Saturday, April 26, 2008

Spiritual Insights #3: Are We Big Picture Believers?

Before reading this blog entry:

1. Visit the following link and play the game.
2. Repeat it numerous times if you want to.
3. Be amazed.
4. Don't forget to come back and finish reading my blog.

Recently, a friend forwarded me a link to an online "mind reading" experiment. I went through the process numerous times and was astounded at the accuracy of the game. I knew it was one of those things that would bounce around in my mind until I finally figured it out, but purposed that I wouldn't allow it to drive me crazy. I passed along the link to several people with the challenge to crack the code, all to no avail. Everyone seemed to be as mystified as I was.
If you're still reading this far and haven't played the game yet, I must warn you of possible spoilers, although I'll try my best to keep from it.

I finally remembered to show it to my wife, but told her not to tell me her number. While she played, I silently went through the process again and when the result was given, the solution dawned on me. That's when I realized why it was so puzzling--because I wasn't considering the big picture. As per the instructions of the game, I was fixated on one small piece of the puzzle, and had been continally missing the point as a result. Once I was able to consider each of the clever factors the designer had figured into the game, the solution became extremely simple and I felt silly at having been duped so easily.

Taking into account that everything physical has a spiritual correlation (a fact that seems to manifest itself regularly), I began to question myself-- Could it be that the splintering of the body of Christ into a multitude of organizations/denominations/fellowships (each claiming that their doctrine is true and correct) attest to a widespread practice of tunnel-vision? Could a huge source of our personal struggle be that we act as though we are the center of the universe and thus tend to get bent out of shape when things don't go as we think they should? Is the reason why we are led astray so often and so easily a testimony to the fact that we neglect to view the big picture?

Our enemy is a master illusionist. His plans often hinge on his expertise of misdirection and sleight--look here when we should be looking there; don't look there when it's the only place our attention should be directed. An inherent part of our nature is the tendency to follow after those things which bring pleasure to our flesh--unfortunately the cost of such actions is personal misery. We sow to our flesh (and enjoy the process), but the harvest we reap is far from what we hoped for. But in the traditional definition of insanity we repeatedly perform the same actions, each time desperately hoping for a different result.

Trapped in the chains of our own experience as the state of humanity is, are we doomed to question whether our attempts can ever be successful? Is there a means to rise above ourselves and see the big picture?

I was relieved to discover at some point in my life that we have access to such an answer--His name is Jesus Christ. I'm not referring to believing on Christ and taking advantage of God's free gift of salvation (as often as necessary); there are millions who have done so who still fall prey to the snares I have mentioned--who consistently fail to see the big picture. I'm referring to an established relationship with the One who saves us. Paul wrote that if we live in the Spirit (or have been made alive by the Spirit), let us also walk in the Spirit (keep in step, as in military precision, with the Spirit). When we begin to allow the mind of Christ to be in us--to submit our mind and spirit to Christ's mind and Spirit, we can begin to think as He does, and thus change the perspective from which we view the world, ourselves, and our circumstances. When we put on the mind of Christ, only then can we view the big picture.

And it's amazing what we will begin to notice when that happens...

Spiritual Insights #2: Judgmental

Judgmental. Such an ugly word. I hear the phrase (or a variation thereof) far too often..."You have no right to judge me!" It's hard to refrain when it's obvious that the individual making the statement doesn't expend the time and effort to judge themselves. And why is it the person who complains the loudest about being judged always seems to be the first one to hurl the next rock when they witness a violation?

And am I really expected to overlook it when some idiot climbs up on his soapbox for the umpteenth time to hand out sure-fire guarantees that everyone who doesn't follow the beat of his drum will bust Hell wide open like a group of kids cannonballing at the local pool? Where is the fairness in letting someone who obviously doesn't have the first clue rant and rave like a fool when something inside of me is screaming to put them in their place (or put my fist in the side of their face when words fail...)
But then...

...through my frustration I catch a glimpse of someone else who vomits condemnation through their keyboard on anyone unfortunate enough to disagree...someone who heaps insults and put-downs upon those who are too stupid and rebellious to walk the straight and narrow...someone who eagerly points out the ignorance of those who "just don't get it" spiritually speaking.
Yes, that faint and ghastly figure in the mirror is the man I used to be. As I feel the tightness in the corners of my eyes, I remember that it's been less than a decade since I was the very type of person whose actions I'm now struggling to forgive. As the remembrance of the pain that my actions have caused to others floods through my mind, the tears start to roll down my cheeks.
My frustration peaks, my head aches from the memories pulsing through my mind, and my chest is constricted from the pressure, I become aware of another sensation...a constant patter of something warm and wet dripping on my head and trickling down my face. I put my hand to my cheek and when I pull it away, I'm shocked to see it covered in crimson.

As I turn my gaze upward, I behold Him. As I realize that my actions are the reason that He is submitting to untold suffering, I cry out at the realization. As my composure crumbles to racking sobs, I hear Him whisper again... "I forgive you."

Lord, help me to press through this veil of flesh and see things from Your perspective. Grant me Your grace and mercy to treat others as You have treated me. Help me to love my brother as myself, for only then can I honestly say that I love You with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength.

Thank you for Your help today. Amen.

Spiritual Insights #1: An Exercise in Practial Self-Righteousness

Repost of a sadly true account of my younger days.

It was a hot summer day in Beaumont, Texas. The rain had recently subsided. Leaving behind a blanket of steam to torment those unlucky enough to be outside. I was leaving the department store where I worked as an office manager, hurrying to get into my old Ford Ranger so I could bask in the AC before I drowned in the humidity when I spied the old man across the parking lot. He was dressed in worn clothing and had a stack of papers, which appeared to be leaflets of some kind, in his arms.

I immediately sized him up as a religious nut. He had that glare in his eye of someone who is missing a few bolts up top and that purposeful stride which told me that he had seen me and was making a beeline in my direction. It was quite common for beggars and bums, both of the physical and spiritual nature, to frequent the shopping center where I was employed. It was common practice to avoid them if at all possible. I sighed in relief that I had managed to find a parking space in the first row and as quickly as I could, I slipped into my truck and closed the door, securing the barrier between me and anyone trying to waste my precious time. I just wanted to get home.

As I leaned back in the seat, trying to collect myself before I started my truck and began my journey home, it dawned on me that I had left my driver’s side window open that morning in the feeble attempt from turning my truck into a sauna. I turned and placed my hand on the handle to roll up the window, when I sensed the presence of someone standing beside my window. I looked up and into the wild eyes of the old man. Inwardly I groaned that he had caught me

“Son, do you know the fruit that Adam partook of in the Garden of Eden? Do you know what “the Bible” means?…” He rapid-fired several questions at me faster than I could comprehend before leaning into my face and rasping, “Son, do you know the answers to these questions?”
His rank odor twisted something within me in knots. His arrogant attitude that he was going to teach this youngster a lesson or two rubbed me the wrong way and I snarled back, “Yes I know the answers to those questions!”

He reeled back on his heels with a triumphant smile, “Well, tell me then!”

"Of all the arrogant… He not only disturbs the sanctity of my personal space, but now he demands answers of me?” But I knew I had to answer being the expert Apostolic who had a handle on the Truth. I muttered the answers to his questions the best I could, having no idea where this unwanted discussion was leading.

His twisted smile grew even larger, “No, son, you’re wrong! (He sure put a lot of emphasis on that part! I could see his wheels turning with glee that he was about to teach this whippersnapper a thing or two about the things of God.) “The fruit that Adam partook of was an apple, that’s why call this”, he placed a gnarled finger underneath a prominent knot at the front of his throat, “an Adam’s apple! The Bible means Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth…” and on he rambled, providing the most trivial answers to the questions he had demanded of me.

I sat there flushed with embarrassment. I couldn’t believe that I was duped into such a trivial discussion. Embarrassment quickly gave way to anger. How dare this old geezer barge in to my life and force such a waste of time on me. This mild-mannered department store office manager transformed into a green-eyed, out-of-control, muscle-bound, spiritual juggernaut. Like Christ of old, I was ready to take up my whip and drive this fool away from my Temple.

"Okay, now I have a few questions for you!” I fought back. I skillfully drew him into a discussion with questions about the ins and outs of salvation. He refused to take the bait. “Since you’re so smart, you tell me!” he snapped.

I highly valued my Christianity, and here was my golden chance to witness. This old guy had dropped his guard, completely ignorant of the caliber of fighter he faced. I pounded him around with Mark 16:16, to which he raised violent objection. I responded by nailing him to the wall with Luke 24:47. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed passers-by slowing down and staring, wondering why on earth an old geezer and a young guy were screaming in each others faces in such a violent manner. I didn’t care; I was in the zone. I had this guy on the run and I knew it. I drew out my Ax and my two .38’s and let him have it. I rammed the "plan of salvation" (as I believed it) so far down his throat that he was bound to have indigestion for a month.

At last, the old man had enough punishment and hastily sounded the retreat. “I don’t want to talk to you anymore! Good day!!” he shouted before turning and hastily stomping away. (“I didn’t want to talk to you in the first place, you ignorant savage!” I thought.)

I sat back in my seat, basking in the afterglow of my adrenaline rush, satisfied that I had successfully defended the Gospel against that old reprobate fool. To make my victory sweeter, after he had stomped off about twenty feet away, the stack of papers he had been carrying slipped from his grasp and fell into a large puddle of water. I couldn’t suppress a smile of victory. As I sat there rejoicing in the goodness and severity of God, goodness to me, his prize-fighter, and severity to the old heathen who thought he could best me, I became aware of a still small voice speaking in my head.

"You did a real good job of presenting yourself, now get out there, help him pick up his papers, and show him Me.”

I filed that silent conversation away as a moment of pity—weakness on my part—feeling sorry for that unrepentant loser. I almost felt blasphemous at the thought that I would lessen my victory by stooping to lend a helping hand to such a fellow, the enemy of God. I quickly and decisively thrust that temptation far from my mind, choosing rather to focus on the victory I had won for the sake of the Gospel that day.