Saturday, October 13, 2018

Understanding our spiritual center

One important truth I have revealed in my series on the human heart from a Biblical perspective, is that it's our spiritual center. Spirituality isn't always the easiest thing to define, even with those of the same faith, since various people view it very differently. Yet, there may be a good reason for that, as I have recently discovered through the spirituality wheel.

The spirituality wheel breaks down Christian spiritually into four main types. Which is something we might not have not considered before, because we've assumed that spirituality is a one size fits all experience. Which would explain why there is so much conflict in the church over worship. We are assuming what arouses our spirit is somehow universal, so we feel there’s nothing wrong with imposing our tendencies on everyone, and opposing all else.

I say this because with every spiritual type there is also a danger, a weakness if you will. I have witnessed every single one of these dangers played out in churches that I have been a part of. Unapologetically I might add, which never produces fruitful results. So I believe it of incredible value to take this to heart so that we can set aside the emotions that cause us to follow “self." Then start to value others above ourselves as Jesus wanted us to. We can do this by seeking to understand one another's differences of heart, instead of just criticize those who are spiritually different from us.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, -Philippians 2:3

Type 1 ● Head Spirituality
This is an intellectual thinking spirituality that favors concrete rules, and the easily defined. People attracted to this form of spirituality tend to be rational and logical, valuing precision in their behavior. A real world example would be John Calvin.

Their Spiritual danger is rationalism. Expressing one's spiritual life through legalism, with a consequent loss of inner conviction, yet very condemning of others. Sometimes seen as cold and indifferent.

Type 2 ● Heart Spirituality
For the heart spiritual, God is experienced more through the heart than the head. Since God is love, their belief is that he must be known through love, not simply known through ideas. The result is a more charismatic spirituality with the aim to achieve holiness. A real world example would be John Wesley.

Their Spiritual danger is excessive emotionalism, the belief that emotion is the test of the validity of a person's spiritual experience. Often confusing emotion for the spirit. Can lead to an "us against the world" mentality that fails to recognize the spiritual experience of those in other religious traditions.

Type 3 ● Mystical Spirituality
Emphasizes the mystery of God and sees God as too big to fully comprehend fully in our small mortal state. Not that it necessarily stops them from seeking as much understanding as possible. People attracted to this type of spirituality are often contemplative and intuitive. They emphasize the process of spirituality, seeing it as a journey. A real world example would be Thomas Merton.

Their Spiritual danger is being reclusive. They often distance themselves from one size fits all cultures and institutions that try to put God in a box. Resulting in retreat from church community, and from interaction with the world. Often seen as passive.

Type 4 ● Social Justice Spirituality
Such people are active visionaries who are single-minded with a deeply focused, almost crusading, type of spirituality. Their Goal is simply to obey God by living with mission. In so doing, transform society by contributing to the establishment of God’s Kingdom. A real world example would be St. Francis of Assisi.

Their spiritual danger lies in a moralistic and unrelenting tunnel-vision that excludes or judges others who do not share their passion for putting faith into action.

Remember that the Biblical word for heart is very much associated with personality as well. So as you can see, these type definitions show us that the heart is absolutely where the spirit and personality meet.

I have said it repeatedly, but I must keep saying it until the Biblical model of church is truly achieved. The body of Christ, which is the church, is meant to be diverse. Every part having unique talents, skills, and gifts. With that comes unique needs, personality, and weaknesses as well. Which apparently extends to how we engage spirituality as well. If we do not honor and recognize that, we produce only conflict and create alienation of those who are made differently. Which is not beneficial for the unity of the kingdom of God at all. In the end, we need the "head" types to keep us on the straight and narrow. The "heart" types to remind us that the straight and narrow is meant be an act of love for God, not just an obligation. The "social justice" types to remind us that what we do, and don't do unto others, we do unto God as well. And the "mystic" types to remind us that all types are needed to create a strong and vital church that truly acknowledges the grandness of God to the best of our ability. This can't happen though if we look at the world through our emotions and judge everything through the standard of self.

Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to an other, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God -Romans 7:4

If I’ve peaked your curiosity at all, the link below will lead you to a quiz to identify your spiritual type with more detailed descriptions.

The Spirituality Wheel PDF

a person seeing everything in a distorted way by looking at it though a filter of self.
click to enlarge

Saturday, October 6, 2018


The phrase broken-hearted appears in the Bible four times. If we read these verses with the common understanding of the word heart, we will likely assume it is merely referring to emotional wounds or lost love. Yet, if we read it with the proper Biblical understanding of the word, we will realize it goes far deeper than that. With the heart being more about personality, and our spiritual center, we can see our very self is broken when our heart is.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. -Psalm 34:18
Here, we see a direct correlation between heart and spirit. Do we have the same compassion for the broken as the Lord does though?

For he never thought of doing a kindness, but hounded to death the poor and the needy and the brokenhearted. -Psalm 109:16
Here, David is talking about the wicked, and how they tend to victimize the broken-hearted, instead of show compassion. What will happen to the broken-hearted if believers don't intervene?

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. -Psalm 147:3
What the Lord wants to do with the broken-hearted, not enable or indulge their brokenness, but heal it.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, -Isaiah 61:1
A prophecy about the Messiah, and his mission, and how the broken-hearted fit into that. Which reveals something what it means to be truly Christ like.

Do you have a better perspective on what it means to be broken-hearted and its potential ramifications on the spirit? That if one is broken they may be unable to conceptualize the way, and the importance of the spirit; especially if they have been routinely used by the world. Why it's important to address the brokenness in the heart first, instead of start with obedience that takes a strong spirit to achieve. However, a better question would be, what are you going to do about that?

The Visual PARABLEist

A person standing on a broken heart and the cracks are running into his body.
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Saturday, September 29, 2018

The heart of a leader

While going through the book of First Samuel one theme in particular stood out, as far as the heart is concerned. That theme being leadership. It seems the heart of a leader is particularly important to God. In this case I think it’s best to just let the scripture speak for itself.

Stated to the high priest Eli who displeased the Lord, and right before Samuel was called to be a prophet.
I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always.
-1 Samuel 2:35

Saul was just looking for his Donkeys; Samuel was looking for the future king of Israel.
“I am the seer,” Samuel replied. “Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will send you on your way and will tell you all that is in your heart.
-1 Samuel 9:19

What we see after Saul was anointed king.
As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day.
-1 Samuel 10:9

Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched.  But some scoundrels said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent.
-1 Samuel 10:26-27

What Saul was told when he lost favor in the eyes of God.
But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”
-1 Samuel 13:14

Samuel was told this when looking for Saul’s replacement. 
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
-1 Samuel 16:7

Although David was chosen by God to be a man after his own heart, his own brothers could not see what God saw. Consider that when judging your leaders.
When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”
-1 Samuel 17:28

a man before a double edged sword of authority within a stone shaped like a heart
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Friday, September 21, 2018

Melting Hearts

I started this series on the human heart because I found out the word heart in the Bible’s original languages of Hebrew, and Greek did not have the same connection to emotions as our English word does. However, we should not assume that the opposite extreme is true, that the heart has absolutely nothing to do with emotions at all. In my pursuit to look up every reference to heart in the Bible, I have found a few emotions applied to the word heart. However, so far every instance the emotion mentioned is always the result of an outside influence, a response to a situation, the emotion does not originate within the heart. Also, every instance so far has been very negative. When emotion is interjected into our hearts, it's typically a bad sign. Until I find an example of a positive emotion being interjected into the heart, I cannot comment on the possibility of a positive counterpoint.

For now let's look closer at the heart being adversely effected by emotion, specifically fear. In Deuteronomy 1:28, it points out that fear overtaking the hearts of the people kept the Israelites from entering the promised land. In Joshua 2:11 and 5:1 we see that fear has flip-flopped to the native people living in the promised land, as the Israelites again enter the land after forty years of transformation. It uses the same phrase I might add. We see the same phrase again in Joshua 7:5, and the wording and context on this one caught my eye and inspired me to write about it today. The context being that the Israelites have fallen into sin again, and for that reason have lost the Lord's favor; therefore, they lose a battle in taking the promised land.

. . . At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water. -Joshua 7:5 b 

There are two prominent implications with this verse. 

1.The state of their heart was like ice, implying that it was sin that made their heart grow cold. 

2. Since the Bible word for heart is mostly indicative of personality, being afraid causes it to dissipate like melting ice. Giving into fear effectively causes us to lose ourselves.

Now let’s build upon this idea by looking at Joshua 14:8-9, where Joshua himself is talking about the past.

but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’ -Joshua 14:8-9

Which drives the concept further by indicating that fear keeps us from doing anything wholeheartedly. No wonder the Lord did not give us a spirit of fear. (Romans 8:15) It robs us of all our strength and passion to commit to God, and his mission for us. 

Is your church only going through the motions half heartedly? Then maybe sin has caused their hearts to grow cold. Maybe that coldness has made them susceptible to the spirit of fear, and has melted their passion away, making your church as solid as water. Valid questions we should all ask ourselves not just as individuals, but collectively as a church as well. Do you have a melting heart?

a warm-hearted person among the cold-hearted.
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Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Heart of Obedience

Recently, I had a discussion with someone who was switching churches, and he alluded that the reason was that he was hungry for "black and white" teaching. He's hardly the first, or only person I've come across like this. The problem I have with such an attitude is that I can't fit things like salvation, forgiveness, or grace into a strictly black and white model, since nobody could be saved that way. Either the gospel would be so permissive that it would not actually be "set apart" from this broken world. Or it would be so strict that we would all be condemned.

These days you often see “black and white” Christians accusing other ministries for preaching an incomplete gospel. The irony of this is that these accusers are typically devoid of love. They are impatient, unkind, rude, and critical of those who don’t live up to their standards. Which leaves out a very critical part of Jesus’ gospel. Which is why they discourage more than they inspire.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” -John 13:34-35

Such people are all about definitions. Live up to that definition or lose their approval, and be subject to their forced submission via criticism. Being all about definitions they get fixated on behavior, and obedience; even if it's just whitewash. Never the heart of the issues at hand; and the sinner’s heart is often broken by this fallen world. Something a loving disciple who can see past their own nose should address when reaching out.

Consider the book of Deuteronomy. It's about God's relationship with mankind through worship and obedience. Yet it's more poetic than systematic, and it mentions the heart thirty times. There are only four other books of the Bible that mentions the heart more often. So obviously the heart is critical in producing obedience. Definitions by themselves are inadequate to produce genuine transformation. Definitions are a start, but unless we live them from the heart our holiness will be merely surface, insincere, and far from complete.

My challenge to you this week is to examine your heart, and consider why it struggles with obedience. So you may address the root, not just condemn the action.

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. -Deuteronomy 4:29

then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. -Deuteronomy 8:14

Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. -Deuteronomy 15:10

a person with a frozen heart, unable to take action
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Saturday, September 8, 2018

Reminders for the heart

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord your God.’”-Numbers 15:37-41 

Our hearts often want what the eyes crave, if they are not absolutely right with God yet. Which has a way of leading us astray. Yet, no matter how often our hearts get us into trouble, it doesn't always stop us from following it blindly. Hence, the need for a reminder, so we can remember to make deliberate, righteous, and reasonable choices from the heart. Instead of rash, and hasty decisions from our emotions, which we are prone to do if we assume feelings are truth.

What kind of reminders to examine your heart before acting do you implement? Or maybe you should start implementing a reminder of some sort, if you've wasted far too much time following your lustful heart blindly to disastrous results.

“Our longing for life keeps confusing us about the purpose of life.“-John Eldredge, Moving Mountains

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. -Deuteronomy 6:4-9

a person following their flying heart right over a cliff.
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Saturday, September 1, 2018

Fat Heart?

Doing this series on understanding the human heart, I could not help thinking back to a post I did a little over a year ago on Matthew 13:15. In it I pointed out that a literal translation from the Greek would have referred to the heart as "fat." However, most translations take a more functionally equivalent approach and substitute fat with words like calloused, hard, dull, or gross. Even very literal word for word translations like King James, and New American Standard have a hard time staying absolutely literal with this verse. All because culturally it just does not translate well. However in retrospect, I'm starting to wonder if the real problem isn't this misunderstanding of the word heart that I have been highlighting.

For example, if I used the phrase 'fat and lazy emotions' as we often apply to the word heart, it doesn't make much sense.

Yet, if we apply it as we should define the word heart, with phrases like 'fat and lethargic spirit' or 'fat and apathetic personality' it works much better.

Which begs the question, is this what Jesus was really trying to say? That some people are morbidly obese in personality and spirit, which leads to an inactive and sedentary faith. It works in context, with Jesus referring to people who were unwilling to look beyond their own nose to discern the truth in his words.

Considering how so many in the church are exuding such passivity these days. With so many Christians bypassing the complexities of the heart and only demanding intellectual explanations much like the Pharisees did two-thousand years ago. With so many so called Disciples offering only legalistic and insincere application of said explanations. Suddenly the verse, and the concept of a fat heart becomes far more relevant to me. What does it stir in you?

It was difficult finding an absolutely literal translation here, but I did find a couple. This one sounded the least wooden.

The people’s hearts have turned to flab; their ears are clogged; their eyes are shut. They will try to see, but they will not see; they will try to hear, but they will not hear; they will try to understand, but they will not comprehend. If they, with their blindness and deafness, so choose, then I will heal them.
-Matthew 13:15 VOICE

An adult wanting to be spoon fed.
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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Circumcised Heart?

Leviticus 26:41 is but the first of many references to the concept of the circumcised heart in scripture. However, the reference in Deuteronomy 30:6 is better for the sake of explanation.

The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.

Well what in world does this mean? A literal circumcision was an external sign that you agreed to be in a covenant type relationship with God. Yet, if the history of Israel teaches us anything, it's that this one time external action did not help one to live up to that covenant. I liken it to a virtual signature, or a letter intent if you will. As we all know, there is often a huge disconnect between intent, and what actually happens in any agreement; even when we enter it with sincerity.

This is where the heart comes in. As we have mentioned in past posts, the heart is our spiritual center Biblically speaking. Everything we do, weather it is good, bad, or indifferent is a reflection upon where our heart is at. So if we have a hard time living up to our side of the covenant, and live a holy life, it's a sign of a heart problem. So when God says he aims to circumcise our heart, it means he wants to transform our heart so that we can love him better via holiness. We will not be able to live a truly righteous life without a "circumcised" heart.

If our heart is God's focus, then it needs to be ours as well. Otherwise, we are just addressing the symptom, and not the illness. Which can be sort of like painting over rust. It looks great for awhile, but it always bleeds through in time. Just as it does when we focus only on behavior and ignore the root cause, which is the heart.

I dare say that is just what many of us are doing, focusing on the surface, keeping us perpetually immature in the spirit. So we keep having to address the same issues repeatedly, just as the ancient Hebrews did.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. -Luke 6:45

someone fixing their heart
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Saturday, August 18, 2018

A heart for decision

For part two of my exploration of what the Bible reveals about the human heart we will be looking at Exodus 28. This passage takes place just after God's covenant with The Israelites is confirmed, and an order and means of worship were being established, including the priestly garments that Aaron and his sons would wear. There is definitely something worth noting when we get to the breast-piece of decisions. Two very specific things went over the heart of the priest when making choices.

The first thing was the names of the twelve sons of Israel, AKA Jacob. (Verse 29) The twelve tribes of the nation of Israel were named after Jacob's sons. So it was not just a nod to where they came from, but who they were as a people.

The second thing was the Urim and the Thummim. (Verse 30) Which were objects used in casting lots. A systematic practice used to discern the will of God.

So what is the takeaway from all this? What significance can we glean from what the priests were meant to keep near their hearts.

  • Where our heart is at is important in making Godly decisions.
  • Choices are for the benefit of all the community of believers, not just self. Those whose hearts are inclined to evil will surely be tempted to be more focused on self than community. A Godly heart is interested in the common good. Nor does it assume that what is good for self is by default good for everyone; unlike the self-centered.
  • The practice of casting lots would eliminate emotions, and self out of their decisions. Re-enforcing the idea that our western notions about the heart are not 100% accurate. (Remember last time we established that the Hebrew word for heart was not associated with emotions as it is the English word.)

You've probably heard the phrase "think with your heart" while there may be some truth in the sentiment; unfortunately, it has become a truth distorted in western culture. All because we assume that means we should  let our emotions decide for us. Let's face it, emotionally charged decisions can often be very bad and misguided choices. They are often motivated by self and pay little regard for others, which has a habit of coming back to haunt us. A very unchristian way of approaching life that hinders our path to holiness, and discipleship greatly. So clearly we need to rethink our relationship with our emotions.

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? -Mark 2:8

Ecclesiastes 3:11
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Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Human Heart?

If you watch the show American Pickers or Pawn Stars, you will see people buying and selling unique, historic, and valuable items. Sometimes they can make a deal, sometimes not. Usually, when they can't it's because the seller "feels" it's worth more than it really is. It doesn't usually matter what kind of experts are brought in, or what kind of facts they present them with. If they "feel" it is worth so much, then that is the reality they insist upon, despite the truth.

However, we see this dynamic on more than just cable reality shows; people are prone to treat their emotions as truth in every aspect of their lives. Emotions are not necessarily truth though, for the simple fact that we are just as prone to react emotionally to inaccurate information as fact. Plus, past traumas can cause us to react in exaggerated ways.

It was this very concept that inspired me to do a sermon on the subject. Yet, my initial research came up with some rather surprising findings. The first thing I did was to do a keyword search of the word emotion, and surprisingly there was nothing. The word emotion never appears once in the New International Version, King James Version, or the New American Standard Bible, the three most influential English translations ever. So I tried the words feel, and feelings. While there were a few instances there, none of them really defined or explained what our relationship to our emotions should be generally speaking. So I figured I could use the word heart, I knew there was hundreds of references to that word, which I thought should offer some insight into feelings. Instead of assume though, I looked up the Biblical words for heart to make sure this was an accurate way to address emotions from a scriptural stand point, and this is what I found.

In the Bible, the word heart usually designates the whole personality, instead of emotions. Scripturally speaking the heart is the center of the human person, in which the physical and spiritual life is concentrated.

Definitely not what I was expecting to find, yet in a way it was exactly the answer I was seeking. If we recognize the heart as the core of self, yet wrongfully believe that manifests through emotion alone, one will naturally assume their feelings are truth. Plus it also explains why the Bible offers no blanket insights into emotions, but addresses each one individually. If they were inherently lies or truth, it would surely say so. Yet, neither of these common extremist views hold any water Biblically speaking.

In that moment, I realized my intended message was far too big a subject to be able to tackle in a week, and do it justice. However, my research did shed light on a misperception I believe needs to be addressed. So my plan is to look up every single reference to the word heart in the Bible to see what I can glean from it. A path I plan on taking my readers on by sharing the highlights.

The natural place to start is the very first mention of the human heart in scripture. Which can be found in Genesis 6:5-8, but I suggest you also read Genesis 8:20-21 as well. Since chapter 8 concludes the narrative that began in chapter 6.

What these references reveal:
  • The heart is tied to thought. We do not often associate the heart with thought, however scripture is rather consistent in equating the heart with thought and reflection. Even Jesus made this correlation multiple times.
  • The human heart can incline towards evil. Yet another Old Testament concept confirmed by Jesus. Chapter 8 also adds that this inclination begins in childhood. But remember, this tendency is not necessarily an emotional one.
  • The human heart is a source of great concern for God. Which reminds me of the words of John Eldredge “I find it hard to believe a case must be made that the heart is. . . well, at the heart of it all. Of life. Of each person. Of God. And of Christianity.”

Indeed, the heart is a very important subject, a subject mentioned in the Bible more often than service, obedience, and even worship; probably because all these other subjects are dependent upon the state of our hearts. Hence, the heart being of great concern to God. All the more reason to seek better understanding of it, instead of rely on the casual abstract notion we all possess.

For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
-Matthew 15:19-20

a person examining their heart under an x-ray
click to enlarge

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Warrior, Poet, and King (synopsis)

This last Father’s Day I did a sermon called Warrior, Poet, and King: the three dimensions of manhood. Unfortunately, it was to a rather small audience. While many people “liked” the message drawing I did for it on my Facebook page, nobody took the time to watch the live stream of it. So I got to wonder who really understood what I meant by man being made in the image of warrior, poet, and king. I can understand how watching an hour long sermon may seem intimidating. So I will do my best to summarize the concept here.

I first became aware of the concept during a group study on Song of Solomon. In this very poetic work, the male figure who was literally a king, is portrayed as strong and virile like a warrior. Yet, he is also portrayed as a sensitive and tender, like a poet. Ever since then I have been noticing this same patten in other prominent figures of the Bible like Solomon’s father David, God the father, and Jesus as well. Yet, in the world we live in, we seldom see this dynamic, but a very slanted and unbalanced version. Which may be why our culture portrays men as Homer Simpson; a self centered, hotheaded fool. Which is precisely why I see this teaching as an important one that we should look at closely.

Warrior (not always literal)
Our current culture has a love hate relationship with the image of a warrior in the male gender. But the fact of the matter is men need a battle to fight, he will not feel whole without something just and noble to fight for. The more our culture takes this away from him, the more he will try to scratch this itch in misguided and self-serving ways. As well as lack the passion and strength to do what is expected of him. Which is precisely what we do see.

Poet (I use the term broadly)
Men are made in the image of a creator, so it makes sense that we can honor that image by creating beauty, or at least admiring the beauty of God’s creation. For God is the original creator of beauty, poet, and artist. His son Jesus spoke his father’s truth in beautiful and poetic parables. Even David who was a fierce warrior with a reputation for conquest wrote such beautiful, poetic, and heart-wrenching psalms. Unfortunately, our society does not allow men to explore this side of himself. But with beauty lying at the heart of what drives a man, and what shapes his notions of just and noble, he will not have much to fight for without a heart of a poet.

The image of God as king is an obvious one, yet in this image we see both the warrior and the poet. God is often portrayed as a stern disciplinarian in the Bible, much like we associate with a warrior. Yet, he is also portrayed as loving and forgiving, like we often see with poets. If God were not both he would be unjust, he would either be so hard and strict we could never live up to his standards. Or he would be so permissive he would never right wrongs or punish evil. Which is often just what we see with our male leaders, one of these two unjust extremes. So if you haven’t figured it out yet, this point is not so much a separate and independent one, but what happens when these two other sides find balance in a man.

If by chance this has peaked your curiosity enough, you can watch the full message here. FB Video

The Visual PARABLEist

God confronting an unarmed warrior
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Thursday, January 18, 2018

The value of works

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. -Ephesians 2:8-9

Above is a rather famous passage that distinguishes Christianity from most other world religions. In everything from Islam to Hinduism, works usually come into play in most beliefs version of salvation. Probably because it just seems to be human nature to think and believe that works or deeds are the way to manufacture righteousness and earn your way into the afterlife. So much so that people try to interject it into Christianity as well. Despite that this passage and others like it refutes our assumptions about the role of works. Even when scripture reveals no amount of work would ever truly be enough.(Galatians 2:16, Luke 18:26,27)

Yet, even for those who know and believe this verse, don’t always understand it completely. There seems to be another opposite extreme assumption about this passage. That since works have nothing to do with salvation, then works cannot possibly have any value at all. Which often becomes an excuse to not serve. That idea is completely ridiculous though. Works, deeds, and service do indeed have much value, just not for salvation. Hence, the reason for this blog entry, I will reveal the value of our works beyond salvation.

All you have to do is read the very next verse in this passage to see that works are not without value.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. -Ephesians 2:10 (As you can see, we do this passage a great disservice by leaving out verse 10.)

The implication being that works play into fulfilling our purpose. Even psychologists are noticing that people who pursue a meaningful life are more satisfied than those who merely seek a happy life. So obviously we can’t truly be fulfilled without fulfilling our purpose, which involves service and works.

Works build up the church - Ephesians 4:11-13

Service is the path to greatness in the eyes of God - Matthew 20:20-28

Deeds demonstrate repentance - Acts 26:20

Service brings blessings - John 12:26, 13:17

Good Deeds serve as an example to non-believers -1 Peter 2:12

Let us not forget that Jesus flat us called us to serve thorough works in John 13:1-17. As he indicated later in verse 14:23-24, to do as he commands is a way we express our love for God. For a true believer; that alone should be enough alone to value works, even if it doesn't bring us salvation.

Works do not save us; we serve through good deeds because we are saved. It is a subtle distinction, but an important one that should not be overlooked.

The Visual PARABLEist

a man serving the word to the least of these which gets God's approval.
click to enlarge

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

What the church should NOT do

I have been watching Leah Remini’s Scientology: The Aftermath, and bought her book Troublemaker. In this moment, I feel compelled to respond to what I have observed. While I always try to tell people that no matter how good and righteous a belief system may be, people are still people. They are imperfect, faulted, and prone to error. So we often see many common human failings infiltrating religious institutions, even when their theology strictly forbids it. However, it seems that this is what separates Scientology from most other world religions. Many of these human failings I allude to are part of Scientology’s doctrine. So in many ways the church of Scientology serves as a perfect example of what a religious institution should not do. Which I will go over some of the main ones for you to consider.

1. Act as if you are beyond reproach. For the faithful, questions can serve as an opportunity to educate and promote better understanding of your ideals. However, you have to be well versed yourself to do that. For the easily threatened, it serves as an excuse to criticize, hate, and shame people who question them. Just what the church of Scientology teaches it’s people to do with zeal. Behavior which most other world religions discourage in writing, if not in action. Most religions recognize that you can’t help or inspire people you are demonizing. Or labeling them a “suppressive” to use the Scientology vernacular. (Matthew 21:45-46)
2. Forced submission. People submit to authority everyday. We do this with things as simple as paying sales tax, or stopping at a red traffic light. Some choose to do this because they see value in it. Some only because they fear the consequences of not doing so. As far as the government is concerned, their main concern is order, not sincerity. So it doesn’t matter to them why the public observes the laws, just as long as people do. That is where government and religious institutions should differ, the value of sincerity. Most belief systems recognize that the heart or the spirit is the root of our actions, so they address these things in one way or another to improve the individual, which leads to better behavior. Through that process people may see value in that religions authority, and choose to submit to it; sincerely. Which is how it should work. But in humanities short sightedness we often only look at the surface and merely address evil behavior directly. This often just creates an illusion of true transformation since the root cause of heart and spirit is overlooked. Scientology’s highly systematic approach would be near impossible to skip. However, they do fail to trust in their system enough to allow people to decide for themselves, to choose Scientology or not of their own freewill. If forced submission fails, you get labeled a suppressive and all ties to the church and the people you were in relationship within it are "disconnected". A fact they hold over your head to get you to submit against your will. (Joshua 24:15)
3. Violating your own principles for the sake of the greater good. Many an evil has been committed upon these grounds. However, no religious institution worth its salt would ever condone this. The fact is, if we resort to the same evils as our enemy on the battlefield, our enemies principles ultimately prevail, even if our enemies lose the war. Many shortsighted people have a hard time recognizing the truth of this in practice, including Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard apparently. For example, one of the foundational truths in Scientology is “clearing the planet of reactive minds.” Yet, somehow they do not see their hate and shame "fair game" policies towards suppressive people, and the institution of psychology as “reactive.” Nor, does current Scientology leader David Miscavige see his infamous violent outbursts as “reactive” either. To me, these doctrinal actions would qualify as the epitome of “reactive,” or wrong by their own standards. (Romans 2:1-4)
4. Cold indifference. We live in a crazy hostile world, full of pain, suffering, and every kind of evil imaginable. Trying to care about such a world, and deal with our scars from it can be overwhelming. So our response can often lead to an “us versus them” mentality as way to shield ourselves from that misery. Which leads us to limit our love to our own people, and all else is treated with cold indifference. Yet, in Scientology their central teaching revolves around achieving a state of “clear” that seems to be nothing more than cold indifference. It is most notable in the devout followers who have family members that have left the church. There is no love lost or regret at all over these broken relationships from the “clear” who are expected to disconnect. A human tendency that has only caused good people to do nothing in the face of evil. A human failing that is rationalized by Scientology. (First John 3:16-18)
5. Money. While a necessity of civilization. A disproportionate love for it can be devastating for that culture. It not only has spoiled many a religion but art, music, literature, cinema, and many of the other good things in life as well. Creating something beautiful, important, beneficial, relevant, or meaningful often takes a back seat to making profit. Not to mention the pursuit of it can inspire crime. While the lack of money may be a symptom of a problem, the moment we look at it as a solution, it starts to become a virtual god to us. This is so blatantly obvious in Scientology and their rather expensive path to “operating thetan“ status.(First Timothy 6:10)
6. legalism. It just seems to be human nature to systematize things, including religion. The Pharisees where prime examples of this 2000 years ago. They took the very narrative, and poetic living scriptures, and turned it into thousands of lifeless do’s and don’t’s. The flaw in legalism is that it is merely external, a conditioned response, obligatory actions that are not done in the spirit, or from the heart. Which seems to be the goal of Scientology, to condition out reactive behavior. While they may be onto something with the ides that people are definitely too reactionary, which causes much conflict in the world. It’s doubtful that can be the only cause of all human suffering. Even if it were, merely teaching people to avoid it instead of indulge it, hardly constitutes dealing with it in a constructive manner. If you read through the Gospels, and Acts of the apostles, while taking note of what the Pharisee’s did, and how Jesus and the apostles called them out in their heartless surface ways. One can plainly see that many churches of today have repeated all their mistakes. It just seems that people want rigid, fixed, and easy to understand and apply answers. So many churches, including Scientology, become eager to oblige them. Even if Jesus had no love for such camouflaged and formulaic people. (Matthew 23:25 and 26)

While I am sure, these practices have served many an institution in the short-term. In the long-term they have only breed disillusion and feelings of ill will towards the institutions that utilize such faulty strategies. As former church of Scientology board member Mike Rinder has indicated, their own actions will be their undoing. Actions rationalized by their own policies. Actions the wise should steer clear of. Actions that are slowly destroying the institutions that they claim to love and serve. Don’t be one of them.

A person entirely obscured by cold armor
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