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Monday, May 28, 2018

A confessional interlude

i will get back to the Christian Fatalism series (I HAVE TO NOW as you will see if you read this!)  But i thought this was worth sharing too and i can see how the two are tied together, woven like cancerous tumors around a spine.  This is just raw, unedited journal entry from this morning.  Use it if it's helpful, toss it if your sins are different than mine.

2018 05 28,

“But you were not willing to go up, and you rebelled against the command of Yahweh your God.  And you grumbled in your tents, and you said, “Because of the hatred of Yahweh toward us he has brought us out from the land of Egypt to give us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us.  Where can we go up?”

“Dorothy Sayers defines “sloth” as “the sin which believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and only remains alive because there is nothing it would die for.”
Lazy people do not love life enough to work hard to enjoy more of it, and the don’t love people enough to work hard so they can—as the righteous can— give without sparing.”
“When we think of a lazy person, we think of someone who doesn’t start things.  But there is also a kind of person who is always making plans and always starting but never finishing any project.  They don’t stay at jobs long, and they always blame the job itself rather than their own lack of stick-to-it-iveness.  Either they lose interest because of a lack of inner passion for anything or they have failed to count the cost and so find themselves overwhelmed.”
Tim and Kathy Keller

Father, just when i thought i’d hit a foundational sin of mine with the cynicism you go and pull the cover back more and convict me, stab me with sloth.  Guilty!  i am guilty!  What more can i do!  How can i now change??  What does repentance look like?  Surrounded as i am by a rotting house i never finished, a broken family, sons which do not serve and love you, an ipad full of unfinished drawings, a laptop full of unfinished books, a blog with an unfinished series…!  i am my father’s son.  i am lazy!  i am sloth.  Lord have mercy on me a sinner!  No wonder i have longed for a cause!  No wonder i have longed for a purpose!  And yet Lord, i feel like you have stood in my way every time i did feel the fire to move, to act, to become!  Was i not ready?  Was i not true?  Was i just starting or trying to, another project that i would not finish?  

What can be done with me now?  Is there anything left?  The generation which cursed you in the desert and turned its back on you is still alive in me.  The generation which refused the good gifts you had for it and made excuses instead is alive and well in me.  How many more years must i languish?  Is there any Joshua or Caleb in me?  Or is there only some Moses, angry at myself, at my sin but sinning on top of it and not treating you as holy and therefore not worthy of your rest?

Am i still avoiding true repentance?

Friday, May 18, 2018

CF4: Calling it out

"Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also."  John 14

It's time.  Time to call out the lies.  Time to drag the monsters out from under the bed and into the Light of Truth.  We have languished here too long; it has festered; it is time to pull the splinter.  Scooby Doo and those meddling kids have yanked the polite, smiling hypocrisy off the Christian Fatalist and uncovered the bitter heart of the cynic pumping vitriol beneath.  We have two choices when God calls us out, there is still time, we are still only on the road, only on our way to the Judge, we can agree with our accuser, confession is just that, it is agreeing with what Jesus says about us.  Now mind you, it's going to be hard, it's going to hurt, this is heart surgery, not Bactine and a band-aid, but if you're ready to really, truly start changing, start healing, if you really want to know the Father, this is the only Way there is...

"But turning around and seeing his disciples, he rebuked [you] and said, "Get behind me, Satan, because you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but the things of people!"  Mark 8

Whoa now!  Whoa!  Satan?  i mean, i got a little anger management problem yeah but Satan?  That's hyperbole!  That's totally out of line!  Me?  Satan?

Yeah.  Jesus don't play.  i told you, this was serious.  This is foundational.  You can keep confessing your fatalism or your cynicism or your anger if you want, you can keep treating symptoms all your life, your self-medicating, your dissipation, your porn problem, your fantasy life, your drinking, your time wasting, fine.  Do it.  It certainly won't hurt and you may see some improvement.  But if you want to live and not just live but live abundantly, live on purpose, live on mission, have a real, honest-to-God reason for living, you're going to have to take Jesus' hand with a spike hole in it and follow him where you may not want to go.  And how are you going to do that if you don't even believe what he says?

"Why do you not understand my way of speaking?  Because you are not able to listen to my message.  You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father!  That one was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand firm in the truth, because the truth is not in him.  Whenever he speaks the lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.  But because I am telling the truth, you do not believe me."  John 8

Cynicism is founded on two very fundamental lies which the cynic has most likely not thought out loud but has said in oh so many ways and built their lives upon:
     1. God is not God
     2. I am.
Even before we discuss how the cynic expresses them, can you not see how Jesus immediately recognizes his creation, Lucifer, Satan, the Serpent, the fallen angel in them?  Obdurate, outrageous pride!  How are we like that?

How are we not?  When we hoped for what we saw: the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes and the arrogance of material possessions; what we coveted, what we envied of the world around us and we asked God for it, whatever it was and we could make endless lists, God either steadfastly refused to give it to us or gave it to us for a season and then took it away or worse: gave us suffering we never asked for nor did it come into our minds to.  Then we got angry, we got hurt, we got upset and why?  Because we.  Deserved.  Better!  That is what our anger says.  That is what our self-pity says.  "I deserve better than this!"  "Why me?"  Oh, maybe at first we slapped the Christian platitudes on it, "God has a plan."  "God will never give you more than you can handle."  "Everything works for good for those who serve him."  But after a while... after five years, ten, twenty, do i hear forty?

The platitudes become parry and buckler and rote.  The smile a thin rigid mask.  The heart a stone.  Because if i deserved better, if i'm too good for this then God is either not good, not loving or not able to help.  And since God says he is all of those things then God would also have to be a liar.  God, therefore, couldn't possibly be the God he says he is.  The foundational lie: God is not God.  I am.  We have said with Sheba ben Bichri, "There is no share for us in David, and there is no inheritance for us in the son of Jesse...!"

Are your fists still clenched?  Are your teeth yet grinding?  Are your lips still tightly bound over a tongue which coils and rages to whip forth venom and cursing?  Do you stare daggers into the back of this Jesus who dares to name you, to judge you(!) as he turns from you toward Jerusalem?  Toward the Passover?  Toward betrayal?  Toward the Creator being tried by the creation?  Toward a beating?  A scourge?  A flail?  A cross?  If you do, then i have nothing for you but my pity, which i doubt you want.

But if it breaks you, if you're heart can still cry with the Spirit planted within you, "Abba Father!  Have mercy on me a sinner!"  If you can still cry at all, if you truly, deeply want to change no matter what it costs, then the next time we talk, we will speak of Good News!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

CF3: the Cynic goes there

Fatalism, Pessimism and Cynicism all walk into a bar.  They order drinks, sit down at a booth and Fatalism holds his glass up, "What will be, will be!"
Pessimism clinks glasses with him and adds, "Yep, and it will most probably suck!"
Cynicism just takes a sip of his bitter drink and mutters, "You know why that is, don't ya."

"Man, who is born of woman,
Is short lived and full of turmoil.
Like a flower he comes forth and withers.
He also flees like a shadow and does not remain."  Job 14

Dreams.  Ambition.  Desire.  Hope.  To live is to live FOR something.  Whether one desires a quiet life or an epic one, one still has hopes and set requirements for those hopes.  A steady job, a loving family and a house in the burbs or a mission field, a backpack and a pocket English-to-Whuddeesay dictionary or a million dollars, a mansion and a yacht or a rented flat in a grimy city and an IBM selectric typewriter or a charming brownstone, an artist girlfriend and a good coffee shop down on the corner; the family farm; the military career; the next promotion; the next raise; the next game; the next diploma; the next kid; the next grandkid; the next acquisition; the next sale; retirement or acclaim; travel or finally settling down; the next thrill; the next church plant; the next rung up whatever ladder you thought your life was about whatever that thing may be, that's what you're living FOR.

But a mountain falls; it crumbles away,
and a rock moves from its place.
Water wears away stones;
its torrents wash away the soil of the earth;
so you destroy the hope of human beings.
You overpower him forever, and he passes away;
you change his countenance, then you send him away.
His children may come to honor, but he does not know it;
or they may become lowly, but he does not realize it.
He feels only the pain of his own body,
and he mourns only for himself."  Job 14

Or you're just surviving.  The stark contrast between the spark in one man's eyes or a thousand yard stare in another can be whether or not they still believe in their dreams, desires and ambitions.  Whether their hopes still seem attainable or something... or someone... has crushed them.  They might still have things to live for but those goals have a much different flavor than they once did: the next drink, the next card game, the next fishing trip, the next vacation, the next affair, the next chance alone in a dark room with their computer, the next hit, the next installment of their show, the next offering from Marvel or Marilyn Manson or Tim Keller, time alone in the garage, or in the library, or in the garden, or on the mower...

The Fatalist has given up but he hasn't really thought about why.  The Pessimist has a why but he hasn't really thought out the implications of that why.  He doesn't allow himself to.  The Cynic has.  The Cynic is a frustrated idealist.  At some point he sentimentally believed in the good, the way things could be, should be and would be if people really, really tried.  And if he's a Christian, then he thought he had every right to believe those things really could and would be!

But they did not.  They did not come true.  People didn't really try.  They didn't.  They were too busy, too important, too adamant, too weak, too interested in their own plans and dreams, too distracted, too fatalistic, too pessimistic, too cynical.  His dreams failed and he did too.  Whether he blames himself or not.  He has looked behind the frustrated dreams, the crushed hopes and he has seen that man, at his core is selfish and always only thinks of himself.  He's heard of Total Depravity and he buys it.  There is no one who does good, no not one.  All of humankind is a liar!

Man is just not good.  Therefore, Life is just not good.

And if he's honest, and if the drink is bitter enough, you might get him to admit what he's truly thinking.  What he's afraid to think out loud.  What he's even more terrified to commit to writing but is the underlying framework in which he lives, breathes and chooses to be angry, disgruntled and morose.

That maybe God isn't good either.

No, i won't leave it here, this is a terrible place to leave it off for now but sometimes... we have to sit in a terrible place... to be continued.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

CF2: We begin to wonder...

"Hope that is deferred makes the heart sick..."  Prov 13
"The spirit of a man will endure his sickness,
     but as for a broken spirit who can bear it?"  Prov 18

Fatalism is giving up, it's a crushed spirit.  It's the logical outcome to crushed hopes.  It's learned helplessness: an experiment some sadist did with dogs years ago where they electrified the cage, not enough to kill, just enough to hurt, and watched to see what happened.  At first the dog tries to fight and flee but eventually it figures out there is nothing it can do, so it just lies down.  To my mind a Christian, a Bible believing follower of Christ is actually more susceptible to it, not less than a pagan.  Pagans can surely have it, the human heart is a hope factory.  We want, we desire but time and resources often mean we have to put off what we want, work for it, wait for it and despite what Disney tells us, dreams don't often come true nor when they do are they all we thought they'd be.  But a Christian has promises!  A Christian has the Bible and the Bible is chock full of wonderful things we hope for.  A Christian has REASONS to hope!  Proofs!  A God who can do all things!  Who has plans for us to prosper us and not harm, to give us a future and a hope!  We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!  Let's go win the world for Christ!  Go Team!

But time and resources...  we live a little, we see disappointments, honeymoons become work-a-day, seasons pass, seasons come and nothing much seems to change under the sun.  We learn other verses, we learn that in this life we will have affliction, we learn that those whom God loves, he also chastens, we learn that the Potter has every right to do with the clay what He wants.  Despite all our prayers: she leaves; he never comes home; we lose the house; the child dies; the verdict does come back, 'cancer'; that friend rejects Jesus..and us; we hear of wars and rumors of wars and atrocities and sexual bondage; and oh by the way, we never seem to get a handle on that sin either do we and we begin to wonder...

But no, we're too good of Christians to wonder that!  We keep getting up and doing our duty.  We keep on keeping on.  The son becomes a soldier.  The soldier becomes a servant.  The servant becomes a slave.  We go to church.  We tithe.  We go to Bible study and fellowship and read the word and can even debate it.  We pay our taxes.  We take care of our families.  We endeavor to live quiet lives.  We sing the songs...

But why does that one make us cry?  Why when our coworker is really, truly suffering apart from Christ do we say, "I wish there was something I could do to help, something I could say."?  Why do some verses in the Bible make us angry?  Heck, we're angry all the time!  Why is that?  And we begin to wonder....

But no, there's stuff to do.  Work, work, work.  Come home tired enough to crash on the couch and lose ourselves in some binge-watching, ballgame, a good book, porn...or run, run, run, this kid has to go there, that kid has to go here, whose kid is that?  Crap!  We have more kids?  Why the heck did we have so many kids?  Work called, gotta go, go, go, the guys called, i need some time with them, play some golf, have a beer and b***h about our lives, our wives, our work, and talk about the old days, before, when we were young and life looked big and amazing and we had such...


(to be continued)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Christian Fatalism

"Whatever is--it was already determined,
   what will be--it has already been decided.
As for man, he cannot argue
   against what is more powerful than him.
Increasing words only multiplies futility,
   how does that profit anyone?

For who knows what is good for a man in his life during the few days of his fleeting life, which are fleeting as a shadow?  For who can tell anyone what will happen in the future under the sun?"  (Ecc 6)

Christian fatalism summed up in a few verses.  If God is God then nothing we do matters.  Predestination means we had no real choice in the matter (thank God!!).  God is all knowing, all seeing and all powerful, what does he need us to pray and ask for things?  He already knows.  He's going to do what he wants anyway, right? 

You know, before i go and tell you what i think about this, i'd be curious to hear what y'all think.  What's wrong with thinking this way?  Are there fallacies we are holding on to?  What scriptures refute this way of thinking?  What does thinking this way do to our heart?  Our faith?  Our testimony?

Monday, April 02, 2018

And there'll be no knives there...

i freely admit, i don't exactly know what it means, but it struck me today while reading Leviticus that in all of the ancient worship, whether Tabernacle or Temple, where everything was based on the pattern of worship in heaven itself, where all of the tools and the trappings are mentioned in great detail, where slaughter is the business and sacrifice is the labor...
The knives and saws which MUST be present, are NEVER mentioned. Not once. They are not holy. They are not important. They a vitally necessary but never mentioned. Anywhere. Ever. And then i thought, the images of heaven include a Lamb who was slain and Christ carries his scars on his new body but nowhere is the cross sighted in any revelation of heaven.

God is very concerned with the called which come humbly bringing their sacrifice, their heart, their confession, their salvation; He is very concerned with every image of Jesus: the priest who slaughters, the clothes he wears, the ephod, amulet, shoulder boards of the priest, the animal who is slaughtered, the blood of the covenant, the flesh of the sacrifice, the altar, the forks and shovels of the altar, the curtain, the tent, the temple, the lamp, the oil in the lamp, the table, the bowls, the utensils, the bread, the altar of incense, the incense on the altar, the oil of anointing, the veil, the mercy seat, the ark, the law within, the staff of Aaron which budded, the manna, the gold, the silver, the bronze, the yarn, the linen, the wood...
He just doesn't seem to give a hoot about the implements of slaughter. Any old knife will do. Any old chunk of wood is good. Ain't gonna last long anyway.
"And I did not see a temple in it, for the Lord God All-Powerful is its temple, and the Lamb. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon, that they shine on it, for the glory of God illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb. And the nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. And its gates will never be shut by day (for there will be no night [or knives?] there), and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. And every unclean thing and one who practices detestable things and falsehood will never enter into it, except those who are written in the book of life of the Lamb."

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Up jumped the devil.

Every cynic is a frustrated idealist.  We don't look at the world as it is, we look at it as it should be and then lament how it is.  When people tell us, "cheer up!  It could be worse!"  We grumble, no, it is worse, what it could have been was a lot better!  

My readings today were from Genesis 4, Matthew 4, Ezra 4 and Acts 4.  Not every day do my readings seem to be so thematically linked as these four chapters do.  Each and every one seems hotly focused on one thing: Opposition.  It took Moses only three chapters to introduce the antagonist and inciting incident which will be the conflict of the rest of the Bible.  And in Chapter 4, Yahweh summarizes that conflict succinctly to Cain, 

"...sin is crouching at the door.  And its desire is for you,"

Ezra describes the "enemies of Judah and Benjamin" who use all the wiles and tools of the Serpent to confound and frustrate and cow the fledgling nation of Israel, freshly returned from exile and eager to rebuild the Temple.  In Acts Peter and John are dragged before the Sanhedrin for teaching and healing a lame man in the name of Jesus.  In each of these chapters there is someone who wants to do well and offer right sacrifices; someone who is rebuilding a house for our God as they were ordered to by God and king; someone who is listening to God and not refraining from speaking about what they have seen and heard.  And in each of these chapters, there is someone opposed to it and them.

We enlightened and rationalistic Christians can often lose sight of this, i think.  We are more likely to look at humanistic reasons for the way the world is.  Psychological ones.  Historical ones.  We can very nearly explain sin itself away by citing the troubled childhood of a sinner and their need for education and medication.  The answers are within our grasp because the problem is.  We can fix it.  If only...  Cain was disenfranchised by a flawed religious system which devalued his contribution and a nebulous moral code which had not yet conceived of murder and therefore not banned it either.  The other nations and peoples around Israel during the time of Ezra had as much claim and right to the land as the Israelites and had probably even suffered when Judah had previously provoked Babylon into conquering the land.  They were unfairly rebuffed when they offered to help with the building plan by the ethno-centric racism of a group of interlopers who would not accept a two-state solution.  The Sanhedrin of Pete and Jack's day were the proper authorities both in government and Judaism and acting in the nation's best interests as they saw fit, could only be in place by God's will and deliberately provoked by religious extremists in their own capital and holiest site.

And Satan, well, he's just a metaphorical device to explain the presence of evil and the psycho-emotional construct of an "enemy" in a "war" to help us understand the duality of living, light vs. dark, good vs. evil, republican vs. democrat, Jedi and Sith, balance.

But that's not what the Bible teaches.  The Bible teaches there is a WILL behind the war.  There is a malice, an animus, which feels and desires and hates.  Why is the world the way it is?  Sin.  Yes.  And sin has a name... and kids.  From three chapters into Genesis to his ultimate eternal destruction with three chapters left to go in Revelations 20, there is an enemy who hates God because he wants to BE God.  And his offspring will be like him.  They cannot kill what they hate, the one who has the audacity to oppose THEIR will, so they oppose His children with all the wiles and tools of their father.  If they cannot lie and sow the seeds of doubt about His goodness and love and seduce them away from Him, they will kill them.  

And so we see in Matthew 4 the ultimate battle.  Jesus is led by the Spirit of His Father into the wilderness where he is tempted for forty days and forty nights by Satan himself.  "If you are the Son of God..." doubt.  Most telling of all, when Satan offers the kingdoms of the world, it is no empty boast.  John quotes Jesus as calling Satan the "ruler of this world".  Daniel was told by Gabriel that the "Prince of Persia" fought against Michael and he.  The temporal kingdoms of this world are a beast which resemble the dragon himself.  Satan was offering to give them back if only Christ would change sides.  He doesn't.  Satan kills him.

This is no "devil made me do it" defense.  Cain is told, "And it's desire is for you, but you must rule over it."  And it's not a plea to try and fight the battle as if we were Jesus ourselves.  The "word that comes from the mouth of God" upon which we live and rely on IS Jesus himself!  The church in Acts 4 prays, "And now Lord, concern yourself with their threats and grant your slaves to speak with your message with all boldness, as you extend your hand to heal and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus."  We do not test God, we trust Him.  We do not worship Satan, no matter what he offers us.  Even if it looks good or we think we could do good with it.  No, this is me reminding myself that it's not just the way it is.  It's not C'est la vie.  Que sera, sera.  i must not let cynicism become fatalism.  We must "be strong in the Lord and in the might of His strength.  Put on the full armor of God, so that [we] may be able to stand against the stratagems of the devil, because our struggle is not against blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."  For though we are and will be opposed whenever and most of all when we try to do good and to obey God, from leading a church or mission to just trying to do the right thing, to writing a devotional to loving our spouse, the nail that sticks up gets pounded down the hardest, though they may hurt us, imprison us, take from us what we cherish, and even kill us, above all remember that though the battle rages on, the war is already won.  

"And I heard a loud voice in heaven saying,
“Now the salvation and the power
    and the kingdom of our God
    and the authority of his Christ have come,
because the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down,
    the one who accuses them before our God day and night.
And they conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
    and by the word of their testimony,
and they did not love their lives until death.
Because of this, rejoice, you heavens,
    and those who live in them!
Woe to the earth and to the sea,
    because the devil has come down to you,
having great anger,
    because he knows that he has little time!”"