20 March 2010

What Is Untamed, Unregulated, and Unchanged?

On Time

Fly envious Time,
till thou run out thy race,
Call on the lazy leaden-stepping hours,
Whose speed is but the heavy Plummets pace;
And glut thy self with what thy womb devours,
Which is no more then what is false and vain,
And merely mortal dross;
So little is our loss,
So little is thy gain.

For when as each thing bad thou hast entomb'd,
And last of all, thy greedy self consum'd,
Then long Eternity shall greet our bliss
With an individual kiss;
And Joy shall overtake us as a flood,
When every thing that is sincerely good
And perfectly divine,
With Truth, and Peace, and Love shall ever shine
About the supreme Throne
Of him, to whose happy-making sight alone,
When once our heav'nly-guided soul shall clime,
Then all this Earthy grossness quit,
Attir'd with Stars,* we shall for ever sit,
Triumphing over Death, and Chance,
and thee, O Time.
  • John Milton (some spelling is up-dated)
* Revelation 12:1

15 March 2010

It Might Be True For You But It's Killing You

On Resentments and Grudges

  Unfortunately (for me), I am well-acquainted with this topic: partly because I am human, and partly because I have chosen paths as an adult which often alienate me from being part of the larger, more popular paths. I have chosen those paths carefully, after long examination and not on impulse, with knowledge that my choices would not make me popular nor always welcome in the best circles. I chose my paths with two things in view: sound-minded living and eternity.
  C. S. Lewis writes on resentment: “[resentment] is only pleasurable as a relief from humiliation [or, I would add, embarrassment]—or an alternative to humiliation [or embarrassment]. It is an itch “that requests to be scratched.” But it is a momentary and deceptive relief. “But it is only a pleasure-not by itself-but only by comparison to its context.” [That of impending humiliation/embarrassment.] And so, Lewis calls it a “horrible pleasure.”
  Resentments and grudges are of many forms, and they arise on many sides and from sources (some are surprising). Grudges are not typically based entirely on sense, or logic, for they stem from emotions, however, they utilize reason and factual information to create the “personal reality” called opinion. Typically that which was originally sourced in feelings of dislike, hate, jealousy or anger undergoes a hardening process. Attitudes such as dislike, hate, jealousy, bitterness or anger slowly or rapidly harden into a grudge.
  It's important to make the grudge respectable—in the right circles, exposing our grudges as such is unpalatable. We don't really think about it but it a reactive, unintentional pattern. By our thought-life we organize our resentments/ grudges so it takes on the shape of an opinion. The organizational process which produced it is one of sorting and selecting facts that will support such an opinion. Not only is an opinion respectable, but it is unchallengeable. Our carefully selected supporting facts which bolster our grudge/opinion, serve as a kind of cape, for they shroud the true nature of what lies beneath.
Indeed, we must be careful not to expose our carefully nursed grudges to the clear light of day. To do this we must be circumspect, cynical or both. We need to make our lives such that we can live blissfully, grudges intact, with people who share the same grudges. For to preserve resentments and grudges best, they are best left unexamined. As life goes, it is not normally possible to live this way, so we have a our offensive position: to be cynical with people who hold opposing opinions. Ridicule drowns out the strongest reason.
  Only the all-powerful, limitless, and loving Christ offers us freedom from resentment and grudges of all kinds, justified and unjustified. Of course, the problem lies with us, not with Christ. We prefer the coddling comfort of old grudges, which like old shoes, are most comfortable since they are perfectly molded to our cockeyed way of walking and stance. It is only when the dissonance gets too great between our desire to be loving and kind and the inner reality of our own thoughts/attitudes that pulls us up short. It is at the moment of recognition that we find ourselves simultaneously at a crossroads, or rather, where the roads split; we cannot travel both roads at the same time. We cannot be a Christ-follower and Christ-lover and simultaneously (and with full knowledge) harbor the weeds of grudges and resentments. The Spirit of Christ burns up chaff such as these. He does not force us down His road, but He beckons us and leads with sweet aroma following Him.
It's not emotionally deadening to hold incomplete knowledge, but it is killing you if your arrogances are strangling you. Examine your deepest resentments-you have much to gain, and nothing to lose but your bad attitude. And, ask Christ, “How shall I proceed now?” You may be surprised at the emotional Spring-cleaning.
“…I tell you,
ask, and it will be given to you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives,
and the one who seeks finds,
and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;
or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11: 9-13 ESV
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Rev 3:20 ESV

03 March 2010

The Landscape of Prayer

To say God is eternally creative sounds-almost trite-of course He is. To understand this as a reality is overwhelming in its potential for transforming your life.
Let’s assume you pray, and let’s also assume that you believe that God hears the prayers of His children. If this is the case, then you likely believe that His answers will come. The question that one normally harbors is when? Will you be like Joseph and go years without an answer, or will you get an immediate answer?
But, there is another, larger question which we ought to examine in ourselves as we pray for His answers. Are we counting on His answers to our prayers to be a perfect reflection of our own requests?
If we are, then we might not recognize His answer. Why? because rather than appearing as an answer to prayer, He will answer us as His own children but from His own understanding which, of course, is omniscient. And because it is omniscient, it's formidable!
One thing we ought never forget in our prayers is how we can never fully know is how little we know about own limited understanding of His Creative Self!  We  know intellectually that His creative 'mind' never flags or falters; nor does it replicate what He has done in the past. Do we know that as a heart-reality? 
And, yes, His creative answers can invade my little world of prayer.
The question is do I dare to believe that? do I dare to pray this way?
Do you?

What You Think Is What You Feel!

On Community Living - Living in Community Takes More Than Looking Out for Your Feelings...
Living in Christian community requires each person take intentional (deliberate) care for other people. Serving each other 'works' in putting things right in so many people's life, for love is serving.
However, service when it becomes the end, it has become a monstrous Master, catapulting people to heights of arrogance from which they may never recover due to the blindness of pride.
How susceptible we are to being sucked down into the undertow when someone talks of his/her 'my feelings!'
How is it then that it can be possible to live in community, having 'respect' for your feelings? We need to have a standard to measure “respect for feelings.” What is the answer? And more than that, what motivates me to have respect for your feelings, or you for mine?
There are those people who dare to insist that you need to respect my feelings because: ' I believe [i.e. feel], I did this for glory of God...'
The reality is that if you really wish to do something for the glory of God, your feelings will matter less and Christ's "feelings" will matter more.
So what is the answer to this condundrum? There is no earthly help--we really do need to turn to the truth of the scriptures for our standard-and let them search our heart:
"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus..."
(Philippians 2-1-5 English Standard V)
"If with the tongues of men and of angels I speak, and have not love, I have become brass sounding, or a cymbal tinkling;
and if I have prophecy, and know all the secrets, and all the knowledge, and if I have all the faith, so as to remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing;
and if I give away to feed others all my goods, and if I give up my body that I may be burned in sacrificial giving, and have not love, I am profited nothing.
Love is long-suffering, it is kind, the love doth not envy, the love doth not vaunt itself, is not puffed up, doth not act unseemly, doth not seek its own things, is not provoked, doth not impute evil,
Rejoiceth not over the unrighteousness, and rejoiceth with the truth-it all things beareth, it believeth all, it hopeth all, it endureth all.
Love will never cease; and whether [there be] prophecies, they shall become useless; whether tongues, they shall cease; whether knowledge, it shall become useless; for in part we know, and in part we prophecy; and when that which is perfect may come, then that which [is] in part shall become useless.
When I was a babe, as a babe I was speaking, as a babe I was thinking, as a babe I was reasoning, and when I have become a man, I have made useless the things of the babe;
for we see now through a mirror obscurely, and then face to face; now I know in part, and then I shall fully know, as also I was known; [See 1 John 3 below] and now there doth remain faith, hope, agape -- these three; and the greatest of these [is] agape."
(1 Corinthians 13 - Young's Literal Translation)
"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!
Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be
but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. "
(I John 3:1-3)

Martha Re-Examined

If you've been a Christian for a while, you likely know what the "Martha Syndrome" is. Succinctly, it's falling into the trap of worry and distractions which steal from recognizing God and giving Him due place in life.
I'd like to re-examine Martha later in the gospels - in John 11- because if we examine her here, I wonder if Martha made more progress towards faith than is normally assigned to her. Look at her encounter with Jesus after Lazarus died in John 11, beginning at verse 1:
John 11:1-44
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick." When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it."
Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. Then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea." "But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?" Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light." After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up." His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." ... On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life.
He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."

It seems outstanding that Martha responds not only to Jesus' question of her understanding of his mission, but that she connects his mission with his being.
By contrast, look at other places where Jesus is affirmed as the Son of God-pay attention to the circumstance surrounding the affirmations:

John 1:32-34 - John saw the sign of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus' baptism and he declared: "Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God."
Matt 14:25-33 - when Peter walked on the water, the disciples were afraid and thought he was a ghost. And, the worshipped him.
14:28 "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." (Matt 14:8-33)
John 1:47-50 - Nathanael - "When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false." "How do you know me?" Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you." Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." Jesus said, "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that."
John 20:30-32 - The end of the book of John-a summary of the purpose of the gospel of John. "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

In John 11 we read that Martha believed 1) Jesus was the Life, 2) Jesus was the Son of God.
In the passages listed right above, of all the people who were recorded as stating Jesus is the "Son of God, " Martha is the only one who stated this without having seen a 'sign' or miraculous event.
I causes me to at least wonder why it is that Martha undestood who Christ was without the benefit of a miraculous event. ? In this respect she is similar to those believers of whom Jesus said, "Blessed rather are those who believe but have not seen." In this respect, Martha is the anti-thesis to (doubting but honest) Thomas.
It seems that faith, that attribute so highly esteemed in the Bible, was hers. No, she was  not perfect (as we can see from the previous mention of her in Luke and from the rest of this chapter)-but she was believing. "Be not weak in faith, but be strong in believing."
So I wonder from the passage in John 11 and because Martha, Mary and Lazarus were called  "loved of Jesus," if we are misinterpreting her progress from being a distracted person to a strong disciple? I wonder if  she merits a different reputation.
Goodness, we all know disciples is not always right. But we also know that progress in faith makes for growth as a disciple.