Sunday, January 18, 2009
Suffering as a Blessing,
Loneliness as a Blessing Part Three
Blessed Obscurity and Moderation
No one should think more highly of himself that he ought to. No one should esteem himself in the same fashion. (1)
A Christian lives to glorify God as God. Ours is a station of submission and declaration. Self promotion, self glorification, and so many other action and precepts that are given to the prefix 'self' are inherently upside down when put in conjuncture with self.
If a Christian is a writer, then he cannot write with the intent of drawing attention, or riches, to himself. A sure sign of this selfishness is sadness at a lack of readership. Surely such a lack of attention is a blessing. It forces us to see our true face. If we are ignored as Christian writers and we are not caused to waver in our faithfulness to this service to our God, then our hearts may be true. Let each search his own heart in prayer with the mirror of God's word.
If one becomes successful, let it be as a pointing to the truth. Let us not revile attention or popularity, but see it as a challenge to point back to the Creator and Savior. The wine bottle's importance is directly related to the value of its contents. Without the wine the bottle is worthless. If God has chosen you to be a bearer of a particularly expensive wine find joy not in your own importance, but in the chance to humbly glorify God and to point to Him as every turn. A Christian is meaningless without Christ.
Let the resources acquired by one's lot go to the glory of God. It is right for one to take care of one's family. It is wrong, though, to equate frivolous want to valid needs. Modesty is a virtue as high as justice. Justice is upheld even by the foolish because when injustice strikes them they can easily claim to be actin in justice when they demand equity. Modesty is upheld when one's means allots only the most modest of modes of living; one cannot claim modesty then. But when one chooses modesty (whether in dress, living, foods, appearance, personality) when one could easily embrace selfish display or selfish experience, this is virtue.
If one builds up his church with much fervor (whether in reputation or in physical structure) it is easy to become selfish. "Look at how much we love God." Listen to the wonderful band we have... to worship God with!" "Look at how we feed the poor." "Look at ho w we declare God's word." These are self aggrandizement. All is vanity without love. Love does not boast, and it is not arrogant. (2)
When another boasts of this church or that teacher are we quick top draw attention to our own church or teachers? This is not to say that we should not feel free to share our church nor the goodness of the teachers God has placed in our lives, but it is because we feel ours have less attention than another? Or it is in love the desire to share what is good? For often in humble syntax are prideful intentions hidden. Yet sometimes are humble intentions hidden in prideful syntax; this is a sign not of sin, but of immaturity (for love is not rude).
Let all be done in the heart prone to glorify God. God is best glorified in knowledge according to His Word.
Let us, as His children, seek modesty in dress, in material possession, in food, in recognition for work. Let us keep our possessions and reputation and appearance as stewards and not as owners. Where God promotes His truth in us let us be thankful and glorify God all the more. Where He keeps us in obscurity let us rejoice He has kept us all to Himself and far from a place of tempting pride.
Let us daily thank God for the tasks at hand and find peace in the fulfilling each duty, no matter how simple or base as all and only for our King.
Let us sacrifice all comforts to complete what he has called us to. Let the praise of the whole world be as a pin drop when compared to the roaring of the seas when our Father smiles. Let the feelings of sensual satisfaction be as the sharpest pain in comparison to the joy of humbly serving the Almighty.
The same let us enjoy the gifts He has graced us with, not detesting them. God have us honey to point to the sweetness of His blessings. Let us not rebuke the honey, but moderately enjoy it in remembrance of His goodness.
1) Romans 12
2) I Corinthians 13
Saturday, February 09, 2008
Beat her, that is what my future wife will have to let me do
Back when I was first getting to know my first disciple, David, I realized how hard it is to really get to know somone. Moreover, how hard it is to trust someone with not only your aquainteceship, but moreso with your friendship.
Recently this reality of the separation between the souls of men became abundantly clear to me. Those of you who know me know that it has been a recent conviction of mine that I should be a F.B.I. profiler. I would affirm that it seems to be most random, but I'm writing this that it would give creadance to a point I must make. When people around me hurt, I hurt. Otherwise, I'm usually pretty well off. I've had a tendancy to find the idea of being a defender rather romantic. My middle name goes so far as to mean, 'Determined Gaurdian'.
So I was sitting at Starbucks the other day. This girl came in. Her phone rang. She hung up on it. This proceeded to happen a few times in a row. A while later she was standing outside. The sky was pouring down rain. It was recently passed dusk. When I walked outside to check the windows on the truck, I noticed her sitting on the ground crying. Text Messaging, but crying. Also, she was still hanging up her phone when it would ring.
I went back inside and was struck. I couldn't read what I had to read. I couldn't write. For some reason, this thing was a concern to me. Most likely her boyfriend cheated. He's trying to apologize. She trying not to let him. All very well and good. For some reason, this thing was a burden in my heart. So after many minutes of deep thought, the heart in my chest could be felt pulling my body her way.
So I arose and walked over to the door. She was still crying and she was texting. I couldn't bother her so I went back to my seat. A few minutes later this was done again. Then again. So after a while I broke through that annoying little wall inside that keeps the self safe from offering help to someone who may actually need it. I stepped outside.
She was very distraught. So I asked, "Are you okay? Do you need help with anything?" She wiped away the tears and looked up at me. She could barely talk. She said, "No, I'll be okay." My reply, "Okay. I'll be inside if you need anything at all." She looked back down to her phone and I went inside.
A minute or two later she walked by, the tears apparently been assuaged. I pondered two things after the incident. Why in the world would I have been so burdened to try and help someone who ended up not taking it? Also, why in the world is it so hard to get into another's world?
The first reason is between God and I. The second is because relationships (Love, Friendship, Brotherhood) are so important. They reach down into the core of our design. In a fallen world, there is no wonder people end up being so reclusive, despite even the 'friendliest' of dispositions. People always keep back a part for those who are most trusted. It logical thought it's sad when someone needs help. One of the most frustrating things in the world is to have an answer you know how to describe, yet are unable to because of the gap between people.
So in my hope for a wife, my desire for someone who truly loves me and is worthy of my true heart arrived at the subject line of this blog. When David and I began taking Ju-jitsu classes together we bonded how we would not have otherwise. When you take the perogative of your life and death and place it in another's hand, you learn to trust them when they do not take advantage. When David had his forearm dug into my neck then stopped when I tapped out, I learned he was willing to take head to my safety, which could translate into all the deepest parts of a man.
My future wife must be willing to go for my throat. If I cannot trust her to say and do what is best to challenge me and encourage me to become the best man I could be, I cannot trust her with my true heart. If she is more worried about not having a disruption in the surface of her/our life, then how is she to be trusted when the time comes when my life may depend on it? If we cannot trade blows, challenging each other to become more than the sum of the two of us, then there would be no reason to be in the relationship. If my feelings of "everything's okay", my security, and "oh, I'm loved!" are the crux of my reasons for being with someone, then it is nothing more than a selfish endeavor.
On the opposite side of this coin, if she doesn't trust me enough to let me go at her throat, then there's no reason she should trust me unto matrimony.
This, by no means, that we ought not be always kind. Contrarily, when one is this open kindness and true care can begin. When we live on the surface of life toes get stepped on far more often, but it doesn't reach down inside. It stays on the surface. And it is through that surface that we begin to see that person. Ergo, the more we see of a person's real self the more dangerous it becomes. Concordantly, the more we know of a person's real self the more safe they may possibly be with us.
So my request is simple. If you think we may be meant to be together throw those fists this way.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
There ought to be a division between what is desirable and what is necessary. Necessary can be equated to rice and radishes. Desirable is meat, vegetables, and whole wheats. Pleasurable is sweets, drinks, and chocolate. Too much of what is pleasurable makes a man fat and lazy and incapable of great things. Too much of what is necessary makes a man weak, fragile, and incapable of great things. The right mix of what is necessary with what is desirable will equip a man for greatness.
In any culture that has ever become great there are virtues that have propelled them, even if vanity and wickedness has accompanied them. Rome attained greatness out of its ambition and was corrupted out of its love of wicked and meaningless things. America became great because it was good and has declined because its citizens became lazy in their pursuit of security and freedom. People are the same as great nations and empires. They have a choice to follow what is good or to grow contented to be self indulgent.
Cultures have also fallen and been ravaged by growing complacent about the evil in the world. They became content with the proverbial rice and radishes. They turned their swords into plowshares and fell at the hands of those who embraced the edge of a blade. Early unity in Britain at the introduction of Christianity brought a certain passivity as forts and defenses became monasteries and abbeys. When invaders came there was no unity in arms. There was slaughter in the land at the hand of invaders.
These social examples are given to illustrate the point that ignorant contentment and self aggrandizement and indulgence are methods of self destruction. Too many sweets or too few meats will be the ruin of a man. There are things that are necessary for life. There are things that a desirable for a good life. There are things that are harmful to a man in excess that are meant to be the bit of goodness meant to be an example of blessing. How quick a man's world can be torn asunder when his standard of purpose moves from transcendent obedience to erotomania and megalomania.
The Jewish book of Proverbs has numerous observations on what is good in a wife. A valuable and excellent wife is described as above all price. She is invaluable. And I want her. A life ruled by unbridled passions and emotional reactions is a life ripe with ruinous elements. Without wisdom, without understanding and knowledge, a life is bound for strife the traveler will be ill-prepared for.
"The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain"
There is so much to be said about trust. It is the corner of every relationship. Trust can be easily given, but once it is lost it is hard to get back. Sometimes trust can be too easily given. When two people with two sets of preconceptions about life and relationships come together the very nature of trust can be challenged. Honesty needs to be stretched out from a person's center to the very farthest extents of his life. There are plenteous mentions of God's hatred of a lying tongue. Christ got to the absolute center of it when he said that religious people honor Him with their tongue and dishonor Him with their heart. In the same way, if one is to love another the honor one must give to their mate must reach further down that polite and seemingly kind actions. Honor affects all the faculties of the lover: physical action, attitude, intelligent forethought, and emotional sensitivity.
"She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. "
Every aging generation seems to claim that the upcoming generation doesn't know what it means to work hard. As we gain more time available for free use, and media, entertainment, and other passive activities arise there is an ever increasing propensity of man for useless and vain activity. It is indeed a rare thing in the fallen nature of man to be willing to work hard. Indeed sleeping long is common among those who would be rightfully called sluggards. Loving sleep is like loving death. But an excellent wife is prone to move on behalf of those she loves. She is compelled to not see those she loves go without what is necessary and even good.
"She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong."
Weakness is not a necessary component of femininity. While she should keep to a heart of humility and modest, fleshly efforts often end in weakness and she should exert to not confuse the two. If a person's strength in convictions and body are bound in carnal desire to not appear prideful (which is in and of itself prideful) then their strength will be rendered useless. A portion of strength, when strength is needed, is a good as no strength at all. The Lord did not create a farmer with a strong body to use only a portion of that strength. The Lord did not create an apologist with a strong mind only to have him use a small portion of his ability to engage those with whom he would converse. Proverbs says to consider the ant.
"She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle"
Of course these things cannot be solely ascribed to an excellent wife. A good husband will, without doubt, have these same qualities. As mentioned before, there is a propensity to find joy not in fulfilling purpose, but in fulfilling either pleasure or excises in power. Sitting in front of a tv for hours on end can be acting like the stereotypical king on his throne. How many kings do we have sitting in front of flat screen televisions on a worn couch or lazy boy? So many in America live head and shoulder above the kings in the past in luxury and pleasure. A wife should be seeking the best for her own.
"She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy."
While a person's first priority is to his family, universal charity cannot be ignored. Was it not Christ who told the story of the good Samaritan? Who is outside the bounds of Christian mercy and kindness? This is of course not to say that a wife should be irresponsible with her family's finance, by no means! It has already be established her hands and mind are to continually work towards the good of her family. But some cultures have such a bent towards caring about their family so much that it goes beyond love into the realm of selfishness. "This is MY family! You don't do things against MY kids!" Of course it is natural to give all passion to the protection of one's family. The problem comes when that desire goes beyond an undying love and selfless protection into the realm of the need to preserve one's own world beyond all bounds of goodness and righteousness.
"Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land."
Why in the world would this be made mention of in the description of an excellent wife? How does a wife's excellence mean the good name of her husband? Perspective is important. Without honesty perspective means nothing. This verse does not imply that she lies about him. Contrarily, when snuggled in the verses around it, it points to the idea that her hard work has given him a good name. It does not say that she has a good name. Her hard work is towards not only the security of her family, but it is towards the good name of her husband. She wishes for people to see the best in him because she sees the best in him. There is much to be said about seeing people in the right perspective.
God said that vengeance belongs to Him. How quick we are to hold onto the idea of retain vengeance as our own possession. How foolish we are indeed! A grudge is held in order to one day, either in an instance or progressively, gain vengeance. In taking selfish vengeance or holding a grudge one is stealing from God. So there is no reason for a Christian to seek vengeance or hold a grudge.
Man, as in man kind, was created in God's image. Man kind deserves a certain level of respect for that reason. If a man worship's God, then God's creation especially man for whom he describes having so much love as to die for him, then man should feel the same as God towards His creation. God's pleading and declarations are always in context. He was blunt much of the time, but always with what is best as the heart behind what is being unfolded.
So much can be said about a wife's heart for her husband, and how little that should be directed by how he treats her. The same applies on the other side of the gender line, of course. The greatest aid to any person's relationships is a love of God, and a desire to please Him above all.
"She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."
Words are easy to throw. Attitudes are easy to allow to go wherever the unconscious mind would allow them to go. Self control is hard. Yet, to one who is close to God, these things will ever grow as a natural phenomenon. As Paul wrote to the Galatians,
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."
The purpose of having written this is not to make people think I know what's best. The purpose is to get people to think. The purpose is to work out what God has convicted me of in whom I am to search for. If pleasing God means something to the reader, he ought to think hard on these things. If being the person one ought to be is important, he ought to consider these things. If one would declare that he truly loves, these are things that should be pondered. God has not given us wisdom so we can use it as a quick shot at someone with whom we disagree. He has not handed down understanding so we can show we have wisdom. We are to turn inward and seek God. Our eyes are to stare at heaven and see there is so much more to what God has done than just one self. God is not only good and loving of each man, He is great and planning.
Viktor Frankl wrote a book named, 'Man's Search For Meaning'. He was a psychiatrist and holocaust survivor. The book is an excellent read. He points out that a man can become to apprehensive about acquiring happiness that he never achieves it. But if he can be made to see a larger purpose he can suffer harsh things and still have happiness.
I believe that a person can become so fixated on being the right kind of lover that he forgets the object of love. With humility, and an open mind towards God's word and councilors a man can be a lover of the type that would be most impressive.
Fascination with the Big BadI hear comedians making humor out of what I am about to write about. I hear guys complain about it. I see it depicted on T.V. and in movies. Permeating the landscape of my work is the love of things bad; that willing to break rules and appear dark. Though I've always found it strange, and have never been particularly attracted to the bad. Bad men have never been my hero, even peripherally. Bad girls that I have been attracted to had my attention simply because they were girls.
A good friend I asked about this phenomenon gave me the most logical, and yet elusive answer on the front of why girls like 'bad boys'. His answer was as follows, a girl will like a bad boy because she feels that if he can be bad then she'd feel a little more free to be bad. This, I would consider, is a revolutionary idea and yet orthodox in its application.
I get the bad boy, I really do. To be honest, I little as little of him as I do the scum that lays in the ring of a toilet. I've chosen to look into the motives of rapists and murders and thieves. There resides evil, darkness, and a mind void of any precept of right other than what is advantageous to self. After reading books about atrocities like the holocaust, and listening to interviews on the same with survivors. After reading about the profilers' observations on rapists and murders I have seen the evil in the heart of men. "Bad boys" play at what the Hitler's, Bundy's, and various self-fulfilling bastards of the world take serious. A heart with no conviction as to what is right and wrong is worthless. I'd admire Hitler more for going through with his convictions than your typical bad boy.
The apostle Paul said of love, " Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,
but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends." Yet, is this not the very opposite definition of someone who plays at being bad?
I say, the person who plays at being bad is not patient and is not kind. They are envious at every turn, always are they boasting in arrogance. They are rude and insist on their own way. Their ire is easily raised and are almost for certain resentful of others who bare them no free gifts of pride for flesh. For certain they find great humor and warmth from wrong doing. They are angry at the voice of truth. They endure only what they must, quick to speak any iniquity done to them, yet quick to accuse those who would accuse them of wrong. They believe only what they will benefit from. Their affection stretches as far as their own satisfaction.
I am jealous. I wish the best for those I love. Those who know me would attest to the fact that I would gladly give my life that they may have a better life. I am jealous in that when I see those I love suffering the verdict of justice upon their lives I would take that upon myself. I am jealous in that when I see them reaping what they have reaped, I'd gladly exchange whatever good fruit has come of my life for the least of theirs. Yet, all I have is a finger and a tongue that can point the way to the Way. The Light and the Life has perfection and whole completion. Sometimes I feel like I'm an idiot with a broken leg standing in front of a speeding train trying to get it to reverse course. Of course the doubt of "Who am I?" creeps in and my lips quiver because I know I am not worthy to speak out to the world; certainly I am not worthy to save it.
So all I have is the gospel. All I have is my Lord who has saved me out of darkness. I am not strong enough to save anyone. I am not strong enough to save myself. I do know who is strong enough. I know who is willing. I know who is calling and working towards the salvation of those whose heart is willing, through faith engrafted by the Father. I know I am called a son and an ambassador. This is all I have.
Tonight I watched 310 to Yuma with my Pop. Well, he watched about fifteen minutes of it until he started snoring. The movie is one of my favorites. I wrote and posted part one to this blog this morning (technically yesterday morning, it is just after midnight.) The whole experience really did seem to cement my perspective on this subject of the bad boy.
In the movie Ben Wade, the main villain, is truly bad. He acts completely on self interest. He kills for his own pleasure. He is beholden to no law other than that of his own desires for power (by the barrel of a gun) and pleasure (acquired with money acquired by the barrel of a gun.) He is the logical outworking of the bad boy. He is consistent with his view of the world.
Dan Evans, the hero of the story, doesn't seem to be much more than very plain. He has a wife and two boys. He is held to what is best for his family, even if that does sometimes make him look bad in the eyes of others, including his own boys. He too is consistent with his view of the world.
Upon entering town Ben Wade quickly sweet talks (in a very manly way) the bar maid. It is not long before he is drawing a picture of her naked back. She saw what he was when he entered with his men. She was, in fact, attracted to him because of who is was. Because of what he was.
Later on in the movie Ben comes in contact with Dan's wife. Discussing Ben with Dan she says, "He's not what I expected." That was a very telling moment. Beauty and goodness, we assume, come packaged in what our minds often tag them as being in. It is the moment we, as children of God, allow standards other than the word of our Lord to guide our perspective, that our sight for what is good, right, just, and lovely becomes skewed by our fleshly preferences and interpretations. Also, a danger is seeing what one man of God has as a way of expressing godliness and assuming that if another does not look exactly like that they could not possibly be godly. We are not to be unequally joked together with unbelievers. The context of this verse is intimacy or marriage; the two assumed as one. Do not assume that because one says God this, or this is only right, that said person has a relationship with Christ.
Of course we can never be the judge of another's salvation. Such is the place of God, and God alone. If the other person is not living according to God's principles, and being guided by His Spirit, then becoming yoked is not a good idea. Of course no one is perfect. Perfection is not the case. A certain level of spiritual maturity should be a precursor to any relationship, of course. True love is not blind to the iniquity of another. True love rightly sees the person and loves them regardless. But the simple act of loving another does not mean a binding (marriage) should take place. Love is not enough, not for a life surrendered to the will of our Savior. There are countless struggles to be had in any relationship. The mutual desire for the spiritual health of one another is only natural of a child of God. The fruit of the Spirit in Paul's epistle to the Galatians. His list of things to ponder in the letter to those at Philippi. The list of abominations in the Proverbs of Solomon. There are any number of guideposts that should guide any relationship that is intended to glorify God, and not just selfish desire for companionship or sensual connection.
Ben was a more compelling character at the beginning. In the end, all that he had was shown to be temporary and vanity. The character of Dan was shown to be based on good that transcends generations and chosen paths in life. That is the fate of those who choose evil: vanity, death, destruction, and to be forgotten. Those who play at it, and those who find such people preferable, should have no place in either heaven nor in hell. They deserve neither.
Thank God for grace.
After a week and a half of training I was put alone and left to work on my own. No more training. I came to recognize that the feeling of 'being stupid' was in fact the act of learning. Somehow, deep inside my consciousness, the act of entering into a new situation I had no previous clue how to do brought out some insecurity.
Insecurity in personhood, value, or ability helps no one. We are who we are. While our striving should always be towards bettering ourselves and having a clear sober vision of ourselves, when this striving comes with an overly harsh view of self then it is come out of unhealthy vice in pride. This is the pride of needing he appearance before not only others, but when the mirror of self reflection is raised we often would rather lie to ourselves and act humble and still think much of ourselves.
So later I was speaking to our plant manager, thanking him for the opportunity to training in my new position. He said it was nothing. He also went on to say he thought I was smart enough to do whatever I wanted at the company. He also said Joe, the man training me, said that I was the easiest guy he's ever had to train. It was at this moment I realized that I am, in fact, not necessarily the stupidest man on the face of the planet. With this realization came the revelation that it is easy to forget what it feels like to learn.
There in vulnerability in learning. There is an admission of a lack of knowledge, ignorance, when you take about learning a new thing, whether it be abstract, data, or skills. This is something that all humans should strive to never forget.
Some people don't want to grow. They simply wish to use what they know, and spend their time in meaningless things. This is certainly the beginning of death. A Proverb goes, "Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it." (1) Here is another instance in which the King James version of the Bible comes up short in a reading. Instead of neglect they use refuse.
Think of the planting and maintaining of a garden. If one is to refuse a garden they will have no place of beauty. Certainly to refuse wisdom and instruction is foolishness. But we are to not neglect wisdom and instruction. If you plant a garden and neglect it, it will become overgrown and only pale compared to what it should be. The same with wisdom. If one becomes complacent in learning intellectually, and spiritually, their outer and inner lives will become as the overgrown garden. Though beauty can be found, it is not as striking and potent as it ought to be. Such a thing is a shame.
So let me encourage any who would read this to continually be in the mindset to receive instruction. Constantly question wisdom, try and examine it. Let the tradition of your life's experience and the thoughts that bound you prior to attaining wisdom fall away. Approach each day as a child, constantly in wonder of the world, the truth. Never assume you have the pinnacle to knowledge and wisdom. Always examine the intricacies of wisdom. Save one caught in wickedness, never assume that something cannot be learned by another.
"Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge. Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol. My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. My inmost being will exult when your lips speak what is right. Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off. Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way. Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags." (2)
"Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. " (3)
1. Proverbs 8:33
2. Proverbs 23:12-21
3. Proverbs 4:23-27
I was told something the other day about someone that I care deeply about. It, after a manner, shattered this one part of my heart. It made me feel wrathful in my heart towards my brother in Christ. I recognized this, shortly after the emotion emerged, as something that I did not wish in my heart. In fact, it is something that I have fought in my soul for some time now. The emotion, or premeditation, could best be described as a strong dislike for reasons of past conflicts of interest, personality contrasts, and ongoing lack of effort to resolve the abrasion. Distance and lack of interaction has caused this relationship to persist in its irritated state. As any allergy, when the two sides are not in close proximity there is no reaction. But there is something in the heart that belongs to God that draws out these things that are deep beneath the surface. Perhaps it is a plain desire of God to see us holy through and through. Perhaps, as it is when metal enters flame deeper and deeper. That which is impure is drawn out.
We are told by John, the Beloved of our Lord, " Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes." (1)
This truth has always been brought to my attention by the Spirit. I am thankful for that. The question that has seemed to burn its way through all attempts to obey this was, "How can I choose to love someone in a manner that burrows deep beneath the surface if I am compelled by emotions I cannot see to not like, appreciate, or love someone."
There are two mutually exclusive states in which the heart of a Christian can exist. It can be in a state of loving God, His truth, and His righteous goodness. Contrarily, it can be in a state of hating its brother. The words of John leave no amalgamation of the two. John, in his very either or manner, also states, "Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."
So how could I, a child of God without question in his heart, hate his brother? So I struggled throughout the night upon my pillow. I struggled in the morning while I began my work when God, in his infinite mercy placed an unlikely recollection in my head.
So a strange situation out of the book of Acts came to my attention. It is not as if I heard a literal voice. Concurrently, it is not as if I had been recently reading this passage. There was a situation where Peter, the good Jew that he was, knew he was to avoid interaction with Gentiles (those who were not Jewish). So God sends him a vision where animals considered unclean are put before him to eat. Peter, in his effort to keep the law, refuses. God's response is as follows, ""What God has made clean, do not call common." (3) To Peter, these common things were unclean, just as those who were not circumcised according to the covenant with Abraham were unclean. Shortly after the vision, Peter pondering it, God sends the servants of Cornelius. God made equivalence of common foods, and common peoples. Simple story.
So how does that apply to the struggle a Christian may have with feelings towards a brother? A Christian is not saved by his own works. Salvation is the sovereign work of God. He has made clean what was unclean. Read the words Paul wrote to the believers at Ephesus,
" And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands-- remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." (4)
Whether one is inclined to believe in the reformed perspective of this salvation, or the Armenian perspective, there is a clear statement. Those who are God's children have been called by Him. He has chosen to make them clean.
So the attitude and pondering of the Christian heart concerning his brother must be this. His brother has been made clean by the blood of that same Lamb that has saved the Christian. In hating what God has chosen to love, his heart becomes at enmity with God. The Christian must see as God sees. He who is his brother is clean, not by his actions, but by the blood of His Lord. The Spirit has sealed him unto the Day of Redemption (5). If God has chosen to call him clean, who are we in heart, deed, or word to call him unclean?
1) I John 2:9-11
2) I John 3:15
3) Act 10:15
4) Ephesians 2:1-13
5) See Ephesians 4:30
Loneliness as a blessing;Part Two
Celebrating Gifts Past, Present, and Future.
Loneliness can teach us to appreciate God’s former gifts, gifts current, and gifts future. Recent struggles in loneliness have taught this one such things. A trip to his former home town (Ocala, Fl) solidified a lesson in the abstract the Almighty has been laying out for some time now.
It is easy to long for the past. People, places, and situations can be so easily romanticized. We often, in our minds, look to the past as if we are looking over mountain tops. The peaks are seen with so much ease that it is easy to forget the valleys that contained the shadows of death. It is easy to forget, as you progress in age, that during that time you were wishing for a time further back in history.
Sometime we don’t have to romanticize it. The past may have been very well and good. There may have seemed as if troubles were miles away. Relationships may have been stable, where now they are unstable. Work may have been profitable, whereas now it is scarce and unfruitful. But God is not content to leave us as we are. Comfortable, or perhaps complacent, we are not promised to be.
"We may be content to remain what we call 'ordinary people' but He is determined to carry out a quite different plan. To shrink back from that plan is not humility: it is laziness and cowardice. To submit to it is not conceit or meglomania; it is obedience." -C.S. Lewis
Being around those who have become most precious to this one, I have learned how painful it can be to be away from those who do have such a large portion of the heart. There is nothing but the will of God that stays my feet from returning to them. Paul had these feelings for those whom he loved in the Spirit,
“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you..” (1)
As a plant designed to grow four-foot tall plant stuck in a two-foot tall greenhouse, we may be warm and touched but unable to become what we ought. We are promised: sanctification, purification, trials, troubles, burdens, and death. When we long for the past we are mourning the present.
A Christian is to long for growth. A Christian is to seek perfection. These things do not come in comfort, but in fire. It is a consistent theme in the Scriptures to compare what God does to make the individual better (And even nations) is comparable to the effects of fire on gold. Refining gold requires a lot of heat that tears the impurities from within the gold to the surface to be scraped off. Christ’s example of a holy life led Him to persecution and death. This is one of the major pitfalls of modern Prosperity Theology. Our hope and source of joy is found in glorifying God which call few to comfort. Paul knew this well,
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (2)
These things stated that once one moves out of mourning the present, he can begin to truly celebrate the past. Every struggle has been planned for you. If one is a Christian he has declared that he has accepted that Christ’s payment of blood has accomplished reconciliation with God, something man is unable to do. He has dedicated his life to pursuing personal holiness, and a lifestyle and language that glorifies God. God will have glory out of the lives of hermits and monks, but the glory He declares that is from those who love Him is found in the fulfilling the great commission.
One cannot hold onto the past and live to glorify God in the present and seek His glory in the future. You cannot reach the end of the race while sitting and staring in wonder at the blades of grass. Meditation is wonderful. Fond memories are precious and can not only remind us of where we have been, but can allow us to understand where we are going and why it matters. Loneliness is a blessing to those who are able and willing to reckon it to be so. It can be a driving force for the future. Though the present may not be filled with the warm fuzzies of the past, the present is the link from the past to the future. A life lived for the glory of Another cannot be caught up in the past, whether negative or positive. The present may both be a time for sober recollection and examination of the past, and heartfelt appreciation at the same time. Moving into the future does not mean forgetting the past, but honoring it in living the present in order to make the world better for the future.
1) Romans 1: 9-11
2) Philippians 3:7-11
Loneliness as a Blessing Part One
The Blessing of Divine Awareness
Sometimes we experience so much company, so much social input, that we cannot see passed our own sensations and the thoughts of those who immediately are a part of our life. We can so easily forget there is a dying world out there. Just as much as the preceding, there can be a neglecting of the knowledge of the Holy. Life can so get to us that we forget that God is always there calling us. He is always there perfecting in us the work He started since before we were born.
When we are surrounding by people constantly, even people who may need a very real help, it is very easy to neglect our pursuit not only God’s way, but God’s very real, very present, Self. It is so sad that often in times of loneliness we do not choose to recognize the presence of our Lord. It is so sad that we can be stricken with such sorrow as to forget the promise of our Lord who has ever proven Himself faithful and true.
After harsh winds, an earthquake, and a fire Elijah heard God’s voice in the sound of a low whisper. So often people, particularly of charismatic persuasion, think that God is in large movements. Remember again the traits of the strange and forbidden woman. First she was loud and stubborn. The church is the bride of Christ. Is she being loud and stubborn? Is she drawing people in saying that she has prepared a place for them? Is she appealing to the carnal ways of man; even the desires displayed in the world’s toys and ways? Does praise seem strikingly similar to the expression of fleshly exuberance? Is her obedience the same in appearance and attitude as her obedience to her earthly masters?
Moses went up to the mountain to be with God. The crucible of loneliness is what gave David’s heart the awareness of God that gave him the title of ‘A man after God’s own heart’. Christ was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by evil. Job’s family was all removed from him, and he was left with three friends who only dealt criticism.
When we are enveloped in social interactions we tend to see through the lenses of those interactions. When a man works in business, business terms and rules of communication fill the way he speaks and looks at the world he lives in. This is why parables can be so effective to some. The twenty-third Psalm means far more to a sheep farmer than to an urbanite. That a man who is without praise is like a city with its gates burned means more to a city dweller than to a countryside farmer. These things being said to make the point that a person’s everyday life shapes their view of reality.
God is serious about the fact that He is holy. In the Ten Commandments God begins by establishing that He is above all gods and moves into that He is above all creation. Our relationship with Him needs to transcend our understanding of normal relationships. Aloneness provides opportunity for this, whether or not the individual is willing is his choice.
It is important not to fill idle time with television, radio, music, or even reading. Quite time filled with prayer, meditation, and reading God’s word are the aspects to an intimate relationship with God.
First, is the blessing of selflessness.
Second, is the blessing of recognizing the true gift of what is already there.
Third, is the blessing of awareness of the still small voice of God.
Fourth is the blessing of time to focus on the meaning and path set before one.
We are so quick to see our pain as something negative. If we were mere beasts this would be understandable. We are more, though so few of us realize it. We, as a species, have been given revelation from the Holy One. We have been given inborn resemblance to the Creator of all. We are creative, emotional, intellectual, sentient, and able to find beauty is so much of what God has done. So why would we, like the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, see only what hurts now? As eternal beings, why would we limit what our lives are for? If we are strangers to this world, meant for a purpose so much larger than our own pleasure and glory, why do we live as if nothing matters but our sensuality, pride, and need for security?
How did the strange and forbidden woman of proverbs attract the young man into the act of purchasing her sexual favors? Certainly he cannot be relieved of his guilt in going the way to her house. The purpose of what is being written here is not to cast blame, but to reveal what is in the heart of a man that can be coaxed, or plainly offered, into what is natural to the carnal flesh. She catches him with a look of her face. She draws him in with pride. She noticed him, as if there were none other there. She tells him that she has prepared for him. How large a stroke of the pride to say it was he that she has prepared her bed for! She’s not saying that what she offers is simply a few moments of pleasure. She has prepare the way for him. She touches more than just his sexual desires, she reaches down into his view of his self. She has taken that small voice buried by years of obeying the laws of Moses and given it air, water, and sun that it may grow.
When God sees the heart He sees it without confusion as to what is right and wrong. When God sees the heart He does not do so only looking to see the best or worst in an individual. God does so with both complete moral clarity, and precise vision as to the deep and consistent state of the human heart. Michael Ramsden wrote, “Love does not exist in the absence of judgments; true love exists when some one has passed correct moral judgment on who you are and is under no illusions as to what you’re like, but still loves you.” How much clearer a description is needed than this, the God of the Bible? Who but the Creator of all has the right to determine what is right and wrong? Who else but the Law-Giver has the right to determine what is worthy of blood? Who else but the Alpha & Omega can see into the hearts of man to pass proper judgment? Yet, who else but our Savior Jesus came to die a worthy death as a payment for our sins? None, declares understanding! None, declares knowledge!
So the gift of loneliness is given to us amidst our every declaration that we desire salvation not just from hell, but more so from our sinful past selves. It is given to show us that we are not the center of the world. Just as every prayer is not answered only because it is not what is best, but because it teaches us that God is God, and that we are not.