With One Voice

I lost the tag that told me the name of this little rose bush. It blooms just as happily without it. I’m fascinated by flowers of different colours springing from the same root. It brings me joy.

Unity is not uniformity, but neither is unity a random occurrence, without anything in common. I have known groups formed around the concept of unity that were so accepting of almost any idea they no longer have anything in common. That’s not true unity any more than response to a man-made rule that forces everyone to dress the same and act the same is true unity.

Unity in the spirit is about receiving from and responding to the same source, the way these lovely roses receive nutrients from the same root and yet each bloom expresses itself in a different way.

Unity is more than having faith in whatever. Unity is having faith that is connected to the One who is faithful. True unity is about being and rooted and grounded in the Creator’s love.

“Now may God, the source of great endurance and comfort, grace you with unity among yourselves, which flows from your relationship with Jesus, the Anointed One. Then, with a unanimous rush of passion, you will with one voice glorify God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(Romans 15:5,6 TPT)

Fully Loaded: Love Is a Weapon

purple heart DSC_0035

This morning a friend posted a question: How would your life change if you lived fully loved?

That’s not what I saw, at least the first couple of times I read it. What I saw was this: How would your life change if you lived fully loaded?

She not the kind to promote violence, so I rubbed my eyes and read it again. I realized the way I saw her question at first was actually the answer to her question.

Love is a weapon. Love takes down fear, hate, disappointment, division and hopelessness. Love heals the wounds that wound. Christ came to restore our hearts and relationship with our heavenly Father, the source of all love.

Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day we remember that the church began with a group of people meeting in one accord in one place when the Holy Spirit came upon them in power. They were, in a sense, fully loaded by the One who loves perfectly. They went out and changed the world.

How would life change if we, together in one accord, lived fully loaded on love?

God’s love would be seen in demonstrations — demonstrations of power, first in this place, and then in the whole world.

Come, Holy Spirit.

 

As Different as Chalk and Cheese

Sometimes I wonder if one of the greatest miracles Jesus performed was to keep the disciples from killing each other. This week, as I watched another political/religious family feud break out on social media I remembered that Jesus, born into a time of political high tension, took both a collaborator and a resistance fighter on a road trip. It’s time to re-blog this.

Charis: Subject to Change

boys buckets painting ch rs DSC_0204

I grew up in a family where teasing was a form of affection. Wrestling, practical jokes, funny stories that revealed weaknesses in each other? All normal (to us). To those not accustomed to this way of relating, such play appeared intimidating and offensive. Most of the time we knew where the line was, but in the background, we often heard someone warning, “You had better stop now before someone gets hurt!”

And then someone got hurt. A line was crossed. For one of the participants the action wasn’t fun anymore. Teasing became bullying (to them). Fights ensued.

Like many parents, we discovered our children’s individuality early. One liked to cuddle. The one who had to move-it move-it move-it resented the restraint of adult arms. One cried easily, one bounced back like an inflatable clown punching bag, one treasured solitude, and one was happiest when surrounded by 27 of her closest…

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As Different as Chalk and Cheese

boys buckets painting ch rs DSC_0204

I grew up in a family where teasing was a form of affection. Wrestling, practical jokes, funny stories that revealed weaknesses in each other? All normal (to us). To those not accustomed to this way of relating, such play appeared intimidating and offensive. Most of the time we knew where the line was, but in the background, we often heard someone warning, “You had better stop now before someone gets hurt!”

And then someone got hurt. A line was crossed. For one of the participants the action wasn’t fun anymore. Teasing became bullying (to them). Fights ensued.

Like many parents, we discovered our children’s individuality early. One liked to cuddle. The one who had to move-it move-it move-it resented the restraint of adult arms. One cried easily, one bounced back like an inflatable clown punching bag, one treasured solitude, and one was happiest when surrounded by 27 of her closest friends.

Not only did their teasing/offense lines not line up, they all responded differently to discipline. A raised eyebrow could send one child into paroxysms of guilt, while the arrival of the correction Cavalry, with swords drawn, would prompt another kid to say, “What? I didn’t do nothin’.”

Another parent, describing her boys, said, “They’re as different as chalk and cheese.”

I understand her. Add the dynamic of parents who married their opposites and it’s a wonder we ever agreed on a restaurant.

This week my social media is flooded with differing opinions -strong opinions- from people who claim to be part of the same family of God. I admit, I also have opinions and preferences. Try as I might there are some folks I just can’t seem to get along with. Why don’t other people see things the way I do? Is there something wrong with me or something wrong with them?

I went to bed talking to the Lord about this. By morning he brought to mind the crazy mix of personality types and viewpoints of the disciples Jesus chose to walk closely with him. The Lord reminded me he went on the road with both Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector in his crew.

I followed this rabbit trail and learned some fascinating details about what it meant to be a Zealot or a tax collector. In short, it meant they were ideological enemies.

Zealot is our English word. Simon belonged to a political group called the Kanna’im which comes from the second commandment term for God, El Kanna – jealous God. They fashioned themselves after the zeal of the priests Phinehas and Levi who resorted to the sword in efforts to maintain the purity of the law. In their opinion, the other major parties, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, were not doing enough to uphold Jewish standards in the midst of a barrage of corrupt foreign propaganda.

The infiltration of foreign ideas, and especially idolatry, into Jewish culture incensed them. They despised the Romans for imposing their ways on the populace. When the great census was taken under Quirinus (the reason Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem when Jesus was born) their anger boiled over. The census was about taxes. Taxation represented everything despicable about the occupation; now the people felt forced to support idolatry financially. The Kanna’im considered King Herod the Great to be a sycophantic pawn of the Romans and a fake Jewish convert.

The Kanna’im traveled to troubled areas and stirred up riots while they destroyed property and anything they considered to be a graven image. Some began to carry concealed daggers in case the opportunity to take out an infidel arose. Zeal consumed them and many died, either in the skirmishes or by execution later. Their plan was to replace Herod (and his descendants) with a real king, and for this they needed a Messiah – or at least a Messiah-like figure. Jesus fit the bill. (When he refused to play the game, saying his kingdom was not of this world, they found others, the “false Messiahs” Jesus warned his followers would arise after he left.)

Depending on which side is issuing a label they could be called either terrorists or resistance fighters. Herod called them “robbers.” Simon (sometimes called Levi) was part of the Kanna’im. Jesus chose a violence-advocating activist to be one of his closest companions.

Matthew, on the other hand was a publican. A publicanus collected duties, excise, and taxes for the Roman occupiers (The use of the word “publican” as the proprietor of a drinking establishment came later in England). He was a Jew who was detested by the Zealots for being a collaborator. Most of the Jewish population simply hated him for taking their money or goods in kind.

Zacchaeus, who demonstrated remarkable transformation after meeting Jesus, was part of the publicani, chief tax collectors, who were like district managers for the government revenue ministry. As such he was truly hated. Not only did he take money and give it to the Romans, he had the authority to set fees for collection and confiscation “services.” The fees, of course went into his own account. Matthew and his colleagues were lesser officials, but their methods involved blocking roads, bridges and gates until people needing to pass paid up – adding of course, their own “fees.”

Capernaum, a town near the point where the Jordan flows into Lake Galilee, was a border town on the edge of Decapolis territory which had become a district of Roman settlements. Perhaps this is why the Roman Centurion who asked Jesus to heal his beloved servant told him he need not bother coming back with him. Crossing the border was a hassle because it meant running the gauntlet of publicans.

Jesus understood the burden of reputation Matthew brought with him. He knew he was subjecting himself to guilt by association and that he would be called “the friend of publicans and sinners.” Nevertheless, he approached Matthew the Tax Collector at his installation at the gate and gave him the opportunity to become a follower. We know Jesus was not naive about the relationship challenges involved. He illustrated his story about humble prayer by using the example of a Pharisee with excellent public status and a Publican with a poor social rating.

When I think about Jesus’ deliberate inclusion of these two men holding extremely different ideas about politics and methods of surviving tense times, my reaction is, “Are you kidding, Lord? How could there be any unity in this “band of brothers?”

I remembered the band also included Nathanael the prejudiced (“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”), Judas the embezzler, Thomas the cynic (“Unless I touch the wounds…”), Peter the filter-less impulsive (“I’ll never forsake…”), and James and John the holier-than-thou social climbers (“Do you want us to call down fire on them?”). They all argued about who would be greatest in the kingdom.

Add to the outer group of followers some stage mothers, embarrassed siblings, spies, and what’s-in-it-for-me merchant opportunists and he had a congregation no sane pastor would envy no matter how much pressure he is under to improve his stats. Perhaps one of the greatest miracles Jesus performed was to keep them from killing each other.

How did you do it, Lord? Just this week I witnessed people who have unfriended each other over arguments about which businesses or movies or evangelists to boycott. When it comes down to questions about the best way to run the country the opinions are even more sharply divided, even among Christians who have been in formal fellowship for years.

The gospels mention squabbles between disciples. They also tell us that Jesus spent time with his heavenly Father praying about who to choose to be one of the twelve disciples. Here’s the thing: The Father didn’t judge them by their current resume and curriculum vitae. He saw who they would become.

When the instruments of an orchestra tune to the same pitch they are in harmony, even when their sections play very different instruments and follow music in the score that doesn’t resemble anyone else’s part. The one thing early followers of Jesus had in common was the response to his question if they wanted to leave: “Where else can we go? You have the words of life.”

Not everyone is going to feel they have the same exact instructions to follow. For example, a person with a Holy Spirit granted motivational gift of prophecy tends to see a big picture with few gray areas. They move boldly and purposefully toward a goal. A person motivated by a mercy gift will tend to see the people falling through the cracks and respond with gentle compassion. Many gifts. Many perspectives.

After Christ died and rose and ascended to heaven the Holy Spirit came in power upon the disciples. That’s when they began to remember what Jesus told them and put it all together. It’s interesting that Matthew’s written account is the one that emphasizes that Jesus was the Messiah and therefore qualified to rule as King of Kings forever, something the Zealots were hoping to fulfill by political means. It’s also interesting that the Kanna’im who didn’t follow Jesus stayed part of a movement that provoked the violent fall of Jerusalem, while Simon went on to declare the saving love and grace of Christ for a world beyond the confines of Mosaic law.

How do we live in harmony with people as different as chalk and cheese? We tune to Jesus. We keep our eyes on the author and finisher of our faith who saw the joy that lies ahead. He who was willing to lay down his life and conquer death for us, He has the words of life. We can do no better than extend the same grace to others that he has extended to us.

I may not agree with all your opinions or methods, and I might yell ouch and need time to calm myself if you cross the friendly line and hurt me, but if you and I are both centered on Christ and know that he loves us, we are family. It’s his kindness that makes us want to change. I’m willing to listen to what God shows you and adjust and hope you are too. It’s called love.

(Note: This is not intended to be an in-depth academic study. Scholars differ on details. If you are interested I challenge you to explore the topic further.)

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In case you missed it…

group poppies red DSC_0295

 

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
John 13:34

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 13:35

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:12

These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
John 15:17

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Romans 12:10

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:8

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
2 Corinthians 13:11

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Galatians 5:13

…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…
Ephesians 4:2

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you.
1 Thessalonians 3:12

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.
1 Thessalonians 4:9

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
2 Thessalonians 1:3

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.
Hebrews 10:24

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.
1 Peter 1:22

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8

Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
1 Peter 5:14

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
1 John 3:11

And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
1 John 3:23

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:7

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:11

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
1 John 4:12

And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another.
2 John 1:5

 

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Division and the Search for Wisdom

I looked out the window of a shop built on the edge of the Grand Canyon and thought, “Man, that other side is a long way off. Can you even get there from here? How long would it take to descend down into that great rift and back up the other side? How many miles would it be to walk around? Before telephones did the people living on either side even communicate with each other?”

Grand Canyon Shop ch

Can I admit there is something strangely satisfying about venting long-withheld anger? For a moment. Then there’s the mess to clean up.

My children still talk about the day I was so frustrated with the filthy condition they left the kitchen in that I wound up and with all my might, hurled a brand new bag of Oreo cookies at the wall. They stared incredulously as the split package of crumbs and filling slid to the floor with a thud. Store-bought cookies were a highly-valued rare treat in our home. One simply does not throw Oreos at the wall.

Not the Oreos!! Mom must be really mad.

I made my point. They took me seriously and for a while, scrambled to tidy up after themselves.

But then I noticed the kids start to express their frustration with each other by throwing and smashing things. I had set a precedent. Now I had a bigger mess to clean up than a bag of broken chocolate cookies. My end goal was to raise responsible, considerate children, but I lost track of that bigger picture in my longing for just one evening without dirty dishes filling every inch of the counters (and in this case actually sitting on the floor when they ran out of room to pile them by the sink.) It was a Pyrrhic victory.

I remember reading a verse in the Bible later that said, “The anger of man does not accomplish the purposes of God.” Oops. My action was temporarily effective, but not wise.

Lately the Lord has been bringing the word wisdom to my attention. Googling “spiritual gift of wisdom” led to an interesting, if inconclusive rabbit trail. Is wisdom the ability to study scripture and make practical behavioural applications in a sermon, or is it a sudden divine download on how to secure a better mortgage rate? I’m not satisfied with what I found, frankly. I need more. I find that I am in need of wisdom about understanding God’s definition of wisdom.

Sometimes, as a starting point, we can learn more about what something is by hearing what God has to say about what it is not – like the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. “Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”

We read in Proverbs that wisdom is not presumptuous or insolent, nor the product of our personal conclusions; in Psalms that it is not about striving or frantic activity; in James that it is not a hypocritical or bitter or envious or self-seeking  action (the KJV uses the words vainglory and strife).

I looked up the original word for strife in Greek. Eritheia. That’s revealing. It implies a political-style power grab via manipulation.

In 1 Corinthians 3:3 we read: For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

The result of strife – the human fleshly way – is division. Separation. A rift as wide as the Grand Canyon.

That’s the other thing grabbing my attention lately – division. It’s as if people are pressured to join one side or another and are actually repelling each other in their zeal to win the argument. Topics may vary from vaccination to modes of education to climate and pollution to the evils of processed cheese. Mob mentality on social media means middle ground is sinking into the earth and fewer people are willing to listen to each other. More people seem willing to compromise civil behaviour and resort to dismissive name-calling to win their case. Instead of solving problems I see my culture splitting and  becoming more entrenched in extremes.

I’m not the only one noticing it. The political rift is becoming dangerously polarized to the point where teenagers in my neighbourhood in a little valley in Canada talk to me about classroom discussions of fears of civil war breaking out in the country to the south. The kids see it and they are afraid of the effects it could have around the world.

How does it help to portray people who disagree with us as enemies? How did people who love the same country become adversaries? Where is wisdom in all of this?

One beloved children’s TV show host talked about taking his mother’s advice to look for the helpers after a disaster. Right now I am in a search for the wise before a disaster.

How will we recognize the wise in a world of angry frightened people hurling words at each other, rejoicing in Pyrrhic victories, and talking in terms of winners and losers?

I found this clue of what to look for and warnings of what to avoid in a search for those who demonstrate wisdom:

Who in your community is understanding and wise? Let his example, which is marked by wisdom and gentleness, blaze a trail for others.

If your heart is one that bleeds dark streams of jealousy and selfishness, do not be so proud that you ignore your depraved state.

The wisdom of this world should never be mistaken for heavenly wisdom; it originates below in the earthly realms, with the demons. Any place where you find jealousy and selfish ambition, you will discover chaos and evil thriving under its rule.

Heavenly wisdom centers on purity, peace, gentleness, deference, mercy, and other good fruits untainted by hypocrisy. The seed that flowers into righteousness will always be planted in peace by those who embrace peace.
(James 3:13-18 The Voice)

 

Oh Lord, we need Your wisdom. We need people You have gifted with wisdom. We need humble people willing to set down their own opinions and learn from You. We need those who see from Your perspective to arise in the body of Christ to speak purely, peacefully, gently, mercifully with deference and full of Your love and grace. Give us discernment to know when we have heard Your truth spoken in love. Help us to pay attention. Change our hearts, Oh Lord. Make us more like You.

Just Fly!

A 5,905 voice online choir made up of members from six to ninety eight-years old.

Each singing their part in their own distinctive voice from one of the 101 countries in which they live.

Each tuned to the same pitch.

Each singing the same song.

Each following the same director.

 

The song is 5 minutes long. The credits honouring the participants takes over six minutes.

Paradigms, Paradox, Puzzles and Peace

Photo: An Upside Down Kingdom

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;

    call upon him while he is near;

 let the wicked forsake his way,

    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;

let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,

    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

  For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so are my ways higher than your ways

    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

(Isaiah 55:6-9)

I’m upset by division and quarreling I see amongst Christians around me. The interwebby thing is full of it. One week it’s about aggressive sex and submission of women, the next it’s about the right to speak out about how people who don’t trust God’s kindness yet should be forced (by those who supposedly do) to obey his standards anyway. As one editor wrote, “Controversy sells.”

In a previous blog I talked about the problem of living with paradox (two opposing ideas that are both true) and how we tend to want to slide toward one end or the other depending on which part of our soul is dominant  –the mind, the will or the emotions.

https://charispsallo.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/why-i-am-a-label-eschewer/

I have shifted from more than one paradigm to another on many issues, but even in myself there is tension and a desire to find a single logical solution. I’m ashamed to say that sometimes I enjoy debate and the power of witty words to put people down. Then I had a dream in which I was told to stop thinking in two dimensions.

So what dimension am I missing?  What is the viewpoint I have not taken into consideration?

Isaiah says God does not think the way we do; he is not limited to a view that is tied to time, or a physical spot on this planet, or even the laws of physics. The spiritual dimension is so much higher than our earth-bound reasoning abilities we have trouble imagining it.

I think the dimension that we tend to forget is the Kingdom of God.

Jesus spoke constantly of the Kingdom of God. He said that when the sick were healed and the demonized freed that the Kingdom of God was near.

He said that it was like a mustard seed, like leaven, like a net, like a hidden treasure or a priceless pearl that was worthy of the pursuer divesting himself of everything he had to get it.

He said his kingdom was not of this world and we could not observe this place with physical eyes. He told the people listening to him that it was in the midst of them.

He told the one who admitted that love was greater than sacrifice that he was not far from it.

He said expecting to use money to get there was less than useless; it was a hindrance.

He said that prostitutes and thieves would experience it before the powerful and self-righteous who rejected him.

He said that unless we were willing to enter as little children (I assume that means dropping  wealth, power, position, authority, good deeds, hard work, physical strength, education, talent, family or political connections, accomplishment or recognition –all the usual means to success in this world) that we couldn’t get in either.

When the disciples asked how to know the way he was going he said, “I am the way.”

He said he was the door (but it’s a narrow door that requires us to drop our backpacks, curriculum vitaes, and other accumulated assets.)

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:7-9)

He said we had to be born again.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:3-6)

When the Kingdom of God intersected space and time on earth in the form of Christ Jesus, it opened up a doorway into eternity where things are different, where we realize our thinking is upside down.

“The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him and he is not able to understand for they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

But the one who has been made spiritually alive has access to another dimension when, by faith, she or he lives in Christ and Christ lives in her or him.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2: 4-7)

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28,29)

For those who trust and obey Jesus Christ, God has already seated them in heavenly places, since that is where Jesus sits and they are in him and he in them.

… to make the word of God fully known,  the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.  To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:25-27)

In the Kingdom of God there is no division in the church. There are no labels. The church is one.

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.   There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:25-28)

Why then, do we still compete with each other? Why do we think that if we are “righter than thou,” and work hard to impress him, God will let us enter through that door when we die?

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.  You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?  But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:1-6)

Passions may be the big motivating factor in the world, but God doesn’t think like us.

Could it be that we don’t really trust him enough to obey him and to seek him for understanding of all these paradoxes or for wisdom on how to live in love and the bond of peace?

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

What if we are meant to start to enter into the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ now and it’s not all about pie in the sky in the sweet by and by? What if we quit trying so hard to be the greatest and just rest in Jesus’ finished work? What if we trust him enough to believe what he says about us being new creatures and start acting like it? What if we could hear his voice and obey his commandments now?

For whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:10)

People who seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness will not think the same way as those who are bound to earthly logic and reasoning ability. They do not fit in. They are annoying because they refuse to play by the same rules. They don’t wear the same trendy labels; they are frequently misunderstood. They are often persecuted –sometimes by those holding religious power– but that’s not unexpected. They did that to Jesus Christ too.

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Why I Am a Label-eschewer

Photo: Fashionista

Fashionista
Fashionista

 

Why do I avoid labels?

Because I have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear.

Because I have been through so many paradigm shifts sometimes I feel like I’m wearing a peacenik swimsuit, a woolen toque and a tutu on a John Deere lawn mower tractor –whilst waddling in pink Crocs that ought to be on the other foots.

Because like the blind man, every time I think I have figured out what an elephant feels like God drags me around to the other side –or the other end– and tells me to try again.

Because the phrase that seems to pop out of my mouth most often lately is “On the one hand…” followed by, “But on the other hand…”

Am I indecisive? Well, maybe. I don’t know. I’ll get back to you on that one.

Mugwump
Mugwump

Photo: Mugwump. My Dad used to say a mugwump was a person who sat with his mug on one side of the fence and his wump on the other.

Maybe I’m just tired of making apologies.

This position may look humble, but dropping to the ground is sometimes the only safe posture when caught in the cross-fire between warring factions. I am so very aware of the quarrels among us.

Pacifists….vs….Zealots

Calvinists….vs….Arminians

Hymn and organ lovers ….vs….Chorus and drums lovers

Egalitarians….vs….Complementarians

Practically experienced….vs….Theoretically indoctrinated

Sinners saved by grace….vs…. Saints who reckon themselves dead to sin

Those who are working out their faith….vs…. Those who are saved by grace and not by works

Those who offer grace….vs…..Those who maintain standards

Those who are sure that God is grieved ….vs….Those who insist that God is in a good mood

Quoters:

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” ….vs….”Jesus said, ‘But I call you friends.’”

“May you prosper as your soul prospers”….vs…. “Rich men, camels & eyes of needles and all that.”

“He who will not work shall not eat”….vs….”He who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor shall cry himself and not be heard.”

“By His stripes we are healed”….vs….”Knowing Him and the fellowship of his sufferings.”

Then there’s

Reverential folk….vs…. “I got to move it, move it, move it!” folk

Sprinklers….vs….Dunkers

Church building builders.…vs….church building leavers

Pro-etc….vs….anti-etc.

Seeing something from one particular viewpoint is called a paradigm. Oliver Sachs wrote about a middle-aged man who regained the sight he lost in childhood, but who then faced so many challenges he chose to ignore his new faculty after a while. A dog from the front looks completely different from a dog from the side, yet they are both dogs. Who knew?

A paradigm is our most comfortable default position. Things fit nicely and work well. We only have to deal with one construct at a time that way. For example, we assume a beloved nephew has been unfairly fired, and advocate for him — then we find out from the boss he embezzled a gazillion pencils. It was easier before we knew both sides of the story. We still love him and support him;  we are proud of his brilliance, but now we are also ashamed of his stupidity.

Paradox greatly complicates things, but God’s ways seem to be more about paradox than paradigm. Jesus often spoke of two seemingly opposite concepts which are both true. The Bible is full of paradox like, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first,” “You need to lay down your life in order to live,” “You receive through giving,” “Rest under his yoke,” “You are strongest when you are weak,” “We see the unseen,” and many more.

Paradox is awkward. It feels unstable. We tend to want to gravitate to one end or the other. We polarize easily.

It struck me this week that the pole we choose to slide toward is often strongly influenced by which aspect of our soul dominates –mind, will or emotion.

Look at worship styles, for example. For some, worship means thinking, studying, discussing ideas about God, and listening to sermons which exegete the Bible with skill. For them, authentic worship is getting doctrine right.

For some, worship is an act of the will. These people love words like decide, purpose, endeavour, determine. Worship for them is a deed, whether it is signing up to commit to journaling for forty days, or volunteering for a new program , or inviting someone home for soup, or buying a plane ticket to The Gambia. For them, authentic worship means not only hearing but doing.

For some, worship must engage the emotions, whether it’s quiet contentment or raucous rejoicing; they desire an encounter with God that touches them deeply. For them authentic worship doesn’t ignore emotions forever; it connects and moves the heart.

At one point or another I have cycled and re-cycled through all three camps.

Here’s the thing. The mind, the will and the emotions are all fine, God-given, God-created parts of our souls –but they are all limited and, without the Holy Spirit sanctifying, refining and empowering them to operate from the perspective of the Kingdom of God, they remain, well, self-centered. Proof of self-centeredness is that we continue to engage in silly disputes over who is right and who Papa God likes best.

I was asking Papa God about this, after listening to yet another discussion of sovereignty  vs. free will (which, as usual, produced more heat than light). Both sides could quote scriptures to back their positions. That night I dreamed I was playing on the floor like a child. A kind, gentle, patient person was helping me fit metal puzzle pieces together. (These puzzles drive me nuts. I hardly ever figure them out.) In the dream I actually got a couple of them to work. After quite a bit of effort we finished a complicated mat-like square of interconnecting puzzle pieces about a meter long and a meter wide. I was as happy as a toddler and clapped for myself with glee, although the man helping me had done nearly all of the work.

Puzzling
Puzzling

 

“Yay me! Me so smart!”

Then he started building upwards. He was making connections and building a solid cube about a meter long and wide AND a meter high.

I said, “You’ve got to be kidding!”

He smiled and said, “Quit thinking in two dimensions.”

I recognized him as Jesus.

I awoke.

I have been thinking about this for quite a while. Unity is about more than living with the tension of paradox.  Paradox is not “this or this;” it’s ”this and this.”  But paradox is also incomplete.

Building a solid structure also requires another dimension– another way of thinking –another viewpoint.

More later….