27 August, 2007

The Spiritual Girdle

Weekend Fisher poses an issue around Psychology or Spiritual Direction. Along the way, she takes some pretty tough shots at therapy.

I've got my own thoughts on counseling, and I have definitely benefited from extended periods of professional counseling. I recommend it, and don't know that WF doesn't.

Still, her criticisms of the therapeutic relationship bring back to mind the biggest opportunity the church has to change the world. If I wanted to develop deep relationships within my church, I would have to do so outside of anything the church fosters. The members of my church live too far apart - geographically, emotionally, daily, and life-objectives wise. About 4 hours a week, we learn things together. The other 164 hours, we are as far apart from each other as I am from my neighbors.

(Larry Crabb wrote a book, "Connecting," which was just brilliant on the subject of how the church can build healing relationships within its own walls. I strongly recommend this book to any church. I'd link my review, but none of my searches says I ever wrote such a thing. Ah well.)

I continue to grow more convinced that the church is the tiny bonds that grow up between saints, and not the organization the saints attend at all. It's our relationships more than our organization. That organization could be doing so much good and facilitating precious bonding. Instead, it facilitates learning. You can get learning from a book. Why waste precious time on something so simple?

It takes time to get really raw with someone, to expose the stuff that scares you the worst and to see whether it's as ugly as you fear. That won't happen when you meet three times a week in a learning environment. It just can't. We need to be eating together more. We need to be playing together and shopping together and doing home repair together. This habit of stuffing the ample body of Christ into a girdle of spirituality is killing us.

25 August, 2007

Living in the State of Denial

Mt 16:24
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

It's sometimes easier to take up your cross than to deny yourself. That cross is pressed upon you. You find yourself cast out from your brothers and sisters for no good reason; you find yourself buried and hopeless in a marriage; you find an enemy taking shots at you at work. All of these things are forced upon you, and so is the dignity to bear them.

Self denial is never forced upon us.

And it is nigh unto unreasonable to deny myself. The creation is good. Why deny my part in it? Why live without any of the many blessings God made for us joy? And yet, the Lord says to deny myself. Why?

I am exploring this in my life right now, so I may as well blog on it just a little. I am considering a denial, and not sure whether it is a valuable exercise. So, what you have here in this little post is not an answer, but a guess. I do this all the time. I hypothesize something, and try to live it out and see whether it works. I also pray for wisdom and search the scriptures, but in the end it's a guess.

Here's my guess on denial.

Denial is how you release the dross so you can hold the gold.

Let me take television as an example. Watching television burns fewer calories than sleeping, and it puts the brain into a state of lethargy that is almost unparalleled in human existence. It is a remarkable device with incredible power.

Many people decide to deny themselves the television. They figure anything that much fun and that unproductive cannot be good, so they give it up for lent. Some actually stick to it, while most eventually go back. But denial for its own sake never works for me. I deny myself the television for blogging. (In case you've ever wondered where I find the time to be so verbose, I never turn on the television, and voila - instant time.)

If I deny myself the television because it allows me to do something much more valuable, opening my heart and thoughts to my brothers and sisters, then there's a reason. There's a profit.

Jesus stood by the Samaritan well, and said that he had other food than His disciples, to do the will of His Father. He did not say, "I deny myself food. I beat my body to release My Spirit. I am above physical needs because I AM a spiritual man." Instead, Jesus explained His self-denial by referencing that which He gained.

It's an opening thought. Maybe I will have more some day.

Lord bless.

20 August, 2007


There's so very little of it.

Tonight I'm in a bit of a funk. Yesterday I lost my first tennis tourney. It was a very good loss, to the #4 player in all of Central Ohio, so I'm quite proud of it. Still, I poured a lot of emotion in, so today I've got that hung over feeling. My knee feels like it may never heal (it will), I feel like I may never be happy again (I am already) and writing feels like I'm climbing an infinite number of stairs on my fingers.

All that said, it's really a pretty good week and a pretty good night. It's so good there's hardly any other news to report. I was excited because the dentist gave my boy a clean bill of health. If you know any of the details about him, you know that's more than normally exciting.

Anyway, since I typed so much over at Karen's place tonight, I may be done for the week here. I will probably get back to the Lord's Supper posts at some point. I dearly love that whole subject. Tonight, though, I would have to visit the examining ourselves before we partake - and I should probably not write on that in this mood.

Come to think of it, I probably shouldn't have written so much about predestination over at Karen's in this mood. I think I'll worry about that all night. It will help to focus. ;-)

(Is anyone else COMPLETELY INDESCRIBABLY SICK of having to type the stupid word verification twice EVERY time you post?????? If you don't finish within about 30 seconds, it tells you you typed the letters wrong. They're lying! Why don't they just come out and say, "You typed for too long. Now you have to word verify twice. Sometimes, I even submit short comments without typing the letters, because I know it's going to say I'm wrong about what I typed. Grrr.)

(And I had a thought earlier. At my present age (~half way to death) it seems like weeks fly by in an afternoon. Time just keeps speeding up. I was thinking about how my body used to heal completely overnight, but now it takes 3 days. I bet the slowing down of the internal healing process is directly related to how long a week seems to take. I used to play tennis for 4 hours every day, then the next day I was fresh. Now I play 4 hours every day, but I finally heal from day 1's tennis on day 4. So, 7 days now feels like 28. Therefore, whenever 28 days go by, I think of it as just 7.)

(When I get emotionally hung over, I lose the ability to express myself without losing any of the desire to do so. When I finally succumb to alzheimer's nobody is going to know the difference.)

(Yep. Have to retype the stupid letters again. And I typed that fast!)

14 August, 2007

The Life in the Wine

Again, I am drawn to leapfrog the obvious. I have to return to the blood of the new covenant. Before that subject can really be seen through, we must talk about blood itself.

Le 17:11
For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

There is only one reason we bleed.

God gave us blood.

All of life runs in our veins. And the lamb and the bull offered to God as atonement for our evil hearts let their blood instead of ours. But their blood could do nothing for us. It was merely a focus for our faith before Christ revealed the truth. His Blood changed everything.

The Life that was poured out of the Son of God made all His children clean.

Whoops. It's still too early to bring out the new covenant. Instead, focus on the blood itself.

"The cup we drink..."

We take into our bodies the very life of the Lord Jesus. All the pagan rituals of blood drinking pale and fail before this truth of Christ's Life poured out for us, on us, and even into us. The Life is in the Blood, and in the Lord's Supper we join in the communion of His Life.

It is one Blood that runs in all our veins.

It's been years now since I took communion with wine, but I'll always wish for it. The burn of the alcohol drives home the nature of what I'm doing. I'm drinking the Life of a Living Lord. That should burn a little bit.

1) We declare His death until He comes
2) We embrace the breaking of His body for us.
3) We declare our willingness to join Him in suffering.
4) We declare our oneness with every one who's ever known Him.
5) We declare His pleasure with us.
6) We declare the union of our lives with His.

13 August, 2007

The Two Loaves

Whilst I am yet on the subject of the bread within the Lord's Supper, let me mention the two loaves.

Lev 23:16 & 17
Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD.

50 days = Pentecost. The Feast of Pentecost was a Jewish feast long before the Spirit ushered in the church on that day and revealed its meaning forever. And yet, so much of its meaning is lost when we talk about the L0rd's Supper.

There were two loaves because of the domestic and the wild olive branches. The Jews are the first loaf, and we gentiles are the second. So, when we tear the loaf, we really should remember that we are tearing both loaves at once. We are one with those who came before us in Isreal. And what's more, this is a picture of how the Lord's Supper transcends ALL time. We show ourselves one with Abraham, and with Polycarp, and with Luther and so on. The loaves, and the body of Christ, and the church are all one across every moment - because God is I AM across every moment. It could be no other way.

Note also a couple things about the loaves. They are made of fine flour, and they are baked with leaven! How many times have you heard that the Lord's Supper must be taken with unleavened bread? And of course, the Passover meal was indeed taken with unleavened bread. Pentecost came 50 days after the celebration of the firstfruits (it's been too long since I studied all this, and the night grows late, but the details can slide here) so I'll agree that unleavened bread is the star of the Lord's Supper, but give the Pentecost loaves due thought.

They are made of fine flour. This could mean wheat thoroughly crushed by life's hardships, but that would be out of character with the feast. I believe instead that this points to the sweetest and most delicate of breads. This is the church as the Lord celebrates her. These loaves are not to be eaten by man, but are instead waved unto the Lord Himself. These are given to Him (and not burnt, because burning bread is NOT a pleasant aroma to the Lord as is the burning fat of the offering.) Our Lord sees us as a fine flour, and a delicate bread. To us, the bread is unleavened and harsh. To Him it is sweet and fine.

But another word is in order regarding the leaven. In the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the leaven speaks of sin. Every seed of sin must be removed from our houses and our bodies lest it grow and ruin the whole batch. On grain of yeast is enough to make us unable to accept God in to sup with us.

But this is not the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the leavening is not that of sin, but that of Life. The little leaven that leavens the whole batch here is that of the Life of Jesus Christ born in us - and in the Jews of olden days, and in the earliest church, and in the later church, and in those yet to come. The leaven that softens those twin loaves is ONE leaven; it is the Life of the holy God born in us - that which is born of Spirit is spirit.

So, as you take the bread, remind yourself of the sweet savor you are to God. Remind yourself that He partakes of the offering even as you do, and joins Himself to you even as you do to Him. He partakes in the wave offering of our communion together forever, one with each other and with Him.

1) We declare His death until He comes
2) We embrace the breaking of His body for us.
3) We declare our willingness to join Him in suffering.
4) We declare our oneness with every one who's ever known Him.
5) We declare His pleasure with us.

12 August, 2007

Filling Up the Sufferings of the Christ

There are still more mysteries hidden in this breaking of the body of Christ. The greatest is likely to be that it is not only His body that is torn.

When we tear the bread, we show the sufferings of Christ for His own. But the bread is also a symbol of us, His body, the church.

1 Cor 10:17
For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

And so, when we tear the bread, we equally symbolize our sufferings at the hands of His enemies and ours. There was a cup of suffering for the Lord Jesus, and there is a cup of suffering for us. The Lord refrained from allowing anyone to share in His cup, but there is a very real sense in which Christ's sufferings were not enough - there are sufferings yet to be paid, and we are privileged to join our Lord in those deep waters.

Col 1:24
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:

Php 3:10
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

So in our time of communion with the Lord and with the saints, we worship and declare the sufferings of the Lord, but we also declare our intent to join Him at the cross. We commune with His sufferings for us, but we also commune with Him as fellow sufferers.

1) We declare His death until He comes
2) We embrace the breaking of His body for us.
3) We declare our willingness to join Him in suffering.

His Body Torn for Us

In the Lord's Supper, there are a number of hidden mysteries.

One of them is hidden in the bread. Please allow me to leapfrog the obvious. We are, all of us, the grains of wheat that become the bread. This is why they call this meal, "communion." In it the bread shadows the church - a single, nourishing whole made from many.

1 Cor 10:16
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

And the bread explicitly shadows the body of Christ.

1 Cor 11:24
And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

The bread that we share together should be whole at the start of the Supper, and it should be broken as it is passed around. We must tear His body to be healed in our own. The tearing of the bread is a moment of deep reflection, because there is no healing, no salvation, no hope for us if His body is not broken and torn for us 2000 years ago. It is no use being like Peter and forbidding the Lord to die. We must embrace His sacrifice and can offer only the sacrifice of thanksgiving to Him.

1) We declare His death until He comes
2) We embrace the breaking of His body for us.

Are All Witches Evil?

... or just the evil ones?

A question asked on a tennis blog I frequent.

but is every witch evil? maybe some of them are just wise women, carrying the wisdom of a long forgotten past?

If anyone else comments, I'll add my 2 cents.

Proclaiming A Death

WooHoo! Last Sunday I was asked to talk for 2 minutes about the Lord's Supper. (I had a full hour to prepare, so I felt really, really lucky. :-) As I was thinking about what to say, I was just buried by all the little 2 minute notes I could put out there. Before I was done, I guessed there must be a dozen.

Needless to say, I will have to see whether I was right!

Since it was the one and only chance I will probably get, I decided to go for the safest bet. Here's what I said on Sunday.

There are so many things to talk about with the Lord's Supper. There's the two loaves waved by the priest in the old testament, the crushing of the wheat to make the bread, the wine/blood flowing through all our veins. I really struggled to decide what to talk about, but I'm going to talk about the last verse of the passage the pastor always reads before we share the supper.

1 Cor 11:26
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till he come.

Taking the Lord's Supper is the most intimate act of worship you will ever do. In taking it, you share the body of the Lord, and you mingle His blood with yours as a body of believers. In that moment, you become one with each other and with Him.

And as you take the bread and the wine, you are declaring something to all the world. Together, you are telling the world that Jesus died - and that is a huge declaration. From the moment The Word said, "Let there be light" until the moment He rolls this old creation up and begins again, there will never be a greater event than the death of the Lamb of God. There is not a greater praise than to declare it.

This is His body broken for us. This is His blood poured out for us.

For love of His Father, and for love of us, Jesus went like a lamb to the slaughter. The King of a Universe He had created laid down His body to be broken. He took on flesh so that He could suffer His blood to be poured out, and by His obedient death He cleansed all things, including us.

By taking this bread and drinking this wine, you declare to the world the supremacy of that sacrifice. Remember that as you remember Him.

05 August, 2007

About: The Holy War - 1972

I have gotten one review of this piece so far, and it is much appreciated. Dan was able to tell me some of the things about it that were opaque to him as a reader. I will be editing the story to clarify those things, and reposting it.

Outside of that effort, though, I wanted to trot out a couple of my thoughts behind the piece.

Before I get to the interesting thoughts, I guess I need to explain that the city of Codepoke is the whole inner life of a single person. There are a lot of thoughts and feelings and forces going on inside any person at all times. To live inside my head really is like having a little city trading in goods all day long, so for me to characterize all the thoughts, feelings and forces working in my head as people in a city is really easy. I'm not sure that that was really clear in the initial post. It was not to Dan, but maybe it was to others.

First, is the matter of the Lairds. The Lairds make all the decisions in Codepoke and have the final say on everything. (If you didn't catch it, "Laird" is a Scottish pronunciation of "Lord," and he is the father-figure leader of a Scottish clan. In proper use, the Laird is always singular, but I took liberty and made them plural, because there's always a debate about everything in my heart.) Most people would place the "will" of man in the position of decision-maker. I don't see things that way, and I'm pretty sure the scripture doesn't either.

KB made another penetrating comment a while back, and I threatened to write a post about it. I don't know when I will actually do so, though I have started the research. The core of my post will be simple. When I did a text search for "will" in the bible, I stumbled upon several verses that said it was God's will that decided who would be saved, zero verses that said man's will was decided whether or not he got saved, and a couple verses that explicitly said man's will was not involved.

And yet, a decision is made to be saved.

In The Holy War, the way I resolve this conundrum is to separate the Lairds from the will. The Lairds make the decisions, and the "willpower" enforces them. I think we all basically feel that way about ourselves, and I think we are right. When we need to make a decision, we take in a number of facts (how many depends upon our basic personality) and measure our feelings about those facts. Should I go on a diet? Well, I see whether the facts support the need for a diet and whether I feel good or bad about what the facts seem to say. Some facts make me feel good, so I give them more weight. Eventually, "I" make a decision. Yes, it's more important for me to look good and feel healthy than to eat uncontrolledly, so I start a diet.

After the decision is when the will comes into play. The will keeps me on the diet so I don't have to constantly be re-deciding every hour whether to keep dieting. My feelings fluctuate constantly, and if it were not for willpower, I'd change my mind about the diet every time I gained or lost water. But, the will did not actually make the decision. "I" made the decision. And if you want proof of that little assertion, just remember the way you felt the last time you sinned when you didn't want to. Your will can fail "you." A quick reading of Romans 7 even says the will is closely related to the flesh.

So, in Codepoke all decisions are made by "the Lairds."

The Lairds are "me." They are the heart of man, even the spirit of man. Something in me makes choices that don't necessarily align with my reason, feelings or will, and I think it's that human spirit in me transcending the soul. Again, the scripture seems to support such a notion, given that the Word of God can divide soul from spirit.

A careful observer might have noted that the Lairds never really speak. They make decisions and they give orders, but they don't discuss things - not with the townspeople, not amongst themselves, and not even with Christ. They know what they know, they watch and learn what they don't know, and they do what they do. It's really key to me that the spirit in man is always active, always leading, and almost always silent.

So, that's the Lairds, and that's how decisions are made by humans.

Second, I would not blame you for being pretty underwhelmed by a flaming watermelon that keeps floating in the breeze. I could not help it, though. That's a pretty good picture of what happened inside of me.

What, actually, is the melon?

Most simply put, it's the Word of God. It's a seed from which grows the river that Christ promises will flow out of those who believe in Him. It's the seed of a vine tree called the Tree of Life. It's Christ Himself in spoken form. It's light that needs to be planted in the heart of a man to really begin to shine. That's why it's only smoldering at the start of the story, but blazes after embedding itself in the soil of the heart of the man.

And the Word of God works on every part of the man. It works first on the intellect, since the mind is usually the first to reject anything new. When the mind cannot reject the power of the truth, then the feelings start to weigh in on it. And when the verse speaks something truly terrifying, the feelings react with terror. And finally, the willpower wants to play. The will is trying to enforce the law of inertia. The last thing the will heard was that we were doing fine without the truth of God getting all offensive, so it tried to "stay the course" by getting rid of the offensive word of God. The watermelon was going to cause big changes, so the watermelon had to go.

That's always my first reaction to the truth of God spoken into my soul with power.

And of course, the wind blowing the melon around was the Holy Spirit.

Third, the hill and the tower are the heart of man and the holy place within him. Everything flows from that hill, and it's that tower where everything spiritual happens. A long, long time ago some guys decided to build a tower to reach the heavens. God confounded them with many toungues, but that tower was a picture of how we try to ascend into God's realm. We try to build our towers as high as we can, and to spiritually ascend above God.

When we actually find God, and find the way into The Holy of Holies, it's not at the top of the tower. The doorway into the Throne Room of God is at floor level. We don't have to build a tower; instead we find a door (Jesus is The Door) built by God and we simply enter in.

Hence, the unbeliever can declare himself spiritual. He's telling the truth, because he has a tower within him just like we do. His tower lacks any direct connection to God, but it's spiritual nonetheless. That tower within him is getting taller and taller, and may even be vastly taller and grander than my tower. But if there's no door into the Holy Place on the ground floor of that tower, it's just so much human waste (double entrendre intended.)


I'm more than a little tempted to tell some more stories of Codepoke. I could tell about the nights that I spent shivering and praying that God would save me from hell, the years I almost drove myself to suicide trying to be the perfect Christian, the vast confusion of falling in love and trying to keep some kind of balance between God and woman and confusing myself beyond measure, entering into a church that was almost purely mental, entering into one that was all about contemplative/centering prayer, divorce; there are a dozen stories I would like to tell from the perspective of that tower and the door into heaven. This first story just put the door in the tower. The story of what that door does, how the flaming watermelons change everything, and the relationship of the Lairds to their Lord intrigues me.

Does this seem like a valuable medium to you?

Praise, Worship and Crow

Milly just posted a bit about whether Praise and Worship style music was good stuff or not. She chose as her example song, "Trading My Sorrows."

Now it so happens that song grates on my idealistic side. It has to be about as practically dodgy as any song I know, and I made my case "for" P&W but "against" Trading my Sorrows.

Wouldn't you know Trading My Sorrows would be the keystone of today's worship service?

And wouldn't you know I would love every minute of it?

It was our second string worship leader and they had done a couple songs with acoustic guitar and light drums. Then I brought up the slide for TmS. I chuckled and got ready for singing. Somehow I missed them switching over to a hardbody electric guitar and amping up the drums. :-)

They launched into the song, and the crowd kind of came along. After the first chorus, the pastor came up and read Isaiah 53 with passion, and had us start again. The crowd really responded well to his encouragement, and we had a great worship session.

I now have to declare that TmS is a very "worshipable" song, and it got to me good today. :-)