Posts Tagged ‘knowledge’

This was a hopeful moment for me as I read forward from verse seven, that the angel would explain the mystery. Isn’t that what we all want in end? Don’t we want to understand the mystery of life, of pain, of danger, of sorrow, of hatred, of love? It’s all mystery.

Revelation 17:6b-7
When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. . . ”

But alas, even if that angel would come into my office and sit next to me and hold my hand: I would have no clearer understanding of the “woman” or the “beast” or the heads or the horns. This is puzzle for the academicians, the students of the Bible, the prophets, the eschatologists. I don’t know about you but phrases like, “[the beast] once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction,” is not very helpful. Just more mystery.

I don’t think anyone can explain the mystery. If it was possible, then the mystery would stop being a mystery.

Oh, I know people read mysteries because they like trying to figure it out. And they are all so gratified when the story is wrapped up at the end. But then, what do they do? Go out and buy another mystery.

Like a small child, we keep asking “why” to questions whose answers cannot be fathomed.

It’s a mystery because it’s outside of time. It’s a mystery because it’s not human. It’s not gravity or E=MC2. It’s like wrapping our minds around eternity or the universe or a quantum. The scientists are working hard to “understand” the mystery and many religious are working equally hard to quantify what cannot be quantified, to “prove” creationism or “end-of-the-worldism.” It all falls in the same pot for me.

I believe God wants me to embrace the mystery. That’s all. So simple. Another way to do that is to live in the moment and accept it for what it is: now. God has me here now. I am in this chair, I am writing these words, I am tired, I am with God and God is with me. And isn’t that just as much a mystery?

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Adages, quotes, sayings, proverbs abound: “You get what you pay for;” “You made your bed now lie in it;” or simply, “Face the music.” On and on, we are reminded about the consequences of our actions. And still history repeats itself again and again. At least, mine does.

Proverbs 11:27
Whoever seeks good finds favor, but evil comes to one who searches for it.

I’m not saying that I go around looking for trouble necessarily, and yet, I have played very close to the fire and somehow managed to be surprised when I got burned. Of course, we all do it to some degree or another.

Just last night, my son was wisecracking about the messes he gets himself into when he drinks too much. Now, one would think the obvious solution would smack him up along side his head but that is not the case. Was I any different? At his age, I wrapped by head around a toilet more times than I’d like to admit and I nursed horrible hangovers and regretted many things I blurted out to perfect strangers. Duh!

There is a balance point between knowledge, experience, and self-control. Once discovered, like finding the focus point on a balance beam or high wire, it becomes a small wisdom.

I know about consequences. I have experience with consequences. And yet, until I make the better choice before consequences kick in, knowledge & experience have little effect. It’s truly a matter of practice before wisdom becomes a part of character, a part of the soul.

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In Him, that would be Christ, no sin abides. So what does that mean? I love asking such questions, particularly with familiar verses. And what is “sin” really? The Amplified translation gives some extra hints:

I John 3:5b-6
And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who abides in Him [who lives and remains in communion with and in obedience to Him–deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] commits (practices) sin. No one who [habitually] sins has either seen or known Him [recognized, perceived, or understood Him, or has had an experiential acquaintance with Him].

To be “in Christ,” then is to be in relationship or communion with Christ–it means, having such an intimate knowledge of Christ that I would know what would displease Christ’s Spirit within me. I would recognize what is often called “a check in the Spirit,” that still small voice that says, “not that way, this way,” or “eat this, not that,” or even more simply, “let go of that thought.”

This relationship is nurtured in personal prayer, devotion, worship, and ideally, fellowship with like-minded people who are also “in Christ.”

It’s like being in a swimming pool together: everyone is wet, sharing the water, but we’re all doing different activities, we’re all in various depths. The more experienced ones know how to swim while others merely wade or stand around. Some love it so much, they can swim underwater the whole distance of the pool.

Sin is a buzz word that has gotten a bad rap. I have actually seen people roll their eyes when the word, sin, comes into the conversation. I’m not sure how this has happened. Perhaps it’s the growing relativity of our actions. It’s become more and more difficult to identify sinful behavior. Truly. And I’m not saying I can be the one who draws that particular line in the sand either. Most will say the Bible itself identifies sin, but in a post-modern world, that may not be so black and white. Oh, there are entire groups of people, denominations or sects, or whatever, who believe they have it down, but I’m not so sure anymore. After all, whether we like it or not, there are many modern behaviors and practices that were clearly sin in the past but which society, in general, has embraced (divorce being the most prevalent).

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Bible and all that it has to teach me. And there are some clear parameters that humans have accepted over the test of time: murder, for instance. But few people would acknowledge that coveting (a popular American sport), is truly a sin anymore.

All right, sin is a huge topic and cannot have a full discussion here. But I did want to make one point that I learned from Joyce Meyer, that sin is birthed in the mind (see her series on Battlefield of the Mind). And this is the key to the whole thing.

If I am in deep relationship with the Christ spirit within (in Christ, Christ in me), then the inklings of sin, the desires, the intentions, the motives, the impetuses, will not germinate. That is part of the role of the Holy Spirit, to mirror my thoughts, to cleanse, to reveal the implications, to heal, to winnow the seeds of actions that will harm me and others. Sin usually dies on the vine if it is never watered or fertilized in the mind and heart. Selah.

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Salt is a seasoning that makes things taste better through its chemical interactions with the food. And yet, in this age of health anxiety, we have started to withhold salt from our diet even though exercise could be just as effective. Have we removed salt from conversations too?

Colossians 4:6
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

When was the last time I sat around with some people and just talked? I mean talked about ideas and possibilities, spirituality or sorrow, hope or despair. When has the conversation started heading one way and my comments moved it another, giving it a new flavor, a new point of view . . . with grace.

Now, I don’t mean those times when proselytizing starts or the 4 Spiritual Laws pamphlets come out of the handbag or a litany of “Praise the Lords” drop in after every remark like a Greek chorus or HipHop melody.

I’m interested in knowing if the truth of me, Spirit-filled and intertwined with the Christ within, has acted as a true flavoring, bringing out the best in others while giving grace and acceptance to any hardened hearts around me.

So much is out there that teaches us how to control a conversation, close the deal, get to “yes,” influence, convince or convert people, win friends, or filibuster until people can’t stand it anymore.

When my daughter, new to this country at 15, went to high school with little or no English, she bemoaned how hard it was to make friends. We chalked it up to ESL (English as a Second Language) and assumed things would get better as her language skills improved. And to some degree that was true and yet, it never became easy for her. Truthfully, I am amazed teenagers have any friends at all considering that most of their conversations tend to be about themselves and rarely about the other, unless they are drilling down into the behavior, looks, attitude or boyfriend of a mutual “other” (i.e. gossiping).

I shared with her a handy book I found called How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends by Don Gabor. I encouraged her to try the author’s technique but she found it unmanageable. And why? Because the essence of his technique was to ask lots of questions about the other person and listen to the answers. It’s letting go of feeling it necessary to reciprocate data for data, fact for fact, personal story for personal story. This is the grace part of conversation.

Perhaps it’s time for me to reread this book myself. Or maybe, like here, scripture has been saying it all along: Grace and salt, kindness and joy, love and humor, forgiveness and knowledge, patience and wisdom.

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Odd passages about Paul “struggling” with the energy that Christ has given him for the sake of others. And that energy is for them to experience the two-fold mystery of God: Christ within (where our unique relationship is built with the Holy Spirit) and without, in our relationships with others.

Colossians 2:2
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ . . .

This idea of Christ within and Christ without reminds me of the various ways people get caught up in their own brand of Christianity. Some put all of their energy into good works and service, reaching out to the poor, developing community and building fellowship (all good stuff), while others put everything into those private places where contemplation, prayer, study, and various other personal disciplines expand their inner domains.

Paul’s work is on both fronts for his people that they might be “encouraged in heart” (interior work) as well as “united in love” (exterior work). The complete understanding comes from both sides of the equation. This reminds me of that well worn passage in James 2:14, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?”

I don’t do well in this dual role. And yet, intellectually I know that both feed each other. I know that my interior life endows my walk on the outside with better choices, if I allow it to do so. And really, good works can draw a person into a deeper inner life, if permitted.

I am intentionally adding the proviso of permission here because I don’t believe I do it. I don’t give way to the power of the Spirit within. If I did, I’d be doing better (the fruits of that relationship with the Christ Spirit would be more evident). This is part of that “free will” concept. I can limit my relationship with God. I can have surface-only interactions. I can pick and choose. It doesn’t really serve me to do it, but I can. And unfortunately, I do become frightened and put on the brakes.

When the Toronto Blessing was in full swing, one of their most popular phrases was “More Lord, more.” I understand now it was a way to “allow” God in more. It was teaching self to let go and receive. It was not about God giving more, it was about the person opening the door wider to the flow of grace.

The mystery of Christ needs both arenas for full understanding. There is a “battlefield” both within and without. But the interesting aspect of these skirmishes is that I would do better through surrender–that is, surrender to the One who reigns over both and all.

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God is. One of God’s attributes is invisibility. About 2000 years ago, God chose to manifest a self on Earth and to accomplish a particular task. The Christ is that revelation of God specifically to broker a deal for human beings and reinstate us into a “kingdom of light.” Sounds like a pitch for a book.

Colossians 1:15
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

People are still arguing about the story today. Did Christ really exist? Is there such a thing as redemption? Do miracles really happen? Is there a world of the invisible that impacts our three-dimensional life?

I can only say what I know for myself. I can only testify to my part in the story. I have an interior life and that life is invisible. I have a spirit that is separate and yet connected to my body. I have a mind that is not restricted to the physical world. I have a relationship with the “other” and that other is Christ. This I know.

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Here it is, something to ask God to do for me every day: fill me with the knowledge of His will. Think about it! The perfect solution to every situation, every setback, every decision, and every sorrow embedded in the knowing of His will. This is my new “catch-all” when I am overwhelmed.

Colossians 1:9
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

There is a second fall-back scripture for me in times of trouble, “. . . We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” [Romans 8:26] I allow the Spirit to guide in these circumstances.

But now I have this other way, this simple prayer for knowledge of his will. And I’m pretty sure I won’t have a conscious awareness of the knowing. Instead, I will have the effects of it [Matthew 7:18]: the fruits of the spirit [Galatians 5:22-23], the ability to endure and to be patient and to manifest a spirit of thanksgiving in all things [I Thess 5:18].

This is a prayer God will always answer. It’s not one of those “yes, no, or maybe” prayers. Paul prayed in this fashion for others. I can do the same and I can pray it for myself.

When Paul was “kicking against the goads” [Acts 26:14], he was going against the will of God in such a dramatic and determined way that he experienced a physical miracle — and not a pleasant one, no matter how “spiritual” we’d like to make it sound. He was thrown from his horse, lost his sight, heard voices, and had to be led to Damascus in disgrace. After that, he didn’t eat or drink for 3 days. He despaired and expected his own death.

I think I have experienced my own version of going against God’s will, I can tell by the fruits of it: impatience, anger, discontent, harshness, and even cruelty. When my mouth and mind engage in all those sorrows and negativity, I am operating in a vacuum and missing God’s will.

Fill me today, Lord. Fill me to overflowing that the knowledge of your will becomes a sweet aroma to others. Amen.

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