Deep in my Bones

This morning I realized just how long it had been since I had processed my thoughts as a part of my daily devotional routine. As I read through the word annually, certain moments seem to come to life in parallel ways with my own. Such were the results in today’s a.m. read in the third chapter of Ezra.

There has been a growing sense of need for renewal in my spirit, long overdue after being held captive by so many distractions due to my many ventures both political and professional. There is something about captivity that creates hunger for days where spiritual liberty and abundant harvest seemed more evident.

This chapter follows the authorization of Cyrus, King of Persia, to return and rebuild the Temple, lost from these captive lives for then over 70 years. Many were alive, who once knew the beauty of Solomon’s temple, and holding residual intensity deep in their bones as a memory of miraculous God visited worship moments. There was something about being home, having their own dirt once more under their feet, in their case, Jerusalem.

Their response to this proclamation by the King, accompanied by an abundant inventory of silver, gold, money, artisans, food, drink and even cedar logs was to first build an altar, catching up on their pent up need for praise, sacrifice and ritual, traditions that lay dormant for the most part in Babylon, by then, under control of Persia.

Eventually, they laid the foundation for a new temple, at which point the Elders wept aloud and the new generation shouted for joy, creating a noise heard far away! This is where my interest piqued.

Were the Elders simply overwhelmed by the reality that what they had thought lost was somehow now sovereignly recovered? The younger perhaps thrilled with a fresh vision of God, heretofore only dreamed of, but never actually touched upon, except in their context-less interpretation as they listened to the tired stories of “the good ole days”, while growing up among the elders in their providential captivity.

Can you sense where I am going? We seem to be sitting on a similar and sovereign divide between two generations, the older offering only stories and a failed paradigm for church that is no longer attractive enough for the Next’ers to even support; yet, there is something so deep in the bones of the aging that they are unwilling to relinquish the old, in hopes that one day what they have experienced, even built this once thriving nation upon, will in some way be revived.

The younger generation is excited by more than their music and lights, equally desiring a meaningful “God” experience, finding a new release of their smothered spirits. Naive of the pain that this sort of counter culture stand will eventually cost them, yet, with that innocence, energy for celebration and renewal, so necessary to bring about deep transformation.

I sense that we are there again, on the cusp of a sovereign renewal, just as history has repeatedly chronicled, about every 500 years.

Excited to the bone!

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The Fourth

Today I am tempted to avoid the contemplative call that seems to be there every morning, often with a new thought that I need to struggle through. This morning was exceptionally difficult. It’s the Fourth of July, when social media is filled with astonishing photos of wind driven flags, the Statue of Liberty and quotes promoting nationalism and liberty.

One such quote:
“To be born free is a gift.
To remain free is a struggle.
To die free is a duty.”

We Americans are serious about Liberty, yet the passion that called men to such Liberty was much more than capitalism and free enterprise, though holding awesome outcomes for many when balanced with philanthropy. Yet at times, one must admit that our incarnate lust entangles us, spotting our history with brutal wars and such madness as slavery.

Surely this gift of liberty was of spiritual essence for men are seldom long bounded by their own morality; otherwise the joy of success would not be repeatedly tainted by greed and true freedom so rare upon this earth, given this great American experiment in democracy.

Though varying in their spiritual understanding, there was a sense of an Omnipotent Being guiding the wisdom of our Founders and encouraging their risk, even unto death.

This morning after a couple hours of moving from the local news, Facebook, scriptures and numerous cups of coffee, it seemed appropriate to open a new book for the rest of the morning. This would be my second book by Barbara Brown Taylor, entitled Learning to Walk In The Dark, I ventured no further than her first quote and first scripture passage before this compelling urge to write, to think out loud, gripped me once more.

“There is a tendency for us to flee from the wild silence and the wild dark, to pack up our gods and hunker down behind city walls, to turn the gods into idols, to kowtow before them and approach their precincts only in official robes of office. And when we are in the temples, then who will hear the voice crying in the wilderness? Who will hear the reed shaken by the wind?” - Chet Raymo, The Soul of the Night

Ironically, in my scripture readings I had just finished the prayer offered by Solomon in II Chronicles 6-7, upon the dedication of the temple so long desired by and prepared for by his father, David.

These days, I seem to have outgrown the simple stories that placate American Christians, perhaps anesthetizing them from otherwise available opportunities for intimate relationship with the Almighty. Yes, the very One that enabled this freedom we now celebrate most passionately on this day.

Surely, we have cause to celebrate and responsibility to be grateful, but I often wonder if we have chosen religion and nationalism over a relationship with this powerful Being who knows the number of our hairs, each of us by name and so desires to be known as “Friend.”

One of the articles read as well this a.m. was a pastor’s lament over the diminishing numbers of Gen-Xers leaving the institutional church. His bottom line was that 20-30 year olds don’t need hipper pastors, louder music or better lighting shows, but a powerful encounter with the God we profess.

BTW, that passage that compelled me to write:

“I will give you the treasures of darkness and the riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.”
Isaiah 45:3

If you’ll excuse me, I’ll get back to the treasure: Intimacy with God in a place called America!

So blessed & grateful!

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Until the full number…

I have not been able to escape a thought that I have carried for some time now, as I have worked and lived with people of various faiths both within and without American Christianity. Last evening this was so affirmed in my spirit as I listened to Stuart Greaves of the Senior Leadership Team of the International House of Prayer–Kansas City share his thoughts on Romans 11; particularly 11:25-27.

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

And this is[b] my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.” NIV

And this translation from NIRV:

“Brothers and sisters, here is a mystery I want you to understand. It will keep you from being proud. Part of Israel has refused to obey God. That will continue until the full number of non-Jews has entered God’s kingdom, then….”

Wow!

Is there a mystery at work that exceeds our understanding, is the turmoil and division both in the Middle East and in our own nation, a phenomenal mystery that we have all so misread, whether Jew, Gentile or Muslim; and regardless of our ethnicity?

I just finished reading The River by Michael Neale, a convincing story of a sage river guide as he unpacked the mystery of God in his life. If God can write stories as powerful as we individuals profess, should that same powerful Being not also be capable of crafting a story for the nations?

Is the seed of Israel God’s only goal or is that story simply a basis for a larger story that has as its intent all nations, not only Israel but every non-Jew. Now that’s intense!

This morning, as I was playing around on a Saturday with my Facebook Peeps,some who are church professionals, I was entertained though somewhat painful by way of their horror stories of small church skirmishes. Then came a post on group dynamics…the difference in our individual behaviors when silo-ed in groups. I found that quite interesting given what was already percolating in my spirit.

I wonder if the major religions of this world have caused our behavior over time to so be modified that we hardly recognize each other as children of the One, when we observe our behaviors in groups; versus, when we are simply loving each other for who we are.

Just thinking out loud?

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On Becoming a Sage

Had to clean up the format somewhat, but this post from 2002 which I found while reviewing journal notes, is not bad stuff though somewhat under developed:

On Becoming a Sage

Survival
Born of flesh (entry into this world)
Reborn of Spirit (entry into the Kingdom)
Maintenance (self development)
Challenge of one’s spirit by the Spirit
Ramping up/organizing for possible change/positioning
Preparation of mind, body, soul (wholeness)
Managing Self-talk (whats written on your window by others)
Preservation of spirit despite self-talk
Pediatrics of the Faith
Capacity Building/Leading change
Developing your following

Principals of Creativity

There is a sequence to creativity:
Genesis- some point of beginning in Christ
Evolution & Transformation- growing in grace
Destiny- positioning for impact & purpose

Knowing God is more important than vision or strategy; both vision and strategy come out of relationship with God.

You have the same creative element in you as God, if you are in Him (Walking in the Spirit).

Creativity supersedes your knowledge and personal capacity, yet can be limited by your obedience to His principles.

You cannot imitate the acts of God, must be God flowing through you (Not by might nor by power, but by my spirit). Not a matter of name and claim, or brag and bag, but authentic flow of spirit and prophetic work if it is to be a sustainable work.

Production of His promises requires His participation. (Awesome Creation = His promise and His participation).

His creation through you will bear your uniqueness. God is committed to your uniqueness. Scriptures God-breathed yet bear the marking of each writer. (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John).

You must step into your uniqueness, what God ordained to do through you is found only in you. What is not being done that you must do, can only be recognized by you. Step into what is not being done, don’t wait for others to approve, just be wise and gentle in the way you do it.

Stepping into the impossible is often messy, yet often better to create a mess than to wait for others to do what they cannot even see needs to be done. Counsel is often necessary to get a sense of direction, but usually better serves to prepare others for your own uniqueness.

Tendency is to wait until we see something that everyone else is comfortable with and then claim that, though it falls miserably short of what God had originally planned to do through you.

God often wants you to speak something that no one else has even thought of nor could conceive.

Not just pointing out others shortcomings, that’s called an arm chair quarterback!

Not waiting until there is no risk! Anyone can provide a solution for which resources are readily available. God likeness is creating solutions even before resources are known to exist.

Several types of capital:
Financial- your connect with the economy of earth, most easily lost.
Personal/social- your relationship and network with people, most easily damaged
Mental- your intellect & thought life, often the least protected.
Spiritual- your relationship with God, least cultivated
The last three far exceed the value of the first.

We must simply bring the thought, the resolve, to vision and words (faith expressed); God takes that to provision and works, the solution (substance possessed). Hebrews 11:1.

Creativity begins with a thought. Enemy’s objective is to contaminate our thoughts, for it is in our thoughts that we connect with the creativity of God. If we can connect with His creativity, that creativity will germinate its own resources.

People are usually the conduit for provision. Every healthy & whole person has a bent for benevolence. Philanthropy is the love of life. People simply need to be connected with their dream and their passion to be persuaded.

Creativity is the source of passion; passion is the seed of persuasion.

Often moving toward your dream will require you to step out before anyone even “gets it.” Stepping out often requires risk and uncertainty. It is in paying these dues of uncertainly, the “dumb tax”, that we learn to receive from God and have significant impact on people.

John Bost 2002

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Is the truth hidden in the white space?

I have given too much time to this thing called religion not to continue, my life so enriched by the numerous God moments enjoyed. When I share life with others, as I did a group of men on Wednesday night, I know that mine has been a privileged life.

Of course, when you live life on the edge, you occasionally slip over. In my case, each time the Lord has bailed me out, at least over time.

In that bailing out process, one learns to separate any ego from the concept of righteousness, question religious dogma (“a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true” [Wikipedia]), and grow in the awareness that there is a Supreme being who for some reason cares about our lives at an individual level. That is amazing and that “finding out” is what I believe Jesus meant when he suggested that we might “have life and have it more abundantly.”

As I sink deeper into this thing called aging, with a growing awareness that comes from the above described experience, truth becomes the only priority. The one element of my life that has always led me there is my daily read through scriptures, and the follow-up that comes, as I then layer life with those learnings.

This morning, as I continued to read the Biblical version of Israel’s history through the lens of Jesus’ life principles, Solomon’s actions cause me to believe more than ever in a caring and highly relational God, who patiently stewards our lives through the well-meant error of our ways.

From a nation obviously favored by the Almighty, yet fully human in their passion and pride, we see a lineage being shaped first by their desire for a King, then God’s attempt to reframe that in David, and now a tainted but fully engaged King who both desires to follow God, but is well into the spectacular. Fashioning a temple that screams splendor, he attempts to glorify God with architecture and appease God with sacrifices: “and King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted.” (I Kings 8:5 NIV).

I have to wonder how much of this was God shepherding a wayward nation, while carefully recording their efforts in a way that later, men of similar DNA like myself, could learn the lessons that escaped them?

Upon completion of the Temple, the famed Ark of the Covenant was returned to a place of religious reverence. Here is where the “white space” screams: “The priests then brought the ark of the Lord’s covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark and overshadowed the ark and its carrying poles. These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place in front of the inner sanctuary, but not from outside the Holy Place; and they are still there today. There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb…” I Kings 8:6-9 NIV).

This wooden box was designed by Moses, perhaps to symbolize humanity, dipped in Gold, then symbolic of a Divine covering, yet hollow, except for God’s principles. Does this not describe what all seek for but few find in architecture.

Are our churches more the ambition of Solomon, while the encounters with Christ that so many describe, more representative of the true spiritual experience God had planned when that hollow box was first detailed. Just as Moses “tabernacled” with God, is it possible that Christ now “tabernacles” with us; literally dwells within us, His Word written in the hollow places of our hearts rather than on tablets of stone; our lives then covered with divinity and grace, and held in a spectacular reverence by this awesome Creator of the galaxies?

I am in awe!

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Distracted

I seem to be receiving so much revelation from my Old Testament read through this year, as I intentionally use the life of Christ as a filter for the text. What I am finding is that the stories I was taught in my evangelical upbringing, though beneficial in revealing the providence of God in the history of Isreal, have distracted me from some of the more subtle leadership truths hidden away in scripture. These last few days I have wrestled with my own blind spots, the current political environment within the Church and why my life has taken such a departure from what I perceived my original calling to be.

As I shared in my last post from I Samuel 27:1, David’s life challenges seemed to accelerate as he second guesses the amnesty brought to him by Saul, a moment that might have changed the outcome for all of Israel. “But David thought to himself, one of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul.”

As I read through the next few chapters, I struggled with the truths somehow overlooked by me, in what has been quite a privileged discipleship journey. For starters: Does a word of prophecy set about some predetermined course for the Kingdom of God, or is a prophet simply about providing perspective, which then is determined by the choices of our leaders?

I share this because I am beginning to understand that the simplified stories of my generation’s Sunday school classes, and frankly, similar stories upon which most sermons were built, may have glossed over or even missed the revelations that could have brought a more righteous platform upon which to build the church in America. Perhaps the challenge of building the church may have been the distraction, and in all honesty, what else would we expect from a generation affectionately called the “Builders”?

We Boomers, perhaps too often listened when we should have been discerning? The Book of II Samuel took me there again in chapters 7-10, as even God challenges David’s desire to build a physical structure around the ark…hello church!

Have we been so long about building God a temple, based not on His needs but upon a zeal that comes from overly justifying the acts of our Biblical heroes, missing the huge messages that came to us from the Prophets, not to mention Jesus himself? Repeatedly we were told that the temple God desires is one of flesh and not of stone. Meanwhile, we support houses of worship on almost every corner, many failing from mission drift, while we pour millions weekly into the churches that might otherwise bolster our mission as the Body of Christ? Did Western Europe have a similar opportunity for change, so many of their stone temples now serving only as displays of elaborate architecture, some at best museums?

Back to the topic of leadership, there were symptoms of David’s departure from the character of Christ, long before Bathsheba; for instance, his ability to justify brutal war tactics and the apparent self-gratification upon each victory. This may have played a part in the Builder generation’s distraction, for war unfortunately became a “necessary” way of life. Let me pause to say that liberty as we now know it might not exist without the courageous intervention of the world’s greatest generation. I do not mean to sound ungrateful, but must carry this further.

Perhaps what allowed Hitler to take upon himself the course of action that could have changed the then known world had America not intervened, was the gradual abandonment of righteousness by the offspring of those very believers responsible for the Great Reformation via Germany? The Holocaust might never happened had anti-Semitism not been allowed to prosper among clergy within our own country, themselves the offspring of a generation not too far removed from the sin of racism and the Civil War? Now desiring to become a world economic power rather than to assure liberty and justice, the Puritan piety that brought them to on these shores was soon lost from our pulpits? The Oxford English Dictionary offers their definition of Puritan piety as the “habitual reverence and obedience to God.”

I know I will make no friends with this post but I just need to think through this.

Back to Biblical heroes, I am not even sure about the comment “The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.” Was that comment included in the text by the Holy Spirit simply to reveal David’s heart, more so than to express God’s intent of victory? Bathsheba would later expose David’s true self. I am not sure we really get just how deep the seed of human brokenness has its roots in even the most righteous of leaders? I myself often struggling with the things I justify in my own life, from what I allow into my eye gate, to what I justify as personal blessing, although a wealth gap is apparent in the Body of Christ that is abominable.

The above paragraph would have just gotten an “amen” from the socially compassionate, while ending the read for many a hard core capitalist…an indicator of the great divide within the Body of Christ. Of course both may have long left the conversation, for how dare I speak against the local church, let alone its Biblical heroes?

The church leaders of my generation have become so nationalistic toward Israel, that they applaud almost any action with a “can do nothing wrong” attitude, at least nothing that God can’t fix or defend. I wonder if that doesn’t have some subtle influence even on what Christian leaders justify in our own country, actions that often betray the Name?

Did David miss what God was saying prophetically in 7:13…the text, at least in part, referencing the future Christ (who learned obedience by the things he suffered) and not Solomon, for when was Solomon flogged? Go back and read that chapter slowly. David meanwhile, simply pushes his dream for a physical temple forward to Solomon, along with the challenges that abudance and splendor brings.

By now reading from chapters 11-13 of II Samuel, I was struck again by a subtle nuance recorded upon the birth of Solomon. For those not as familiar with the text, Saul is now dead and David is King, yet his “M.O.” resembles more that of Saul than the shepherd boy first anointed by Samuel. In fact David has been so victorious that he now seems to have lost appreciation for his privilege of leadership, lacking the commitment of men like Uriah, who refused to spend time with his own wife while his men were in battle; even when given the chance by a conniving David, who by now knows that Bathsheba is pregnant by the King.

Uriah is now dead, Nathan the prophet has delivered his message of rebuke from God to the King. The child itself has been still born. David has repented, his heart revealed to us by the Psalmist, and accepts the grace of God necessary to move on. This brings us to the birth of Solomon, who in David’s eyes, is the answer to the promise in II Samuel 7:10-16. Again, the mystery of scripture and the sovereignty of God challenges me, for the same Nathan that had “read David’s mail”, exposing his affair with Bathsheba, now comes to David after the birth and naming of Solomon, sharing a similar word from God: Solomon was to be named Jedidiah, meaning “loved by the Lord.”

The name Solomon actually means “peaceable, perfect, one who recompenses,” which may have been David’s attempt to reveal the work now done in his heart, yet life would not be as good for Solomon, as perhaps he lives into his Dad’s dream rather than Gods! Yes, he would complete a temple second to none, but his love for women and wealth would be counter to the life we see displayed in that One who would carry on his lineage, not Rehoboam, the son who began the decline of Israel, but rather The Christ.

I must wonder if the temple dream distracted David from the God of Love, and our infatuation with David and the literal text of the Bible, now distracts us from the leadership laws so evidently violated in his lifetime, though mysteriously revealed in God’s Word.

Selah

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Liabilities and Leadership

The older I get the more fascinated I am with the dynamic of leadership. True leadership is not about the leader and yet the acts of the leader can create great liabilities for those being led; liabilities that have generational repercussions.

A liability, per our new “go to source” Wikipedia, can mean “something that is a hindrance or puts an individual or group at a disadvantage, or something that increases the chance of something occurring (i.e. it is a cause).”

What took me here this morning was a growing awareness in my read thru of book of Samuel, that Saul alone was not Israel’s problem, but as well, David’s response to Saul.

Near the end of I Samuel in chapter 27:1 a phrase, apparently read over many times, now caught my eye: “But David thought to himself, one of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul.” Paranoia takes its toil when a leader begins to consider self preservation over providence. Heretofore God had covered David against the lion, the bear, the Philistines and many times, even Saul. Yet, we find this budding leader second guessing God.

The timing around our second guessing may be more important than the incident, and quite often signals a significant Kingdom moment for the experienced leader. By second guessing, I am not implying that a leader not think strategically before executing, but fear based self talk and wisdom are two entirely different things.

If one reads chapter 26, we see a potential turn around moment for the deluded Saul, once a humble man whom many admired, one obviously anointed, and a prophet by his on rights. Would a God of mercy not salvage such potential?

At this critical juncture in the future of Israel, rather than trusting God when met with the fears that come to all aspiring leaders, David takes his family and some 600 loyal followers and flees, thus further distancing Saul from the influence of righteous counsel, given that Samuel was also dead.

Terror enters the heart of Saul and rather than having the benefit of a truth telling friend, which could have developed had David stood his ground, Saul summons a witch, the very thing he had earlier forbidden his subordinates. I know this sounds speculative but the longer I spend time in the scriptures, overlaid with personal leadership experiences, and even my experience with Godly leaders, I am convinced of the marvelous capacity of scripture to both communicate the sovereignty of God while disclosing the ills of those whom God used to capture His-story.

David’s paranoid moment set off a predictable path for Saul that led first to a witch, then a confirmation of Saul’s eventual loss of the Kingdom and death, the inevitable product of sin. What if the spirit conjured up by the Witch of Endor was not Samuel but a manifestation of Saul’s worst fears? What if David had trusted God, the God whom we now know as Jesus (quite a contrast to the Old Testament God that Israel had experienced in their rebellion), would Israel, Saul and David have had a different future, one of grace and mercy, rather than bloodshed, civil war and eventually, adultery for David?

Selah

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