Posted: February 5th, 2013 |
Filed under: life | Tags: think |
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So come on, let’s leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on “salvation by self-help” and turning in trust toward God. -Hebrews 6:1-2 MSG
It’s hard for me to imagine trying to understand what the scriptures say without having experienced the revelation, or enlightenment. The words are there, but the meaning shifts dramatically, depending on your level of thinking. Once you have been enlightened, you cannot mentally walk away from what you’ve spiritually seen.
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. -Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV
In conversations I’ve had, the best analogy, or tangible imagery, I can come up with is from the movie The Matrix. I haven’t seen that movie in several years, but the idea swirls around the question: “What is real?” Scripture refers to “the world” and “the truth.” In other words: mortal/immortal; fake/real; temporal/eternal; physical/metaphysical.
There is a separation between what is real and what is experienced. What is real is where life is. What is experienced is the fabric through which truth seeps. If you focus on the mesh of understanding or the method of exposure, then you will not see the message or the mystery. An eternal, spiritual Source of truth is pressing in on the spirit within and the only thing standing in the way is the layer of flesh, by which all experience is translated and filtered. Flesh is the problem. That’s why we are to “lean not on [our] own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).”
Temporal cannot understand what is eternal. However, what is eternal can understand what is temporal and knows enough to not spend any time or effort on it.
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. -Colossians 3:1-2 MSG
Your experience is not the end all of understanding. It is the avenue by which what, or better: Who, is to be understood as truth makes its way into your spirit. Experience alters perspective and perspective is the goal, not the experience. You must be able to think abstractly and Jesus is the key to understanding. Once you have tasted the revelation, you are compelled to act within that realm, on that ground, from that perspective, to that lack of beginning and end (as opposed to “that end”).
You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. -Colossians 3:9-11 MSG
All I am trying to do is appeal to the spiritual part of you that longs to hear something that matters. I am speaking to the part of you that is longing for a deeper walk, a spiritual awakening of which you can never grow tired. This exists.
We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. …The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. -1 Corinthians 2:6-7; 10 MSG
If this has whet your appetite, read all of Colossians 3 and all of 1 Corinthians 2. Good luck stopping there. I had to force myself to not quote the whole thing here.
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Posted: January 30th, 2013 |
Filed under: life | Tags: faith, think |
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I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. -Revelation 2:2 ESV
When you first believed, the truth of the Gospel was fresh. It was easy to spot those who had no idea what they were talking about. It was like being lost and suddenly finding the way home. The embedded code, once a frustrating mystery, was now clicking and you never turned away because it was still speaking.
I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. -Revelation 2:3 ESV
But then others came along and started telling you that what was setting you free was not real. They said you were cherry picking your information and focusing only on what would give you life while ignoring what condemned you. They said you were out of balance and walking a thin line that teetered on heresy.
You began defending yourself and questioning everything just in case they were right. You backed down from the beatings and got caught up in the “better safe than sorry” doctrine. People pleasing got a little too important. It’s a hard road to travel and even harder with a target on your back. It feels like they’re all waiting for you to mess up, so you shrink to obscurity.
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. -Revelation 2:4 ESV
You have abandoned the love you had at first because people got in the way. You spoke out about grace and love, about Jesus and His finished work, but they opposed you and you backed down.
He’s calling you back to the front lines because this fight was never about being liked or approved. It’s about screaming the gift of Salvation through the incessant buzz of religion because there are people dying in their own skin. There are people who don’t know that they, too, can come to the cross.
It’s confusing and bizarre to see self-proclaimed believers guarding the cross of Christ as though it were a trophy for the worthy. It’s more confusing when they are the very people you thought you could trust.
You got sidetracked by the shiny facade of the spit-polished and veneered. You get more approval for looking cleaned up than you do for resting in the promise of justification and the gift of righteousness. Too many are calling out your flaws, making it harder for you to trust in your relationship with Jesus. It’s easier to trust in your relationship with them.
Who said this was going to be easy? Jesus was killed for the Message. What makes you different? They may not burn you at the stake, but they can make you wish you were if you care about what they think.
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. -Revelation 2:5 ESV
Remember the mystery you were chasing before you started caring if you were approved. Repent: see the struggle as part of it, not evidence that you were crazy.
Come back or risk falling asleep like the others. Preachers can end up preaching about preaching. Writers can end up writing about writing. Artists stop creating and start talking about creating. You can get so caught up in what you’re doing that you abandon what you’re doing to focus more on the “what” and not on the “why”.
Your “first love” is the “why”.
If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. -Revelation 2:6 ESV
If you lose your light, then you’re just like everyone else who talks to hear themselves talk.
Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. -Revelation 2:6 ESV
The best I can understand about what this last verse refers to is that the term “Nicolaitans” refers to the hierarchy found within religion. I won’t say much about this because there are only two verses in the Bible that use the term. But, using the Greek meanings of the words, the essence is that people have a relationship with the church, but not with God. They believe what their religion tells them to believe without question. With this in mind, a hierarchy removes the need for a personal relationship with Jesus, risking the belief that salvation is granted to those who practice their religion correctly. This leaves a person vulnerable to believing a false doctrine. This is why God hates it.
It makes sense if you remember that God sent Jesus as a means to having a personal relationship with His people. If His people abandon their trust in Him for their trust in their religious leaders, they become exposed prey for the father of lies. He’s the accuser and the destroyer.
Repent: turn around. Go back to your first love. If your religious community is after Love, then you’ll all be there together anyway. You aren’t wrong if you abandon the hierarchy that watches over you with a critical eye. You’re clearly wrong if you abandon the truth that saved you in the first place.
Do you have a little fight left in you?
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ -Revelation 2:7 ESV
Don’t be afraid. Put your shoes back on…
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” -John 14:1-7 ESV
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Posted: January 29th, 2013 |
Filed under: life | Tags: faith, freedom, think |
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From the time of my youth, my life has been lived among my own people in Jerusalem. Practically every Jew in town who watched me grow up—and if they were willing to stick their necks out they’d tell you in person—knows that I lived as a strict Pharisee, the most demanding branch of our religion. -Paul in Acts 26:4-5 MSG
I think that those who have the hardest time trying to understand grace are those who have grown up going to church. Second to that are those who were discipled by these people. There is a reason for the ‘de-churching’ movement that has been rolling around for the last several years. People are figuring out that they, in all of their religiosity, are missing something. Well, they are missing something. Some of these people need to be deprogrammed and rebuilt.
It’s hard to know when you’re off track when you spend all of your time surrounded by like-minded people. There is no real challenge or eye-opening experiences. If you are challenged, it’s to be more of the same. To be the best at being the best. One of the most effective means to remove the scales from someone’s eyes is to let them fall flat on their face in spite of their death grip on their own holiness, but that’s a product of the mystery of God’s sovereignty. In all of that effort to be the holiest, they’re completely losing touch with a world they’ve been called to season. They alienate people with their lack of compassion and depth. They’ve lost their salt.
I’ve often thought that going to church does more damage to the free Spirit than not going at all. It’s hard to find a church that is full of people whose spirit is busting from their flesh. It’s much easier to find a church so full of bodies that they have to expand their walls. It’s hard to balance the politics of a functioning business against the diversity of a growing spiritual community. We can see evidence of that without even trying.
I’ve been approached by Christians who claim that the Spirit is breaking the mold and calling people to live outside the walls. I tend to resist the message of people who make sweeping claims about the movement of the Spirit. My view is that time will tell the whole story.
I’ve also heard people complain about churches they deem “seeker friendly”. They say that they aren’t being fed and they’re looking for something that is a little harder on them. They need a list of criteria. They need to feel condemned so that they can adjust until they feel holy.
My experience with churches deemed “seeker” is that they don’t wander too far from the basics. Those who are bored with the basics need to realize that they are bored with the simplicity of the Gospel. They’re bored with Jesus. We’re supposed to take the basics and let the Spirit cultivate those seeds into a wild frenzy of personal discovery. You can’t let other people do your thinking for you. You aren’t going to get life from rules. You’re going to get life from belief.
Use your own brain to engage the Spirit in a dance of critical thinking. Use inductive and deductive reasoning, then do your scriptural research to find the answers.
I’m sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I’m sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in me. -Jesus in Paul’s Damascus road experience in Acts 26:17-18 MSG
How can anyone open the eyes of another when they’re in their own religious bubble of trying to be the best at being the best? Any self-help theory of personal discipline can offer the same standard without any input from the Gospel. Until you understand that the Gospel turns the demands of religion on its head and makes any attempt at holiness useless, you’ll never get in on the real mystery of the gift of Jesus.
Using deductive reasoning, you can look at the results of your own life and begin the journey of tracing it to the cause. In spite of doing everything right, people still feel dead inside. They’d never admit it to their peers, but they know that their hearts don’t burn inside them like the scriptures say it should. They’re missing the revelation that ignites the fire. They bypass Jesus because they think they should be further than that. Like a girl who cuts herself to feel real, they tighten their chains of religiosity until it hurts.
They think that the simplicity of Jesus is for baby believers. You can’t bypass Jesus to find a life on fire because Jesus is the fire. You are not meant to go beyond Him. You’re meant to be engulfed by Him.
“We have met countless “Bible-believing Christians” who would say, “Yeah, Jesus is Lord and Savior. I got that T-shirt a long time ago. But we must now mature, go deeper, and go on to other things.”
Go deeper? And what “other things”? Other things beyond Christ?
…The person who believes that a Christian or a church can graduate beyond Christ has never fully seen Jesus…” -Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola in ‘Jesus Manifesto’
Using inductive reasoning, you can look at the Gospel and explore the implications until you die. Take the facts that scripture clearly spells out and stop trying to make it harder. The offer is “sins forgiven”, “a place in the family”, and “real life” through belief. The moment you try to graduate to something harder is the moment you walk away from the Flame that burns with life in the heart.
There are no stipulations on “sins forgiven”. Sin is sin and they are all accounted for in the offer. Of course people know better. That’s why it’s sin. There is no stipulation on “a place in the family”. That decision was made long before you were born. There is nothing so terrible that you can do that would nullify the gift. Believing that makes something shift inside of you. It changes the core of who you are. That’s why there is a stipulation on the offer of “real life”. That stipulation is belief. Your core becomes Jesus and nothing else.
Those who don’t believe continue to strive for something they will never achieve. Defeat is at the end of that treacherous climb.
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). There is no defeat because Jesus conquered every weapon of destruction (John 16:33, Isaiah 54:17). He told you that He accomplished what He came to do and when you believe that, you can’t walk away from it (John 19:30, John 6:37). You can’t move beyond it. The only thing left for you to do is to spread the word (Matthew 28:19, Acts 26:18).
photo credit: www.pedestrianpeople.com
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Posted: January 28th, 2013 |
Filed under: life | Tags: faith, think |
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A friend asked me, “How do you read the scriptures and make sense of them?”
My answer is simple: Read them as though the entire thing is about Jesus. Because it is.
“Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb! He forgives the sins of the world! This is the man I’ve been talking about, ‘the One who comes after me but is really ahead of me.’ - John 1-29-30 MSG
My litmus test for everything in the Christian agenda is: “What does this have to do with the finished work of Jesus?” Every sermon, every mission, every stance… What does it have to do with the finished work of Jesus?
When I read scripture, I look through the lens of Jesus and figure out where the story is on the timeline. God is sovereign. Jesus is His masterpiece. Scripture is His love story. Some of it is preparation for the need of a Savior, some of it is the promise, and some of it is the declaration. It only makes sense in light of the truth of Who God is and what Jesus accomplished.
If you’re not familiar with the nature of God or what Jesus actually accomplished on the cross, then nothing will make sense. It might teach you something. It might guide you in a polished life, but it won’t set you free apart from Jesus.
“We ought to read the scriptures with the express design of finding Christ in them. Whoever shall turn aside from this object, though he may weary himself throughout his whole life in learning, will never attain the knowledge of the truth; for what wisdom can we have without the wisdom of God?” – John Calvin in his Commentary on the Gospel of John
John, in that scripture above, is excited about the fact that He could point to Jesus. Jesus “forgives the sins of the world“. That’s one huge thing. Did you catch the last part? He’s “really ahead of” him. Do you have any idea what that means? I can’t possibly cover all of that territory in one word-count-friendly blog. But, I’ll give it a start…
I hear a lot about social justice in Christian circles. People are forming coalitions to feed the orphans, the widows, and the poor. That’s awesome, but what does it have to do with the finished work of Jesus? Don’t misunderstand. I’m familiar with the scriptures and I’m on board with helping those in need. It’s just that if you’re incapable of administering the balm of the Gospel to someone you pass by every day, then you have no business using God’s name to dish out bread and fish to the hungry. You’re no different than the one who does good deeds in the name of a tax break.
These people are on Christ’s agenda because they’re in a unique place of feeling forgotten by Him. It’s the same as the one who is well fed, but crippled by their sin. They feel like Christ will have nothing to do with them. Jesus reaches out to the oppressed. If you can’t convince a maimed Christian that Jesus has justified him, then how can you convince an economically challenged stranger that God holds them in His hand? Meeting the needs of those in need is an expression of a deep belief, not an evidence of a stance of faith.
What does social justice have to do with the finished work of Jesus? When done with a Christ centered heart, it has everything to do with it. They’re too weak to fight the oppression on their own. You’re meeting someone in the midst of their despair and using what you know about the finished work of Jesus to convince them that God loves them, even though everything hurts. If you can’t apply the truth of that to a fellow Christian who has fallen, then you can’t apply that to anyone.
Christianity has a culture and that culture bends and morphs to whatever it wants whenever it wants. Some eras start a new country in the name of religious freedom (America). Some eras burn so-called witches in the name of purity (Salem). Christian culture is fickle.
I have seen people travel across the globe to hand out coloring books filled with the truth of Jesus while penning letters to old friends who sinned that denies everything the coloring book says. It’s as though the Gospel has been reserved for nonbelievers and taken away, as punishment, from fallen believers.
Jesus looked over his shoulder and said to them, “What are you after?” - John 1:38 MSG
I am convinced that God will use despair to reveal Himself. That means that He will not shield you from pain. He’ll reveal Himself within it. For those who mess up, their sin reveals their need for a Savior and it is the responsibility of the Savior’s bride, His church, to tell them that their need has been met.
What do you want? What are you after? Purity? Happiness? Riches? Recognition? Or just Jesus?
People have drifted so far away from the message of the Gospel that they completely annihilate the very people for whom Jesus died. They’re more concerned about the way they live their life than about remembering why they have a life at all.
“Come, follow me.” – Jesus, John 1:43 MSG
You can string a thief up on a cross of public shame, but while you’re turning on your self-righteous heel, Jesus is promising him a spot next to Him in Heaven. You can gather the roughest stones to publicly punish the adulterer, but while you’re flexing your religious muscles, Jesus is drawing a line and taking sides with her. You can refuse a seat at a table with a sinner, but Jesus will not only drink wine with him, but He’ll wash his feet before the glass is empty.
What in the world does your stance of faith have to do with the finished work of Jesus? You claim faith, but faith in what? Without keeping Him and what He accomplished at the center of your reason, it’s just religious crap and we’re better off without it.
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.- 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 MSG
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Posted: August 25th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: think |
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I took a philosophy class a while back and I loved it. I have never wanted, so badly, to go back in time and have a conversation with some of these people. I wanted to watch Socrates lay bricks and talk to people. I wanted to tell Plato that I made it out of the cave. I wanted to tell Aristotle that perception isn’t always correct, but it can still be valid. I wanted to tell Thomas Aquinas that I totally get his “unmoved mover” theory, and that the Unmoved Mover moved me.
I love philosophy. I would think for a living if it paid. But I haven’t figured out how to charge for that, so I just get to think for a hobby, but by the time I’m finished, I’m usually too tired of the sound of my own voice in my head to write it down.
As part of this class, I had to write a letter to a philosopher, so I chose Fredrich Nietzsche. He was someone smart enough to make the history books, but shortsighted enough to think he was the primordial creator of his own experience. He only saw what was in front of him. That’s not such a good thing when you’re in a house of mirrors.
I’m sharing my letter because I think a lot of us can be shortsighted, too. We may not be philosophers, trying to find the meaning and origin of every action and reaction, but we fight against the tide in such a way that negates the laws of what we can’t see. The ocean, vast and powerful enough to hide unknown creatures and swallow massive ships, answers to the moon. But, Who does the moon answer to?
Here’s my letter:
Dear Mr. Fredrich Wilhelm Nietzsche,
I read a few of your philosophies recently and wanted to discuss them with you.
I understand that you can acknowledge that the world is driven by a cosmic will, but not by reason. Is it possible that the cosmic will that drives the world has reason that you may not recognize? I do not doubt your intelligence or the fact that you may have evidence that confirms your ideas, but it is that very intelligence that can cause a person to not be open to new lines of logic or to honestly follow an argument wherever it may lead. It seems that you have not found order to reason. Therefore, you believe that reason does not exist. Maybe, as intelligent as you are, it’s over your head. Just because you don’t understand, recognize, or are just dissatisfied with any proof of reason does not mean that there is none.
We are in agreement when it comes to a “mass that is only too willing to do what it is told.” The ‘herd mentality’ bothers me, too. I reject the societal tendency to follow the crowd even if the crowd is going where I want to go. If I am in any specific house, room, tent or umbrella of thought, I want to be able to have an intelligent conversation about why I am there and why I should or should not move on to the next thought destination. I may end up where the crowd is headed, but I will have had an honest journey of discovery and chasing clues on a trip that may or may not be mapped. On my journey, I don’t want to know what everyone else is doing and decreeing. I want an organic truth hunt no matter where it leads. I think we may be in agreement about the approach to life, but while I think I am discovering, you think you are creating.
A huge hindrance to discovering unknown-to-you truth is pride. You throw a rock and it hits just so that it creates a fire and you think you made it. It’s absurd to me to think that a mortal human being has just decided that he or she is creating little and big truths as they go. All the while, being ungoverned by reason in a world completely void of facts as you watch the same repeat itself in a relentless and lifeless cycle. I think that a rat running on his wheel in a cage could say the same thing. Paint one spoke on the wheel red and watch him run while he learns that every revolution brings a red spoke, so there is nothing new. The feelings of reasonless nothing with no absolute facts and no access to some sort of greater truth would feel as hopeless and full of despair as a rats’ cage would feel, too. Give a rat the brain of a genius, paint a spoke red, and take away his metaphysical insight and he’d come up with the same hopeless and cynical outlook.
What I am trying to say is if you do not consider that there is more to existence than what is right in front of you then you will never discover anything greater than what you are. If you are satisfied in your own greatness, then maybe that’s not such a problem. Just because you have never experienced something does not mean that it does not exist. It’s a small sad little life to be certain of only what you can see. It’s a life of something to shoot for and grow into if you can let your imagination take you outside of your rat cage and let your dreams expand as they begin to seep into your reality. If you think that your cage is the whole world, then you’ll never search for your chance to get out of it.
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