Mindfulness and Meditation

Consider this research from Perspectives on Psychological Science that urges caution against the mindfulness and meditation of recent years. And do take note, their subject matter is (not surprisingly) entirely generic &/or non-Christian. Here’s a salient quote: “As mindfulness has increasingly pervaded every aspect of contemporary society, so have misunderstandings about what it is, whom it helps, and how it affects the mind and brain. At a practical level, the misinformation and propagation of poor research methodology can potentially lead to people being harmed, cheated, disappointed, and/or disaffected.”

What you meditate upon and are mindful of really are of the utmost importance. The world and the enemy of your soul would prefer that you adopt generic &/or non-Christian practices having to do with your mind/soul and believe it really doesn’t matter. However, the pattern of Scripture is exclusively focused on God and His Word. (Psalms 1:2; 27:4; 63:6; Romans 8:6; Colossians 3:2) The inner man (heart/mind/soul) is the domain and purview of God. (Matthew 9:4; Luke 16:15; Acts 1:24; 15:8;Romans 8:27;1 Corinthians 2:11; Revelation 2:23) As Christians, we dare not be careless in such matters. Frankly, this all goes hand-in-hand with our prayer life — our conversation with God — about which so much more can be said.

When Good is the Very Worst

It’s not at all uncommon to hear, “but she is such a good person” or “he was always so kind to everyone”. These and similar statements are made questioning, and often sincerely so, God’s justice in the exclusivity of salvation through Jesus alone. Although there’s much to unpack in that discussion, in Luke 18 we find a response directly from Jesus addressing this topic.
18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
There’s that word — “good” — Jesus knew what was coming.
20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Note here that the commandments Jesus lists first for this seeker are those that have to do with decent, moral living — the common law foundational equivalent of what makes any society function. Then Jesus goes much deeper — beyond that which is socially acceptable and right to the very crux of the matter. You see, it’s not just the rich young ruler who comes into the scope of this conversation — riches just happened to be his one thing.

There are many good people in the world for whom one thing stands between them and following Jesus. Good behavior alone is not the same as following Jesus. Indeed, good behavior does not inherit eternal life. Here, the good is truly the enemy of the best — so much so that it will only result in the worst.
In contrast, when the lawyer came to test Jesus in Luke 10, Jesus affirmed that he knew and declared the sum of it all.
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
Our love for Jesus will show forth as the love of Jesus and that fruit won’t just be good fruit — it will be eternal.

The AART of Waiting…

Waiting is not something we humans are generally very good at. From kids at Christmas and birthdays to grown-ups … still at Christmas and birthdays! On top of our inherent tendencies, our culture is ever-increasingly influenced by the saturation of convenience and affluence and technological advances — all in ways that feed our need for it (whatever “it” may be) now — or at least much sooner that “it” used to be or happen. Information at your fingertips. Google it. Ask Siri or Alexa. Next-day…better yet, same-day delivery — by drone!

Like I said, waiting… is not something we’re very attuned to.

So what! Is waiting such a good thing? Isn’t faster better? Improve efficiency… Produce more in less time… Why make such a big deal? The good ole’ days weren’t all that good.

For some reason, waiting is one of the major themes of Scripture. Prescriptively and descriptively, waiting is an essential part of our life before the Lord our God. Yet for all that encouragement and exhortation to wait, there’s little to nothing about how to do it.

Well that doesn’t help much… What are we supposed to do? Google? Siri?

Thankfully, waiting in Scripture has everything to do with why and Who — and that reveals to us the Enabler of the how. As we turn away from all that is earthly and focus our attention and desire upon the Lord our God — as we behold Him as He reveals Himself to us in Word and Spirit and Truth — we come to understand the value and joy in waiting. Our anxiety is replaced with expectation and then matures into anticipation as we experience the rewards of God’s grace and providence.

Now, don’t get me wrong … I haven’t gotten this all figured out and down to a science. This is still a continual learning process for me and will be unto the end. That’s why I’m inclined to describe it as an art — one that is continually refined and practiced and nurtured and honed and cultivated. Let’s talk about that word — art. It’s helpful for me to think of it as an acronym — forming an acrostic of sorts — that calls to mind again, not the how, but above all the Who.

Accede to &
Act in accordance with
God’s will, imperative, prerogative, and purpose.
Rest in…God’s absolute omnipotence, eternal sovereignty, timeless omniscience, and peaceful omnipresence.
Trust in…God’s immutable faithfulness, mercy, justice, and love.
As you consider the AART of waiting, read through these Scripture passages and invite the Spirit to work in you…revealing the joy of anticipating the fruit of waiting on the Lord.

Gen. 49:18; Ps. 27:14; Ps. 31:24; Ps. 33:20-22; Ps. 37:7-9; Ps. 37:34; Ps. 38:15; Ps. 40:1-3; Ps. 130:5-6; Prov. 20:22; Is. 25:9; Is. 26:8-9; Is. 30:18; Is. 33:2; Is. 40:28-31; Is. 49:23; Lam. 3:21-26; Mic. 7:7; Zep. 3:8; Acts 1:4-5; 1 Cor. 1:4-9; Jas. 5:7-8; Jude 17-23

Book Review: Lies We Believe About God (by Wm. Paul Young)

In case there was any question or ambiguity arising from the narrative of The Shack, in his latest book, Lies We Believe About God, Young makes clear that he has arrived at the entirely unorthodox and un-Scriptural belief that ALL will be saved (Universalism). To be fair, in the Introduction he declares that none of this is certain or final or absolute — he’s still in transition. And to be even more generous, there are actually a number of topics about which I have more agreement than disagreement with Young. However, regardless of Young’s unwillingness or inability to stand firm upon his beliefs, the heresy (against orthodoxy) needs to be well-recognized so that all are given fair warning.

Keep in mind, that the title of each chapter is presented as a lie we believe about God. I’ll discuss briefly just a few here.

In chapter 2 — “God is good. I am not.” — Young refers to the rich young ruler who comes to Jesus and addresses Him as “good.” Jesus responds, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:18, Matthew 19:17) Young’s logical progression next goes far astray. Denying the extent of the fallen human condition with a qualified “Blind, not depraved, is our condition.”, he proceeds to affirm his deception with “God cannot become anything that is evil or inherently bad . . . and God became human.”

The truth is that Jesus didn’t come to affirm our inherent goodness — He came to redeem and free us from our fallenness. Jesus, perfectly God and perfectly man, is the living example what we were created to be and what we can be in Him — a human rightly bearing His image in right relationship with Him.

Young’s belief in the inherent goodness of all serves as one of the building blocks for perhaps the most blatant error which is found in Chapter 13 — “You need to get saved.” He asks, “So what is the Good News? What is the Gospel?” then proceeds to answer:

“The Good News is not that Jesus has opened up the possibility of salvation and you have been invited to receive Jesus into your life. The Gospel is that Jesus has already included you into His life, into His relationship with God the Father, and into His anointing in the Holy Spirit. The Good News is that Jesus did this without your vote, and whether you believe it or not won’t make it any less or more true.

What or who saves me? Either God did in Jesus, or I save myself. If, in any way, I participate in the completed act of salvation accomplished in Jesus, then my part is what actually saves me. Saving faith is not our faith, but the faith of Jesus.

God does not wait for my choice and then “save me.” God has acted decisively and universally for all humankind. Now our daily choice is to either grow and participate in that reality or continue to live in the blindness of our own independence. Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying!”

So, according to Young, it’s a lie that we need to get saved because all of humankind is already saved.

In chapter 15 — “Hell is separation from God.” — because Young cannot comprehend the wrath of God, he opts to deny it. And, since in his mind all are already saved, he proposes “the possibility that hell is not separation from Jesus but that it is the pain of resisting our salvation in Jesus while not being able to escape Him who is True Love.”

The eternal torment of separation from God depicted in both the New and Old Testaments and directly in Jesus preaching is simply not up for dismissal according to human wisdom, so called.

In whatever ways the human heart may wish to imagine away God or His self-revelation in the living and written Word, it only serves to further prove the depravity of mankind’s fallenness.

Young would do well to heed the Word in all its fullness, including 2 Peter 2:1–10.
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.”

THE Focus of Lent

As I began reading from Soundtrack (JD Walt) this morning, this reminder and emphasis directly precedes the first chapter … and it couldn’t be more beautiful!

The big idea of the forty days of Lent is not first and foremost about fasting. It’s about focus. We must covenant not to talk about our fasting, but about our focus. Focus on what? Jesus Christ, God’s Son, the Savior, the Lord. Why? Because He is:
  • the Word made flesh (John 1:14)
  • the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15)
  • the exact representation of God’s being (Heb. 1:3)
  • the One Who created all things and for Whom all things were created (Col. 1:16 and Rev. 4:11)
  • He Who is before all things and in Whom all things hold together (Col. 1:17)
  • the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2 NASB)
  • He Who was, and is, and is to come (Rev. 1:4, 8; 4:8)
  • He Who reconciled all things to Himself by making peace through His blood shed on the cross (Col. 1:20)
  • the light of the world (John 8:12)
  • the bread of life (John 6:35)
  • the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6)
  • the gate (John 10:7, 9)
  • the door (John 10:9 NASB)
  • the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)
  • the true vine (John 15:1)
  • the One Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage, but made Himself nothing (Phil. 2:6–7)
  • the King Who humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross (Phil. 2:8)
  • He Whom God highly exalted and gave the name that is above every name (Phil. 2:9)
  • the One before Whom every knee will bow and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10–11)
  • the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Rev. 22:13)
  • He Who is making all things new (Rev. 21:5 NASB)

Civics, Politics, and Love

I’ve been avoiding saying much on social media lately — especially within the political sphere — and I believe it’s good to continue in that vein.

So, in the hopes of fostering some good will and peace…
May all those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ take some things to heart — seriously.

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
(1 Ti 2:1–4)

13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
(1 Pe 2:13–17)

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.
(Mt 5:43–45)

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
(Ro 12:18)

And again…

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
(Heb 12:14)

And how do we ever hope to accomplish any of this?

Begin here:
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
(Mk 12:30–31)

Frustrated and Distraught!

Psalm 73 provides us with a great reminder that is both refreshing and exhorting. In times of frustration and sheer disbelief at the ways in which people… all sorts of people — especially leaders, whether in politics or the press or business or academia — seem to get away with wickedness, we need to hear this.

The psalmist begins with context and perspective. (Ps. 73:1) We must never forget the character of God… He is good.

Then the psalmist begins reflecting on his own flaws and sinful inclination. (Ps. 73:2-3)

Over the course of the next few verses, he complains profusely of the apparent “good times” the wicked are enjoying as the continually get away with everything. (Ps. 73:4-12) We can taste the frustration building…

The psalmist then utters words that should send a chill through us… yet, they are words we have to admit may have echoed in our minds before. He regrets that he ever bothered with righteousness! (Ps. 73:13-14) What did he gain? Why bother?

Then his tone takes an immediate turn and we realize that he has been recounting his thoughts — sharing his heart with us. (Ps. 73:15-16)

But what brought him back to his spiritual senses? The psalmist “entered the sanctuary of God” and there found discernment. (Ps. 73:17) When we’re coming to the end of ourselves and can’t make sense of circumstances and events — that’s no time to fade away from God. Then we must seek Him even more earnestly — we must chase after Him and find fellowship with other believers as we pray and worship the Lord together! (Heb. 10:24-25)

Now the psalmist begins speaking with God directly. We are assured that those who persist and remain in wickedness will suffer their just end. (Ps: 73:18-20) And we see the progression from the psalmist’s bitterness of soul to conviction. (Ps. 73:21-22)

Through the remaining verses (Ps. 73:23-28) we see proclamation of hope and victory as the psalmist praises and gives thanks to God.

Let these concluding words from the Word echo in our hearts…
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

A Meditation in the Word

Father in Heaven, thank You for the living Word that You sent to redeem me. Lord Jesus, thank You for your faithful, humble obedience to all that the Father gave You to accomplish. With your Holy Spirit anointment me now — Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me now I pray. Open my eyes that I may see. Open my ears that I may here. Fill my soul with your presence. Make your written Word to be light and life for me today. By the holy fire of your presence, cleanse from my soul all that is not of You. By your Word, wash me that I may be a spotless bride — sanctified and made ready for You, my Lord and my King. Let me be broken that I may be reformed in your image. By your Word, re-create in me your perfect, holy image – the image You created me to bear for your glory. As I abide in You, my Lord, abide in me — showing forth the fruit of your Love in abundance. Almighty God, hear this my plea and answer from Heaven as I now wait upon You — meditating upon your Word. Amen.

A Confessional Prayer

Almighty and most merciful Father,
we humbly confess that we have sinned,
against You and against one another,
in thought, and in word, and in deed,
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved You with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep,
following too much the methods and desires of our own hearts.
But You, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
forgive us as we forgive one another,
and grant repentance and healing,
according to Your promises
declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord.
O most merciful Father,
for Jesus’ sake and by Your Word,
cleanse and fill us with the Spirit of Holy Love,
sanctifying us wholly,
completing in us the work You began,
continuing unto the day of Jesus Christ,
that we may hereafter delight in Your ways,
walking worthy of You, our Lord, in loving obedience,
to the eternal glory of Your holy Name.
Amen.

References
BCP (http://m1.bookofcommonprayer.net/penorderI.php)
Deut. 26:18
Ps. 37:23
Matt. 5:28; 6:14-15; 15:18
Mark 12:30-31
Acts 13:23
Eph. 3:6; 5:26
Col. 1:10
Phil. 1:6
2 Tim. 2:25
Jas. 4:17; 5:16
1 John 5:2

The Love That Pursues

Reading the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) today, the love of the father is overwhelmingly tangible. Both sons demonstrated failure — the kinds of abject failures that emanate from deep within a heart that is yet to truly know the love of the father. One son sought to fill the inner void of his brokenness by gratifying his every desire — the other, by seeking approval for his performance and perfection. In both situations, the father went out to his son to invite and welcome and reconcile — to pursue as only love can pursue.

So, do you find yourself feeling like a failure lately? Job isn’t what you expected or hoped for? Jealous of others apparent success? Kids pushing you to the edge? Marriage is breaking you? Or, you know you have really screwed things up … and the consequences are becoming unbearably painful. Here this from Rebecca Van Noord: “Often, when we focus too much on our own failures, we don’t reach the point where grace changes us.”

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
yonder on Calvary’s mount out-poured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide,
what can avail to wash it away!
Look! there is flowing a crimson tide;
whiter than snow you may be today.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe;
you that are longing to see his face,
will you this moment his grace receive?

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin.

(Johnston)

There is no better news than this … the God Who is Love pursues failures like you and me! The Almighty God of all creation is pursuing us with Holy Love — the perfect and sincere and everlasting Love that we can only ever comprehend in knowing Him as our heavenly Father.

Just prior to telling of the Prodigal Son, Jesus gives two examples (Luke 15:3-7, 8-10) of loss and redemption and ends both of them with the proclamation that there is rejoicing in Heaven over even one sinner who repents.

So, will you be the son or daughter who wallows in your failure or perhaps sulks about the joy of others? Or will you repent and receive by grace the indescribable love and unspeakable joy of God the Father?

Yep, that’s Him … right behind you, still pursuing you, longing for you to know Him … longing to tell the angels that it’s time to rejoice again in Heaven.