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Organic Jesus

In 1 Corinthians 2:2, Paul says that he would preach nothing but Christ crucified.  The ThinkerAs ambassadors of Christ ourselves, we should also be proclaiming nothing but his message.  Christ, and Christ alone, is our message to those around us.

The wisdom of the world though speaks loudly to how we can have a good life, become beautiful people or obtain what we are looking for and it offers up a different suggestion, something different from Christ, for how to get it.  Many times the suggestions make sense….but it directs people to something other than God.  When Christians add this wisdom to the gospel and then start talking about it when they sit and stand, they in effect become evangelists for the wisdom of the world.  They are constantly telling others about “Christ and…”

For example, many of my Christian friends are caught up in things related to health and/or politics.  Perhaps you have friends like this too.  Much of what they share is what they have become passionate about and they bring Christ in alongside to prove their position.  They have become evangelists for “Christ and….”

In matters of justice, we do need to stand up for the defenseless, absolutely.  The gospel is all about justice and we are to act justly as His ambassadors.  It would be unjust to ignore the helpless.  Likewise, sharing common sense nuggets that we have learned should be passed along if it will help someone, BUT, and this is a big but, that is not the gospel and it is NOT our message.  Neither is general knowledge or opinions on things such as the government, our diet, or how marriage should be nurtured.  Go ahead and share them if you are so inclined, but they are NOT the message of Christ.

If people think first of your extra cause before they think of Christ when they think of you, you have probably started to become an evangelist for “Christ and…”

Christ and no chemicals in your diet.

Christ and a happy, intimate marriage.

Christ and a just government.

Christ and a healthy body.

Christ and the top ten common sense things to avoid.

Christ and the top ten common sense things to do.

Christ and

The ‘ands’ may be good things.  They usually are things that we seek after because we are fearful or just want them.  The ‘ands’ are usually something Christ never promised or talked about at length.  He never promised a just government, a healthy body, wonderful relations with others, success or a happy life….here.  They may or may not be fine to pursue but by becoming evangelists for ‘Christ and’ our message becomes: “be saved from your sins, AND live a healthy life.”  or something akin to this.  See the danger?

“I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  1 Cor. 2:2

For me, I make it my resolve as Paul did, that I will have no other agenda.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2014 in Discernment, What I believe

 

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Grown Up Prayer

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  (and yes, I prayed like a child).   When I became a man I put childish ways behind me.”  1 Cor 13: 11

There are several spiritual gray hairs of maturity: love, patience, forgiveness…and many others, but prayer is maybe the most obvious sign of growth.  You wouldn’t think it would be that hard to mature in but it is not as easy as moving from “now I lay me down to sleep” to the “PRAY” acronym.  (P-Praise R-Repent A-Ask for others Y-Yourself).

I consider myself an older teenager when it comes to prayer.  I am not quite a child anymore, I think I know more than I do and my practice of it often feels not fully developed.  I am comfortable in the ‘grown up’ world but I still revert back to childishness at times.  Prayer for me is at once simple and difficult to master.  I have tasted very deeply of what it will be like to be a grown-up but I do not dwell there continually.

Some truly do seem to master it.   When I need to ask for prayer for something, although I know many Christians, there are only a handful that I think will truly pray.  You know what I’m saying here.  I know all of my friends will bow their head and ‘lift me up’….but there is indeed a difference between those saints who will go to their knees and travail for a purpose, who will take the time to ‘meet with God’ and suffer in the request, and those who fling random wishes into the air with ‘Dear God’ in front of it….there is a difference and if something is critical to me….I ask my buddies with the calloused knees first.

I suppose all of us early on put formulas into practice and then stall out.  We seek to deepen our prayer life by expanding what we pray for and the time spent doing it, which is really not a deepening at all…..we end up as the guy in this video praying for everything we can think of and feeling obligated to do it for so long.   Instead of boldly entering past the veil we rush through the outside court and call out our thoughts to God as we pass by.  I suppose it may count as prayer but it doesn’t seem to affect much.  Or, maybe it does, but it doesn’t seem very meaningful.

I love communing with God.  I find nothing sweeter in life, not even my children.  But, I do not pray that sweet Holy of Holies way every single time I whisper ‘Father’.  I go to lonely places but I don’t always steal away each day.  I am mindful that I don’t go long stretches without it entirely.  Typically I practice continual prayer which takes some time to get into the habit of and is unfortunately, easy to fall out of.  It takes discipline to stay in and I think, an evidence of maturity.  For me, it does not replace going off alone to pray but it keeps me closely connected until I am moved to be alone with Him, or ….I just realize I need to get back in there.   Often I find that it is the practice of lifting every thought up to God that leads me to thirst to be alone with Him.  As I pray throughout the day something will catch my breath and I feel compelled to meet with HIm NOW.  And I do, but not always in the sacred way I envision best.  Instead I’m bowing my head in the grocery store as I wait in line, in the car as I am driving (scary, I agree), or I excuse myself and go to the bathroom for privacy.  Nothing feels very holy about it but it is real.  Then there are THOSE times, those hours when I am completely alone with Him and I can almost feel His breath.  Nothing compares.

If you think about it, both require maturity though we tend to think of being alone on the mountain camped out with God as more ‘sacred’. A ‘grown-up’ in prayer though, will probably do both.

And this is where formulas and life separate.  At some point I realized that I will not be the epitome of sacred life and that is okay.  I rest on God’s pull on my life.  I ceased relying on doing things ‘the perfect way’ and now trust that if I respond to Him in all things He will perfect my communion.  My prayer life is probably going to be a little different from yours and that shouldn’t freak any of us out.  None of us have a corner on the perfect way to pray because there is no perfect way.  Well, okay, Jesus had it down.  He did it perfectly.  So let’s take a look at what He says.

It is interesting that when Jesus taught the disciples to pray He did not say, “every day get on your knees for at least 1/2 an hour and pray for every conceivable need you can think of.  While you are doing that try to feel my presence.”  But that is exactly how we try to mature in our prayer life, through content, time and experience.

The Our Father prayer can not be duplicated daily in our lives by following its structure.  We pray that prayer when we truly enter into those phases of communication with God throughout the day….and it may not be all at once in one big sit down prayer.

But we must guard ourselves.  I am always fearful in posts such as this that I am providing an excuse for not doing something.   I felt the same way when I posted The Heart of Christian Devotions.  This is not the case.  Continual prayer is not careless wishing in your head.  It is pointed, directed, leaning.  It is hard to explain but I think one knows if they are truly doing it or not.  It does not always lead to a feeling of closeness but it always produces awareness.

Prayer is not easily fit into a mold, in fact it can’t be.  It is one of the richest disciplines I have thought deeply about.  I believe that one of the signs of a mature prayer life is that it is expressed in various ways, not under compulsion but out of response and need.

We are still and quiet, letting Him speak to our spirit.  We are loud and knocking, searching for Him first in all things.   We pray continually in desperation and peace.  We pray with stride as we rest upon Him.

One last thought to get the guilt off of your back for not praying for Aunt Sally everyday.  If we fail to pray for Aunt Sally or the Walmart checkout lady, or whomever… not all is lost, BUT, if we fail to be in communion with God when He seeks to bring our attention to those people….we have missed a grand opportunity indeed.  Our prayers aren’t answered simply because we mutter them.  Our prayers are answered because we seek God’s will, are mindful of his presence and purpose and are in a constant dialogue with Him about such things.  Our prayers are not about getting things accomplished….this is the way man thinks….our prayers are about dependence, oneness, presence and aligning ourselves with His will.  It is in that ‘being’ that deeds are done.

*The original preview of this video can be found here: Coffee with Jesus    After communicating with staff at Worship House I was told I could use the preview video in my post however wordpress.com does not allow me to directly embed from their site.  Hence the less clear (copied?) version.
 
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Posted by on November 18, 2013 in Spiritual Growth

 

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Aside

We take refuge from God in God.The Thinker

That’s kind of strange when you think about it.

The only escape from God’s wrath is God’s mercy.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2013 in Quips from the Short Sage

 

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Fearing the Worst Thing Might Happen

“you have been in constant suspense…”  Acts 27:33

I fear what is coming.   Will God rescue me from this threat or hand me over to it?  I can’t trust Him to spare me as He never promised He would.  I know bad things happen to ‘good’ people.  Is it my turn to suffer?  The unknown taunts me and as the saying goes, ‘the suspense is killing me’.

This week a local two-year old boy went missing near his rural home.  Volunteers dropped everything to walk as an army of determined locusts over farm fields to find him.  The day went.  The moon rose.  Quietly dawn peeked over the horizon.

Bleary-eyed the parents faced the new day.  In suspense.  Wanting to vomit, wanting to believe they could hope, waiting….suffering in the suspense.  Motivational-Quote-on-Fear-of-Darkness-300x259[1]

When we are in suspense what do we fear?  The news that ushers the fear into reality or worse, living after hearing it?  Somehow the moment of truth seems survivable, but how can we face a future in light of it?

Awhile ago, I asked my friends if anticipation was needed to enjoy life.  Can one be happy if they have nothing to look forward to?  Anticipation is simply the belief that a tomorrow down the road will bring something good and we look forward to it.  When we lose hope in that, when we have no promise of a good tomorrow, today suffers.  Isn’t that why the threat of the opposite is so devastating?  It works to remove hope.

“When neither the sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”  Acts 27:20

This is found in the Bible, and it talks about Paul who was a missionary.  He was on a ship that was taking him to his trial in the Roman courts.  The ship is caught in a fierce storm and  for days he and the others aboard are tossed about without relief.  They lived in suspense.  Would the ship stay firm or would it sink?  Paul knew none of them would die because of a revelation he had but beyond that nothing.  Anticipation of God rescuing the situation faded as the days wore on and the sun and stars refused to appear.  In their place a storm raged and threatened the future of Paul and those with him.  At some point, everyone gave up hoping.  Even Paul.  They anticipated no salvation.  They were left in suspense to face the fear they did not want to happen…sinking.  Paul had hope in the ending…but he had none in the situation.

The two-year old boy was found in the trunk of a car on the property, a few mere feet from all the anxious activity.  The day he went missing Wisconsin was suffering intense heat.  He was found the day after, dead.  The suspense ended and the fear turned into a reality.

With the fear realized,  I wonder if his parent’s anticipation for the future left them too.  I feel despair and I do not even know this family.  The pain is palpable even if you are not the one experiencing it.  They must continue living….but how?

The sun and the stars did not shine for Paul for many days, but friends, they did not cease to shine, he just could not see it through the storm.

The hope was always there but Paul had to wait for the storm to pass to see it.  It was only after the ship finally wrecked and left the frightened travelers abandoned on an island that Paul could finally see the stars again.  Eventually, even after our worst fears are realized, hope returns. Sometimes it takes days, weeks, months…years, but the skies slowly clear and hope reemerges.

That is part of the secret to contentment, I think.  Contentment knows that no matter what comes, hope will return. Contentment can survive the fate of today because it knows today is not the end.  Grief is strong… and big… and scary… and its intensity often overshadows what lies above… but it does not obliterate it.    Storms that end badly can be endured only because we know that the sadness it brings is not forever.   Eventually, the sting becomes numb and fades and our eyes turn to new possibilities.  We see the stars again.  Faith, hope, love….somehow these always remain though we can not produce them ourselves.  article-1080240-0155225D00001005-84_468x412[1]There will always be hope after tragedy because God created hope in the heart of man for a purpose; in His wisdom He knows that without it we would all perish in our grief.  Yet He did not create a baseless hope, no, there is a grand hope ahead, not just in the eternal but in the here and now.  A hope that secures a contentment that can be had in the most dire of circumstances.  Whatever you are facing, above the clouds, there are stars and an amazing SON shining.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2013 in Never Saw That Before

 

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Out of the Closet: Deceiving Ourselves

I have met many people who deceive others but I have never met someone who wishes to be deceived.  All acknowledge that they want to know the truth and do not want to be tricked into believing a lie.  Furthermore, no one I know is willing to readily admit that they may have believed a lie.  It is shameful in a way and exposes a weakness.  Thus most people believe that what they believe is the truth.

But many unwittingly do believe lies.

Our extended family is a bit of a mess at the moment.  A nephew who has dropped hints of homosexuality for years used his college graduation party this last week to fling his closet door open in the presence of all who love him.  He emerged from his closet and his relatives had mere hours, some only a fraction of minutes, to formulate a response.

One uncle, only hours before the party, threatened to not show up on moral grounds.  He did not believe that homosexuality was right and did not want to appear to be condoning it.  His stance appeared hypocritical and narrow-minded even to me who also believes homosexuality is wrong.  What made it seem so hypocritical was it was merely his opinion.  It was not based on anything besides his perception:  he didn’t think being gay was right but he viewed what he does as right, just because he felt that way.  Unfortunately, there are many other things in his life and in his children’s lives that others could easily point to as being wrong based on some vague understanding of cultural norms.  And there-in, enters the rub.

The rest of the family lined up against him.  Who is he to call the kettle black?    On and on the self-righteous tongue wagging went until all, either politely or pointedly, agreed that the nephew was not doing anything wrong by living a gay life style.  The uncle who refused to accept it was considered to be wrong and needed to be chastised.

I commend my in-laws, nephews and nieces for wanting to be open-minded about something that they are in many ways uncomfortable with though none of them are big enough to admit it-they contend that it does not pulse them one way or another but the fact that they had to think through it exposes this lie.  I suspect they feel rather good about themselves for being willing to accept something they themselves would not do.  They feel good about themselves for they have not judged but accepted my nephew for his differences.  More importantly, they feel SAFE because they have eliminated through their tolerance any possibility of the finger being pointed at them in the future.   They went home congratulating themselves for taking such a loving stance opposed to the narrow minded one that insisted some sort of moral line was being crossed.

As for me, I sought to remain outside of the conversation because it was obvious no one was really trying to figure out the truth and it was therefore pointless to enter the debate.  Each had assumed they already knew what truth is.  Each was convinced of it.  Yet obviously one of the opposing sides has to be deceived because both can’t be right.  The strange thing is, if I have any discernment at all, all of them on both sides are deceived.

We all want to know the truth but what we want more often is for our pleasures to be granted and we get all bristly when someone wants to stand in our way.  People tote tolerance because they realize what goes around, comes around.  If I take the high road here, they might come back at me with the same high road.  So they all agree to allow everyone to do as they please.  Yet we each have this unexplained need to live rightly.  The only way to do that and allow people to live differently is to remove any moral grounds and replace it with something different-what makes one happy.

We welcome truth when it is on our side and dismiss it when it points the finger at us.  When it accuses us, we would prefer to live in a lie than accept truth.  One cannot reason with a stubborn heart bent on pursuing what they want.  They will find a way to justify their course in their conscience because nothing is more sacred to them than achieving what feels pleasing.

The truth however is often uncomfortable.  It will make us unhappy at times.  We love truth when it enlightens us but hate it when it accuses us.  To truly be happy, one must love truth itself, not how it affects us.  Deception happens when we regard what we love to be truth.

The folly of my family is probably obvious to most of you reading this but my folly is probably not.  I have found that there is no thought that I hold dear that should not be minutely examined.  Where have I allowed myself to be deceived?  What principle, right or pleasure do I cling to so tenaciously that the thought of releasing them makes me ill or despondent?  Why?  Look closely at what you love and determine how you guard it and why you guard it… never assume that the father of lies could not deceive you, even you, holy and blessed by God our Father!  Be careful, circumspect in all things, lest you fall.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Discernment, Spiritual Growth

 

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Why then, do you love God?

“What am I loving when I love you God?”The Thinker

I ran across this question while reading Augustine’s Confessions and it got me to thinking. If you take away the pat answers, you might learn a lot about yourself, and God.

Personally speaking,

I do not love his form, the beauty I may imagine.

I do not love His bounty, in that He does not fulfill the pleasures of flesh.

I do not love his embrace, as the embrace of a human and the joy that brings.

I do not love the way He purposed my life to unfold, the trials and disappointments, the dreams left hanging.

And yet I do love Him, but why?  What draws me to Him like a moth to a flame?  What fills me with a love so complete and overwhelming?

I scribbled some thoughts down and the first were revealing.  I encourage you to do the same before you continue reading.  My initial thoughts I think, were the way my flesh responded to Him.  As I continued I found my spirit genuinely responding and it was a wonderful exercise.

I love Him because He makes me feel secure,

I love Him because I think He is the only One I can truly trust,

I love Him because I can’t corrupt Him,

I love Him because He is superior, His ways always outshine mine,

I love Him because He is persistent despite my failures,

I love Him because He is beautiful, but not in a way my eyes see,

because he does fulfill me, but not in the ways my flesh would desire,

because He loves me so intimately, but beyond anything carnal,

because He is love, and though I can’t explain it, I am drawn to love.

He is love.  I was created to be an expression of His image, not merely an object of His love but another loving entity.   In sin I found I could not love, yet through love He made a way to reconstruct me anew, so that I could love again.  And the first one that I should love after He did this, was Him.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2013 in Discernment, Spiritual Growth

 

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Removing God from Psalm 23

In order for Psalm 23 to mean anything to someone they must be thinking Biblically.  When our thinking becomes skewed, Psalm 23 makes no sense.   The following is an attempt to show how the history of Western thought would have translated Psalm 23.

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The Lord is my Shepherd…

(Early Church and revived in the Reformation)

God created the universe and man.  By making man and woman in His image He gave them meaning.  As creator, He determined what is right and wrong and it is society’s responsibility to live within those bounds.  That is the universal base.  There is a foundation for law, rights and freedom.  God, as understood through the Bible, is the final authority.

But suppose I do not want to be completely under God.  I would like some ‘freedom’ to think for myself.   What will be my new universal principle?

The Lord is my Shepherd, but I help him guide me.

(Medieval times largely influenced by Aquinas who leaned heavily on the secular thought of Aristotle.)

Why restrict ourselves to only what God has to say?  The Bible is lowered and man is raised higher.  The Bible becomes a guideline that can be veered from and the church is raised to become its equal.  Salvation is by grace but begins to increasingly include the works of man because man is viewed as capable of doing it.  Secular thinking starts to trump the Biblical base and distorts truth.  People start believing and acting independent of the final authority.

I am my shepherd.

(Humanism comes to fruition in Renaissance and is maintained through the modern era.)

Man is autonomous and independent of any supernatural force outside of himself.  Absolutes are impossible to define because there is nothing to give them and therefore man is unsure of how to live.  Optimistically, thinkers set out to find the way.   Truth begins with man, not God.  There is no final authority over man so man seeks how to guide himself.

I am left with the difficult question of what the purpose of life is and how I (and others) are to live.    I trust my mind will lead me to the right answers.

Sheep are my shepherd.

(Beginning with Voltaire, the enlightenment awakens the god of reason and ultimately leads to man being seen as part of a closed system, where he is no longer outside of nature but is merely a part of it.)

Reason falters as it repeatedly runs into unacceptable conclusions.  Opinions seem to be legion, but really there are only a few truly novel thoughts…but no one seems to know what to trust so I look for something outside of man, some natural principle that guides the world.  I look to nature and find it both cruel and non-cruel.  I believe I am only a small part of it, just a mass of atoms.  I become nothing more than a cog in the machine.

Everything is my shepherd.

(Rousseau, Kant, Hegel and Kierkegaard struggle to leave room for man amidst determinism and its other varied forms, trying to find meaning by looking at freedom from restraint, history, emotion and what is ‘natural’ (Romanticism).  They are left with only rhetoric and the conclusion that reason leads only to pessimism.)

Now I must let go of reason because it leads me only to a pessimistic outlook.  Reason tells me that without a god I am only part of the machine of the universe, devoid of meaning.  I can say those words but I can not live by them.  History has exhausted its ideas and come up wanting.  If one begins with man, nothing gives meaning. My ‘innards’ tell me that there must be a purpose somewhere in all of this.  But where is it?

So I let go of reason and let the unreasonable give me meaning.  My experiences will hopefully be powerful enough to give me a sense of fulfillment.  (Embrace of Hinduism or Buddhism for some in the Western world may enter here, under the pursuit of experience.)  My personal goals of peace and affluence will guide my decisions.  What is right in one situation may not be right in another.  Each act is based on circumstances and is thus arbitrary to the person and the situation.  What is right will be determined by what I want the goal to be and there is nothing to tell me that my goal is wrong.  What is must be what is right.  My pleasures rule.

Nothing is my shepherd.

(Existential philosophy abandons reason and leaps “upstairs” to find meaning and value without reason.  Nietzsche declares that not only is God dead, but also all (he) supported, mainly meaning.  His conclusions (I believe) likely led him to his insanity-not venereal disease.)

Without a universal base tying everything together with meaning I am only a part of this machine, devoid of purpose or direction.  Nothing leads me anywhere.  I can’t help but become apathetic.  To keep from despairing I create schemes to keep my mind away from the impossible questions.  In place of meaning I take up causes, like ending world poverty, or cleaning up the food system, or keeping the earth from getting too warm, or shaving a 1/2 minute off of my 8 minute mile.  I exist and if you push me to tell you why I won’t know what to say.

All is bankrupt.  Without a shepherd outside of myself my mind tells me I am no more than matter.  Nature, experience and pleasure can not infuse me with any type of meaning or tell me what to value.  Without an ultimate universal base society is left to the chaos of hedonism (pleasure rules) or the tyranny of authoritarianism by the élite to maintain peace.  I have lost my freedom.  I have lost my meaning.  I have lost my bearings.   I am empty.

I need my Psalm 23 shepherd back.

(Please note:  this post leans heavily on the work of Francis A. Schaeffer in “How Should We Then Live?”  This is my current understanding of the progression of Western thought.  If you are looking for a resource to reference, I suggest you go back to the inspiration behind this post.)
 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in History Clips, Sin, Uncategorized

 

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