Mystic

mys·ti·cal: spiritually allegorical or symbolic; transcending human understanding; inspiring a sense of spiritual mystery, awe, and fascination; of or relating to mystics or religious mysticism…

I rarely listen to the radio anymore. With Google Play, Pandora, YouTube, CDs, etc…, I just don’t have the need or desire. Anyway, while I rarely listen to the radio, I hardly EVER listen to “Christian Radio.” Today, I was reminded once again why I do not. Coming through the air-waves was some pastor,  somewhere, warning his congregation against “Christian Mysticism.” He exhorted them to beware of such things as “practicing God’s presence,” sitting quietly and waiting on God (meditating), getting yourself in a position to hear from God (he said something about brain-waves…), and pretty much anything along these lines.

Strangely enough, the one thing he DID do, was hold up the Bible  (and his denomination’s paradigms, by the way) as the only way to truly “hear” from God. I couldn’t help but see the irony: he encouraged his congregants to get truth from a book, a holy book that an invisible God uses to communicate his truths to mankind- sounds pretty mystical to me!

You know, I spent a lot of money and a lot of time in seminary getting my degree in Biblical Studies/Theology; I believe that what the Bible claims about itself is the absolute truth.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

But I want to say something very carefully: the Bible is not God. You can know the Bible, quote the Bible, teach the Bible, and pray prayers from the Bible, but still have no true knowledge or relationship with God whatsoever.

When Jesus was teaching, at one point he told his listeners, ” You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” With that one statement, he declared that true biblical knowledge, true theology, true revelation an life is relational. And how are we who are over 2,000 years removed from Jesus’ physical presence on earth supposed to have an abiding intimacy with him? How are we to be relational?  Well, it is through the Spirit who lives within us. Again, that sounds pretty mystical to me!

Consider the following:

Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

…we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal…

…so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

I could go on, but those are just a few verses that immediately come to mind. And again- it sounds pretty mystical to me!!

I think I do understand to some degree the motivation behind the warnings of many “Christian Leaders” regarding “Christian Mysticism,” but I’d like to offer a word of exhortation if I may:  Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds(Pastors), and Teachers are called to EQUIP the Church, not CONTROL the Church. And effective equipping involves understanding that each member of the Body of Christ is indwelt by the Spirit of God or as the Apostle John said, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.” Care for the flock, feed the flock, Shepherd the flock, but understand that each of us have received the oil of God’s Spirit and are being led by that same Spirit of Truth. Do not let your desire for the well being of God’s people become that which quenches the Spirit.

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

(Sounds pretty mystical to me.)

 

 

 

 

Jesus, Social Media and Me

I’m up front with everyone, it’s understood that I use social media to accomplish a specific agenda: sharing Jesus by every available means. But this morning I felt the Spirit calling me out, challenging me as to the authenticity of my claim. Is sharing the love of God really my motivation?

It’s easy to deceive ourselves (at least it is for me) about a great many things. I can convince myself that what I’m doing is for God when the reality is that I’m really trying to fulfill a need for acceptance- receiving an “attaboy” from men instead of God. On Twitter I see the popular, hip preachers who daily provide their followers with cool tweets, and there’s a part of me that wants to be a part of the club. While I can’t pretend to judge the motives of these guys, I most certainly am required to judge my own. And lately, they’ve been mixed at best.

I believe that social media is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, we can potentially touch more people than we would ever physically be able to encounter. But on the other hand, it can feed the narcissistic, megalomaniac tendencies we all have to some degree. We can share  the Gospel with the click of a mouse, but we can also become addicted to “likes,” “retweets,” and “mentions.” Or maybe it’s just me-I know how sick and twisted I can be.

I’ve been thinking of some things the Apostle Paul said to the church in Corinth about “ministers and ministries.”

 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

We find ourselves in the day of hash-tag theology and clever quips. Social-media enables us to feed our innate need for validation, and would be prophets and teachers clamor about seeking to impress with fancy talk and highfilutin prose. In times such as these, I find myself falling increasingly more in love with the One who, while being the embodiment of all truth and wisdom, used mustard seeds, nets, lost coins and farmers to explain heaven’s grandest mysteries.Yeah, I’m going to continue to use social media to share Jesus. But I’m also going to pay more heed to Paul’s words, praying that I will be conscious of the REALITY the verses cited above reveal. If I may be so presumptuous as to tell you what I think the bottom line is concerning Jesus and social media, it is this: folks don’t need us to be cool and clever, they need us to speak the truth in love.

 

He Sees

This is going to sound very weird to some of you, but for the longest time I’ve had this weird, negative vibe thing going with one of the names of God that we learn back in the book of Genesis: Jehovah-Jireh or God provides/sees. I would like to blame it on the pseudo-religiosity I saw and imitated in my youth. I’d love to blame it on the fact that the Name had its own song, and people would always say, “God will provide brother. He is Jehovah-Jireh!” (They meant well, I know they did. Shoot, I meant well too.)  Truth is, I just simply didn’t have any idea of what I was talking about.

There’s a difference between repeating religious dogma and verbiage and knowing something from an intimacy that has developed through time walking with God. I would sing the song and agree that yes, God does provide. But I didn’t own it. I didn’t truly know it from personal experience. And now, with a perspective that only time can afford, I can say with experiential knowledge, “Yes, our God is Jehovah-Jireh.”

Like Abraham who “coined the phrase,” more often than not, it is in time of trial and great need that we come into intimate communion with the God who sees and provides. The problem is that we tend to avoid the places in which God would choose to reveal himself to us. To our own detriment we seek deliverance from the “valley of death” when it is the very tool by which God would bring us into greater revelation of  himself. As we walk through uncertain times, enduring hardship, and the pain of not being able to see; we come to know the God who does see and provides.

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.

“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

 

The Best Part

“Seems that I was busy doing something close to nothing
But different than the day before…”

(“Raspberry Beret”- Prince)

If you’ve been around “church” long enough you’ve probably been told all about the simplicity of just enjoying the presence of the Lord. And I know you’ve heard your share of sermons from Luke 10: “Martha, you’re so anxious and worried about many things. Mary has chosen the better part.” But please, indulge me a bit because the idea of “the best part” and the sweetness of his presence has taken on new life for me as of late. And I wanted to pass it along.

The Lord has my wife & I in a different kind of place right now. Without giving you all the particulars, let me just say that I (and her too probably) have been totally out of my comfort zone. And to be quite honest, I haven’t known exactly what to do. But I figured I BETTER DO SOMETHING!! So, all my “figuring”  wound up producing a lot of “what ifs,” “maybe I shoulds,” and “this could be disastrous” kind of stuff. Thank you Lord for your precious Holy Spirit!!

I guess I’d better say right out front that I’m not encouraging you to be lazy, quit your job, and let God feed you by having birds bring you crumbs of bread. But I do want to tell you that God would not have us herded like cattle into a pen or driven by fear into a course of action. Instead, we are to be led by his Spirit. And so often, we get so busy with being busy or thinking that we have to be busy that we forget the best part- the sweetness of his presence. Yes, there is purpose and intention. There is a race and a mission and a task and ministry, but the best part lies in the simplicity of abiding in/with him. And the irony of it all is that it is that “abiding” out of which everything else- the purpose, intention, ministry, and LIFE ITSELF- flows.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Do you think he may have meant exactly what he said? Apart from me, you can do nothing. Sure, with determination and hard work, anyone can have some measure of success, the world does it everyday. But that which possesses eternal substance and significance flows out of our abiding union in Jesus. It is the Spirit that gives life. And before you’re tempted to think that your relationship with Jesus is somehow disconnected from your intention or your purpose or your effort or your JOB; for you my precious bother and sister, there is no such division. Apart from him, we can do nothing. NO-THING.

Keep up the hard work my friend, but remember that it is in your abiding intimacy in and with him that everything else will come. The sweetness of his presence is the best part.

Racial Deception and The Church

 “But now you have been united with Christ Jesus…For Christ himself has brought peace to us… that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility…”

For most of us today, the centuries old issue regarding Jew & Gentile holds no relevance. But as I was reading in Ephesians this morning, I realized that our culture has a very similar problem. And  it occurred to me that we who call ourselves Christians apparently believe very little of what the Apostle Paul had to say about such matters. How do I know this? I can tell you with one word: Racism.

How sad it is today that the body of Christ is divided along racial lines. The Spirit is surely grieved as he witnesses, especially among those who call themselves “leaders,” the carnal pride and strife that is on display as we mistakenly derive and assert our identity according to the flesh. We publish articles and post “tweets” biting and devouring one another in the name of justice and equality not understanding that such behavior reveals that we are not being led by God’s Spirit, nor in possession of his wisdom. Arrogantly, we are instead operating in the realm of fleshly, even demonically inspired influences. Woe to you self-proclaimed leaders and ministers who cause even one of these little ones to stumble, following after and imitating you as you serve the god of your appetite.

The reason for the racism we see on display in the Body of Christ is due to the fact that we neither believe, understand, nor appreciate the fact that in the man Jesus God has broken down the barriers of race. He has dissolved the carnal hostility between the races in the body of Jesus. In Christ, God has created one new man. We all are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. We simply don’t believe that together we are being built up as a dwelling place for God by the Spirit, the Church on display so that the manifold wisdom of God might be revealed to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. Instead of being a fragrance of life, our fleshly indulgence is a stench of death that gives birth to nothing but more separation and division.

The answer to our problem is really very simple. It’s called repentance. It is when we are willing to turn from our sin. We must allow the Spirit of God to change our perspective from a carnal one into a spiritual one. And it is then, as we are strengthened by his Spirit, that we will comprehend the full dimensions of the love of Jesus and be filled with the fullness of God. Then, we will walk in a manner worthy of our calling, with a humble heart and gentleness and patience, bearing with one another in love, passionately maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

He Brings Me Back

“The Lord is my shepherd…He restores my soul.”

We all get tired. Even in “well-doing” we can simply grow weary. The weariness usually leads to frustration, and then, if you’re not careful, you can start to “wander off.” We begin to think that God has forgotten about us, that he has left us to ourselves and moved on. All the things we thought he spoke to us remain unfulfilled, and bitterness threatens to corrupt our hearts and imagination. We say to ourselves, “Perhaps it would be better if I just went…” I don’t know about you, but I have just “went…” But He brought me back!!

Really, that’s what “He restores my soul” means: He brings me back  . When he wrote Psalm 23, David was thinking of the Lord as his shepherd ,something David himself knew a lot about as he too had been a shepherd. He thought of the way a good shepherd cares for his flock. He reflected on the way that sheep are prone to stray and get themselves “out of wack.” And he knew that he himself could be like one of those sheep. But he had also learned that the Lord was the ultimate shepherd, ready, willing, and able to come to the rescue of one of his own.

Listen, God does not hate you. You have not taken him by surprise, nor freaked him out by your behavior. He is intimately acquainted with you and knows you better than you know yourself. Even now, his goodness and mercy are chasing you down!! He longs to pour the fresh oil of his precious Spirit all over your life. Don’t fall victim to the guilt and shame that would keep you separated from the Shepherd and Lover of your soul. You don’t have to be afraid anymore. He has given his life for you, how will he not now give you all things? He brings you back!!

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.

 

 

Under Pressure

“But comprehend this, in the last days, at precise moments, various seasons (kairos time) of intense pressure will come. ..” (2 Timothy 3:1a Fuller Translation)

I believe that we are, right now, in the midst of one of the “kairos moments” of pressure that the Spirit warned us would occurr as this age draws to a close. And I also believe that the Enemy is using social media and an inundation of news as catalysts in this “opportune” moment.

We must understand that the Enemy is seeking to distract and discourage followers of Jesus by soliciting strong, carnal, emotional responses regarding content that is being strategically presented through both social and news media. The constant stream of negative stimuli, whether it be political or social in nature, is part of a scheme designed to “wear down the saints” in this hour. There is an effort to bring about hopelessness and an overall emotionally pressurized sense of heaviness.

Distraction is also an objective in this season of pressure. As we feel the pressure of this season, the Enemy desires that we concentrate more on the things we see and hear instead of living life in/by the Spirit of God. We must not forget who(se) we are in this hour. We must not forget that which the Lord has called us to, both as individuals and as the corporate Body of Christ. We must remember that the “anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” And make no mistake, the pressure of this hour is being used to provoke carnal anger which distracts us from the things of God.

As Christians, we must never bury our heads in the sand or adopt an escapist mentality. But as we seek to minister the love of God to the world around us, we must also have wise, discerning hearts. It has been said that knowing that there is a trap is the sure way to avoid it. In this kairos season of pressure let us not be ignorant of the schemes of the devil, but by constant practice train our senses to discern between good and evil.