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The Smallest Peace

the Gospel is the only way to love without holding back…

Love Factually

 

 

GodandMan

I know what people are prone to say. We say it in conversation; we love to post it on facebook, we sing it in songs and even stick it to our cars. Please allow me to be clear, it is not my intent to offend anyone or hurt their delicate feelings or call anyone out… this rant is on me.

 

I do not love God, I love me. I attempt to love God, I seek to love God, I show love to God, I even place my hope and heart in the hands of God, but it is a little hypocritical and dishonest to say I love God. Don’t get me wrong, I do not judge others who say it, I don’t start conversations with an obligatory statement about how I don’t love God and sometimes out of sheer exuberance I just say it without thinking (at those moments I probably do love God but to be completely upfront it is probably reaction to some great thing He has done as opposed to Him simply being God).God is my greatest hope and my greatest fear, I’m not afraid of Hell or being “Left Behind” (thanks LaHaye for ruining the awesomeness of Revelation btw) He is truth and to make matters worse he is truth beyond the perception of my own insight. Now I don’t get caught up in the things God cares about, I get caught up in my own concerns, some concerns are godly, others are wicked; most are surely selfish. I don’t consider what will benefit Him most nor do I beg and plead for His good, I find myself focused on myself or at least my immediate circumstance far more often than I am on a bigger picture. This picture of loving God molds every pursuit in my heart, so when I think I think harder, when I work I work intentionally, when I serve I serve without expectation…

 

So when I pray, I pray simpler, I love written prayer cause it makes me think, I love Luther’s prayers cause they are honest, I love personal prayer with a good friend, I have a small book of prayers that I hold very dear. I love the Lord’s Prayer because even in its concern for the self it relinquishes the selfishness of “more” and simply asks for the “lesser”

 

 

 

Our Father — you see it puts all the focus back on God, on His love for us and not our false or imaginary, or well intentioned but ultimately lackluster love for Him. It also focuses on the gentleness and authority He extends toward us, Our father, not our judge (although that’s part of fathership) not our friend (although what greater joy is there for a man than realizing that your dad can be your friend also?) Not a genie or a wishing well, simply Father. A father that says no and yes without our counsel.

 

who is in Heaven —He is still separate even though He is intimately close. There is no familiarity with God though there may be comfort, He maintains His “otherness” even in closeness.

 

Holy is your name — Not my name or my ideas, or my conception of you. Your name alone and above all else is holy, separate, consecrated, exalted. And that name is Yahweh (God) without equal or comparison.

 

Your kingdom come — Though He is in heaven (referenced above) His rule, His way, dominion is invading the Earth, and we are ambassadors and citizens of that kingdom, we have not yet inherited it outwardly but we may see it effected inwardly and working its way out in our lives. When I spend time with the people of God I get to see the kingdom enacted in humility, in frailty, in service and abounding love. I saw it last weekend at a men’s football dinner, I’ll see it this weekend at home church.

 

Your will be done — This is the hard part; learning to separate God’s will and my own is the hardest Christian lesson. It requires all effort and there is no down-time, if we let go for one second the supremacy of Christ and His purpose we fall to pride and self-serving ambition.

 

On Earth as it is in Heaven — this is the active function of Christian living, not that we are perfect or saintly or without flaw, but that we share in the ministry of reconciliation, in the risen hearts of men, like the Levites, we have the role, the commission and the privilege of living out God’s will on Earth. It is hard work, it is discomforting and I’m pretty sure most of us suck at it, but the prayer refocuses us to that end.

 

Give us this day our daily bread — man oh man, we ask for luxury while a world is dying in poverty, I’m not saying shun the blessing, I’m just saying, what is the blessing for?

 

And forgive us our tresspass as we forgive those that trespass against us — nobody seems to get this. This isn’t about asking for forgiveness it’s about extending forgiveness.  There is no line that others can cross that will outreach the extent God reaches to save us. I don’t ask for forgiveness, I seek the power of forgiveness, to truly look beyond faults and weakness and see spiritual worth. There is power in the blood that many will never know or even begin to understand.

 

And lead us not into temptation — I am weak, we are weak. We should follow God away from that which can destroy us and into freedom. That is not to say we should remain weak, as power grows in us we should commit to saving lives and bringing hope to hurting and broken people, that is the intention of spiritual growth, to remain meek in motive and livelihood but strong in faith to resist temptation and war against evil.

 

But deliver us from evil — This is a matter of complete trust, I laugh when people say they want to take on the Devil. They do not understand God nor do they understand the enemy! Only god can defeat evil, and you can only stand in the crossfire and be destroyed. The best thing we can do is seek God and find His strength. The work of evil is all around but there is no trust in God to destroy it, instead Christians want to devote democracy and social action toward ending evil. Don’t be silly, pray harder, pray longer, seek more, work less, love without holding back. Those things work.

Thine is the kingdom and the power and the Glory, Forever. Amen.

 

…so I love that God loves me, I love his freedom and protection, but I’m seeking to love Him, to know Him. I’m commanded to love but I’m honest in my assessment that I’m not that good at following that command. I love God.

 

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Half of The Greatest Peace: Testimony

I was a lonely child, my life was marked by an abusive mother battling schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and an aging father who adopted me when he was 72 years old. We lived in abject poverty in the “projects” (section 8 housing development) and although I was surrounded by poverty my family was not like many of the other families there in the ghetto. There is a concept in ghetto living called “hustlin” which is the ability to get money more than one way (often involving petty theft, drugs or prostitution); my family was not able to “hustle” so we made do with what was available, primarily welfare and social security. This upbringing often made me feel alienated and disconnected to the immediate culture around me and to an even further extent to the broader culture at large.

jumpWhile dealing with all these feelings I found my escape as a pre-teen in philosophy and reading. I could not relate to school in any tangible way (although I was a straight C student) nor did I have any consistent meaningful relationships; so I ultimately clasped on to stories and idealism. It was at the age of 13 after delving deep into the Eastern Philosophies that a friend invited me to church. I attended a youth group that focused heavily on entertaining and capturing the attention of the kids (Powerhouse-Open Bible-Sedalia, MO), after my third visit I gave my life to Christ, not fully grasping the meaning or purpose of such an invitation, I continued to “get saved” at least four more times throughout that summer. I was fortunate enough to go to a church that encouraged my personal development and didn’t shy away or shut out my deeper questions. I was immediately brought into an inner circle of connection, challenge and wonder that, up to that point in my life, was nonexistent.

Soon after my salvation experience I was introduced to several key elements in my spiritual development, the first of which was finding a place of relation beyond mental assent or acknowledgement. I was taught that mere intellectual reasoning of divine order was not enough to grow in relationship with God in Christ. This idea was completely foreign to my concept of religion and brought me to humility; I could not take my knowledge or perspective for granted or worse for vain conceit when so much of my spiritual life wasn’t dependent on me but on the cross of calvary. After this obstacle was overcome I started to appreciate learning for a deeper purpose, namely growing in relation with Christ. Ultimately my study life became more robust and fulfilling, school was no longer a bore or contention but a joy and splendor that lead me to a greater revelation of God. Another turn-around was the depth and love of God’s family in the saints. The Lord gave me people that genuinely cared for and nurtured my heart. Deep rooted community brought me out of depression and loneliness in a way that simply “being around people” never could. Overcoming my awkwardness and disconnection with people was one of the first tangible gifts God gave me. Eventually, learning not to be ashamed or live in regret of my past became the final great joy of salvation for me. With a future secure in the hope of glory and the eternal purpose of God to the knowledge of his Son; not just in me but even for those around me, God functionally broke the power of guilt and poverty in my life. Jesus didn’t just make my life better or more fulfilling, he literally changed everything, my future, my present and my past became subject to the work and glory of God. What once was darkness and depravity became a position to relate with other broken people; what once was selfish ambition, became passion for the gospel and the lost. Jesus made all the difference in the world.

The Work of Missions: Part III

New Testament Revelation of Mission

[Original post] // [Part 2]

Within the New Testament the very principal of “go and tell and bring in” is laid out as the motive and the method of God to the people of the Earth. There is no mistaking the deliberate and active pursuit of all of humanity through the message of the cross. (1 Timothy 2:4) Through the tracking and preservation of Israel, God displays and corrects the whole of human experience as associated to the fall, redemptive purpose, and the subsequent inability of man to gain valued relationship with himself, his surrounding, and ultimately his God. Over the course of several thousand years God manages to piece together a story of devastation, judgment, reform, and dependency that is philosophically unique in nature and blatantly evident in application. As practical philosophy gained its acceptance and propagation outside of Israel culminating in the inter-testamental period, so the hearts and minds of a once closed off and divided humanity began to embrace a centralized and developed sense of reason. National superstition slowly declines and a more universal concept of history becomes prevalent.

The internal implications of the oral and written traditions of Judaism seem to fit (although shakily) with the oral and self-revelatory development of Socratic ideal and its adherent statesmen.[1] Then on the scene bursts the Christ of the gospels who compels men to follow him. His mission is to the Jew, but interwoven throughout his ministry is a compulsion to exceed the boundaries of Judah and embrace the whole of mankind. Then in a bold command that completes the picture of God’s call and promise to Abram, the risen Christ commissions his followers to with these words

Matthew 28: 18-19 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The details are direct, immediate, and foundational to the purpose of God by Christian theology in relation to man. The writer of Hebrews details the entire layout of this plan and its game changing effect on all of creation. No longer is there a disconnect between promise and action; the action of death, burial, and resurrection become the fulfillment of the promise, and now all men regardless of nationality, background, gender, or level of intellect have an intermediary and reconciliatory agent to cross the vast gulf of separation between God and man.(Galatians 3:26-29)

eyes-world-fade

The true transcendental power of this revelation isn’t that it happened (because it was God’s already stated intent) but that those who embrace its tenet are brought into the process of ensuring its furtherance. Instead of being an outside observer/interpreter of divine intervention (like the prior prophets, priests, and kings), those called to be reconciled to God are in turn sent out to reconcile others. We are literally “Given the ministry of reconciliation”, and called individually as priests and witnesses of God’s redemptive nature.

2 Corinthians 5: 18-21 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

[1] Steinberg, David. “The Impact of Greek Culture on Normative Judaism from the Hellenistic Period through the Middle Ages c. 330 BCE- 1250 CE. Adath Shalom.

The Work of Missions Part II:

Old Testament Revelation of Mission

eyes-world-inv

[Original post] [Part 3]

Isaiah 49:3,6 –And He said to me “You are my servant, O Israel, In whom I will be glorified” and “Indeed He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”

 In the text above a revelation is given to the prophet Isaiah that cannot be ignored or easily written off as interpretive to the listener. The scripture clearly states that God will be glorified “in” Israel. Not Israel as location, but Israel as “chosen” or the collective people of God. The prophet goes on to display the frame and subject of this glorification. He states that not only will the tribes be restored but that salvation would come to the world through the light that God makes out of Israel. This goes along with the Abrahamic promise stated and reinforced by God Himself 6 times throughout Genesis to all three patriarchs (Abram, Isaac, and Jacob) “…in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”(Gen 12:2-3) Reference to this blessing and purpose is echoed throughout the Torah and extrapolated in the minor prophets. It also forms an entire narrative in the major prophets, as seen in the introductory Isaiah text. Two outcomes come from the Abrahamic blessing:


1. God will
ensure the preservation and posterity of Israel and
2. God desires to affect His rule and provision to the world
through Israel. [1]

These driving forces of missional theology have driven many to question God’s purpose and interraction with Israel. There is no universal mandate to “go and tell and bring into covenant” others outside of Israel. Although there are many references to declare His works and proclaim His goodness, even to the nations, there is no impetus to bring outsiders into Israel, convert them into Jewish practice, or implore them to live before God rightly and be a part of His provision. It therefore remains that something is missing between the promise of God to Abraham’s descendants and the work of God through them. If indeed the intent of blessing toward Abraham and his people was to ultimately bless all peoples (that is, the nations) what would be the agent of that blessing, what would be the catalyst and bridge to bring the glorification of God and the Jewish narrative into the lives of people outside of Israel?

Discipline and other Dirty Words

painting_benedict

  1. Precise obedience (times and regimens)
  2. The practice of moderation (self-control)
  3. The structure of the order (accountable community)

These three principles dictate all life in the old Catholic (as in universal/complete) orders, Benedict himself dictated a strict observance of Christian practice that was adhered to as a spiritual act of obedience and commitment. The order itself thrived throughout centuries by the willful piety and practice of the individual monks that withstood beyond the distractions or open abandonment of less stringent or more liberal orders. Many guidelines and standards were erected specifically to avoid the faulty discipline and weaker faith rampant throughout the popular Christendom of the day.

The monastic community is more than aesthetic or exclusive; it is, by contrast, intrinsically spiritual and geared toward a complete devotion to God. All aspects of what we now call community stemmed, in that setting, from the practice of specific rules about times and practice. Waking and working at certain hours, eating and meditating for a set time created consistency that forced the body to align with the soul and spiritual expectancy of receiving from God. Moderation kept selfishness at bay while simultaneously creating dependence on Christ for sustainability physically (in food), mentally (in conversation and silence), and spiritually (in submission). Finally the structure of community created long lasting continuity and a basis for authority to be executed. All of these ensured the long-term commitment to central governance and strict observance to precepts.

Today the church (at least mainstream Christianity) could benefit greatly from more structure and less “organic estimation”. There are disciplines like prayer and bible exposition that are completely lost on an entire generation of believers because there is no continuity, no moral resonance or standard bearer for them be led by. Modern evangelicalism shuns strict observance as too rigid and restrictive to growth. They recoil from the tinge of catholic influence or ritual as justification for a more open and free expression of faith, but the result (in my opinion) is a weaker and less meaningful faith that relies on exterior (emotional) stimulation without internal (eternal?) power. The church could use some strict observance; as much as I appreciate organic life and growth I also see the need, now more than ever, for structured growth. All faith grows but the quality and strength of that growth is dependent on the pressures and structure placed around it. The Monastic orders came to understand this, as did the central Fathers of the great historical movements, we would do well to heed the call to moderation and obedience again.

The Work of Missions

The work of “Missions” unfolds through the activity and pursuit of the church for the sinner that is unreached by God’s Word and/or severed from God’s life. This pursuit requires the full submission of God’s people in the following degrees:

  • individually as a personal commitment to share the faith and hope in our lives with others who may not know or willingly have rejected the desire of God to draw them to repentance and eternal life in His kingdom,
  • corporately as we support the work and reach of the church outside of the individual reach of the daily life of Christians,
  • and globally in response to the specific call of God in individual lives to be given to those groups, regions, and peoples as emissaries and ambassadors of God’s great love and reconciliation.

I will unpack some direct contributions that brought about these central activities…here [Part 2], [Part 3].

Earth boy

Where “never gonna make it” meets “already there”

I had a horrible childhood. That isn’t said for the sake of pity or even to get your attention, it is a simple truth. My home life was chaotic,often violent and unpredictable and I never really found my “place” in school or with friends. I was adopted as a baby and my adopted mother was undiagnosed schizophrenic-depressive/diagnosed bi-polar (no-meds). There were a lot of severe emotional detachments in my home although I had an amazing dad, who handled life with care and reason and loved my mom fully. He was not a godly man (at least in the traditional sense) although he had deep reverence for God. We made it through, I found balance eventually and life itself has been more fulfilling and enjoyable than I ever would have imagined. I don’t talk about the depth or worst of my despair in my formative years much, it is not a sore subject but it is also not relevant in most discussions, not because I don’t acknowledge it but because the good in my life is of far greater worth.

I was discussing life’s ups and downs with a friend yesterday and he questioned whether I had ever experienced joy without the accompaniment of sorrow or pain. I tried to re-step through my life and I honestly can’t think of any moment that wasn’t riddled with both. He mentioned how sad that was and how I must not really enjoy anything, but after some evaluation that simply isn’t true. I don’t think of bad things happening to ruin my good time, I see life apart

from union with Christ as riddled with false expectations and a fantasy of avoiding trouble and striving to attain some imaginary prize called success. Good things present amidst the mundane and painful to provide a vision of heaven. [James 1] God is gracious and sheds that grace by giving us hope and fulfillment in spite of the anguish or trouble in life. I’m reminded of the velveteen rabbit and how the Horse commented on being rugged and torn from life but shiny and pristine made you no more real than old and worn… the only ones that “become real” are the ones that are truly loved and truly taken in. It is revealed through inspection that fulfillment comes through living with purpose and value to others.

Brennan Manning - A Ragamuffin
Brennan Manning – A Ragamuffin

Bad doesn’t interrupt my good, wonderful injects itself into wonder… the supernatural invades my natural, I appreciate the most trivial and simplistic things in my life because I know the value of each and every triumph. And placing value on low things doesn’t cheapen greater things it only causes someone to make more honest and lasting connections with the things that really matter, the things that are “real.”

Minimal Efforts…

I began attempting to figure out some clear paths toward discipleship that a beginner might succeed and build on. I wrote out three simple roles that I find most central to the engaged Christian life, not simply to new Christians but to Christians who begin to take the direction of their faith in their own hands; after all, that is when “real life” begins. The breakaway from everything that is accepted to everything that must be discovered for one’s self is the difference between engagement and marriage, conception and birth, hanging out with Jesus and giving our all for the sake of the gospel of the HaMoshiach. One can “gestate” in the faith for 5 seconds or 30 years, but once the step is taken to purposefully live in faith a change comes that requires organic growth and developed structure to continue in what Paul legitimately called “The Way.” There will be blanket statements but we are way too late in the action for platitudes or simplistic half-truths. The three roles that I found central to becoming a true seeker in life were –Study, Commitment, and Pursuit. If you can’t grow in these, you can’t grow period.

 

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The Charm and the Challenger: Epic Journey

I’ve been on an epic journey for the past year; being challenged weekly by my great friend and co-conspirator in sardonic reasoning, Carlos Sacriste, we were put to the fire of life by Nee. The result was a “buckling down” of actually adhering to the calling and purpose of my gifts. Now that may sound minimally profound and clicheic but it has been monumental in the battling of my pride and the upward focus in my way of life.

neeIt started last May when I was invited to collude with Carlos at his home in San Antonio, TX. We spent 5 days challenging each other, we enjoyed fellowship and communion and I thank God for the opportunity to have seen him in his true “element.” It wasn’t all sunshine and roses though, out of Carlos’ many gifts his most potent talent is in provocation. Carlos challenges people’s mentalities; he is a keen observer of human behavior as it relates to their core beliefs. It is he who led me (over 7 years ago) to the conclusion that “what people do is the only valid indicator of what they truly believe.” So during those 5 days away from my own life I was invited to share in his life; his interaction with his family, his devotion to his calling, and his pursuit of truth and purpose.

A few weeks later after I returned to “the real world” I randomly picked up a book at the local Christian book store by Watchman Nee called “The Spiritual Man,” the book contained many of the themes we had discussed during my visit (i.e. the trinitarian self, spiritual union, meditation and divine encounters, etc.). We both started reading right away and have been actively discussing the implications and applying the in-life truths that we find in the pages on a continual basis.

So what’s my point?

I desire to be used by God, to actively pursue the purpose to which I was called to God in Christ by the Holy Spirit. I’ve always been an independent thinker and somewhat self-reliant in my spiritual pursuit, however this past year I have grown more in focus and self-evaluation than ever before. Point blank – we need people. And not just people to hang out with and be a part of real life with, but people that will push our buttons and make us uncomfortable and love us in a way that doesn’t settle for a bare minimum of experience.

I will be unpacking some of the life-impacting changes and perspectives I’ve grown in the last year over the next month, in the meantime I would earnestly challenge you to find someone to run with and see how much farther you can go, pick a book, or a devotional or any specific outcome and run in a way that will draw you out of laziness and blind faith and into a life of adventure and challenge.

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