Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fatherless: An Epidemic....Courageous: A Prescription for Now!

Watching a movie last night, well at ease and content, when suddenly clarity glared into the room and focused its beam on me. The movie, Courageous, previously watched, did not prompt this introspection (or perhaps interrogation of spirit) when viewed a year ago. But last night, it moved mountains to bring me to a place of crystal clear understanding. Watching the lives of the men in the story intertwined and coalesce, through trials and tribulations and testing of their resolve prompted a question in my mind that struggled for the breath to live. Not only to live, but to burst forth in demand to be fed and answered. The question: what did the lack of father's do to these men, their families and their futures, as viewed in the relationships of their faith and their personal relationship with Christ? In each case, the possible lack of fatherly direction, or failure to accept the required roles of a father (per God's standards) led to crisis. Individual and group crisis. The resolve to accept the standard and "fatherly" direction, either from spiritual mentors and/or God's Word (or a combination of both) was the ONLY thing that kept the core together. A commitment beyond mere words or passing occasional get-togethers, was necessary, essential even to produce the result of committed spiritual men and families fellowshipping together as God intended. The failure of commitment and resolve to the standards or to the fatherly input of the others, led to the path of certain failure and devastation to the person's own life and also that of his family's future. Failing to accept the doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness of God through the Word, the structure God ordained for the church and brothers in Christ placed the "fatherless" (influence or experience) in grave danger. On the other hand, accepting the same from the brothers, brought great support and success in the end. 
This was a particularly personal revelation for myself, as I considered the last year or two. In the experience of watching a church split, a town be torn apart and many "relationships" destroyed I could never put a common denominator upon the situation other than the works of the flesh being made evident. Until last night. Each of the primary four involved, two couples, were all "fatherless". Some literally, but all experientially. Some experienced abandonment in their lives at a young and impressionable age, some experienced fathers who were never involved in their lives and one had a father die at a young age (both his and the father's). The result: none of them ever learned what it is like to be under a father. Coming to Christ for them was an experience of merging with a peer (in their mind), albeit a really good peer. Submitting to the Father's doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness was only done to the point that they could understand what benefit they would derive from it. To be submitted to a "fatherly" figure, such as Timothy was to his "spiritual" father Paul was unheard of, not understandable and soundly rejected. Discipleship was limited to just walking along the same road as long as there remained agreement between the two. As soon as their was unrest or disagreement, the fatherless will move away to a "safe" place, usually the place that they had found safe in their fatherless-ness before. Truly experiencing the Father, both in blessing and in discipline, is full and unconditional submission to the Father. Until that happens, it will NEVER happen with others, be they pastors, mentors or peers. They will only be tolerated as long as they don't pose a threat to the established path of survival the "fatherless" has proven to themselves to be "safe". Only a great work of God can convince the orphan to accept the Father, otherwise they will only view the one in this place as a source for obtaining something from, never as one called by God to "father" in the manner of Paul, Barnabas or many other examples from the New Testament Church of Jesus Christ. 
Adoption comes with Fatherhood; you won't get one without the Other!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sadness in its Ebb and Flow...

Gentle at times, pounding with tumult at others; like the ocean at the shore, so is the constancy of sadness on my soul these days. The only joy within is that from Jesus and my family, for all the rest, like the surf, surge and pound to make their impression only to retreat and return again. This sadness leaves evidence of its arrival and departure like the foam left behind the waves as they retreat from the sands of the shore; clinging desperately to smother, if it were possible the very ground they rest upon. So is the smothering of sadness, becoming more and more like a blanket, wet and heavy, pressing down to impart its weight to all of the one it covers. In this damp heaviness, only the Love of God imparts a beam of gladness. Only His mercy reminds me that the day is still His, victory is never to be conceded and Life is not here, but in Him alone. So I reach, I push back and I fight the crashing waves; dispersing their impact by offering only the armor of God's presence and word. Nothing this world offers can dispel the sadness; it can only divert the attention of the one impacted till they realize that they've been smothered slowly, inch by inch, all the time they were distracted. 
Day by day, wave after seems never to relent, never to give up. So many are determined to see the end, eagerly awaiting the fall and failure of this one. Those who have remained, have only remained like vultures perched nearby to see what might be consumed when all is lost. Their smiles are merely the curved beaks waiting to tear apart any fleshy tidbits that are broken away or left in the final crash. It only took acknowledgement of what was coming along all the time, this end, to prompt this fluttering wings to flap in eager anticipation of what lied ahead. In this there may be great relief, to have seen and recognize what lied ahead before the end arrived and to make proper arraignments for the departure that looms. No greater sorrow can be absorbed, no impact made by sadness for the shore is now prepared for what indeed will come. The sweet refrain of an old song rings in the back of my mind and in my heart on days like these...
Turn your eyes upon Jesus; Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim; in the light of His glory and grace.

Friday, March 9, 2012

That Deja Vu Experience

Oh yes, I know that everyone has probably experienced it one time or another. Science probably has many explanations for why we get that "feeling" we've been down this road before as we experience something that in our immediate memory we think we are doing for the first time. Much of what we've experienced of late resurrected many feelings of Deja Vu, but not that we had been there or done that before, but rather that the circumstances were the same, just different faces. Seeing someone walk down almost the exact path that someone else before has taken, in spite of warnings, wise council and a fairly extensive exposure to God's Word dredges us the same feelings as when we watched the first group go down the same road. The immediate tendency, because of this "deja vu" is to place the blame upon self for what they are doing, as if we could have, should have and have failed in the process of derailing them. But what I find after viewing the situations from almost every angle possible, is that they were determined to go that way; made their own decision to go that way and frankly, they resent any opposition to their chosen path. In fact, to point out the potential disaster that looms ahead is akin to a "personal attack" on their very being, and is a quick way to become the focus of their anger, envy, bitterness and future rage regardless of the reality of the error of their way, as defined by God.  I find that what was assumed, in example, that they actually assimilated the Word of God into their hearts, was a faulty assumption. Further study oft reveals that not only did the Word of God set into their hearts, but it may never have been heard in the first place. To illustrate this observation, I turn to a recent email by a former attendee (please note; did NOT say listener) who wrote about goings on in town in response to a current and still listener, who finds it challenging to watch the antics of those who parade their christianity under cover of their interpretation of the law. To dissect his statements without posting the entire speech, just a few segments will be extracted that give clear enough understanding of the subject at hand without fragmenting the context of said remark. First comes one of those statements that makes you crazy...pretty sure what was intended was "fighting a losing battle", what was written was "your (as written; you're intended) arguing a lost debt". Not really sure how that works...a lost debt? How can you lose a debt; or perhaps more importantly, how do you argue a lost debt? Not really sure. Then comes this statement, "people will always put there (sp?) feelings before Gods thats just how people r (are)". Now certainly this will happen often, but always? I think not. The first surrender REQUIRES that I put God's feelings (soft term, but lets consider it "heart" for the sake of argument) ahead of my feelings (again: heart). There is no conversion without it, there is no salvation unless it happens that way. My feelings first began in a garden and sin was born...thank God that He ended the power this sin held ALSO in a garden, and salvation meant something to me. But let's give him (the writer of said post) the benefit of the doubt. Certainly he meant most folks and not always, but was just typing on a really small keyboard :-)
So on to the next, which brings very little help to the benefit of the doubt we're trying to give. He says, "getting along is so hard because people care only what they think and then try to label it as God's divinity". Now this is heading in the right direction at first, but then makes a horrid miss-turn at the end. Yes, people do care only what they think....OUTSIDE THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST; Philippians 2:5-11 regarding the mind of Christ; and yes, people do try to label it as....and here is where he runs off the road....God's divinity??? Let's assume for the sake of rational conversation that what he meant to say is "God's Divine Will or Purpose". Now that makes sense, but NOWHERE is the Divinity of God at option here. We are certainly lost in our efforts if at any time we think that we can tie the very deity of God to our desires. But continuing to give the benefit of the doubt, let's proceed a bit further. The final comment in view is this; "God ain't childs play". Now wasn't it Jesus who set a small (infant) child in front of Him, lifted it up into His arms and stated that such is the Kingdom of Heaven? That no one could enter but they who had child like faith? Granted, God's purpose is to grow us up in the faith; from milk of the Word to meat, as Paul put it. But I find most of the attitude problems come when we THINK ourselves more mature than God is willing to agree with. We figure that we have it all figured out. Who is, who isn't and why they aren't. But in the end, I find the ONLY thing I have that matters is JESUS, period. Nothing I've ever accomplished will stand, nothing I've ever thought, taught or preached will stand of its own volition, just Jesus. And that is where I will then choose to stand!! Period!  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Night Without; A Look Within....

Well, what will be the end of this?
Last night was the first night of a fairly large change, which was largely NOT understood by many of the ones who would have participated, but mostly understood by the ones responsible for letting it happen.
For the ones who would just participate, it meant the end of a free meal, games and just a wee bit of torture listening to the lesson for...oh, say 10 minutes or so. For the ones who were responsible, much more was at stake. Preparing the ingredients, seeking out the truth to be revealed, coordinating the logistics and timing and also making sure that there was no opportunity given for Satan to have his way. This included the time within the structured event, but also all that happens before, during and after the mere one hour and 45 minutes of "official" time. Underlying all of this is the God given mandate to "go tell", but also the instruction provided by Him to do all things peaceably and in order and to His glory. Hence the need to stop the event to allow the last three to proceed. Not understanding the end of what God desires to see in this specific place and time, requires that His Word be the foundation of all that is done. Doing for the sake of doing, or the self satisfaction of knowing that I've carried on in spite of all else around me is shaky ground compared to the obedience of waiting and knowing He is God. The time to wait and listen has begun. I fully trust in His ability to keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day; to quote a favorite song's lyrics. How this will be viewed is beyond me, and frankly not my concern. That is part of the issue; worrying about how things are being viewed and "keeping the stiff upper lip" has led to more difficulties than needed to be encountered during this particular learning session. And oh, what a session it has been! This is a classroom without walls, reaching into every nook and cranny of life; presenting over and over and over again the lesson till it is not only understood but verified by proper actions (or perhaps in this case, proper non action). 
May each who have been a part of this venture, now ended, find that God is not only still on the Throne, but He is also firmly in control of all that is happening and there must NEVER be a doubt that He will bring all things into submission to His Will and His Word. 
I will miss the time, the fun but not all. I won't miss the weekly reminder that very little of what God's Word says is being absorbed or applied to life by the listeners (or the attendees, who sometimes  never listen). I won't miss the attitudes of apathy, complacency or just outright rebellion that were often displayed by those attending. I won't miss the opportunity for despair that sometimes crept in, while watching things go sideways from the intended course. I won't miss the confusion and hard feelings generated by and experienced in many who helped or tried to help. God gave the opportunity, it was fully His to take back. If we were not faithful servants and this was taken away....please forgive me, God. But I truly believe that this was not the case. What was done before is not a mandate for what must be done later. The future of what God desires to see happen will rest with Him, until He chooses to reveal it otherwise. In the meantime, if others rise up and "save the day" with a wonderful "ministry", that must rest also within God's choice and will be judged by His same standard as all that has been done before will be as well! So let it be!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sunset or Dawn.....Perspective or Predestination

Daily I wonder; is this the end of all that has been, or is this the beginning of something new? Time will tell and in the meantime, patience will have to be my staple diet. What at one moment seems to be clear, oft fades into a measure of obscurity as whether this is the conclusion or the opening of a new opportunity. On one hand, it is very clear that much has ended; relationships, opportunities that involved or grew out of those relationships and time to input into people's lives with the Word of God. What was planted must now stand alone in the power of God's Word alone, with only the watering and fertilizing of the Holy Spirit or other's whom may now have opportunities that we no longer will. And in this there is a clear understanding that this has always been the way. Someone planted, someone else watered, but ultimately and perfectly only God will bring an increase. So perhaps these "endings" are merely so by perspective and not at all by the measure of what God's predetermined result will be or has been. What may appear to be a trial today, may actually serve not only that purpose but it may also be the determined path of what God is intending to accomplish also.  Even though at times it is difficult to hang on during this swerves of direction, it is still possible for unless God has suddenly decided to "cast" us out, we are right where He desires. His glory will erupt, not from our efforts but from His plan, which INCLUDES our efforts. Obedience is hard from the perspective of knowing exactly what we are being obedient in; not the issues and guidelines of Scripture, but those relationships and crossroads that seem to not be on the map of God's written direction. For instance, love (God's Love) is mandatory for believers (not an option), encouragement and fellowship; but in the same vein Scripture is definitive about how relationships are to be handled when their is rebellion, division or like situations. The clear direction is "have nothing to do with such a person, not even eat with them", couched by "but treat him as a brother, not enemy (paraphrased loosely). Okay, kind of limits a fellow to prayer for one and an open heart to restore the relationship according to God's direction; but not much else! And yet, in our "let's just get along culture" this is the very source of hypocrisy, envy, bitterness among the church according to James: " Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? So no wonder that we find ourselves in this place; uncorrected, undisciplined misapplied Love creates every single earthly based wisdom fueled problem in the church body today. An undisciplined body can hardly be called the body of Christ, for every single step He took was disciplined to the exact footstep and heart attitude that the Father predetermined (predestined) for Him. Any wavering to His own emotion-driven desires (in us we would call this lust) would have revealed that He could not have been who He claimed He was...AND MOST CERTAINLY IS!! So in His example we see the pattern for us...we need the correction of God in HIS LOVE more than we need the companionship of fellow church goers; because, and without fail, His correction, discipline and instruction will produce it's perfect result in us and then we will have  true fellowship with the Body of Christ and Him. The greatest dilemma remains in HOW to implement this pattern and  direction for the church as mere undershepherds. And therein lies the need for patience every day. A sunset here may be the dawn elsewhere or it may just be the beginning of something new here too.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Mere Mistake or Another Meal for the Vultures...?

Recently was able to be front and center as a small accident has turned into a mostly minor tragedy; a few young fellows jostling while carrying plates of food suddenly became a trail of salsa, chips and stroganoff down the back of a young lady's sweatshirt in a gathering of youth. Quick apologies were made by the young men and they hastened, with some prompting, to gather paper towels and remove the bulk of the mess from the back of the hoodie. Unfortunately, the instantaneous reaction of the young lady quickly moved this from a mere accident or careless mistake and turned into a full blown incident. Many other options were available; such as laughing about it, showing grace or even just giving forgiveness in accepting the apologies of the young men. Quickly even the offered restoration of the clothing article by myself was refused and the young lady quickly and adamantly left the building. One brave young man who was involved followed her out the door to continue offering an apology was quickly turned back by a furious yelling that erupted from the young lady, who was beginning to look much less lady-like and more like others who mimic this same behavior that she also associates with. Well, when all was said and done on that evening, she was gone, the fellows quite chastised and the future uncertain for them as they all are on the same bus. Fast forward another few days in another gathering of sorts and a few of these sames folks were in close proximity, including myself and the young lady. I brought back up the issue and again offered my services to get the garment back into proper shape. By the set of the jaw; wrong question...actually wrong subject, should have let that one die!! Another few days and the young lady doesn't show up for the usual event and gathering, but instead finds refuge and commiseration with the dividers of the church. Perched on their fences, looking for the weak, injured or otherwise bent of emotion folks, they swooped down and claimed their prize. No godly instruction or wisdom on the value and God required help to show her the mature way to deal with problems and accidents, just an arm around the shoulder and a "oh, poor dear...those mean nasty folks, you just stay here and we'll keep you safe". Funny how the very same attitude the folks had themselves is the basis of their instruction for others. As when Jesus spoke the 8 woes to the pharisees, He said they'd go to no end to make a disciple and when complete they would make him (the disciple) twice as much a son of hell as they were...ouch! Like the turkey vultures of our county, perching high upon a lookout seeking what they can devour. Eating all to their own benefit, with no consideration to the fate of others. Twice as much a son of hell....don't know that I completely understand the fullness of that, but I do know that it can't be good. Bad've begun the next generation of your own little vulture clan.