Unknown source. Please e-mail me if you know the artist.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Awakening to the Divine Voice

 “’My Father is working until now,
and I myself am working.’
For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking
all the more to kill him,
because he not only was breaking the Sabbath,
but also was calling God His own Father,
making Himself equal with God”
(John 5:17-18)

            Even more radical than calling God his own Father is to call God Father of us all.  The Jewish leaders leaped to interpret this as “making himself equal,” but, rather, it suggests intimacy with the divine.  We forget such intimacy was not part of the Jewish way of thinking.  After all, every year, in this very season, in almost every other place we look, we see lovely scenes of the divine, laying in a manger, surrounded by a family, kings, shepherds, and even sheep, cows and donkeys.  In this intimate scene, people and animals alike are all lovingly adoring a little baby who represents the divine intimately sleeping among us.

            But in the day of that divine child, to consider the divine, God, in terms so intimate, not only as a baby among us, but even as our “Father,” was a radical paradigm, a threatening one, in fact.  It was made even more threatening by Jesus’ implied claim to trump them: “You think you have the authority to tell me what God wants of me?  No, God is my Father, and I listen directly to Him.”

            Understandably, the Jewish leaders saw a great threat in this, especially with Jesus’ growing ministry.  They perceived that if he were not stopped, soon everyone would be getting their directions from him, not them.  Even worse, they must have wondered what would happen if he were to teach that they could also have God as their own Father?  Worst of all, what if his followers also learn to hear God for themselves?  What would happen to them?  Wouldn’t they lose all their authority, their power, their jobs?  This Jesus had better be stopped.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming
and now is when the dead shall hear
the voice of the Son of God;
and those who hear shall live.”
(John 5:25)

            If the Jewish leaders were not already sufficiently incensed, one can barely imagine their ire while listening to His discourse that begins, “the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing” (5:19) and ends with the critique, “For if you believed Moses, you would have believed Me; for he wrote of Me.  But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (5:47)

            In the middle are portions that suggest what may have been their greatest fear: that Jesus’ followers could also learn to hear the voice of God.  Consider the statement above in verse 25,” the dead shall hear”: until one hears, one is “dead.”  Genuine life, what Jesus terms “eternal life,” only commences upon the hearing, the believing, and the trusting in the Son.  Prior to that, one is not alive, but “dead.”

            Prior to that moment, the divine is like the lovely image we see in the Nativity: the divine sleeping among us, and within us.  When it wakes, we are no longer dead, but alive.

            What Jesus says just before this is also revealing: “he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (5:24).  We think of passing from life to death, but Jesus says the one who hears passes from death to life.  This suggests we are born into death and then pass into life.

            Once we do, then we, too, can hear the voice of the Father and find authority straight from the Father.  It’s a process: “an hour is coming and now is.  The voice begins with hearing the red-printed statements in the Gospels and through the church’s teachings.  The more one searches the scriptures, the more clear the voice becomes.

            In time, often while reading the scriptures, surprising insight comes through the Holy Spirit. This voice of the Son is growing ever more clear.  Then, in prayer, the voice comes through again.  Then it comes while one is walking, showering, gardening, cooking.  The voice is becoming a friend.  It’s the voice I’ve named this blog: “whispers of mystery.”

            By the time one consciously perceives that this voice is less about the person Jesus and more about the divine voice, “the voice of the Son of God,” the process has lasted so long, one knows not when the voice actually emerged.  Even if one had a significant encounter with the Holy Spirit, the voice emerged, nevertheless, through a process.

            At the beginning, when our flesh rules much more than our spirit, external forces are essential to guide us forward.  Hence, no matter how much we may critique what I and, I’ve since discovered, others call “Churchianity,” the external force of the Church is a critical ingredient in getting this process moving forward.

            The instances when we may be critical of the Church are in those moments when it quits moving the process forward and actually stunts the process: “Don’t go any further.  That’s dangerous territory.”

            Usually, the Church stunts the process at the same point that the religious leaders tried to stop Jesus: when one claims he can hear the Father for himself.  When this occurs, once again, the church leaders can be threatened to lose their authority and power.  The Church’s job is to bring us to the point where, though we may choose to continue fellowship and service, we no longer need the Church for our own personal growth.  At this moment, some churches rejoice.  Others churches do not.

            Whether or not we may be participating in a church that rejoices with us, the good news is we are the ones to hear the divine voice and to follow its guidance.  Our intimacy can be even deeper than the lovely image of divine within a baby sleeping among us.  Instead, it can be of the divine voice awoken within us.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

God is Spirit

“An hour is coming and now is,
when the true worshippers shall
worship the Father in spirit and truth;
for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers”
(John 4:23)

It’s a worship from within, in Spirit, tapping into this inexplicable knowledge, truth, a deep form of intuition that goes beyond intuition and into knowledge of truth.

            Next, Yeshua says something revealing: “God is Spirit” (John 4:24).  While this statement does complement the traditional concept of the Trinity, it doesn’t fit into our popular concept of God.  Yeshua’s own depiction of God as “Father” fits the way we perceive God as a much larger and far grander version of us humans.  But, here, Yeshua clarifies that the Father uses the names Father, God, is “spirit.”  In verses 4:21-24, Yeshua uses the names Father and God interchangeably as He who is worshipped in spirit and truth, so Father = God = Spirit.

“God is spirit,
and those who worship Him
must worship in spirit and truth”
(John 4:24)

            In the full statement, Yeshua suggests we cannot worship God unless we worship “in spirit and truth.”  Religion is not worship.  Rituals are not worship.  Adherence to doctrines is not worship.  Going to church is not worship.  These things can be done, and perhaps they’ll be of some benefit, but they are not “worship.”  If we consider this full discourse, with living water “springing up to eternal life” in the one who receives it and worship “in spirit and truth,” then it seems “worship” is more akin to deep prayer and meditation than most of our usual concepts of “worship.”  It can take place corporately, but likely cannot occur unless it also, and most importantly, takes place privately.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

To Believe or to Know

“He who comes from above is above all,
he who is of the earth is from the earth
and speaks of the earth.
He who comes from above is above all.
What he has seen and heard,
of that he bears witness;
and no man receives his witness”
(John 3:31-32)

The repeated refrain of Yeshua to Nicodemus in the Gospel of John, poetically expressed as a wrap in verse 31, “He who comes from above/heaven is above all,” sounds curiously akin to a few statements in the Gospel of Thomas, where they are applied to any of the special few men and women who find their way into the kingdom.
Next we see that he who is “above all” knows, for “what he has seen and heard, of that he bears witness” (v. 32).  This one does not merely “believe,” he knows, for only one who knows can “bear witness.”  However, the manner in which he knows is quite distinct from that of men in general, “for no man receives his witness.”  This is because men, in order to “believe” (let alone “know”) must have empirical evidence or a “sign” the people kept demanding.  Men need to see, touch, hear, and taste in order even to believe, let alone know.  However, he who comes from above knows without that empirical evidence because he has evidence that goes even deeper than the empirical variety.
Often, the knowledge begins with empirical evidence, some miracle that should not be chalked up to “coincidence.”  These are moments for which I mock the skeptics: It takes more faith to believe this statistical impossibility was due to random chance than to believe in a divine miracle.  Sometimes a series of such clues coms forth to boost one’s faith, and once one’s “faith has made [himself] well,” one moves beyond belief, trust and faith, and into knowledge: “I don’t believe, I know,” as Carl Jung has famously answered in response to whether he believed in God.
            At this point, one knows not from empirical evidence, but from some remarkable and inexplicable knowledge from within.  It is akin to the knowledge of babies and toddlers that defies any scientific understanding: How do babies learn how to walk and talk?  Frankly, scientists are baffled and admit they don’t know.  So Noam Chomskey coined the term, “Language Acquisition Device,” known by its acronym the “LAD,” to provide, at the very least, a definition of this mystery and a term for the convenience of researchers, psychologists, pediatricians, educators, and others who work with children who may have a weakened “LAD” in contrast to those who have a healthy “LAD.”
In essence, what is the LAD?  A divinely placed mechanism into humans that teaches us to talk, read, write, and communicate.  Neurologists still haven’t found it, and they won’t, for it is not biological, but a divinely implanted system of knowledge in the human mind.  Others have likened this knowledge to knowing a sunset is beautiful.  How do we know?  Because beauty has been divinely written into our hearts, so when we encounter it, we know.
            Likewise, those “born from above” have another divinely placed mechanism within their mind by which they “know” things others don’t.  Psychics, remote viewers, and those with ESP have such unusual knowledge that’s inexplicable to those without this knowledge.  Those who are spiritually infused with special knowledge, who have been “born from above” and are publicly acknowledged to have spiritual insight are called “prophets.”  Others may lack this public acknowledgement but nevertheless maintain such a divinely placed gifting of inexplicable knowledge.
            Given that such knowledge is inexplicable, “no man receives his witness” (v. 32).  “How are we to believe you?” men ask.  “Just because you say so?”  “What evidence do you have?”  “Show us a sign.”  It cannot be done.  Attempting to explain this knowledge is an exhausting and exasperating trial in futility that thoroughly frustrates both the one trying to explain it and the one trying to understand.  Most who have received such inexplicable knowledge have stories of their own futile attempts at explaining it, often to receive mockery, scorn, and diagnoses of psychological disorders.  Eventually, the wise ones learn to shut up and accept that “no man receives his witness.”

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Labor pains: Birthing into Something New

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you,
as though something strange were happening to you. 
But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ,
so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed”
(1 Peter 4: 12-13)

Every Christian circle has a few taboo topics.  Here we are on the first day of a new year, and I’ve decided to take one of them on.  Hmmm, I may be asking for a dangerous year.  But it’s time to live bold.  This topic is critical, and when Christians ignore it, they lose what could be one of the most significant opportunities of their lives – because they don’t know how address it.  It’s a pattern that comes forth when spiritual development is on the brink: obstacle, prayer, victory.  If we don’t know the pattern, we may miss the victory.  What do some call this pattern?  “Spiritual warfare.”

If I am to address such a topic, why would I choose to do so, of all days, on New Year’s Day?  Shouldn’t this be a day of celebrating what is new?  Why talk about something that sounds so evil?  Even demonic?  First, it will become clear that I see this pattern as neither evil nor demonic, but purely natural, as natural as labor pains, and, like labor pains to new birth, surprisingly appropriate for discussion as we begin a new year.

I came into the Christian Family at the age of 15, through a church that loved me into the healing I needed.  A year later, I joined my first mission trip to build houses for the poor in Mexico, which touched a passion in me and began a decade of many more such mission trips.  There was an understanding at this church that “spiritual warfare” often accompanies mission trips.  Invariably, they’d warn us, the van may break down on the way (and do just fine on the way back, by the way), or the luggage won’t make it, or team members will get sick, or some other unexpected and obscure hitch will present itself that delays the mission or threatens it altogether.
My church group never expressed that such obstacles derived from some sinister entity, but explained the pattern as one permitted by God to strengthen our faith.  Sure enough, the obstacles came.  Thankfully, because our group was prepared, we knew what to do: circle up and pray.  We didn’t let the obstacles discourage us, defeat us, or hold us back.  Instead, they emboldened us and brought us to prayer, bold prayer.  Then we watched the Spirit move in remarkable ways.  I learned the pattern: obstacle, prayer, victory.

Meanwhile, I and my biological family traveled extensively for study and pleasure, I also noticed that such obstacles were less frequent and less intense on travels for other purposes.  Such hitches did come for those too, but less often and less intense.  And, please, before casting off these observations as unique to my experience, ask a handful of seasoned missionaries if obstacles are more likely on travels for missions than they are for other purposes, and the knowing ones will smile, nod, and say that obstacles, especially on the way, to mission trips defy the statistics.  Seasoned missionaries know the pattern: obstacle, prayer, victory.

The pattern taught me that it held for moments beyond mission trips.  When a spiritual development was on its way, so were the obstacles.  And I understood the proper response: prayer.  Bold prayer.  To meet with triumph, I learned from this church that it takes bold prayer that calls upon a Great God to do Mighty works against any obstacle in the way of what the Holy Spirit is doing.

Thank goodness it was this church that led me into Christ.  Thank goodness this church had prepared me for a spiritual battle many years later that was misunderstood by everyone around me and that otherwise could have led to the very breakdown of my marriage.  Thank goodness this church had taught me about spiritual warfare and about bold prayer.  My gratitude can no longer remain silent.  Let me share my own battle.

During a 3 ½ month period of time, occasionally hinted at on this site, I lived through what I now affectionately call my “summer in the twilight zone.”  I wasn’t calling it that then.  The nightmares were terrifying, and my toddler was waking with them at the same time as I was.  I’d wake in horror, sweating, heavy breathing, wide eyed and shaken, and seconds later, my toddler in the next room over would let out a blood-curdling scream, waking from her own nightmare.  The sicknesses, the lost passports the day before they were needed, the for-a-separate-post trials facing our marriage, the subsequent wedding rings both my husband and I lost, the story I (Karina) shared here, the car accident, which was separate from but later in the week as the story just linked, and other bizarre trials hit heavy over a matter of six weeks, during which I was also awed by extraordinary spiritual glory.  (See again the link just noted.)  As I’ve expressed before, my “summer in the twilight zone” carried a remarkable mix of glory and terror, and it truly was the time of my own Awakening.

It wasn’t until I faced these battles that I discovered how ignorant most Christians are of these forces that come at peak spiritual moments in our lives.  To everyone around me, all of the bizarre circumstances were chalked up to an odd mix of coincidence.  Be they my Christian friends or my spiritual leaders, were the available during this time, they all found me to need psychological help and gave no credence to my cries for bold prayer against the forces terrorizing me.

I say “were they available during this time” because some friends and leaders were out of the country or otherwise inaccessible during this time, but once my twilight zone had passed, the Spirit blessed me with quite a few who understood.  One, after hearing a litany of craziness, stopped me at “car accident,” cast her index finger out, and exclaimed, “That’s spiritual warfare!”  I breathed a sigh of relief.  Thank you.  Finally, someone understood and gave it a label it deserved. 

I had been so exhausted trying to find anybody who could understand, both for the emotional support I longed for and for the prayer team I desperately needed.  My friends could see that my marriage was in danger, so on their own, they prayed for that and probably for my psychological health, but they weren’t willing to pray with me.  They wanted me to stay put at home at a safe distance from them, while they reported they were praying for me on their own.

So I truly had to learn what I heard Christ whisper and often repeat, “I am with you, My daughter.  Come to Me.  I am with you.”  So I came to Him and I prayed, and I prayed boldly.  I saw the pattern: obstacle, prayer, victory.  I met the obstacles, I prayed, I kept meeting obstacles, I prayed more boldly, I still kept meeting obstacles, I prayed even more boldly, and I found victory.  I still kept meeting obstacles.  This is an important point.  The obstacles persist even when prayers are uplifted, and even if we consider them bold, but victory sometimes comes only after we send up more prayers that are more bold than we could ever imagine to be necessary.

Obstacle, prayer, victory.  I had learned the pattern, and I implemented it when it became necessary.  Tragically, not all Christians understand this pattern.  They see these obstacles at very pivotal moments in their lives, at moments when they see all the signs that the Spirit is about to do a great work in them and through them, and they think the obstacles are a cruel coincidence.  And they moan, groan, and whine over the obstacles.  And then the obstacles defeat them, and they cry, and they cry hard because they had “thought” they were on the brink of something great, but the obstacle held them back.

I have sat and listened in grief to such tragic stories of other Christians.  To me, all the signs were clear: the Lord was about to do something great in them and through them.  “So did you pray?” I’d ask.  “Of course,” they’d reply, insulted.  “No,” I’d say again, “Did you PRAY?”  Then they’d look at me more insulted and shake their head, not at my question, but at me.  I got my answer.  They hadn’t prayed.

Obstacle, prayer, victory.  It’s a pattern noted often throughout the gospels and epistles and in a few Christian circles.  In these circles, it is a pattern that often comes under a label that seems to repel other Christian circles, “spiritual warfare.”  I can see why the label doesn’t work for many.  It conjures up images of angels and demons sword-fighting in Christian sci-fi novels.  I get it. 

Further, in some circles, the concept of “demons” is associated with the pattern, and I’d like to acknowledge here that this concept of “demons” can be a helpful way of perceiving it, as imagining “demons” can embolden people to become the very prayer warriors they need to be in order to have victory.  The way I see the pattern, however, is neither sinister nor demonic, but natural.  Perhaps we need a term that is less off-putting and more precise.

Labor pains.  Isn’t that what is happening?  We are on a path of birthing something new and, just when we’re on the brink of birthing it, obstacles and suffering come forth.  We are laboring to birthing something new.  Very little that is truly meaningful comes without labor and without hardship.  So when we see the obstacles, may we not be defeated.  May we not groan at what we’re told to call “coincidences” and, therefore, lack the boldness to fight.  May we name the moment, perhaps as “labor pains” or the simple pattern of “obstacle, prayer, victory.”  By acknowledging the moment for the pattern it carries, we prepare ourselves to pray with boldness and declare victory.

May any labor pains in our New Year usher in New Birth.  May 2014 be a year of bold prayer and great victory.  Amen.