26 July 2011

Spiritual Anorexia

"Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward." was the advice given poor Job from one of his miserable comforters. Belief in God is not necessary to believe life is full of struggle, pain and woes. For many it is also full of work and achievemnt, pleaure, minor and major, and of variety.
I will identify myself as one of those people. Still, as full as life can be, and as painful, as it is, I marvel at the vacuous nature of satisying the creature within while ignoring the spiritual needs.
Like a muscle we naturally have, our disuse, our neglect of our spiritual needs turns us into spiritual anorexics. In some cases people live out their entire lives this way, calculating how to eat, sleep and live well. In reality, they are "running down the meter" and eventually, if they remain fortunate, simply peter out physically until the oblivion called death overtakes.
I think often of the writer G K Chesterton, for he was a man of our time, not quite our contemporary, but certainly a man of considerable stature in his own circles at his time.
He wrote a simple poem called "The Convert" which tells me that Chesterton had the fortitude and honesty to respond to Christ's simple injunction in Matthew 6:33: "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else..."
The Convert

After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white.
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead

The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.

 G. K. Chesterton 

21 July 2011

Off the Startingblocks Or Still in the Locker Room?

"Therefore, go and make _disciples_  of all the nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Jesus Christ, Matthew 28:19,20
If you're from a Christian background you have likely heard and or read these words. Have you looked closely at the command? 
I underscored the word disciples to emphasize it, notice he never said make converts, nor be someone I can be proud of. Nothing as easy or feeble as that, no. Christ wanted his followers to follow, study, mimic Him in quality of heart and head. Being a mere adherent is not the same; a disciple adds and removes behaviors, stays focused and learns as he goes, just as any one competing in sports or any discipline does.
Grasping for the right principles, keys, outcomes, or sensations does not bring you further along. Controversy over techniques which divide people into factions has no value at all in God's economy.
There are three telltale signs (for me) that a Christian is not working at becoming a disciple: 1 he does not read the Bible, or if he does he does not read it well (it is not a recipe book) 2 he does not understand how the Holy Spirit would operate in his own life today 3 (sadly) there is little fruit such as patience, love, joy, etc.
That is the analysis, what is answer? As the book's title puts it, there are no shortcuts to progress. I always recommend a three-pronged approach, the short version is to 1 remove obstructions and read and act on what the Bible says 2 ask God to teach you what you need to learn, and seek it out at the same time 3 love, love, love. Ask people, listen and give.
I think Lewis nailed it here in referencing the ancients:

"...for the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline and virtue. 
[while we try to discover] ...how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is technique...and in the practice of technique, [we] do the...impious." 

CS Lewis, "The Abolition of Man"

16 July 2011

Sin and Skinning a Cat

"...masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin—a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he [needed] washing. But ... [now we] not [only] deny the highly disputable water, but... the indisputable dirt. [Certain people dispute] original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved. [And other people claim] sinlessness, which they cannot see even in their dreams...they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street.
The strongest saints and the strongest sceptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument.
If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions.
He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do.
The new theologians [who deny the sin] think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat."

G K Chesterton, "Orthodoxy"

10 July 2011

Consider the Motion of Your Soul

The motion of your soul. "He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake." (Ps. 23:2)

In vain we lavish out our lives
To gather empty wind,
the choicest blessing earth can yield
will starve a hungry mind.

Come, and the Lord shall feed our souls 
with more substantial meat,
with such as saints in glory love,
with such as angels eat.
Come, and He'll cleanse our spotted souls,
and wash away our stains,
in the dear fountain that His Son
poured from His dying veins.

Our guilt shall vanish all away
though black as hell before;
our sins shall sink beneath the sea
and shall be found no more.

And, lest pollution should overspread
our inward powers again,
His Spirit shall bedew our souls
like purifying rain.

Our heart, that flinty stubborn thing,
that terrors cannot move,
that fears no threatenings of His wrath,
shall be dissolved by love.

Or He can take the flint away
that would not be refined,
and from the treasures of His grace
bestow a softer mind.

There shall His sacred Spirit dwell,
and deep engrave His law,
and every motion of our souls
to swift obedience draw.

Thus will He pour salvation down
and we shall render praise,
we, the dear people of His love,
and He, the God of Grace.

Issac Watts