Discernment

Art:

I FINISHED THIS Acrylic two weeks ago from a photo taken a few years back. Marj and I were staying at a Time Share on the South shore of Minnesota’s Lake Mille Lacs.  It was an early Fall day with bright sun.  I liked the contrast between the dark trees and colorful rounded stones along the shore.

I chose it for our Thought today—‘Discernment’. Do I feature trees or stones?  Not sure I served either very well.

Thought:

TYPICALLY, I LIKE TO arrive at a good working definition before utilizing a word.  Does it truly represent the concept I have in mind?  I’ve recently been exploring a concept that’s proven to be a challenge: When is it appropriate to share a spiritual experience with others if that experience is a blessing unique to you?  You may ask, “How can sharing one’s spiritual blessing with someone else ever not be appropriate?” I needed ‘Discernment’.

Defining ‘Discernment’

I SEE THIS TO BE accurate. The fundamental definition for Christian ‘Discernment’ is a decision-making process in which an individual makes a discovery that can lead to future action. In the process of Christian spiritual ‘Discernment’, God guides the individual to help them arrive at the best decision.

 Case In Point

MARJ AND I MEET every two weeks with three other couples for a ninety-minute ‘Bible Study’.  For thirty minutes we share ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ of our life’s journey since we last met. That often involves sharing prayer requests.  At our next meeting we report on the way we sense God has worked in specific circumstances.  That’s relatively easy when you prayed that Bill’s uncle Bob would find employment and he did find a job.  Everyone was invited to join in the prayer request.  Sharing the answer with the group seems very appropriate.

The Need for ‘Discernment’

BUT WHAT IF you have a personal need that could be misunderstood if verbalized.  You pray about it. One morning you are awakened with the sense that God has placed a certain word in your mind connected to your need.  You accept this message as from God and begin to implement its insinuations as they unfold. You see positive results almost immediately. You hesitate to share this with your group. Why? What might cause you to not share this answer with your small group? 

‘Discernment’ Dilemma

‘DISCERNMENT’ of my ‘motive’ seemed to be at the core of my dilemma: To share, or not to share? Do I even know my purest motive?  Is my motive a desire to bring glory to the Trinity for supernaturally communicating that word and circumstances that followed?  I would hope so!  Or is there some ‘ego thing’ going on that could be seen as my motive like: “See how spiritual I am”.  Or could other such unacceptable motives be possible?  What’s the solution? I needed ‘Discernment’.  

If any of you lacks wisdom [or ‘Discernment’], you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  James 1:5

Three words come to mind: Ask, Trust and Act. James says to followers of Jesus … You do not have because you do not Ask God. James 4:2 [NIV]. When God answers through your thoughts…  you must Believe [Trust] and not doubt James 1:6. [NIV] Then Act on what you now know:  Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work [Act(ion)] you have been given, and then sink yourself into that Galatians 6:4 [MSG]

I did sense it appropriate and shared my experience with the group. Are you facing a need for ‘Discernment’?  This prayer may provide a helpful guide.

Prayer For Discernment[1]

Dear heavenly Father,

I seek your counsel,

I invoke your Spirit,

Help me discern,

As nothing escapes your sight,

Guide me Lord.

Give me a healthy spirit,

A clear eye and wisdom.

Help me identify,

Any presence of the enemy,

Trying to tempt or trap me,

Into the sin of pride or vanity.

Set me free of my flesh,

So that I may see with,

The eyes of Christ.

Let me identify the spirit,

Behind any choices,

I must make.

May your Holy Spirit fill me,

And take control,

So that I only need,

To walk in obedience.

For you alone are holy,

You are my sovereign Lord,

And all my decisions,

Must glorify you.

And your beloved Son,

Jesus Christ.

In his sweet and holy name,

Amen.

I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes. Psalm 119:125


[1] I could not find the author of this Prayer, but I found it insightful. 

EUANGELION

Art:

THIS STILL LIFE fruit bowl from a few years back is my first (and last) attempt at Still Life Oil painting.  As a hobby painter working from a photograph, it was a good exercise for me. Actually, that’s not the best way to paint Still Life. 

I CHOSE THIS Oil to accompany the Thought for the week—‘Euangelion’. 

Thought:

What Are Words?

WHAT ARE WORDS? Unpacking a full answer requires more work than we can undertake here, and more expertise than I possess. Let’s settle on words being sounds, sights or touch that are intended to transfer concepts between people. We learn words that are attached to a given concept from others.  We call this a definition.  Too often, I’m afraid, we settle on a definition given us that’s too narrow and sometimes is simply not accurate or is at odds with other definitions. Add to this the extra challenge when defining a word translated from yet another language. For this reason, I used the Greek transliteration ‘Euangelion’ rather than the more familiar English translation ‘gospel’.  

From ‘Euangelion’ to Gospel

THE NEW TESTAMENT Greek word euangelion and Latin evangelium both mean “good news” or “good telling”. In the Anglo-Saxon tongue it became god-spell “good story” or gospel. It generally meant the ‘Christian message’. In the 2nd century it came to be used also for the New Testament books in which the message of Jesus was set forth. Since the late 18th century, the first three have been called Synoptic Gospels because their texts show a similar treatment of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. John is included to form the four Gospels of our New Testament.  

What is the ‘Christian Message’—Good News?

IT SEEMS TO ME, this is where definitions can unintentionally lead down a too narrow (if not even inaccurate) path. As I see it, here are three most used attempts to communicate in English the New Testament teaching of the Christian Message—‘Euangelion’ or Gospel:

Forgiveness onlyBelief that Jesus died for your sins and your sins will be forgiven.  Get your doctrine right and you will be accepted by God at death or judgment.  Right belief or profession of right belief is seen as the key issueDid Jesus die for our sins? Yes. He certainly did. But I see ‘Euangelion’ as much more than forgiveness for sin(s) and the promise of heaven after physical death.

 

Removal of “structural” evils: Fight injustices. Jesus was killed by power.  Resist such power.  The “gospel of the left” favors justice above all.  How justice is applied and for whom is the key issue. Is justice important? Yes. That’s true. Someone said that Jesus was not crucified for saying “behold the lilies; for they toil not, neither do they spin” but for saying, “Behold the Pharisees how they steal.” From a human point of view, that’s what happened. Jesus got under the skin of the oppressors.  He was in favor of liberation. But I see ‘Euangelion’ as more than justice for all.

Take care of your church and your church will take care of youIt’s not said all that often but, in fact, practiced much more widely than one might think.A lot of people get disillusioned with the church and they don’t know quite what to make of it.  But It’s a place where anger and contempt can be unlearned.  It’ a place to learn the deep things of the fellowship in Christ that lovingly endures disagreement, anger, and injury.  “Churchmanship”, in that sense, is important. It’s vital. It’s in ‘God’s plan. Nothing is going to take the place of it.  The church is intended to be a school of ‘love’. [1] But I believe ‘Euangelion’ encompasses more than this alone.

The 5th ‘Euangelion’—Gospel

“RODNEY (GYPSY) SMITH was a nineteenth-century British evangelist who passionately led evangelistic campaigns to countries such as Australia, South Africa, and the United States.  On one occasion he quipped, “There are five Gospels: Matthew Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian, but most people never read the first four.” [2] Think about that.  As a follower of Jesus, you are that ‘5th Gospel’ being read daily. Your life is designed to increasingly reflect God’s kingdom and character in which you live now and will for eternity.   That’s the really ‘Good News’ you embody and in which you may grow!

 Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.  Matthew 4:17

But the fruit of the Spirit [being experienced by others through our lives] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

Thus, by their [life of Jesus followers] fruit you will recognize them.   Matthew 7:20

 


[1] Renewing The Christian Mind, Dallas Willard, p, 462

[2] Quote From the introduction to Bobby Conway’s The Fi5th Gospel

Destination

Art:

A FEW YEARS AGO I painted this Oil of a sunrise over Long Lake near Aitkin, Minnesota.  At the time, our son Dan had a cabin on the lake. It was a delight to come out on the deck in early morning with coffee and greet a new sunrise.  This Oil is from one of those early morning photos. I enjoyed the color and composition through the evergreens.

I use it for this week’s Thought—‘Destination’—because we just celebrated Memorial Day and the beginning of Summer travel ‘Destinations’ for many.   

Thought:

HAVE YOU DECIDED on your first post-COVID Summer vacation ‘Destination’? If so, you’re not alone!  Nightly news reports say air and auto traffic for vacationing will hit, or exceed, pre-COVID numbers this year. Marj and I are still in the ‘thinking’ stage. We’ll see.

‘Destination’

MY READING AND THINKING about ‘Destination’ produced some interesting observations.  Normally it brings to mind: ‘Journey’s end’… ‘Last stop’… ‘End point’. The antonym is ‘Starting point’.  Actually, it would be impossible to have a ‘Destination’ without a ‘Starting point’.  Think about it.  Even your GPS wants to know not only a ‘Destination’, but a ‘Starting point’ before calculating directions.

 ‘Destination’ At Work In Life?

WHAT’S MY “STARTING POINT”? That’s easy.  We celebrate life’s ‘Starting point’ with a Birthday every year, right? Actually, today is also a ‘Starting point’.  Today, is the start of the rest-of-your-Life. Where are you?  What is your ‘Destination’? Where are you relative to the never-ending eternal range of God’s universe? You are not alone. You are not an accident. You have a wonderful purpose! For you—God—created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well. [Psalm 139:13, 14]    What is the wonderful purpose for which you were created?

Wonder-Full “Starting Point”!

YOU WERE CREATED to have a “kingdom” (or “queendom”)—a “government”. That simply is the range of your effective will; your current sphere of influence. God’s own “kingdom” or “rule” is the supreme range of his effective will where what he wants done is done.[1]  His will is for you to join him “ruling” in his creation. His model for this kind of “ruling” is Jesus. His energy is agape love—willing to the good of the object loved.  As a follower of Jesus, you are at the most important “starting point” you’ll ever know.  Now, from this wonderful “starting point” what is my “Destination”? 

A Follower’s “Destination”

FOR FOLLOWERS OF JESUS, “Destination” has no linear ending. Your “Destination” is ‘end-less’—eternal. A follower of Jesus is one who has been spiritually born into God’s Kingdom and who immediately received God’s Spirit as an eternal seal of this new citizenship.  Living in the Kingdom of God begins now; continues for the remainder of one’s physical life on earth and for eternity.   Eternal life is a never-ending quality of life.

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”  John 3:3;  … do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Ephesians 4:30; … our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, Philippians 3:20

Life Now in God’s Kingdom

FOLLOWERS OF JESUS have dual citizenship: in temporal life ‘kingdom’ and eternal life ‘kingdom’.  Their new “Destination” is living as children of light in both ‘kingdoms’.  For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light Ephesians 5:8 …and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, Colossians 1:12, 13

Post COVID “Destination” Plans

SHORT…LONG… OR, NO TRIP, as a follower of Jesus, this post-COVID Summer, you are not alone.  As one marked by God’s indwelling Spirit, you are God’s Kingdom Ambassador with his message of love for all.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  2 Corinthians 5:20

 Therefore go [on your vacation] and make [by virtue of God’s love flowing through you] disciples of all nations [people within your sphere of influence] …and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age [during your vacation and beyond!].” Matthew 28:19, 20

[Now, may]…the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you  Numbers 6:25


[1] Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard, p. 21

Teaching

Art:

THIS INK WITH PEN & BRUSH was completed from a photo reference of the oldest standing Anoka High School building in Anoka, MN. I was commissioned to do this along with others, several years ago for use in a community improvement fundraising activity where drawings of the city’s historic landmarks were used for prizes.

I thought a school appropriate for this week’s Thought—’Teaching’.  

Thought:

“What did you learn today?”

“WHAT DID YOU learn today?” If you are (remember being) the parent of a child in school, you’ve probably asked a similar question… more than once.  What answers did you get?  This may be a question harder to answer than a parent might think. What if the child turned the question back to the parent: “Mom (Dad), what did you learn today?” It seems to me the key word in the question, and one that can throw us off track, is ‘learn.  What does it mean?   What is essential for learning to take place?  We spend Billions of dollars annually to provide ‘Teaching’ for our children, preschool through graduate school. That’s ‘formal education’.  What about the teaching (intended or unintended) from living day to day in our environment?

Reverend John Harvard

AS I RECALL, IT WAS John Harvard, who said: “All you need for a school is a log with a teacher on one end and a student on the other.”

John Harvard (1607–1638) was an English minister in Colonial America whose deathbed bequest (including his library) to the “Schoale or Colledge” founded two years earlier by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was so gratefully received that it was consequently ordered “that the Colledge agreed upon formerly to bee built at Cambridg shalbee called Harvard Colledge.” Harvard University considers him the most honored of its founders—those whose efforts and contributions in its early days “ensure[d] its permanence”[1]

I’m pretty confident that Rev. John Harvard had a sound definition in mine when he spoke of ‘teacher’ and ‘student’ in this quote.  For ‘Teaching’ to take place at any level these two are elementary.

Reverend Dr. John Milton Gregory

DR. JOHN MILTON GREGORY, first Regent of the University of Illinois, was a minister and educator who wrote The Seven Laws of Teaching in 1917. It has been through many printings over the decades. I have a copy of the 1965 10th printing.  Harvard and Gregory are but two Christian Ministers who saw the value of ‘Teaching’ for Learning as a gift from God for all mankind. 

I believe Gregory’s Seven Laws.. continue to stand the test of time as the backbone of what Jesus meant when he spoke of  ‘…teaching’ them to obey everything I have commanded you’ [Matthew 28:20].

[2]The Seven Laws of Teaching

  1. A teacher must be one who KNOWS the lesson or truth or art to be taught.
  2. A learner[student]is one who ATTENDS with interest to the lesson.
  3. The language used as a MEDIUM between teacher and learner must be COMMON to both.
  4. The lesson to be mastered must be explicable to the terms of truth already known by the learner—the UNKNOWN must be explained by means of the KNOWN. [aka: The Law of APPERCEPTION].
  5. Teaching is AROUSING and USING the pupil’s mind to grasp the desired thought or to master the desired art.
  6. Learning is THINKING into one’s own UNDERSTANDING a new idea or truth or working into HABIT a new art or skill.  [Changed behavior]
  7. The test and proof of teaching done—the finishing and fastening process—must be a REVIEWING, RETINKING, REKNOWING, PRODUCING, and APPLYING of the material that has been taught, the knowledge and ideals and arts that have been communicated. [Changed behavior in life from the inside out—practical application]

‘Teaching’ & Learning…Unavoidable & Essential!

18-20 Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20 [MSG]

What did you learn today?  What impacted your life today?  How has what you learned last week affected how you thought and acted this week?

 Who is watching you?  What are they learning from you?


And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to ‘teach’ others.  2 Timothy 2:2


[1] Wickepedia

[2] Words or Comments in brackets [  ] are my additions…hopefully to help clarification.

Stress

Art:

I COMPLETED THIS Black & White Acrylic months ago.  It’s one of only a few I painted in this style. I liked the simplicity of each creation.  They may carry a number of feelings and meanings.

I chose it for our Thought today—‘Stress’—because I see it as a metaphor for what I am talking about.

Thought:

I HAD AN EXPERIENCE last week that, for me, was a Life-changer.  First, some backstory.

The ‘Perfect Storm’

COVID 2020 is described in many not-so-flattering terms.  ‘Stress’ is high on that list. Infiltrated from China the virus spread worldwide…including to us! Local outbreaks of violence and social unrest only exacerbated a volatile condition. Add personal medical and relationship concerns and you have ingredients for the perfect ‘Stress’ storm of 2020+.  Any of this sound familiar? Have you experienced ‘Stress’?  Be cautious with your answer.

What About ‘Stress’?

‘STRESS’ IS A human reaction that happens to everyone. In fact, the human body is designed to experience ‘Stress’ and react to it. When you experience changes or challenges (stressors), your body produces physical and mental responses. That’s called ‘Stress’. ‘Stress’ responses help your body adjust to new situations. Not all ‘Stress’ is the same. Some can be more detrimental to our well-being while some types of ‘Stress’ can actually be healthy for us. For example:

Dis-‘Stress’:  This type of chronic ‘Stress’  seems to be constant and psychologically or emotionally draining. It’s the most harmful to our health and wellbeing. This kind of chronic ‘Stress’ can trigger the stress response and keep it triggered for long periods of time, leaving us exhausted and close to burnout. Inner peace and a sense of harmony or tranquility (personally and in community) is eroded by Dis-‘Stress’.

Eu-‘Stress’:  This can be beneficial and is actually necessary for our overall wellbeing. This is the type of positive ‘Stress’ that keeps us vital and excited about life. The excitement of an amusement park ride, a special movie, or a fun challenge are all examples of Eu-‘Stress’ at work. The anticipation of a first date, the first day at a new job, or other exciting firsts also fall under the umbrella of Eu-‘Stress’. Without it, we would become bored at best and, in more serious cases, depressed. We would begin to feel a lack of motivation to accomplish goals and a lack of meaning in life without enough Eu-‘Stress’.[1]

Personal Assessment

GRACIOUSLY, MY life has been filled with an abundance of positive Eu-‘Stress’. A colleague once said I had a warped sense of optimism.  I do see the glass half full! I am an optimist, but also a realist. I may see the glass half full…but the water may need some serious work! I am a Choleric / Phlegmatic; a Nine on the Enneagram Scale; I’m probably an INTJ on the Myers-Briggs Indicator. As a member of the human race, I am also a follower of Jesus. 

I AM A NEVER-ENDING spiritual being temporarily living in a human body. This body is a gracious gift from God that I may offer back to him to participate in accomplishing God’s Kingdom will on earth now. Part of my responsibility is to care for this body. Therefore, I take seriously things like annual dental, eye and physical exams. Exercise, good diet and sleep are high on my list.

CONFESSION:  Since early 2020 I began to experience a number of physical symptoms: two mild strokes. First one affected peripheral vision in one eye. Second affected speech. I had a Medtronic heart monitor installed and added Eliquis to my two meds.  I’m having surgery today (5/20) to remove skin cancer.  My energy level is down from normal, along with some Gastro/Intestinal problems. That’s more than you needed to know.  Let’s get to the point. 

A ‘Life-changer’

SO, I BEGAN thinking and talking to God about how I was feeling.  What additional action should I take, if any?  We had this conversation. And one morning last week I woke up strongly impressed with the word ‘Stress’.  Until then, I had not given a moment’s consideration as to the possible cause of my symptoms being ‘Stress’ related. I don’t get ‘Stressed’! Then we continued the dialogue, and it was pointed out to me that I had become my own worst enemy.  In retirement I had taken on more responsibility than I should.  My calendar was full (nearly all things that I enjoy) but, what I had not given enough attention to was that I am now 83.  Hello!

Is ‘Stress’ in your life? Why? Need a Life-changer experience?

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me,   and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23, 24


[1] Elizabeth Scott, MS, ‘Verywellmind 2020’

Remember

Art:

THIS INK WITH Pen and Brush is a sketch of our son’s cabin on Long Lake near Aitken, Minnesota.  The photo reference was taken as it appeared when he first acquired it.  We added a full kitchen and a 500 sq. foot wrap around deck with a sliding door off this back wall.  Marj and I spent two or three weeks there each Summers for about ten years.

I use it for today’s Thought— ‘Remember’. Dozens of photos remind me of those years: pontoon boat rides, bonfires, smores, laughs, good food and family. I enjoyed each construction project. The last one was a tree house. Admittedly, falling off the ladder and breaking my back was not so much fun, but is part of the full tapestry called experience!

Thought:

MY CURRENT READING plus two events influenced today’s Thought: ‘Remember’. First: Last Saturday I participated in the Memorial Service for a dear lady who was a member of the congregation I had the privilege of Pastoring for 22+ years, until my retirement in 2006.  Second: In just over two weeks—Monday, May 31—our nation celebrates ‘Memorial Day’. In both cases “Memorial” carries the idea of ‘in memory’ or ‘Remember’.  I’ve been contemplating the word. We often use it, but what do we actually mean?

What is Memory?

‘MEMORY’ AS [A VERB]:  It has, or is able to bring into one’s mind, an awareness of (someone or something that one has seen, known, or experienced in the past). Some common synonyms are recall, recollect, remind, and reminisce. While all these words mean “to bring an image or idea from the past into the mind, “Remember” implies a keeping in memory that may be effortless or unwilled. Reminisce is a dreamy way of saying “remember the past”. If you’re swapping old stories with friends and remembering all the silly things you used to do, then you’re reminiscing. Reminiscing is all about happy recollections and thinking back to stories from the past.  You may ask, “So, what’s the point?  Is it just having fun remembering fun stuff from my past?  If so, then I’m in deep trouble.  My ‘Memory” has stuff that was definitely not fun. In fact, I would like to forget it!” 

“So, What Is the Point?

GOOD QUESTION. I believe your Memory is a gift from God.  It is part of how he made you. Why? Think about it. In creation we experience life in sequential chronological ways: past, present and future. Every time we experience a sunrise we think in terms of yesterday, today and tomorrow. In our physical development we think of a human life first beginning totally dependent on others, then becoming independent and, ideally, moving on to interdependence.  Without ‘Memory’ none of this would work.

As dependents, we develop independence as those responsible for our development ‘Remember’ what and how to enable us. Our growth into interdependence depends heavily on our ‘Memory’ and application of what we have been taught through words and deeds. And Interdependence provides opportunity for us to use our ‘Memory’ of God’s Love in the community of Jesus followers, and beyond.

Can I Facilitate the Process?

‘MEMORY’ DOESEN’T materialize from thin air. It’s limited to what has been seen, known, or experienced in the past.  Nearly anything else is imagination. Some of this we have little or no control over. Very often though, we do make choices that affect what we choose to see, know or experience.  Either way (with or without our choosing) they become deposits in our ‘Memory’ bank. For better or worse they become tools affecting our present and future growth into the person we are becoming. God’s best for us, means making the better choices for where we choose to invest our time and attention. How can I best choose to make positive ‘Memories’?

Truth to Consider From…

 …The Apostle Paul

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such thingsPhilippians 4:8      They become positive deposits into our ‘Memory’ bank. 

…The Apostle Peter

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have… And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.  2 Pet 1:12-15

…The Lord Jesus

 And he [Jesus] took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  Acts 22:19

Make Memory Bank Deposits with your best Choices!

“Well done good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21

Desire

Art:

I COMPLETED THIS 16” x 20” Acrylic a couple weeks ago from a photograph taken during the years Marj and I vacationed near Mackinaw, Michigan.  For ten Summers we spent a week at a midcentury motel just South of Mackinaw City.  Lake Huron was a five-minute walk through the woods.  We spent hours there reading with no one in sight. To the left was this view of the Mackinaw Bridge connecting the Lower and Upper Peninsula, and straight across was historic Mackinaw Island. Ideal, in so many ways!

I selected it for our Art to accompany the Thought for this week—‘Desire’.  Annually, we had a strong ‘Desire’ to escape and recharge our batteries at ‘our spot’ on the shores of Lake Huron! 

Thought:

MY GUESS IS that most people simply haven’t given much thought to ‘Desire’.  When did someone last asked you: “What do you ‘Desire’?”  Stop for a minute. Think about your answer before you read on… The answer may not be as easy to articulate as one might think.  Of course, if I don’t understand the question, any conversation is terminated before getting started. Understanding the question requires both of us having a beneficial definition for ‘Desire’.  So, I put pride in my pocket, and do what no one is supposed to do.  I answer the question with a question, “What do you mean by ‘Desire”?

“What do you mean by ‘Desire’”

I SENSE THE HUMAN characteristic we call ‘Desire’ is one of the important ways we are created in the image of God. Everyone has this capacity. ‘Desire’ is what moves us off the couch and into action. The primary role of human “Desire” is to impel us to action. The best ideas may exist in the mind, but until ‘Desire’ kicks in, nothing happens. It starts with an idea. The more you dwell on that idea, the more apt you are to develop a ‘Desire’ toward action to transform ideas into reality. A key question is where your ideas originate and to what extent have you become possessed by them. Are they from a trustworthy source or the opposite?  ‘Desire’ may be influenced from either direction, causing you to take action in either direction.

Choice Before “Desire”

‘THE HUMAN WILL or “spirit” is very different from flesh actuated in unrestrained ‘Desire’.  It considers alternatives. That is its essential nature. It is our God given ability by which we have an interest, not just in the present, but what is better or best overall.  It takes a broad view of possibilities; not just one lustful desire and its object, but of other desires and goods.  That is where choice comes in. Choice involves celebration between alternatives, with a view to what is best… Love is will-to-good.”[1]

What Can I (We) Do?

Desire without knowledge is not good—    how much more will hasty feet miss the way!

Proverbs 19:2

THINK ABOUT THE WORDS you just read.  We are bombarded with information 24/7.  Some  is good.  Some only distraction.  It distracts from the life we live in Christ.  We are subject to hasty feet often leading to ‘Desires’ launching us into activity and attitudes we may regret and wonder: How did that happen? How can it be prevented?  Choose to immerse your mind with knowledge [that] is (not) good.  Translated: It is the love of God working in and through my body for God’s glory.  Paul helps us:

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

Romans 8:5

So, I say, walk [live] by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

Galatians 5:16, 17

WE ARE BOMBARDED with media telling us by words and example what ‘everyone’ should think like, act like and be like.  Paul says that is a false kind of god.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

Ephesians 3:5

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.

1 Pet 1:14

THERE IS ANOTHER way for God’s obedient children.  We need not live in ignorance.  Jesus is the truth-in-love antidote for spiritual ignorance. 

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4


[1] Renewing the Christian Mind, Dallas Willard  p. 58-59

Grace

Art:

SAILING SHIPS were a favorite of our oldest son Jim. Several years ago, I painted this sailing ship for him. At the time I actually did two paintings of the same subject. One with white sails and this one. 

I’m using it for our Thought this week—Grace—because of the story behind the famous sea captain, John Newton, I’ll mention later. He sailed a hundred years before this Clipper Ship design became popular.

Thought:

WHEN DID YOU last use ‘Grace’ in a sentence? Did you mean: A girl’s name …prayer before a meal… description of a dance movement… a religious term…or something else?  My Thesaurus lists more than 30 words that may be substituted: some nouns some verbs. Let’s narrow today’s search to ‘Divine Grace’.  (1.) ‘Divine Grace’ Defined (2.) ‘Divine Grace’ Illustrated? (3.) ‘Divine Grace’ Experienced.

 ‘Divine Grace’ Defined

WHETHER I CURRENTLY understand the meaning of ‘Divine Grace’ or not, it’s from God and, on the surface, sounds like a good thing. I’m at least interested in knowing more. Right?

Definition #1: Some say, “Divine Grace” is ‘unmerited favor’. So, what does that mean?  ‘Favor’ suggests ‘an act of kindness’. That sounds promising. But ‘unmerited’ could mean something ‘unearned’ or even ‘undeserved’. So here “Divine Grace” is an act of God’s kindness toward me without me having done anything to earn it plus, I may be undeserving. While I see this in Scripture, to me, it seems we limit ‘Divine Grace’ application to one becoming a follower of Jesus —the process called ‘spiritual birth’ whenever that takes place.  What about the role of ‘Divine Grace’ in spiritual growth of the new follower?

Definition #2. The most complete definition I’ve found is: ‘God acting in our life to accomplish what we cannot do on our own’.  It applies at ‘spiritual birth’ and continues throughout our life toward Christlikeness. While well-intentioned human effort is indispensable, we cannot do this in our own strength alone.  Christlikeness of the inner being is not a merely human attainment nor is spiritual development in Christ a passive process.  It is, finally, a gift of ‘Divine Grace’ where God is acting in our life to accomplish what we cannot do on our own.  We seek to obey God’s instruction (emitting fruit of the Spirit Galatians 5).  God’s ‘Divine Grace’ provides his intended results via our faithfulness, even though we may not follow perfectly.

 ‘Divine Grace’ Illustrated

The Greek word translated ‘grace’ appears 114 timers in the New Testament.


JESUS;           And the child (Jesus) grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on himLuke 2:40

 PAUL:           But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

1 Corinthians 15:10

FOLLOWERS:         For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9

 ‘Divine Grace’ Experienced

HOW?  START BY asking God to open our physical and spiritual eyes so that we may see what God is doing in our sphere of influence. Spend time reading and meditating on God’s teachings like Psalm 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 13; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 2:8,9. Ask God to speak to us about how we may serve with him by means of his ‘Divine Grace’ in our sphere of influence. Trust what God says and serve.

READ THE STORY behind the life of [1]John Newton. Think through his Lyrics of

Amazing Grace.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed

Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far
And Grace will lead us home
And Grace will lead us home

Go, and serve others by His ‘Divine Grace’!


[1] John Newton was born in London in 1725, the son of a Puritan mother and a stern ship commander father who took him to sea when he was 11.  By 1745, Newton was enlisted in the slave trade, running captured slaves from Africa to, ironically, Charleston, S.C. After he rode out a storm at sea in 1748, he found his faith. He was a slave himself for a period of time. He went on to fight against slavery. 

Inosculate

NOTE:  LAST WEEK SOME HAD DIFFICULTY OPENING THE BLOG ‘SYMBOLS’. I HOPE WE’VE SOLVED THE PROBLEM!  Thanks for your patience.

Art:

THIS16” x 20” Acrylic is my version of a painting I recently completed while following Ryan O’Rourke in a YouTube tutorial.

I chose it for its emphasis on the vibrance of Summer, soon to be upon us in the northern hemisphere!  I sense there are many ways our Thought—Inosculate—takes place around us in nature.   

Thought:

“Word Genius”

I DON’T RECALL when or how it began.  One morning I opened my computer to read daily emails and there it was: “Word Genius” complete with a word I didn’t recognize, along with the definition and more.  That’s not all.  Every day since, I’ve receive a new word. One I often don’t recognize.  I enjoy reading the definitions and etymologies. Inosculate [in-AHS-kə-layt] arrived recently. It reminded me of a gripping analogy from the words of Jesus and the Apostle Paul.  First, let’s define our word.

Inosculate Defined

IN SIMPLE TERMS, Inosculate may be defined as: ‘Join or Unite’; To join by intertwining or fitting closely together. Most popular between1800 – 1825 the word inosculate is first recorded in the early 1400s.  It comes from the Latin verb inoculare, meaning “to graft by budding, implant”. It developed from a combination of the words “into” and the Latin word “osculare,” which means “to provide with a mouth or outlet”.  The term is used in the medical field and others but it’s primarily associated with plants and trees.

Arborists & Inosculation

“INOSCULATION IS a natural phenomenon in which trunks, branches or roots of two trees grow together. It is biologically similar to grafting and such trees are referred to in forestry as ‘gemels’, from the Latin word meaning ‘pair’.

It is most common for branches of two trees of the same species to grow together, though inosculation may be noted across related species. The branches first grow separately in proximity to each other until they touch. At this point, the bark on the touching surfaces is gradually abraded away as the trees move in the wind. Once the of two trees touch, they sometimes self-graft and grow together as they expand in diameter. Inosculation customarily results when tree limbs are braided…’ Wikipedia

Jesus & Inosculation

JOHN’S GOSPEL reminds us in 13:13 that Jesus is a teacher: You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Jesus is not just a teacher.  He is the master teacher of all time!  He constantly applied a teaching term I first learned in college: Apperceptionthe mental process by which a person makes sense of an idea by assimilating it to the body of ideas he or she already possesses.  In other words, when Jesus wanted to teach a new truth, he began with something familiar to his audience and proceeded to connect it to the new truth as a parallel word picture. Vines were a natural.

In John fifteen Jesus said:  I am the true vine, …Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine (inosculation). Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me…This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Apostle Paul & Inosculation

THE APOSTLE PAUL was well educated and equipped to teach.  His greatest example was Jesus. Paul stated in 1 Timothy 2:7:  I was appointed a herald and an apostle…and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.  As a teacher of the Gentiles (and Jews) he picked up on Jesus teaching by incorporating apperception with the inosculation example found in agriculture.

After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!  Romans 11:24

Means to The Purpose

THE POINT BEING made by Jesus and Paul, by using these word pictures, is for God’s love to reach the world.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.Now remain in my love (inosculation)If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love… This is my command: Love each other. John 15:8, 17

Who Knew?

WHO KNEW that a “Word Genius” email would end up ‘working together’ with Jesus and Paul’s teaching for today?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Enjoy your gardening!

Symbols 2

Art:

I RECENTLY COMPLETED this 16” x 20” Acrylic from a reference photo by Peter Dranitsin.

The Moose is often a Symbol of independence, self-esteem and wisdom.  I thought it a good choice for today’s Thought— ‘Symbols’.

Thought:

Symbols

WE’RE SURROUNDED by so many ‘Symbols’ I think we often ‘stop seeing them’ whether or not our brain translates what the Symbol represents: Target, Wall-Mart, Apple, Nike, Aflac.  Advertising firms are paid good money to develop these ‘Symbols’ (logos). Symbols are a mark or character used as a representation of an object, function, or process. Over time Symbols may lose meaning or even take on unintended meanings.

APRIL 4, we celebrated Easter Sunday.  A common Symbol for this celebration (and throughout the year) is the Crucifix.  Ever wonder when we started using this Symbol for Christianity?  Did Jesus teach this? Did New Testament writers?  No, on both counts.  Kenneth Clark in his book and television series Civilization offers an answer:

Kenneth Clark

“WE HAVE GROWN so used to the idea that the Crucifixion is the supreme symbol of Christianity that it is a shock to realize how late in the history of Christian art its power is recognized.  In the first art of Christianity, it hardly appears; and the earliest example, on the doors of Santa Sabina (built A.D. 430) in Rome, its stuck away in a corner almost out of sight. The simple fact is that the early church needed converts, and from this point of view the Crucifixion was not an encouraging subject. So early Christian art is concerned with miracles, healings, and with hopeful aspects of the faith like Ascension and Resurrection.”[1] 

In contrast to Kenneth Clark’s suggestion (why the early church was not keen on the Crucifix as the Christian symbol) listen to Tertullian 200 years earlier as he writes to his provincial governors under the Roman Empire

Tertullian’s Apology

“PROCEEDE IN YOUR career of cruelty, but do not suppose that you will thus accomplish your purpose of extinguishing the hated sect [the Christians].  We are like the grass, which grown the more luxuriantly, the oftener it is mown.  The blood of Christians is the seed of Christianity.  Your philosophers taught men to despise pain and death by words; but how few their converts compared with those of the Christians, who teach by example! The very obstinacy for which you upbraid us is the great propagator of our doctrines.  For who can behold it, and not inquire into the nature of the faith which insures such supernatural courage?  Who can inquire into that faith and not embrace it, and not desire himself to undergo the same suffering in order that he may thus secure a participation in the fullness of divine favor?” –Tertullian’s (A.D. 160-230) In the conclusion to his Apology he seems to see the Christian Symbol as the Life example of the early believers.[2]

Life!

HAVING GIVEN thought to both Clark and Tertulian’s words, I have an observation:  Kenneth Clark’s suggestion as to why the early church was not keen on the Crucifix for the Christian symbol may be spot on. It seems to assume Jesus’ human death—crucifixion—was the central focus of his ‘good news’ message. It seems to me Jesus’ message was ‘Life’ in his kingdom now and for eternity. Yes, Jesus did die for us and demonstrated the end of death’s control over our living. By following him we experience a new kind of “Eternal Life”.  I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. [3]With this in mind, it seems best to at least use the empty Cross Symbol. But, is there a better possibility?

Ankh?

ACCORDING TO TERTULLIAN’S comments, the best Symbol of what Christianity is all about is the ‘Life’ of the individual follower of Jesus.  One such Symbol is the Ankh symbol—sometimes referred to as the key of Life or the key of the Nile—representative of eternal life in Ancient Egypt. Created by Africans long ago, the Ankh is said to be the first–or original–Cross. It is sometimes used by Coptic Christians along with the Coptic Cross. Physical inanimate Symbols may be helpful reminders, but whether it is the Crucifix, Cross or Ankh we must remember:

 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; Exodus 20:4


For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

Ephesians 5:8


[1] Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard, p.34

[2] Ibid p. 35

[3] John 10:10 The Message