Posted by: robertartemenko | February 26, 2015

“Born Again” Revisited

I have been teaching Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren’s small group study, TRANSFORMED: How God Changes Us. It’s primary focus is on one’s own personal spiritual reformation, but it’s scope encompasses other dimensions of the self, taking on disciplines necessary to thrive mentally, physically, emotionally, relationally, vocationally and financially. This whirlwind survey is completed in just seven lessons, and it’s challenging scope seemed to defy operationalizing. My first reaction was to try to summarize major movements, so as to harvest and seal-in key truths and habits that might hopefully become the new-normal or at least the aspirational-normal for our group. I’m a bit of a “summary” freak. I think any written work has an essence that can be boiled down to the size of a Bazooka Bubble Gum comic. Sure you leave things out, leave nuances unaccounted for, but my fascination is something left over from simplifying algebraic equations and reducing fractions … and I love the challenge of super-editing. It’s the ultimate intellectual puzzle because the quest involves cracking the code of the creator’s original thinking, somehow joining him or her back at the source of their inspiration. So in boiling the 200 page study guide to one landscape PowerPoint screen with a seven column table, I was confronted with what Rick had been talking about in all it’s small font horizontal-ness. Attempting to digest it, I realized that none of us could actually ever really do enough of in the seven columns, short of a miracle, to get through what was this microfiche set of instructions for the good life.

Warren One Pager 201503290828-pd (PDF File)

Warren One Pager 201503290828

It’s like taking your wife golfing for the first time and brow-beating her with top 100 swing thoughts from your Tiger Woods coffee table book, thinking that you will get her on the PGA tour. Truth is, IT WON’T REALLY WORK FOR ANY OF US short of being miraculously reborn with the aptitude and attitude to pull it off. Try as we may, most will hit a ceiling beyond which we both will and can not go. “Will” being operative because the ceiling is a total and absolute boundary, the area above never to be inhabited by us and “can” being operative because of our personal incapacity to deliver on the requirements. Spiritual directors and philosophers like NT Wright or the late Dallas Willard suggest that to pull off meaningful life transformation, you cannot just be proficient in intentionally turning on and off the long list of skills associated with your improvement plan. No, no, no, that never really works, instead you have to become the kind-of-person where the mastery of these behaviors just mysteriously and automatically oozes forth, coming out of you correctly as required. Sort of like realizing that a humming-bird or a bumble-bee is not looking at each wing during each stroke and telling it to go up and then down to keep it hovering, and then give a whole new set of directions when it supposed to turn (let alone go backwards). Nope, it just automatically comes out of these creatures with no planned set of micro-movements, they were born to “just do it!”

  • I like the way Dallas talks about the apostle Peter. Things just seem to “come out of him.” Leaving his net to go be a fisher of men, putting his shirt ON before he jumps OUT of the boat to meet Jesus, slashing out to remove the ear of one of Caiaphas’s guard come to arrest the Prince of Peace. These were just Peter-uptions, seemingly unfiltered from his core being, denying Christ one moment, asking to be crucified the next because he felt he did not deserve a more honorable handling of his Savior and Lord.
  • NT Wright talks about Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger who in 2009, ditched US Airways #1549 fouled Airbus into the Hudson without losing any of the 155 souls aboard. Clearly with no time to research best practices, the A320 operating manual or preferred switch settings for his estuarial escapade, he just had to let the right stuff “come out of him.” No specific planning or intentionality, it just flowed from who he was at that moment.

As Dallas said, at the moment of crisis or decision, outcomes are not determined by a cookbook list you are scrambling to fulfill, but what is baked “in you.” It’s only, always about “what’s in you,” for that’s what always seeps out, out of your nature, your being. After all, we are not human DOings, we are human BEings. The old US Army recruiting slogan had it right! It’s ultimately the same thing with us as it relates to Warren’s web of almost 50 habits and as many Bible verses that made their way onto my final one pager. I can’t really “get transformed” by attempting to execute all these activities apart from an innate instinctual inclination, capacity and power which enable them in our nature, in our being.  Resident desire, mental wiring and physical agility are prerequisites for the unified, integrated, whole being from whom missions are accomplished in through the natural outflow of their “Right Stuff.” Without heart, mind and body preconditioning, one will never be able to “just do it,” that way, automatically, unconsciously. Our only hope is to find the sponsorship, exercises and power to transform to the kind of person that naturally, totally “organically,” can’t help but do these things in knee-jerk-hardly-have-to-be-awake mode. The punch line … If you don’t have it when you are born, there’s no recapturing it no matter how good the instructional manual if. I realize my audience is probably like myself, with a number of decades to think about such assertions. I’ve breezed past many assumptions, definitions, premises, theories, experiences, references. That said, it’s amazing how you can see vapors of this truth play out in parallel in both the Kingdom of God and kingdom of man. Back to the Tiger Woods coffee table book and my wife. We can read, comprehend every detail of said book and actually implement mechanically much of whats written, but we will most likely not get on the Tour. That’s not a surprise, but that’s not the point. The point is that we simply cannot recover from not being initially endowed, created, born be so capable. That 2+2 has to be there in the birth canal to get that “4,” out of yourself. “2+1” never going to be anything but 3 without God’s divine action. There is no going back to supplement the original sum. But you say, “Yeah, so what, we know you cannot re-enter our mother’s womb, and come out genetically Tiger.” (Apologies all around for the mental images I may have precipitated). You have to be a tiger from the beginning to growl like him, there are no do-overs!

But the point is in God’s Domain, in God’s Kingdom, there is the promise of a second chance to reconstitute yourself, to appropriate God’s love to become one of these marvelously integrated whole beings, whole souls, who are reformed from the inside out, and uniquely by grace from above, to soar as children of God, “born from above.” Yes, there is the opportunity of divine re-creation, which Jesus compels us to consider in being the best version of ourselves. We can be reborn from “above,” and that is the only way to have the many detailed things required of us to live the good life naturally flow from our being. The list of activities and duties can be derived, and even well understood, but they won’t ever be natural as flying or hovering like that bee or humming-bird, until it has become our nature.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7“Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again [born from above (Greek, anothen)].’

This reflections here relate to things common place that we see around us that might help us see both the power of being born right and whole, and the wonder of the opportunity before us.

I’ve probably overused Tiger Woods here, especially with his recent fall from the leader boards, but what he did in the first decade of the millennium, similarly amazing to what Michael Jordan did in the prior decade, are examples of “naturals.” Of whole, integrated, high performance beings whose unmatched performance flowed from a rare hyper-integrated heart-body-mind-strength essence. Who they were during those great years all but guaranteed what they did, and it would have been more unusual if they did not excel, because of how dominant their BEINGS were.

I point out their athletic supremacy and records not to laud them, but to call attention to God’s offer to ALL Christ followers to BE every bit as naturally empowered to deliver results, as these extraordinary athletic phenoms.

Woods and Jordan give us a small window into what happens in creation when all the dimensions, all the parts of a person harmonize, fuses into whole souls to do things go way beyond the ordinary. While only in the games they play, and during certain moments of active competition, they rise above counterparts not so uniquely constituted.

Way beyond a sports highlight reel, God offers to all who love Him and want to be like Him the unique proposal to be reborn from above. This new life is genuine, and promises to reform our being such that the life that thrives in Him is not so much extra work and effort, but just something we can naturally do out of who we are.

It’s an amazing offer. It’s been there for more than two thousand years, coming from a gracious Father who wants the best for us, wants our love, and wants us to love others as we love ourselves.

That very busy page summarizing Rick Warren’s suggestions to live the good life, and be all we can be is a daunting set of lists that strain the brain. To keep them in mind and try to do them all is an exercise in futility. I imagine after a low key weekend, a good night’s sleep, with sun shining, our best iTunes mix be-bopping in our ear and a designer coffee in our hand, we could plow through a good number of these to-dos.

Thankfully, there’s a way better way to flourish – to become that kind of person that just naturally accomplishes these things. I’m not talking about perfection, nor a path that’s always easy, but availing ourselves to be “reborn” as the kind of people who can’t help but do these things because of divine realignment of our souls.

We may not wear championship rings, nor green Master’s jacket’s, but we will share the power of being whole souls, like some of the ones who were gifted as earthly naturals, versus some of us who were graciously offered the opportunity to be reborn from above by our HugeGOD.

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Posted by: robertartemenko | December 31, 2014

Sermon on the Porch

Twenty-seven year old Mike took the bad news courageously and exited the January 30 evening board meeting. Told a bomb had exploded on his front porch, splintering glass and wood into street facing rooms, he arrived to see the gouge the dynamite had made in the concrete.  Hundreds packed the scene including police, fire, town officialdom and a crowd who felt as targeted by this evil as his wife and ten week old daughter residing at 309 South Jackson.

909 Jackson Avenue, Montgomery, AL, just after the January 30, 1956 bombing.

PAUSE … rewind to 16 months earlier.

Married a little over a year and still finishing his Ph.D. dissertation from BU, he had just become head pastor of Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Son, grandson, great-grandson, brother and nephew of southern preachers, with an “inescapable urge to serve society,” the position met important criteria. This congregation would appreciate the intellectual heft that would power his gospel message, an aspiration at best confusing to unimpressed undergrad professors who appraised his 2.48 GPA as “short of what might be called ‘good,'” It got him out of the northeast and closer to his Georgia roots. Lastly, while nearer home, it was not too close to Atlanta, giving him independence in his own larger pond, away from his beloved, but over-bearing, father.

His whole life, including the first 14 months of ministry at Montgomery preceding the explosion, he’d been aware of the flagrant racial divide in Alabama. Despite this, his countenance was one of secure hope. Surrounded by loving family and friends and ever more recognized for the beyond-his-years wisdom, his charisma was a light on a hill. He was settling in to a promising career in the ministry.

Then … history happened … Rosa Parks decided not to vacate her bus seat on December 1, 1955 … two-months later an explosion would rock this new pastor’s life … who could know or imagine?

But that evening of December 1st Rosa was tired, maybe sore in the neck from hemming ball gowns. She plopped down mid-bus, no issue to the driver serving her usual Court Square stop. A subsequent excess of white patrons along the route legally required her to stand. In prior situations, she would have… everyone did! These weren’t bus company rules or drivers with attitudes. This was just the enforcement of city ordinances, an accepted “right” way. Was this 1855 or 1955? No matter, too tired tonight … so, sO, SO tired tonight … go ahead and arrest me she thought … and then said … and they did … and they locked her up in a Montgomery cell.

So lets recap the recently minted Ph.D.’s involvement from this December 1, 1955 incident on the Court Square bus through to the bombing of his house sixty days later on January 30, 1956. Local black leaders had been hoping for a test case to challenge the Montgomery segregation laws with little to show for it. Not even a 1952 case where a police officer shot and killed a black patron arguing with a bus driver could be converted to the infamy required to compel a judge or spark reform. The Parks incident turned out to be a very different situation because she was dear to many in the community, including well-to-do influential Montgomerians for whom she had sewn and altered dresses. She was not just a seamstress, she was a network.

A 381 day public transportation boycott by blacks ensued with moves and counter-moves employed by would-be commuters vs. the bus company, retail owners, police, city officials. End result? Local business impact was considerable, black motivation and participation were robust, and a Rubicon was crossed unhinging the status quo. The mounting progress and momentum of the travel ban called for better and broader organization of the activists to secure gains, to plan follow-on tactics, cast visions, negotiate and otherwise kindle outcomes similar to the recent anti-segregation Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka ruling. If “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” and hence unconstitutional, what about transportation, employment and a sad long list of other “separatist” disenfranchisements.

Dexter Avenue Church’s twenty-six year old pastor, Martin Luther King Jr., was reluctantly elected to head the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) . This unexpected appointment Monday, December 4, 1955 was Act One, Scene One of a twelve year public drama of costly discipleship. Less than two months later, the scene that opened for him explosively on January 30, 1956, foreshadowed many such episodes in his heroic life, where a soul seeking God’s will encroached upon a world of metastasized evil. It would yield to his empowered urging, win him a Nobel Peace Prize, but take his life at age 39, though not before he irreversibly began toppling instruments of enmity.

PLAY … come forward to three days before the fateful January 30 bombing, late in the evening of January 27, 1956.

Montgomery white official’s reaction to Parks’ December 1st challenge of the status quo was swift and severe. A broad base of antagonism was provoked as black leaders rallied to create a beachhead. King, outspoken leader of the justness and timeliness of MIA’s cause, was a lightning rod for both white bureaucrats and all variety of zealots and kooks. As front man of this not-so-quiet coup he was the obvious target for threats and recriminations. Ignoring or rationalizing these attacks did little to blunt the impact on the psyche or a young man whose first 25 years of life by his own account were seemingly “wrapped up for me like a Christmas package.” Midnight January 27 found him in a sleepless daze at his kitchen table when one more of those persistent rings sounded, now numbering up to forty a day. “Nigger, we are tired of you and our mess now. And if you don’t get out of town in three days, we are going to blow your brains out and blow up your house.”

… The phone clicked, the caller hung up.

King thought, a precious infant daughter, my wife, my life, how do I make this stop without being a coward and derailing the advent of overdue corrections in such an evil cultural and moral divide? A crushing and inescapable dilemma tormented his soul. Go-to-relief from father, family and friends seemed not up to the menacing cords strangling his heart. He realized he needed to fortify himself with levels of faith and assurance he may have preached about, but had apparently not yet personally understood or activated. In the deepest crag, of the deepest valley of these inadequacies and anxieties came words of encouragement and direction. Conspicuously transforming the darkest moment of his life to the the most important. God spoke to him as an inner voice:

” ‘ Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo I will be with you even until the end of the world’ . . . I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone. No never alone. No never alone, He promised never to leave me alone, never to leave me alone.’ ”

… These words clicked, he was at peace.

“Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared.”

He went back to bed that night. The threats continued and came to pass, but he stood them. They were aimed and hit their target, but he was never alone . . . no . . . never alone. (See Hebrews 3:5, Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:7)

We are now caught up to the opening paragraph of this post, on about 9:45 pm, January 30, 1956, three days after the most important night of his life, and three days since the bomb threat. He left the regular Monday night Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) meeting at Ralph Abernathy’s First Baptist Church, arriving at his house to hear the only news he was hoping for, that Coretta and Yoki, and a friend there to keep the them company were safe. Luckily the thump of the bomb hitting the porch and skittering foot falls spurred their retreat to a back bedroom before the blast.

A number of town leaders joined Dr. King at the house. Besides the Fire Chief R. L. Lampley was Montgomery Mayor W.A. Gayle, who had recently discontinued talks with the black MIA boycott which he said, referring to his town, was devolving to “the destruction of our social fabric.” Also present was police commissioner Clyde Sellers, newly inducted in the 1,200 strong White Citizens Council, a pro-segregation group with vague ties to the KKK.

While the bombing was likely the act of anti-integration extremists, their rage and aggression were not the only intense emotions in play at the scene. Racist bigotry and hate had elicited a counterpunch of pent-up frustration and indignation from the black community. This was further exacerbated in the moment by white police officers getting aggressive physically with King’s supporters and followers who they were working to disperse. Martin Luther pushed through the crowd toward his house and saw and heard disturbing things. Some blacks were armed.                                                                                                                                                                                           The assembled mass appeared resigned to confrontation. Unilateral non-violence seemed a self-defeating tactic, not so unfair as illogical and futile. Whether he was driven more by internal conviction or external contingency King approached the crowd. Without wise and graceful intervention, this would end badly and likely derail the movement.

SERMON ON THE PORCH

Now when Martin sensed this, he went up on the porch. His followers came to him,  and he addressed them.

MLK Jr. – “Let’s not become panicky.” [Matthew 6:25b, 35a -“I say to you, do not be worried about your life seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”]

MLK Jr. – “If you have weapons, take them home; if you do not have them, please do not seek to get them. We cannot solve this problem through retaliatory violence.  We must meet violence with nonviolence.  Remember the words of Jesus: ‘He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.'” [Matthew 5:21-22 – “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”] 

MLK Jr. – “Remember that is what God said.” [Matthew 5:18 / Matthew 7:24-25 – “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.   / Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.”]

MLK Jr. – “We must love our white brothers,” King continued, “no matter what they do to us.  We must make them know that we love them.  Jesus still cries out in words that echo across the centuries: ‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you.’  This is what must live by.  We must meet hate with love.” [Matthew 5:44-45a – “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven]

MLK Jr. – “Remember, if I am stopped, this movement will not stop, because God is with the movement. Go home with this glowing faith and this radiant assurance.  Go home and sleep calm.  Go home and don’t worry.  Be calm as I and my family are.  We are not hurt and remember that if anything happens to me, there will be others to take my place.” [Matthew 5:11-12 / Matthew 6:25a, 33 – “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. / “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Though Dr. King was not the last to speak, his powerful direction to the crowd averted violence and cast a redemptive vision of the evening’s events and days to follow. Similar to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, while words were instructive and sewed understanding, it was a palpable Spirit of grace, truth and conviction that would redeem the moment. [Matthew 7:28-29 – “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”]

Eleven months later on December 3, he told a crowd of 1,500 at the Holt Street Baptist Church that the goal of the MIA’s non-violent crusade was not to defeat the white man but to have him recognize and be convicted by his own false sense of superiority. King pointed out that “the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of beloved community.”

WAR, RIGHT, WRONG AND THE WILL OF GOD

The three days from January 27th to the 30th, from the kitchen table epiphany after the phone threat to the bombing of his home, saw his resurrection from “Mike” the new preacher to “Martin Luther,” herald in God’s opening move to tear down a wall so toxic to national community. Many times in his remaining dozen years Dr. King would refer to God’s settling and strengthening his anxious heart over his undrunk cup of coffee the night of January 27. Unfortunately, constant reprises would be required to expunge blood from his brow.

His crusade for beloved community ultimately put him on course to be separated from it by an assassin’s bullet. His heart for the tyrannized and distressed open his vision to global issues, causing him to unpopularly expand the freedom march to include America’s involvement in the Vietnam war, a “standing up for righteousness,” that appeared to some to water-down the movement to eradicate the the South’s Jim Crow laws. After a few false starts, King was certain that this East Asia inclusion was well in bounds for a God that wished to eradicate all oppression. This seemingly counterproductive scope creep of God’s chosen harmonizes with Lincoln’s pressing for the Emancipation Proclamation, perturbing his Party and supporters who thought there was Union consensus on ending the Civil War without ending slavery. But, what appears unnecessary to men in pursuit of pragmatic ends, may become a necessity to fulfill God’s broader agenda. It is ironic that Lincoln would win a grand emancipation for the slaves in the 1860’s that would have reasonable men in the 1960’s wondering if the toll of 600,000 American dead had been in vain. Indeed, it was not – it was just not enough.

Though haunting and somewhat strange, Martin Luther King’s Last words give clarity to his life and calling. On the eve of his death he flew in the morning from Atlanta to Memphis to support striking sanitation workers. He recounted in his last speech, less that 24 hours from James Earl Ray’s mortal wound to his right jaw, that his flight that day had to be cleared because of a bomb threat.

In closing his last speech he prophesied:

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

LINCOLN CONNECTION

Similarly, Abraham Lincoln, engaged in a titanic struggle, was humbly resigned to its outcome being totally in God’s sovereign hand, and that that alignment with the divine was not an option, but a path to be sought as quickly and completely as wrong might be repented of and the right course charted.

The President’s notes of September, 1862, in writings referred to as “Meditations on the Divine Will,” laid out the sole dependency:

The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party — and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say that this is probably true — that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.”

Lincoln, like King, saw that beyond what either of them was personally striving for as heads of nations or movements, that “the will of God prevails.” Yes, resignation and submission of His people was required, but as objects as well as agents of this remediation, those embroiled in struggle needed to answer a call to actively participate, transform-from and conform-to in some fashion before peace would come. Ask Moses. Ask Jonah. As Joseph. Ask David. Ask George Washington … Ask King and Lincoln. You flow with God or shipwreck.

Lincoln put an exclamation point on this in March, 1863, joined by the Senate and House of Representatives:

“Whereas, the Senate of the United States devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation; and

“Whereas, it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history: that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord … ”

and also in July, 1864.

“That the President of the United States be requested to appoint a day for humiliation and prayer by the people of the United States… to convene at their usual places of worship, or wherever they may be, to confess and to repent of their manifold sins; to implore the compassion and forgiveness of the Almighty, that, if consistent with His will, the existing rebellion may be speedily suppressed and the supremacy of the Constitution and laws of the United States may be established throughout all the States; to implore Him, as the Supreme Ruler of the World, not to destroy us as a people, nor suffer us to be destroyed by the hostility or connivance of other nations or by obstinate adhesion to our own counsels, which may be in conflict with His eternal purposes, and to implore Him to enlighten the mind of the nation to know and do His will, humbly believing that it is in accordance with His will that our place should be maintained as a united people among the family of nations…”

National Days of Prayer proclaimed by earlier presidents had preceded these, and would continue, but the spirit of submission and humility has not repeated itself since WWII’s days of infamy.

CLOSE
We need to remember the “premise – promise” nature of God’s economy and relational model as we reflect on digging ourselves, our families, our communities and nation out of the darkest problems of the day. Going our own way alone will not work. We have to do it with God. And, the process is not just falling to our knees, recognizing and recoiling from our bad deeds and repenting. It’s about standing back-up for whatever God’s Way and God’s Will is.
It’s really not that mysterious.
Consider again Jesus encouragement to King on January 27, “‘stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo I will be with you even until the end of the world'”.
Without exception, God’s will is always about our seeking and standing-up for and promoting …
righteousness, justice and truth.
If we do that from our heart, from our own spirit, our soul, He will be with us …
no never, never leave us alone.
  • The PREMISE then, is that we are to seek His will at all times and in all trials.
  • His PROMISE is that in so doing, He will be with us and never never leave us.
Easy to say
Hard to do.
In fact, It’s a killer.
====================================================================================
References and Selected Bibliography
Abraham Lincoln Online Website, source for many documents, speeches and historical materials [http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/meditat.htm]
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Website, text of Martin Luther King Jr.’s last speech in support of their affiliated sanitation workers in April, 1968 [http://www.afscme.org/union/history/mlk/ive-been-to-the-mountaintop-by-dr-martin-luther-king-jr]
American Presidency Project Website, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, [http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=69994]
Carson, Clayborne, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., New York, Time Warner Books, 1998
Garrow, David J., Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, New York, First Perennial Classics, 2004
Hicks, Jonathan P. Hicks, “Black Entertainment Network Website, Commentary: Celebrating Rosa Parks Remarkable Contribution – and Courage,” [http://www.bet.com/news/national/2013/02/04/celebrating-rosa-parks-remarkable-contribution-and-courage.html]
Johnson, Robert E., “The Night Dr. King Saved the Lives of Two White Men,” Vol. 79, No. 14 – ‎Jet Magazine, January 21, 1991, p. 6-8
Mansfield, Stephen, Lincoln’s Battle with God: A Presidents Struggle with Faith and What it Meant to America, Nashville TN, Thomas Nelson, 2012
Marsh, Charles, From Church Budgets to Beloved Community: King in Montgomery, The Civil Rights Movement as Theological Drama, 2005, [http://archives.livedtheology.org/node/2375]

Posted by: robertartemenko | October 26, 2013

Paradigm Shift (or Shaft)

There is consensus that Thomas Kuhn popularized the phrase “paradigm shift” in his 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, now in it’s third edition. Winning praise as one of the Top 100 non-fiction books written (Time Magazine), it challenges how you think about your thinking, how the the world processes understanding itself – nature – how things work – what is true.

While a budding scientist himself, Kuhn opted for what he found to be a more intriguing area of study, namely the “History of Science,” in which he found as much or more mystery, and as much or more opportunity to make a difference. It’s a classic case of “why just give a man a fish when you can teach him to angle.” Why just discover x-rays, or oxygen, or planetary orbits, when you can equip the world with perspectives on how one navigates the perplexities of passing from one hypothesis, theory or paradigm, to another. Maybe I go too far in reading into his opting for the “history of” versus being a “practitioner of,” science, but the point is by staring upstream on how science has done-it’s-thing, he’s able to elucidate the quirkiness and blind spots that short circuit accumulating knowledge.

What hit me, without going deep into his nuances of defining paradigms or how they are birthed, is that a human life — who we are — is made up of the paradigms we hold. The quality of our life is then somehow affected or directed by the ways in which we acquire, alter and shed these frameworks for thinking.

Kuhn talks more about the how theories related to the alchemists theories of “phlogiston,” were overridden by theories relating to oxygen and combustion, or how Newton’s Principia’s classical mechanics and laws of motion were amended 250 years later by Einstein.

We can think of less scientific theories, though no less consequential, through which the culture has had to transition.

Consider.

While “fire” was only a scary, painful, destructive thing, people did not avail themselves to warmth, light and cooking.

While men thought others of their species were innately inferior or just property, civilization was corrupted with slavery and rampant national or tribal “-isms” that partook in genocide.

So what hit me recently because of Mr. Kuhn, besides now seeing my thought life as a web of paradigms, is how “paradigms” as frameworks, permeate the Bible.

Moses witnessing the “unconsumed” burning bush, or receiving “Ten Commandments” were certainly events that gave him pause to think-about-his-thinking, his paradigms.

How about the Sermon on the Mount and the thousands of people on the hillside that heard it?

How about Saul’s blinding encounter on the road to Damascus with the post resurrection Jesus, and how it totally changed his purpose, trajectory, mission and name as well.

GOD IS ABOUT PARADIGM CHANGE

Any time God speaks, any time we hear from God through the Bible or other people, our live’s paradigms rattle, and their possible redirection or dissolution results.

Look at Stephen’s defense of himself and last words in Acts 7. As a recently minted deacon he had proceeded to demonstrate levels of grace and power that drew great attention from the wrong people. The persecution of Christ’s teaching and His followers were still the focus of Jewish leaders, and they did not like the paradigm(s) he continued to assault.

Responding to trumped up charges of blasphemy, he proceeds through a Kuhnian historic review of how the God’s effort to revise His chosen people’s paradigms related to faith and obedience were generally overcome by their willfulness, mistrust and plain selfishness.

Stephen purposefully lays out wonderful, blessed exceptions. God shook Abram’s paradigm of purpose by telling him to “depart” from where he lived without any specific earthly destination, and so he did. God directed Moses to take on Pharaoh and lead the captives out of Egypt, and he stepped up.

But Stephen’s recounting of Jewish history is a sad tale of how the minority, the prophets of God (Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Jesus Christ), espousing the paradigm of His Kingdom, were generally ignored, marginalized, harassed and often killed by the majority.

Not the way it was supposed to be.

So next time you open the Bible, next time you hear it’s claims from the pulpit or a friend, examine it in the light of a call to a paradigm shift. Also, take time to inventory your major beliefs, assumptions about how the world works and why, and what your place is in it, and test whether your paradigm portfolio has been intentionally assembled, or is more like an end-of-season snowman, where the bottom ball was rolled up and just got bigger and bigger with old sticks, clods of dirt, dog biscuits and an old gas bill.

Posted by: robertartemenko | September 23, 2012

got GOD

AN INTERFAITH DIALOGUE

A long time friend invited me to a presentation on the interplay of the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Wary that it would just be secular philosophy blurring my Christian views, I was surprised by its encouragement to keep my beliefs distinct. It suggested that I could enhance the efficacy of my beliefs by developing empathy for other faiths. Dr. Heide Hadsell, PhD., President of Hartford Seminary and Professor of Social Ethics made the case for comparative theological training to inject more grace into crusty parochial convictions. Even proselytizers need this context to effectively promote their positions, let alone to love others, a common admonition of the three faiths. She focused on concepts common to each system, catalyzing ecuminity as opposed to the division. Admirable. There’s a season to note disconnections between dogmas, and there is, hopefully, a time to observe alignment. Not alignment for the purpose of recruitment or forming better arguments, but to respect the hearts of those with a different worldview. Dr. Hadsell’s thoughtful analysis was not a cool forensic listing, but it practically outlined intersecting passions, areas where their theologically rhythms resonated.

To her list below I appended references from each faith’s “scripture,” the Old Testament (Pentateuch and Haftorahs), New Testament and the Qur’an. Single verses from the respective “bibles” of the Abrahamic faiths hardly validate each element, but they demonstrate that Dr. Hadsell’s conclusions are readily identifiable in the doctrine of each. My hope was to reinforce the affinity of these attributes with each faith.

CONGRUENT ATTRIBUTES OF THE THREE ABRAHAMIC FAITHS

1) MONOTHEISTIC, one God – Only One can be honored above all. In Judaism and Christianity the singularity of God appears somewhat strained by His divine scale. Two commonly used vowels for God in the old testament are plural (God – elohim, Lord – adonai).  God refers to Himself in the plural (We, Us, Our) six different times in four different passages: Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8. Islam sees Judaism and Christianity as having been corrupted by creeping polytheism, in part because of this “singularity” issue, with the Jews accused of waywardly worshipping golden calves and Christians, deifying Jesus. Jews and Christians still claim they worship one God.

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

Mark 12:29 “’The most important one,’” answered Jesus, ‘is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.'”

Qur’an 112:1-4  “Say: He, Allah, is One. Allah is He on Whom all depend. He begets not, nor is He begotten. And none is like Him.”

2) ABHOR IDOLATRY, again one God –  God is One, number One and there is no number two. God is alone on a divine plane of existence, no comparisons are possible, let alone the potentiality of anything surpassing Him.

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.”

1 Corinthians 10:14 “Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.”

Qur’an 4:48c  “And he who associates others with Allah has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin.”

3) INSISTENCE ON THE WORD, The Tanakh, Bible, Qur’an – Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and obviously Mohammad are acknowledged “messengers” of God’s truth in Islam.  Most scriptural overlap appears to be with selected Old Testament histories, psalms and prophecies and the story of Jesus life and ministry. Jesus (Isa) is mentioned by name 25 times in the Qur’an and Muhammed is mentioned by name 4 times.

Psalm 19:9-11 ” The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”

John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Qur’an 4:171 refers to Jesus as Allah’s Word as well, “His Word.”)

Qur’an 3a:3 “He has revealed to you the Book with truth, verifying that which is before it, and He revealed the Taurat (Jewish Torah) and the Injil (a source from which the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were derived) aforetime, a guidance for the people…”

4) STRIVE FOR PIETY, as believer’s hearts absorb the words of God and His Truth/Good News/Commands, it is understood that it must have an impact on the actions of its disciples. Acquisition of truth is no value to God unless it carries through to motives, character and loving service.

Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Romans 12:1-2a ” Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Qur’an 49:13 “Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of God-Almighty is the best in conduct.”

5) “OTHERNESS” OF GOD, that which is utterly different and transcendent cannot be known to man fully, as s/he is so un-God, they should be utterly humbled before Him.

Isaiah 55:8-9 ” ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ ”

Ephesians 3:17b-20 “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Qur’an 46:93 “Say (O Muhammad), “I am not different from other messengers. I have no idea what will happen to me or to you. I only follow what is revealed to me. I am no more than a profound warner” NOTE: Al-Ghazali, the most prominent theologian in the history of Islam, went so far as to say: “The end result of the knowledge of the (knowers) is their inability to know Him, and their knowledge is, in truth, that they do not know Him and that it is absolutely impossible for them to know Him.”[Fadlou Shehadi, Ghazali’s Unique Unknowable God, Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1964, p. 37.]

6) HONOR CREATION, of the Creator – The overflow of who God is, is His creation, God’s repetition outside of Himself, the radiating effluence of his immeasurable Deity. If you love God, then you will love that which flows from Him. What flows from Him is His creation. (Jonathan Edwards, New England Puritan pastor, theologian and President of Princeton of the early 1700’s spoke inspirationally about God being so-God that He overflows. This is His “effluence”).

Psalm 19:1-2 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”

Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

Qur’an 6:73 “And it is He who created the heavens and earth in truth. And the day He says, “Be,” and it is, His word is the truth. And His is the dominion [on] the Day the Horn is blown. [He is] Knower of the unseen and the witnessed; and He is the Wise, the Acquainted.”

7) LOVE ONE ANOTHER, our exercise of a right loving of God develops naturally in loving His creation, of which His people are a part. God also commands us to love one another in “the Book.”

Leviticus 19:18 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

Matthew 5:43-45a “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

Qur’an 4:36 “Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess.”

8) ALL BELIEVERS THINK THEY ARE RIGHT, self-explanatory, just watch the network and cable news shows, no one group has the corner on zealotry, all excel.

Proverbs 30:5 “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

John 8:45-52a “ ‘Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.’ The Jews answered him, ‘Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?’ ‘I am not possessed by a demon,’ said Jesus, ‘but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.’ At this the Jews exclaimed, ‘Now we know that you are demon-possessed!'”

Qur’an 17:45-47 “And when you recite the Quran, We place between you and those who do not believe in the hereafter a hidden barrier; And We have placed coverings on their hearts and a heaviness in their ears lest they understand it, and when you mention your Lord alone in the Quran they turn their backs in aversion. We know best what they listen to when they listen to you, and when they take counsel secretly, when the unjust say: You follow only a man deprived of reason.

9) SEEKERS OF TRUTH, of God – We all have a worldview, whether we intentionally form it or not. Pursuit of God ultimately involves assembling, refining, defending and projecting what your belief system is. See 4) and 7) above. The overflow of knowing truth is necessarily to take action, and that greatest action is to love God, and next, man.

Proverbs 1:1-7 ” The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Qur’an 2:2-6 “This Book, there is no doubt in it, is a guide to those who guard (against evil). Those who believe in the unseen and keep up prayer and spend out of what We have given them. And who believe in that which has been revealed to you and that which was revealed before you and they are sure of the hereafter. These are on a right course from their Lord and these it is that shall be successful.”

SO WHAT

Dr. Hadsell’s purpose as stated in the event’s press release was to promote positive “interfaith dialogue and engagement,” that being “essential to understand and work with religions beyond one’s own.”  She delivered on this effectively. An implicit hope of interfaith dialogue is to promote learning, goodwill and peace among these faiths, a well-intentioned mission. It is also logical in that a first step to reconciliation is finding common ground.

That said, I am of the opinion that this mission is impaired by a general lack of wonder by seekers of God’s scale. While there are exceptions, too many dumb God down, become over-familiar with Him (think Morgan Freeman or references to “the man upstairs”), and are more astounded by black holes, white dwarfs and the genome project, than by their conceiver, designer, creator and sustainer. [NOTE: See my post at HugeGOD.com, “Black Holes and the Whitewhole,” February 20, 2011, https://hugegod.com/2011/02/20/black-holes-and-the-whitewhole/ ]

Yes, most will acknowledge God to be big and only and awesome, but are we really raptured-and-reset by the thought of Him, and actually sense HOW BIG and HOW ONLY and HOW AWESOME.

THE VERTICAL MUST PRECEDE THE HORIZONTAL

While the HORIZONTAL similarities of the faiths cause us to consider our common condition, making different hearts resonate, the actually drawing together of the hearts to unified compassion, empathy and love must be empowered by VERTICAL domination of and submission to a ravishing HugeGOD. We might appreciate this list of congruities, but they are unlikely to move us to action because their source is often seen as an authoritative father as opposed to the Compelling Almighty, All-knowing, Omnipresent and Immutable Lord.

Consider the following example… and unfortunately in trying to draw a comparison with the Divine, we can see but dim shadows of this transcendent mechanism.

Take three sons … independent, strong willed, a bit rambunctious. With their own goals, they are snorting and pawing the earth to move off on their own. Their father would like them to get along, remain in community, help one another to progress and succeed. They all want to progress and succeed, right! It’s better together, right? Their father gives them “the speech,” outlines their common heritage, the call to each during more innocent times to play nicely, look out for one another, come to each others aid. “Yes dad” they say, but “it’s my time and my life and well, I think it best to get on with my plans … maybe we’ll work together … maybe we won’t, but it’s my time to move on.” (One son might even ask for his inheritance ; )

Now … consider three sons, independent, strong-willed, a bit rambunctious. With their own goals, they are snorting and pawing the earth to move off on their own. Their father would like them to get along, remain in community, help one another to progress and succeed. They all want to progress and succeed, right! It’s better together right? They are in awe of their Father. They always have been. In fact, as their capacity to learn and understand has grown, they continue to be amazed at all His facets of excellence and magnanimity. They are overwhelmed by His wisdom, goodness, graciousness, mercies, justice, faithfulness totally different from ALL/ANY others, all exhibited in a loving and consistent way. Each of these facets, though identifiable, is incomprehensible in its depth, and grows more so as each attribute is examined. The sons know they have a life, and from knowing their generous Father, know that He wants them to have their own lives too. The sons are thankful, and are excited about having their own experiences, but cannot imagine separation from their Father and the relationship they have known. Going forward, as far as the sons’ relationships to one another are concerned, they have been so imprinted by the character of their Father that they can’t imagine not demonstrating the same affection to their brothers, and they certainly hope to receive it in return, because it has been so wonderful from their Father. But like the Father, who loves so graciously and unconditionally, they too love their brother’s with no conditions, because that is the way they have been loved.

My argument is … the grace in the HORIZONTAL relationship among the brothers is a function of how great the VERTICAL admiration is for the Father, and their VERTICAL love is a function of how big, grand, good-beyond-comprehension, … how Huge they come to know Him to be.

KNOWING THE HUGEGOD

How Huge was Moses’ God?

Exodus 33:19-23 ” And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’ Then the Lord said, ‘There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.’ ”

How Huge was Job’s God?

Job 11:7-9 “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave—what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea.”

Job 38:4-7, 31-36 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” … “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, and guide the Bear with her satellites? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens, or fix their rule over the earth? Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that an abundance of water will cover you? Can you send forth lightnings that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? Who has put wisdom in the innermost being Or given understanding to the mind?”

How Huge was Isaiah’s God? 

Isaiah 6:1-6 “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. ‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’ ”

How Huge was John’s God?

Revelation 1:17  ” When I saw him, I (John) fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.’ ”

How Huge was Muhammad’s God?        

Qur’an 6:103  “No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision: He is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things.”

THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING TO HUGEGOD

Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all people of the Book, have a heritage in a HugeGOD. They also over the years, as so thoughtfully described by Dr. Hadsell, have exhibited similarities (There is one God, He is “other,” we seek pious, et al.) in their approach to God. One’s approach to God I think can be called their religion. While the commonalities of the Abrahamic faiths are edifying, they cannot unify without consensus on the correct assessment on WHO GOD IS, and will likely have little power to be transformative unless the sense of the HugeGOD’s scale can be radically expanded.

Sadly, the prospect of enlarging our view of God is under a withering attack by our culture and the influences around us. Our own natures work against us as well as our appetites, natural desires and inclinations seek to inflate self versus God. There is a perfect storm whirling around our hardened hearts. God shrinks as we look not to His, but to our glory. As the world around us preoccupies us, its voices tempt and delude, as anxieties choke, as jealousy blinds, as hurry confuses and as noise deafens, it gets harder to be tender toward receiving how HugeGOD is.

Even with these challenges, we can be still and know that if we want to move toward God, He is ready to move toward us. This is where I need to depart from my generally ecumenical handling of this topic and consider a Jew, Saul of Tarsus, who experienced a cataclysmic explosion of who He thought God was, so much so that it blinded Him for days, renamed him, changed His “party” affiliation and made him so outspoken against his former mentors that he was imprisoned (and likely beheaded) by them.

Paul found HugeGOD, and he assures each of us that He is there for all who truly pursue Him:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Chapter 8, verses 38 and 39.

When we are humbled and undone before HugeGOD, when we collapse at His feet because His presence fills the sky, when the brightness of His purity shines through to our eyes no matter how we try to shield them or hide, when we feel his voice before we even hear it, when we sense that He knows all we have ever said and done and that our destiny is instantaneously controlled by a mere unspoken thought … there will be no sarcasm, no fighting, no bigotry, no bullies, there will be no doubt that there is truth and one source for it … there will only be a desire to please Him, and we will naturally know that we need to submit to Him, and to our brothers and sisters, and those around us as more important than ourselves. And consider this, if we believe “the Book,” and truly, truly see the HugeNESS of God in it, do we feel like “acting differently” whether we are in His direct presence, all withered before Him in His Glory, or He is behind His curtain in Heaven, just as aware of us as if He were hovering at our roof tops.

Hope for brotherly love is not dependent on being eye-to-eye with one another in the classroom or office, at our places of worship, or on the street – determining what we agree on. What we agree on is of value, but mortal and temporal. That will not be duly enabled until our innate longing for God causes us to see that with which HE is in agreement, to find Him in His Glory and that vision captivate our hearts, to bring it to it’s full joy and to make it beat with compassion for one’s neighbors. The heart filled with God’s Glory cannot but love God and man. Not easy, but that should be our goal, to see God as Huge as He is, which gives us the life He want’s for us. And it’s a life with Him, immortal and eternal.

 

AFTERWARD

The above, given the ground that it’s attempted to cover, is not comprehensive enough to be a proof. It couldn’t be anyway. Positions on HugeGOD will ultimately come down to faith decisions. It is a walk thru of my assertion that God is a lot bigger (Huge!) that we all think, actually bigger than we-think-we-think. My hope is that this is another reason for us to keep seeking after Him, who He is and His relationship to us. For me, this was a first engagement with the Qur’an, and needless to say, I did not enter this exercise, nor depart it, a scholar. I avoided taking quotes out of context for the references, but the Qur’an is different from the scripture I am used to. That said, Islam refers to part of “the Book” as the Injil which is “whatever” the original source text was (as they predicate) for life of Jesus as found in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. With that I am more familiar. Lastly, I am realizing that while my three-son example is heavy on what might be thought of as the “softer” attributes of God, the “How Huge…” scripture references are more of the “hard” nature; soft as in being “loving and gracious,” hard as in “fearful” and “you might drop dead if you see Him.” On one hand, all I can say about this seeming contradiction is, “welcome to trying to comprehend God,” on the other hand, the Injil is clear that we can better understand God by looking to Jesus (John 14:9b “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”  and  John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.”) As the Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes is part of Islam’s Injil (Matthew 5,6,7) we have a pretty good idea of the heart of Jesus, the Christian Messiah (Islamic Masih), a Qur’anic apostle, from which we might infer the “softer” attributes of God. I feel more confidant in referencing this in that the Qur’an ( 4:171) talks to the stature of Jesus as fellow messenger and apostle with Muhammad (In Islam, Muhammad is the ultimate prophet though), and even refers to Jesus (Isa in Islam), similar to the Christian New Testament, as the Word, when it says “O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His apostles.”

A concept Deogram of what I am asserting is found below:

Posted by: robertartemenko | May 1, 2012

God the Holy Spirit … Don’t Leave Home Without Him

THE PROBLEM

One malady of the AARP generation is how waves of fashion and technology just pass you by. You become the constant object of your offspring’s rollings eyes. No “newest” iPad, no Nespresso, no ZAPPOS footwear, no OLED TV … Who cares man, Fuggeddaboudit! That said, there is a silver lining when you finally jump to the new stuff. It’s better, cheaper and de-kinked. (To which your kids say,” Yeah dad, why not wait a few more years?”) My incumbent cell phone was from 2006. Vain enough to shuck the holster, it still looked like I had stuffed a 12 volt car battery in my pants. Like, it stretched the material so much that it was hard to use the other pockets. And, I bought a GPS for my wife, but had postponed getting myself one. Not exactly a hardship, but I could have had one for the cost of a trip to the grocery store. Enter my new iPhone 4S (uh oh, not so new anymore :  ), certain to be relegated to the buggy whip in short order, but now for me no less revolutionary than Spock’s tricorder! Facetime-, HD Video-, Location services-, Siri-, all my ’60’s Young Rascals and Buckinghams music-, the aura of pointed ears-oops, not really, but my stock did bounce somewhat. So the question is this, now that you are iCloud connected + know exactly where you are at all times + have directions to anywhere + can ask Siri if you get confused, do you want to go back to Squaresville? Would it be logical for the Vulcan Spock to beam down to some Romulan hotspot without his tri-corder?

QUESTION: Who would knowingly handicap oneself in the face of unknown galactic challenges?

ANSWER: I think most of us do everyday. Many of us who know HugeGOD and all of us who don’t, leave a vital facet of Him behind as we journey through life (aka “boldly go where no <person> has gone before”). My sense is that if we knew we had a gap in our understanding of the Deity, we’d investigate it. More than leaving gadgets untried or a lack of technological initiative, this is ignorance of substantive elements of who God says He is, how His Kingdom works and critical promises He’s made to us.

CUTTING TO THE CHASE

We underestimate God because of an incomplete understanding of His capacity, and therefore lose out on what He offers His beloved.

My exhortation today is to acknowledge the Holy Spirit and not live life, “not leave home,” without Him. The Holy Spirit is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Trinity. The Trinity is hard enough to work our way through, let alone comprehend the “person” in it who does not quite jive with our sense of the God Family. Yes, Father, know that, had one, … OK, Son, am one or know one … Spirit, or Holy Ghost, oooh, not sure I even want to know this One. It’s a shame that our normal curiosity of things that could be wonderful, could give us an edge, might move us beyond the pack seems to fail us here. The likelihood of me overhauling your thinking in a blog is doubtful, but maybe I can challenge some to deeper queries of this treasury. For God fearers and seekers, a further encouragement, and dare I say incentive, is seen in second Peter chapter one:

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

Please consider this starter set of descriptors which profile the Holy Spirit. While the infinite is hard to bind in scope, these finite dimensions will provide justification of His relevance and an entry point for further investigation. I have become convicted over the years that one prayer that God will always answer, if we are sincere, is our request to know Him better. How could He “who did not spare His own son, but gave Him up for us all,” hold back on a request so inline with His predisposition toward us? (Romans 8:32)

HOLY SPIRIT DESCRIPTORS

1) “HELPER” … Before Jesus left the earth, He indicated that in conjunction with the Father, He would send another divine Helper to each believer. Alternative Greek words for “another,” are heteros and allos. Heteros would be another of a different kind, allos, another of the same kind. The word used in John 14:6 with respect to The Holy Spirit is “another same” (allos) comforter or advocate like Christ, who Himself is “another like” the Father. God is three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each play roles in our life, naturally and spiritually. If we underestimate the features, functions and promises of God, available to us NOW, we lose out. The help, love, kindness and counsel of the long ago God-man Jesus, now joins us in our daily life. There is mystery here, but it is a clear promise we need to mine. God wants us more than we want Him, … if we want more of Him, He will come to us.

(John 14:15-18 ESV) “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

2) “OBLIGATION” … The Holy Spirit is the agent for our adoption into the the family of God, the advocate through whom we become so familiar with the Father that we relate to Him – and He to us – as Abba (Daddy). This is an opportunity and an obligation, but it is an obligation similar to collecting on a winning lottery ticket. Our winnings include being heirs of Father God, co-heirs with Christ, vanquishers of fear, victors over death and recipients of eternal fellowship with the God Community (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). I was drafted by the New York Yankees out of college. I had obligations in joining the organization, but the yoke of responsibilities paled in the light of the opportunity to join a community with a heritage I so admired. The “lig” part of obligation means to “tie,” the same root as for lig-ament. Being tied to that which is precious, powerful and protective brings profound peace, and is a promise to treasure.

(Romans 8:12 – 15 NIV) “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”

3) “LAW OF THE SPIRIT” … John Calvin calls out the absolute consistency with which God requires utter, absolute and complete adherence to his Law to be with Him in Heaven … no exceptions, no favoritism, no partial credit. (See “The Institutes,” Book III, Chapter 14, Section 13, page 780). Thankfully Father God sent His son in the likeness of our sinful flesh to justly meet His “no exceptions” standard, and through that justification the Holy Spirit sets us free from sin and death. The law of the Spirit gives us life, and actively participates in redeeming us from the condemnation that comes from an imperfect record before the perfect God. Each year that passes, the guilt eradicating promise of no condemnation is a bigger and bigger deal for me. How much of all the anxiety and apprehension that saps our spirit and generates dread come from the fear of looming consequences tied to what we have done or left undone? The Spirit who gives life is the means by which our faith disconnects us from the sin-condemnation cycle that’s been devouring us since humankind’s innate pride and lust displayed itself in Adam.

(Romans 8:1-3a NIV) “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.”

4) YIELD TO THE SPIRIT … The Spirit acts to transform us from the inside out. Only change at the heart (the root) of things seems to follow through to the actions and behavior that are different. It’s what’s “in you” that leaks out under pressure. I do not know how this works. I wish I did, then I’d activate it more directly. That said, I have experienced it. Before my kids were born there was a type of affection toward another human that I had not experienced. When the boys came, there was something new inside Sherry and I as parents. It came out in tenderness, service like late night bottles and back rubs, longer job commutes to keep them with friends and in schools. This was not there before. Was this magic? No, it’s just the way things work in God’s world. The Spirit moves in us similarly as our “family” reboots to being sons and daughters of God and sisters and brothers of Christ, and those around us become more dear because we have been reborn into the family of God. (See also 7 Below)

(Galatians 5:22-26 NIV)   “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

5) “SEAL” … God uses the Spirit to seal our inheritance as His truth seeking sons and daughters while we are earthbound. The Spirit’s power in us is a fortaste of the state to which we will be changed when we join God in Heaven. He’s is our portion of Heaven while on earth. God does this out of His love and to the praise of His glory. As we were created to bring glory to Him, to engage the Spirit in a way to give Him free reign is part of our honring God. Again, an obligation to fulfill that benefits us more than we can imagine, while still being our duty.

(Ephesians 1: 11-14 NIV) “In him (Father) we were also chosen (“adopted” into God’s family), having been predestined according to the plan of him (Father) who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.  And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,  who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

6) “POWER” … “dunamis” in Greek is root to our “dynamite.” Spirit power is the same force that created the universe, that raised Jesus from the dead, that sustains all life, that is behind “e=mc².” All God’s goodness, all His care, all His love have this inexpressible power behind them. Note also that this power not only does the heavy lifting of creating galaxies, but is also formative with the inanimate, like the knowledge, love and faith of our inner being. I used this verse in our Christmas mailing this year. There is SO much in it, such rich encouragement and such a celebration of the goodness of God and His good plans for us. The Holy Spirit is ALL a part of this and is our localized divine substation to personally deliver on these promises.

(Ephesians 3: 14-19 NIV)  “For this reason I kneel before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

7) “I AM THE VINE/I WILL SEND”…  The Spirit as person, power and provider coming from both Jesus and His Father, is the network by which we plug into the divine knowledge, wisdom, will and energy of the Godhead. The vine of Christ, from which we branch, flows with the invigorating Spirit’s dunamis, while the Father as vine dresser overseas our productivity bearing the Spirit’s fruit. Being actively aware of the organisms of divine growth and development help us to cooperate to grow personally and glorify God. (See also 4 Above)

(John 15:5-8, 26-27 NIV)  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (26-27) “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

8) “REALM”… What Kingdom are you in? To whom do you really owe allegiance? Are we children of this world, or of another? Ultimately, we are eternal spiritual beings. As C.S. Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” We are not controlled anymore by the realm of the flesh, but the realm of the Spirit, and that Spirit is what sustains through and beyond physical death. The Spirit that raised Jesus form the dead is living in us. You want to know that! You want to live accordingly. You want to appropriate that privilege. You want to live each day growing in understanding of what that means and living each day BIG with the confidence in the team of which we are a part. The Kingdom of God, the Realm of God is available to us now (Mark 1:15), and that is the context in which the Spirit acts.

(Romans 8: 9-11 NIV) You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you

9) “INTERCEDES”… Just in case, the “catch all,” … the Spirit helps us when we don’t even know WHERE we are or WHAT we need or HOW to do WHATEVER. Does God know us or what? Yes, for all that stuff we have no knowledge of, the Holy Spirit is our omniscient Advocate. Thank you. Thank you Holy Spirit, Son and Father for caring for me so  anticipatorily and comprehensively. I need a lot of help with stuff I don’t even know about. Amen.

(Romans 8: 26-27 NIV) “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he (God the Father) who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

10) “TEACH”… Infinitely more than your iPad with Wikipedia or 20 versions of the Bible, the Holy Spirit is your resident truth library and sensei. He will “teach you all things,” …whoa, that I can use! I am dull, I am lazy, I lack adequate disciplines to search out and comprehend… those things I do discover I misunderstand or misapply. Then I forget and start over. I need to know to “be.” I need to know to “do.” I am not living all the life I can live without the companionship of an all-loving all-wise knowledge repository and instructor. The ultimate life Coach!

(John 14: 25-27 NIV) “All this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

In sum, the Holy Spirit is God, advocates for us with Christ, frees us from bondage to sin and death, is the agent of our adoption into the Family of God, equips us with unique gifts to fulfill divine missions, cues us with God’s Word and truth, “has our back” regarding both known and unknown harm, empowers our action, seals us until our full redemption, resurrects our mortal bodies to immortal.

Any room for Him in your life?

DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT HIM

The Holy Spirit can’t be treated like some tangential concept or personage in the Bible. It is mainstream, in your face and critical to thriving. Such is its positioning in Scripture per Jesus, Paul, Peter and John. The tragedy is not so much poor visibility these days as it is a dramatic lack of followthrough on our part to (I) see Him for who He is, GOD, and (II) take Him at His promises. That said, engaging the Spirit in us, that Spirit which testifies with our spirit (Romans 8:16), is subtle, supernatural stuff. It requires us to tune our hearts and minds to Kingdom frequencies, steeped in the Word as Jesus’ apprentices. I wish I had specific tactics or means to describe how to engage the Spirit, but it is a complex, big, BIG personal discovery project. The best things I can tell you relate to chewing on the references provided at the very botton of this entry, in particular, Dallas Willard’s book, Hearing God.

a) We know of people in the Bible, heroes of the faith and God’s beloved among us today, who have been profoundly affected, remarkably transformed and dramatically empowered by the Spirit.

b) The Bible clearly states that the Spirit is available to us today.

c) HEART REQUIREMENT ♥ …we must move forward in faith, love, knowledge and humility. Weakness in any of these individually is a potential derailment factor in our pursuit of the Spirit working in us.

d) God loves us dearly and wants our love, “abiding in Him” is part of closing the circuit to realize the Spirit’s power/promise flow.

e) We live in a creation that is continuously emitting God’s reality toward us. We need to be attentive, and also realize that His Kingdom runs on words, and particularly The Word. By watching and listening we can(‘t help but) sense the Spirit.

f) The likely call from the Spirit, from God, is a still small voice. The cacophony of the world voices can drown it out. We need to both (I) work at separating ourselves from the world’s noise and (II) improving our perceptual acuity.

g) The Word is power and truth … that can’t be emphasized too strongly.

h) We have to go deep…into the Word, into the truth, into love.

i) HEART REQUIREMENT ♥♥ …God may be waiting for us to become the kind of person that He really wants to talk to.

j) HEART REQUIREMENT ♥♥♥ …Our hearts must burn to be close to God, our hearts need to break for those things which break God’s heart. Our hearts need to break for those who are distant for God, for this is what breaks God’s heart.

REFERENCESRomans 81 Peter 12 Peter 1; Ephesians 1, 3, 6Hearing God by Dallas Willard; The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life by Charles Stanley

Posted by: robertartemenko | May 1, 2011

HugeGOD Headliners: Love Wins and Heaven is for Real

HugeGOD encourages cerebral Pilates … feeding the imagination, making our spirit’s lithe and hungry for our HugeGOD.

Two current bestsellers will contribute to this exercise.

(I) Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent

Today Show Matt Lauer interview with Todd and Colton Burpo ==>

There are a number of “white-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel” books out currently. Guess there have always been. This one’s different given the age and innocence of the traveller. Colton Burpo was not yet four when a burst appendix was mistaken for the flu and he nearly died. It was during this ordeal that he says he visited heaven, sat in the lap of Jesus, met his miscarried sister and witnessed what he described as a peaceful yet densely peopled landscape, very colorful, with “lots of animals.” You can read the rest of the detail and surrounding circumstances. There is NO forensic evidence here that this really happened nor proof beyond reasonable doubt that the “pearly gates” have something behind them. That proof is left to the student. I don’t know if this is true.

What I do believe is that it is hard to imagine a hoax, or the mindset that would draw in a four-year old and his siblings, being promoted and sustained by yarn spinning parents … would-be co-conspirators scheming their way toward a book and national media attention. This would reveal an all too new and fantastic category of flim-flam or sleeper cell. That said, were God to let slip a view of Heaven, it seems this approach could be a perfectly tuned innocent channel – a four-year old toe-head with flat-top. No, we have no pictures from a Predator UAV guncam nor Anderson Cooper satellite linking  reports back to us “keeping them honest.” No, just a kid without a Flip or cellphone who woke up and talked about what he saw.

Maybe it’s crass to say, but if there is no opportunity for my experiencing loving friendship and sonship with the creator God in Heaven, I am ready to pack it in now. On the other hand if heaven is real, if HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, I am really pumped. 1 Peter 1 talks about our receiving the “goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.” Heaven and that salvation are intimately connected, and exercising thoughts of both is a meditation, a form of hyper-thought. Focusing outside of  our normal track of how-much-space-do-I-have-on-my-DVR or got-to-get-to-the-ATM-tonight, toward the metaphysical issue of existence requires engaging a higher plane of consciousness. The Burpo experience brings that home as we witness a family experiencing things that families do, except all of a sudden they begin sparking as they intersect with the raw high voltage from another world. Just the idea of “another” world, another Kingdom, another order and existence – is enough to begin to short-out normalthink.

It’s good to stew and simmer in a whole other vision of where our life might be going – different from where Oprah or the New York Times might be pointing.

A lap for all of us to sit in, friends that love us eternally who don’t ever get “stage 4” anything, having bodies but without arthritis, minds without sadness, hearts without sorrow and tomorrows that never end – and we don’t want them to end because we are excited about every new dawn – in fact there are only dawns because night, darkness and death have been overcome.

We need to think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

(II) Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell

MSNBC Martin Bashir interview with Rob Bell==>

Rob Bell is creating a real mess. One reason we are to avoid discussing “religion and politics” is that we harbor reservoirs of orthodoxy, of-baked-in-opinion-turned-axiom, prone to prompt unavoidable and intense disagreements.

Without saying he is right or wrong, I believe Rob Bell does us all a great service by journeying back to the question of how Huge our HugeGOD’s love is. Inherent in his presentation is a prayer for us similar to Paul’s in Ephesians 3: 

 “16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. ”

Rob Bell is not changing the Gospel, so much as engaging in healthy periodic introspection to assure that we have not constrained its “width, length, height and depth” within mainstream evangelical theology. I believe in the absolute truth of the Bible as inspired and communicated by the perfect Holy Spirit to finite and imperfect humans. Over time, we humans have created models of what the gospel is, how it works, what’s in bounds and out, and the degrees of freedom for interpretation. You can even find “gospel” flowcharts on the internet. While this is not the standard media for theological discussion and education, it does point out that there are evolved and well-defined maps to heaven and hell. As important as these alternate destinations are, it is good that orthodoxy defines clear pathways. The point is that we need to be sure that since (1) God is Huge, (2) God is Love,  (3) God “desires all people to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4) and (4) God is infinite and mysterious,  that we in no way crimp the grace, mercy and love of God. God Himself declares in Isaiah 55 that His  “59ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts.”

This is a dilemma.

We got to get this right. This has to be clear. Bait and switching on the rules would lead to chaos. We can’t be giving any head fakes regarding heaven and hell, it’s just too important an issue.  And yet as important an issue as it is, should we not permit ourselves to wrestle and think over our “models” periodically. This is dangerous for sure. Scary.  Are we shaking the pillars of our faith – are we re-negotiating the “nonnegotiables,” are we putting Jesus-as-the-only-way on the block, the reliability of the Word? I think not. He expected us to move forward, otherwise He would not have said in John 14, ” I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

God welcomes our ongoing pursuit of Him, our continuing to discover new elements and dimensions of His awesomeness. There is no moratorium on divine revelation. He is still engaged with us through the Holy Spirit. He wants to be better known, to be in close fellowship, to be friends – in fact to connect continuously, as implied in 1 Thessalonians: ” 16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually;  18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

What is great about Love Wins is that it draws us in to its assertions and vision of the Gospel and requires us to think. To think about who God is, His purposes for us, what His love does, why heaven is good or hell is bad, and whether we actually begin participating in them here on earth before we pass.

Is Love Wins heresy?

Well, you’ll need to do a few things to determine that : (1) read the book and don’t speculate on hearsay, (2) determine what you believe about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and why – and what your sources are and then (3) examine the variances in the light of different (a) sources and authorities, (b) application of scripture and (c) rationale used. All this plus most importantly pray for wisdom and discernment for yourself.

A quick scan of the FAQs on Rob Bell’s Love Wins’ website is no substitute for reading the book, but it might have you back off from throwing another torch on the bonfire. He is violently challenging our thinking, but he is not degrading our Father God or Jesus Christ. If any thing, he seems to be questioning whether God’s grace might be more expansive and inclusive than less.

Frequently Asked Questions on Love Wins website==>

http://marshill.org/pdf/LoveWinsFAQs.pdf

I can’t help but think about Jonah. The first association is his being swallowed by the whale, but remember this was all about going to be God’s spokesperson and threatening doomsday for a “rogue nation,” an “evil empire.” After finally finding his way to Nineveh to deliver the reprimand, Jonah gets all upset when God doesn’t blast these bad boys. He goes off and sulks – he says he is so angry he could die. God knows what’s going on in his head and questions Jonah 4, “11But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

 I do not know if Rob Bell is right or wrong. But if the King of Nineveh in Jonah 3 could reasonably ask if God might have a little more mercy than seemed apparent, I do not think it is unreasonable for a godly teacher to do the same.

 “9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

DO YOU KNOW FOR CERTAIN?

GOD IS HUGE !

Posted by: robertartemenko | February 20, 2011

Black Holes and the Whitewhole

Yale University’s Peabody Museum is currently running an exhibit on Black Holes produced by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. My recent visit inspired a deeper look into this astounding phenomenon. The Hubble Telescope recently uncovered a “dust disk” in a distant galaxy (NGC7052) resembling a giant hubcap (Oldsmobile, Toyota?). This starry host, nearly 4,000 light years across, is being wolfed-down by a black hole at its center that has a mass 300 million times that of our sun.

http://space.about.com/od/blackholes/ig/Black-Holes-Pictures-/Hubble-Uncovers-Dust-Disk-arou.htm

The hubcap, likely originating from two ancient galaxies colliding, will be consumed, without Rolaids or Tums, over the next few billion years. Go figure … neither myself nor my golden retriever Duke have the bandwidth to comprehend this, though at least I can sense someone out there might have a bad day because of it.

The premise here is that while we embrace concepts of such mind numbing dimensions, we only infrequently associate them with the divine. We are generally stricken with a finite and marginalized concept of  God.  To make matters worse, our culture indoctrinates us in a way that presents the Hitlers and Napoleons as titanic, whereas God or Jesus are sort of homeless Andy of Mayberry types – wise, meandering in a daze, cajoling people to play nice. As curious pilgrims we possess few strategies and seemingly lesser interest in refining how we conceive of God – to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep”  He actually is (Ephesians 3:18). To know He who, during a break, on an off day, tossed that “hubcap” into the void, left-handed, yawning, one eye open…(if He had a hand, an eye, a break or an off day – which I think He does not ;  ).

By contrast, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) had definitive perspectives on the greatness of God. Today’s data explosion frustrates our ability to go deep – we find ourselves just skimming through the day. Plato, Augustine and Edwards himself, were philosopher-theologians who plumbed the mind and the heart, finding the infinite sans Hubble or Hawking. Like Tom Hanks castaways, their thought life involved examining the “unwired” world around them, ingeniously achieving insights through continuous application of simple truths until right combinations unlocked the profound.

A framework for God-think which Edwards and Augustine explored was the concept of the Trinity, the proposition that God is one divine entity in three inseparable persons. This was better defined in the first few centuries AD, and made official church doctrine in the release of the Nicene Creed in 325. Debate surrounding the doctrine continues. Whenever man attempts to look outside of his mortal space toward the immortal, his eyes cross, his tongue is tied and it is hard to reach consensus. While this is bad for writing encyclopedias and wiki’s, it is all together appropriate when the creature attempts to comprehend the creator, when we attempt to explain “Another,” that is wholly “Other.” I would emphatically assert that this debate about God’s essence should be embraced and not avoided. The tension arising from disagreement on how to describe it is not so much like contradictory witnesses at an accident scene, but instead multiple viewers struggling to comprehend a spectacular sunset.

Jonathan Edwards in fact incorporated the spirit of competing theories in his own theology. He toggled between two of his own models of the Trinity, this multiplicity primarily driven by the complexities in comprehending God’s implicit “otherness.” It also seems that his general openness to different thinking and tolerance of  creative theological propositions, accidentally enrolled him in intellectual Pilates that enriched both his models and expanded his capacity to process divine mysteries. He clearly did not have all the answers, but he does set an example of the level of intentionality, creativity and perseverance required to go deeper into better understanding God.

What about his two Trinitarian models?

INTERNAL SELF COMMUNICATION MODEL : IMMANENT GLORIFICATION – This model characterizes the Trinity as a totally contained, indivisible divine atom. Impregnable bonds of loving goodwill, holiness and beauty seal its singularity. He presents the hypothesis that the Father as “Fountain of the Deity” can contemplate Himself so perfectly, that His reflection duplicates Himself in the form of the Son, “the Express Image of the Father’s Person.”  This relates to our general understanding of the Son as Logos, the Word, the overflowing expression of God’s love. The Holy Spirit is seen as the boundless love binding affection between Father and Son. This Pair continuously switch from Lover, to Beloved of the Other, while their connection, as mentioned before, the Holy Spirit, is the “Love” Itself, the DNA of this mystic Triunion.  Augustine attempted to explain this along the lines of human brain function. Consider please … We all have a MEMORY, we can WILL to focus on something in our memory, then after we have remembered and willed ourselves to focus on that something, we can actually be THINKING about it. While there is only one “something,” in play, there were three indivisible aspects of it, the (1) memory of it, the (2) will to consider it and the (3) thinking about it. Consolidating Edward’s theory, memory is associated with the lover (Father), the thought is associated with the beloved (Son) and the will to love, with love itself (Spirit).  This makes my head hurt!  One wonders, “why exercise these mental gymnastics?” Of all the things that are to be known, ultimately  “Who Creator Is,” is first on the list. Our view of who He is drives our relationship with Him – also our loves, fears, hope and our plan for this life. In my small brain, I think that if I can conceive of a form of the divine, it could not possibly be accurate, because God’s Kingdom would always be “more,” always beyond my comprehension. That said, no intellectual journey is as important as the one to determine who God is and what His relationship is to me.

THE SOCIAL MODEL : TRANSCENDENT COMMUNITY – This model characterizes the trinity as a community unified by a perfect confluence of love and purpose. Because God is perfect  love, it must exist with its beloved, and a third to validate the relationship between the lover and beloved. Amy Platingua Pauw summarizes Edwards assertion in an essay on the Trinity, saying that ” the perfection of any person is found in loving another person. A mere duality of persons would not suffice, because there would be no opportunity to  communicate and share the delights of their mutual happiness. Therefore the Trinity must contain three persons.”  Edwards references 1 John 4. It is good to restate that portion of Scripture here:

7 Dear friends, let us love one another,  for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

In his “Miscellanies,” Edwards asserts per this passage “that there are more persons than one in the Deity: for it shows love to be essential and necessary to the Deity, so that the nature consists in it; and this supposes that there is an eternal and necessary object, because all love respects another, that is, the beloved.”

Remembering the reference above to the Trinity as Lover/Beloved/Love, as Father/Son/Spirit, consider the role of a Notary Public as the third element of the Trinity that, “seals” a document. An agreement is similar to “love” because at a minimum you need two parties for each to exist and to manifest themselves. That said, most agreements must be validated with a “seal” from a third person who “stands” for the agreement (as the Holy Spirit “stands” for the “love” between Father and Son.) In fact we see in Ephesians 4:30  that you should, “not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” The Godhead then follows through logically as a community that is LOVE, and the only proper, orderly and right way for it to “be Love” is not flying solo. The Bible logically aligns with this framework, a unified swirl of Lover/Beloved/Love, because otherwise He who is  Himself  LOVE, would not be exhibiting it, projecting it, in his nature.

Edwards carried these two views of the Trinity according to Pauw “not as two conflicting blueprints of the inner life of the Godhead but as complementary linguistic resources narrating God’s saving work.”  This goes back to the validity of exercising multiple descriptions of a sunset because we have an inadequate vocabulary to capture its total form. To help ourselves and others understand, we create a set of descriptions which, while they each can standalone with their own internal consistency, having both in play contribute to our total understanding.

Back to the premise of this essay, which is that while we might take time to go to an exhibition on black holes and develop a framework to conceive the enormity of the universe, we seem to have little energy to exercise due diligence to appreciate the hugeness of the creator.  As said before, we are generally complacent with a finite and marginalized concept of God.

This was certainly not the case with Jonathan Edwards. He invested the work required to better understand God. The good news for us is that we have conceptual-farmers like Edwards who have plowed the rocky soil before us. Yes we should do our own tilling, but we have other input to complement how we build our worldviews, the scope and truth of which shape our destiny.

Edwards’ use of these two trinitarian models and the ruminating behind each created a platform from which he would take his God-think even further. For me, I have been blessed with drafting in the wake of his thinking related to our redemption through the Father’s love and Christ’s loving sacrifice, underpinned by the Holy Spirit before the world was created. This infinite Godhead had a plan from before the beginning, had love from before the beginning, had consent among themselves before the beginning, had a covenant with us before we were born, that had as their purpose to invite us into Their community. The punchline ==> The (Model 1) perfect image of God’s Glory mirrored within Himself, revealing the other members of the Trinity, and (Model 2) God’s being Love itself which requires Him to be socially connected beyond Himself,  combine to OVERFLOW AND ABSORB US INTO DIVINE COMMUNITY. Are we to become God(s), … certainly NOT. Are we to join in this infinite overflowing-with-love-and-grace community for an eternity, absolutely YES. Just as all matter within the event horizon of the black hole is drawn back toward the center of blackness, so all the believers abiding within the covenant of God’s grace will be drawn into the center of Community Light, the Kingdom of God, and the wholeness therein.

So while some of us may have sought to understand black holes which are so great – so powerful – so enormous – so beyond our thinking, and yet still strain to get our minds around them because of the exhilaration we feel as new thoughts ignite neurons on the fringes of our comprehension, spawning radical ideas that are so beyond ourselves – PLEASE ALSO INVEST YOUR THINKING IN THE WHITEWHOLE.

What is THE WHITEWHOLE? The Whitewhole is the Godplace toward which we are pulled by the gravitational force of the Father’s covenant,  available to us in Son, by the Power of the Holy Spirit, through our faith in that covenant,  TO  JOIN  THEM in divine community. God so overflows with Himself. God so overflows with love. God so overflows with wanting to be in community. God So overflows in wanting to see Himself in our eyes. God so overflows with wanting to us to see ourselves in His eye/eyes/whatever (can you imagine that for or a moment) that His WHOLE plan for history, HIStory, is not complete until believers are all gathered back in his warm, peaceful, protected, fear free, anxiety free, joy filled embrace.  An eternal place where we know more about Him each day, and yet have still infinitely more to know about his goodness and love for us.

This is a Call to stretch our minds. These days, we stretch them to buy a new phone and get off  AT&T once-and-for-all, to Skype with distant loved ones, to calculate how much money the government gets and … how terrible those black holes are.

Commit now to pursue The Whitewhole, to elevate your trajectory… and be pulled toward the a community of Wholeness, a Kingdom where there is no darkness, just light from the Persons of the HugeGOD.

Edwards recognized the Whitewhole, contrasting it with the “pleasant accommodations” of earthly life:  “These are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops; but God is the ocean.”

The Apostle Paul throughout Romans 8 recognized the Whitewhole and in its summary verses described our New Community with God:

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[c] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Tim Hughes in his song Almighty God recognizes the Whitewhole:                                                                                                                                                                                                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYEGe5r2PK0

The rising Sun that fills the sky
The starry host that lights the night
Reflecting Your glory

The mountain heights, forever stand
The rain that falls to soak the land
Respond to Your glory

The vast expanse of earth and sea
Held by You in harmony
Speaks of Your glory

All You’ve made, since time began
Life itself; Your perfect plan
And it’s all for Your glory

Chorus:
Almighty God, in every way
You are above and beyond understanding
If we did not praise, the rocks would cry out
Glorious God, high above understanding

Creation joins as one to sing
“What A Glorious God.”
So far above all earthly things

Almighty God, in every way
You are above and beyond understanding
If we did not praise, the rocks would cry out
Glorious God, high above understanding

+++   +++   +++

Thank you Almighty God for being so You, and desiring, from before time, to live in community with us.

Lets pray that the noise and busyness of the day do not distract us from rigorously pursuing a better understanding of the love, joy and peace of the Whitewhole.
Posted by: robertartemenko | February 8, 2011

James Chapter One, “An ace that I can keep …”

Our Church is going through a sermon series on James. Chapter one, like much of the Bible, reflects pragmatic instruction on how to deal with life’s curveballs. For many of us, a deficit can be operating largely unaware of such divine resources. While there is mystery surrounding HugeGOD and His Word, there are also many, plain, practical parables and discussions that matter-of-factly direct and equip us.

In the Kenny Rogers’ song, The Gambler, a young apprentice gets “an ace (he) can keep.” The master says,  “You’re gonna play the game, boy, You gotta learn to play it right.” He goes on to tell him:

“You’ve got to know
When to hold ’em,
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away,
Know when to run.
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done.”

One would hope that we are as savvy and intent about “playing it right” in our lives as the apprentice is about drawing the cards he needs for his fullhouse.

In the same way that most any hand can be a winner or a loser depending on how it’s played, our live’s are subject to the same application of winning practices. James shares in chapter one that our field of play is not flat, it’s more like we’re moving on a ridgeline that dramatically falls off to our right and left.  Depending on our world view, especially as it relates to the value of trials, sources of wisdom, understanding our nature, having faith and identifying our true treasure we will gravitate toward a valley of death, or toward a river of life.

We either seek God’s wisdom from (and in) his Word, embrace purifying trials faithfully, and grow into strong individuals whose enthusiam flows outward to those in need, or we collapse under life’s challenges, lacking faith, selling out to our appetites and imploding into decay and death.

This “Deogram” summarizes the first chapter and lays out symbolically the ridgeline that we travel in life.

 

While there are definitely expeditions that start down one side and reverse themselves, over the term of a full life, we are pulled largely one way or the other. We get our whole life to figure this out, but like many journeys, after a while the momentum we establish and it’s associated entaglements, seal our ultimate direction. The other challenge of course is not knowing exactly how much time we have got to travel, so our intentionality is not something to pause or postpone.

 So, if “you’re gonna play the game, boy, you gotta learn to play it right.” You will find an ace in this ace chapter of James!

 

Posted by: robertartemenko | January 24, 2011

Everyone Grows Something – What’s Hijacking Your Harvest?

Last spring my pastor Josh Hanson preached on how, “Everyone is growing something.”  This statement is tied to what is called God’s “harvest law” as laid out in Galatians 6:7-9 ” Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Charles Stanley later that summer reaffirmed the same message, relating how farmers well know that planting beans won’t yield peas. The consequences of our acts align with their essential bearing, yielding themselves in greater quantity and impact than the original seed. Think, grain of corn ==> cobs, acorn ==> oak tree, or split atom ==> chain reaction.

The harvest principle is important to understanding the nature of our HugeGOD’s creation and how we live in it. Just remember your kid-life, the harvest law is in your bones. Did you go to bed at 8:30 pm, or goof off till midnight? Did you study or watch TV? … You can extend this easily to myriad questions regarding diet, climate appropriate garb or practicing to build skills. If you are the average Ozzie or Harriet, having grown up in a reasonably intact Nelsonesque home, and had acquaintances with dramatically different backgrounds, you’ve witnessed harvest dynamics.  While we should not get stuck micromanaging our every move, we should acquire principles and priorities of best practices. Remember, the thought is not “to harvest or not to harvest.” We are all growing something. Outputs define our character and our lives, our country and our world, and the destinies of each.

With the thought of being intentional about our personal harvest, what perspective should we have? May I suggest:

0) THEOLOGY – Matthew 22:37-40 “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. ’ ” GOD IS … LOVE.

1) TRUTH – Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” CAREFULLY INTERNALIZE TRUTH.

2) TREASURE – Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” STORE LASTING  TREASURE.

3) TACTICS – 2 Peter 1:5-8 “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” EMPLOY PRODUCTIVE TACTICS.

4) TRAINING – Ephesians 6:10-13 ” Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. ” TRAIN FOR TRIALS.

5) TRUST – James 1:2-4 ”Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” TRUST TO COMPLETION.

6) THANKSGIVING – Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” THANK GOD ALWAYS.

7) TRIUMPH – 1 Corinthians 15:51b-55 ”  …but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” KNOW GOD TRIUMPHS.

To summarize:

GOD IS … LOVE.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 CAREFULLY INTERNALIZE TRUTH.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 STORE LASTING  TREASURE.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        EMPLOY PRODUCTIVE TACTICS.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                TRAIN FOR TRIALS.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      TRUST TO COMPLETION.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 THANK GOD ALWAYS.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             KNOW GOD TRIUMPHS.

No magic formula here. Certainly no guarantee for riches in this life. And, there are other good lists and exhortations to put one’s life on a positive trajectory. These elements though reflect sound principles and practices that can be used to take charge of what comes out of your life. They might also be a good diagnostic to help you and I understand why the composition of our life’s harvest is the way it is … because we are always growing something.

 
  
Posted by: robertartemenko | July 19, 2010

Bronx Cathedral

Home of the Bombers and their faithful

 Last Saturday I experienced my first ballgame at the reborn Yankee Stadium for the sixty-forth Old-Timers Day. WHAT – A – MONUMENT! It’s not the tallest or most capacious venue, but I doubt that any team has built an edifice that so aggressively attempted to capture their history or brand or aspiration (Should I say destiny?). If you set the Roman Coliseum next to it and any other ballpark, there is no doubt  which would have greater affinity to antiquity. The grand arches, imposing porticos and bold cast stone facade look like something a crusader would glimpse with foreboding. The hint of protruding bleacher buttresses murmur hymns of the dramatic battles to be resolved within. The innate symmetry – solemnity – fortitude, bespeak Dynasty !, Kingdom!! nay, Empire (like it’s congregants license plates) !!! The approach across the dedicated Metro North RR bridge, the ascension from street level to enter therein, prepare the candidate for “induction” not admittance. My host commented that as much as he liked the new place, it was a bit too “corporate” for him. Certainly accurate, yet “corporate”  more like the Sistine Chapel compared to a country parish…harkenning to the difference between General Electric and a lemonade stand.  

And that’s just the outside! After the faithful have their tickets scanned, widow’s paying their “mitish” $5 for an obstructed bleacher seat, the Pharisees offering $250 for field level cushioned pews, all fans transition into the three-story “Great Hall.” This “Nave of the Bomber Apostles,” displays ~50 foot player banners, from the Bambino to the Chairman of Board, from Maris to Mantle from Lefty to Lou, on to Yogi, Joe, Jackson and Munson (Sounds like George’s reindeer). Majestically draped and illuminated by long Palladian windows and skylights above, they trace the Yankee world from its creation, to its ascendance, to dominance in the baseball universe. While  would-be monks would have gasped and grown speechless catching their first glimpse of the emerald-green turf , they are now ambushed and humbled by the graphic history of these titans, before we even see where they take the field.  

The Great Hall

 So what’s the deal? Did I like the Stadium or not? Is it great or not? Has any other team captured 27 world championships? Who else would deserve such a Mansion-Mueseum-Mausoleum-Monument-Mecca?  

In April, 1521, Martin Luther preached a sermon on the “Three Kinds of Good Life for the Instruction of Consciences.” Contained within was a sentence, “Whatever it is that makes a man do something, that motive is his god.” Similar to Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The Point?  

First, what is NOT the point.  

It is not that George Steinbrenner is evil.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              -or that the Yankees are undeserving and other than the supreme franchise in professional sport.                                                                                                                                                                           -or that I did not get chills up my spine when I walked into the place, cause  I did, both up and down.                                                                                                                                                                     -or not that I wouldn’t have wanted to spend 20 years as a Yankee pitcher v.34 years at IBM.  

The point is, such encounters should be a gut check to what the culture’s priorities and aspirations are. Ask most New Yorker’s to do a word association with “Glory” or “Majesty” or “Savior,” you are likely to get 27 Championships, Empire State Building, Mariano Riviera – doubt that you would get too many folks to say Father, Son or Holy Spirit. I have to admit, I would be in the same boat. My head is so filled with power brand impressions tickling my passions, it’s really hard to live one’s life out of “priority needs” v. the “desirable wants” that some advertising budget has stimulated.  

No, not all is lost, but we better wake up and wonder why we, our culture, our country build $1.3 Billion recreational centers like this one (yo, what was the problem with the old place), but my town of Fairfield CT was traumatized and could not handle building what they called a new “mega” church that would have held all 1500 attendees. Now granted, there were serious “green issues” to deal with; vernal ponds, disruption of salamander reproductive cycles and need to “roll back” the property to pre-construction pristinity. But hey, would someone please tell me why God does not come up on our radar as more glorious, majestic or HUGE than He seems to? Yes, there are new church buildings, and Fairfield CT will likely accept a smaller house of God on Black Rock Turnpike. And, there are great ceremonies worldwide that honor God. And, before we build a new stadium, there may be a Gospel concert in the Bronx. That said, where are the new Chartres or Notre Dames? Among the ~50,000 at the Stadium on Saturday, many were clothed in $150 authentic pinstriped game jerseys by Majestic and $30 authentic New Era MLB hats. Not bad, not evil, but just wondering how much I prepare myself before I throw my khakis on and drag myself to church.  

So, after my visit to this marvelous venue last Saturday, I am asking myself how much I and the world around me, want to satisfy our wants – rejoice in our glory – promote our agenda – seek our comfort  versus …  

MT 22:37  ” Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  39 “Love your neighbor as yourself.”                                                                                                                                                                                    MT 6:33       seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   MIC 6:8     “ act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
  
Enjoy your summer vacation and certainly get the tickets, toys and treats that make it fun. Please put such acquisitions in perspective, and realize there are many non-neutral influences out there wanting to tilt your priorities and appetites every which way. Let’s stay the course set for us by God, and be aware of the ones that are being constantly presented to us.    

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