Thursday, May 31, 2012


It is hard to let the Lord lay the ax to the root of disappointment, regret or even bitterness. On our christian journey we may change our direction, our orientation, we may even leave the system and eschew performance based religion but that doesn't mean that we have been set free from the effects of performance based Christianity and top down institutionalization. Religion, albeit Christian religion, appeals to our human nature, - to our desire for security, for acceptance, predictability, community, significance, belonging. fellowship, position and yes even power! Though belonging may bring with it a sense of security it is a false sense of security and a subtle seduction to which so many have succumbed.
Like the Israelites who were led out of Egypt but still had Egypt IN them...many of us, having left 'organized religion" still carried the 'system" with us and within us!! True freedom is more than being set free from the dominion of the "world" system!
The lure of what I call pay for performance Christianity is strong. I have to admit, that having begun in the spirit, I too "gave in" to being one with that system which masquerades as Christ. Like Esau, I traded my birthright as a true child of God, for a bowl of porridge which satisfied my natural appetite but did not truly fulfill - (make me full from within). I must admit that although I was delivered out from the gospel Ghetto...for many years the ghetto mentality & pseudo-spiritually was IN me. Like the Israelite, having crossed over Jordan, shouting "hallelujah I'm free" I suddenly found myself in a spiritual wilderness...often alone and without direction. It was in this wilderness that God began to free me from that which bound me from within. It was in the wilderness that I learned that righteousness is not in religion, or doing good things, in right beliefs. commandment keeping or in the security of the herd and following men, but only in Jesus Christ and total dependence on him. It was in the wilderness of Sin that I learned that righteousness was total dependence on Him and that sin is independence from him. Sin,I learned lay in self. The blessing of the wilderness was that in the wilderness I ran out of steam and found myself devoid of necessary resources both mental and spiritual. It was there I came to the end of myself! It was also there that I finally found - once again - and oasis for the thirsty soul. I found again - my first love and my life -Jesus the Christ.
For a long time I blamed my circumstances, my lack of direction, my spiritual dryness, my dissatisfaction and my unhappiness on "the church" - my Egyptian task master.
True freedom, however, did not come until there came a realization that my circumstances were not the fault of the church or some religious personage or system. A light finally went on and I saw S in sin stood for SELF ! ~ Once agian I came face to face with the truth of the words of POGO:
"We have seen the enemy and it is US."
I saw that I was a victim of my own choices. No one forced or coerced me to believe. No one deceived me - it was self-deception that was the enemy. No one took power from me. No one forced me to follow them or to listen to their words from the Lord. I made choices. I chose to listen to men, I chose to believe what others taught and to give myself - my trust and loyalty to them and to that religious system. I chose to follow men and the teachings of men. I chose to be and see myself as a victim. The good thing about victimization, I discovered, is that you get to blame someone or something else for your situation. And so, for a season, I played the blame game. It was all about them and what they did to me. For a time I reveled in it. Then, suddenly or perhaps finally, I was convicted that I had not sought the Lord. I had not been more noble and studied the scriptures to see truth. I had taken, as I had so many times in my life, the path of least resistance - the easy way out, rather than the road less traveled.
When I acknowledged my sin to God, my sin of sloth and laziness and of choosing to follow men rather than Him, He began the marvelous process of freeing me from all the self imposed chains of theological nonsense and religious performance. God began a marvelous work of restoration. Though this reconstruction and restoration still continues, I have never felt more free - free to love even those that I formerly blamed for my bondage and my unfruitful "Christian" life.
And again I remember the truth according to Pogo:
"We have met the enemy and it is us!’
I also remember the words of Christ:
"Forgive them Father for they know not what they do!"

Monday, May 28, 2012

On Being Wordy.

"What are you studying, Dad?"

"It's a book on etymology. "
Oh yeah, I know all about that" my son said. "It's the study of insects. We learned all about that in biology. I think I heard that term used on C.S.I. They were talking about how studying insects helped them solve crimes."
"You're right in the sense that etymology is the study of little things we often overlook - things which can really bug us and which, like ants, can be very biting, stinging and which can inflict great pain. But it isn't the study of insects! That's entomology!"
"Then what is it, Dad?"
"Well son, etymology is the study of the history of words — when they entered a language, from what source, and how their form and meaning have changed over time. Simply speaking etymology is the study of the origin of words and their evolution."

"So you're sort of like the Charles Darwin of words, huh Dad?!"

"Well I wouldn't go that far son but I do find it fascinating. I don't know why I love it so but it's like a holy addiction."

"Sounds serious dad. Maybe you need a 12 step program, like W.A! You know, Words Anonymous."
"Cute son!" I said. "Very clever. Maybe I do."
He is right. I really love words and I am, I must admit, an information junky! When I think about the subject of words, only one word in particular comes to mind - communication. But what is communication? Webster's says that communication is "the art and technique of using words effectively to impart information or ideas."
I used to think that communicating really meant talking, speaking, sharing, teaching, prophesying, or preaching! If that were true, then I would certainly have been considered a great communicator! I could and did, as they say, talk up a storm! As a young christian I was convinced that if, in the body of Christ, each of us was a part - I must be the mouth! I am aware that plenty of others thought they were too! I often wondered how so many other people could be so deluded! After all, everyone knows that in the body that there's only one mouth - ME!
Here in the south an often heard colloquialism is, "Well shut my mouth," and that's exactly what the Lord did. He used a marvelous brother named Tom Skinner to do just that! The first time I heard Tom speak I realized that there was an extreme difference between talking and communicating. He was the most marvelous communicator of the gospel I have ever heard. Tom's presentation epitomized the second part of Webster's definition; 'to impart information!'
"Communication" Tom said, "Is not about what you say but it's about what is heard!!"
Just now, as I write these words, I can hear my father saying to his 16 year old son, (ME) ;
"This is what I said, George, what did YOU hear?" or
"What part of be home BY 10:00 didn't you understand?"
Unfortunately, for me, dad was always careful to communicate to me - to put things in clear concise terms that I could and did understand! "I'm sorry dad, I must have misunderstood you." was never a valid excuse!
By definition, communication occurs only when the information or idea is imparted, disclosed, transmitted or made known to someone else.
In other words, until what you are saying is understood, there is NO communication. If he, or she, or they don't 'get it', NO communication has occurred! You're just, "flapping your gums," as my mother used to say.
One of the biggest hinderances to effective communication is what some may simply call vocabulary but which I call jargon. Every academic discipline has its own "special" stable of vocabulary words. Chemists converse about such things as reactions, hydrogenations, aqueous solutions, CH&N analysis, nonpolar bonds, reductions and titration. Lawyers speak legalese and talk about stuff like a mandamus, writs (I think you have one on each arm just above your hand) and "torts" - which I thought was some kind of a pastry from the bakery?! "Torts! Absolutely, I'll have a cherry one."
A good part of what we consider education in our Western world, involves the acquisition of the 'specialized vocabulary' used to communicate in a particular academic discipline or specialized field of study like medicine, chemistry, physics, computer science, biology or theology. This unique vocabulary allows one to converse with others in a particular field but in actuality means little or nothing to the "average" man or woman - to those not so educated.
Here's an example from my own life. For about a year i met with a group of men every Wednesday evening to play music. All of these men were accomplished musicians and they were also retired computer hardware and software engineers - except for me, of course! At our musical intermission or break time, we'd gravitate to the kitchen for snacks - something else I was accomplished in. Grabbing snacks and a drink the men would break up into small groups and enter into discussions about their former fields of employment. As an non computer type and a technologically challenged person listening in, it seemed to me that they were speaking a foreign language. Although I consider myself to be an educated and somewhat intelligent person, I could not understand one solitary thing they were talking about. I prayed earnestly for the gift of interpretation but to no avail. Although the conversation seemed so very exciting and stimulating to them, it was all Greek to me. It was σύγχυση.
This was the pattern which emerged every week, during break. While they talked computerese I just, stood there silently listening in but feeling like a total idiot. It would have been obvious to anyone observing that I didn't belong to their "club" and did not understand what they were talking about. I had nothing to contribute whatsoever to the discussion.
This pattern continued. Each week I couldn't wait for the break to end so we could get back to playing music. My feeling of being left out so intensified that I finally took to spending my break time in the studio tuning up, so I wouldn't have to experience the feeling of being on the outside looking in.
When it comes to communicating we Christians are often no better. When we speak, we tend to use a lot of theological jargon and arcane religious phrases like, grace, supplication, sanctification, redemption, propitiation, intercession, ecclesiology, escatology and the list goes on and on ad infinitum.
Although the mastery and understanding of religious language allows us to converse with "the saints" and be recognized within Christian circles as "spiritual", most of what we say has little or no meaning to those outside of our christian circles.
Much of our religious speech is nothing more than religious jargon! Christianese, I call it, and those in the world who hear or overhear us conversing, must feel very much like I did on Wednesday nights - uncomfortable, disconnected, excluded, mystified and bored to tears.
We Christians often talk about how the "gospel" (more Christianese) is the "power of God unto Salvation, yet much of what we "preach" or say is not comprehended by the hearers because of our use of jargon, theological terms or Christian buzz words! What we desperately need to learn is that; "communication is not what you say - but what is heard". We need less talking, less preaching, less orating, less jargonizing and more communicating! After all, we really do have something worth saying and worth saying well!
There is another aspect of the definition of communication which I just discovered and have found to be both enlightening and, at the same time, extremely disturbing. The dictionary gives a second definition of communication, which is as follows:
"Communication is the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, signals, writing......................or behavior. "
"Or behavior?!" Where did that come from? Just when I thought I was mastering the art of communication, I had to read this stuff. Great!
Recently I was told that most children learn best by observation. In fact, the article which I read said,that "Don't do as I do - do as I say" is totally impotent!! The author asserted:
"When there is a conflict between the values you profess or teach and the values you live or demonstrate, your children will model what you do, NOT what you say to do!"
In other words the question is, What am I communicating with my actions?
Now there's a thought. All of a sudden I find myself totally speechless or blogless. It must be writers block.
Got to go. We'll communicate about this some other time.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Jesus had told his disciples to "wait for the promise of the Spirit".  And wait they did, although I'm sure they had no idea how this drama would play out.  Perhaps they were looking for a dove to descend from heaven as happened to their Lord at His baptism in the Jordan.  How would He come?  What would happen?  Would they hear the voice of God say, "I am well please?" So as they were commanded, they waited and prayed And so we read in Acts:

And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they  were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all...For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

In the world of physical science. there is a natural law (I think it is Newtonian) that "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."  Action: we split the atom and there is an enormous chain reaction resulting in an awesome and terrifying explosion.  Although the atomic world is not visible to the naked eye and we cannot see the splitting of the atom - we can, in the larger world see, feel and hear the explosion.  We hear the blast and see the gigantic mushroom cloud which follows.  We can, with our instruments, measure the magnitude of the blast and the radiation which is released. So powerful is the explosion that it can only be expressed in Megatons (i.e. millions of tons of TNT better known as dynamite). Observing the explosion from an a-bomb test one can only exclaim "Oh my God!"  From the invisible comes a visible result.

So is it in the realm of the Spirit.  You cannot see the Spirit - as Jesus said, "It is like the wind.  You don't know where it comes from or where it goes." You can see the effect but not the invisible Spirit. 

This same Holy Spirit enters into mere mortal men and women.  When this happens there is a resultant visible explosion of grace, love and praise. Humans are changed in an instant and this new life rushing into the vacuum of their lives begins to express itself (or Himself) through these vessels - these people.  They begin to react to or manifest this new life  by selling homes and giving the money away to the needy - being in one accord - loving each other unconditionally - sharing their possessions - prophesying - and speaking with tongues (to name a few).  These are not "the Spirit" but are simply visual EFFECTS or the REACTION to the coming of the wind of the Spirit.

I find it interesting that our Lord promised, "You shall receive power (dunamis) when (after that) the Holy Spirit has come upon you..."  Power  is translated from the Greek word dunamis.  It is from this word that we derive our English word dynamite. 

From the invisible to the visible.  A divine explosion.

Where we err, is in our natural tendency to turn gracious acts of God into laws, rules, evidences, desired effects or "gifts" to be sought after - coveted.,  We become so enamored with these this divine activity that we soon forget that where there is a reaction there is first a divine action!

Consider the following example.  With the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:), as the Holy Spirit blew in and appeared as tongues of fire upon their heads, the scriptures tell us that they were "filled with the Spirit and began to speak with tongues...".

As a casual observer, I hear the rushing mighty wind. I see the fiery manifestation and I hear these people, now filled with the Holy Spirit, all speaking in strange tongues.  I can connect the dots.  Feel the wind - see the spirit and hear them speaking with tongues!  So I say to myself, the evidence of being filled with the spirit is...speaking with tongues!  Tada!  From now on if someone says, I just was filled with the spirit,  I say, "Wonderful, say something in tongues. then I'll know for sure that you have the spirit."  From all this spiritual activity I deduce a formula which says, "the visible evidence of being filled with the Spirit is the 'speaking with tongues'.

Once again, however, the scriptures upset my apple cart and I read  that the "fruit  of the Spirit is joy, peace, love...".  Oops there goes my theory.  But I'm a smart guy so i say to myself, "Wait a minute." I reason that  "Bearing fruit takes time. It's seasonal.  Brand new trees do not instantly bear fruit!"  So I modify my theory and my  new teaching is repackaged as the doctrine of "initial" evidence in the light of the fact that tongues appear initially and then the "fruit" comes later: in season!  Makes perfect sense!

It is difficult to stay focused on the unseen world: on the realm of the invisible spirit.  Its much easier to focus on the natural (soulish) realm.  It's 'natural" to focus on the physical manifestations of the indwelling spirit.  Sooner or later we begin to manifest, exhibit, or mimic the reaction, manifestation or gift without receiving the spirit. Yep, I hear tongues, they got it!  Instead of re-acting to a divine spiritual encounter - we just resort to acting! 

So here is George's law number 1.  When you receive the Spirit you will  speak with tongues. 

George's law number 2:  If you have the spirit you will sell your property and share with all (especially me) just as the early believers did. 

Or...easier yet...

Instead of seeking to be filled with the Spirit, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, why not demonstrate your spirituality by selling some stuff at a Christian garage sale and then give it away! 

Or...option 2...

If you don't want to do that then try speaking in tongues. You can do it!  Here. O'll help you.  Just open your mouth and begin talking like a baby. I'll help you!  Then try this. Say, lalalalala..dadadadada....bababababa (like a little lamb)... That's good keep it up.  See, there you've got it!  Welcome to the club. See, that's the Spirit.  Can you say Hallelujah?!

Now, finally, here's my two cents worth (after my long rant). Seek 'the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.  Seek to receive the life of God.  Don't seek after some gift or someone else's "experience".  But DO seek to be filled with His Spirit and when He comes we'll see what He  does! I  can almost guarantee that whatever it is,  it will be bombastic.  Don't seek the reaction or manifestation...just seek Him.   After all:

"If I speak with the tongues of men and angels and have not love I am nothing.  If you sell everything - EVERYTHING and give to the poor but I have not Agape (love) my profit is a big fat ZERO!"