is often because I think too highly of myself and need not. We all have a certain level of expectation when it comes to how we feel we deserve to be treated. This is espeically a problem in the US right now because many (including me in the past) feel/felt we are/were entitled to a minimum of repsect and decent treatment. Says who? The government? The UN? Governing bodies and sovereign nations rise and fall and have done so all throughout history. What makes us think any of the sovereign nations or world organizations today will be any different. Rights??? LOL people. We all claim to have rights in this world but the last I checked, the Bible is not saying that we deserve much of anything in this world other than persecution as Christians. Self-Esteem and feeling good about ourselves? Self-Esteem is not a wholly Biblical principle, go read your Bible. Your self-worth is in Christ...not yourselves. Self-esteem in Christ and what Christ has done for us...yes. Self-esteem and demands for rights for ourselves? Read Philippians 2 about Jesus and tell me you deserve or are entitled to anything other than a trial-filled life and a painful death and I'll tell you that you didn't read the Bible right. Sorry people, reality TV and the "Real World or Real Lives" of "so-and-so" isn't reality at all. It is lives manufactured by sin and they are a distortion of reality, not a mirror to it.

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death--even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-11

Folks! We need to get over ourselves. If we got what we truly deserved for being sinners in rebellion against God, we would be vaporized and spend eternity in seperation from God for our sins. God never promised an easy passage in this life, He only promised a nice destination to settle.

November 17, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XXXVII: Humility

My Wife Tells Me The Truth

My wife tells me the truth about myself whether I want her to or not and this is a good thing. She just tells me how it is. I need this in life because I need a truthful point of view on things besides my own which I know will be biased to my prejudices. Neutral statements are valuable in that they at least get a person to stop or at least pause and reflect. Whether the statements are valuable or not they enforce a shifting of gears to navigate that given portion of life. Ripping through things all the time is never a good idea. It is better to be proactive rather than reactive. Reactive is often knee-jerk and not methodically reasoned through. Haste makes waste.

Humility Is Hard

Humility has never come completely easy to me. Often times I can just swallow my pride and get over myself but there are times that it is very hard. This is especially true when I have been disrespected all day long by everyone I have come in contact with in that day. It grows old towards the end and the flesh in me rears up to fight back. I sort of feel I need to demand respect from people. I guess this inevitably comes from an over-evaluation of my self-worth. The truth is if Jesus made himself of no accord as noted in Philippians 2, I deserve even less than He. Unfortunately, I wrestle with the flesh that almost overrides the mind at times and I become confrontational and get an attitude about it. As I’ve gotten older this has diminished but it has not disappeared completely. Having humility is hard and that is why people usually need to work at it. We as humans especially in this day and age are indoctrinated with the belief we have things coming to us, we deserver stuff or believe that their is some intrinsic value in us or something we have to offer. This may be true for some towards other people but on the eternal scale of things and in relation to salvation. We have nothing to offer God. Nothing. We can only have faith in Him...and be thankful for His grace.

Admirable Qualities

Humble people have a meekness about them that is reassuring. These are people that could probably run circles around me but are secure enough and self-assured in Christ enough to realize it is more productive to serve and get under people to lift than up rather than stand over them and drum them over the head trying to get them to do what they want them to do. Proper servant leadership is the understanding that one must be humble and servant enough to train and equip people to do their job properly…not do it for them by micromanaging.

Recognizing True Humility

True humility puts other people first. This holds true whether a person is in the top of an organization or at the bottom hierarchically. True presbyters and leaders in the Church are willing to get under and serve the body and in so doing they are elevated by not only God but also in the eyes of those that they help and serve. It is just another case of lowering yourself by choice and allowing God to elevate you in Christ. In God’s created order, your position is not based on vertical altitude, your position is based on your horizontal attitude and how you treat others and how you yourself respond to both God and others.

November 16, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XXXVI: Phonetic Phlamethrower

Pontificating, Preaching or Just Flappin' Your Gums

The Bible speaks mightily about words, what we say and the use of our tongues. Our tongues are the clearest indicator of what resides within our hearts and should be controlled and observed very carefully as it can be a tool of righteousness to build up or a weapon of iniquity and to tear things down. When I see people “spinning” things, fabricating things or just pontificating erroneously I feel compelled to intercede. Its usually an issue of me knowing bad, biased or convoluted information is being passed off as fact. This type of communication has caused wars, destroyed churches and even caused the Fall of man. I have a tendency disassemble things people say when I sense incongruities or discontinuity. I do it when I sense something is askew with a statement(s) another person is making. I suppose it might be considered spiritual discernment. It is done to find the hole in logic so I can work backwards from it to find the digression in thinking processes. I don’t do it to everyone just the ones in which I sense duplicity or malevolence. One thing I use to do but do not do anymore is feign knowing something or bluff. I need to present an image of Christlikeness as I believe I am being called to a position of servant leadership and/or a pastor/teacher at least in part. To claim more intelligence or authority than I really have is deceptive and frankly, not worthy of the position I am being called to (leadership/teacher). Humbleness means knowing when to admit you don’t know something and going to find the answer. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know but I know someone who does”.

He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool. When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. Proverbs 10:18-20

Monologue of One or Dialogue of Two

The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools. Ecclesiastes 9:17

I use to need to totally control a conversation but very recently I am learning to back off and take the backseat to others that feel the need to occupy the alpha male role. If they are wrong about what they are saying or are being overtly pretentious to gain attention I know from experience that it will always come back to haunt. The loose tongue always writes verbal checks that that the owner can’t cash in action(s) if left to run rogue. Those that need to control a conversation even when they are ill-informed are free to do so. I have had friends like this, family members, and I myself was like this much to my dismay. I try to always remember and realize that it is better to be thought a fool than open my mouth and remove any doubts of this fact.

“Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips.” Ecclesiastes 10:12

Drawing People Out Of Their Shell

Interjecting or responding immediately had always been a problem for me and to some extent still is but time and age has dulled this edge. I really needed to realize that people do not necessarily need input from me and sometimes it is better if I just keep my mouth shut. That being said, when I want to get to the core of where someone is at, I ask rhetorical questions that reach down to where people are or appear to be to try and draw them out. I have found that when I ask questions it makes people think for themselves. When people think for themselves they toil for things mentally a little bit more. Toiling seems to ingrain the idea(s) deeper which makes them stick more. The people/person that does this then appreciates it more and retains the ideas and thoughts better.

Knowledgeable & Spiritual or Clever & Sarcastic?

I believe a proper Christian person strives to be spiritual and well-informed. When the Holy Spirit comes on the believer at conversion not only does he bring power and authority to the believer…He also brings knowledge. Informed Christians are effective Christians. If we have the power of the Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead why would be not at least expect an increase in knowledge of God? I suppose cleverness of word and fancy rhetoric helps get points across but without a baseline of knowledge and a rock-solid spiritual base…being witty and clever speech does little more than make people laugh. I’m sorry, but being a class clown ended in class. This is life and people need substance not subterfuge. Godly knowledge and spiritual guidance provides this for people. It gives them hope. Hope in Christ Jesus, it’s is where I begin and end and where all believers should also.

Teaching Conversations

This topic in particular is incredibly close to home for me as I believe this is the path the Lord is calling me to. Teaching others is what everyone tells me should be my ultimate end path until I go to be face-to-face with the Lord. Teaching the things of God is my passion but teaching and explaining things also in light of Biblical principles. I light up when I get to do it and many around me light up when they hear me or read me when I do it. It is as if I am a blaze that throws sparks out and lights others on fire through the burning embers. It consumes me in white hot flame. I never used to understand the wild-eyed joy from those speaking and teaching of Jesus or even wisdom in general but I myself can no longer avoid what it inevitable. I now need to learn to tone it down because it often comes off as a blowtorch in its intensity. I guess at this point I need to dial it back if I can because people want to be warmed by the friendliness and love of the flame and comforted. They do not want their hair singed off and have their skin cauterized ;)

Impatient Word & Unkind Words

Under severe duress I am occasionally prone to emotive outburst that I try to quickly rein back in. If I do “go off” I realize it is because I have not dealt with problems or issues leading up to them correctly. Systems rarely fail catastrophically and it is usually gradual and systemic. As such detrimental issues should be recognizable at earlier stages as symptoms that can be addressed. If I do not recognize these symptoms it is either because I am not paying attention, am distracted or in denial. Therefore the harsh or impatient words are often solicited not by others but out of frustration caused by my own stupidity or negligence.

Normal Conversational Posture

In as much humbleness I can muster, I will state that my fallback or normal conversational posture is casual and friendly littered with humor and insightful comments. I try to reach people where they are. I usually can hold a conversation with anyone “where they’re at”.

Overtly Critical or The Benefit of The Doubt?

If I continue to sense fruitless and poor repetitive behavior I will acknowledge that I will quickly grow impatient and attempt to rectify the repetitive nonsense that is clearly wrong or errant. If mistakes are made once or twice though I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. If errant or nonsensical behavior persists I usually turn more critical expecting a return to normalcy or more proper behavior based in a given or known expectation. If the behavior does not change it then becomes obvious that it is something deeper that must be addressed and it then needs to be dug out like a splinter in one’s finger before it abscesses and becomes more aggravating and troublesome.

Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Psalm 34:12-13

Complimentary Backbiting

I generally do not make it a habit to talk about someone when they are not around. Even when nice things are said, others can take these comments incorrectly and pass them on incorrectly what they have heard. We must always remember there are layers to communication: What you said, what you think you said, what someone heard, what they think they heard, etc…How the final comment usually ends up when it reaches the ears of the one you were talking about is often not the way you said it, the way you intended it and it gets you in trouble. Communication through multiple channels is often like a massive game of "Pass It Down The Line", the more variables, the more chances of miscommunication.  If I absolutely need to speak about someone when they are not around it is never ever in a negative light…ever. It is done in truth with honest intent. To some extent I am building my character as I spea of others. Let’s be honest, talking about people when they are not around is usually backbiting gossip and rumormongering and as such is unbiblical.

A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret. Proverbs 11:12-13

We need to realize that the tongue is flame and flame can destroy, ravage and burn. Conversely, it can also purify and cleanse, warm and be used as tool of productive means. How we choose to use it makes all the difference.

He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity" Proverbs 21:23

November 15, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XXXV: Compassion


American Soldiers Treating A Veitcong (1967)
Photo: Philip Jones Griffiths

Compassion Deserved & Undeserved

Compassion is often given for those suffering over loss and or failure that had little of nothing to do with their actions either way. Even in cases where people knowingly messed things up, compassion is appropriate. The case in point that I am thinking of is my children and children in general. Many could learn to be more compassionate people too. I myself was a mean jerk for a long time but as the grace of God became obvious to me I felt I need to extend the grace given to me to others.

There is a limit though to human grace and my grace in particular. I realize we are to continue to extend forgiveness to people. Along the same lines, my compassion and an ability to understand that humans are flawed beings prone to wander and swing wide of the mark pushes me to have more patience. As everyone knows, patience runs thin and often runs out. When people have been warned repeatedly to stop a behavior that is harming them and they don’t, even compassion runs thin too. A pattern of flawed behavior that once afforded an individual some compassion…eventually may only garner distain if they do not learn their lesson and change course to correct things. When people willingly walk into trouble after repeatedly being warned, it’s hard to feel sorry for them but yet we are still called to try (seventy times seven folks).

Emotionally Needy & Dysfunctional People

Emotionally needy people are often hard to deal with and over time I have come to understand this does not make them less of a person it just makes them a different person from me. I do not like being dependent on anything or anyone but as time has progressed I do at least admit that I need God and am quite dependent on Him. Many would see this as a sign of weakness. It is not, it is a sign of obedience.

Dysfunctional people are another story all together. I am very reluctant to call anyone dysfunctional. We all to a greater or lesser extent are dysfunctional and if we do not recognize this fact we are in serious trouble. There is a good chance the very same people that do not recognize their dysfunctional nature are prideful and not willing to admit they are the sinners that they really are. There is a lack of humbleness going on in people like this that will eventually cause them to stumble and fall in the long run anyway. The problem at this point in time is they just haven’t realized this fact. It’s a long way to the bottom when your head is in the clouds.

Too Hard On One's Self

I used to be a mean person. I am still a sinner but I pray that I am no longer mean. Knowing how messed up I was sometimes makes it hard to be easy on myself. Andy’s harshest critic is Andy. But I must move forward from my past understanding that God forgave me so I should forgive myself. I know God gives man grace and we are called to be gracious to others but being gracious to one’s self feels strangely akin to selfishness and being self-centered. I suppose that if I have already put God first and my priorities are arranged correctly in life it is okay to go easier on one’s self and show a little compassion to one’s self. It only becomes dangerous when someone stops being humble and begins to self-glorify.

The "People Just Need To Work Harder to Succeed" Fallacy

The attitude, especially in America that people just need to work harder to get ahead is a unfair and a damaging fallacy. God is sovereign and if He wants you to have a normal life and not “get ahead” by worldly standards, you won’t. The idea of American individualism is over overhyped and played up. It is a manufactured ideal that only holds true for some people, not all. I do believe that toiling to get a job done is biblical but the idea that more work and effort will always equate to a perfect life and success is like the Word of Faith movement. It’s as if we put the world’s idea of success above the truth of the Bible. If we just say it and pray it God has to do what we ask right? Wrong. There are no guaranteed equations or paths to success in this life. The bible promised blessings for obedience but it never said that we would necessarily receive them in this life, especially in a monetary or materialistic form. This expectation of “easy outcome” when we pray for financial stability, love, good health, robust lives unencumbered by fights and squabbles is usually a pipe dream. Another figment of mostly imagination manufactured by the culture and by health and wealth prosperity preachers and motivational speakers. When the belief fails in these bad theologies the relationships based on those mindsets then begin to fail also because they were all illusions. The root of the failure is that those that believe it believe they can just order God around with prayer when in reality prayer is to get them aligned to Jesus…just the opposite. This in turn does not allow these people to mature. They feel there is nothing for them to change, God can work around them. Anyone that has actually read the Bible knows this is just a form of self-idolatry. You end up making yourself the idol. Only what you care about matters. This is inherently selfish and it will spell the demise of relationships which need just the opposite of selfishness, they need love, understanding and compassion for others. These are items sorely lacking from rugged individualistic, work harder not smarter mentality. I can’t tell you how many divorces I have seen because of this screw-up in priorities and moral obligation. Tis a shame.

Compassion Shown From Others

Compassion shown from others shows they care. It shows they are human like me. It shows me they have a chance to be a good Christian if they are not already. It shows me God has already given them something that will give them a proclivity for being Christ-like. These are the people I tend to look for first in a crowd. It is as if, through common grace, God has already turned the soil in the field ahead of me so when I walk through with the seed of the Gospel, the soil is already fertile and ready for planting. A farmer needs to recognize what land is ready for planting, which needs to remain fallow and which one’s are dead and plant accordingly to this information. The Bible said that the Sower would sometimes throw seeds on hard-packed rocky soil but a good sower recognizes that the soil is hardpacked and either turns the soil or waits until someone does. Otherwise the seed never germinates. We are not to be indiscriminate blind sowers of seed, we are to be cognizant of our purpose and our job and use discernment and discretion. We only have so much time before the first frost and the time of the harvest.

Compassionate responses are a good thing. It does not show weakness to manifest this trait. It does not make people weak-kneed and/or effeminate if they are men. To show compassion to other people, it shows that a person is human. It also shows a piece of holiness and an attirbute of God. Jesus was compassionate with people...so I also. Whether people (especially men) want to admit it or not, to be human is to acknowledge one's weaknesses and foibles anyway. To do less is to live in denial or to decieve yourself.

Because you aren't foolin' anybody else...
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