Monday, September 28, 2009

Worry

This is why I tell you: Don't worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn't life more than food and the body more than clothing? Matthew 6:25 (HCSB)

A worried man. Image Via Wikipedia

I have touched on the subject of worry in a previous post.  In this post I hope to expand on this previous thought to look at how focusing on the future can be unmindful especially when worry is involved!

There is a concept in psychology that is based on the observation that people that suffer from anxious diseases struggle with an over focus on the (negative) past or the future.  The concept is that if you can help a person escape this kind of thinking that they will resolve their anxiety.   This concept is seen in nearly all theories of psychology, though they are addressed in different ways (i.e. answering existential questions, reason and logic, focus on relationship, ways of distraction, focus on sensation over thinking, mindfulness, and so on). 

For the Christian this concept is not the same as being oblivious to the past or the future, but rather it is being spiritual, powerful, destroying strongholds, disciplined, and bringing these thoughts under the Lordship of Christ. 

For though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (HCSB)

Clearly Jesus is commanding us in Matthew to not worry!  If we are to then to look at that command in light of "taking every thought captive to obey Christ" then it is imperative that our worry thoughts be brought under Christ's authority!  It is this anxiousness for the future that prevents us from unreservedly giving ourselves to God.  "I would Lord, but..."  Our Lord was very intolerant of that attitude as well saying, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62)."   The reality is that if we do not get this issue in hand then we are never going to give ourselves to the work of God, nor are we fit for the kingdom. 

Before proceeding to the solution I would like to demonstrate how the issue of anxiety is connected to the study of soul (i.e. psychology).  There are some very well meaning Christians that fear the discipline of psychology as being godless.  To a certain extent this criticism is deserving.  Psychologist tend to be more atheistic than just about any other profession.  In the recent history religious and spiritual affections were defined as pathological by psychologists.  However, I believe the study of soul has a legitimate place in the Christian faith.  We must be on guard and discerning about mixing truth with error to be be sure, but that does not mean that all psychology is error. 

The connection to the Christian faith is the word soul itself.  In the Greek psyche is the same root word that psychology is derived from.  The word psyche appears about 90 times in the New Testament.  The Hebrew equivalent nepesh occurs about 700 times in the Old Testament.  Another Greek word that has an affinity with the discipline of psychology is nous (mind).  Nous (also noeo and noema) is preferred by Paul in his writings.  I could go on with concepts like insight and understanding that are both Biblical and psychological but I think you get my point.  The reality is if God had intended that we not have a study of soul then he would not have spent so much time addressing it in His Word.  In fact soul is mentioned about the same amount of times as love in the Bible.  To me that would make soul an important subject. 

How does that relate to the issue of anxiety?  Jesus connected it:

This is why I tell you: Don't worry about your life (psyche), what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn't life (psyche) more than food and the body more than clothing? Matthew 6:25 (HCSB)

Paul also connects it:

...taking every thought (noema) captive to obey Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5 (HCSB)

And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought (nous), will guard your hearts and minds (noema) in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7 (HCSB)

...be transformed by the renewing of your mind (nous)...
Romans 12:2 (HCSB)

When this is understood and not feared one begins to realize that the Bible is rich with psychological truths.  For example Romans 7:13-25 is one of the best descriptions of pathology and addictions in a religious context that can be found (IMO).

What then is the solution to worry from this perspective?  

  1. Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven
  2. Seek His Righteousness
  3. Develop a healthy perspective of things (possessions)
  4. Store treasure in Heaven
  5. Look on good things
  6. Set God as your master (even over your thoughts)
  7. Consider God's creation (Peaceful walks through nature tend to give perspective)
  8. Focus on the present (not worry about tomorrow)
  9. Present self as a sacrifice to God
  10. Refused to be conformed to age (pattern of culture?)
  11. Be transformed (made new in glory) in your mind
  12. Discern God's good, perfect, and pleasing will

This list has many avenues to explore possibly in future posts.  There also is much more than this list as well.  However, it is item number eight that led me to write on this topic.  Jesus says, "...don't worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34)."  When we worry about tomorrow's troubles we loose our effectiveness in today.   When you notice that you mind is drawn to the worries of tomorrow it is time to put the breaks on and recognize who really is on the throne of your life.  It is the mindfulness of God and His provision that quiets the worried soul.  It is the resolve to give yourself to God in spite of the apparent difficulties or the unknown difficulties that may arise that give you strength.  In this way faith in God becomes the weapon to destroy the stronghold of worry in your life. 

The celebrations of God's will for you in the present moment is a cure for ineffective and unproductive worry about the future!

God Bless You All

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Forgetting the Past

The Bible constantly warns us about the seductiveness of looking backward.  Looking backward is the longing for things as they used to be.  Interestingly we tend to have a generally optimistic and nostalgic when looking at the past (unless something traumatic has happened to us).  We also generally tend to have a pessimistic and fearful view when looking at the future (I deal with this second issue in the next post).  Both looking backward (with longing) and looking forward (with anxiety) are barriers to unreservedly giving yourself to God.

I think of Lot's wife.  When God was judging her home town she ignored the warning to "not look back" and became a pillar of salt

Then there was the people of Israel longing to return to Egypt.  Their looking backward led them to build and worship an idol, to reject God's provision, and the attitude of looking backward kept them from entering the promised land.

Solomon's heart was turned by looking back to Egypt for horses, then  foreign wives and eventual straying from God.

Jesus warned us about looking backward.

Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house." But Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."
Luke 9:61-62 (HCSB)

The writer of Hebrews warns against returning to or resting in the early days of our faith.

Therefore, leaving the elementary message about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God, teaching about ritual washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And we will do this if God permits.
Hebrews 6:1-3 (HCSB)

I am beginning to see that God does not want us to look backward in this life.  Especially when such longing gets in the way of following Him.  Paul explains it this way:

Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14 (HCSB)

There is only one thing that God has called us to be mindful of that is not in the present moment.  It is pursuing His kingdom for our lives that is to be our focus our purpose.  All other things are unmindful of God!   

Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:18-19 (HCSB)

Notice that God makes the way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.  When we we long for the old ways, the old refreshing, old tradition we reject the provision of God.  God has made all things new.  We are to walk in the newness of life.  When we look back with those longing eyes it is a good sign that we do not trust in Him.

I will choose to press forward.  Will you join me?

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Just a little further

falling down Image by laurenmarek via FlickrI was in prayer a few weeks ago thanking the Lord for the blessings in my life.  I had been fighting with God and not aware of what he was doing in my life.  During this prayer there was a distinct communication of His Spirit to my spirit, "Are you ready to take it to the next level?"  In prayer I answered "Yes Lord." 

God started that week by showing me some things through my counseling clients.  I cannot go into detail because of their confidentiality, but I can say that God was revealing, "here are the hurting people that I want to heal."  Notice not not the people I want "you" to heal, but the people God wants to heal!  I must admit it is a wonderfully rewarding feeling to see someone recover from what life has thrown his/her way, but can I really take credit for that?  Not really. As Christians we are reflections of the light of God.  We are workers in the field of life, but the glory is the Lord's.

"You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven."
Matthew 5:14-16 (HCSB)

Unreservedly giving yourself to God is this; I choose to let my light shine for myself, no!  I will forgo the praise that men will place on me.  I will work even when no praise is coming my way, for my master.  In the public I will work diligently, with endurance, with greater grace than I can muster within my own spirit, but with graces and mercies that God's Holy Spirit gives me.  To what end you ask?  Not that others might give glory to me (you are such a good person), but rather that they will give glory to my Father in heaven (Praise to God in the highest). 

But then there is the "higher level." 

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways." This is the Lord's declaration. "For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8-9 (HCSB)

Giving yourself to God is quite easy and natural when we are basing our decision on His loving-kindness, grace, and mercy.  Ironically we are very comfortable with the sacrifice of our savor, but not with the sacrifice of self.

Other seed fell on rocky ground where it didn't have much soil, and it sprang up right away, since it didn't have deep soil. When the sun came up, it was scorched, and since it didn't have a root, it withered...

...And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, immediately they receive it with joy. But they have no root in themselves; they are short-lived. When pressure or persecution comes because of the word, they immediately stumble.
Mark 4:5-6; 16-17 (HCSB)

This happened to me over the last couple of weeks.  I will not go into detail, but suffice it to say the pressure and persecution were on.  At one point it was more within than outside.  I recall praying, "Lord I am quite comfortable as your apologist, but this thing You are showing me in Your Word, I have a hard time accepting.   To be honest until yesterday morning I had not yet accepted it!  Now the writer's block comes together (only 5 posts in the last 3 weeks, compared to 15 the three weeks before that).

Let me ask you, Is God showing you something that you have a hard time accepting?  Is it easy to receive the graces of God with great joy, but the trials, temptations, sorrowful moments, the ugliness of life, causes you to stumble?  You can either continue to have a God of the good times while you remain lord of the low times or you can unreservedly give yourself to God.  Will you commit to follow Christ for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.  Will you marry yourself To God's plan and purpose for your life and the Blessings along with the longings.  If you do then that is unreservedly giving yourself to God!

I have decided to follow Jesus;
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
No turning back, no turning back.

God Bless You All

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Unreservedly Give Yourself to God

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1 (HCSB)

In Eastern philosophical tradition there is a concept of transcendence.  The ultimate goal of Mindfulness is to achieve a state in which the material suffering is transcended into immaterial bliss.  This actually may be an oversimplification of the concept, but it gives the general idea.  This concept is contrasted in the Christian Tradition by the idea of surrendering your self (soul, flesh) to God, His Son (Jesus), His Spirit, and His will.  In the eastern tradition self is lost into a cosmic fullness.  In the Christian Tradition self is surrendered, put to death, and then given back in a glorified purified form.  This is seen  symbolically in Baptism which represents the death of self, burial, and resurrection of the new self.  

How do you unreservedly give yourself to God?  That is a question that God has been working on in my own life.  I am hoping that in the next post (or more we will see where the Lord leads) that I can delve into that question with greater depth and insight.  One of the reasons I have been so long in posting is that I have been struggling to put words to this idea.  I understand the experience that God is putting me through and that it is for my good (glory to God), but I have not the words to explain or share it with others.  Perhaps you all could pray that God give me discernment and wisdom as I tackle this difficult subject. 

God bless you all. 

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Receiving the Moment (even when it does not make sense)

Oil on canvas. Image via WikipediaThis post is dealing with one of the most difficult aspects of contentment.  There are times in life that we are presented with seemingly contradictory information when looking at intrinsic truth and experiential truth.  Intrinsic truth are things that are true in themselves.  that is to say they are based in some value or moral that is contained within the truth itself.  Some examples of intrinsic truth is God, ethics, morality, and goodness.  On the other hand experiential truth is based on what can be observed, described, measured, tested, and/or experienced.  Some examples of experiential truths are empirical knowledge, heuristics (rules of thumb),  constructs,  and Common sense.  Unfortunately there are times when these two classes of truth present a dilemma in our lives when they appear contradictory.  If I have lost you that is OK I will attempt to give an example from the Bible that should clear up what I am saying.

"Take your son," He said, "your only [son] Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."  Gen 22:2 (HCSB)

This is quite possibly one of the most bizarre commands of God recorded in the Bible.  We tend to overlook it when we read it because we know the end of the story.  Abraham did not know the end!  In fact if we have never read the story before we are only held in this uncomfortable state for as long as it takes to read 10 verses (It took me 42 seconds to read the whole story).  Abraham on the other hand wrestled with this command for 3 days (Side note:  for those interested in symbolic numbers Jesus was in the grave for 3 days) .  By the way my interest in this dilemma was influenced by S�ren Kierkegaard's book "Fear and Trembling."   

I am not being irreverent when I say it is a bizarre command.  I am basing my opinion on experiential truth.  And my guess is that you would draw the same conclusion as well as well.  Considering it empirically (ie science of mind/brain) a man that hears the voice of God tell him to sacrifice his son is by definition psychotic.  In this case the command hallucination would be considered a bizarre hallucination.  Considering the rule of thumb it would be unwise to hang out with a person that would kill his son to please a deity.  God in my understanding loathes child sacrifice.  So hearing a command from him stating otherwise does not fit within my construct of who God is.  Therefore the command is absurd.  Common sense would say "God would not want you to do that!"  I am guessing the Sarah had it in this couple which is why he probably did not share what he was doing with with her.  Truly the command is beyond experiential truth and reason.  That makes the command bizarre.

'We must never tolerate an instant's unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord; whatever else may be questioned, this is absolutely certain, that Jehovah is good; His dispensations may vary, but His nature is always the same' (C. H. Spurgeon).

Intrinsic truth on the other hand indicates that God knows what he is doing (Omniscient).  What He does is good.  He can do and accomplish whatever he wants (Omnipotent).  Often times it is pointed out that God Abraham was trusting in the promise of:

I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly. Gen 17:2 (HCSB)

Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will name him Isaac. I will confirm My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his future offspring. Gen 17:19 (HCSB)

This is usually based on:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He received the promises and he was offering his unique son,  the one it had been said about, Your seed will be traced through Isaac.  He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead, and as an illustration, he received him back. Heb 11:17-19 (HCSB)

This fine for us who only have to be discomforted for the minute or so that we are uncomfortable while we read the story, but we did not walk in Abraham's shoes for those three days.  He is a hero of faith to be sure, but there is no way that anyone could walk in his shoes and feel heroic going through to do what he was going to do!

It is then reasonable to conclude that Abraham struggled with this very dilemma that I have put forward.  It is not possible in my estimation that a person of commendable reputation and character could be resigned to carry out such a task without this struggle.  If I were him I would have said something like, "My experiential knowledge is in conflict with my knowledge of God!"  I think if we are honest there are times (though not to this degree) that we to enter into a similar dilemma.  The dilemma usually starts with the word "why" and questions why God does or does not do something (usually the latter). 

This is a long introduction to my main point which is, We can only be content when we receive the moment exactly as God has given it to us.  I have already talked about how fighting reality in relationships is unmindful and invites suffering.  We can do the same in our circumstances.  Spiritually speaking when we choose our experiential knowledge over the knowledge of God we invite spiritual suffering.  This dissonance is no more greater than when our circumstances seem to contradict what we know about God.  At that moment we have a Crisis of Faith.  The difficulty with this crisis is that it gets to the root of whether we trust in God.  Do we accept what we have been given with the faith that God will work it out for His Glory and our good?

Abraham is a hero of faith because he chose the absurd and bizarre to be obedient that he might glorify God.  Frankly there are not many people like that in this world, but when it is put into context our minor discomforts seem trivial compared to what Abraham had to go through on those three days.  If we accept Abraham as a hero of faith then we ought to at least model his behavior in our own circumstances even when God does not make sense. 

So what did he do?  First he was listening.  Second, He received the instruction and the moment without objection or fighting.  There are times when we have to do just this.  We have to accept even though it does not make sense.  Third he put his faith into preparations.  It is quite easy to say that you believe something, but it is quite another to act on that belief.  Your actions are evidence of what you believe.  Don't get me wrong, it is easy thing to fall into doubt, but prolonged doubt is the catalyst of spiritual suffering. 

Fourth he moved forward without a clear picture of how God was going to work this out, only with the knowledge that he would.  This part strains the very core of our being.  Humans like to see the end before setting out on a journey.  Unfortunately if we are able to see the end in our mind and like the outcome, then choosing it is nor more faith than picking your favorite meal off a menu.  "I think I will take the Spaghetti Marinara."  Accepting God's will and taking the next step requires great faith when the outcome is unknown especially when the circumstances make it look hopeless. 

Fifth he placed his trust in the Lord's provision.  God is faithful.  Finally he endured great pain.  I think of sheer agony of binding his son in order to offer him up to God.  I would have been an emotional wreck.  Just thinking about it right now brings tears to my eyes and I was not there! 

Enduring pain and agony is the stuff that heroes are made of. I do not aspire to be a hero.  Most heroes don't either.  They are thrust into this role by their circumstances.  They become heroes because they are willing to enter into the absurdity of their circumstances and act in faith without the possibility of knowing if it will turn out good or bad, yet acting anyway! This is at its core is the greatest example of "recieving the moment" that I can think of.  In our own lives we fail to receive the moment when we 1) reject the reality of the situation, 2) fail to act, 3) fail to trust God, 4) try to find some way of escape.

In summary then we have to willing to "receive the moment" as it is.  This is done without fighting, yet not being resigned as a victim of fate.  But rather with great trust in this: 

Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him. Heb 11:6 (HCSB)

And this:

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (HCSB)

With this kind of faith we can move through what ever circumstances this life might give us.  My hope is that when the trial comes my way that I would be found worthy of such honor and put my whole trust in God that He might see me through.

God bless you all!

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Christian Mindfulness (Contentment)

Contentment Image by Concubine via Flickr

But godliness with contentment is a great gain. 
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.  1 Tim 6:6-8 (HCSB)

I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content -whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.  I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.  Phil 4:11-13 (HCSB)

Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.  Heb 13:5 (HCSB)

Better a poor man who lives with integrity than a rich man who distorts right and wrong. Prov 28:6 (HCSB)

Contentment is vital to Christian Mindfulness.  It is not easy to achieve, but it is possible.  When I look at Paul's letter to the Philippians it becomes apparent to me that it is not natural to be content.  However there is a way to be content.  Part of this contentment is tied to Peace of God which I have already posted on.  Contentment and peace of God go hand in hand.  They may in fact be describing the same thing.  I believe that contentment is evident in those whom peace of God has entered into the soul of that person.  At some point we are able to transcend external events, circumstances, and needs.  We are able to keep in check internal drives, hungers, and desires.  That is contentment. 

As near as I can tell love of money, lacking integrity, focus on circumstances, and focus on things you don't have (coveting what others have?) are destructive to attaining contentment.  These contentment killers stand in the way of the joy that God desires to bestow on His children. 

Discontent is a vicious cycle.  You focus on what you are not, have not, do no.  That creates subjective feelings of discontent.  Then those feelings lead you to figure out why you are feeling that way (desiring to not feel discontent).  You discover that you are not, have not, do not in greater measure.  This leads to greater discontent.  This process continues until you are swallowed up in discontent (sometimes leading to despair and hopelessness) 

On the other hand integrity, godliness, trust, seeking God, focusing on the good in life are constructive to contentment.  These build our contentment as a bridge over our difficult circumstances.  We are filled with God's Joy and Peace and thereby filled with Contentment. 

Cure for Discontent (Cultivating Contentment)

First you have to decide that you are going to do something about it.  Discontent is passive and you can greatly improve your out look by doing something.  Mindfulness is effective action.  When you take action you break with the focus on are not, have not, do not and focus on what is going to resolve the discontent.  Second I would recommend that you read and meditate on James 4 (Really the whole book of James).  Pray, "God what would you have me do in light of what I have read?"  My guess is that His Spirit will reveal an area of integrity, godliness, trust, seeking, or focusing on good that you need to cultivate.  Contentment is like growing a garden.  There are many aspects to making it grow (preparing ground, sowing seed, watering, pruning, weeding, etc)  Likewise contentment has many aspects in making it grow.  Hopefully you can use this post as a motivation to start. 

God Bless You.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

What does it mean to be superstitious?

Dispute of Jesus and the Pharisees over tribut...Image via Wikipedia I am taking a side track for today from mindfulness

There are two types of superstitious beliefs. One is attributing the cause of something that has nothing to do with the real cause (Acts 14:11-13). The second is a belief in doing something that has no real power (Acts 8:9-25). The first one is easy enough to recognize. It happened to our Lord Jesus when the Pharisees accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Satan. It also happened in Acts 14 when the people in Lystra began to worship Paul and Barnabas believing that they were the gods Hermes and Zeus after they had healed a man. These superstitions are blatantly obvious. The other type of superstition is much more difficult to discern.

Turn to Acts chapter 8. This passage is filled with superstitious beliefs that still plague the church today. They are 1) you can get God's grace by having someone else pray on your behalf; 2) you can get into God's favor by giving money; 3) we display God's power by doing some special thing; 4) coming to church saves you; 5) baptism saves you; 6) making a public profession or saying the sinners prayer saves you. These superstitions are alive and well in our Church today.

Lets examine why these six superstitions deny the true power of God. The first superstition is that you can gain grace through other's prayers. Ultimately the only path to God's is repentance and commitment by faith. The prayers of others do not lead to God's grace unless that person is willing to get right with God.

In the second superstition Giving money to God will not earn his favor. You cannot buy off God. He does not need your money and He certainly does not want your money if it is given expecting some special privilege. The true privilege is in being able to support the ministry so that others will be saved and grow in Christ. The blessing is that you will store up treasures in heaven.

It is superstitious to say God's power is revealed in the acts that we do. The reality is that the Power of God is expressed in our weaknesses. God is glorified when we step out in faith and He accomplishes in our life things that only He can accomplish. Ultimately God's power is not revealed in what we can do, but rather what He can do. It bears repeating: God's power is not revealed in what we can do, but by what He can do.

It is superstitious to believe that simply showing up for Church will change you or ultimately save you. There are many in churches that simply show up. They believe that they have done a great thing by coming into the house of God, singing some songs, and managing to stay awake during the pastor's sermon. However, just being here does not lead to a changed life.

Baptism also does not save. Baptism is an important act of obedience that stands as a public testimony to the commitment that a person has made to Christ. It is an essential part of the believer's walk with the Lord. However if it does not symbolize a genuine commitment in the person's life then that person is just getting wet. Just getting wet. The superstition is that the act of baptism, which is a symbol, has the power to save.

Finally it is a superstition to believe that a profession of faith and or the sinner's prayer saves you. There are some that have made a profession of faith that really in their hearts did not believe. It is kind of like the superstition of a lucky rabbits foot. Most people that carry one will tell you that they don't really believe it is lucky, but they carry it around just in case it does bring good luck. Some people have the superstition that if the pray a certain prayer or say a certain thing that it will save them just in case God requires it. This is superstition. They might as well have said "Abracadabra alakazam Lord please save me just as I am." Now I don't say this to call into question your assurance of salvation. If you are saved you are always saved. However, your assurance ought to be based on a changed life and the Holy Spirit working in your heart. Without these then a person really needs to take a look at their life to see if their profession of faith was really a superstitious act.

There are many superstitions outside the church in our day as well. Some of them are: Lucky rabbits foot, astrology, faith healer, Ojai boards, fortunetellers, tarrrot cards, Urban legends and on and on. Our society is a superstitious one and has a tendency to believe what ever they hear or read. I suspect many of you have experienced receiving emails forwarded to you by a person sucked into believing something that was not true. People are superstitious.  Christians need to be on guard that what we think is our faith is in fact simply superstition. 

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Personal Note

Human being asking Universe...Image by CLUC via Flickr I took a few more days off this week to do some self-awareness and discovered that what I was missing was awareness of God.  It seems that I was doing some fighting again rather than trusting God.  God has been so good to me.  Every time I have a need He has provided in some manner.  At times I get caught up in my circumstances get my eyes off of Him and thereby increase my suffering.  Why is it that we humans have such a natural affinity to blame God when things are not going the way we want?  Worse why do we question Him when He has proved Himself over and over? 

There was a few of areas of my life that I have been lacking mindfulness in the last couple of months.  I was in a mental fog in regard to these.  In the last couple of days God has answered my questioning prayer (Thank you God for being so gracious to my presumptuousness).  In one of those prayers I was so bold as to say "I am doing what you called me to do, Why are you not taking care of me and my family!"  As I type those words I am a bit ashamed to admit I prayed them now. 

There are times when we put our head in the sand when there is something that we do not want to deal with.  In a previous post I talked about the types of mindlessness.  I think I can now add another that I just realized,  intentional mindlessness.  Sometimes we willfully avoid something that we do not want to look at.  It can take the form of escapism, simple mindmindlessness, busyness, egoism, but at its core is a willful avoidance of something that is painful to think about.  I discovered this week that if you do this long enough then you can turn it into a lack of awareness of what God is really doing in your life. 

When I took my head out of the sand and looked at the reality of the situation,  within the next 24 hours He showed me that my perception was way off.  He showed me that not only had he taken care of me, but he also had done more than I had expected.  God had been working amazingly and instead of praising Him I was questioning Him!  Lord forgive me I do praise You for your mighty work in my life.  With this new awareness I was able to more effectively deal with the problem.  I realize that one of the biggest factors was my intentional mindlessness.  If I had paid better attention the problem of perception as well as the actual problems it caused in my life could have been avoided.

Have a Blessed Weekend!

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Peace of God

Quiet Time Image by -Delphine - via Flickr I typically get up very early to start my day.  Today I got up at 3:30 AM.  There are three reasons for me to get up this early.  First is habit.  Once I start getting up at a certain time I have a hard time sleeping past that time.  Second is to spend time with God.  Third, it is the most quiet time in my house.  With four children there is no peace when they are awake. 

Peace and Quiet is a common expression.  As near as I can tell the idiom originated in the mid 1800's according to American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms.  Interesting to think about when you consider the changes that the western world was going through at the time.  The Second Great Awakening, Rise and fall of empires, Latin America's struggle for freedom from imperial rule, rise and fall of Napoleon, Many other wars on every continent of the world, the industrial revolution, Communist manifesto published, revolutions of 1948,  California gold rush, Origin of Species published, American Civil war, the end of slavery in most all major empires, Lincoln Assonated, The second industrial revolution and so on.  Interestingly by the mid 1800s the noise from machinery alone may have driven one to say in exasperation, "All I want is a little peace and quiet." 

Now we have more noise than ever.  It is informational, technological, political, commercial, legal, spiritual, mechanical, medical, and I am sure that I missed some.  In the midst of the cacophony we to long for a bit of "peace and quiet."  Even in this quiet moment I still hear cars outside, machines at a plant about half a mile away, clock ticking, the hum of the refrigerator, the whoosh of central air, and the whir of the computer.  So even in my quiet I continue to be bombarded by noise.

In some respects we have become accustom to our noise.  In some ways it is actually comforting.  Have you ever been at home when the power goes out?  The phrase eerie quiet comes to mind.  Eerie?  Really?  How about natural quiet.  A quiet that comes from an absence of man's noise.  How about a peace "not as the world gives," but as the Lord gives. 

Let's contrast "peace of the world" with "peace of God."  Peace of the world is conditional.  Peace of God is given freely to them that would receive it.  Peace of the world is maintained by agreement and/or enforcement.  Peace of God is maintained by covenant and seeking.  Peace of the world is temporary (fictional perhaps, no time without war).  Peace of God is eternal (though remaining incomplete in this life).  Peace of the world is externally controlled by the circumstances and relationships in life.  Peace of God is internally controlled by relationship with God's Spirit and transcends circumstances in life. 

Jesus Said:

The Counselor, the Holy Spirit -the Father will send Him in My name-will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.  John 14:26-27 (HCSB)

I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.  John 16:32-33 (HCSB)

Peace of God is connected to our relationship with Him.  We have peace toward God through our relationship with Jesus Christ.  We receive God's Holy Spirit who give us peace through trouble, frightening times, and suffering.  Peace of God is cultivated through being peaceable, lenient, compliant, bulging with mercy and good fruits,  and avoiding favoritism and hypocrisy.  Peace of God comes from fellowship with other believers.  Finally Peace of God is deeply connected to Holiness.  Without repentance from evil and pursuing that which is good Peace of God is unreachable. 

Go now and pursue peace.  Not the peace the world offers, but the peace of Christ that is found in setting you mind on the Holy Spirit of God. 

Blessings and Peace

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Quiet Mindfulness (Spiritual Ritalin)

Spiritual Ritalin Long long before the rise in popularity of eastern mindfulness in the west, western religious teaching put forth contemplation as a mode of peaceful interaction with the world, people, and God.  In this tradition quietness and peacefulness were major objectives of prayer, meditation, activity, and worship.  Somewhere along the line this contemplative spirit was diminished or perhaps men of old just wrote about it and few (just like today) ever practiced it.  I suspect the mindlessness of busyness is one of the major reasons we do not Practice the Presence of God now.  This activity has driven the church to distraction from the purpose that God has given her.   In this post I hope to point out the need for contemplative awareness. 

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.  Psalms 46:10 (KJV)

Why is it that I have such a hard time being still.  I  have quipped a few times that if I was in school today that I would be a candidate for stimulant medication to treat may ADHD.  I have not been diagnosed, but I have to admit the signs are there. 

The core qualities of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.  This is not a slam on people with ADHD, but I cannot help but recognize that ADHD is a serious barrier to mindfulness.  Interestingly mindfulness strategies have been helpful in my practice of counseling, my life, and my spiritual development.

I think the Church has Spiritual ADHD.  Let me demonstrate by going through my diagnostic criterion for "Spiritual ADHD."

Inattention

(a) often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
(b) often has difficulty sustaining attention in ministry
(c) often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
(d) often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish the work it is called to
(e) often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
(f) often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort
(g) often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., Bible, Prayer, Holy Spirit, discipleship, or evangelism)
(h) is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (mind set on the world) 
(i) is often forgetful in daily activities (prayer, Bible reading, quiet time)

Well I started this out a little tongue and cheek, but it seems uncanny how much of this applies.  Let see what Hyperactivity turns up.

Hyperactivity

(a) often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat (especially if feeling convicted)
(b) often leaves the vine in situations in which remaining in the His word is expected
(c) often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness; really I am not poking fun of Charismatic's here ;-)
(d) often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
(e) is often "on the go" or often acts as if "driven by a motor"  (though we are not sure where they are going)
(f) often talks excessively

Yikes I still have one more category.  I starting to feel a little squirmy myself!

Impulsivity

(g) often blurts out answers before questions have been completed (or understood)
(h) often has difficulty awaiting turn
(i) often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or other's lives when not welcomed)

Wow  I am convinced that the Church has full on ADHD.  Especially when you consider that you only need 6 of the above persisting for 6 months.  I think I could easily make the case for all 18.  God I need some Spiritual Ritalin. 

Seriously though the Church is broke.  There is no way around it.  We need to get back (if we were ever there) to the quietness of God.  "Be still and know that I am God!"  This stillness holds the key to overcoming our tendency to be distracted by the things of this life.  Quietness holds the key to our tendency to act without thought or purpose.  Knowing that He is God will guard us from impulsively saying and doing things that bring shame to the cause of Christ. 

More on quietness tomorrow.

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