Saturday, January 23, 2016

From Matchbox Cars to Matchless Grace

My most treasured Matchbox car was a red 1970 Chevrolet El Camino, slightly souped up. I thought Hot Wheels didn't look real enough. Plus, the wire axles always bent and stayed bent, crippling its otherwise straight, smooth glide. But Matchbox cars were more durable, realistic, and ideal for miniature pretend play, one of my favorite activities as a kid.

Life was about play back then, and it was fun to act it out in 1/64th scale. Terrible accidents were made cool and without damage because they happened in slow motion. I tumbled the car 2" to 4" off the ground, carefully with both hands, as if I was studying the g-forces at work, perfectly choreographed to engine racing and metal crashing sound effects that spurted from my twisted, amateur trumpet player combined tongue and lip rapid vibrations, sans trumpet. I'd imagine the sidewalk creases along the edges of each concrete pad as roadways, and the expansion cracks as construction zones and potholes. The more realism, the better. But still, it was just play.

Then I started to grow up and encounter construction zones and potholes in my life. The tumbles were no longer carefully orchestrated, and there were no do-overs or getting called to dinner as a snap back into reality. "I gotta go home now," turned into, "I gotta leave home now." Only, where was I going, especially when others around me didn't know the script playing in my head, or even want to play the same game?

There was a lot of trial and error. I discovered how much I can hurt and how little I knew about love. I began to experience emotions on a deeper level, such as despairing devastation and utter delight. (I since settled on a word to summarize this common polarity: bittersweet.)

I know I hurt people during my relational experiments with them. I didn't fully appreciate just how real they were at the time, nor how permanent the scars would be. I guess I hadn't fully disconnected from the pretend play. Well, that's not entirely true. I didn't want to fully disconnect from the pool of predictability and dive head first into the vein of vulnerability. But it was the only path back to the heart.

Over time, with help of certain friends, family, books, audio tapes, videos, prayer, therapists, counselors, pastors, and support groups, I became aware that I needed to let go of what no longer served a steadying purpose in my life, and embrace the ebb and flow of change. I had to mature. But how?

When I became serious about life, I realized it was a journey. Where this journey was leading was unknown at the start. That is why it is properly called an adventure. Mostly I defaulted to just trying to fit in, wondering why I didn't. Why was I different?

Sometimes, as each step revealed itself to be a choice of love, I took it. As I surrendered more frequently and bravely to those steps, life began to make sense, its destination gained clarity, and new experiences of increasingly greater joy I discovered in its path. I did not have to be concerned with the pursuit of happiness. Rather, I wanted to be engaged in the happiness of the pursuit.

My present pursuit is not what it was. I only vaguely knew then what I really wanted in my heart, which was to know God. Sometimes I thought I wanted what the world thought I should want. Many sources --religious, philosophical, historic, humanitarian, dogmatic, spiritual but not religious, new age, law of attraction-- actually hindered my search because I thought I'd find the answer among them. I did not.

Intellects and emotionally confident folks would massage my brain with their sure words and fantastic ideas. Yet, I'd discover my soul still barren, waiting to be born. What those folks had to offer seemed like chewing gum that had long since lost its flavor and never providing any real nourishment. I gave up seeking many times, sometimes for years.

My motto became, "Take what you like and leave the rest." I took nuggets when I could. The rest was mostly mud. Some of it was muddy nuggets. They meant well, very well, and helped a lot of people. They found an answer and clung to it, studied it, put it practice, and then taught others. I don't why, but I wanted deeper, more solid answers. So I kept asking, seeking, and knocking.

No, my present pursuit is not what it used to be. My resolve to know God has grown stronger than ever now, and most rewarding, especially since I learned He wants to be known. Now the clarity of my destination, the reason for my journey, the cause of joy in my heart, and the rest promised for my soul is unbounded by His word. By choice, I humbly submit to His truth, His reality. His truth has set me free indeed. His grace is far more glorious than I could have imagined. Having experienced all kinds of ups and downs in this life, do I still wish to know God? Absolutely! More than ever!

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

My Private Prayer - An Introduction

Dear Father,

The power of Your love can save souls. The power of Your grace can transform lives. I will mediate on Your love so that my cup overflows. I will be transformed by the renewal of my mind through the study of Your word, which is the truth about who I am, whose I am, and why I'm here. Through the partnership of Your grace and my humility, with the power of Your Spirit within me, may I walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which I have been called.


Prayer journal entry May 4th and 8th (above), 2015.

I write my early morning prayers freehand, slowly and carefully. Tediously is a better descriptor. Not that I want to. It's that I suffer from 'Essential Tremor'. I think that's what it is. Nothing else seems to fit how I would describe my symptoms, which just collectively celebrated their 11th birthday. Whoopee!

I know not why it started, nor do I know how to stop it. My hand is fine when I use it to text, drive, and drink. (Gotcha!) Yes, of course, at different times. But when I write freehand, which I prefer over typing actually, I steady the forefinger and thumb of my right hand with a firm grasp of the same digits on the left.

The resulting penmanship looks pretty neat, if I don't say so myself. The pace rots, not rocks, however, at a grueling two pages per hour, estimated to be a similar rate at which cavemen chiseled environmental observations on stones ("Buffalo antelope on plain. Grunt.").

So if it's so difficult, so tedious, why do I do it? When I write freehand, I stir the words in my head and, as much as I can, my heart, like Campbell's Alphabet Soup that's too hot. Doesn't seem like much, does it. Thinking in writing is what I'd like to think I'm doing.

I noticed I think differently when I type. I like how my thoughts are less random, less trying to impress, and more concerned about what's authentic, what's moving in the moment to me. I guess I'll get used to this keyboarding stuff. I'll have to; I want to share my thoughts with you, if you'll let me.

Looking back at that prayer from May 8, 2015, I'd change a few things. For example, the ultimate thrust of "all truth" in Scripture is all about His eternal plan for the church. Not who I am and whose I am, although that's part of it. Kind of the wrong perspective, that's all. Let my focus ever be on Him!

Look a little closer and I hope you'll see my references to Scriptures dancing in my head, singing to my heart. Some of the obvious ones are the cup overflowing from Psalm 23. An abundance of meditation passages are found throughout Psalms, such as Psalm 119. Being transformed by the renewal of my mind is from one my favorite verses, Romans 12:2. The study of His word is my reference to verses like 2 Timothy 2:15 and Hebrews 4:12. The manner of my walk takes me back to Ephesians 4.

I love it all, truly I do. If only this world wasn't so darn distracting, difficult, and tedious, like my 'Essential Tremor'.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

What's In My Heart Must Come Out

I write more than I think. No, wait. That didn't sound right. I do more thinking than writing. It's just that my writing is scattered among many outlets in the house and cyberspace, such as in composition notebooks, MS Word files, documents on Google Drive, Notepad texts on zip drives, one of many iPhone apps, social media post and comments, and in various blogs. The result is I have written way more than I realize, more than I think I wrote. That's what I meant. Why did I write so much? Well, I'm not sheep lice!

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little."
-- Anne Lamott (taken from "The Writer's Devotional")

I am a specimen of this species that needs and wants to understand and know who I am. This longing is deep. This is one reason why, over the years, I have written here and there and everywhere. This is the same reason why, from now on, I want to centralize and organize those writings, and then write so much more.

Since I'm not sheep lice, I often asked as I wrote, who am I? I wanted then to understand, and I want now to express that understanding. What is the warmth in my heart? What quickens my soul to delight? What is the big picture and how do I fit in? I've cautiously shared such thoughts with a select few.

Why was I born at the time and place of my birth? Why was I here now? What did I have in common with my species? What distinguished me as a unique individual? What was in between common and unique? What was the substance of ownership that I claimed, "My body. My mind. My thoughts. My pain. My laughter. My preferences. My defaults. My heart and soul." Who was the "me" that has a "my"? What was happening to me? What has happened to me? Why was I this way, sometimes making courageous choices, and other times self-sabotaging with indecisiveness? Why did I rifle through some things, yet slug through others? What inspires me? What stifles me? What hurts me? What pleasures me? Why me? Why not me? Did you notice the shift from past to present tense? (I could go on; hope you're still with me. Should have told you skip halfway through this paragraph.)

I would probably not get along with sheep lice since we do not share this longing. What would we talk about? Have they even attempted to record their thoughts? Or are they already consumed by habit?

Even among my own species it seems I shared the most with those who I know ponder what I'm pondering, hurt where I'm hurting, or rejoice where I'm rejoicing . It took me a while to get used to being alone in my thoughts [grin] before I found those friends. I'm okay with that. If I wasn't, I'd still be people-pleasing.

Yet, I know I'm not alone. Deep friendships, which took time and circumstances to develop, offer glimpses of such conversational depth like a tour of precious and rare gems at Tiffany's. I treasure them immensely, both my friends and those moments. In them, I love and feel loved, in human terms. As a human soul, that is.

Ah! But through writing, I can dig even deeper. I can return to those conversational and soulful depths and go deeper still. And through selected reading, I can share the pain and joy of others who have done likewise and know myself better. I can quietly agree, disagree, contemplate, be moved and shaken, or take in juicy morsels of fresh perspectives.

My goal is not to stretch a thought beyond its shape, but to discover its boundaries and interactions. I also know there will be readers of my musings who are touched that someone understands. I have been there. There's that connection again, like an umbilical cord between beating hearts. Perhaps, we will interact one day.

Is this inquiry into lofty questions an endless pursuit into curious matters that drive philosophers mad? With the demands of daily life are these questions irresponsible? Wouldn't it be more entertaining to watch videos, or more relaxing to listen to classical music? Shouldn't I be balancing the family budget, paying bills, working in or on my day-to-day career, or planning my next vacation? What about fighting an environmental hazard, helping neighbors recover from natural disasters or man-made trauma, or the aiding in the tragedy of human plight? Are those not better contemplated so I can be of value to politics and society?

Yes and no.

Yes, those are significant worldly ideals and itching fleshly desires. They cry to me, "Get real! You have urgent responsibilities! Others are depending on you! There are expectations for proper and acceptable behavior, you know. Mind your morals then come join the cause (or the fun)!"

They scream! They shout! They turn about! Shouldn't I skip the headiness of existential philosophy, the fantasy of religious spirituality, and rather pick at the scab of income tax until I bleed, hike worn mountain trails against a smooth orange and purple sunset, or hug my child? Isn't that the stuff life is made of?

But, wait! Shhh! Listen! Hear that? Do you hear what I hear? Arising amidst the clamor of chaos that yearns for forgotten simplicity is the low frequency earthquake of a thunderous, "No!" Such examination is not a waste of breath or the flow of lifeblood. Such immortal information is indeed second to none that is but vapor by comparison.

The answers to those life-defining questions are becoming clearer to me. Increased diligence describes how I seek my primary agenda. Hidden treasure is found! Knowing love that surpasses knowledge becomes real, like the Velveteen Rabbit only far better. Yes, there are responsibilities in my earthly roles. But, there are responsibilities in my blessings, too.

Those deeply profound questions I agonized over, sometimes patiently, for many years, are neither an endless journey toward madness nor meaningless for daily life. Rays of eternal clarity burn away the heavy fog of desperate vanity. What I do has everything to do with who I am, and with mounting joy. Another way to phrase that is, I know what to do, and I'm mighty glad to do it, even as I learn who I am.

I thought everyone would hear these questions sizzling in their eardrums. Yet, these questions of identity do not cry out like the squeaky wheel that gets more grease. They would not even resist being buried alive under the dirt of negligence, the compost of busy-ness, or the paperwork of irrelevance. It is a quiet identity crisis.

On the contrary, only through humble consideration and investigation is there revelation, wisdom, insight, purpose, understanding, and true knowledge about life itself. The whispered beckoning deserves full attention, and does not demand it. It is ever so gentle and responds to any sincere approach.

Some people get really good at playing the parts of life they've been given, observed, or have invented themselves, on this stage of life, or backstage, as it were. We deem them successful by all appearances, and strive to mimic their patterns.

I thought I was supposed to go this way. Some who knew me said I should, that I'd be good at it. Unwritten laws of society seemed to agree. Frankly speaking, however, I'm not that good at it. I don't really want to be. It feels fake. That's not where my heart is. I know of something more valuable.

Others, however, see through the act and despise the game of life, sometimes hating the players. They would never be nominated, in a normal world, for best supporting role. It's the ol' "chicken or the egg" regarding who cast out who first? For there are no ballots in jailhouses of shame. Unless, of course, the public cameras, popular opinion, local tradition, or the newest craze, break in and thrust a stage beneath their feet and knees. That can happen even where the prison cells and barred doors are of one's own making, not even visible.

I was there for years. Getting out took more than a successful interview with a stern parole board of worldly authorities. Freedom required an occupational therapy program called "recovery," which I discovered is very unique to each parolee. If I failed that program they wouldn't need to arrest me. I'd trudge back inside the cell myself, close the door, and throw away the key. Or, I'd just consider throwing away the key. Let someone else clean up the mess I'd leave behind.

The point is, neither of those groups gets it. That is, I didn't get it from the perspective of being in either group. The play or game of life is a class system and "class" only applies where there are different levels of interaction. Life is not a play, not from from any angle, because perspective is not its substance. The purpose of my existence is not defined by society. Nor is the real gritty answer simply the rejection of life being a play or game.

Life has to be something; I'm here! There is no acting out or assigned role, just as there are none actually outcast from anything. This is it! This is life! If I'm alive, there's really only one thing to be outcast from, and that's not a class or society. Instead, this messy chaos called life is about the individual. It is deeply personal. Understanding who I am is more fundamental than performance, perception, and preferences.

Who am I, really? Why am I here? Why was I even born? Anyone can ask those questions. I used to think everyone did and wanted to discuss some possible answers, from any leg of their journey. No. Then I thought at least the journeys themselves were similar. Not quite. Now I know most people would say, "What journey?" or "I haven't really thought about it. See Star Wars yet?"

I'm left sad, yet with a taste of sweetness on my tongue. Sad because of the sweetness, really. I have discovered a sweetness in my journey I yearn to share. And sad that I can only share this joy with so few, so very few. Why am I not in the large, glad company of others who have tasted and now long for this same sweetness? If you know me, you know the sweetness of which I speak. But, if I announce it all at once to those who have become curious of me (and curiously patient with me), I may as well vomit on them.

On that note...

Writing didn't always come easy to me. In fact, you may be observing my struggle with it right now. (It's okay to laugh. I can't hear you.) Like everyone, I get busy or distracted, many times out of necessity. Even then, I often get needs and wants confused. Especially in thinking the latter are the former.

But, writing is becoming easier to me, or at least more necessary. When marketing, it is critical for a successful campaign to create a sense of urgency. I guess I'm successfully marketing writing to myself, whether it comes easy or not. I have something to say, and I need to say it, before time runs out, yours or mine.

I found notes about my desire to write from decades ago. I can see now the sense of urgency was really quite shallow back then, even though I may have used bold and/or underlined text at the time. In the midst of pouring out feelings and capturing experiences comes the thread of repetitious refrain that is, "I want to write. I want to write right now."

The truth is I was writing, just like I'm writing now. I just didn't have an overall plan. I wanted a big book contract before my big novel even went beyond a few synapses firing. I wanted my plethora of creative ideas to land on white pages with the ease birds migrating over a brand new red car parked under a nesting tree squirt relief. I've gone from planning to write to writing a plan.

From these largely stretched-out haphazardly recorded words of unexpected experiences and developing thoughts of yesterdays and yesteryears, I now look forward with the understanding that nothing is certain, but I am this one thing. Yet, I aim not to release the arrow before the target paint is dry.

Lastly, I can intentionally focus my vision into the future, absolutely! But, my actual eyesight is limited to the here and now. I'm coming to terms, realistic terms, tangible and applicable terms, with what I need to do. Maybe I can't do all the writing I've dreamed of, but I can do some writing.

To paraphrase Beethoven, "What I have in my heart must come out; that is the reason why I write." I only wish it were more elegant than this steaming, crappy second draft.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Scripture Q&A (Part 4) - Where Do I Start?

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name(John 20:30-31 ESV)

Approaching the Scriptures for the first time with the intent to learn Spiritual truths from them can be a daunting task. Even, or especially, if we know the Bible is the word of God.

Why? Because it is natural to assume the word of God is complex, full of deep symbolism, conflicting analogies, way over our heads, and mostly irrelevant to daily life. We just need to know what to do.

There are people in history who have devoted their wholes lives to studying Scripture, church history, catechisms, creeds, specific saints, Greek and Hebrew, etc. Who am I to think I can even come close? I would need to go to an accredited seminary, study for years under senior professors, and dig deeply into what many other biblical scholars and missionaries have learned before me.

Right? Well, no.

Actually, the thoughts of God expressed through His word are surprisingly delightful and profound. His grace and truth are amazing things to investigate and discover. You can recognize wit and wisdom when you hear it. Likewise, His Spirit testifies to our spirit that these things are true. He only requires a sincere and humble heart, a willingness to show up and listen with the intent, an expectation even, to learn from Him.

The trap is not to settle for human wit and wisdom. Plus, many have either been beaten down so much they don't feel worthy to read the word of God (or see only punishment in it), or they have been exalted because of worldly success or emotional highs or a miraculous experience they think they don't need the word of God to know God.

Those things and other crafty schemes are what so easily ensnare so many of us into thinking we need to depend on someone else to interpret Scripture for us. True, we need a guide. Absolutely! But, this guide should be leading us into deeper understanding of His word, Scripture, not greater guilt for sin, higher morality for improved citizenship, sacrificial charitable and humanitarian deeds, or even out-of-body experiences. Let the word have its application, only guide the new Christian into all truth.

At the same time, God hides these things from those motivated by selfish gain, arrogance, or coming to Him with firm mind made up, self-righteousness, and prejudgment. The wise and understanding of this world have no advantage in understanding God's truth. Truth is revealed to babes: those who don't think they already know better and filter what they hear through existing worldly knowledge and philosophy.

Churches from all denominations, online sermons, stand-alone verses, thick systemic theology texts, and voluminous commentaries can often be a deterrent or distraction from studying Scripture.

"Someone else has already come to an interpreted conclusion. Why reinvent the wheel? They've done the 'hard' part. Thank goodness! I just need to behave (which can be a struggle, by the way) and not get caught."

Again, no. Being saved, living the Christian life, and maturing as a Christian are not about behavior modification, being morally superior, or highly emotional. It's not even about fighting for human rights or achieving material abundance in this life. Rather, it is about thought modification.

Romans 12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to [the patterns of] this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind..." Perhaps you've heard of stinkin-thinkin? Well, here's a chance to forsake that negative spiral so "...that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Let what you do follow what you believe. First, believe!

Nowadays, instead of teaching how to study the Bible and letting the Holy Spirit do his job, preachers skip right to making applications in life. How can I be a better [fill in one of your many earthly roles here]? How can I be more [fill in the desired virtue here]? Fortunately, simply living out those applications is not what Jesus meant when He said, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10b) The answer to "How?" becomes self-evident when you understand "Why?"

Is someone "blessed" because they have a big house, a nice new sports car, and a cushy salary? That's what the worldly would have you think. But, the Father's plan, executed through Jesus Christ, is about something much more important. Let us let the Guide, who is the Holy Spirit, and a Pastor/Teacher (someone gifted by God to assist) lead us so that we are not tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:11-14).

What is the Holy Spirit's job? Simple, because He's highly motivated, but not easy, because we resist Him so much...

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13)

Let yourself be filled with the humility and curiosity of a child gently and sincerely asking one of his parents, "Where do I come from?" Other questions to contemplate while reading Scripture may include:
  • "The whole Bible is so big! Where do I start?" 
  • "It's so confusing. What should I learn first?"
  • "Is accuracy important? What translation should I use?"
  • "Who can I trust to help me understand what I read?"

Should I listen to sermons, read other books about the Bible, such as commentaries, or follow guidelines to living out Christian applications, such as The Purpose-Driven Life?"

Wow! That's a lot to consider. First, don't worry. God knows where you are in life. He knows your heart, your humility, your eagerness to know Him and diligently seek Him. Coming to Him should not provoke anxiety. Rather, it should result in peace, joy, and rest for your souls.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

Second, don't stress about the end so much as just enjoying the journey. Think of it this way: God wants to work in you. You're job is simply to show up.

At the same time don't just continue randomly to show up and pick a verse to memorize. Have a purpose and a plan for taking that wonderful journey. Ask questions, even tough ones. God has solid answers. Be prayerful. This is not an exercise in academics. The more diligent your seeking, the more rich and rewarding the experience will be.

To make some simple suggestions about getting started, I will assume your initial goals, or questions, may include ones like these:
  • What is the 'Big Picture' of the Bible?
  • Who is Jesus Christ? How can I know Him?
  • What is salvation all about? 
  • What does it mean to go from lost to saved?
  • How can I understand the job of the Holy Spirit?
  • What is Christian living really all about?
  • Etc.

Well, here are some simple guidelines I'd like to offer for getting started, plus a few areas of focus to keep in mind. Don't get stuck on what you don't understand. Keep your perspective on the context and come back to it.
  1. Open the Scriptures; God has already spoken.
  2. Follow your heart's desire to know Him through the Scriptures.
  3. Seek to see things from His perspective and understand His thoughts.
  4. Get to know Jesus Christ as a Person, especially since the Father is well-pleased with Him.
  5. Desire to eventually understand God's eternal plan, but don't jump to conclusions.

Follow your heart's desire. My heart wants to dabble and dive. It wants to skim and inspect. Sometimes I read a passage for quick refreshment. Other times I study for a scheduled length of time on a particular area of Scripture or an a specific topic.

Lastly, remember you are in the age of the church. While much of the New Testament quotes from the Old Testament, mostly to show where Scripture is being fulfilled, it also has language that is exclusive to the church. So, it would worthwhile to discover what's so special about the church. That way, you'll understand the boundaries of what belongs to the church and what belongs to another age.

Please leave a comment if you would like to engage in a conversation about these and other 'Scripture Q&A' or 'Why Scripture' posts. Thank you!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Scripture Q&A (Part 3) - How Does Anyone Get Truth?

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 

He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15)

I'm back! That is, I'm back to quoting Scripture verses packed with so many wonderful things to talk about. But, for your sake, I'll try my best to contain my enthusiasm.

To start, definitely take note that Jesus Himself said...
  1. He still had many things to say to His disciples.
  2. His disciples could not bear them at that time.
  3. The Spirit of truth would come and take over in guiding them.
  4. The Spirit of truth will be thorough in guiding them into all the truth.
Many things to say? Wow! Didn't He say it all with the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord's Prayer, parables, the teachings about the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law, rebuking the religious leaders, personal interactions when performing miracles, the confirmation of Old Testament fulfillment, etc., etc.?

Aren't we supposed to just pick up from His example of gentle, non-judging love and kindness and imitate Him? Isn't it our highest calling to joyfully marvel at what He did and offer the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving? No! Not according to these verses, anyway. Yes, those things, but also so much more.

Yes, what He did was great, beautiful, stunning. He amazed crowds (and me, perhaps you) with His wisdom and authority. Paul didn't hold back his amazement when he offered stunning doxologies in his letters. But what Christ did for us should not be minimized: He opened a door that had never been opened before, to reveal a secret and hidden wisdom of God destined for our glory before time began (1 Cor 2:7).

Because of the work that Christ did in executing the Father's plan, we have been given the opportunity to know the Father intimately. The Father, our Father, who did not He spare His own Son, nor His own Spirit. The Spirit that is in God has been freely given to the believer.

Consider these perspectives: these "many things to say" must be very important for Christ to make such a big deal about them, yet these "many things to say" were beyond human comprehension because it was spiritual information. We would do well to let Him teach us and not presume we already know what He is going to say because we long to loved and forgiven.

Why? Because these "many things" that Christ still had to say, that His disciples were not ready to bear, were the very thoughts of the Father. What was His plan before the foundations of the world? What is His primary goal for the Church, which is the body of Christ?

All that the Father has belonged to Christ, and the Spirit would reveal all that Christ had. To understand what Scripture is saying from a human perspective is to miss the boat. Instead, let us with patience have ears to hear.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Scripture Q&A (Part 2) - Where Does Truth Come From?

"Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth." (John 17:17)

How's that for a short, simple answer?
  1. Truth is God's word. 
  2. God sanctifies us in His word. 
  3. So, His word is where we find truth.
Yes, I know, it's not like me to be concise. But, in this case, it's the best way to be clear. Perhaps, all I can do is provide other ways to say the same thing.
  • Truth is the word of God. 
  • All Scripture is God breathed... (2 Tim 3:16-17). 
  • The word of God is alive and powerful (Heb 4:12). 
  • Truth is the revelation of God through Scripture. 
  • Truth is God's reality.
God's reality is who He is, who we are, what is His eternal plan, His purpose, what is the church, what is suffering, who is Christ, etc., according to His perspective.

Truth comes from God. Truth comes from God's word. Scripture is God's word. So, what truth will sanctify you? God's word, aka Scripture. (Stay tuned for the Who and How of sanctification.)

So, in John 17, why did Jesus pray that His disciples, and those who would believe through their message (John 17:20), for His Father to "sanctify them in the truth"? Simple answer, so that the truth, through God's word, would set them apart from the world.

Another way to look at this beautiful simplicity is to understand what truth is not. Truth, God's word, does not come from...
  • the wisdom of humans
  • personal experience
  • feelings nor emotion
  • anything apart from Scripture
  • traditional nor ritual
  • higher moral standards
  • inward meditation
  • legalistic self-righteousness
  • reciting the Lord's prayer nor a sinner's prayer
  • salvation alone
  • etc.
I think you get the idea. The list above is just a list of what Scripture, God's word, is not. If God's word cannot be those things, neither can truth be. Why? Because "Your word is truth."

Furthermore, which I'll save for another time, there are distinguishing features of the truth, God's reality, His word, as it pertains to the church. Huge differences from anything we've seen before.

But, for now, we've looked at a high-level of what truth is (Part 1) and where truth comes from (Part 2). Stay tuned while we ask how we acquire this truth (Part 3). We will need this 3rd part as we seek to discover the critical details of the truth as it applies to Christ's church, His body.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Scripture Q&A (Part 1) - What is Truth?

Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." Pilate said to him, "What is truth?" (John 18:33-38a)

For the moment, I'm skipping toward the end of the book of John to bring us to a crucial question that Pilate asked Jesus, "What is truth?" That's actually an excellent question we should all ask ourselves.

What is truth? How does one "bear witness to the truth?" What does it mean to be "of the truth?" What does it mean to listen to the voice of Jesus? How did Jesus fulfill His purpose for being born?

All excellent questions. You probably know the circumstances of John 18. The Jews put Jesus on trial, a mock trial, and determined that He needed to be killed. They literally made up accusations at the trial to find Him guilty of anything. (Matthew 29:59-62) They certainly weren't seeking His answers, or the truth.

Caiaphas said it was better that one man should die than the whole nation of Jews perish (John 11:50, 18:14). They got nowhere in the trial with false accusations. But, when asked directly, they heard it from Jesus' own mouth that He claimed to be the Son of God, which Caiaphas used to declare Him a blasphemer, conclude the trial, and swiftly exact and deliver punishment. (Matthew 26:63-66)

Even though they picked up stones to kill Him lots of times before, this time they thought they were justifying themselves before the people by pretending to go through the proper process of condemning a man to death. What an amazingly awful spin the Sanhedrin put on the situation for political gain! Their strongest motivation was to protect their self-righteous authority over the Jewish nation. The refused to accept this Jesus for who He said he was.

So, what exactly is truth according to Scripture? We've already learned that we can find the definition and boundaries of truth in Scripture (see "Why Scripture?"). It must be some pretty important information if Jesus said bearing witness to the truth was His whole purpose for being born and coming into this world. In living this purpose He was ultimately condemned to death by crucifixion.

So, how do we seek out the truth, discover it, and assimilate it? We start with humility.

Before we crucify Christ (again), disregard Him, assume we already know the truth (whether believer or not, church-goer or not), before we get our understanding from human wisdom, or settle for shallow answers to deep questions, let's humble ourselves and simply let Him tell us. After all, He is the Word and the Word was God (John 1:1). He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Let us find rest in His response. As the context of the verse in the subtitle of this blog says...

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and 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. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30)