The Gift That Keeps on Forgiving

 

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven,
but dwelling on it separates close friends.

-Proverbs 17:9

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If anyone had a right to settle accounts it was the young dreamer Joseph. Cast into a hole in the ground by his brothers over a dream he relayed to them and a love gift his father imparted to him, Joseph had every right to be up in arms.

 

Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.  He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had:  We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. …

 

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

“Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.” (Genesis 37)

  

The dream and the ornate garment where not prompted by Joseph. The God of Jacob gave Joseph the dream. Jacob, Joseph’s father, out of love for the son of his old age, gave Joseph an ornate garment. As father he had the prerogative to give whatever he wanted to whomever he pleased. But, the brothers decided that such a dream and such a gift to one member, a younger brother at that, and not to the many represented a horrible injustice. So, they brought about their version of justice: kill Joseph and dump the object of their resentment into a dry cistern. After Reuben’s pleas they dumped Joseph alive into the dry well. Joseph’s flesh and blood did not want flesh and blood on their hands. So, it was decided by the brothers that Joseph should be sold as a slave instead of done away with. To throw their father off the trail of Joseph’s whereabouts, the ornate garment yanked off of Joseph was dabbed with blood. The brothers wanted their father to think Joseph had been eaten by wild animals

What the brothers didn’t know, and didn’t know all along, was that in spite of the being tossed into a pit, Joseph had a different perspective. Sure, he questioned his brothers from the pit. “Why have you done this? What have I done to you?” Joseph had every right to be up in arms. But in that pit Joseph laid down his claim for justice and looked to the Sovereign God for resolution.

The resolution brought Joseph to Egypt and away from his father. We never hear of Joseph griping about the injustice done to him, though. Over time God would reverse Joseph’s slave status making him a master of much of the Egyptian people.

The resolution also brought his brothers to Egypt. There, they would not stand trial before Joseph for their crimes. But they would be tested by him to see if they could be trusted anew. 

After the testing, a reconciliation would ensue, brought about by Joseph. It happened when their father Jacob died:

After burying his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, together with his brothers and all the others who had gone with him to bury his father.

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50: 15-21)

 

We read in Genesis 39:2 that, “The LORD was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master.

 

Alternative ending: After being thrown into a cistern and then sold as a slave, Joseph vowed to take vengeance on every last one of those who did him wrong. Once in Egypt, he slaughtered the slave traders who bought him there. He slaughtered their families and his task masters and their families. He returned home and slaughtered his brothers and their wives and children. He threw their bodies into a cistern. He became a warlord and began ransacking and raping those he came upon. He rode into towns wearing the ornate garments he stole from those he killed. He slew anyone who looked at him the wrong way. His father Jacob would not bless Joseph after Joseph’s murderous rampage. Joseph slew his father after he forced a blessing out of him with torture. Nothing would stop Joseph’s quest for justice. Accounts had to be settled.

 

I don’t have to tell you that we live in a litigious world. There are caseloads of lawsuits in the courts. Closer to home, in the social media realm of words, the hyperbole used to describe offense taken is akin to that of an attorney who makes his case to the public.

Certainly, there are legitimate offenses that occur. Just as certain, there are also illegitimate offenses that are drummed up for the sake of personal benefit. Much of what is on TV is highlighting offenses taken. You never see forgiveness highlighted on TV. It is as if forgiveness is a sign of weakness in a world where power is the most sought-after commodity.

 As mentioned in my last post, people hold grudges. Many will take an offense if any one looks at them the wrong way or drives the ‘wrong’ way or words are not received in the manner given. There are those who generate their own offenses by their very nature. Some are envious. Some are covetous. Many, as seen this last presidential election, take offense that some folks have what they consider a bigger piece of pie, which they translate into a larger share of power over circumstances. Their form of social justice is not much different from Joseph’s brother’s. The envy-driven will call for the wealthy to be taken down and to have their costly ornate ‘garments’ removed and given to others before throwing them into a financial pit.

 

Parenthetically, it is important that I use both Old and New Testament accounts in my posts. I’ve learned from social media that many people consider the Old Testament a relic, outmoded, and archaic.  They contend that Jesus came to throw away all of those rule-ish books. But, nothing could be further from the truth. All of Scripture is one narrative about God’s interaction with His creation, from Genesis to Revelation. As you read Scripture from cover to cover you will come across many parallel situations revealing God’s relationship with man. You will have to come to Scripture to find highlights of forgiveness. The world’s narrative is about highlighting those maintaining power.

The story of Joseph contains a dramatic turnaround – from victim of the merciless to merciful forgiver. The next account contains another dramatic turnaround – from mercifully forgiven to merciless.

 

Then Peter came to Jesus.

“Master”, he said, “how many times must I forgive my brother when he sins against me? As many as seven times?”

“I wouldn’t say seven time,” replied Jesus. “Why not—seventy times seven?

“So, you see,” he went on, “the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle up accounts with his servants. As he was beginning to sort it all out, one man was brought before him who owed ten thousand talents. He had no means of paying it back, so the master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and everything he possessed, and payment to be made.

“So the servant fell down and prostrated himself before the master.

“’Be patient with me,’ he said, ‘and I’ll pay you everything!”

“The master was very sorry for his servant, and let him off. He forgave him the loan.

“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him a hundred dinars. He seized him and began to throttle him. ‘Pay me back what you owe me! He said.

“The colleague fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll repay you!’

“But he refused, and went and threw him into the prison until he could pay the debt.

“So when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were very upset. They went and informed their master about the whole affair. Then the master summoned him.

“’You’re a scoundrel of a servant! He said to him. ‘I let you off the whole debt, because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have taken pity on your colleague, like I took pity on you?’

“His master was angry, and handed him over to the torturers, until he had paid the whole debt. And that’s what my heavenly father will do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother or sister from your heart.”

        Matthew’s Gospel account 18: 21-35

 

I suspect like many in his day and in our day, Peter wanted to know if there is a limit to enduring an injustice. He likely wanted to know when he could settle accounts. Perhaps he was wondering to himself, “How long do I have to keep my anger in check?’ Jesus responded with the multiplicity of forgiving with mercy as the gift that keeps on forgiving. Jesus would not only tell the crowd that his kingdom encompassed those who forgive over and over the myriad offenses taken in. Jesus forgave those of the world their myriad offenses. About the matter of settling accounts, The Lord God spoke these words through Isaiah the prophet to the descendants of Jacob:

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. Review the past for me, let us argue the matter together; state the case for your innocence. Isaiah 43: 25-26

A truly good Man was sentenced to die the horrific death of the cross. I wonder. Did Jesus think of Joseph in the cistern when he said, “I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength.” (Psalm 88:4)? What we do know is what the Only Begotten Son said from the cross:

“Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

 

 Those of us who call Jesus “Lord” are a ‘storied’ people. Our narrative is Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. Our narrative contains the Creator and Creation, the life of Christ, the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Kingdom of God. Our narrative highlights forgiveness. Our narrative contains the Lord’s teaching prayer. From that prayer we learn that we settle accounts with one another by forgiving one another.

Our story reveals that the Mercy shown to us is the Mercy we freely offer to the world around us.

Mercy, the gift that keeps on forgiving.

 

 

  

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 “Where do wars come from? Why do people among you fight? It all comes from within, doesn’t it – from your desires for pleasure which make war in your members.” James 4:1

A lack of forgiveness is absent in détente. Tit for tat aggression is the rule: you affected the means of our pleasure and now we will deal with you.

How can there be peace in this world? Holding up a placard and the peace sign doesn’t work. Holding up a palm branch of forgiveness just might. But, to not forgive is to say there is no sovereign God who will put things right someday. Because there will be the ultimate putting right of things, forgiveness does not seek revenge. Forgiveness can let go of control because there is One who will ultimately bring justice and put things right. And, don’t forget: “Vengeance is mine. I will repay says the Lord”.

 

Coming up: To Remain the Church, The Church Cannot Remain Tolerant

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Pray it Forward

 

“I, Paul, am in prison because I am a missionary for Jesus Christ to you who are not Jews.” Ephesian 3:1 

 

 

1st Century AD. You are in a prison in Ephesus. You long to know how your young children are doing, your young children in the faith. You have been called to preach the Good News and announce the Kingdom of God to the Gentiles. Seeds have been planted but they must be watered and fed and cared for in order for there to be fruit. But, here you are locked up. So, you write letters and pray and pray and pray.

 

“For this reason, from the day we heard it, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking God to fill you with the knowledge of what he wants in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. This means that you’ll be able to conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Lord, and so give him real delight, as you bear fruit in every good word and grow in the knowledge of God. I pray that you’ll be given all possible strength, according to the power of his glory, so that you’ll have complete patience and become truly steadfast and joyful.

And I pray that you will learn to give thanks to the father, who has made you fit to share the inheritance of God’s holy ones in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness, and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved son. He is the one in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 9-14

 

As I read these verses I envisioned Paul sitting in a dimly lit and damp prison cell. He is agitated and fretting. He is deeply concerned for those outside the cell, those surrounded by the power of darkness. Paul is not whining. He is not demanding. He is not writing his bio.

Paul is praying and hasn’t stopped praying for those beyond his cell. Paul is praying that they may be filled with knowledge and that they may be given all strength to use that knowledge to bear fruit. He prays that they will learn to give thanks for the One who transferred them into his Kingdom out of the darkness. The irony that Paul has been transferred to a dank dark prison cell because of the Kingdom does not affect his vision of the Kingdom or his prayer life.

This is Kingdom prayer. The prayer is for others. The prayer lifts others up and reinforces others. The prayer points away from self and toward the One who is able to do more than we ask or think on behalf of others. This is dark night of the cell prayer, where one is alone with God and unable to move but a few feet. Paul’s actions are distilled down to praying verbs: “fill”, “bear”, “grow”, “learn”.

 

 

There are many who are unable to move but a few feet. The elderly, who have been active most of their lives, now sit. Some may even think of their bodies as a prison cell. But, in that “cell” the “wisdom and spiritual understanding” that was prayer directed at them some two millennia before can be applied to their Kingdom prayer now. They can pray for their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren just a Paul prayed for his children in the faith. The fact that they, two millennia later, have faith means that Paul’s prayer was effective. Some were “filled” with knowledge. Some were “filled” with knowledge and “bore” fruit. Some were “filled” with knowledge and “bore” fruit and “gained” strength. Some were “filled” with knowledge and “bore” fruit and “gained” strength and “learned” to give thanks.

There will always be situations beyond our control. I was reminded this past two weeks of how uncontrollable are the forces that surround me. The weather in the Chicago area has been frigid. I do not remember such cold temps and I have lived in the area for over 65 years.

At 65 years you begin to think about mobility later in life. You wonder, at least I do, about how long your legs will cooperate. So, I see it is time for me to exercise Kingdom prayer with action verbs. It is long past time for me to pray it forward.

 

More Kingdom prayer from prison:

“For this reason, I bow my knees and pray to the Father. It is from Him that every family in heaven and on earth has its name. I pray that because of the riches of His shining-greatness, He will make you strong with power in your hearts through the Holy Spirit. I pray that Christ may live in your hearts by faith. I pray that you will be filled with love. I pray that you will be able to understand how wide and how long and how high and how deep His love is. I pray that you will know the love of Christ. His love goes beyond anything we can understand. I pray that you will be filled with God Himself.

God is able to do much more than we ask or think through His power working in us. May we see His shining-greatness in the church. May all people in all time honor Christ Jesus. Let it be so.”  Ephesians 3: 14-21

Fair Enough

“Listen,” Louie says. “You’re never gonna get the same things as other people. It’s never gonna be equal. It’s not gonna happen ever in your life, so you must learn that now, OK? The only time you should look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have . . . as much as them.”

So God Gave Them Up

 valentin_paul_writing1800x1337

As you begin reading Paul’s letter to the house churches in Rome you clearly see Paul’s heart for the church and for the Kingdom of God now in place in this most cosmopolitan of cities:

 “This letter comes to all in Rome who love God, all who are called to be his holy people. Grace and peace to you from God our father, and King Jesus, the Lord.”

 Paul’s letter is tactful, spirited, full of information and pastoral.  He is excited and “not ashamed about the gospel” even though many outside the church are not eager to receive Good News of the Kingdom of God. Paul knew that Rome was the dominion of the “rulers of this age.”

 Paul clearly understood that by calling Jesus “King Jesus, the Lord,” that he was promoting another ruler above the Emperor.  This was seditious and dangerous for Paul.  But Paul knew the power of the Gospel.  Paul knew what God’s Good News had done in his own life and in the lives of others. He knew the cost of God’s mercy.

 Prior to Paul’s letter, Rome had gone through sweeping changes.  Pagan Rome didn’t much care for Jews and their purifying religious rituals.  They also didn’t very much care for the new “religion” in town, Christianity, which some of the Jews embraced.  Emperor Claudius had the Jews expelled from Rome.  The Jewish Christians left behind Gentile house churches. Some believe that these churches in Rome began with Gentile believers who were converted during Pentecost, while they were in Jerusalem.

 After Claudius died in AD 54 Nero became Emperor.  Under a new Emperor the Jews and with them the Jewish believers returned to Rome. It is then that Paul writes his letter, circa AD 58, describing the sweeping changes brought about by the Kingdom of God on earth.  He writes about God’s justification of all those who believe that God would keep His Covenant promise. That promise was completely fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

 Paul was deeply concerned for Christ’s church at Rome.  His “masterpiece” letter hopes to resolve conflicts between Gentile believers and Jews now returning to Rome. And, more importantly, he writes to give the church an overarching vision of God’s Covenant plan to save the world from itself.

 As you read Romans you sense that the church and the world system at that time are not so different from that of our world and our own times. 

 At the beginning of the letter Paul writes that he was under obligation to barbarians as well as to Greeks, that he was  obliged to the uncultured and the cultured. He was obliged to speak the Gospel to the wise and to the foolish.   These kinds of people are with us today, are they not?

 Paul begins God’s creation salvation story with the problem:  man’s brokenness and man’s unwillingness to turn from his sin.  To make the point, within the first paragraphs of his letter the phrase “So God gave them up” occurs three times:

 “So God gave them up to uncleaness in the desires of their hearts, with the result that they dishonored their bodies among themselves.  They swapped God’s truth for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed for ever, Amen.

So God gave them up to shameful desires.  Even the women, you see swapped natural sexual practice for unnatural; and men, too, abandoned natural sexual relations with women, and were inflamed with their lust for one another.  Men performed shameless acts with men, and received in themselves the appropriate repayment for their mistaken ways.

Moreover, just as they did not see fit to hold on to knowledge of God, God gave them up to an unfit mind, so that they would behave inappropriately.”

 Keep in mind that Paul knew the Jewish canon.  He knew about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah – God’s righteous anger poured out on the sexual perversion within those cities. Those cities had been warned.  Paul was again warning the new Christians in pagan Rome about God’s Righteousness and Justice and man’s hardheartedness. Is not homosexuality worshipping the creature rather than the Creator? But Paul was revealing a way out ~ a path made straight by the One Jew who fulfilled all of God’s desires for His rebellious people ~ Jesus.

 And lest we read Paul’s words and become smug and judge others keep in mind Paul’s words in his letter to the Corinthians:  “Some of you were once like that.”

 “Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people–none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God

Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Cor 6:9-11)

 I don’t have to tell you that in our time the main stream media pours out filth and degeneration into our homes.  Our lives are constantly bombarded with TV programs, movies and advertisements that use sex or by political party advocates who call homosexuality a “right.”  Yet, a “right” does confer righteousness to the owner, only license and worse, in the case of homosexuality, licentiousness.

 The perversion and antinomianism now seems even more pervasive in our age than in Paul’s because of the ever-present media.  What can Christians do to heed Paul’s words today in our pagan world? It begins with worship.  So God will give them up – the people of this age – who follow in the footsteps of the pagan Romans but for us who believe we can give up to God what Paul writes later in Romans:

 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.”

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Here is some helpful info if you choose to walk away from those chains:

http://www.narth.com/

NARTH 2012 Press Conference & Reparative Therapy

http://voices-of-change.org/

The Church and Gender

   From my perspective the Christian Church has helped fuel gender confusion by placing added emphasis or burdens on others regarding the masculine and the feminine. 

 Recall the early Christian Churches of Jerusalem and Galatia which demanded that new Christians follow the strict tradition “soaked” Law along with the teachings of Jesus?  Today’s church in similar fashion, is seeking to subjugate men and women to “Biblically” masculine or feminine stereotypes, demanding that their romantic notions of what they consider masculine and feminine become de facto behavior for all Christians.

 As a former student of Moody Bible Institute and during the course of a lifetime I have read through the Bible several times and many, many passages several times over.    I have to say that I have never, ever found any description of Biblical manhood or womanhood.  What is written are what characteristics a man likes about a woman (see Song of Solomon and Proverbs 31) and what a woman likes about a man (see Song of Solomon).  None of these “characteristics” ~ physical and pragmatic – carry the moral weight of the Ten Commandments or of the New Commandment that Jesus gave us to “Love one another.” These “characteristics” should never be used to propagate more sons and daughters of the “Biblically masculine and feminine.”

 Now, when a Church or group puts the word “Biblical” in front of its messaging it is inferring that this is what a Christian must do or be. These “characteristics” should never be taught as Biblical mandates for manhood or womanhood. 

 As the Apostle Paul noted about food offered to idols (I Cor. 8), there are some who can eat such food and have no issue with their conscience.  Others must refuse because of their conscience. He voiced concern about those with maturity and freedom being a stumbling block to the weak in their eating of food offered to idols.  But I believe that it is the Church with regard to its “genderization of males and females” that has become a stumbling block for the weak.  Throughout history the Christian church has sought to enforce its will onto Christians.  This was certainly true before the reformation and it is still true with the “free” church’s Libertarian Paternalism that nudges people into making decisions the church feels are best for them, including gender roles.  But the church does not decide what our Spirit-led conscience tells us to do.  Paul learned that lesson the hard way.  We as Christians have the freedom to decide our masculinity and femininity before God as the Spirit speaks to our conscience.

 The closest we come to a description of “Biblical manhood and womanhood” in the Bible is within the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus (Eph. 5). It is there that he instructs Christians as to how married men and women should relate to each other. 

 Regarding these relational or family matters he bids husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands.  Biblical manhood and womanhood as seen here is relating to the ‘other’ ~ wife or husband ~ with love and respect. Biblical manhood and womanhood are as relational as simply loving your neighbor as you love yourself.  Why create extra yokes called “Biblical Masculine and feminine” to be placed on people’s necks?

 Now it is common knowledge that people do not like ambiguity. We demand black and white.  We demand inerrancy.  We demand “Biblically masculine and feminine” males and females.  Our minds are wired to alert us to any differences to a norm.  We seek to reconcile things as quickly as possible.  Ambiguity comes off as a potential threat to our understanding of how life should be. As related to gender we tend to overemphasize male and female “roles” in order to reduce our anxiety over ambiguity.  I believe that some of this fear has grown out the Christian Fundamentalist movement that was raised up in the early twentieth century against the threat of Liberal theologian’s textual infractions.  The Conservative Christian world sought to tighten its reins on what is and isn’t “Biblical.”  But it has also put a noose around each gender. 

 Yet, there is no gender typecasting in Scripture.  And, more importantly, the message of the Gospel offers everyone freedom from fear.  This includes freedom from the fear of the ambiguous and the unknown, the fear of the future and the fear of the not being able to follow the letter of the Law and therefore deserving punishment.

 In the past I have attended para-church seminars based on gender “issues.”  There seminar leaders urged attendees to pray asking God for the “True masculine and the “True Feminine.”  These prayers, of course, will not be answered because there is no such thing. The best a man or woman can ever become is to be Spirit-filled.  And the best how-to books to become Spirit-filled are the Bible and My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Forget the OTC self-help books and seminars on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  You would be wasting your time and money.  Worse, you would most likely seek to adapt to someone else’s notion of what it is to be a man or a woman. Run from this nonsense.

 The current falderal about gender~- “Biblical manhood and womanhood”~- are gooey romantic notions mandated as Biblical “righteousness.” Let’s not go there.  Let’s be free to be men and women without the yoke of the man-made gender laws placed on our necks. And then, perhaps, homosexuals will then feel free to come home.

 I have written about this before:  What is Biblical About it?

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I ask the homosexual community:  What happened to friendship between one man and another?  And, between one woman and another?  And, why take something good like friendship and debase and pervert it into something unnatural and sexualized? And why create an emotional codependency when a good friendship creates a safe environment for sharing life’s joys and hardships?

No Way But Up

What’s at the core of America’s problems today? Is it partisan politics or is there a greater rift in the American people?

 Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Soviet and Russian novelist, dramatist, and historian during his commencement address delivered at Harvard University, June 8, 1978, gave us his diagnosis.  His speech is a stinging indictment of the West –  its materialism, its enabling of the abuse of individual freedom, its self-serving inbred media and its disavowal of its spiritual roots:

 However, in early democracies, as in the American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted because man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were discarded everywhere in the West; a total liberation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. … State systems were becoming increasingly and totally materialistic. The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man’s sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer.

 And…

“If humanism were right in declaring that man is born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one’s life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it. It is imperative to review the table of widespread human values. Its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President’s performance be reduced to the question how much money one makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline. Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism.” (emphasis mine)

And…

“It would be retrogression to attach oneself today to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Social dogmatism leaves us completely helpless in front of the trials of our times. Even if we are spared destruction by war, our lives will have to change if we want to save life from self-destruction. We cannot avoid revising the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man’s life and society’s activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?”

Take a look at what drives you and perhaps you will see why America is no longer a nation under God, no longer a nation of civil courage, of moral decency.  Perhaps you will see why people would vote for a president who uses class warfare rhetoric to promote the sands of material security as foundational to life and not the rock of spiritual fortitude.

We seem to forget…

We seem to forget…

 What goes around does come around.

 To become an American is to be given a gift of liberty.  Use the gift wisely. There are many today who have been born American and don’t realize what they have. There are many today who do not have Truth to guide their lives.  They have only feelings and sincerity as their moral guides.

 As a citizen of the United States you deserve nothing more than life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Anything else becomes a demand that grows government and government in turn robs people of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A large government places people under the tyranny of its control first by controlling those you want controlled (unions, environmentalists, animal rights groups, etc. want others to be controlled) and then by controlling you.  Government in the “demand” process becomes a slave owner.  The Democrat party platform is the best example of a group seeking large government to corral people for “their own good.”

Voting for a Democrat means that you support the party platform:  abortion, casinos and gambling as revenue streams, higher taxes (you are the direct revenue stream for political favoritism ala Obama style politics), less return on your money, less control of your life, more government intrusion, government-run health care, European bailouts and bankrupt states (Greece, California, Illinois, etc.), political cronyism ala Chicago style politics, the Greek riots, government controlling others (while pretending that government will never control you), laziness, handouts, the perversion of marriage, more joblessness, more food stamps doled out, more crap at your expense. If you vote for a Democrat you deserve all the consequences. You still need to be spoon fed.

 We avoid pain, suffering and difficulty at all costs even though to overcome these onerous things make us feel alive and gives us character.  No amount of material possessions owned can do the same for us.

 You can’t take it with you and even though class warfare proponents such as Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and yes, Barack Obama, say that you can have it all at another’s expense.

 “A good name is more desirable than great riches.  A good name should be esteemed more than silver and gold.”  (The Book of Proverbs)

 A generous man will himself be blessed. It is better to give than to receive. (Jesus)

 “A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.”  (The Book of Proverbs) How many kids spend their time in pursuit of a useless degree and find out they cannot support either themselves or give to others who are needy.  This is not government’s fault.  It is their doing, is it not? (see Occupy Wall Street protestors).  You reap what you sow and what you don’t sow.

You cannot give what you do not have.  Making others give what they have does not fulfill the requirement of you giving to others even if you call it you call it a fancy name – wealth redistribution (“social gospel” for the lazy)

 Truth will come to you during your life.  Act on it while you can.

 Self-pity is a drag on your soul.  Unload it at the next trash bin.

 Holding a grudge against someone will destroy the person holding the grudge.  Destroy it before it destroys you – forgive.

 We are forgiven as we forgive others (Jesus).

 “There is a path which seems right to a man but the end thereof is the way of death.” (The Book of Proverbs)

 “The fool says to himself “There is no God.”” (The book of Psalms)

 “The fear of the Lord leads to life.”  (The Book of Proverbs)

 “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.”  (The Book of Proverbs)

              “So God created man in His own image…male and female He created them…God saw all that He made and it was very good.” (Genesis chapter 1)

(Note that homosexuality came after the fall of man and is a perversion of the good that had been made.  You should know that those who claim to be “Gay and Proud” will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, they will not return to the garden.)

 Life is short, especially for the aborted.

 Women’s rights do not include destruction of a fetus – a child.  Murderers, also, do not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (If you have had an abortion, repent and turn to seek God’s mercy.)

Women’s rights already include free contraception:  It is a woman’s right and freedom to keep her legs together and to say “No” to sex at any time and at any place. Do be fooled by the Democrats desire to supply you with so-called “free” contraception. And, the Democrats are more concerned with population control and controlling who is born (quality of life) and how many people are born (they don’t want the planet overrun with people who will use up its natural resources.)

 In a God-breathed marriage women desire love, men desire respect.

We will all give an account of our lives before our Creator.  There is a heaven and there is a hell.  Heaven is to be within the dancing embrace of the Trinity throughout eternity.  Hell is to be alone forever, constantly thirsty for the living water, constantly in agony as you remember your life.

 Like it or not you have free will.  Blaming God for your life only makes you a bad rendition of a human.  Rejecting your personal responsibility shows your self-indulgent pride. Sadly, there are many who wash their hands absolving themselves of responsibility.  They deflect accountability by asking “What is truth?”

 “Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.”  (The Book of Proverbs)

 The Bible contains the words of God and the factual history of Jesus: 

But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (The Gospel of John)

Enter In His Gates

The other day I walked as usual during my lunch hour. Working in a downtown Chicago office affords many interesting paths for my walking and praying. That day I chose Millenium Park, thankful for some open space and towering blue sky.

 Walking and praying are complimentary actions for me. They are complimentary in that praying to advance the Kingdom of God is coupled to my physical action of going forward, of not being static or complacent. Walking increases my heart rate, my breathing also becomes faster and deeper.  As I walk every breath then becomes a prayer uttered out of the rhythm of my heart, mind, body and soul. Beyond this, walking and praying are often the only actions I can take when I am told to wait on the Lord.

 That day, walking and praying, I lifted up the needs of others and my own very pressing needs. As I did so I clearly heard these words from the Holy Spirit:

 “Enter in His gates with Thanksgiving

And into His courts with praise.”

 In that moment I understood that God was acknowledging my intercessions and supplications. I felt a child-like pleasure in His notice of me. God was calling me into his presence.

 In a sermon by C.S. Lewis written down in a book by the same name, The Weight of Glory, this moment was captured for me:

 “For glory means a good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgement, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.

Perhaps it seems rather crude to describe glory as the fact of being “noticed” by God. But this is almost the language of the New Testament.  St. Paul promises to those who love God not, as we should expect, that they will know Him, but that they will be known by Him. (1 Cor. 8:3).”

 That day, not only was God acknowledging my words but His invitation to “Enter in His courts…” revealed that He wanted the object of His love, me, to be in His presence. My giving God praise and thanksgiving would realign my objectivity so that one day I would be in position to know the pleasure of the inferior in His words to me: “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

 “Apparently”, as C.S. Lewis also wrote in Weight, “what I had mistaken for humility had, all these years prevented me from understanding what is in fact the humblest, the most childlike, the most creaturely of pleasures-nay, the specific pleasure of the inferior: a beast before men, a child before its father, a pupil before his teacher, a creature before its Creator.”

 Lewis, again in the same book, also wrote that “Glory, as Christianity teaches me to hope for it, turns out to satisfy my original desire (the specific desire of the inferior) and indeed to reveal an element in that desire which I had not noticed. By ceasing for a moment to consider my own wants I have begun to learn better what I really wanted.”

 A New Year is upon us. I will cross the threshold of this New Year and “Enter in His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.” I do so as an adopted child anxious to drink joy from the fountains of joy.

 

Unwrapping Up

This past year has been an incredibly agonizing one for me due to unexpected family events and the subsequent heartrending trauma that accompanies such a trajectory.  At the same time, though, I’ve become increasingly aware of a fundamental shift going on in my own nature – the shedding of my flimsy oft pretentious human nature to reveal Substantial Reality.  The nexus between these two versions of my person has been continued prayer for others and a regular partaking of the Eucharist.

 The whole divestment process has not been easy. In fact, it has been acutely painful, its unpleasantness much like what Eustace described to Edmund in C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawntreader.  Here Eustace relates his dragon skin being torn off by Aslan.

 “The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. but the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don’t know if he said any words out loud or not.

I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, however many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was do deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.

Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there I was as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. You’d think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they’ve no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian’s, but I was so glad to see them.

After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me – (with his paws?) – Well, I don’t exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes – the same I’ve got on now, as a matter of fact. and then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream.”

Here’s what is being peeled away from me (not for the queasy!):

 – A sentimentality of the kind that keeps my soul inbred, subservient to its self-rationalizing self-pity.

 – The desire to control a situation or someone to obtain a pleasant outcome, to soften reality’s blow and effectively deny its painful truth. 

 – Pretense.

 – The need to look good so as to impress others with my abilities, the need to compete for another’s attention hoping to gain the pride of place.

 – The impulse to take action when waiting would be the most prudent – not easy, but prudent.

– The lack of acceptance at face-value of knowledge presented as feminine – intuitive, passive, receptive.

 – The lack of acceptance of wisdom as a gift from God and therefore not derived as a human accomplishment.

The list, the shedding, goes on…

 As this painful process continues I am beginning to see my Real self emerging. This in turn has invoked in me a need to return to my baptismal vows and to those baptismal waters that I at one time had thought only help serve to moisten and seal the earnest of one’s inheritance in Christ.  Little attention did I pay to my rapidly developing dragon skin. 

 Today, by fire and trial and Aslan’s claws, I am being freed of the hardened outer layer of self-protection and I am submersing myself in the waters of my baptism.  In doing so, I, the vulnerable suppliant I, has become alive to the REAL – the “perfectly delicious” Real.

 This peeling away is all about knowing Christ and the fellowship of His sufferings. That is True Reality.

Held