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.)

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

Eleven

I have this recording that I made waaaaay back when I was 11. I had one of those old 70’s cassette recorders, and it was important for me to leave a “witnessing tape” so that if I died my family and friends would listen to it and all come to Jesus. Anyway, there’s this point during the first few minutes when I say, “I lived in sin until I was 11.” That is both hilarious and, in a way, so sad to me now. Because man, was I wrong!! There were 30 years of addiction and pain that lay ahead. My intentions were good, but I had the perspective of an 11 old year old child. Not necessarily good or bad, just limited by my own personal context at the time. I couldn’t see past 11.

When we as men and women chose the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil over Life and intimacy with our creator, sin invaded like cancer. It warped the very fabric of creation, bringing death and separation from God, and forever altered our perspective about God and ourselves. We fell for the lie that we could be like God without God. And from that time until the present mankind has set up governments, programs, institutions, religions, and whatever else you can think of to fashion himself into the being he has only a distorted notion of that he should be. The way seems good, but the end brings only more death. Enter Jesus. (I have to be honest, when I wrote that I thought of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica.)

Through the redemptive work of Jesus: his life, death, and resurrection; we have been reconciled to God. In the person of Jesus, God has provided healing for our brokenness. Salvation is so much more than our proverbial bible-belt prayer, “Lord, I confess I’m a sinner. Please save me now.” It is holistic in its “efficaciousness,” affecting every facet of our being. Through intimacy with Jesus we have been invited to come and take part in the Life and Love of God. In Jesus, we become a “new creation,” all things become new. The Spirit of God actually indwells us and begins to change us, molding us into the image of Jesus. And as we grow in the Lord, our perspective which sin had left warped and distorted begins to give way to a new one. Or at least it should.

Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda…One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, ‘Would you like to get well? (John 5: 5,6 NLT)

I used to read this passage and think to myself that it was strange that the Lord would ask the paralyzed man if he wanted to be well. After all, who wouldn’t want to be healed of an infirmity that had rendered them an invalid? What person in their right mind would want to remain in a paralyzed condition? The truth is that sometimes, as crazy as it may seem, even after we come to Jesus we can actually remain at ease with our “disease.” Sadly, many of us are guilty of not allowing Jesus complete access to the pain and hurts we have encountered in life. When this happens, our thoughts and behavior can be dictated by the flesh, and we often feel justified in using our infirmity to manipulate others. I wonder if perhaps that is why Jesus asked the man lying beside the pool of Bethesda that day if he wanted to be healed. Maybe the man had actually begun to see his illness as a way to manipulate others into giving him money. Have you ever met someone who has actually begun to “romance” their pain and hurt? It’s crazy, but sometimes, we can prefer the familiarity of our suffering over the prospect of being made whole.

Maybe part of the reason we as believers are experiencing such angst and frustration in this “kairos moment” in history is due to the fact that we need to allow God to change our perspective from the natural to the spiritual. Perhaps the truth is that while by this time we should be mature sons and daughters of God, we have been held back by desires and thoughts that originate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil- our old, carnal thought patterns and perspectives. Could it be that we, all of us, have been largely deceived by that which seems good, but is in reality a fruit from that old tree? We can’t and shouldn’t be freaked out by the world’s reactions to current events, but our perspectives as lovers of Jesus are to be shaped by his Spirit within us. And I guess ultimately, it is by the Spirit that each of us can discern our own motivation.

When I was a boy, I couldn’t see past 11. I had all kind of thoughts, but my perspective was that of a child. May I ask some questions without coming across as insensitive? Are we as Christians honestly coming before the Lord, laying down our hurt, our pain, and everything we think we know? Are we willing to allow the Spirit to expand our perspective beyond the natural? Are we willing to see beyond our own ethnicity and personal context? It may be impossible with man, but not with God. Let’s grow up in him together!!

 

 

 

 

Eye Of The Pneuma

He [God] said [to Abraham], “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

[And Jesus said to the Jews who argued with him],”Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”

My wife and I are walking through a “strange” time right now. Questions concerning ministry and employment, just what and where God has for us are foremost on our minds. Anyway, we both woke up around 4:30 this morning, and neither of us could go back to sleep. So we prayed, snuggled for a while, and then figured we’d go ahead and get out of bed since it was obvious that we were up for good. I put on a pot of coffee and told her I was heading out for my morning “ralk.” (That’s when you run a little bit and walk a little bit, run a little, walk a little, etc…)

As I made my way through my course, I began to pray and still my heart before the Lord. I was thinking about everything that’s happened over the past little while, the conversations I’d had with my wife and others, wondering what was going on, trying to believe that God was “up to something.” Then, in my heart, I heard the Spirit whisper,” Abraham saw my day and rejoiced.” Now, at first glance, you’re probably wondering what in the world that has to do with the situation at hand. But the statement prompted me to ask a question: “How did Abraham see?” Now we’re getting somewhere.

One of the most challenging things for us who live in physical bodies, who occupy time and space, who walk in the “natural,” and interpret life empirically is to see in the spirit. And so much of what Jesus said/says is multidimensional. During his “earthly ministry” he consistently made statements that could only be interpreted through means of spiritual revelation (“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life..”). Think about it: “Destroy this temple and I’ll raise it up in three days.” Or, “Ask me for the living water and you’ll never thirst again.” Or how about, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” This is a great one, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you.” Was Jesus speaking of the physical temple that stood in Jerusalem at that time? Was “the leaven of the Pharisees some kind of rank bread the disciples needed to avoid? Would he produce this living water from some secret underground spring? Was he offering his body for some kind of weird “Walking Dead” cannibalistic cult ritual? No, these are just a few examples of things we have to “see” by the Spirit.

Jesus is still challenging us to live by the Spirit today. And while it is true that revelation is something that we receive by the Spirit of God, frequently it is in those situations that make absolutely no sense or even run contrary to the natural mind that the Spirit uses to bring understanding. And that’s where the “Abraham saw my day and rejoiced.” took me this morning.

We know from reading the Bible that it never entered into God’s heart to demand human sacrifice from men: “They [ancient Israel]have built pagan shrines at Topheth, the garbage dump in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, and there they burn their sons and daughters in the fire. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing!” So, God’s testing of Abraham was not to see whether or not Abraham would really sacrifice Isaac. Besides, if God is truly God, he already knew what Abe would do. (Perhaps we need a more complete understanding of God’s “testing” or “tempting” as some translations regretfully put it.) I believe that it was here, in this strange and even hurtful context, that Abraham gained a revelation of what God intended to do through Jesus, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. That which made no sense in the natural brought increased intimacy, illumination, and joy.

So, where does that leave us? What’s the application as they say? As children of God we can rest assured of the kind intentions that the Lord has towards us in Christ Jesus. He is committed to bring us through the entirety of our lives and present us to himself, holy and blameless. His desire is that we might have spiritual wisdom and insight so that we might grow in our knowledge of God, that our hearts will be flooded with light so that we can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called.” And we would do well to remember that wisdom, insight, and knowledge are often derived from revelation that has been produced in patient endurance and trust in the midst of circumstances that make little to no sense in our natural minds. Circumstances that provide us with spiritual eyes through which we may “see and rejoice.”