Defending Institutions and Non-Institutions?

This morning I came upon a convo in social media that boiled down to differing views on an issue- thankfully done with grace and respect between both parties. Often it doesn’t happen that way!

As I thought about the various sides to issues raised, I once again considered the common debate (among other debates) among professing Christians about the spiritual “Babylon” of institutionalism vs. independent, ad hoc gatherings. I doubt this will ever cease until Jesus returns and folds the world up like a scroll.

Some of this debate centers around biblical interpretation re. the very scrolls from which we get books of the Bible, but a lot of it has to do with legit and not-legit worry, fear and outright self-righteousness of people on both sides of the issues.

Again and again I’ve written comments here and elsewhere affirming we can be truly burned and burn others within or outside of any “organized” spiritual gathering be it non-institutional or part of a denomination, stream of churches or fully independent house churches. If you read and travel widely you’ll eventually face that truth, verified by church and even local history (consider church OR family OR co-worker or even rock band “splits”!).

My view is that many if not most people want to be secure, comfortable, either deeply challenged, not challenged to spiritual growth much or perhaps a balance of these. Nobody links with people on a regular basis to be hurt, ripped off by them but many break from local churches or determine to stay away from any sort of organization due to personal desires, avoiding a repeat of past pains or at times what they were/are convinced is self-righteousness and hypocrisy. The reality all of us would rather dismiss is that those last two attitudes and associated behaviors have never and shall never be confined to institutions NOR free-form spirituality, but are poisons that can and sadly do manifest in both.

Wherever you go, there you are.

I’ve both benefited and seen genuine horrors in both camps (or in the second sense shall I say non-campers?) right through my life as a follower of Jesus. The very New Testament produces commentary in the Book of Acts and letters to churches and individuals who speak to all this listing actual names on occasion.

Yet EVERY group has individual people within it and it is there and right there that we must face up to the myth of being part of an organization or not will somehow provide The. Solution. to what ails us and through us, ails others.

I suppose one can choose to be a hermit in the Yukon but sooner or later you’ll interact with people and that’s where the rubber meets the road.

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

I Thought I Heard You Say -lyric

I wrote this about a month ago, the music’s in my head, so here’s the lyric and I expect to record this at some point. Just thought I’d share.

As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

I THOUGHT I HEARD YOU SAY -glenn kaiser

I thought I heard you say
That you loved him
I thought I heard you say
You’d be true
I thought I heard you say
No one above him
I thought I heard you say
Through with you

What happened to the love beyond all loves
What happened when the pushes came to shove

You know I heard him say
He’d forgive you
You know I heard him say
Come on home
I know I heard him say
He’ll always love you
He keeps knockin’
Wherever you roam

What happened when you had to lose yourself
What happened when your love went on the shelf

I hear the angels say
Somethin’s brewin’
I hear the angels say
Eyes on you
I hear the angels see
What you’re doin’
When you protest
Claimin’ self-self-rule

What was happening- inside of your head
Who left who -which one forgot what they said
What was happening- to your heart an’ your head
Who left who?
Which one meant what they said?

In ALL Your Ways…

Proverbs 3.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him And He will make your paths straight.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.

Classic scriptures in my inbox this a.m., and it’s been one of my grounding texts for most of my life.

We often trust in ourselves and our own “wisdom”, no? The issue of “heart” vs. our human ability to truly understand, comprehend leaps out at me in these verses. The Book of Proverbs calls us to get knowlege, wisdom and understanding quite a number of times, but here the issue is “heart” knowledge.

To truly acknowledge HIM in our heart, mind, choices, perspectives is too often in our rear-view mirror if we are honest.

“Paths” of course relates more to our walk than our supposed beliefs or mere talk. I note that in the Book of Revelation the churches and of course those in them are held accountable by God for what they actually do, were truly living out.

As God’s Word often does, humility is laced within this portion and the connecting point of reverence.

Indeed respect for the power and concern for His judgment guides us to the extent we turn, make a change -again, an action not a mere moral idea… to turn -away- from what He deems evil. This is not human understanding nor is it acceptable to plenty humans including those who profess to know and love Jesus. All one must do for proof is a solid study of church history to discover that reality!

So let’s be real… look honestly at your own life (and I, mine) to recognize our failure to not only believe and quote this text, but to apply it in daily living.

A living relationship with God is of course foundational to acknowledging Him. The Hebrew term means to know, be acquainted with, aware of, an on-going knowING in a relational sense. As between any two individuals the more time spent with, listening to, walking together with someone the better chance of actually knowing what they desire. It really is as simple and core as that.

All of this begins with faith -and may our lives move beyond human understanding to “all our heart” as Jesus taught us to love God in precisely those terms. He followed that up with “love your neighbor as yourself” which seems nearly impossible unless we take seriously scriptures like these!

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

The Mystery of Ministry

“We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for. The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.” -Henri J.M. Nouwen. In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership

I think Henri nails it here.

Then again many of us whether Protestant, even Catholic or Eastern Orthodox where “mystery” seems more part of theological discussion -have a very difficult time with not knowing something we seek certainty about.

The issue of healing looms large in so many ways. I pray for it all the time for my wife (arthritis, asthma) and for many others near and far from me who live with chronic pain or suffer from accidents, violence, war. What if they/we are not healed during our life on this planet? How many have rejected God due to this? Dealing with actual pain with genuine and lasting faith in Jesus and God’s Word is a mountain for people and has always presented an ongoing struggle. Simple, glib and at times harsh and judgmental answers are not not not going to fix many things that truly ail us.

Does God heal? I am fully convinced He does, but of course there are millions who do not believe such while others do not receive their desired deliverance. Reality is best my friends, and it is that which God helps me with most even in the face of authentic, present mystery. Of course we want answers and we want them when and we how we wish. In my view we ourselves add sadness to our pain if we continue to demand these rather than pray in faith, seek God and leave the results with Him regardless.

Now perhaps as some of my readers, my mind went right to Paul’s comments on reconciliation in 2 Corinthians chapter five yet what Paul was talking about (and ultimately Henri) is that if we are true servants, true ministers of the Lord Jesus -in leadership or not- we are used by the Holy Spirit to help people be reconciled to God.

In other words Henri’s statement pertains to that and not specifically person-to-person reconciliation which is indeed also part of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels.

What is NOT unity or reconciliation is vengeance, “getting even”, “putting the hammer down” on those we dislike, disagree with or simply cannot seem to relate to on any number of levels.

Until we reconcile with God it seems a major piece of human-to-human reconciliation is missing, and that the most essential part.

Finally, the term “ministry” calls for ministers, people who are willing to serve others with whatever love, gifts and skills they have. What Henri reminds us of in this quote is our own individual and I would add even corporate limits, that we cannot heal everyone all the time in every case.

To beat ourselves up for not being God is as useless as pretending we are or agreeing with others that we are in each and all cases able to meet their perceived needs.

At best we reflect His love and grace, and that always with very human flaws.

Henri recognized the futility and pain-added self-torment of being a sort of substitute savior and the true mystery that God chooses to use His broken people to serve other broken people.

For anyone, leaders in the classic sense or not, I think his points here are essential for our own peace in the midst of the many storms of mission the Lord calls us on.

Jesus is with us -in the boat and on the water.

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Without Ceasing

The scriptures encourage us to “pray without ceasing” but in my younger days I never realized how effortless this would be.

I mean, I DID pray a lot from my first realization I was indeed a believer and began to follow Jesus, but as time went on, decade upon decade I found my prayers far more fluent and direct.

It would take a long post to unpack the load of reasons it is -not- always effortless for people, but this much is true for anyone: prayer is an ongoing conversation with God. The Word also tells us “the Spirit helps us pray”.

The balance for me became and remains giving thanks/praise/worship/glory to God for Who He IS as well as what He does, and also of course the old King Jimmy (KJV translation) term “supplication”, that is, to ask Him to meet my and my families needs and also the needs, direction and mercy for many -and I mean MANY others.

As we get older we tend to wake up at various hours of the night and I’ve shared in my posts that those are often times of intercession (prayer for others). In that so many connect with me locally face-to-face as well as a zillion folks via social media, email and such, there are plenty with needs to pray for.

I have long believed this one of the most important areas of ministry, and I truly mean that.

Meanwhile I give thanks as He continues to inspire and provide me with energy to do all sorts of daily practical service as well as (for me) songwriting, performance, video clips and a ton of blog posting and more.

So just a few words here about the continuing speaking/listening/serving as we pray.

Lastly- I am not typically plagued by worry but I’ll finish with a great old line from a preacher we heard many moons ago. “Why pray when you can worry?!” HA!

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Intersections With The Holy Spirit (Spirit Teaches and More, Part Two)

My purpose here is not to issue a full-on theology of the Spirit and yet I surely believe it worthwhile to consider pneumatology which at core means the doctrine or study of spiritual beings and phenomena, especially the belief in spirits intervening between humans and God and/or the Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

Through my lifetime I have studied in three areas, mainly The Bible, world/national/local history and the history of the wide and super varied church. Though the following may seem a “rabbit hole” to some, the Person and work of the Spirit is so foundational that it continues to amaze me so few professing Christians dig into the matter.

I’ve often stated we people of faith in Jesus likely have more a sense of Who God the Father and God the Son are than Who God the Holy Spirit is. I stand on that premise though for me from the earliest sparking of my faith the Holy Spirit moved and He (being eternal, God and ever-present) continues to move in my life on many levels.

Perhaps the pertinent analogy some of my readers would best relate to is that of several roads coming together. In Chicago as in Sydney, Australia and many places I’ve traveled there are multiple intersections where sometimes five, six or even more roads all converge. This can be really interesting and even confusing at “rush hour” when driving… been there, done that… but I digress.

It seems to me interaction with, a deepening and though subjective, experience with the Lord comes to us via a number of several intersecting ways.

By study of God’s Word beginning with Jesus, then on to the Book of Acts, Paul, Peter and other New Testament writers, also delving through the Old Testament as well as personal experience (signs and wonders/the supernatural) we at times find others “on the same page” with ourselves. Or not.

Because of extremism on either end of these things, fear and/or a real desire to not make mistakes or get into error many just don’t open what to them is a “Pandora’s box”.

It is of course obvious that imperfect, finite people do not construct literally perfect theologies about God or His Spirit, that we all deal with uncertainties, can “get it wrong”, interpret Scripture and etc., etc., wrongly.

It is also obvious for some the fear of doing so keeps people in shallow waters spiritually speaking. Feeling safe doesn’t mean being safe. Studying or merely experiencing what one believes to be the presence/interaction of the Spirit of God in one’s life is not an absolute of true knowledge and certainly not automatic wisdom and a total, complete, accurate assessment of “capital T” TRUTH about Him and His work yet an intimate interaction with God is much dependent on His eternal, living, personality and a deep and deepening sense of us being in Him and He in us as followers of Jesus Christ and true, authentic lovers of God. This can and should include biblical information but also relationship with Him. Some focus so strongly on one of these they neglect the other.

So- what “intersections” might I offer at this point in this regard?

  1. Scripture -the Bible which I believe is the inspired Word of God via the Holy Spirit, not merely by human theory and imagination
  2. Supernatural/mystical experiences -these are found from one end of Scripture to the other as well as in human history, also in part via manifestation of true spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible that are beyond natural abilities
  3. Physical manifestations -See point 2 but also and including feelings but indeed deeper than mere emotion or physical endorphin activity
  4. That which often is labelled “coincidence” -direct answers to prayer as well as points 2 and 3
  5. Conscience -in very brief Romans 2.14 “When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them” -the Greek word literally means co-knowledge, a deep sense that is found in all people who are created in God’s Own image (imago dei) even though all yet also (unlike God) have a sin nature, the capacity to grieve and/or quench the Holy Spirit as He speaks (“co-“) in our conscience

From my own years of study, teaching on the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit as well as relational experiences I attribute to He and I in unity, each and all of these are paths/roads/highways that in my own life continually converge to the extent I’m personally convinced these five areas (and there may be more) confirm to me Who He is, what He has done and indeed DOES in my own life -with regularity.

Let me unpack at least some of these in short form, because over fifty years walking with Him would provide a very, very long book I’m’ not convinced I must write at this time.

Ways the Holy Spirit has spoken to me personally:

SCRIPTURE- While reading the Bible on so very many occasions from my earliest days of faith, even before following Jesus the truths of God’s Word seemed to leap off the pages into my mind and heart. I had -reason- to fear God but equal reason to hope in Him according to what I read. Get this, my past experiences in life as well as present confirmed the -truths- I read and one of the most stark realities of reaping what we sow brought me a sense of the reality of God I’d somehow “had all along” but now recognized as beyond my power to ignore, bury or even change. That is, that God IS and was speaking to me had to do with His power, a power far beyond my own to control. In such a place many of us finally meet God.

When Matthew tells us Jesus responded to the devil “But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt. 4.4) it was by the Holy Spirit those Words were spoken. When God the Father, God the Son speak God the Holy Spirit is speaking and has spoken. THAT is where active, actual spiritual nurture, sustenance and life comes from according to Jesus Christ.

When Paul writes that the Holy Spirit breathed the Scriptures into and through His prophets and were thus written, I’m convinced it is so. When Jesus told His disciples that heaven and earth would pass away but His Word would never do so, then told them when He Himself would send the Spirit after He had ascended to remind them of His Words, Whom He called “the Spirit of truth” did and does precisely that. The Holy Spirit speaks through His Words and acts- the Word of God via Jesus Who John calls “the Word made flesh”.

Scripture further states Jesus Christ was filled with the Spirit “beyond measure”. He taught that we would and should “be filled with the Spirit”. Paul writes “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you”. When Jesus says “I am the resurrection and the life” He is saying it by the Spirit and the Spirit Who was going to raise Him. Trinitarian doctrine is deep, rich and forever was, is and shall be Father/Son/Spirit interactive, the Three Who are One.

PEOPLE- There is ample evidence in Scripture and personal experience where truth, good and accurate guidance and provision came into people’s lives via prophets, teachers and others. The spiritual gifts which come by and through God the Holy Spirit according to Scripture include prophecy, words of wisdom and words of knowledge. These gifts are manifested through humans so gifted. Imperfect as we each are, flawed, mistake prone and even sinful, yet the Spirit has spoken, healed, performed outright miracles and more -via- people. Regardless of economics, political power, social standing, education, race or spiritual beliefs -I have personally heard, seen and experienced the Holy Spirit speaking and working in my own and countless others lives throughout my lifetime. On many, many occasions though sometimes only in retrospect it is clear it was not mere human speech or action but the Holy Spirit who moved through them to reach myself and others in need.

PRAYER- As usual, both the Bible and my own experience make strong statements about people receiving, resisting, discovering and being moved by the Holy Spirit. Prayer is a regular part of these texts and events in Scripture and in life. Luke in his history-letter Book of Acts accents this again and again. Apostle Paul, Jude and others write about the Spirit’s involvement and indeed essentiality in our ability to pray, that is, to both speak with and hear God the Father and God the Son via praying.

It is simple enough to search and locate a large ream of verses that clearly speak to the reality of the Holy Spirit’s direct involvement with physical birth, spiritual birth, His communication to humans, indeed the very resurrection of Jesus and the foundational (and long list of Bible scholar’s commentary quotes on) His absolute involvement in every Christ-follower’s salvation itself.

Jesus tells us He is “the Spirit of truth”, “Helper”, “Comforter”, “Teacher” and much, much more being part of what in Christian history is often called “the godhead” or “Trinity”- Father/Son/Spirit, Whom the Celtic Christians referred to as “The Three”.

Apostle Paul in Galatians chapter five lays out both spiritual gifts “of the Spirit” and the spiritual fruit “of the Spirit” which HE is the Source of.

Note that gifts of prophecy, words of knowledge and words of wisdom (as well as the other gifts Paul mentions) all have to do with thought and those three speaking -therefore a “voice” in mind, a sense of connection, information, teaching is certainly foundational in the Spirit’s work in and through human beings. There is simply no logical argument against such.

A key verse worth pondering comes via Luke in chapter 11. Jesus says in vs. 13 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

A.W. Tozer put the issue simply and truly down to whether or not we actually want the Spirit to fill us, want to surrender in loving obedience to Him, are willing to allow Him to possess, control and direct our life.

I’ll finish with this:

Regardless of what your favorite Bible teacher/pastor/etc. or you believe about the Holy Spirit and in particular how we live in Him and moreso how He lives, moves and ministers to as well as through us, the follower of Jesus Christ benefits by the study and careful application of our interaction with the Spirit! With sensible, appropriate caution and bathed in God’s love, over time- knowledge, then wisdom and actual obedience to Him blesses not only ourselves but those we influence for their good as the result of God the Holy Spirit Whom Jesus sent.

My spiritual awakenings have been prompted, curated and borne fruit by God the Holy Spirit, of this I’m as certain as I am that it is actually air I breathe and not merely my brain and lungs imagining that I’m breathing. Intersections with Him brought, bring and will carry me in eternal life with the Father, Son and saints of God. I am forever thankful!

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

A Powerful Phrase

My friend Jed Brewer over at Good Loud Media works with a wide range of people creating music and other excellent art. On occasion he shares news and stories of people who are benefiting from those artful offerings. Super encouraging work!

The other day he included a phrase I’d heard before but it leapt out at me and gave birth to this blog post. In context of his report he wrote of “a depth of understanding of a lived experience other than our own.” This is Soooo important to my and all our growth in empathy. Kudos to Jed and those he’s connecting with in bringing hope via artistic expression!

“Empathy” is defined as “ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling”. In short, we take time and thought to learn and really consider their situation and care about them.

Some would love to drop-kick empathy down the street. It is a foreign concept to many, often thought of as washed-out liberal, perhaps even gutless, an approach to people based on weakness and possibly even feeding into the person’s laziness, lack of facing FACTS and wallowing in feelings.

I would ask those who quickly judge others in such manner two questions: do they ever care at all about what others think of them? Ever? Do they ever appreciate, even want kindness shown to them? What if, as Jesus said, we reap the exact judgment we aim at others?

The “self-made man” tough-as-nails grunt concept may work for the fake show of a WWF but it’s phony, weak and full of self – and if you happen to consider yourself a genuine follower of Him -not even close to Jesus in His character or treatment of hurting folks.

While it’s true none of us know people as Jesus did and does (rightly, completely, ACCURATELY) the quick trigger judgment and slap ’em upside the head stuff is miles apart from faith, hope, love, grace (!) and actual empathy. How does one match loving our neighbor as our self much less loving our enemy (both COMMANDS of Jesus Christ) with quickly, even severely jumping to harsh, snap judgment conclusions about someone?

It does not.

Slowing down, asking questions, listening involve hard work that we may be tempted to escape even as we judge others for seemingly running from what we consider their hard work. Humility calls us to grow up even while we demand others do so. It costs, but as we increase in compassion and true grace not only ourselves -but others benefit. Maturity in us may well inspire it in them.

Thanks Jed, you and crew ROCK! For my readers, please take a look/listen:

https://www.goodloudmedia.org/

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Triggered.

It’s a legit term and has been in much use the past few years -and with good reason from political strife, Black Lives Matter (they do.), the pandemic, abuse of all sorts and a ton of issues being hung out on the proverbial lines to blow in the wind of social media, church sermons and more. I get it. I get triggered myself sometimes.

The caution I’m trying to be mindful of is not to become deaf to people’s feelings, hurts and our ability via words, body language, actions/in-actions to set others off in a negative way, but “there is a time to speak and a time to refrain from speaking”. The problem is I’m not so certain any of us always knows fully, truly when is which. There are keys, markers, hints to what somebody -might- be thinking if you say or don’t say this or that, do or don’t do X or Y, and so forth. Certainly it’s about paying closer attention.

Silence is often golden indeed -but not always.

Where someone may be at in any moment of their life journey regarding spiritual issues/struggle, emotional issues/struggle, chemical-biological mental illness burdens, and at some point also general maturity in any or all of these areas makes it rather complex, doesn’t it? Having to think very deeply about all this may itself trigger you. Yet- empathy is always needed, always good!

One of my main issues is learning to listen in a deep way and NOT talk or offer advice that isn’t asked for. Sometimes that feels (to me) like walking around with a full water tank but not pouring any out when someone in front of me seems to be burning.

Yet I’ve long ago learned I cannot fix everyone, not everyone is interested (at a moment in time or maybe ever…) for input from me, so quiet down and pray like crazy for God’s grace, love and healing, direction and writing-on-their-wall all in His way, His time and however and with whomever (often –not– me) is best for them for their sake. Cuz it AIN’T about me and never was.

Old-school ministers often find that transition difficult after a lifetime of dispensing advice, and of course we’re in a day where incrementally all and any sort of advice (healing, enabling, positive, negative, sound or “here’s what you want to hear so I’ll tell you that”) is stacked higher than ever via social media, Zoom and like events and the Web in general. So there’s that.

Truly listening to others rarely triggers them, and we all can be better listeners!

So here comes advice (see what I’m doing here?) you can read and apply if you wish or stop reading, your choice.

Self-awareness is essential. If we are being triggered continually, “looping” such is a trap that can mean our focus is just too much on self rather than God and others.

Reach out for help- for genuine trauma doesn’t “just go away” and does need attention- that’s a reality even though we may not want to face it.

Jesus is listening 24/7 365. He has people in most places who can at least help us somewhat -and God also sent a Comforter as near as your own breath -IF you’re open to and ask for Him. See Luke 11.13

Professional help, counseling, prescribed medication, good advice and of course application of tools many of which you can also read about online -as you are willing- can all help when triggering is constant and unrelenting.

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Ukraine, Gas, Prophecy and Sacrifice

The past several years have included incredible pains, sacrifices, anger, fear and loss. I completely understand why none of us wants to experience more of these! Neither do I! Yet I ask you consider the following:

Can we care about, perhaps even love others so genuinely that our compassion for them allows, even moves us to sacrifice our chosen way of life?

Is it not true Jesus though sinless perfect God-in-human-form prayed to be delivered from such sacrifice yet did Himself surrender to it as the will of God out of love for both the Father and us?

Consider the horrors of war and what extreme rationing and painful sacrifices British, then the American people were called upon to make for the sake of their own and other nations’ deliverance and freedom in World War II.

Blaming a government for enacting uncomfortable, sacrificial changes to our preferred way of life in such a time brings hurt to us and indeed reveals just how adaptable we are or refuse to be in terms of caring for refugees and others or as Jesus stated it by command- that we love our neighbors as ourselves.

To my Christian brothers and sisters worrying over end-times prophecies, whether any of us or our favorite scholars got it right or wrong another question: do any of us really think we have the power to deny or change God’s plan of fulfilling His prophecies as He so chooses? We better adjust our feelings to the fact on that one!

Consider these things as you rage over the price of gas and other items or the lack thereof.

The issue as I see it is our chosen “way of life” literally versus His way of life. Mercy costs, hurts -and reveals love deeper than we sometimes wish to give.

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn