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.

 

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.

“Puttin’ On The Ritz”

Gene Wilder, a childhood favorite of mine, died recently. Social media was inundated with condolences and various memories shared by fans of Mr. Wilder. I also couldn’t help but notice that there were a great many articles and posts which  said things like, “Now, you can go be with Gilda.” Gilda Radner, a brilliant comedienne in her own right, had been married to Gene “back in the day.” For fans, theirs was the romance so many only dream of. The trouble with all those wonderful posthumous sentiments was that Gene had been married a few times after Gilda and had been with his current wife for 25 years.  I had some thoughts and wanted to share them with you.

Our culture is one in which celebrities are “worshipped.” We want to know what kind of clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the food they eat, who they love, etc… We want to feel as if we really know them, that we share some sort of connection with them. We think to ourselves, “If I could only meet _, I know we’d be friends.” But these fantastical meetings rarely if ever take place, and as familiar as we may think we are with them ,we don’t really know them. And yet, we seem drawn to our Idols by some mystical compulsion that resides somewhere deep in our “psyche.”

I believe that celebrity worship is a direct result of the “sin mutation” that affects us all, taking something that God placed inside of us, then twisting it. You see, we have an innate longing to be known and to know someOne larger than life. That’s because we are created to enjoy intimacy with God, the ultimate celebrity if you will. We are meant for something fantastic and “mythical.” We are more than doctors, lawyers, housewives, plumbers, students, etc… We are the direct result of the loving, kind intentions of an all powerful, holy God. A God, perfect and in need of nothing, decided that he would not be God without us. And despite the warping , perversion, and death that sin has wrought  in all of us, we” instinctively” know that we are created for something “more.”

In Gene Wilder’s movie Young Frankenstein, young Dr. Fronk-en-steen continues his legendary grandfather’s work, reanimating a dead body. And the comedy that ensues as Wilder’s character (along with an awesome supporting cast) tries to keep his experiment from going public is classic. But what you and I have been invited to share in by our creator is mind-blowing! Not only has a loving God brought his creation back to life through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we have been adopted into his family and made participants in the holy Triune love that has eternally belonged to Father, Son, and Spirit. And furthermore, he has made us partakes of his own divine nature and promises that when we see him we shall be LIKE HIM!!

We’re all intrigued by the bigger than life “stars” who shine so brightly in our culture, and I believe we are drawn to celebrity and fame because we are created by God to experience intimacy with the ultimate Superstar- the “bright morning star.” It is Christ alone who can satisfy the desire of the human heart that yearns to know someone greater than ourselves, to be a part of something extraordinary.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. (Talk about “Puttin’ on the Ritz”!!)

 

 

Glory

“[Father,]the glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

I’ve been thinking about “glory” a lot lately. Whenever I’m in the Word it seems like I’m always being drawn to passages about glory. Or, I’ll go somewhere and someone is talking about glory. My wife & I led worship at a conference last Saturday evening, and guess what; yep, the message that night was about- glory. In the past, when I’ve contemplated glory it has had to do with God’s Shekinah Glory or “Christ in you the hope of glory” or “Man, we got on up in the glory today at church.” For me, glory has always been some illusive, intangible thing that God has, and every now and then we get a little taste of it. Then finally one day we’ll be with him and literally see his glory. It had never really dawned on me that, in Christ, we are partakers of glory. Not only later, but right now.

One of the wonders, and an “aspect” of the glory of the Triune God is the “agape-knowledge” shared by Father, Son, and Spirit. Within God there is complete disclosure, intimate knowledge, mutual adoration, and unified participation- God is love. And this love, this intimate knowledge, this glory has been given to us by God, in Jesus. “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “In fact, it is this knowledge, this revelation of God through/in Christ that IS eternal life itself (John 17:3). Not only later, but right now.

This glory of the “agape-knowledge” of God does not exist merely for our personal benefit. Another aspect of the glory is that as the Son came to earth and glorified the Father through the manifestation of his name, we too as partakers of glory declare the reality of God in Jesus. As the world beheld the glory of God in the person of Jesus, so it is that we who are the fullness of him who fills all in all make known the manifold wisdom of God, the eternal purpose that has been realized in Christ Jesus our Lord. Not only later, but right now.

“But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.  To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

 

Golden Years?

 “Jeroboam thought to himself, ‘Unless I am careful, the kingdom will return to the dynasty of David. When these people go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple of the Lord, they will again give their allegiance to King Rehoboam of Judah. They will kill me and make him their king instead.’

” So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people, “It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!”

He placed these calf idols in Bethel and in Dan—at either end of his kingdom. But this became a great sin, for the people worshiped the idols, traveling as far north as Dan to worship the one there.”

One of the oldest tricks in the book is the consolidation of political power by manipulation of religious systems. And strangely enough, God’s people have fallen for it time and time again. I believe we are witnessing this same deception play out in American politics, and Christians are eating it up. We as followers of Jesus need to realize that while God most definitely works in and through the nations of this world, there is a danger that like ancient Israel, we too will find ourselves drawn away from following Jesus, going instead after “idols.”

I believe that the most dangerous form of politics is that which appears to shape its ideology around biblical theology. Christians have swallowed conservatism without even chewing it to see what it tastes like. And I wonder if many of us are not being deceived by those who hold to a form of godliness, but deny its power. We hate those accursed liberals, the baby killers, the gay rights activists, etc…, and we fear that they are destroying our nation. But I believe that it is the appearance of piety without true intimacy with Jesus which poses the more lethal threat. We must never forget that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against evil spiritual forces that disguise themselves as angels of light.

My dear brothers and sisters let us hold fast to our Lord Jesus. May we come to know that the answer we seek does not lie in any political ideology, but in the grace, mercy, and love of our God. We must be being continuously filled with his Spirit, asking for wisdom and discernment that we may rightly interpret national and global events. For the kingdom of this world (even America) will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. The Spirit and the Bride say come!

I Know A Man

I know a man who knew from the time he was a little boy that there was a God who loved him and that he was called to share His word.

I know a man who as a child experienced abuse and abandonment.

I know a man who as an adolescent began to turn from the Light and descend into darkness.

I know a man who abandoned his family, his mother, his brother, and his own children.

I know a man who was a thief.

I know a man who was a liar.

I know a man who was a murderer, taking the life of his own unborn child.

I know a man who stayed locked in a room for days, staying high, drunk, ranting and raving like a madman.

I know a man who has participated in unspeakable acts of perversion.

I know a man who could not buy food to eat.

I know a man who sat in a parking lot for two days, with no money for a spare tire, until a stranger showed him kindness.

I know a man who in his brokenness was forsaken, written off, and left for dead…

BUT:                                                                              

I know a Man who is God.

I know a Man who bled and died.

I know a Man who is eternal life.

I know a Man who sought out the wanderer and cared for his wounds.

I know a Man who said to the forsaken, “I love you; you are Mine.”

I know a Man who forgave the liar, the thief, the murderer.

I know a Man who fed the hungry.

I know a Man who said to the immoral, “I don’t condemn you. I have come to set you free.”

I know a Man who said, “I will NEVER leave you, abuse you, or abandon you.”

I know a Man who heals broken families.

I know a Man who restores to the hardened the tenderness, awe, and wonder of a child-like heart.

I know a Man they call Jesus.