Saturday, August 30, 2014
Friday, August 29, 2014
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Wednesday evening’s Bible Class feeds my soul, not so much that what comes forth matches my own theology, nor that the lessens, themselves, provide revelation. The teacher, in my opinion, is fantastic, well-read, in no way “up-on-a-self-constructed-pedestal”, and open to discussion. What develops, therefore, is a multiplicity of perspectives, all important because each individual shares from his or her own present position in this journey. We minister to each other, young to old (and vice-versa), “seasoned” to new convert (and vice-versa). We even dismiss the gender-gap, having long ago abandoned mental “sexual harassment”. What develops, then, within this ninety minutes or so of common focus upon, not just the Word, but the reality of Christ “in” me as well, isn’t an answer to all our questions. Humanity remains humanity. Divinity remains a “point” yet beyond any light any of us have individually gained while there. What has been gained is seed sown, the combined connection each of us have momentarily found in Him. We learn from each other if we are open to each other, sorting it all out later in personal prayer closets, allowing the Holy Ghost to instruct us as we go. When this becomes no more than a religion, a structured doctrinal check-list whereby we count ourselves as having already “arrived”, what is it that we really possess in so far as in wishing to transfer it to our posterity? Our kids aren’t interested in dead dogma; people outside our sanctuaries want neither our pomp nor our pride; but if they can see the “light” shining in our eyes, hear the “life” bubbling in our witness, and feel the truth of a “Holy Ghost overflow” tugging at the emptiness they know, the torch can be passed. It takes more than a sermon. Thirst is contagious……
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Monday, August 25, 2014
Saturday, August 23, 2014
It’s early Saturday morning here and discovering that an extra church added to the Youth Detention Center schedule has my group’s visit now “on deck” for tomorrow has my spirit plumbing, again, the depths of His Spirit, rehashing what was shared Wednesday with the men at the mission. It’s not that the same verse in Romans concerning our “mortal” bodies being “quickened” by the Holy Ghost can’t reach these kids, the same mental notes utilized for the old unable to speak to these in their teens. It’s this clay vessel that has to be careful, the message coming forth, not out of my own head, but “fresh”, in a flow He gives if I’ll not let the water become stagnant. That applies to any believer, though, “ministry” more than preaching, teaching Sunday school, praying with the sick, singing in the choir. “Faith” is a risen Savior, alive in me, not a doctrinal credo confessed, nor an elevated moment in which one grabs the brass ring, achieving some hope granted from Heaven. If it works correctly, authority is not brazen, love is not boastful, and the mystery is solved only in an encounter shared. Witness occurs as He opens the doors. When and where are His to determine, our only part in this being to “stir up the gift that is within us” and take the next step. It doesn’t take a degree, just a decision to “pick up one’s cross” and follow……
Friday, August 22, 2014
Posting on Facebook isn’t something this old man does with any real regularity; but, whether out of pondering Wednesday evening’s talk with the men at the mission, knowing this Sunday we’ll be talking with the kids at the Detention Center, or an article read at "Killing the Buddha" wherein the mysteries of life and the universe were plumbed, the above thoughts came forth, my mind yet considering the whole scenario. Is it really enough to simply acknowledge Christ, to verbally give promise of commitment without spiritually taking up pursuit, to enjoy the beach without taking the plunge? Perhaps the fact that the faith, in America at least, is encountering both reduction in our numbers and aggression against our message, can be greatly attributed to our witness coming forth just as hostile, out of our heads instead of our bellies. If the Holy Ghost hasn’t been locked up and lost in a closet, He has been deemed our own to control, believers building their own fire rather than waiting for it to fall from Heaven. My preacher in Pensacola put it this way in one of his sermons: “If you’ve really got the anointing, you don’t have to push it!” It’s where we’re at in this: Some force it; some fail to even know it’s there. As a body, we’re much too busy promoting our theology to point to the pool. I recognize it’s a stumble down the path, for the Institution as well as the individual; but, oh, the people we hurt through our humanity. Thank God for the inner oasis that meets me as I go……
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Just the three of us last night at the rescue mission. It was the first meeting scheduled after a short break to install new hardwood flooring throughout the facility. Such fact may have accounted for the smaller number of men in attendance, maybe about ten empty chairs reducing us to twenty or so gathered for worship. No matter. The Spirit would meet us in a connection verifying the message being shared, Dave speaking on grace always “outweighed” those sins we place on God’s scales, Tony briefly addressing “approaching God in prayer”, and my own thoughts centered on a verse in Romans, stressing God’s availability to meet us in the next step. Reflecting on recent events in my own life, I talked with them of how “Christ in me” equates, at least in part, to a connection we can know “ankle-deep”, “knee-deep”, even “over-our-head”, but not always some “Yea, I say unto thee”, authoritative transferal of power wherein one dramatically “raises the dead”. More than just a place to run when trouble becomes too much for us to handle, this inner well is there to confirm His grace, His concern for us, and His love with us in all that we do. Indeed, the Gospel doesn’t stop there, providing for an “overflowing of the vessel” wherein, through us, this manifestation of the promise either creates life or connects life, making us one in Him. In this sense, it seems to me that the above quote falls short, making it seem as if, only in Heaven, can we know “perfect joy”. While this present moment might well hold all that the author suggests, yet it also possesses the possibility of knowing Him now, in all that He is, temporary, perhaps, but sufficient in convincing me that eternity started when He stepped into this old man’s existence…….
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
In searching for something to occupy my mind those two nights in South Carolina, I purchased a six dollar copy of “Lost Christianities” from Half-Price Books. Written by Bart D. Ehrman, who is supposedly an authority on the early Church and the life of Jesus, it deals with “The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew”, thus far presenting me with some information about a wealth of other literature rejected by such Church authorities as appointed by King James back in the year 1611. The truth of other gospels and other epistles existing is no surprise to me. I’ve read a few books of the Apocrypha, wasn’t impressed, dabbled with one or two of these mostly gnostic, often forged by an unknown author in someone else’s name, pieces of literature, and find myself usually repulsed, but not surprised where men have gone with the original seed planted by Christ. Then, again, the same might well be said of our faith today, the Scripture, as we know it, reprinted in multiple versions and utilized as a foundation for enough doctrinal differences to confuse anybody. While claiming recognition of “the basics”, we nonetheless separate ourselves one from the other, on occasion taking the Word “where no man has gone before”. The above quote reflects the mind of a well-known British Baptist who stepped into this via entering an old-time Primitive Methodist assembly’s service, and suggests to me that “legalism” certainly wasn’t invented by Pentecostals back in the early 1900s. At the end of the first chapter of this author’s endeavor to enlighten us to “all that’s really out there”, therefore, I penned my own thoughts, including this statement: “If my gospel, my Bible, yet is something less than “infallible”, at least in the sense that some label it, let it be known that the key, for me, is in recognizing my humanity as being prone to error, and truth being this Reality in my belly, not merely the reasoning in my head.” Give me the Holy Ghost, chapter and verse, and the next step. Let me trust in His reins, His rod and staff, to work out understanding as I go. His voice yet speaks. Open my ears to hear......
Monday, August 18, 2014
Thursday, August 14, 2014
With our teacher, about half-way through his lesson last night, confessing to a headache that had been with him all that day, I can well understand how we managed to abandon the original subject along the way and chase something else down a “rabbit trail” instead. It happens. Having initially emphasized our need for “Spiritual” water, somehow he missed the turn; and, for almost an hour, our class pitched our tent in “the valleys that come unto us”, testifying to the truth of it being there, in the middle of adversities and trials, that we learn and grow. Trouble is, I’m don’t think we ever got to the even greater reality of it being important to remember: “While you are there, dig a well!” It’s not that the river has relocated, no longer where you found it in the beginning, “out of a man’s belly” fairly accurate in letting us know that the source of all that He is unto us isn’t external. The “hook-up” isn’t a matter of occupying the front pew in the sanctuary nor retreating into nature in an attempt to escape the world around you. Praise, peace, and psalms may well help the cause, but do not automatically open the floodgate. In fact, working yourself up in a sweat, trying to formulate the process out of your own strength, may get you nothing more than discouragement. In the Old Testament, about twenty years apart in the wilderness, God brings forth water from a rock. Moses, on the first occasion, is told to “smite” the stone, speaking to me of the scourging endured before Calvary; but two decades later such source appears to have ceased, the people once again in need of a miracle. This time, however, the prophet is commanded to “speak” to the rock; and when he, in anger, strikes it instead, entrance into the Promised Land is lost. The price has been paid. Christ suffered that we might know such fountain within us. Physical labor isn’t demanded. Surrender is. How well the Church has taught this down through the centuries, however, is, at the least, up for debate……..
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
“I used to think the power of words was inexhaustible, that how we said the world was, was how it was and how it would be. I used to imagine that word-sway and word-thunder would silence the Silence and all that, that worlds were the Word, that language could lead us inexplicably to grace, as though it were geographical. I used to think these things when I was young. I still do.” – Charles Wright, “Body and Soul”
For nearly a week, each morning has come to this area filtered through a solid grey blanket that eventually, by mid-afternoon, somehow gathers itself into a mixture of both dark and white clouds, here and there an opening to let one know the sky is still there, but rain possible if the wrong color drifts overhead. Today, however, the dog, still with too much pup in him and refusing to stop his barking on the leash where I’ve secured him in the back yard, has drawn me outside to sit there on a bench while he explores the area under my supervision; and, hallelujah, the sun, rising over the hills to the east, spills over me there. An airplane passes somewhere overhead, it, like the highway traffic flowing in both directions, hidden from my sight by nature as it exists all around me. A cool breeze plays with leaves and branches, solar heat not yet enough for me to remove the light hoodie worn to such location; but it’s peaceful, quiet otherwise, and the above quotes borrowed earlier from Whiskey River have my thoughts. The Bible says that “In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It seems to me that humanity, in truth, is but an expression existing only by the breath of that which was spoken, linguistics being the very core of our identity and that which “holds us together” yet a mental verbal message continually being spun in our head. The only question is: out of whose well does creation come? The choice has long been ours to make, free will established in the Garden. Clean-up is messy, the part we want to hand back to Him, often with no real remorse. Panic, maybe. Sorrow, perhaps. But putting it all into words is beyond our ability to capture and somewhere along the way, if any wisdom at all has been gained, we learn that communication is better accomplished in a surrender, a silence wherein two become one, connection established in a flow that needs no form. Give me the Holy Ghost and a quiet moment. Sometimes my head hurts………
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Monday, August 11, 2014
Saturday, August 9, 2014
I’m pondering this morning if perhaps I’m not a bit of an existentialist. Can one be that and still claim membership with Christianity? Such label was first penned on the above author who was also quoted as saying “If you want to be loathsome to God, just follow the herd.” Its definition is determined a 20th Century philosophy embracing diverse doctrines, but centering on an analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe, each and every person held accountable for their own choices, ignorance being no excuse. Other thinkers like Nietzsche and Sartre would take the idea as a foundation for atheism. Kierkegaard, however, while breaking relationship with the Lutheran state church of Denmark, believing it to be merely playing with “a form of morality and a doctrinal system”, maintained pursuit of God. He is said to have coined the term “leap of faith”, punctuating it with a need for it to be made “only after reflection”. Life, as he saw it, should be an adventure and a constant risk, a “stumble down the path” in my own words, but one always taken with “a passionate commitment” to a truth beyond conquering with theology. Within such margins as stated here, we are close to being in agreement, my singular point of departure being that one’s plunge into this ought to be preceded, as well as followed, by serious consideration of our position in Him. Indeed, I like it when he refers to “infinite resignation” being the last stage prior to faith. Human beings are like snowflakes: no two of us are exactly alike; and it occurred to me that this might well be what Paul actually meant in his epistle to the Galatians with his statement that, in Jesus, there is “neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female.” More than just salvation being extended unto all, grace equates to patience with all, love for all, each of us taken just as we are, ministered to with no attempt to make us “one” other than in Him, the only requirement being our handing Him the reins of our heart. Did Kierkegaard know Christ via a born-again encounter? I’ve not yet discovered mention of anything resembling it within his writing; but who am I to judge another man’s journey by mine. To each their own appointed place before His throne……
Friday, August 8, 2014
Beth and I drove to Lexington last night, gathering there at the airport with all three daughters and several others, husbands, grandchildren, to meet the second oldest grandson’s flight. Twenty years old, he and another fellow his age have spent the last five weeks in Honduras, visiting an orphanage previously known on a church mission trip. Different circumstances were involved this time, both on their own in this day and age. Believing that God was dealing with his heart, mom and dad permitted the trip. Modern technology kept the family in touch; but oh how relieved and happy we were to see him home safe. In June of 1960, this old man was eighteen, flying on a propeller aircraft toward San Diego and all I knew about to be replaced by ten years in the Navy. A year earlier, seventeen and, looking back now, without a mature thought in my brain, I was returning from an adventure accomplished with a buddy of mine, a long half-a-day one-way trip down a two-lane highway to Bowling Green, Kentucky in an old Dodge Desoto for no other purpose than a date with a couple of girls we’d met. Their names, faces, the whole evening is nothing more than blurred memory; but a moment in time occurring in the wee hours of the morning, the two of us no more than twenty minutes or so away from my house, has never left my brain. Jackie was asleep in the seat beside me. Slumber consumed me, held off only by continual repositioning, slapping my own face, just anything and everything thought to keep me going with us this close to completing the journey. I had rolled my window down a crack, hoping the cool air would help. It was probably all that saved our lives. The roar of the big rig’s engine, about to engage my own head-on, penetrated the abyss. My head snapped; my eyes opened; my hands yanked the steering wheel; and you couldn’t have put a sheet of paper between the two vehicles as we passed each other. God was just a word heard in Sunday school as a kid. We wouldn’t “connect” for more than a decade yet to come, this event, though, possibly why I would question my father, just before his death months later, as to his own theological beliefs. Life is a mystery. Christ “in” me doesn’t give me all the answers. Was He there with me from the beginning, keeping me for some purpose? There are at least three other occasions along the way that give me reason to wonder. What I do know is, that having found the oasis and knowing it since as a place, not just to rest and refresh, but where to take all my concerns as well, there is no doubt in my mind of the difference He makes in the next step. I’m grateful for having been able to put all worries about my grandson in His care…….
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
“The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved, but a Reality to be experienced”……… one of several adaptions, original version and source questionable
There is an anonymous work written in the latter half of the 14th century that was intended to be a spiritual guide on contemplative prayer. Its underlying message proposed that the only way to truly know God is to abandon all preconceived ideas about Him, being courageous enough to surrender your mind and ego to the realm of “unknowing”, at which point you begin to glimpse Him as He is in His true nature. In the last chapter of Thomas Merton’s “The Inner Experience”, the author speaks of an inner merger between humanity and divinity, possible to temporarily achieve, and yet incapable of being communicated unto others in its full reality. As the biggest skeptic around, I’ve always approached Christianity, in so far as theology preached by whomsoever, with caution, the practice learned long before stepping into this faith and strengthened as experience taught me very well that being “Biblical” just means it’s the other guy’s perspective, not necessarily what life and the Holy Ghost reveals as you go. This encounter of which the Catholic monk and the unidentified believer speak, then, is nothing Pentecostals haven’t preached for decades, indeed the event being that which birthed them in the first place! It’s referred to with different terminology. It’s certainly been abused and misunderstood, our denomination having tried to assume for ourselves that which only He can extend unto us via such immersion. Nonetheless, it remains, a point within us where one “steps through the veil” into depths yet assigned for us to determine, our will and His wisdom being all that’s required to realize “the fullness of the promise”. Does one walk away with all the answers? Can one then explain it to any great degree afterwards? It seems to me that the first two sentences here express it fairly well. Two of my early years in the Navy were spent aboard a ship home-ported in Nice, France. The guys in my particular unit shared two rooms downtown while on liberty, the one smaller, two beds, a wardrobe, and glass doors to a veranda. One night, just me and another fellow in there, I awoke in the wee hours of the morning in a cold sweat, moonlight still illuminating such space and with the knowledge of someone or something watching me. Fear consumed me; but not enough to warn my buddy. Instead, I forced myself to sit up, get dressed, and then leave to walk the streets, not returning till daylight. Nightmare? Too much to drink before retiring? At sea, a month or so later, in relating the story to others on watch, I would hear how my tale was not singular. At least two of those there on duty with me had likewise known the mystery. Strange? Not exactly what might be expected for me to use as a comparison to coming into God’s presence? Well, it’s all I have, the initial approach giving one some hesitancy, me in all my mess and He in all His righteousness. The osmosis, however, still without any linguistics sufficient for me to define it (the Creator greater than my ability to capture), is like being bathed in exactly the opposite emotions. His love, His peace, His grace – surround you, fill you, erasing all doubt and assuring you of your place in Him. It becomes one’s pursuit, a hope, not a demand, renewing and refreshing in our stagger down the road……..
Monday, August 4, 2014
Our pastor’s son, who leads worship, spoke to the congregation Sunday morning about people who get the gospel lyrics confused. One young girl had somehow misinterpreted what she had heard and was singing “Elvis is king”. His own wife, instead of “recover it all”, was substituting “covered in oil”. After service I told him of her version being my personal preference. In today’s church world, it seems to me that too many are out to conquer health, wealth, and prosperity in general without an inkling as to a need of visiting the well on a regular basis. Not just for a drink of water. Not merely to sit with your toes in the stream. While Jesus did declare a “foot-washing” would suffice for our daily cleansing, it yet remains that life, itself, in the natural requires of us at least a “Saturday bath”. As it is in the physical, so also in the spiritual. We exist in a time like no other. Global crisis comes to us, flooding our living rooms with war, famine, disease, and natural disaster. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? What can I do? Children killed in battle. Children sick and illegally crossing our borders. Eboli. Multitudes right here in America, without God, without hope. It makes my head swim, too much for one man unless carried and left at the Cross. The sermon, yesterday, pointed to “A Safe Place in Desperate Times”, an inner oasis, not given so much as a refuge where we are to run and hide, but a “refueling station” where all that He “is” is made available unto us in the next step. The question, however, becomes: Does “flow” demand immersion? Can we know an encounter with His presence without taking “a dip in the pool”? My own answer is “no” to the first and “yes” to the second. Remember: Scripture reports that God, at least once, talked through a donkey and is able, if necessary, to have dead stones give Him praise. Ankle deep, knee deep, or in over our heads brings assurance in corresponding doses, residual benefits a matter of our faith and the path before us. You’re only as “wet” as much as you, yourself, determine……