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Total Ideologies and Discernment

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Total Ideologies and Discernment

Ideas come to us in packages sometimes known as ideologies. These ideologies contain mixtures of truth and error. Discernment is needed to know and detect the difference.

It is difficult to buy a piece of a package. The package may be incorrect and even damaging. That does not mean that all the ideas in the package are wrong.

It is myopic to accept or reject an ideology out of hand. We must learn to examine and discern the merits of the components of the belief system. We can accept the correct and reject the wrong.

It is wrong to become a slave to a total ideology. The Catholic system was a total ideology. Luther and Zwingli rejected that total ideology but then replaced it with their own total ideology – a system of belief consisting of correct and incorrect components. Their total ideology did not allow them the freedom of discernment in choosing direction for the lives of their followers.

The early Anabaptists rejected the idea of total ideology and replaced it with faith in God and His written and living Word through His Holy Spirit. That faith provided basis for discernment. Their rejection of reigning ideologies cost them dearly.

How easy is it for Anabaptists to fall into a total ideology? As Anabaptists today, we reject some packages and accept others. What we need to do is to examine the packaged ideas and discern and then choose the truth from the error. To accept or reject a set of ideas packaged in specific terms is to miss the good for the evil

It is possible, of course, to create our own isms and defend them as total ideologies and expect our people to accept them and defend them and use them to maintain our own brand of distinctives. These provide reasons for certain behaviors while rejecting others and so provide justification for a particular approach to life.

The world is full of isms. Ism brackets the word. It forces a set of definitions on an otherwise useful term. Communal is a useful Christian term. Communism is an ism with specific definitions that miss much of the Biblical concept of community.

Anabaptist is a useful term. Anabapt-ism is a bracketed term. Mennonite is a useful term. Mennonite-ism is a bracketed term. When the term Mennonite is arbitrarily (or for what ever personal or group design) infused with a set of beliefs and practices that defend certain ideas and behaviors, it then becomes an ism. The ism contains whatever the particular group decides to include as their definition of Anabaptist.

For us as Anabaptists, to accept or reject fundamentalism or liberalism, revivalism or pre-millennial-ism limits our use of potential useful parts of those packages and removes from us the freedom to accept truth because it is connected to some level of error.

(To confuse millennial-ism with millenarian-ism is another error that will confuse the discussion.)

The Anabaptist life is a challenging path. It requires constant discernment so that we do not buy into total packages that contain both truth and error.
It is far easier to buy total packages of our own making or those imported from the world of ideas than to accept and adopt Biblical definitions for life.

To reject to offered total packages is to place ourselves outside the comfort of acceptance by the systems. To be discerning is to place ourselves inside the protection of Scripture and the Holy Spirit.

To blacklist evangelicalism because of its inclusion of concepts that are not Biblical or, on the other hand, to subscribe to it as a packaged and prescribed path of Christianity is to compromise our heritage of discernment.

To be Anabaptist is to follow a blessed but difficult path. We are called to be salt and light with discernment and without compromise.

There are many kinds of beliefs in the world. Most of them contain some truth. Most of them contain some error. Spiritual discernment is desperately needed to know truth from error. Righteousness from evil. Godliness from ungodliness. Those who have been called to shepherd the flock of God need their discernment developed by diligent study in the Holy Scripture and by following the leading of the Holy Spirit so they and we do not fall prey to the easy path of total ideology.

May the Good Lord lead and convict us in these challenging days to call on Him and His Divine wisdom as we choose the truth and reject the error.

What Are You Looking At?

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What Are You Looking At?

We do not look at the things which are seen,
But we look at the things which are not seen.
Because, the things which are seen are temporary,
But the things which are not seen are eternal.

II Corinthians 4:18

Suffering and Sin

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Suffering and Sin

Since Christ suffered physical pain,
You must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too.
For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin.
You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires,
But you will be anxious to do the will of God.
You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—
Their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.
Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do.
So they slander you
I Peter 4:1-4

Adequately Loved

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Adequately Loved

We are all egotists – We focus on me and my interests and wants. Why are we like that? Is there a remedy?

Here is a life-changing quote from Dallas Willard:
“Egotism is pathological self-obsession, a reaction to anxiety about whether one really does count. It is a form of acute self-consciousness and can be prevented and healed only by the experience of being adequately loved. It is, indeed, a desperate response to frustration of the need we all have to count for something and held to be irreplaceable, without price. Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard

We are all made to count. We are made to be valued. We are made to be worthy. We are made to be loved. When we do not experience those things we cling to our ego and defend and protect and insist. We revert to egotism – a “pathological self-obsession” because we are not sure that we really are important. Egotism is our “desperate response, a form of acute self-consciousness” designed to make us feel important and significant when we doubt.

That approach to life makes us so very fragile – like a Glass Menagerie. We become unapproachable and unteachable and defensive and fearful. We defend ourselves at any and all costs. We are driven by fear and not directed by love. We are easily offended and we take offense for others.

What is the answer? According to Willard, Egotism can be “prevented and healed only by the experience of being adequately loved.” He is right. When we are adequately loved we become strong and durable. We know that we are safe, no matter what the danger. Love is the answer, no matter what the question. The experience of adequate love, forms us into who we really are in Christ.

To experience His love we must resist and relinquish the strangle-hold of our own ego and let Him control our life and experience. We stop the defensive behaviors and drop the walls we have built. We stop walling people out of our lives. We become teachable and responsive to God and His children. We can be vulnerable without retaliation. We can be transparent without being arrogant. We can exchange our lives of frustration for lives of service and find our joy and peace in Him instead of in ourselves.

As we grow in love, we develop discernment. We can risk. We can open our hearts to hurting people because we are safe and can provide safety for those who are not safe and do not feel safe. We can be authentic and not pretentious. We can develop healthy boundaries while we resist walls and building walls. As we long for healing we accept criticism and take guidance to heart and mind. The pride of egotism gives way to the blessing of humility. Disrespect does not destroy us. False accusations do not stall us.

Forgive when there seems no reason to forgive. Love when there seems no reason to love. Forgiveness and love will attack your ego from within. Your ego will fall to the power of love and grace. Truth will dispel the lies. Love will win the Spiritual battle raging within your own heart. Peace will ensue. Patience will persist. Goodness will reign. Gentleness will rule. Faith will perceive. Meekness will moderate. Self-control will govern. The strength of joy will overcome.

You do not have to be an egotist. You are loved and can experience the love of God for yourself and for you to share with others. Infuse other lives with a sense of value. Show them by your words and behavior that they are of inestimable value and worth. Your life can bless those who have not yet experienced that they truly are adequately loved. You can adequately love them because you are adequately loved. God loves you. He will always love you. You can trust that.

This experience can and will be life-changing for you and for all those you encounter in your life. When you know that you know that you know that you are adequately loved, your egotism will no longer control you and real life will begin.

Jesus came to earth that you may have life and that you can have it more abundantly. That is true individually and collectively. Christ’s Church is made up of those who love and are loved. Accept that adequate life of love. Accept that contagious life of love and love of life. Love is the answer. You are adequately loved. Love adequately.
That is God’s way of life.

1 + 1 = 1

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1 + 1 = 1

God made one man and one woman. Simple but profound. Simplistic even, but still profound.

God’s plan is not complicated. We complicate life. People who do not follow God’s plan complicate life. Somehow we think we know better than God. Satan deceives us or we just personally decide that we can do it better than God.

How many men do I have to meet who think it OK to do porn? What is the problem? How does this help? Sure the pictures are pretty (well, not all of them. Some are downright despicable and destructive).

How many men think they have the right to look at women who are perfectly sculpted and bronzed? Where would they get that right? Would they afford that right to the women in their lives: their wives, daughters, mothers?

Would these men be OK with the women in their lives gawking at muscle-beach magazines or movies of some sort? Pictures of perfectly muscled and tanned male bodies in alluring settings – would that be OK? What if their wives were addicted to the fantasy of experiences with those perfectly sculptured men? Would that be OK?

Most men do not look like that. Most women do not look like the women in porn either. Why would a skinny or over-weight , balding and aging man think he has a right to a private life of lust by indulging in shapely young female bodies? Why? How far from reality is that? How far from truth is that? How far from God is that? Do we care? Does anyone care? In the Anabaptist community – how far have adult men gone in the way of adolescent sin?

O sure, it is harmless and we all like to look at pictures of beautiful sunsets, animals, landscapes, oceans and other parts of God’s creation, so what can be wrong with pictures of naked humans? What is wrong is that God has a plan and those pictures are not it.

1 + 1 = 1. God made one man and one woman. Simple but profound. Simplistic even, but still profound. That is His plan for His human creation. That is His plan for you to be naked and not ashamed.

Many of us promised: “leave father and mother and cleave to your spouse” “til death do us part” “for better or worse…” You know the plan. You know the promise. You promised. There is a reason for that. It is not negotiable. It is not violable without incalculable damage.

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. Somehow they think they can have it both ways. They cannot. You cannot. We are reaping the sins of instability and worse.

The sin of porn is passed from generation to generation destroying lives as it goes. It really is infidelity. It is adultery. Somehow some men seem to ignore that fact. How many young men have told me that they found a stash that their dad or older brother thought was totally hidden? Now screens tell the tales of infidelity.

I have seen women cry. When they discover their men are looking at other women’s bodies their crying is a different kind of crying. It is a uniquely painful kind of rejection. The pain does not go away. They can never look at their husbands the same way again. Trust is gone. Men, restoring that trust is a long painful process.

Men, when are you going to get the message? This sin is not a victimless issue. It has many victims. You are one of them. Your wife and children are victims. Truth be told, the girls in the images are victims also.

God has a plan. You are part of that plan. Either you follow Him or you destroy what He has planned for you and your life. Grow up. Respect and protect the women in your life: every woman you see deserves your respect and your protection. Be she a member of your family, a person you encounter in life, or an image on a page or screen – you are called by God to fidelity and faithfulness – to be a man of God and a man who fulfills God’s plan.

What would Jesus do? He would take off His coat and wrap it around that naked girl. He would guard her beauty – He would honor her beauty that He created. She would see the love and protection in His eyes and His actions. Her wounded heart and body would revel in His extravagant grace and respect. She would adore His love as pure and holy. Men, God is calling you to be ‘Jesus’ to your world.

That is the call of God on your life.
Here and now.

The River

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When we receive the Holy Spirit there is something like a river that begins to flow from our inmost being. You can’t push a river; you don’t need to because it flows on its own. When we try to control the move of the Holy Spirit through us we are trying to push the river. No wonder we are frustrated in our attempt to be spiritual. Any genuine ministry of the Holy Spirit will feel quite natural. Often we don’t know it was the Holy Spirit until after the fact.

On Word Ministries Morning Meditation

Thanksgiving

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Enter into his gates with thanksgiving
and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
Psalm 100:4