Posts Tagged With: revival

‘Through A Glass Darkly’ – A Lesson On Spiritual Renewal

Self-Cleaning-Glasses

DIRTY LOOKS

“We are all messed up like a person compromised with impurity; even all our right efforts are like soiled rags. We’re drying up like a leaf in autumn …”
Book of the prophet Isaiah, Chapter 64, verse 6

Sometime after I turned 40, I found myself in need of reading glasses. The long-distance vision is still great, but everything from computer screens to the micro-print on your everyday vitamin bottle is now the epitome of low-definition vision as far as my eyes are concerned.

High quality polishing cloths rarely come with drug-store readers but are always supplied with prescription glasses, and it’s a good thing too. They most definitely return HD clarity to your outlook when things are starting to appear kinda greasy and opaque.

Some time ago I noticed that regardless of how much lens polishing I engaged in, my lenses didn’t fare any better than before my cleaning them. I’d give the glasses a good going over, put them on, try to read something and nope – still looked like I was viewing the world about me through a layer of olive oil. So I’d spritz a tad more lens cleaning solution on the cloth and figure that’ll do the trick, and proceed to wipe them over again. Still no joy. And then it hits me, “Oh, I get it … I gotta clean the cleaning cloths!”

napolean-duh

I threw the cloths in a regular wash cycle along with shirts and underwear and whatever else a guy mixes together in the washing machine (that he probably shouldn’t) and along with my clothes, I extracted clean, ready-for-polishing cloths to wipe down my lenses.

Anyway, this got me thinking the other day about the nature of our spiritual perspective – our vision – and how we are in our relationship with the creator, the Lord of our souls.

THE JOURNEY GETS MESSY

At the point of our conversion (or in my case, my reconversion), we’re given a new perspective by God which allows us to see more clearly the world around us and how broken it is. At the same time (and maybe more importantly) we are given much needed insight with respect to our own soul and moral character and how poorly developed they truly are. We become aware of God’s unmerited love for us but receive along with that a glimpse of how distant our goodness is from the goodness and purity of God. And because of our new, clearer perspective, we find ourselves humbly asking God for strength and the ability to live our salvaged-by-Grace lives for Him with a sincere determination.

But at some point, after this ‘great awakening’, we lapse back into familiar ways – well I believe most of us do – and find that the things of the Spirit become less important or engrossing compared to the urgent issues and distractions that make up our day-to-day existence. Still having the Spirit of God within us, we may become aware of this lapse, but often feel helpless to deal with it. And then guilt sets in – the biggest nail in the coffin for a once spiritually inspired, enthusiastic mindset. So we pray, “God get me out of this funk.” Or, “Make me better than I am.” Or, “Fix me (or things) again so I can feel connected to You!” But these repeated requests or prayers often come across as an ostensibly useless endeavour. It’s like trying to repair or clean things with broken and dirty implements.

And that’s exactly what we’re doing.

As our spiritual energy and connection to God appears to diminish, we feel caught in a loop and a dryness of the soul begins to overwhelm us. This is a dangerous ‘tipping point’ for some believers. If they don’t feel or see enough of God’s power in their lives, they walk away from the faith and give up ‘trying’.

HOW YOU BRING AN END TO A SPIRITUAL RUT

How do you bring an end to your spiritual rut? Here’s the thing: you can’t. As your spiritual life continues, you will lose connection with God frequently and all your efforts to rekindle the excitement or ‘vision’ you had the day you knew God had entered your life will, in your mind, amount to a hill of beans. You’ll feel adrift in stagnant water and those living waters Jesus promised his followers are somehwere on the other side of dark mountains that have seemingly hemmed you in. Welcome to the valley of the shadow of death. You have now joined the ranks of every single believer who’s ever asked God to change them! This might come as a shocker, but you were meant to arrive here.

“Why?”, you ask.

kitten distressed

Because it is at this time, God is about to reveal to you that everything you think you have done or have attempted to do to put things right between you and Him is not unlike your trying to clean a pair of glasses with dirty rags. And as long as you continue to assume you’re the one who has to clean up your spiritual lenses to restore clarity, perspective and objectivity to your own soul-view you will fail miserably because God has set it up that way.

Again, you ask, “Why? Why would God allow me fall so hard if I am doing my best to put things right?”

He does this so that He can reveal within us His power, His strength and what His vision for you truly is. It’s only when every light you’ve tried to keep going has gone out that it’s His time to shine! When your knees have hit the floor it’s then He eagerly shows you how strong His arms are by pulling you back up. He takes your worn-down perceptions – all the methods that you thought were going to keep you connected to Him or ‘spiritual’ – and tosses them into His washing machine. Then He hands you back those things that are really needed to really make a difference in your world, your outlook and life-experiences.

God likes to show off – the Scriptures evidence this repeatedly with respect to His character and/or his modus operandi. Deep in our personal valleys, if/when we continue to walk by faith (what little there may be of it at times) He will restore our spiritual sight by showing us who He really is by answering our prayers from an unexpected angle or entering our world in ways we never would have anticipated.

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“Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.”
~ G.K. Chesterton

This kind of thing – beautiful and powerful spiritual renewal – happens frequently over one’s lifetime in the hearts of those who humbly walk with God. Admittedly, it takes a lot of patience and waiting for it to happen. But God helps with that too … just hang … on … a little … longer!

Wash, rinse, repeat.

This is God’s style of restoration and it’s so welcomed, especially when we’re spent from our trying so hard. With respect to our dealing with ourselves and God, preacher and author, John Ortberg, instructs us to ‘try softer’:

“Often the people in the Gospels who got in the most trouble with Jesus were the ones who thought they were working hardest on their spiritual life. They were trying so hard to be good that they could not stop thinking about how hard they were trying. It got in the way of them loving people. … there is an alternative: Try softer. Try better. Try different. A river of living water is now available, but the river is the Spirit. It is not you. … Don’t push the river.”
~ John Ortberg, from the book, ‘The Me I Want To Be’

WHAT’S THE WORD ON ALL OF THIS?

I cannot emphasize this enough: the Bible and its guiding principles as presented to us through the many colourful characters who authored it is like having a legal representative with you when you are in your darkest trial and at your lowest ebb. It stands beside you to instruct you when direction is seemingly absent. It is there to remove (not add to) your guilt when you may be completely bereft of feelings, spiritual enthusiasm or at the tail end of your faith. There is NOTHING you are experiencing (including the dryness of soul or even the disdain for all things spiritual) that has not been experienced by those who went before us – from Adam to Amos, Joseph to Jesus, Paul to Peter.

Read the Word and wait. Don’t read it, and you’ll feel utterly alone. I don’t care if you’re a literalist or a liberal – the Power of God is in that set of 66 books. You will find God in those words (try to resource a good translation like the New International Version or The Voice) and they will comfort you and set you up for that glorious moment of restoration – the big wash – that is coming to restore you to a fresh awareness of God’s will for your life and a clarity of vision that only He can provide.

FINAL THOUGHTS

In the medical field, visual clarity isn’t something that occurs by one’s trying to see better or by applying a plethora of home-remedies. It occurs via the efforts of a skilled outside agent who is able to alter the eye’s lens in order to enhance or correct poor vision. Similarly, we must await God’s agent – the Spirit – to restore to us the perspective, outlook and vision we are deeply in need of to get through this thing called life. We cannot experience these necessary renewals through any amount of redo’s that we embark on, no matter how sincere our effort.

Wait for God to show up and allow Him to be what He truly is: your Saviour. You will not be disappointed.

© 2015 Flagrant Regard

“But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength. They will soar on wings as eagles. They will run—never winded, never weary. They will walk—never tired, never faint.”
The book of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 31 (The Voice Translation)

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 10, verse 13 (New Living Translation)

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, chapter 7, verse 10 (N.I.V. Translation)

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.”
Book of Revelation chapter 3, verse 19 – Jesus speaking through John the disciple to the church in Laodicea (N.I.V. Translation)

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
Paul’s letter to the Phillippians, Chapter 2, verse 13

“To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christhave received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life 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, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
Second letter of Peter, chapter 1, verses 1 thru 4 (N.I.V. Translation)

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Categories: Apologetics, Christian Living, Didactic, Pain, Spirituality, Struggle, Suffering | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is Neo-Pacifism The New Christianity? Part I

Does anyone remember pacifism?

You know, that fairly extremist position of non-violence held by certain Christian faith-groups who endorse that their members absolutely refrain from joining the military (for combat service), becoming a cop (as all police agencies mandate the use of lethal force when required) or even using self-defence to protect oneself or loved ones if it might lead to killing another human being in order to do so?

Well, it’s apparently back with a ‘non-vengeance’. This time around, however, pacifism’s re-emergence is no longer the theological territory of aloof, simple-life religious communities, but can be found in modern churches equipped with all manner of technology, multimedia tools and eye-catching backdrops. In these places of worship, passionate, enthusiastic preachers are making waves in the Christian community by extoling the virtuousness of old-world pacifism. At first, this might seem like not such a bad thing … after all, what’s wrong with a growing bunch of peaceniks, right? But here’s the rub: those delivering this message of ‘non-violence-at-all-costs’ are stating, in no uncertain terms, that unless all Christians everywhere submit to pacifism, they are failing to fully comprehend or represent the life, character and principles of Christ.

We believe that there is something very disconcerting about this latest push towards a collective peace-initiative – something we’ve dubbed ‘Neo-Pacifism’ – and contend that it’s just one more ‘ism’ that hampers our efforts to spread the true Gospel message of faith in Jesus Christ.

What Does Neo-Pacifism Teach?

Answering this question accurately required quite a bit of reading/listening to several sermons from prominent figures associated with the movement. What we discovered proved to be both interesting and sometimes kind of disturbing. As already noted in the first paragraph of this article, Christian pacifism (which is rooted in the Anabaptist tradition that began about half a millennium ago) means a person does not engage in any act of retributive aggression or defensive violence that could cause harm or especially the death of another human being. Pacifism’s adherents believe their position represents the truest fulfilment of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (or Sermon on the Plain) with respect to His followers loving their enemies and taking the command of Christ to ‘turn the other cheek’ quite literally. It matters not an iota what the prevailing circumstances may be. You simply do not take lethal action against anyone – ever. The concept of ‘just war’ is regarded as scriptural and spiritual error. Though a nation could be taken into captivity by an invading force and its people suffer unnameable atrocities at the hands of evil men, pacifism demands that you are not to become a soldier in order to defend the oppressed or the innocent. Applying for a job in government? Not in the plan. Joining a police force is out of the question (for reasons already mentioned) and it can be assumed that signing up for Mixed Martial Arts doesn’t score any points with pacifists either.

(Why Neo-pacifism misrepresents Christianity will be covered in Part II of this article.)

Who’s Behind Neo-Pacifism’s Rise To Acceptance?

Several popular ministers, we discovered.

One individual who’s covering a lot of territory (and time) with respect to pacifism is Bruxy Cavey, a gifted, charismatic speaker and primary ‘Teaching Pastor’ for the far-reaching, momentum-gathering church known as ‘The Meeting House’. The Meeting House doesn’t hide the fact that it is rooted in the Brethren In Christ (BIC)/Mennonite/Anabaptist tradition, but is of late making a significant push to ensure that the pacifist agenda is tremendously close to being front and centre along with the Gospel message. In 2010, Bruxy engaged his congregation/listeners with a teaching series called, ‘Inglorious Pastors: Waging Peace in a World of War’, which was a seven sermon lecture on how to (and why all Christians should) get on board with pacifism. Right up there with Cavey are other proponents of neo-pacifism such as famous author/speaker Tony Campolo, Woodland Hills pastor Greg Boyd and ‘visionary leader’ Shane Claiborne. All of these speakers/church-leaders are connected with (and are scheduled speakers for) the most recent Christian peace-initiative venture called PEACEWORKS.TV, a group self-described as “a youth movement for peace bringing people from all over the world together for a single purpose…to turn every church into a peace church.” 1

Why You Should Be Concerned About The Neo-Pacifist Movement

When it comes to presenting your church’s doctrines, it’s one thing to state, “What we believe and teach has proven to be effective” but quite another to stress that everyone else not doing what you’re doing or believing what you’re believing has got it all wrong. What’s far more disconcerting is when any church group/denomination – their growth, solid doctrinal foundation or good intentions notwithstanding – comes right out and says that “Jesus is the model for our system of living and anything short of this model fails to fully represent Christian character”. Well, the Christian neo-pacifists are doing just that.

Here’s what Bruxy Cavey, author of the successful and provocative book ‘The End of Religion’, states with respect to those inquiring into pacifism:

“Something else we should think about just before we dive in … this is for those of you who are having to answer questions of others as we process through this … You should be aware that some of the questions people ask are asked ‘genuinely’ and some are asked just because they’re looking for an excuse not to have to listen to the teachings of Christ. In other words … people ask questions of Jesus’s peace-teaching in two ways, sometimes, first of all, in order to find an excuse to disregard it or sometimes to better understand and apply it.” 2

This statement shows Bruxy is making the assumption that those who question pacifism are questioning the way of Jesus. That kind of approach strikes us as ‘our way or the highway’ and has that familiar stench born out of theological arrogance; something I’ve been known to struggle with myself. (‘Takes one to know one’, as they say!)

It’s fine to detail your own position on pacifism and teach what it means; that it’s ‘okay to die for a cause, just not kill for one‘ or that it is ‘not a success strategy but a love strategy‘ etc., but Bruxy takes it to a whole other level by pretty much ordaining it as a religious
obligation for true Christians (which is kind of strange when you consider the title of his book).

Though Bruxy says that pacifism isn’t necessarily the best strategy in a situation where violence could be used as a solution, he states that “WE (the church’s members, leaders etc.) still believe it is the right choice because we choose this way because Jesus ‘called for it, commanded it, modelled it and then calls us to be the body of Christ – today – filled with his spirit – living as Jesus lived, presenting him to the world.’ In the same sermon he also elaborates, ” … we don’t follow the way of peace because it works, we follow it because it’s like Christ.” 3

Again, he infers that ‘the way of peace’ as per the pacifist’s stance is Christ-like, clearly intimating that one’s not being a pacifist is a failure to be Christ-like.

Not wanting to misinterpret the pacifist position of The Meeting House, I spoke to a representative of the church. I asked, “Would we not be allowed to be church members if we did not subscribe to your strong, pacifist leanings? The individual stated that we could be members, but that if we’d climbed the ladder into church leadership by any degree, we would not be allowed to voice our disfavour of or lack of allegiance to pacifism. That information revealed to us just how deeply entrenched the doctrine was. When I asked, “Do you think that those who do not subscribe to pacifism are deficient in their Christian walks or lives?” the person on the other end of the line – as politely as they could – acknowledged that you would be numbered along with those who ‘struggle with Christ’s teachings’. Upon my probing into the issue a bit further, the church representative strongly implied that you wouldn’t be as mature in your Christian faith without being a pacifist.

St. Paul MN’s Woodland Hills pastor, Greg Boyd, recently spoke at the Sunday service for The Meeting House here in Canada. In his sermon, entitled, ‘From Baptist to Anabaptist’ he stated:

“… the true Kingdom always looks like Calvary. … All over the place people are getting this vision … that what Jesus came to do and that it always has this humble, servant, self-sacrificial feel to it. And these folks are looking for … a tribe and a tradition – something that’s anchored and has witnessed in the past. And the only folks who have the tradition are the Anabaptists, the Brethren in Christ/the Mennonites. God’s doing a new thing … is pouring out new wineskin … a new tradition that they can call home and the only ones who have it are you guys!” 4

Once again, there is a definitive ‘us and them’ vibe going on that – I hate to say it – reminds me of a cult mentality. We are NOT SAYING THE NEO-PACIFIST MOVEMENT IS A CULT – please do not misinterpret us. But as it currently stands, the neo-pacifist leaders we are hearing from are stating that all branches of Christianity outside of their own are failing to fully meet the objectives of the Gospel by their not subscribing to pacifism. This is just not the case and is a much uncalled for sweeping generalization. There are many peace-loving, self-sacrificing, love-oriented and ‘mature’ Christians from ALL denominations who are fantastically Christ-like and yet are not pacifists. But try and get a neo-pacifist church leader to accept that and you may find you’re beating your head against a wall. I remember encountering this very same spirit in some evangelical protestant churches where they believe that all Roman Catholics are lost and bound for hell – an inane, judgmental position that’s doctrinally unfounded. It’s this very spirit of judgment, borne out of a faith group’s egotism, which subjects the Kingdom of God to public disgrace by the disunity it ultimately fosters.

The funny thing is that a great percentage of the time (here in the west especially) your pacifist or non-pacifist disposition exists almost solely in the realms of the abstract or theoretical. What I mean is that there is hardly ever a time where you’re provided an opportunity to live out your pacifist views in the same way a trained martial artist almost never finds himself going all Jackie Chan on a bunch of thugs after leaving the dojo. As this is the case, I have to wonder why the neo-pacifists are pushing the peace-agenda so hard?

And so, we would really like to ask the neo-pacifists out there to contemplate the possibility that you’ve let a doctrinal side issue become an agenda that takes precedence over the Gospel. The Gospel is about God’s grace extended to a broken world through the death and resurrection of Christ and about our living a life ‘worthy of the calling’ first and foremost. How you live your life in Christ and how I live mine is bound to be different, but the Spirit of God has given us both a measure of faith and will convict us of our shortcomings, including those that have to do with peace, love and practical real-life application. Harping on anything outside of this – the heart of the Christian life – will undoubtedly lead to unnecessary divisions in the body of Christ. Things turn ugly when an interpretation of the Gospel (or some aspect of it) is presented as if it were the Gospel itself. Please, don’t make that mistake.

© 2013 Flagrant Regard

1. http://peaceworkstv.wordpress.com/ & http://youtube.com/peaceworkstv

2. http://www.themeetinghouse.com/pageid/1700/but-what-about-4614 – SERMON TITLE: “BUT WHAT ABOUT …” (at 6:42min)

3. http://www.themeetinghouse.com/pageid/1700/but-what-about-4614 – SERMON TITLE: “BUT WHAT ABOUT …” (at 5:10min)

4. http://www.themeetinghouse.com/teaching/archives/2013/one-church-2013/week-1-from-baptist-to-anabaptist-5475 – SERMON TITLE: “FROM BAPTIST TO ANABAPTIST … (at 29:02min)

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Integrity, Pacifism, Religion, Spiritual, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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