Monday, February 20, 2017

When I Least Expect It, Then HE Will Come

Sitting up at 2.15 in the morning, all of life seeming not quite right, just feeling a little stuck, I wait, and He just doesn’t come. Not yet. I search His Word. I ponder. I wait. Patiently, it seems. And still God does not come.
It’s not the first time. I’ve got a long history of reaching out to God. I’m pretty good at it now. He normally comes. But times like these, with a sore body, a troubled mind that just won’t sleep, a heart trying its best to hope, and a finesse that evades conscious awareness, the test is to wait.
Concern for tiredness could consume me, but I need to trust that what sleep I lose I will gain somewhere, somehow. Or, that I’ll make it through somehow.
I know the Spirit of God and He knows me. He’s there as much as He is real, even if I cannot feel Him right now. He is more often than not palpably present. I’m thankful for that. I can sense a quiet resolve within me, which in and of itself is a great encouragement. Yet, still, I am not right. I don’t feel right. But that’s okay. God has shown me it’s okay to not feel right. That it’s good to feel weak.
I have learned that when God seems missing, He has gone missing for a reason. He requires of me a search, for I cannot live contentedly without Him. He is my peace, my solace, my comfort, my friend. From Him I came, and to Him I will go. He who has released me into this world has never let go of me, and soon enough I will return to Him.
But, in the meantime, He has given me a purpose in this world: to find Him, to journey with Him, to walk with Him and not ahead of Him.
So, I wait, and when I least expect Him, then He will come.
Usually, in the morning after I have slept.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

God won’t Allow what won’t Ultimately be Good for Us (Yep, Needs a Better Title)

Like many people, I hate clichés. When people simplify what can only ever be inordinately complex it does nothing to help the situations of suffering people find themselves in — whether it’s completely their own fault or totally out of their control, or myriad nuances of combination between.
But I hold to this crucial exception.
I’ve heard God speak into my life the words of the title of this article. Hearing these words from another person, amid my own suffering, would not have been helpful. Yet there is a difference when God convicts us by His Holy Spirit.
Another part to this exception is this biblical truth. When we have no hope left, nothing visible, only a hope vested in faith, the only hope we have left is God’s goodness — that what we’ve been asked to endure will ultimately work out as good for us.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for
 and assurance about what we do not see.”
— Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)
Having experienced this personally, we no longer reduce it, in our personal circumstances, to the banal even harmful effect of a cliché. The cliché becomes significant. It gives us life and purpose.
There have been times in my life when all I had to hope in was that what God had allowed in His sovereignty He could turn to my ultimate good; through character growth. (And besides, of course, there is the ‘ultimate good’, in a believer’s conception, in being eternally with God when we’re ultimately gone.)
The difference between our positive and negative reception of the truth in Romans 8:28[1] is who says it. If God says it, all should be well. If someone else says it, and it depends on many variables, including our perception of whether they care or not, we can be either offended as if it were a plastic platitude cast nonchalantly our way, or we can be encouraged to press on. That this is a character growth opportunity.
Sometimes we simply have to believe that God can make something good for us out of something bad. And believing this helps us endure, because it gives us hope when we have none.

[1] And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Daily Contemplation Prayers for Power and Direction

Father in heaven, Lord of my life in Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit’s power,
YOUR PRESENCE – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
In this, my daily prayer, as I sit/stand/kneel before You, I hope to know You, today, by Your Presence and Power in my life. This is my first prayer. As a Christ follower, I need You. I need You close to me, giving me Your protection and provision, and inviting me into You even as I experience same.
Teach me by Your Spirit, a correct worship, a holy way for living my life for Your glory. Place within me Your Sabbath Rest as I still myself and allow You to be God over my entire life — the fullest sense of worship — over my present moment, now.
I AM STILL – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
YOUR GRACE – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
My second prayer, Lord, is help me know how unworthy I am in and of myself, today, apart from Jesus, whose grace has saved me, and who makes me wholly worthy. Convince me so that I know I’m not as good as I think I am, and help me understand I’m not the victim my double-mindedness wants me to believe and propagate. Help me see Satan’s wiles and snares, so in that moment I can call on You, Lord. Make me also to see my pocket entitlement; that rather than thinking I deserve this or that, that in truth I deserve nothing, but are given everything already in Christ.
I AM CHRIST’S – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
YOUR AWARENESS – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
My third prayer is that You would help me not hurt anyone, today, for I have such a dangerous tongue, and, that if I do, You’ll give me the awareness and the courage to be able to make quick amends. Save others from me, Lord — the me without You. I am a person of unclean lips so susceptible to feeling hurt. God, make me more mature. But also, make me gentler on myself. May there be integrity between Your Word as I meditate on it, and the words my lips utter.
I AM AWARE – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
YOUR PRAISE – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
Give me the cognisance of Your grace that created the heavens and the earth, Lord. Bring before me the awareness of Your awesomeness, and bring forth instinctive praise from my lips. Cause gratitude to well up like a bubbling spring from deep within my soul. Sustain me in that joy. This, my fourth prayer, I can pray, today, having gotten some truths off my chest. Help me turn negatives into positives, Father. Enable me to replace anxieties and uncertainties with stillness and security, in You, for You who created all creation can create anything by the law of love.
I AM IN AWE – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
YOUR TRUTH – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
Oh Lord, help me to carry the awareness of my sin ever before me, not so I may be condemned — because I know I’m not — but that through knowing the truth, that the truth would set me free. You have taught me, Lord, that it’s only when I see the log in my own eye that I do not notice the speck in the others’ eye that otherwise proves unhelpful. Thank You for the glorious gift of this wisdom. This, today, my fifth prayer.
I AM HONEST – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
YOUR WISDOM – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
And, today, more wisdom. My sixth prayer is for wisdom, Lord. I lack it so much. The errors of my sinful nature have revealed this truth to me, God. You put people into my life, and You put me into life situations, that I would depend on You by drawing on them to discern Your way for my life. Show me how to keep proper perspective in when and how to draw upon others without living a life dependent on others making my decisions for me. In the moment, help me reconcile the wisdom I so clearly lack.
I AM DEPENDENT – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
YOUR PROTECTION – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
My seventh and final prayer, Lord, is for safety and health, today, for everyone in my world; my wife, my children, my family, my friends, my work colleagues, to the extent of everyone I know. Direct our paths to safety, God. Bless us and keep us, Lord.
I AM SAFE – inhale fresh air, breathe the words out slowly
In Jesus’ mighty name, I pray these prayers,

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Encouragement from a Biblical Character’s Discouragement

Reading Job there’s encouragement, maybe never more so when we feel like Job. In chapter 3, for instance, Job is given to lament his existence, hating the fact of his birth.
Consider this sample:
“Why is light given to one burdened with grief,
and life to those whose existence is bitter?”
(v. 20)
This whole chapter Job appears practically suicidal. He reveals just how we all feel when we’re encamped in grief. Everyone in grief has surely experienced something of what Job 3:20 is talking about having woken from their sleep and wanting desperately to return to unconsciousness.
As we read His Word, especially in that Joban position, God ministers to us through His Spirit. We’re encouraged by someone else’s lament. Their discouragement is a source of our encouragement, and this is the way God heals us in community — through shared experience.
When we feel less isolated
we’re able to cope better with suffering.
When we read of another’s plight
we don’t feel so alone.
As we’re coupled to an empathic community, God’s mercy is felt as His comfort flows.
The Bible in our world is that community of God where many biblical characters are mentors. Some, and some stories, are there for our wisdom. To not go there. Not making the same mistakes.
The accounts we read in the Bible are so lifelike that nothing we could share of the life we live here and now could make it blush. Those who think the Bible is for happy-clappy Christians obviously haven’t read the Old Testament. And the truth of Jesus’ Passion is the stuff of a Restricted-rated movie. Many times Paul despaired.
When we open our Bibles to 2 Corinthians it helps us most when we’re undergoing a trial.
God’s Word ministers truth into our souls through the vestibule of grace. The truth we need at the time is acquired through a search, and it meets us through His grace.
This is why the Bible is so important, especially in a world where post-truth and post-fact are real concepts. The Bible is a book of truth.
God’s Word can encourage us most when we read of a biblical character’s discouragement.
When we find ourselves in the narrative, we’re instantly touched and heartened.

Friday, February 10, 2017

From the Worst Moment to the Moment of Clarity’s Hope

Driven long into a momentary despair for any reason at all, our lonely souls crave connection. We would fall into temptation if we didn’t bear the moment’s pain. That’s plain tough!
The moment of pain is the worst of moments. Irreconcilable. Crushing. Bewildering. Yet, staying such a moment is in the stillness of being at rest in the palm of God’s hand. Possibility.
From the commitment to live reality faithfully comes a truth that’s harsh. We cannot run away from loneliness when it strikes us; when relational connection is impossible.
And still the truth will do something to us to compel us forward, for God is in the truth.
When life stagnates, and the moment sucks, and there seems no way out, anxiety turning to despair, there really is but one way — forward. To keep moving forward. To step away, farther from the past, still beyond the present, as we strain toward what is ahead.
When nothing holds us in the past’s insanity, we’re free to head into the sanity of what is ahead. The distinctness of hope anew. Not that we’re sane or insane, just the past takes us into the unproductive churns, flurries of chaos, yet as we look ahead we stride in the faith that will rectify a strewn spirit and set us free to pace a straight path.
As we embark on the inbound hope, outbound of a treacherous present, we look outward and upward, away from turmoil, higher upon the possibilities, and we sign ourselves up to the pledge of courage.
Bearing ever forward, the tenacity of spirit to step in one direction, the past remains, but does not harass us.
Moving forward, we look back, not focusing on a past of regret, but seeing a present exuding progress.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Just a Little Thing About Wording

Screen dump from the video clip from YouTube.

As I watched a short clip of the Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, addressing Catholics on the subject of preparing adherents for the Royal Commission’s[1] findings I winced.
This little piece is limited to one issue — the wording in the Archbishop’s video specifically about the survivors of sexual abuse. I was surprised that he said, “That justice and healing may be done to them.”
“That justice and healing may be done to them.”
Anything in that resonate within you? Anything in that sentence trouble you?
Here’s the thing for me.
“That justice and healing may be done to them.”
Firstly, as a general comment about sex abuse done to children, reprehensible is not a strong enough word regarding the systematic abuse of young people within the church’s care. This is where words do fail. Nothing I could say here justifies comment.
I also wonder about those who did not survive the abuse — those who years later died through suicide or misadventure — those who left families behind, so the families, themselves, are the survivors. There are also myriad levels and manifestations of ‘surviving’ abuse.
Wording for many may not seem that important, but it is infinitely important.
A simple improvement could be made to that sentence, to make it read like the Catholic Church actually understands what happened and what needs to happen. (And the Catholic Church has this sympathy of mine. As if any of us know, or could know, the extent to which what needs to happen, because how do you possibly ‘fix’ something so broken. And there are undoubtedly details for many survivors which will never come to light, as is the nature of the depth of the topic.)
Here’s my one point:
Whenever we do something to someone, we do something, perhaps with the best of intention, but possibly without their express will and interests in our hearts. But, whenever we do something for someone, on the other hand, we do it with their will and interests in our hearts. A huge difference in meaning.
“That justice and healing may be done for them.”
That sentence demonstrates more clearly that justice and healing for the survivors ought to take place at any cost, which is the only appropriate response.

[1] The full name: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Lord’s Prayer Revelation About Forgiveness

Forgive us our offenses as we ourselves forgive those who offend us.”
— Fifth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:12)
The words of the Bible are basic, and, apart from interpreting them accurately, which pertains to an incredibly sophisticated world of scholarship, these words are simple for the reader.
Many times, as devotees of the Bible, we read the same words over and over, and then “boom!” God reveals something special. This happened recently with the above decisive piece of the Matthean Lord’s Prayer.
The words are simple.
Pray the Lord,
forgive us our offenses,
forgive me mine,
as we — no, I — forgive
those who offend us (me).
Suddenly the Lord made me realise what His Word was saying — what it had always said. He says nothing about praying for others to forgive us nor about others and what they’re due if they don’t seek forgiveness. This prayer of forgiveness is not really about others at all.
It’s about God and I, and my vertical relationship with Him, and not about my horizontal relationship with others. It’s about what I can do. It’s nothing about waiting for others to do their bit. It’s nothing about others reaching toward us in reconciliation, but it is everything about us reaching toward them, knowing we’re obeying God no matter how they respond. It’s an acknowledgement that we’re empowered to do what we can do to arrange the restoration of the relationship. Doing the forgiveness and knowing we’ve done all we can do is enough to experience the Spirit’s prevailing peace.
The words are simple.
If we forgive the offenses of others, God will forgive our offenses against Him.
Read that. Our offenses — done against anyone — are offenses done directly against Him.
Sins done against “the least of these” might as well be done against Jesus, Himself. Recall Jesus speaking about the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31-46. The sheep on the right are those who did what they could to show mercy and the goats on the left withheld mercy.
The forgiveness we withhold from another person is a mercy we do not show the Lord. For the Lord is in them, by His Spirit if they believe, and if not, they’re still made in His image. But the forgiveness we show is a mercy we freely share with the Lord, recognising they, the offending person/s, were known by God before they were conceived, and are dearly loved as much as we are.
And, besides, we would want to show ourselves as merciful, as if embodying the Spirit’s power, and not hard of heart, which reveals us otherwise as missing something vital of God’s transforming grace.
What can we deduce?
We should know how God feels about the offenses we do. We only have to feel what we feel when others offend us. Sure, God isn’t human, but those we offend are, and God is their vindicator. As much as He is ours.
Forgiveness is an interpersonal transaction between us and God so, in God’s power, we may enjoy personal transformation sufficient to hope for interpersonal reconciliation.
Forgiveness is a matter of faith in the Lord’s direction of obedience. It’s best, and only to be, kept that simple.
Reading the Bible, then, what choice do we have? We must forgive. What may not be easy is certainly possible, and when God’s power is in it, it becomes probable.
We ought to pray, as we forgive others their offenses, that God would change our hearts as much as His heart is changed toward us.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Unifying the Mind Divided In Christian Life

“A mind that is single and sincere is not interested in being good, in conducting relations with other people so as to live up to a rule. Nor, on the other hand, is it interested in being free, in acting perversely just to prove its independence. Its interest is not in itself, but in the people and problems of which it is aware; these are ‘itself’. It acts, not according to the rules, but according to the circumstances of the moment, and the ‘well’ it wishes to others is not security but liberty.”
— Alan W. Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity (p. 132)
In Christian life, we often find ourselves no farther along the journey of purity and piety than those mature would-be-Christians who have no allegiance to Christ, whatsoever. They seem as gracious as we are, peace-loving and wise, aware of their purpose, connected to people, morally adroit, and even better positioned for admiration because they’re not pigeon-holed as hypocritical or judgmental. They’re considered and called beautiful persons.
As Christians, we tend to fall for the trap of needing to be seen as set apart in our holiness rather than knowing we are set apart, as a matter of who we are and not for what we do or don’t do.
Christian conversion doesn’t solve the problem of the self.
It’s the acknowledgement of the sinful self in the benefit received through the acceptance of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice — the grace of God as the final restitution of the sinner to the restoring God.
Conversion highlights the problem of the self, and the need to depend on God if progress is to be made on the journey with God.
The journey to God made, which is conversion, the journey with God commences.
Now comes cognisance of the real problem within the problem. There is a barrier that must be overcome; we use our flesh to try to conquer what only reliance on the Spirit will attain.
In Watts’ language, we have to get over the “I” and that’s probably the revelation that humbles our spiritual pride most. This is the admission that we’ve not been as miraculously transformed as we’d liked to have been.
Sure, in Christ, we are new creations, but we’re not suddenly cured of sin. In fact, we’ve only begun the journey of reconciling that we’ll be fallen sinful persons for the rest of our lives. And what is against us are incorrect assumptions non-Christians make: “Well, he/she is not a very good Christian, are they?” That’s the point. There’s no such thing, and Christians more ought to know and accept this than anyone. The irony is it’s only the converted that understand, so it’s to hypocrisy we will continue to be judged.
If we’re to accept that the Christian life is not so much the negation of the self, but the affirmation of others within the purposes God gives us, then we would lose the prison in finding the key.
This is the concept that the self is subsumed always in something bigger than itself. Indeed, and ideally, the self has become nothing, and can see nothing of itself, for the everything that exists beyond itself.
This is what I think John the Baptist is getting at when he sees he is the friend of the Bridegroom, Jesus: “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30) John’s purpose had crystal clear clarity only when Jesus came.
When we arrive at this point in our journey with God, we don’t simply obey because it will go well for us if we do.
We obey because our lives are no longer about us; we see that our life is only “abundant” when others’ lives are, and when we’re lost in our mission that’s when we’re finally found. But we run off track if we don’t encompass this:
It’s not a service to others
to make us feel good.
It’s a service to others
where we think less about ourselves.
To this we’re called heavenward: the mind is one in passionate pursuit of everything it perceives of love for the people and problems of which it’s aware.
Serving others without thinking about what we gain, therefore, is freedom and, ultimately, Jesus’ abundant life.
That service, for the simple want of doing it, is what unifies the mind divided and exemplifies a mind integrated.
Serving unifies the mind divided, healing us, as God also heals those served.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Wisdom of Insecurity and Anxiety

“… when we try to understand the present by comparing it with memories, we do not understand it as deeply as when we are aware of it without comparison.”
— Alan W. Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity (p. 92)
“If you hold to my teaching… you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
— Jesus Christ, John 8:31-32
The wisdom of insecurity is a sagacity of God because, using it, we defy our cowardice.
Defying our cowardice — a cowardice which is essentially a turning away from the truth of the moment, when it’s uncomfortable — is remarkably simple.
But we must first embrace the trippy existential risk of being free to remain insecure.
Most believe that we’re revealed as insecure, which leads us to turn away from boldly staying in the moment, but recognising ourselves as insecure in those moments of insecurity is the key to choosing the better option of courage.
It has to be done via our awareness, consciously correcting the turning away, staying put.
Being of courage means we have to choose to stay in the feeling of insecurity, resisting running from it by some cover-up of fake bravery. Such falsehoods betray only ourselves. We know deep down we can fool everyone else, but we can never fool ourselves where our consciences care.
Watts says that, in fearful situations, we divert from present experience into the supposed safety of memory for a way to escape the harsh truth we’re encountering. But in that we slide away from being present, missing its depth, failing to appreciate its implicit value.
We can only respond poorly when we’re not present.
By not trusting ourselves to the truth, we do not trust God regarding the reality we find ourselves in, and we turn away from being true, accepting our own plea bargain by choosing a disguise. The crazy thing is we think we’re safer doing this. We actually deprive ourselves of the safety of the more reliable truth when we fashion for ourselves a lie to live within.
In not being present, we opt to escape into a memory of a similar situation in the past.
That’s dangerous, because even if that way of responding was appropriate, it can’t be appropriate for this new situation, as all situations are different. Besides, as we go by feel we genuinely miss the depth in the present moment; all the myriad detail, the authentic intel, that should otherwise inform our response.
Insecurity underpins anxiety, so it can be well assumed that anxiety is our cue to embrace and not avoid our insecurity. To do this, we will need to face something that’s horrid for a moment — a secondary emotion, to prefer a primary emotion. This is being honest through being vulnerable. That’s not usually a comfortable experience.
So isn’t it astounding and refreshing and bizarre that anxiety is good. That in trying to avoid it or overcome it, we’ve been doing the wrong thing all along. We more ought to make a home for it, which is about challenging our inner being to love the nemesis.
Might sound crazy, but the weakness we have learned to embrace is the tormenter we have learned to accept, and finally it has permission to go!
Regarding anxiety, giving up the fight is one way we win the fight. Regarding the insecurity that buttresses anxiety, instead of running from it we rise from within the midst of it.
Wisdom counterbalances life within the cherished irrevocable world of truth.
In anxiety, in insecurity, in them both, are rudiments for life, when we stay right there and resist running.
We overcome our anxieties and insecurities when we hear them knocking and we invite them in as cherished guests. Then we find courage rises, because, to accept such unwarranted guests, is in itself courage. And, as courage rises, we have less need for anxiety and insecurity, without forgetting the power available in being honest within weakness.
When signs of anxiety and insecurity are embraced, a wider, deeper, more functional and beautiful present opens up to us. We’re no longer occupied and consumed by resistance, and we’re freer to think and feel and act.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

One Simplest, Most Powerful Faith

Faith is remarkably simple, but life is complex, and we think our problems require equally complex solutions. All our problems are met best in the simplest of ways.
Our complex contexts are not to be understood, for complexity overwhelms us, but a two-pronged approach to one simple, integrated faith is the way forward.
Indicators that we need this approach are anxiety, depression, anger, impatience, and a general dearth of the fruit of the Spirit.
The two-pronged approach is tried and tested, and an almost boringly well-known formula. To the Word of God, we add prayer, which brings God’s Word alive in us via His felt Presence; simplicity for life. See, I told you it was simple.
As we read God’s Word more, we find God enables our capacities of meditation, which is where our mind ruminates on the words of the Bible, consciously and subconsciously.
The more we keep our life simple by filling our minds with God’s Word, the more God helps us block out unworthy distractions like worries. Filling our mind with God’s Word means we ruminate worthy things.
Read God’s Word.
Meditate fully on its meaning.
Pray accordingly.
Meet with God.
Enjoy life simply.
That’s the process. Make it no more complicated than that. Especially when you’re struggling. For faith is in the simplest surrender that trustfully obeys a simple formula.
Simplicity is gorgeous, because, like joy, it occurs mysteriously when we’re simply grateful. Faith is meant to be kept that simple, not a childish faith, but childlike. When faith is simple, hope is experienced, and love is easy, the way God designed life to be.
How does it work? I don’t know. All I know is it works. God makes the mysterious plain, and that’s the miraculous for us. What we cannot explain is simple and effective. The simpler, the more effective.
Fill your mind with God’s Word and prayer will pour out of your heart as you meet with God’s Presence.
Read God’s Word. Meditate fully on its meaning. Pray accordingly. Meet with God. Enjoy life simply.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Left or Right – Who Are You?

It came before Trump, so he cannot be blamed for it. I’m not sure what can, but the divide between the Left and the Right has now come into lounge rooms, workplaces, not just the public squares, and especially through social media platforms everywhere.
In a world where compassion fatigue is showing, and where we can no longer tell quality news from fake news, it cannot be escaped.
The world and its issues is forcing people to decide which side of the political agenda their allegiances lie. And choose either side, it isn’t pretty.
In fact, we’re ripping each other apart, and that’s an enigma given both sides are so ardently for democracy.
The political issues are not in themselves the main thing. But attack seems to be everyone’s most consistent defence, and the vitriol in many quarters is incredible. Social media allows people their say, through ‘comments’ of aggression, to ‘reactions’ of adherence, to ‘shares’ of allegiance.
A few years ago, the critical mass was moving to social media — it was social media’s win, making it mega powerful. Now, empowered by their social media of choice, the critical mass is taking to the streets to design a ‘better world’… through the misplaced justice of anger, an advocacy that shoots itself in the foot.
No one has told them that two angry poles don’t make for a better world. Nobody having their one-eyed say has realised they’re not happier for it. Anger is not the way to contentment, though, I concede, contentment must not be their goal. It’s victory. It’s a tug-of-war and only one side can win at any one time.
The point of creation is cooperation, not competition, so anytime someone makes a point for justice using dog-eat-dog competition tactics rather than conciliatory cooperation, they fool themselves, but others can see right through them.
People have forgotten what a democracy does in enlisting change. Maybe social media in a postmodern age has killed any chance of democracy. It’s a runaway train.
The world is asking you… who are you… you need to choose. Are you Left or Right?
Of course, it’s not that simple. Not many of us are on one side. But every day we’ll still be asked — “So, who are you for?” “What are your principles?” “Ballsy enough to stick to them.”
Wise people will not enter that arena.
The trouble is we’re partial creatures. We cannot stand not having a view. It will cost us our freedom.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Repentant Brokenness and (Finally) God’s Glorious Power

Something happened in a man I once knew that convinced me that one event changed his entire life. Brokenness gave way not to despair alone, but it gave him cause to revere the truth. A truth that set him free in a way he had always wished to be free.
Totally crushed by his own selfish circumstances — utterly abandoned — God gave him one last chance of redemption, and this man took that opportunity with both hands, though it would cost him dearly. He knew it would. He knew he really had no choice.
The prayer of his heart, answered. The course of his life, changed. The destiny of his being, sealed. The purpose of his life, realised. But, broken.
He realised a painful process was, in an absurd way, to be the catalyst to his dreams.
For the first time in his life he was a real human being, feeble and vulnerable. And for the first time in his life, he was not only a man of God, but a man. At his most broken rock-bottom moment.
What a gargantuan paradox. At the moment of his repentance he is blessed with brokenness. He wasn’t used to being blessed like that. None of us are. Indeed, he had never experienced blessing through brokenness before. But, finally, he knew the most cherished of blessing.
For, immediately a breakthrough occurred, but not before he dropped his guard completely, and surrendered all his pride and pretense when he was confronted with the truth.
He realised that day that God cannot use a liar. He learned that it was far better to be broken by the truth so he could repent, and that day God taught him what being Christian is all about; a relationship hid with Christ in the living God, knowing God sees, hears and knows all.
That day God taught him something of priceless value: you have nothing when you think you lack nothing, and you have everything when you accept you have nothing before Him.
It is not a tragedy to be exposed by the truth and need to repent in brokenness, but it is a tragedy to continue a masquerade. The person who faces their inevitable humiliation is quickly forgiven by God. Their place, through brokenness, is power through God’s glorious Presence, because they were humble.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Democracy’s Fall, the Day of Déjà Vu

Charlie Chaplin (18891977) in his depiction of The Great Dictator
HARDLY does the issue need to be named, yet many in the church today are falling for something that was only eradicated seventy years ago — the rise of a fascist threat on the global stage that promises clandestinely (at this stage) to take no prisoners; the church in its wake, ensconced.
It is appalling that people within its structure cannot see segments of the church go so easily to a potentially despotic regime. Yet, none of us should be surprised. It’s happened before, and it will happen again. These cycles shouldn’t astonish us, for they’re clearly visible in God’s Word, and these events litter humanity’s short history. Not being astonished, however, such a history-repeating-itself should be abhorred.
A day is coming — a day humanity should all fear — and it’s not the Day of the Lord.
The Disgustingly Redolent Day the Church Fell, Almost as One, to a Dictator
Hear this echo in the words of church historian, Justo L. González:
“Hitler felt that Christianity, with its teachings of universal love and turning the other cheek, was antagonistic to his ultimate goals of conquest and domination — but he sought to use the church to support those goals.”[1] (emphasis, mine)
Can anyone alive today possibly recall what that era was like? Only those who lived through it. Experience is the greatest teacher. Despite the history lessons, we’re destined the temptation to disbelieve what we never experienced. (How many people believe the Holocaust is a myth? Six million Jews murdered — systematic genocide — and some people still prefer a conspiracy theory.)
I see church leaders, lobbyists and Christians, some from unlikely sources, falling. You can stink the ignorance from years out. The key test is a political one: if a President sanctions one or two policies that church leaders, lobbyists and Christians believe so ardently in, those church leaders, lobbyists and Christians may throw their entire lot in with him or her, as if our innumerably diverse world could be reduced to an issue or two. Since when did the entire world revolve around one or even a few ethically-loaded issues?
And what is the price for flattery, one to another? Flattery is its own blank cheque sanction. Flattery, propagating a bloated façade, demotes all who partake, swooning them into the enemy’s arena of treason. More on flattery later.
Any discussion about Hitler leads to contemplations on the scourge of Fascism.
Fascism for Dummies
Fascism: (noun) a form of radical authoritarian nationalism. The term has roots from 1924, as a despicable era developed.
British Fascisti emerged out of the shadows of an Italian movement from 1922–1943 giving rise to Mussolini’s power, and features nationalism in the tones of ultra-royalism, social conservatism, and anti-socialism.
I want to show that, for us Westerners, who may erroneously think that we’re above falling for the evil of authoritarianism, that the roots of fundamentalism as a pathology are ever present, even in our culture. Perhaps at some point even a country’s constitution may not stop it. Fascism is not just a concept of Nazism. Enter the narcissist through international power and watch Fascism be fanned ablaze!
Any ultra-or-anti-anything should raise heckles. Such movements are set on control of every institution, carte blanche, through fear and monocracy.
The Merging of Church and State
Among the freedoms being eroded in our bipolar day is that of free speech within religion and without.
Another Justo L. González quote:
“Hitler’s own program included the unification of all Protestant churches in Germany, and then using them in order to preach his message of German radical superiority, and of a divinely given mission.”[2] (emphasis, mine)
Hitler’s regime used unification, by getting them all under possession of the Third Reich, to weaken not only the Jews.
Don’t forget that Germany was at its zenith as a zeitgeist for theological thought. And with all that theological might in their tenure these leaders, one by one, denomination by denomination, were still duped and/or coerced into capitulation. We should not imagine this time was easy to resist for any leader or person of faith. It must have been seemingly impossible to resist.
What should strike us like a Tsar Bell is the amount the state controlled the church. The Third Reich controlled the German church years before war broke out in 1939.
State control over the church doesn’t need to be overt. There are already rumblings that ministers and churches have been required to hand over their sermons to have them vetted by bureaucrats. State control over freedom of speech and religion is at a volcanic change point — even bureaucrats are confused where lines are appropriately drawn. One moment there is an abuse of human rights, only for a response of political correctness (read, overreaction) to ensue. One response is an abomination, the other an assault on good sense.
An element that confuses all of us even a little more is the fact we live in a postmodern world where truth has fluid relativity. In ethical settings, division is the predictable outcome. At a time when we’re most unified globally, technologically speaking, we live in a world never more divided. That is because everyone has a voice, and revolutions occur daily, not least through social media. Such tipping points into chaos are inevitable.
The world is seeking direction more than ever, but more than ever there’s so much noise. And less than ever people are looking to God, when they need Him most.
God’s Prophecy From One Source, One Only
I searched my mind and will for what the Lord would wish to say. He directed me to the Source, His Word. One prophetic utterance from Daniel 11:29-35 (HCSB):
“At the appointed time he will come again to the South, but this time will not be like the first. Ships of Kittim will come against him, and being intimidated, he will withdraw. Then he will rage against the holy covenant and take action. On his return, he will favor those who abandon the holy covenant. His forces will rise up and desecrate the temple fortress. They will abolish the daily sacrifice and set up the abomination of desolation. With flattery he will corrupt those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will be strong and take action. Those who are wise among the people will give understanding to many, yet they will die by sword and flame, and be captured and plundered for a time. When defeated, they will be helped by some, but many others will join them insincerely. Some of the wise will fall so that they may be refined, purified, and cleansed until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.” (emphasis, mine)
These are the signs of the times that could be coming; times that call us all to high alert, but times when some in key areas of influence, could be many, will perceive as high attraction. Could it be that some notable church leaders and lobbyists have already abandoned the holy covenant?
Even in a way that appears to be obedience to the holy covenant.
Hard to tell, exactly, but suspicion rises, as it has to in this Day. The church must watch for an autocrat who is not only prepared to punish naysayers, but who flatters supporters. Oppressors do that. With tyranny, they show disdain for a flouting audacity of a resistance that they, themselves, in their audacity, flaunt through provocation. Because they have power, as if power were a thing to appropriately abuse — where such abuses are not considered an abuse, but a right, for the fact that power’s residence gives them, they feel, unequivocal though self-assigned rights.
The Seventy Years
There is something very biblical about the seventy-year timeframe.
I simply wonder if there’s anything in the period 1946–2016, which, from a global viewpoint, we could call the dormant years. 2016 seemed like quite a remarkable year; the end of something, perhaps. Time will tell.
2016 highlighted more than ever a transition in the way our political world works. A latent toxin emerged, one that has always been there, one waiting for its stage to arrive.
The Toxicity of Today’s Political Environment in the Social Media Age
One reason the Despot thrives is he flourishes well in a toxic environment, even exacerbating and enchanting the trolls against him or her — paradoxically, it takes one troll to joust with another, for the way they bludgeon each other with murderous orotundity is bewildering.
Fury has words that should never be publicised, and yet with light-speed regularity Joe Public as well as Well-To-Do Celebrity eat away the middle ground of politics when they spray their venom. Their respective rancour contributes a volley of blows, as the extremities that crouch in the trenches convince the other ninety percent of the world by their behaviour (don’t go there; you won’t come out alive!) not to bother entering the bloody arena so inanely sordid and scornfully alien to fecund goodwill.
The very unfortunate trend is good people are not entering politics, or do not survive, but the bullies are and do. The bullies are winning and they will rule over a world that buckles to them, because they confound reason.
The signs of trouble are obvious. Take three salient examples, for I’m hardly a politics-watcher: the rampant intolerance with the media, the egotistical use of social media, where the word “me” is so regularly used, and the nationalism of Make-America-Great-Again-and-to-hell-with-everyone-else-not-with-my-agenda, particularly with separatist overtones. Calling some News organisations “fake news” because they are anti should ring warning bells of déjà vu. Can a President of the United States use Twitter like he has?
Let us watch for signs of intolerance, national seeking of and striving for perfectibility, the undermining of minorities, and the type of groupthink that underscores humanity’s resemblance to sheep. The church has folded as one before. It may happen again before the end.
It may take years for this to occur, recalling that Hitler’s fascist rise took place close to a decade before World War II was in full swing.
Where are the Dietrich Bonhoeffers and the Martin Niemollers of our age — those who gave their lives for the truth they, by God, could see? Those Christian leaders who heap a surfeit of flattery on a dictator will not glorify God but will earn for themselves an infamy of ignominy.
One test of the thesis presented is direct sanction and punishment as a result, like prison or conscription, as happened to those who resisted in World War II and at other times. Can we see the signs in others who have resisted? I think we can.
George Santayana (1863–1952), philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist, once said:
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Whatever happens, we can strap ourselves in for one hell of a ride.
Postscript: I pray that these words make a fool out of me in future years to come; that a certain Presidency is vaunted for its fruit.

[1] The Story of Christianity – Volume II – The Reformation to the Present Day, HarperOne, 2010, p. 308.
[2] The Story of Christianity – Volume II – The Reformation to the Present Day, HarperOne, 2010, p. 462.