Friday, December 25, 2009

Close Encounters of the [Spiritual] Kind

John Fincher December 25 at 7:47am

After reading the chapter If I Ever Met an Angel from Wide Open Spaces by Jim Palmer, I began to wonder about my own experiences with angels, dreams, visions, etc. This is also something I've thought about lately. For me, my experience is someone who I haven't talked to or thought of in a long time will call me (seemingly) out of the blue - as soon as a few minutes or the next day. I don't know how many times I've said to someone, I was JUST thinking about you. I don't know why God would give me a fore-knowledge of this, but it has happened to me over and over in my life. My wife tells a story when she was in college, she started packing to leave because her aunt had died, but no one had called her and told her. When her mother called her, she said she already knew and was on her way. We tend to not dwell on something like this and try to say she was probably just mistaken about the time-line.

I certainly am open for this type of communication now.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was involved in a messy situation in the small-group at the assembly we now attend (I started going for my wife, but have come to love the people in our group). It involved me being (essentially) called a heretic by someone attending a conservative seminary. Well, in this imbroglio, I was called a Gnostic and a Mystic simply because I am seeking the deeper things of God. More than a few times lately, God has put "mystical" things (books, conversations, etc) into my path over the last year. The next DAY after this episode with my fellow classmate came to a head, I was at the hospital waiting with my mother while my father was having surgery. We were sitting in a small area with a couple I had not paid much attention to. As I was walking past them, I noticed a book that he had been reading, but had put down. I looked at the title - The New Mystics by John Crowder! Never heard of him or it, but it sparked an amazing conversation between the two of us about this very subject! I being from a conservative Independent Baptist background thoroughly enjoyed his stories about "unseen" encounters with the spiritual world. This stranger also GAVE me the book. My eyes are more open to this type of thing now.

As to God speaking through dreams, earlier this year I was given these words upon waking one morning:

I rather imagine as I sleep,
My God sings to me all night
In a quiet, wordless voice

Though wordless,
So personal still

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I Guess Label Me an Antinomian

“Repentance is necessary for God’s own people, who have a real work of grace. They must offer up a daily sacrifice of tears. The Antinomians hold that when any come to be believers, they have a writ of ease, and there remains nothing for them now to do but to rejoice. Yes, they have something else to do, and that is to repent. Repentance is a continuous act. The issue of godly sorrow must not be quite stopped till death. Jerome, writing in an epistle to Laeta, tells her that her life must be a life of repentance. Repentance is called crucifying the flesh (Gal. 5:24), which is not done on a sudden, but leisurely; it will be doing all our life". Thomas Watson, from The Doctrine of Repentance


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

I daresay most American Christians are familiar with this verse from Jeremiah. I have no guess for the number of times I've heard it preached about. It is the ONE verse, we have been told, that shows no one can trust their heart. I will admit I am conflicted as the wording is not vague. It says, in black and white, that the heart is deceitful ABOVE ALL, and DESPERATELY WICKED.

Albeit that this wording is unambiguous, a search of the Bible will quickly show the heart can be both wicked AND/OR good.

If the heart IS wicked and deceitful, it raises some questions.

If, as some say, Jesus is invited into our hearts, does (would!) He reside in a wickedly deceitful one?

Also, as it says in Psalms that the Lord will give us the desires of the heart, would God give us desires that are rooted in wickedness and deceit?

Was Jeremiah (God), perhaps, being rhetorical? Could he be describing the UNregenerated heart of the PRE-Cross, natural man? There is a question asked at the end of the sentence, "who can know it?" It is interesting to note that just like Paul's lament in his letter to the Romans, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?, we usually stop and don't move on to the answer; Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. (NLT)

Jeremiah also supplies an answer to the question; I the LORD… Therefore the heart IS knowable - God can know it.

So how can we reconcile the apparently clear teaching of this verse with other instruction in the Bible concerning the heart?

I think the answer is given to us in Ezekiel 36:26, A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. (emphasis mine)

Could one conceivably conclude that the REgenerated man can trust his heart?

Now, wouldn't THAT be good news!

(Just don't eat what you're fed, hunt for yourself.)

The Secret of Forgiveness

If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." - Colossians 3:1-3

It was a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there -- the room full of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie's pain-blanched face.

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. "How grateful I am for your message, Fraeulein," he said. "To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!"

His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness. As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened.

From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

And so I discovered that it depends not on our forgiveness nor on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.

From The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Love Over All

Despite all the denominational distinctions I've come across along the way, for the life of me, I cannot find any other litmus test Jesus insisted upon to authenticate his followers except love. This was unsettling when I realized that despite knowing Greek and Hebrew and the boxes in my attic filled with hundreds of my sermons on tape telling others how to be a Christian, I wasn't very loving. Winston Churchill cautioned, "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results". My version of Christianity wasn't making me much like Jesus.

From Divine Nobodies by Jim Palmer

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The New Mystics

I will not be looking for religious acceptance, nor fear the opinions of any man. Neither will I just eat what I am fed. I will hunt for myself. I will not rest until I have personally heard from Heaven.

Personalized from The New Mystics by John Crowder

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Light Salt Anyone?

Over the last few days/weeks, I've been asking Papa if He would shine His light into all of the dark corners of my soul. And let me be clear, the spirit is how I communicate with Him. The soul is my mind, will, and emotions. It is in my soul where I store my garbage that I don't want Him to see (a la Adam and Eve trying to cover their nakedness). (Rhetorical aside: Why does the natural man believe he can hide from the eternal God? And why does he even feel it necessary to try?)

I have been walking over the past week or so. Sometimes it's been in the early morning and I can hear the world waking up. Sometimes it's later in the day when it seems much quieter. And one day last week I walked just after dusk – the time where it is more night than day. It was an amazing time of contemplation. The wind was blowing, and a blanket of large oak leaves were being tossed and swirled around. They almost seemed to make a whispering noise, and I imagined God speaking to me through their rustle.

It is during these walks where I have time to reflect on ideas that start out as tiny seeds in my mind. I have been told I am a deep thinker. I don't know how deep my thoughts are, but God has given me a certain curiosity that I seem to have the need to satiate. I like to think things out to a certain extent and answer questions that come to my mind.

Something Papa showed me today is the idea that we are called the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

In my most religiously conservative days, I was focused inwardly on my small body of fellow workers. I was SO inwardly-focused, that the only way I could (AND SHOULD) minister was either inside those walls or with or to someone FROM those walls. I admit that it was even to the point of disdain for anyone who was not inside our conclave. And if someone LEFT our fellowship? Well they were no longer worthy of my attention. I am not talking about anyone else's attitude – this was mine alone. There may be others that share(d) this, but that is for them to sort out on THEIR walks with Papa.

And before I get to my main point of the proceeding paragraphs, I want to stop and take a moment to marvel at the way that Papa works in me. One way is how he puts the desire for certain books into my heart JUST when I need them. For example, I may order a book and not start reading it right away. Or, I will start one and put it down. I feel no guilt at not finishing one (well, the teacher in my head feels a twinge sometimes). I have discovered, however, that when I DO pick it up again, it says just what I need to hear, when I need to hear it.

Also, when He does this for me, I devour it like it was the last book on earth. I gulp it down in large, wordy chucks. I must say that since He made ME this way, I don't understand others who don't gobble them up like I do, but seem to merely nibble at their edges.

One such book is Divine Nobodies by Jim Palmer. I've had it for months now, and only picked it back up after I had just greedily consumed The Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus and was looking for my next binge. Here is where I must also say that it always seems that the book I am CURRENTLY reading is my favorite, but Divine Nobodies really, truly is my favorite. Really.

All jesting aside, I can relate more to this author and the things Papa has shown him in HIS walk than I have from anyone else. The truths proposed in it, to me, are "simply" revolutionary. Don't think that he is calling for us to become comrades in arms charging at windmills. Here is a main theme – "God has been trying to free me from the burden of doing something spectacular for him. It has a way of distracting you from the opportunities to be salt and light where you are."

And this is where my meanderings hopefully will come together into a cohesive thought. THIS is what Papa and I sorted out. The idea that I was SO focused on my fellowship, MY church, that I could not see (did not WANT to see) the people He put in my path every day. Oh to think of the number of people I looked down upon because they did not serve alongside me when all He wanted for me to do is to simply share His light and salt wherever I went.