Archive for April, 2009

A State of Mind

April 27, 2009

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the Sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.  Romans 8:5-8.

No matter how we slice it, we have to watch out for the sinful desires or they trip us up.  Selfishness is scary in its sneaky control over our hearts.  Selflessness takes more concentration and discipline.

Christian rhetoric can sound so stilted and wierd by the rest of the world’s standards of communication, right?  Yet if we consider it carefully, we can also see pretty quickly humans in general don’t communicate very well at the best of times.  Just look at how many wars and problems exist outside of the Christian influence in the world right now then try to conclude the rest of the world’s methods of talking things out is better.  This fact doesn’t mean, however, that Christian language should be stilted and archaic, rather it tells us the problems of communication with the world isn’t entirely our fault.

Paul makes it clear above and elsewhere the sinful mind cannot grasp the things of God, so it naturally follows those caught in a sinful state of mind won’t understand the language of salvation any better.  Christ gave us the command to communicate to the world the good news of the cross, but this doesn’t mean it will sit well with the them.  The cross is a stumbling block to the legalists and foolishness to those who love intellectual pursuits for their own sake.  When being righteous of our own accord becomes paramount in any form, the cross does us no good; when knowledge or earthly wisdom becomes paramount, we make a god out of our own informative state.

Someone once said,  “Knowledge is power.”  I agree, though I see it as a limited form of power.  From what I’ve observed, we cannot change the world through education, the modern world is more educated than at any time in history yet we don’t see a decrease in violence, prejudice or ideological differences.  If anything, our disagreements have become more intense because our education, biased by preconceptions or theoretical conclusions, have influenced our ability to remain at peace.  Education doesn’t eradicate selfishness, pride or a host of other urges and issues humans carry around in their makeup.  The crime at the top levels of society merely grow more sophisticated rather than lessened by their education or status.

In fact, look at history and we see the greatest atrocities were perpetrated by the elite of the world, the informed and the socially advantaged.  So this theory that somehow education will bring about paradise or at the very least a better world is based on very shaky evidence at best.  Yet humans continue to push for their pet causes as if their efforts will really change the world at large.

Herein lies the problem, in my view:  We keep changing policies and methods without ever going after the heart of the person.  Change a person’s heart from selfish to giving and you’ve just changed their politics.  But changing the heart is a lot more hard work than changing policies and proceedures.  The current fiasco in the banking system should tell us our policies and proceedures won’t do any good because already there were commonsense rules in place to prevent what we now see as a bad lending practices.  Yet the outcry to make more stringent laws goes out loud and clear as if this will solve the problem.

In my short life I’ve witnessed something very profound and disturbing:  The stricter the law, the more clever and devious the thief.  The more sophisticated the thief, the harder it is to either catch them or, once caught, to convict them.

Why?

For the simple reason those making the laws many times are in cahoots with the thieves themselves, which means they create loopholes and addendums to sidestep the force of the law being proposed.

Bring this concept down to the reality of the daily Christian life and we see why the Law couldn’t keep anyone on the straight and narrow.  Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their additions to the law as well as their inability to help anyone keep them.  Yet He also called them down for their hypocrisy which mouthed the right manmade formulas, though they strictly lived and enforced the rituals these did nothing to change the heart.  Without a complete and utter change of how we think, no one can live up to righteousness at all.

My conclusion?

There is no discovered balance between selfishness and selflessness it’s all an illusion.  The fight is between righteousness and sin, nothing more or less.  If we look at ourselves in the light of Jesus and imitate His attitude and actions, our confusion begins to drain away.  Only when we grasp the significance of the Scriptures will we gain insight into how to conduct ourselves.  For instance:  Realizing the Bible doesn’t forbid marriage and condemns those who do condemn it should set us straight about sex, children and the will of God in the matter of relationships here on earth.  Paul condemns those false apostles who forbid people to marry and restrict certain foods.  This fact should warn us to be on the look out for these midguided guides for they are what Jesus called “the blind leading the blind” who will fall into a pit.

Grasping the truth of Scripture, however, only comes through dedicated study while opening our hearts and minds to understand what is being taught.  When we bring our preconceptions to the table as a means of interpreting what is already there, we probably insert error into the mix.  True righteousness, selflessness and godliness are not found in the absence of relationships, nor will we find true tranquility in monastic living or true wisdom on a lonely mountaintop.  Everything in Scripture points us to communal living and harmonic relationships with God and other people.  The message of the Gospel brings hope and reconciliation between God and man, first, then between the people who submit themselves to it.

Correct understanding of the Scriptures is a growth thing, one which will take us to places we haven’t thought of as yet.  Every step we take in the understanding God’s Word, gets us that much closer to the whole truth.  Yet each step is only a part of the puzzle, so we need to be aware of our incomplete grasp on truth so as not to get conceited or set on our current views.  To be completely transparent about this I know there are passages I understood a certain way years ago that I now have grown to see in a different light because my spiritual outlook has broadened and been shaped by continuous stretching in the Word.  I’m not saying I have a complete grasp on the subject rather it’s a clearer understanding of it now than ever before.  Years from now, however, I will look back and see gaps in my knowledge and blind spots in my understanding.

I don’t mind this truth at all.

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Trusting God’s Call

April 23, 2009

“I tell you the truth,”  He continued,  “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”  Luke 4:24.

But Jesus said unto them,  “Only in his hometown and his own house is a prophet without honor.”  Matthew 13:57.

The last several years have been an extreme make over for me.  I moved to Portland at the request of my brother, Tracy, to record an album with him and maybe do some gigs locally.  We started on the process until he decided to start his own business, pressuring me to join him.  I know I was pretty clear about my purpose for being in Portland as well as where I saw my life going, but for some reason he and others simply ignored my assertions an put the pressure to join them until I began to doubt my own sanity.  Every time I think of this situation I remember the prophet who died because he deviated from God’s instructions to go straight home.  I am now wrestling my way mentally back to a service ordered life and aligning myself with the call I believe God placed on my life and commitment I made to serve Him.

Yet I faced nothing but discouragement from my family.  No one supported the choices I had made in my life nor the ones I intended to make for my future, so I thought,  “If those closest to me don’t see what I believe is obvious, then maybe I’m just deluding myself.  May be I just imagined the calling and am full of delusions of grandeur.”  I laid out a couple of fleeces and the answers came back positive on the side of God’s call on my life, but nothing momentous happened to support these answers.  In other words no one around me thought I was reasonable or balanced about where I had set myself to go nor did they think much of my life in general.  After about three years of nothing but negative input and failed attempts to help my brother’s business, it failed, which was also a sign I asked from God:  If He wanted me to move on to full time ministry, He had to kill my brother’s business because at the time Tracy was going through a crisis of faith and I didn’t feel comfortable deserting him.

I now see God’s hand in this loyalty to my brother.  My faith was more settled in some ways, many of the questions he wrestled with at the time I was already on the road to answering so, while I discovered and grew with him, I also had something to contribute to his foundation security.  On the other hand, I also believe God set me up to see what I would do with the pressure and to strengthen my growing faith in His providence.  I may have deviated from the plan I thought was important (i.e. recording an album and touring with it), but God’s plan seemed to be different.  I think He really wanted me to stick around these guys in order to grow some enemic places in my own life as well as demonstrate God’s “foolishness” (see 1 Corinthians 1:27ff) to those who acted like they had it figured out.

Again I prayed,  “Lord, if You want me to continue in construction as my ‘tent making’, You will have to supply the work for I can’t advertise or do anything about it.”  He’s kept me busy in this field for a little over 8 years.  I’ve ministered in several churches, married, divorced and become a dad.  While I don’t have a clear idea what all this means or if I’m being true always to His calling or not, I see His hand in everything I do.  His supply has never wavered or stopped, though He has definitely delayed many times, scaring me out of my wits.

You see I became afraid of the music business years ago because I saw it going a direction which seemed to me self-directed rather than God-oriented.  O, the rhetoric sounded spiritual, but mostly musicians talked about career rather than ministry to the church or those who search for Jesus.  So I wrestled with this issue for about ten years and concluded I was not geared for a “crossover” ministry but meant to simply teach and preach the gospel.  Now I’m nearly 49, way past my prime as a musician (even though one of my buds still calls me “Rocker Jon” with tongue firmly in cheek) and not marketable in the popular sense as anything in the music world.  If I had established a career years ago, I might have been able to continue touring and selling music, but as it is, I’m at the mercy of God.

Here is where you find me.  I now have a 4 1/2 yo boy whom God has given me to disciple and train in Christ, a growing ministry on this blog, the music still happens, though in a different sense than what I dreamed when I was young and only a miracle of God will put me back in a place of service through music He’s given me to publish. 

Sounds discouraging, huh?

Yet I won’t give up on serving Him.  If one door for ministry closes, He opens another; if the road to service bends sharply to right, I follow it.  I know He will use whatever gifts or abilities I have to His glory and for no other reason, so I continue to press on no matter what—even though many in my inner circle get irritated and angry with my “stubborn” refusal see “reality” according to their values.  I might be insane but rest on the truth of God’s Word, which says,  He (Abraham) is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.  Romans 4:17.  Abraham was considered by many to be insane for leaving his family and going somewhere without a clear idea of a destination.  He might be considered an icon of faith now, but I bet most would look at him if he lived in the present time as deluded and definitely misguided.

Without a doubt I know what many others think of me because, for some reason, they tell me quite bluntly.  Still I know the answers to prayer God gives me daily, how He provides for me constantly, His mercy and grace continues to sustain my life and goals.  I am not successful in the eyes of most people probably, but I know success in the eyes of man is a misnomer anyway.  I trust in Jesus who redeems even my worst mistakes in order to further His work through me for others–and not only for their sake, but while ministering to them through me, He encourages me as well to continue giving of myself for His sake.

I may be insane by the world’s standards, but O what beautiful state of mind to be in when Jesus gives a peace that goes beyond understanding.  If you know God has called you to serve Him in whatever field your gifting indicates, don’t give up or grow discouraged with the naysayers for they would destroy the work of God for the sake of temporary comfort.  Trust God’s call on your life and don’t ever give up.  The rewards are more awesome than you can imagine.

The Hoax

April 21, 2009

Then He said to them,  “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.  For he who is least among you all–he is the greatest.  Luke 9:48.

In all the years I’ve served Jesus the one thing which becomes clearer and clearer is the need for being a servant.  The teachings about authority over the earth are misleading in our modern times for they seek to place emphasis where Christ never meant us to go:  namely personal power, prestige and a sense of infallibility.  The power over demons, spiritual b0ndage and a host of other prisons humans find themselves in isn’t ours to manipulate or command, rather we move only as inspired by the Holy Spirit otherwise we presume on the power we claim to serve.

There’s a worship song which uses this theme:

We are here to take over

not here to take sides

We are here to take over

no room for compromise

Takin’ authority, takin’ over

Kingdom authority, yeah!

The teaching here sounds like we walk the earth with a giant-like tread, stomping out strongholds of Satan and leaping buildings with a single bound.  Now while I believe in the miraculous power of Christ in us, I don’t buy this kind of teaching even  a little bit, for the disciples, those closest to Jesus rarely practiced this kind of mentality and that only within the confines of the church or as as demonstration of the power of God Himself.  Never did they set out to draw attention to their own spiritual prowess in the process for that would have taken people’s eyes off of their Master.

We are not conquering the world as a whole for Jesus, that’s not promised anywhere in Scripture as our job but is set as something only for God at the judgment.  Our job is to make disciples and win the hearts and minds of mankind with our very lives.  This concept of being powerful in the Lord has won over many who would use it or barter with it to gain for themselves, so that they miss the point:  the only authority I have on earth is given to me by God in order to be self-controlled and in command over the kingdom inside my own heart.  The misnomer that we command others or hold authority over them through the gospel holds an element of truth with a modern misconception. 

Let me point out every disciple except one is rumored or recorded as dying a horrible death.  Not one of them set out to conquer the world for Jesus in the way of armies, political maneuvering or any other such method; instead they would rather die than use earthly methods to gain their goal.  The early church didn’t take over the world for Jesus, didn’t stop persecution or poverty for the believer nor did they stop the bad attitude most of the world held toward them, so how do we come to such a conclusion?  Paul claimed,  For thought we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have the divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  1 Corinthians 10:3-5.  All of this ability clear up to the taking captive every thought to make obedient to Christ speaks about a personal and church family authority not command over the rest of the world.

Fighting a war without the ability to use force in the human understanding of this concept frightens us into falling back on old methods.  Paul died as martyr yet conquered the world through not only his words but life.  Though he had great power through the Spirit of God, he rarely used such to stave off persecution or those who would ostracize him.  The times he did use such power worked to further the gospel not enrich him.

Siting areas of selfishness sounds hard but identifying our motivation is far more important than we realize.  Again, the fruit of the Spirit isn’t armies or Constitutional amendments but a quiet life lived for God in humility and service.  The greatest among us will be our servants.

Everything in the kingdom of God is backwards to the way of human reasoning.  We are called not to be great in the eyes of men by their standards but to choose a considerably different path—one which is diametrically opposed to the thinking and reasoning with which we grew up being indoctrinated.  Many use healing as a means to self-worth or power over those who follow Jesus.  The purpose of such a gift, however, is to serve the gospel, further the work of God and serve His people.  If we were to follow Christ’s example, we would command them to never say a word about us in the process but give all the glory to God, claiming God’s healing power through an unnamed servant.

We might be conduits of God’s purpose, but we are not the source of it at any time.

Selfishness, self-exultation and host of other self-centered attitudes or methods leave the true believer horrified because we never want to be the center of attention instead Christ.  If Paul exclaimed,   May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  Galatians 6:14.  How we avoid the confusion of selfishness over self-care is to remain in this mindset at all times.

Since that is possible but rather improbable, I say this:  We only become aware of sin through exposure to Christ’s presence in our lives.  The law is cold, so is doctrine but what makes the blood run hot is the Spirit bringing new life into the dead tissue–not in the way of a zombie but in the resurrection of our spiritual natures.  The only way to grow aware of the difference between self-care and selfishness is to remain in Christ–the distinction between the two becomes quite clear through the eyes of Jesus.

Yet the simplist way to avoid the pitfalls (and I think Jesus gave it to us in order to keep us safe spiritually) is to choose those things which serve our Master.  Seeking to serve Him in all things points us in the right direction at least and helps us dodge the obvious self-centered choices and attitudes.  Even here we will have to learn discernment and be educated to true spirituality, but at least our mistakes will be covered.

The Truth About Self-denial

April 20, 2009

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  Luke 9:23.

Since I became a follower of Jesus, the command always loomed large on the billboard of the to do list:  Deny yourself!  This concept grew clearer as I realized what it meant to Jesus when He said it.  If I’m reading it right, His words paraphrased could be interpreted to mean,  “If you want to be like me, you must first deny what you know of yourself, die to it everyday and follow my example.”  In other words, self-denial is about who rules not so much about loving oneself, though definitely about boundaries in that love.  For instance, in Christ our self-worth is never reckoned in comparison to another person rather it is calculated completely by the cross.  Also, we don’t love ourselves at other’s expense but in concert, so as to do the most good with what God has given us as possible.

Most of the time I’ve read this passage as a point of play between the words of  Jesus and the practical concerns we all carry.  If a person places themselves squarely in the hands of God, there is no question between what is merely self-serving and godly self-worth.  The presence of Jesus excludes selfish ambition, pride (the kind mentioned in Galatians 6 which points to comparing ourselves with others) and the need set ourselves above others.  In almost every case where Jesus condemns self interest it has to do with neglecting one’s obligation to the brotherhood of mankind not taking care of personal needs.

Our earthbound self-perceptions lack reality because God rules the universe; therefore any view of who we are without God being taken into account is either completely or in part false.  We can’t know ourselves outside of the Creator’s guidelines or design specs for since self-realization comes directly from Him, understanding who we are and what we’re created for cannot be decided outside of understanding His mind.

Still, I don’t think this issue is all that complicated since we have God actually telling us what is and isn’t sin.  At the same time, selfishness can be quite insidious, or, another way to put it, we tend toward self-deception on this problem.

In the law we were told not to covet, so we can conclude coveteousness as a selfish, self-centered wheras wanting things is not.  We are also pointedly told adultery is out, so we know this is selfishness, yet having sexual relationship is not.  Jesus, however, targets the heart of the matter when He troubleshoots our motivations as well.  A man who lives a moral life in public and private may or may not have a problem with pride or a works-based motivation, which means no matter how nice a person he is his motivation is selfish.  Of course we then get all paranoid about the subject and begin creating volumes of commentaries about the subject to detail the limits of self-centered activities.

I think the simplist way to look at this, however, is from the POV that whatever I do or think must conform to the mind of Christ.  Since God created me to eat, drink, be warm, healthy and happy, seeking these things is not selfish.  Yet when I seek them while ignoring the needs or lack in others, I immediately cross over the line between healthy self-care to merely self-interest. 

For instance, I find nothing wrong with laying around on a beach reading a book or taking a day to relax and detox from the rest of the week’s adrenaline rush.  Yet if I seek only this form existence (i.e. laying around all the time), I fall into the lazy category and have crossed the line between selfishness and self-care.  It’s not for nothing Paul warned us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for we are prone to self-deception and sidestepping issues.

Again, as an example, God created us for pleasure, but when a pleasure or pleasure seeking becomes an obsession to the exclusion of being a whole person, we have crossed over to selfishness.  God created tastebuds, sex, touch, smells, sunlight, rain, and host of other things for our pleasure, so our enjoyment of life in these areas cannot be the problem.  I believe it is only when they dominate our pursuits that we fall into sin.

Of course the danger here is becoming so afraid of sin we throw out the baby with the bath water by defining all pleasure as sin.  Or, we go the other way by seeing all pleasure seeking as God-ordained without boundaries of any kind.  Both are extremes, of course, but our sinful natures tend toward such a mentality anyway, which means we have to be on our guard.

The safest course, of course, is living consciously, the most dangerous is following the whim of our urges.

Unselfish

April 16, 2009

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  Luke 9:23.

I know I’ve explained to myself (and those who read this blog or have been in personal discussions with me) what it means to take up our cross.  The meaning for the disciples would have been clear in their day and age, for the illustration burned the lesson into their minds every time the Romans executed someone by crucifixion.  To take up a cross meant to them they were going to die an excruciating death in shame and disgrace.  Paul claimed that which was shameful (the cross) to the world, however, became his glory through Jesus.

I think we’ve lost much of the significance of the cross today, simply because we don’t execute people this way anymore.  So we see pop stars, strippers, gangstas and a host of other people wearing crosses to be cool or simply as bling.  Some Christians find this offensive because to them it robs the cross of its import.

I don’t.

Like the Pharisees and leaders of Jesus’ time, who decorated the tombs of the prophets and honored them with lavish gardens and such, the people of our day testify to their guilt and complete disregard for Christ by decorating their bodies with a cross.  In other words, it’s fitting they should do this for it our sins which crucified the Creator of heaven and earth.  They wear this as a symbol of wealth, sexiness or whatever, rarely realizing the actual message they send heaven, which is:  “We don’t care about the truth of the cross nor do we recognize how awful a death it represents.”    And, as Jesus said to those who decorated the tombs of the prophets, they testify they are the children of those who crucified the God of heaven.

They glory in the shape of it without ever thinking of the cruelty of this object of torture.  And I did the same until a work associate pointed out through her question what a horrible symbol it was.  She said,  “Why do you wear such a disgusting symbol of death around your neck?  Don’t you realize that the cross was means of torture?”  I did realize it but had never put it into those kind of words nor thought of it consciously as an artifact around my neck.  From then on wearing the cross meant far more than just jewelry.  (We ended up having quite deep discussion about why I wore this cross as well.)

Yet, as much as I understand this verse and concept, I must confess I don’t know how to be unselfish.

O, I get the basics of the truth of it, I just don’t know the balance of unselfishness versus taking care of myself.  It’s a constant tug of war in me to find that place where I am *zen* with serving others while making sure my body and mind remain healthy.  I am sometimes at a loss as to how to accomplish both.  I find myself distrusting most voices who speak to this subject because they come at it from either a monkish/monastic tilt or the “I’m ok–You’re ok” camp.  I don’t want either one, to be blunt, for both represent man’s efforts to please the gods or themselves.

To love others as I love myself is a hard balance to strike, that’s why I study this subject so much.  I want to grasp in practice what Jesus says in principle.  The common explanation is:  What would Jesus do?  Yet this doesn’t exactly explain whether I should take this job over that one or whether or not I should be a missionary to a far country or to my neighborhood.

So for a while this subject is going to be popping up and I’m going to explore it as thoroughly as I can—or as the Spirit inspires.

The Cut of the Sword

April 15, 2009

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  Matthew 10: 34.

Sometimes I’m so guilty of forgetting this truth.  The word of God which is the sword of truth comes to divide between soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.  (Hebrews 4:12, 13.)

How do we think to escape the penetrating eyes of a God who reads the heart’s motives?  The division spoken of in Matthew is between a person and his or her closest human connections–or the joints and marrow of our existence.  In essence we see this everyday of our lives in Christ.  The choices we make either make a compromise with the shadows or lead the way as a light through the dark of this earth’s twisted byways.  No one is safe from the divisive nature of God’s love for the world resents such boundless love based on the guidelines of righteousness.  It’s strange to say but the world would rather accept  and free a sex offender than give into the borders of God’s love, who’s Word says such a person must pay the penalty for their sin while on earth.  This latter truth doesn’t say anything about their eternity, however, but does declare strict boundaries for public actions.

Those who would follow Christ to the cross and beyond to His resurrection will be rejected by the rest of the world who in an effort to avoid death altogether, run right into its eternal clutches without seeing the warning signs glaring all around them.  It’s unavoidable that we will face opposition to our choice to follow the Man of Sorrows.

Jerome said something Sunday morning (very early I might add) that stuck in my head (paraphrased, of course),  “Those who face the Judge better be sure their fire insurance is paid up because everyone enters the kingdom with smoking coat tails.  This means if any of us have sinned, we must confess it and repent as soon as we’re aware of it.  If we have a problem with another person, we must quickly make it right so that nothing will stand in the way of our connection with God.”  He wasn’t saying our salvation would be forfeit exactly but our transition into the kingdom would be far more traumatic if we have not built our spiritual house with good materials.

Our choice to follow Jesus means we have forsaken all other teachings as authoritative for the authority of the Scripture.  This doesn’t mean we don’t see truth in those other ethics or celebrate the good in them, rather they are not our bottow line or first and last word.  In doing this we paint a big sign on our back which says “kick me” on it.  The world doesn’t like its own all that much because the fighting and discord demonstrate the chaos in its thinking, but it becomes absolutely united when confronted by the message of the gospel–I mean who wants to hear “repent and submit”?  This should serve as a warning to those of us who believe in Jesus as the Christ, at the same time we shouldn’t be all that surprised when professed “believers” misuse the Name for the sake of worldly gain or placement.  Paul claimed the world was dead to him because of Christ, how many Christians can say the same?

Yes, we are to work with our hands to provide for our families and the church; yes, we are to live quiet lives of light so the world sees our example.  And as far as it depends on us we must live at peace with all humanity.  Yet facing this as our responsibility doesn’t negate the reaction of the rest of the world to the message we teach, preach and live out loud.  The opposition to the Word of truth will come not just from those outside the walls of Christian faith but inside it as well.  Our belief will be challenged from inside by people we call our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  Why?  “God made man upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes.”  Solomon.  The world comes to the church in order to find the peace they see in the true believer, yet rejects anything about the church or Christ that doesn’t fit with their core desires.  Jesus warned us to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing infiltrating the church.  Those who grow discouraged with the church because of the hypocrites in it seem to forget the meaning of their own faith.

Unless those of us who follow Jesus remain true to the Master despite the fakes who run after selfish gain from the truth, who will represent the Master to both the hypocrites and world?  In essence, we are all hypocrites in some form.  None of us is perfectly Christlike and those who might want to portray their walk as better than others imediately set themselves up for scrutiny from not only the church but world.  No, a humble realization of our own clay feet is vital to a clear true witness.

The moment we step into such a faith position, however, we set ourselves up for being cut off from those we value.  I find it strange the gospel brings this on in others because the teaching just doesn’t seem to be all that divisive.  Yet, it is and the proof can be found in 2000 years of persecution, political take overs, power hungry church leaders and martyrdom.  When we stand for the message of Christ in its totality as truth, our closest associates will push us away.

Here’s the kicker, however, we need to chew and swallow:  This separation must not ever be for obnoxious attitudes, presentation or relationship problems we cause.  In other words, if someone pushes me away, it must come as a result of them rejecting the positive change in our life and thinking.  Yes, Jesus demands radical change; yes, He makes radical claims; yes, we choose to follow the way through a very narrow gate.  Paul tells us those in Christ become the smell of life to those who being saved but the smell of death to those perishing.  Have you noticed, people don’t like to be reminded of their bad habits.  Even if we don’t say anything at all verbally, our example and lifestyle shouts volumes.

As far as it depends on us, we must live at peace with the world.  But this doesn’t mean peace will reign because the world is not a peaceful place.  When Jesus said world would reject us, He meant it.  He also said the only way to be accepted by them is to cave to the pressure the put on to conform to their way of thinking and behaving.  Then they will love us as one of their own–which is to say, until it’s inconvenient to their own plans to do so.

Yes, the Word of the Lord is two edged sword which will divide loyalties, connections, motives and convictions.

Busy Week Over

April 13, 2009

Four programs, two days. I’m tired, going to shower, then go to bed. Jesse and I will get vanilla bean scones in the morning along with those big blue berry ones at Starbucks…

MoRe ABoUt BeLiEf

April 10, 2009

Yet I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory.  Whom have I in heaven but You?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Psalm 73:23-26.

I believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Messiah, Emmanuel, the One Who was, is and is to come.  

I believe this with all of my soul.

Some can remain detached from their practice of belief as it regards their god.  I can’t.

I see no purpose to studying belief in Jesus from a merely academic POV.  I’ve found from experience attempting to grapple with an ethic’s truth from an outsider’s perspective leaves many of the realities within it obscured.  To get a clear understanding of any truth one must either become an insider or listen to an insider’s POV.

I decided to become an insider, not from academic consideration, but because I saw no better option at the time.  Some might consider me trapped by heritage and education; this would be a truth had I not been a teen in the post-60s thinking.  As I considered Jesus, however, I realized I like Him, though I wasn’t all that impressed with religion bearing His name.

Belief is a tricky thing for us humans for we disguise our true desires many times by layering over them a venier of something else.  The motives for doing this are as varied as there are personality types to have those motives.  A couple I consider common:  1)  Acceptance into a specific community we admire or traditionally belong to  2)  Self deception, where we hate what we really are and smokescreen our internal reality from even ourselves so that we don’t have to deal with it.

When I decided to give myself over to a belief in Jesus, I realized I had never quite stopped believing in Him as the Christ.  As the years went on, this foundational stance received earthquakes in the form of either seeming evidence to the contrary or hard knocks on the spiritual head where my assumptions found comfort.  In other words, my self-perception and God-perception received pretty regular shakeups, and I believe these were to keep me from being too comfortable with known “realities” which were based on illusions I concocted for my personal preferences.  Some of the shaking times I saw coming from years away, others surprised me, shocked me and shook me into thinking about the “truth” (I put that into italics because it was subjective and not necessarily factual) I assumed.

The journey from self-deception to God’s light of reality is story of a constant re-evaluation.  We don’t see ourselves for who we truly are in Christ or as sinners.  I don’t think we could handle it if we did, however, because our spirit’s weakened state would be completely broken by the knowledge.  Instead we are given small bites of truth in order to lead us to the safety of the Spirit’s hospital, where God works on us in surgical ways as well as rehabilitating our atrophied faith muscle and spiritual being.

But back to our text above.

I like Jesus.  I know I’m supposed to love Him, and I do, but I really like how He’s portrayed in the Gospels and elsewhere.  I decided to throw my eggs all in one basket and go gungho for one God.  I’ve bet all my money on red-3, set my heart on heaven and taken leave of my earthly senses in order to make heavenly sense things.  I’m sure much of what I say on this blog sounds strange even to believers because my take on Scripture is just as skewed as theirs, but that can’t be helped.  I’m done with tradition for the sake of tradition and will only adhere to those things that create an atmosphere where God is made real and vital.

I am always with Him, talking to Him, conscious of Him and aware of His presence.  Even when I sin, I don’t get a break because He’s in the back of my mind waiting for me to get over my foolishness and turn to Him.  Yet I don’t turn to Him out of guilt or mere conviction of my misdeed, rather I’m attached at the heart to my Master and I don’t want nor will I let go of Him.  I have no desire to go anywhere else.

I want to see and know Jesus.

Jonny’s Proverbs

April 8, 2009

Hate does only what is expedient for right now; love strives to do what is best for all seasons.

The Hillbilly 10 Commandments

April 6, 2009

I loved these.  (Go here to read them.)