Fore-giving

I was reading Anger Anonymous last week.  It is basically Alcoholics Anonymous for people addicted to anger.

Paperback Anger Anonymous : The Big Book on Anger Addiction Book

The book said many things that really blessed me.  One of the strangest, though, was the one at the bottom of this page:

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As you see in the last few lines, the author defines forgiveness as “to fore-give or give ahead of time”.  I resisted that definition at first.  Being the doctrinaire that I was trained to be, I said to myself, “That’s not what forgiveness is!  Forgiveness is pardoning someone from the consequences of their sins on the basis of Jesus’ blood propitiation.”

And that is indeed what forgiveness is from a technical stance.  The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that forgiveness can be this fore-giveness as well.  The propitiation-based pardon is what can be given ahead of time.  In fact, the more I thought about this, the more I saw it as related to what John Eldredge calls “your story told rightly”.  This, Eldredge says in his book All Things New, is what will happen at the return of Jesus.  He says that at the present our story is often told wrongly or understood wrongly; people don’t perceive us as we really are; they perceive us as something less than we really are.  At the future return of Jesus, though, the “renewal of all things”, our story will be told rightly.   We will have public indisputable vindication/validation as God tells the universe that we are His servants who have done well.

(This isn’t John Eldredge but he seems to be saying the same thing.)

I don’t think this idea of our story being told rightly is simply “correct”.  I think it is extremely important.  I think it is important that our story be told rightly in this way, that we get this public indisputable vindication/validation.  I think, in fact, that this is the reason I have such difficulty forgiving people (and, behind that, the reason I get so angry): I feel I can’t allow people to think less of me than I am, that I must make them see me as the good person I am and must punish them if they refuse to see me as the good person I am.

And I think this notion of fore-giveness relates to that.  I think fore-giving as the author describes here is related to the idea of our story being told rightly.  I think to fore-give is to react to people as you would if your story already had been told rightly.  It is treating them as you would if the public indisputable vindication/validation had already taken place.

Maybe fore-giveness is not technically accurate.  Maybe it is.  I don’t know such things (and I don’t worry about them too much anymore).  But I think there is a truth here.  My story will be told rightly one day; I will get the public indisputable vindication/validation I have desired for so long.  That being the case, I can (and should) treat people as if I had already gotten it.  I can operate on that Kingdom idea of “already but not yet” and thus “fore-give”.

The Beauty of the Lord

My daily prayers take me through various sources.  Ransomed Heart’s Daily Prayer is one of them.  The Celtic Daily Office is another.  I do the Celtic Daily Office’s morning prayer about once a week, and I do it’s midday prayer more often (it is the only midday prayer I know).  One thing I just noticed about these two prayers from this one office is that they both mention “the beauty of the Lord”.  The morning prayer references Psalm 24:7 (“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”) and the midday prayer references Psalm 90:17 (“And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”).

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And there were a couple of things about this that struck me recently.  One is that the Lord is beautiful.  Honestly, that’s not the first term I would use to describe the Lord.  I would use “existing”; He just is.  Or might; He’s all-powerful.  I might go to intelligent/wise or even good.  Those are the ways I typically think of the Lord and the order in which I typically think of them.  He’s the Lord, the Creator, the Designer, the Author, the Great Mathematician, the Engineer, the First Cause, etc.  But these verses are saying something more than that.  They are saying He is beautiful: lovely, desirable.   And they are not the only ones.  The church which uses our building in the evenings often sings this song which likewise calls God beautiful.

The second thing which struck me here is that the psalmists wanted this beauty.  They wanted this beauty to be among them, to have it present to them so they could enjoy it.  Again, I don’t think that’s what most people want from God.  They want God’s power to accomplish whatever they want accomplished.  They want God’s favor to give them whatever they want ( and yes, some translations have beauty as favor in Psalm 90:17).  They want God’s benefits, or God’s forgiveness, or God’s righteousness, or God’s reward.  Some want God’s apathy; they just want God to leave them alone and keep His distance.  These psalmists, though, wanted His beauty.   They wanted access to His beauty.  They wanted (I’m assuming, reading into their words what I think is meant to be read into their word) to feel His beauty and to be fueled by His beauty.

This is changing how I see God and what I want from God.  I see Him now as beautiful.  I think I always did see Him that way to some degree, but I really see Him that way now.  I see Him not only as beautiful but as the greatest of all beautiful things, as more beautiful than the beauties I have lusted over and longed for in the past, a real, honest, lasting beauty that is beyond lust and use.  And I find myself wanting that beauty, wanting it more than anything I’ve ever wanted before.  Wanting it and, through the practice of prayer, receiving it.

I believe God wants me changed in this way, and through these prayers I am changing that way.  Through these prayers I am seeing and desiring the beauty of the Lord.

Eating What Jesus Ate/Pursuing Desert Rhythms

As I see it, there are three types of input we can receive from God:

  • Information – data we didn’t have before, i.e., Paul wrote Philippians
  • Insight – new understanding into how things work; i.e., Agabus didn’t want Paul to go to Rome, but God did, which shows that God’s people can sometimes be sincerely wrong
  • Kairos (the Greek word for a moment in time that changes everything after it) – an applied truth which greatly changes my life; i.e., I read Matthew 6:33 and realize that I have not been seeking the Kingdom first in my career goals

All of these are valid and necessary, but I tend to prefer kairos.  I think kairos is the greatest input we can receive from God, the highest and most meaningful interaction we can have with God.

I think I received such a kairos today.  I’m not sure; it was kind of on the border between kairos and insight.  But either way, it was meaningful.  I was sitting in the dentist chair as an assistant cleaned my teeth.  The assistant was wonderful and kind, but being in the dentist chair always triggers me (it’s the money, not the pain, that bothers me) and I was a little grumpy.  As the assistant flossed her way through my mouth, I wondered why I was being grumpy toward a woman who was doing nothing unkind to me, and I realized it was because I was tired.  I realized I was not treating this woman as Jesus was (and, beyond that, was not living the life Jesus lived or having the spirit Jesus had) because I was tired.

This was not a new realization.  I have understood that fatigue reduces my Christ-likeness ever since Bible college.  What was new was what I realized after.  It was this:

“You are tired because you don’t have the desert rhythms Jesus did.”

“Desert rhythms” is a term I’m borrowing from Pete Scazzero.  I’ve been learning from him ever since a fellow pastor suggested I read his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (which is not an eight-week discipleship course which we will be running in my congregation after the new year).

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It's Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature  -     By: Peter Scazzero

In a recent podcast, Scazzero talked about “desert rhythms”, that is, going into the “desert” or other place of solitude to interact with God.  I think he was talking about the desert rhythms of Elijah in that podcast, using the famous “still, small voice” passage from 1 Kings 19.  But it is true that Jesus had desert rhythms as well.

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It is true that Jesus not only had these desert rhythms but was strengthened by these desert rhythms.  I’m not sure this is directly stated in Scripture but it must be true; this, after all, is what desert rhythms do and what desert rhythms are for, so it must be why Jesus did it and what He got from it.  He had these desert rhythms to strengthen Himself, to rest and refresh and restore Himself, to spiritually feed Himself, to ready Himself to be Himself (the perfect representative of God and perfect practitioner of the Kingdom) in public, to keep Himself from being fatigued.

It stands to reason, then, that we not only need to do these things ourselves but to do them for the same purpose and to the same result.  A guy named “Chief Iron Bear” (Harold Collins) taught me this on an episode of Fox’s Guinness World Records Primetime.  Chief Iron Bear was a strongman participating in a keg toss competition.  During the show, he revealed his daily diet.  As he revealed the diet, he said, “If you want to be like Chief Iron Bear, you have to eat like Chief Iron Bear.”  (I couldn’t find that exact clip, but I know it came from the October 4, 2001 episode of the program, and I’ve put in a clip of Chief Iron Bear pulling a semi truck just for fun.)

Silly as I think strongman competitions are (and much as I truly don’t want to be like Chief Iron Bear or any other strongman; what they do is impressive, but they’ve got just too much bulk for me), I think Chief Iron Bear has a point.  Being like him was not an act of the will.  Being like him could not be an act of the will.  It instead had to be a matter of imitating his diet and training.

It is the same way when it comes to the Christ-like, Kingdom-like spirit.  I have wanted to have that spirit, to be that, for so long, but I’ve always tried to get/be it via a force of will, by just trying to get/be that.  I realize now it can’t work that way.  I realize now that if I want to be like Jesus (and I truly do; that has been my goal since I heard Larry Bryant sing “Sometimes I’m Samson” at a Youth for Christ rally in the mid-80s) then I have to eat like Jesus.  I have to imitate Jesus.  I have to do what Jesus did.

That includes having these desert rhythms, these times of silence, times of prayer that are more about being with God than asking God for things.  I will never get rid of the fatigue that keeps me from being like Jesus in any other way.  I can only get rid of that fatigue and thus only be the Christ-like person I want to be by resting myself/preparing myself in the desert rhythm way Jesus did.

Coexisting Contradictions

I took my daughter to the library yesterday.  We go to the library at least once a week, sometimes more.  During these trips, I commonly see cars in the library parking lot which have bumper stickers that make political and/or religious statements.  Yesterday, I saw this one:

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This is just one of many times I have seen someone have both a “coexist” bumper sticker and a bumper sticker attacking the Christian faith on their car.  Twice I have seen people who have the coexist sticker on the right (it’s always on the right) and the “Darwin fish” on the left.  Once I saw someone with the coexist sticker on the right and a “fish and chips” emblem on the left.

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On all these occasions, I said to myself, “I don’t think these people understand the coexist concept.”  Indeed, you can’t call for coexistence on the right side of your car while simultaneously taking a shot at the world’s largest worldview on the left side of your car.  Taking shots at anyone’s worldview is not coexistence.  It is aggression and it had no place in civil society.

(BTW, I’m all for coexistence if by that you mean, “Let’s not kill those who don’t share our faiths and philosophies.”  I’m against coexistence if by that you mean, “Let’s not take our faiths and philosophies seriously.”  Unfortunately, I tend to think most people who put this emblem on their car mean the latter.)

(Another btw: I’ve always wished someone would make the coexist symbol out of sports logos rather than religious icons.  The Cincinnati Reds “C” could be the “c”, etc.  I’ve always wondered what reaction that would get.  Unfortunately, this is the closest I could find to that.)

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This particular bumper sticker duo, though, reveals a different problem.  I don’t know what to call this problem.  I think of it kind of like the observer effect in physics, the fact that just observing reality affects our reality, an effect that many people create without being aware of creating it (I thought I learned a different name for this or a similar scientific principle, but if I did I forgot it).  This problem isn’t exactly the same as that effect, but it shares the similar idea.  It is people voicing or holding to a philosophy without realizing that their philosophy could contradict their voice or holding to it.

Let me explain using the bumper sticker above.  The owner of that car is challenging people (I tend to think he/she is challenging Christian or faithful people, but I admit that’s an assumption) not to believe everything they think (and, yes, I get the joke, but there is a serious assertion there).  The owner doesn’t seem to realize that the idea that we shouldn’t believe everything we think applies not only to Christian or faithful people but to him/her as well.  If “we” should not believe everything “we” think, then that car owner should likewise not believe everything he/she thinks.  This would include the coexist concept; maybe the car owner shouldn’t believe that just because he/she thought that.  This would also include the idea that we shouldn’t believe everything we think; maybe the car owner shouldn’t believe that just because he/she thought it, either.  It is quite possible that this philosophical tenet is, like so many man-made philosophical tenets, contradictory and thus self-defeating.

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In contrast to that, “what I think” (that is, my Christian faith) isn’t what I think at all.  It is what I have been told, what I have received, what has been revealed to me.  I don’t believe there is a God because I think it.  I think there is a God because Jesus appeared and, after doing great wonders and teaching great truths, said there was.  I don’t believe this God is incredibly good because I think it.  I believe this God is incredibly good because Jesus said He was (because Jesus demonstrated His good character, in fact).  I don’t believe I should repent and avoid sin and have faith because those ideas just same to my mind.  I believe that because Jesus taught that.

So I can coexist as the one bumper sticker calls me to; I’m quite happy to, in fact (even as I remain happy to share my worldview and be kind as I reject the contradictory worldviews people attempt to share with me).  But I can’t take the advice of the second bumper sticker.  It isn’t as solid an idea as it seems to be, and it doesn’t apply to my faith at all.

 

My Daily Prayer

I have been on a quest to learn how to more accurately pray for about a year now.  I may have mentioned that here before.  One of the places my quest took me was a book by John Eldredge.

Moving Mountains    -     By: John Eldredge

In this book, I was introduced to Eldredge’s “daily prayer”, a prayer he constructed and prays everyday.  I’m not sure he gives the prayer in that book (he might; I’m just not sure that’s where I found it), but he does on his Ransomed Heart website.  He has both the text and audio version of the prayer there.  It is also on the Ransomed Heart app.  I found it in one of those places, and have added it to my repertoire, praying it not daily but at least four times a week.  I pray different things every day; sometimes I do this Daily Prayer, sometimes I do the Lord’s Prayer, sometimes I do the Celtic Daily Office.  So I don’t do this prayer every day, but I do it frequently.

And I have found it useful.  I won’t go into all the Daily Prayer does or all that prayer in general does; I’m not qualified to do that, in fact, because I don’t know all that.  But I know it is at the very least true that “prayer changes me”, as the Anthony Hopkins version of C.S. Lewis says in Shadowlands.

Repeating the truths of God drives those truths into my mind, giving me a type of spiritual “muscle memory”, making those truths a natural, instinctive part of how I interpret what I see and experience.  Eldredge’s Daily Prayer contains a lot of these truths, and, while I again don’t want to try to explain what he could explain better, I think it does so for this reason: changing me, developing my spiritual muscle memory.  The Daily Prayer has done that for me, anyway, whether it was designed to or not, and that is one reason I love it.

I think prayer does more than just change me, though.  I think prayer actually does change things.  I don’t know that prayer “changes God”, as Hopkins-Lewis said, but I think God does act on prayer (again, for reasons I don’t know and can’t explain).  For example, I have found that praying for consecration (which I’m not sure is in the Daily Prayer as much as it is in Moving Mountains) has somehow consecrated me; temptations began vanishing when I started praying that way.  And the Daily Prayer contains petition for lots of similar changes.

So I think there is a lot of value in the Daily Prayer, and I do love it just as it is.  However, I am an organizer by nature, and I began wondering if it couldn’t be organized a little better (better being subjective there; better in my eyes if no one else’s).  I also had some other ideas I wanted to add to the Daily Prayer, ideas I took from other sources.  I was a little reluctant to do tinker with the prayer in this way, but I contacted the Ransomed Heart team nonetheless, asking what they thought about the idea.  They said this was a great idea, telling me the prayer was never meant to be recited in unwavering verbatim but was meant to be a guide.  With their go ahead, I then refashioned the prayer some.  I kept a lot of what Eldredge originally had, including the bulk of the structure, his repeated references to giving God “spirit, soul, and body, heart, mind, and will”, and his phrase “I receive it with thanks” which I find so powerful.  But I imported some other phrases of my own design that I’ve been praying for a long time.  I also imported some requests that weren’t in the prayer or that weren’t in the prayer as much as I would have liked.  I added the Serenity Prayer in there, too, and the consecration idea from Moving Mountains, and just a little from St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

In the end, my Daily Prayer is no more perfect than Eldredge’s.  As much as I would love to have every phrase and idea I ever pray on paper (because I again am and organizer and a collector and a preserver), I just can’t.  There is too much that just spontaneously comes to me as I pray (a lot of it from my daily Scripture readings) and too much I will learn in the future.  I just can’t document every great prayer idea or phrase I have.  I think my version of the Daily Prayer is a good skeleton, though, a pretty decent guide to get me (and maybe you) started.  So it is with humility (and thanks to John!) that I offer it to you now:

My Daily Prayer

My God; Great Three-In-One; holy and victorious Trinity; Father, Son, & Spirit.

I come to You now to be with You and to be made one with You.  I come to be restored in You, renewed in You, refreshed in You, rejuvenated by You, and rejoined to You.  I come to Your throne with confidence to receive You, Your life, Your love, and all the grace and mercy I so desperately need this day.

I ask the Holy Spirit to lead this time of prayer.  I ask the Son to intercede in this time of prayer.  I ask the Father to hear this time of prayer.  I ask You to interact with me in this time as I interact with You.  I ask You to receive me as I receive You.  I ask You to draw near to me as I draw near to You.  In all that I now pray, I stand in total agreement with Your will, with Your Spirit, and with all those everywhere who are praying for me.

I love God; I trust God; I worship God.  I praise Him; I glorify and magnify Him; I honor and adore Him; I exalt and extol Him; I respect and revere Him; I lift His name high and proclaim Him to be the highest.  I declare that He is.  I declare that He is almighty.  I declare that He is all-knowing.  I declare that He is all good.  I declare that He is light; in Him there is no darkness.  I declare that He is life; existence comes from Him.  I give myself over to Him in my heart’s search for light, goodness, peace, and joy.  I give myself over to Him in my heart’s search for life, meaning, purpose, reason, strength, and support.  I give myself over to Him in my heart’s search for love, family, friendship, relationship, and belonging.  I renounce all other gods as false and worthless, and I give Him the place in my heart they once occupied.  I trust that He and He alone is the source and supply of all I need and want.  I admit that He is the Hero of the story that is being told, and I am a supporting character.  He is the Lord, and I am the servant.  He is the Shepherd, and I am the lamb.  He is the King, and I am the subject.  He is the superior, and I am the inferior.  He is the owner, and I am the owned.  In this spirit I pray.

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me and choosing me before the beginning of time.  You are the Creator, the Sustainer, the Redeemer, and the true end of all things, including my life and all life.  I love You; I trust You; I worship You.  You have proved Your love for me by sending Jesus; forgiven my sins through Him, included me in Him, granted me His righteousness, made me complete in Him and alive with Him, raised me with Him, seated me with Him at Your right hand, established me in His authority.  You have anointed me with Your Spirit.  You have given me every spiritual blessing in Christ.  You have adopted me into Your family and blessed me with the full rights of a son: the robe, the sandals, and the ring.  I receive it all with thanks, and I give You total claim to my life – spirit, soul, and body, heart, mind, strength, and will.

Jesus, thank You for coming to reveal the Father to me and to ransom me with Your own life. You are my true brother, friend, teacher, and master.  You are the one through whom all things come from the Father.  I love You; I trust You; I worship You.  By You my every sin is atoned for; I am delivered from the kingdom of darkness and transferred to Your kingdom of light; my sin nature is removed; my heart is circumcised unto God; and every claim being made against me is cancelled and disarmed.  I take my place now in Your cross and death, dying with You to sin, putting off the old man and putting on You and Your righteousness.  I take my place in Your resurrection, through which You have conquered sin, death, judgment, and the evil one; I give you my life so You can live and reign through me.  I take my place in Your ascension, through which You have ascended to fill the whole universe and cast down the evil one.  I sincerely acknowledge and accept You as my authority, rule, and dominion, my everlasting victory against the evil one and his kingdom, and my ability to bring Your Kingdom at all times and in every way.  Apply to me all the work and triumph in Your appearing, death, resurrection, ascension, and rule.  I receive it with thanks and give it total claim to my life – spirit, soul, and body, heart, mind, strength and will.

Holy Spirit, thank You for sealing me for the day of redemption and showing me the Father’s truth.  I love You; I trust You; I worship You.  You have come through Pentecost; clothed me with power from on high; sealed me in Christ; become my union with the Father and the Son.  You are the Spirit of truth in me; the life of God in me; my counselor, comforter, strength, and guide.  Fill me afresh.  Keep me in step with You.  Restore my union with the Father and the Son.  Lead me into all truth.  Anoint me for all of my life and walk and calling.  Bring me deeper into Jesus today.  I receive You with thanks, and I give You total claim to my life – spirit, soul, and body, heart, mind, strength, and will.

I bring the blood of Jesus Christ once more over my life.  I bring the riches of Jesus Christ over my life.  I bring the authority, rule, dominion, and full work of Jesus Christ over my life.  I bring myself under His banner and bring His authority over my home, my household, and my work; over all my kingdom and domain.  I submit everything to him.  I open the door to Him.  I invite Him into every room.  I welcome Him into every corner of my life.  I give Him all keys; full access to me and mine.

I accept Your hope, love, faith, joy, goodness, truth, wisdom, power, and strength.  They have been offered, and I receive them with thanks.

I ask that You will equip me with everything good for doing your will.  I ask that I will be fruitful as I remain connected to the Vine and the Gardener.

I ask Your forgiveness for my every sin, and I ask Your strength to forgive every sin committed against me.  Search me, know me, and grant me the grace of Your healing and deliverance.  Bless me with a deep and true repentance.  May I be forgiven and forgiving.  May forgiveness be my spirit, my story, and my song.

I ask You to show me where You are working in my life and what You are doing in my life, that I might be able to cooperate even if I don’t understand.

I bring the full work of Christ between me and every person, and I ask that nothing but the love and Spirit of God be between me and every person.  I ask Christ to be in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me, in every eye that sees me, and in every ear that hears me.  I ask that Christ be in my heart, mouth, eye, and ear as I think of, speak to, see, and hear others as well.  I ask that my interactions with others will be fueled and flavored with Jesus and only Jesus.

I put on the full armor of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the helmet of salvation; I take up the shield of faith and sword of the Spirit, and I choose to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty strength as I pray in the Spirit at all times with all kinds of prayers and requests.

I bring the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and the full work of Christ against every evil power coming against me – against every foul spirit, power, and device.  I cut them off in the name of the Lord; I bind and banish them from me and from my kingdom now in the mighty name of Jesus Christ.  I thank Jesus for His angels and summon them in his name to destroy all that is raised against me, to establish his Kingdom over me, and to guard me and mine day and night.

I offer myself to You as a living sacrifice: spirit, soul, and body, heart, mind, strength, and will.  I ask You to accept and receive this offering of me.  I ask You to place me on Your altar.  I ask You to touch my lips with coal, to wash me, to cleanse me, to redeem me, to sanctify me, to consecrate me, to purify me unto Yourself.  I ask that all ignoble things be removed from me that I be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy and useful to the master, prepared to do every good work.

By the power of Jesus Christ and the truth He has revealed to me, I break all agreements with the evil one.  I reject the lies he has told me and which have bound me for so long, and I confess the truths of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, truths of light, life, and love.

I ask for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  I ask that I may live one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

I ask You to send forth Your Spirit to raise up intercessors for me, and I ask that these intercessors will contact me, letting me know of their love and prayers for me.

I now call forth the kingdom of God throughout my home, my household, my kingdom, and domain in the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I confess that His is the power, and the Kingdom, and the glory forever.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

Being Willing to Be Insignificant

I was talking with a counselor yesterday.  He was telling me about the needs of significance and security.  He said that men have the greatest need for significance while women have the greatest need for security.

This was not new to me.  I learned this in Bible college.  I think I learned it my first year of Bible college, in fact, and I’ve never forgotten it.  But it caught my attention at that moment in a way it hadn’t caught it before.  It caught my attention because it touches on something I’ve been thinking about lately: how I should understand myself in the Kingdom work of God.

I think it was Oswald Chambers who got me thinking along these lines.  In his June 21st My Utmost for His Highest entry (which I would have read on vacation), Chambers says this:

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It’s that blessed are the poor in spirit comment that got me (again, on my vacation!).  That line, of course, comes as part of Jesus’ opening beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount.  I knew that line.  It seems like I’ve always known that line.  But I’ve also disliked that line.  I disliked the idea of being poor, whether in spirit or otherwise.  Poverty (again, material or physical) is for other people, not me.  That’s what I thought, anyway.  What I realized when I read Chamber’s devotion, though, is that it is for me, that I’ve missed a lot by rejected this poorness in spirit, that I am not living in a blessed way.

Several other Scriptural statements came up with supported this notion.  Here are a few of them:

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And that’s just three.  I could toss out several more about being nothing, not being conceited, being a servant, and many more phrases/ideas which fit in here.  It’s not just the Sermon on the Mount which calls me to poverty.  It is the entire word of God.

This is similar, I think, to something else I heard in Bible college.  One professor told the class on one occasion that the Jewish rabbis used to teach people to carry two rocks in their pockets.  On one rock would be written the phrase, “For me the world was created” (or something else like that, something which put the person at the center of the universe), and on the other would be written, “I am dust” (or something similarly debasing).  The person should then pull out whichever rock their attitude needed at any particularly time.

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For a more detailed account of this teaching, go here.

 I think this idea is true.  Jesus has exalted us in incredible ways; we truly can understand that the world was created for us.  But Jesus has also called us to humility.  Again, I don’t think I’ve had that humility in my life.  Not truly.  I’m willing to pursue it, though.  I’m willing to be poor in spirit (I’ve been praying for it, actually, and God has been answering that prayer, putting me into situations which make me feel so poor).  I’m willing to overcome that inborn and inbred desire for significance to be insignificant.

Speaking Jesus

There’s a phrase that has come to my attention over the past couple of weeks.  More accurately, there’s a prayer that has come to my attention over those weeks.  This phrase is a prayer.  It is one petition in a longer prayer called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”, a prayer supposedly (but, alas, probably not) written by St. Patrick.  It goes like this:

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It is the second phrase there which has really caught my attention (though all, of course, are worthy of consideration).  Christ is the mouth of everyone who speaks of me.  I think I heard that phrase/prayer/petition years ago; I vaguely recall encountering St. Patrick’s Breastplate in my college years (though that might be a false memory, a Mandela effect).  But it has exploded across my radar recently.  Some of this is due to the Celtic Daily Office.  I use this office at least twice a week if not more during my own prayer time.  The morning prayer of this office references this statement, saying:

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Not only so, but Ransomed Heart’s Daily Prayer, which I also use two or three times a week, mentions something similar:

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Somehow I have combined these two or three sources into my own idea, which I phrase in this way: “Be in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me, and be in my mouth every time I speak.”

It is that second part that really convicts me.  The first part is a blessing I’m asking for myself, actually; I’m hoping that everybody who speaks to me does so as Christ, that is, speaks to me in the kind ways Christ would, doesn’t say anything that hurts me (yes, I know Christ challenged people but He never maliciously hurt anyone).  The second part, though, is a responsibility I need to accept.  It is a fair responsibility.  I firmly believe in “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”; I think I can make the case that is a biblical concept and that we thus shouldn’t ask something for ourselves which we aren’t willing to extend to others.  It is a good or noble responsibility; I’d be pretty honored if I knew that people felt I talked with them like Christ.

But it is also a difficult responsibility.  It goes contrary to my nature.  I think it does, anyway.  I always have a hard time separating nature from nurture.  But it definitely goes against nurture, goes against the way I was trained.  I was trained that you have to speak harshly.  Forget that, “Speak softly but carry a big stick” stuff.  No, speak heavy from the very beginning and don’t let up.  I was trained to believe that anyone who abridges you in word or deed must be immediately and fully smacked down in every way.  I was trained to believe that anyone who sends the slightest shade your way must be lit up hardcore.

Movies were a big part of this training.  In most (if not every) action movie (my favorites), there is scene early on in which someone braces the hero only for the hero to put them in their place.  I could give dozens of example, but my favorite is from the Chuck Norris movie Sidekicks.  Here is not Chuck but Mako who puts a man who braces him in his place (in case you’re wondering, this clip sticks in my mind because I was studying martial arts at the time; in every martial arts movie, the hero does some slight of hand in a situation similar to this, but this is the one in which my eyes were finally opened and I realized, “We’re martial artists, not magicians.  We can’t do stuff like that!”).

(I was totally surprised to find this clip on my first try.  I was also totally surprised at the racial slurs used.  Please remember this movie comes from a different time and that I don’t mean to offend anyone by using it.)

While I’ve never reached Mako’s level of putting people in their place, I have put them in their place nonetheless.  I have at least tried to.  It usually doesn’t work that well for me.  My mind doesn’t tend to insults (which I take as a good thing), and I usually don’t think of what to say to someone who braces me until much later.  I guess I’m like Marge that way:

(If YouTube removes that video, find it here: https://comb.qNnUSrio/)

But what I’ve discovered after reading and praying this phrase/petition, after seeing this incredibly beautiful idea of “speaking Jesus” to people (which is what I believe this is: not just speaking like Jesus but actually speaking Jesus), I am turning away from this training.  I am trying to, anyway.  I’m not sure what or how long it will take to be successful at this.  But I am sure I want to be successful at this.  Christ will not be in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me; that prayer won’t be answered at the one hundred percent level; people are going to brace me.  But Christ can be in my mouth whenever I speak to anyone.  The love of Christ can be all that is between me and everyone to whom I speak.  And I want it to be.  I’m praying for it to be.