Friday, December 8, 2017

Rebukes to Leadership ...

In a contest, there is usually only one winner.  Where it comes to sports, we are fine with that.  Where it happens inside the church doors, we are divided by it.  On the playing field it is a contest of wills, who wants to win, how far can they push themselves to achieve it.  Inside the church doors, it is also a contest of wills, usually founded in the cement of ego, and rarely in consideration of “who” wins, and how many lose because of it.  Questions over doctrine, or rather over the interpretation of doctrines have divided bodies of Christ for centuries.  This has always been a sad thing, where the enemies of Christ appear the only “winners”.  But when disagreements over style and preference are elevated to questions of faith, because the ego of those in hardened positions will see no other reason; the enemies of Christ not only have the “win”, they have all the trimmings of the parades that go with it.  In these cases, division becomes the doctrine we exemplify, and tolerance and patience are put on the shelf like species of birds long since extinct.
While the membership joins in this phenomenon, and sometimes even form the catalyst for starting it, it is the leadership who bears the responsibility for quelling it and restoring order to the body.  It is our leaders who carry the burden of so patient a love, they are able to reason with members who may have long since abandoned it.  This is no easy feat.  It requires a close connection with our God, a complete trust and reliance upon Him.  And it requires a willingness to let the words of the Holy Spirit proceed from your mouth, even when you had other thoughts and feelings on the matter.  Make no mistake, there is only one entity that sows division, and would prefer a church “split” than come to resolution or tolerance to maintain the body united.  That entity is supernatural but not aligned to God, or His Kingdom, it is Satan.  The devil’s hoard may appear as angels of light, trying to persuade the believer that a certain level of fanaticism is required over some text in order to keep the “world” away from the saints.  These demons-under-mask then proceed to convince the believer that other members of the body, are in fact the “world” and must be cast out.  And before long the body of Christ is at war with itself.  While laughter in Satanic places thunders under our feet.
Division leads to isolation, and isolation of the believer like Eve who wandered from the side of her husband so long ago, leads to a vulnerability against demonic forces who themselves are aligned with a singular purpose – to inflict pain upon the heart of God, by the torture and death of His children on planet earth.  The kingdom of Satan has but one mantra, to cause man to self-destruct, to cause man to reject the love of God, and embrace the ideas of self-reliance, and power, even if the power is only self-control.  While our focus and vision remain inward, or upon ourselves, we look away from Jesus, and in so doing, sink into the sea as Peter did when asked to exit the boat and walk on water like His Lord.  Peter did the impossible while his gaze was fixed on Jesus, the minute he turned to look back at his friends, he sunk like a brick.  So when we look inward to fix ourselves, and improve ourselves, and save ourselves – we look away from Jesus to do it, and follow a plan long conceived in the dark places where only hatred of God exists as the binding agent.
In our previous study, there was a war brewing over “how” the Sabbath must be kept.  Ironically, and perhaps to the greatest Satanic glee, the war would place the leadership of the church of God, against the God they purported to serve.  It would be the grandest of all divisions.  It had already reached the point where the leadership of God’s church met formally to plan how they might destroy, that is kill, Jesus.  They were furious over Jesus choosing to heal a single man’s deformed hand on the Sabbath day, in their mind choosing to work on Sabbath, and declaring it was ok to do good on Sabbath (that is good for others).  The Pharisees, and Sadducees, and Sanhedrin were having no part in this.  This new way to interpret the law was not going to happen on their watch.  The heretic named Jesus must die, before too many of the people adopted His position of love and mercy being the most important thing.  The law was to be the most important thing, not love or mercy, or any kind of squishy stuff like that.
But unbeknownst to them, Jesus read their thoughts and intentions after their last failure to find fault with Him.  Matthew in his gospel to the Hebrews, continues the story in chapter twelve picking up in verse 15 saying … “But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all; [verse 16] And charged them that they should not make him known:”  Jesus leaves their grasp, but He does not run and hide.  Nor does Jesus change His behavior to accommodate the feelings of the leadership.  For Jesus cannot change who He is, nor will He reveal anything other than the TRUE will of God to us.  And what is that will?  As the great crowds follow Him out of the synagogue, they bring to Him their sick and ill, and “HE HEALED THEM ALL”.  Not only has Jesus healed one man on Sabbath, He has healed hundreds or thousands on this day.  This is not meant to be a poke-in-the-eye of the Pharisees, in fact He tells all those He healed to keep it on the down low.   To have hundreds or thousands of people declaring Jesus to be the Son of God would in fact be a poke-in-the-eye of the Pharisees, and that is not what He wants.
But Jesus heals these people because Jesus MUST heal these people as that kind of love and mercy IS THE WILL of God.  Not just for one man with a withered hand who happened to meet His gaze in the back of a synagogue, but for every single man, woman, or child, who came to Him, turning their eyes upon His, and finding a love of God, that does not ever will us to live like we live.  Jesus is not just interested in healing the physical infirmities that we have, but in taking from us the desire to sin that causes us infinitely more pain.  The reconstruction of who we are from the inside, is equally upon the mind and will of our God.  And our God is bent on performing this action on any who would come to Him to find it.  He does not discriminate in any way.  While the Jews believed this might only happen to them, because of their birthright, and because Jesus was one of them.  Jesus does this for literally everyone.
Matthew continues in verse 17 saying … “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, [verse 18] Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.  [verse 19] He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.  [verse 20] A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.  [verse 21] And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.”  Consider what Matthew and Isaiah before him say of the judgment of God, of what judgment looks like to God.  Jesus heals and restores, and offers salvation to all.  That is what judgment of Gentiles looks like in real life.  Judgment that leads unto victory is the “judgment” that God reveals even to people who are outside of the deserving Jewish bloodline.  Gentiles, meaning us, will trust in His name, in the name of Jesus.
Notice what Judgment does not look like from Jesus and His Father God, there is not a single reference to “or else”.  There is not a single reference to “fire”, let alone “eternal fire”.  There is not a single reference to the keeping of the law.  This is not because the law is moot.  This is because you can ONLY keep the law through the recreation of how your heart thinks and feels, in essence how you love.  When you love others like Jesus loves others, you become in harmony with the law, such that debating how you keep it is unnecessary.  You keep it, because it is part of who you are.  And the clear will of our God is revealed.  He is not interested in dealing out punishment we deserve, He is interested in dealing out healing from the disease we embrace.  The clear will of God is the redemption of mankind, of all of mankind, to the worst of us.  That is what the judgment of God looks like to the prophet, and through the eyes of Matthew as he bears witness to it in real life.
But where the healing of one inflamed the passion of the Pharisees, the healing of so many, and of Gentiles, is more than their vanity can bear.  Any reason that might have led to tolerance, or unity with Jesus is gone.  They must destroy Him on every level.  So they begin with His credibility.  They introduce the idea that Jesus (who must be evil), is able to heal through the power of Satan rather than through God.  It only takes a quick look to compare the reaction of those who find joy in the relief of suffering, and those who accuse God of being Satan for having relieved that suffering.  Matthew continues in verse 22 saying … “Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. [verse 23] And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David?”  The people see the miraculous reformation of one gone so far he was possessed of Satan, who has now been freed of Satan.  The people declare Jesus to be “the son of David” which is to say the long-awaited Messiah.
Matthew continues in verse 24 saying … “But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.”  This is an attempt by the leadership to destroy the credibility of any who would dare to oppose them.  And the technique follows us down through the ages right into the churches of Jesus today.  When Luther dares to oppose Rome, dares to ask the leadership of the church in his day, to reform its practices and realign closer to the ideals of Jesus.  The first attack is to label him a heretic.  When the youth of our day, examine our hypocrisy and rigid expectations, and attempt to call us to realign how we treat those in need, and how we attempt to reach those who today do not hear – what is the first response, to label them as under the influence of Satan, attempting to bring the world into the church.  Division reigns today.  Division that would lead to isolation, and isolation to excommunication of those with different ideas.  What they do to Christ, we do to each other under the same motive and banner as the true leader of darker origins.
Jesus responds with the truth of it, for He can offer nothing else picking up in verse 25 saying … “And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:”  The destination of division is destruction.  The destination of isolation is destruction.  Our churches cannot withstand the tearing of each other, and call that any kind of success, it is failure nothing more.  Those members who would engage in it, engage in the destroying the very fabric of the body of Christ.  Those leaders who would promote it, no matter what line of reasoning, or perceived fanaticism that is required, do nothing more than the devils bidding.  Division can lead ultimately only to destruction.
Jesus continues in verse 26 saying … “And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? [verse 27] And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. [verse 28] But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. [verse 29] Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. [verse 30] He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”  Jesus points out that if Satan loses his unity, his kingdom would fall just like any other.  The leading of people to Jesus therefore cannot be of Satan, and so must be of God.  Otherwise Satan’s kingdom loses the very thing it wants.  The goal of Satan’s kingdom is to lead people away from Jesus not towards Him.
Then comes the most stinging rebuke to church leadership offered down through the ages.  He that is not with Me, is against Me.  The leadership of the church in the days of Christ was not with Him, and therefore decidedly against Him.  Those who value the law over love and mercy that underlie the law have found a way to be against Christ.  The rebuke continues; and he that gathers not with me, scatters abroad.  Those leaders who do not war to maintain unity, war to sow division.  Sabbath observance was never meant to be confined to a list of do’s and don’ts – it was meant to be about a relationship with Jesus, that values our time with Jesus, and puts away anything else we can avoid so as not to be distracted from that time and association for a day.  Every seventh day we are afforded the presence of our God in a special way like no other.  Are we so bent on squandering that because we have “important” things to do like work, or shop, or entertain ourselves with themes the world enjoys?  Are we ready to be so selfish with our time with God, that we would cause others to serve us during this day, and therefore miss what God may have to offer them?
Or for a change, can we rethink about how we spend our time.  Can we enjoy music that calls the mind to Jesus, no matter what that music sounds like.  Can we observe visual stimuli that is rooted in the stories of the Bible or of modern Christianity, that calls the mind to Christ and inspires us to share with others.  Can we relook and open our eyes to those in need, be they in pews next door, or in street corners of need, or in families and missions we have heard need our time as much as our money – and in so doing, go attempt to meet that need.  Can we redirect our conversations to the testimonies of what God does for us, and how, and how often.  And finally, can we change the perception of what the clear will of God is, and begin NOT to accept the condition of how we live; asking God to heal what medicine has long been unable to do, or asking God to heal within us what sins we have long been bound up in a cycle of commit and forgive.  To do well upon the Sabbath, to keep it holy, is not just the absence of work, of the following of lists, it is to reflect such love and such mercy that we become the conduits of our Lord Jesus Christ and reflect His light instead of our own blighted perceptions of a God more interested in punishment than redemption – particularly on the day He set aside for us to demonstrate what being close to God might really look like.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Death of Kindness ...

When the heart hardens, it is immune to the needs of others.  When it persists in this condition long enough, kindness dies, and only self-interest remains.  To challenge it then, is to invite a wrath that is content to kill to avoid having to listen.  A simple test for you, when the advertisements for St. Jude’s, Shriners, or the one with abused animals comes on the TV, do you watch?  Those ads are relentless.  They do not just appear once, they are recast over and over and over again.  They nag at the part of you that still has conscience.  Maybe you already donate.  Maybe you have donated for a long time.  But even then, are you able to watch?  Can you stomach watching them every time they come on TV?  Or, perhaps, have they become “white noise” to you now, just another advertisement you are fully able to ignore, like the one for milk before it, and the one for Toyota’s after it?  Do you find the ones with healthy puppies and kittens more “entertaining”?  Sure beats watching one with trembling kitties, or broken spirited puppies, or children missing limbs.  There is only so much the heart can take right?
So lucky for us the heart is not complete stone yet.  But is it on its way there?  One small change the introduction of Jesus into the heart has, is a resetting of the need to arrive.  It is a small thing, but I find a more common thing.  Changed hearts (those that surrender to Jesus and are in the process of transformation from Him), often lose the desire to rush everywhere.  They are able to slow down, because they worry less, and trust more, and realize that unplanned delays may actually be part of a bigger plan that is more important than to-the-second arrival accuracy.  It’s not about being late, or being irresponsible to the needs of others, but it is about trust in the journey itself.  Someone about the relinquishing of control, comes with it a relinquishing of worry and stress, and in its place, the noticing of others who we had become blind by choice to before.
You sit in a food court having lunch.  But because of Jesus’ work in your heart, your food is not the most important thing in front of you.  Now, the teenager on the verge of tears a few tables away, staring blankly into her cell phone that appears intent on publishing only news that brings her dismay, becomes more important to you than the food you went there to eat.  Grabbing a “quick lunch” is now lost, in trying to figure out, “how do I help a stranger, a teenager?”  How do I tell her, that whatever this is, it will pass, and that life is so much bigger than this, and over time will become so much better than whatever thing her phone has just informed her of?  The mystery of now wanting to help, completely overrides, the previous intent to eat.  You do not even miss the food.  And you cannot keep eating, only wondering, how could I help?
The person who stands in the street at a red light, trolling from window to window.  Do you see him as a panhandler, a sophisticated beggar who probably makes more money doing this job than you do?  Or is he one of the less fortunate, that “there by the grace of God” would be you, instead of him?  Or worse, do you not see him at all, choosing to focus on the light turning green, and your need to speed away to get wherever you are going obsessed with not being late?  All three perspectives have merit, and are true.  But in two of them, kindness dies.  You will surely be late to wherever you are going if you stop for every beggar in the street.  If you really make time to help one of them, or more of them, you might miss your appointment altogether.  And what will happen then?  What will you lose, or those who requested your presence lose?  Would they understand if they knew you were really trying to change the path of a person’s life?  Would they want to help you, to join your cause, or not?  If not, I hope you were not heading to church.
Panhandlers are real.  They are sophisticated.  They know how to play the game of sympathy for dolts who give money every time they see them.  That perspective is true and real and cannot be argued for facts.  Though the math is a little shaky.  Average 5 cars at a stop light, one gives a dollar.  Average stoplights per hour is 15, average hourly income $15 per hour, average annual income $30k cash.  Except, in-climate weather slows down both the willingness to roll down the window, as well as the stamina to stand there in either scorching heat, freezing cold, or pouring rain, or high winds, or thunderstorm.  $30k now gets reduced by the number of bad days due to weather, perhaps 30% average, taking the annual pay down to ~$20K.  The point is simply that working at McDonalds would likely offer a higher and more steady income than standing at a street corner.  If this is about easy money, the panhandler has picked one of the hardest physical professions to achieve it.
But whether you see the one who asks - as a panhandler, or as an unfortunate (that could have easily been you, without the mercy of God), is about perspective of how your heart reacts to the pain of others.  And church folk, are no different than regular folk.  Not in any time, not in any age.  Matthew writes of a man who had a withered hand.  This kind of debility made it especially hard to work in the days of Christ.  There were no ADA laws at that time.  There was no ADA equipment unless perhaps you were friends with a blacksmith, or artisan, who took pity upon your cause.  In a time, when your income depended upon your health, and even that was no guarantee; having a disability and more specifically a withered hand made you a liability to your family and a pariah to the society of which you were a member.  But this man, went to church, or rather to synagogue, every Sabbath. 
The membership knew who he was.  They felt sorry for him, but outside of perhaps throwing a few coins his way every so often there was “nothing” they could do for him … right?  I mean, what can a group of believers do for someone who has a deformity?  God allowed it right?  God must have some purpose for it, there is nothing we can do.  And with that, white noise begins to develop around the eyes and ears.  The man with the withered hand does not even have a name in scripture, he is only known by his deformity.  The membership have come to know him that way, and the most they can muster, is pity, at least from time to time.  And where the membership has become content to fail this man, the leadership has set an even worse example.  The leadership does not know his name either.  The leadership has not taken up his cause to God, rallying the entire church, perhaps the entire region to fast and pray for the healing of this man.  Because after all, God allowed it.  It must be part of some bigger plan God has in mind, what can we do, but accept it, and move on.  And this situation were it not written about by Matthew in the days of Christ, could be written about by any Christian church in modern America today, down to the motives of those involved.
But things were in motion.  Christ was in motion.  He had just exited a corn field where He rebuked the Pharisees over their notions of Sabbath keeping.  And He went straight into their local synagogue where it was only going to get more interesting.  Matthew picks up in his twelfth chapter in verse 9 saying … “And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: [verse 10] And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.”  So as Jesus enters the Synagogue, He first encounters the man with the withered hand sitting in the back, hoping to remain in obscurity.  The seats of honor in the front of the gathering were not reserved for one such as himself.  The eyes of Jesus meet his, and he is captivated by the love he sees in them for one like him.  Never a man loved such as this Man loved.  Something was about to be different.  His picture of who God is was about to be different.  His understanding of what God allows, and what God wills are about to be different.
But not the heart of the Pharisees, for vain obedience to the law, has driven kindness out completely.  Instead of forming a cheering section to applaud when Jesus is done healing this man, instead of at least being silently happy the man will be healed.  They are not.  They are actually planning to use this man’s pain as a way to accuse the Son of God of loving too much.  They know Jesus heals.  There is too much evidence not to believe that.  And they know the healings come from a heart that loves, arguably too much love.  So they intend to trap Jesus in one of His usual healings, because it is the Sabbath day, where “work” is not allowed to be performed.  In their mind, in their version of obedience, even if this man could be healed on Sabbath, he must wait until sundown in order for it to be lawful.  That is the God they serve, or rather the extent to which vanity drives their version of obedience.  That is the picture of God they share in their minds, that God would prefer we suffer from pain and disease during Sabbath, so that the law can be maintained.  They value the law over the people, over the love, over the pain of this man, and kindness is dead and gone within them, only a reflection of who they are remains.
Oh if it were only different today.  While there are no official Pharisees anymore in our churches, there are spiritual Pharisees among us all.  We value arriving at church on time now, and have no time therefore to help the homeless that clutter our roads along the way.  We value our clothing we don on Sabbaths to go to church and therefore do not wish to risk getting them dirty with the dirt of those we find in need.  If perchance a homeless person makes it through the doors of our services, we reserve for them seats in the back, as far from the rest of us with seats of honor as we can get.  The smell of those who have not bathed, is too offensive in the nostrils of those with soap, deodorant, make-up, and the pretentions of knowing Jesus.  Should those homeless be diseased in either body or mind, we offer them sympathy, not the power of God to heal what Jesus ALWAYS longs to heal.  We accept their debilitations as we accept our own, failing to see or to employ the power of a God who wishes for none of us to live the way we do.  But it is Sabbath after all, we have a schedule to meet, and a sequence of activities to observe; there can be no time for the disruptions of those in greater need.  And we read the scriptures with disdain for those in them, while never examining the mirrors into our own hearts.
Matthew records the answer of Jesus to His accusers in verse 11 saying … “And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? [verse 12] How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.”  Jesus calls out to them, their hypocrisy once again.  If they owned but one sheep and it fell in a pit, they would lift it out and save it.  Why?  Not just because they felt sympathy for an animal in pain, but because it is the “one” sheep they owned.  Without it, there will be no more wool, or wool to trade.  Without what the sheep can do for them, they themselves will suffer.  So the sheep must be saved.  Jesus however, sees the man with the withered hand as the “one” sheep of His, who is suffering in the pit of this synagogue.  The man suffers because the other sheep do not pray for his healing, they accept his infirmities as some sort of twisted plan of God’s.  They accept this man’s pain as they accept their own.  When Jesus is publicly stating this is NOT THE WILL OF GOD.  God wants to end the pain of each of us, and of all of us.  That is what redemption and salvation are all about.
Doing well on Sabbath days, is not just about applying the medical remedies our science has come to create or discover.  It is about employing the power of our God to undo the damage of sin, whether that is secret sin, or public.  It is about employing the power of our God to undo the infirmities for which there is no scientific remedy, to demonstrate to all around that only God can do what God has done.  And it is God’s will to do it, not our blighted perception of God that would allow us to accept it.  Doing well on Sabbath days is showing mercy, and showing love to those who need it, to the dirty ones, to the ones trapped in the sins we would like to forget we ever shared.  Sin is a dirty business.  The salvation of mankind will not be done in pristine places where filth no longer exists.  It will be love extended to those like the man with the withered hand to offer hope and healing to those who long abandoned the idea of seeing either.
Matthew continues in verse 13 saying … “Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.”  Jesus employs the power of God to heal what otherwise cannot be healed.  Jesus demonstrates for that man, for that membership, and for us, what the will of God truly is.  Not to accept the pain we have become complacent with, but to know there is something much much better.  To have mercy, to show love, to do well unto others is lawful, is within the spirit of the law and even within the day of Sabbath observance. 
And what do we do with these texts?  We translate them into medical careers to avoid the “conflict” of working on Sabbath.  We become doctors, and medical practitioners of all varieties, so that we “can” work on Sabbath without violating the law.  We treat the day as no different than any other.  Our time is spent how it always is.  Until we request weekend shifts because the pay differentials are better than working “regular” days.  Sabbath becomes something of no special regard, and the only good we do for others is in the application of what medicine can provide.  Thus we lose all faith in something more than medicine can provide, again trusting to the wisdom of our sciences, and not in the power of the God we might otherwise employ.  Treating the sick is not about ignoring medicine, it is about offering help beyond what medicine can do, and hope that it is the clear will of God to do so.
What we offer the homeless is a statement about us, not about them.  The changed heart burns so intensely with love for others, it just cannot sit down and stay still, while need exists in the pews next to us, or in the streets on the ways to the churches we are supposed to worship in.  Worship itself becomes the act of bringing people to Jesus, of introducing them to the source of power that changes hearts and makes lives worth living in the here and the now.  Who cares what songs we sing, and what genre’s they come from, while only the “saved” can hear the melodies?  If you want to re-charge your spiritual batteries, introduce someone new to Jesus, and watch the meter on your heart go bing, bing, bing.  No sermon will ever equal that, no praise and worship session will ever even get close to it.  We praise and sing because of actions like the introduction of a new soul to Jesus, not for routine, or empty emotional highs.
But to challenge the unchanged heart with a comparison of what it might be, results in only two responses.  The heart who will surrender to Jesus will find what that experience is like.  The heart who has decided to reject Jesus does not want to ever see that comparison.  It wants to be left alone.  It wants silence.  It wants to be able to do what it sees fit, how it sees fit.  No Jesus, should ever offer any alternative to how “I” want to do something.  The Pharisees did not want these words.  They did not want the council of God, to be told they were incorrect, to be shown what love really looks like.  They did not rejoice at the healing of this man.  It did not inspire faith in them.  It inspired anger.  It was a clear demonstration of what the heart of God looks like, and what was in their own, an in ours perhaps.  They did, what all sin will someday lead us to do, if we are not saved from ourselves by Jesus.
Matthew records in verse 14 saying … “Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.”  The Pharisees began formal planning on how they might kill Jesus.  We read this, and think it is only them, never us.  We would never do such a thing.  But really?  What happens to our hearts as we continually shut them off from the transformation Jesus offers.  We become cold, and calloused.  We begin to present an image of our God, as being the same as we are, cold and apathetic.  We kill our God, by showing Him to the world, as blank reflections of who we are.  Unchanged.  Unreformed.  Not in harmony with His law, because there is little mercy or love in us.  What is there is focused only on our families and ourselves.  This is NOT the picture of Jesus, that the world so longs to see.  It is our enemies who need to see Jesus the most in who we are.  It is the destitute who need Jesus, the ones trapped in sins they cannot ever break free from (just like you and I).  It is the people dealing with deformity who have no hope to ever see it gone, that in fact could see it gone, if “we” but had the faith to employ the power of our God.
Where kindness may have died in past and prologue, it did NOT die in Jesus.  There would be more to come on His ideas of Sabbath observance …

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Vain Obedience ...

How can you obey a command you do not understand?  Your boss hands you a stack of papers 18 inches thick, the type font is small, they are single spaced and double-sided type, and they are written in a combination of Cyrillic, Kanji, and ancient Babylonian.  He says simply to you, do what this says and walks away.  You stare blankly at the papers, not even knowing where to begin.  The task is overwhelming.  But it is not just the magnitude of a challenge that can make it difficult.  Different scenario.  Your boss walks up to you and says … be ready for this afternoon’s meeting.  The command is simple.  The expectation at least superficially understood.  But then, what all might that simple command imply?  Is there some material you are supposed to memorize?  Are you supposed to be ready to present?  Are you just supposed to be ready to get there on time, maybe 15 minutes early?  While the command is very simple in language, duration, and seemingly in intent.  It could mean a hundred different things.  How could you possibly be “ready” for every scenario this might imply?  How could anyone?
To begin to know what to do, could start with a knowledge of your boss.  If your boss is a mystery to you, and does things nearly always in a random manner, you are up a creek.  But if your boss is fairly consistent, and has given you similar guidance in the past, with perhaps more context in those times.  Maybe you could extrapolate your history of life with your boss, to this particular event.  At least your odds of pleasing your boss go up, based on following the pattern your boss may have laid out up to now.  Even then, sometimes it is not just the “what” that we do, it is the “how” that we do it.  When my boss gives me a command it is “understood” by him (and should be by me), that whatever he asks me to do, he intends for me to accomplish it in an ethical and legal manner.  Meeting a sales quota by sniping customers from a team mate is unacceptable.  Goal achieved, but method of achievement negates the accomplishment.  It gets even worse if you resort to fraud, or theft, or some other nefarious means to attempt to meet the assigned objective.
So when God tells us to do something, do we find ourselves in the same boat as when the boss gives us a simple edict without nearly enough context to know what we are supposed to do?  Take the Sabbath as an example.  We are supposed to “remember it”.  Easy enough.  We are not likely to “forget” a day of the week.  But then the remembering was in the context of “to keep it Holy”.  Ut-oh.  Here is where we rapidly go downhill.  Humans are really bad at understanding anything about Holiness.  We are sort of the living embodiment of the opposite of Holiness.  So how do we keep something Holy when we do not understand almost anything about Holy in the first place?  More context is offered.  We are advised not to work on this day.  But not just us.  Not our servants either.  In fact, no one who is within our gates, will be required to work on this day.  This is great context.  It helps us get a better idea of what is being requested here.  But is that it?  Then comes the inevitable question, how exactly do you define “work”? 
Is work something I do for money, perhaps only what I do for money?  Then the husband puts his feet up, and the wife continues to “work” all throughout the day?  That does not seem like the ask.  So then the definition of work must extend past just activities I do for money.  How do I know?  Well, the example of manna that fell in the wilderness over 40 years to feed the Israelites gives us a good indication.  Manna was only good for a single day, until Friday when a double portion fell, and it did not spoil over Sabbath.  That meant on Sabbath no gathering, and no prep.  You could simply enjoy the food made the day before.  Presumably this means mom gets a break too.  Presumably this means the servants can take the day off.  Presumably God wants to relate to everyone on Sabbath, not just those of advantage.  And it would appear God defines work with a broader brush than just what I do for money.  And of course, God defined His own rest, as being a rest from the work of creation He had done the previous six days.  His creation looks more like art to me, though perhaps it is science, or perhaps just genius – but He rested from it and the universe kept spinning.
Enter the Pharisees and Sadducees, both had a keen interest in “keeping” the law.  Israel had suffered war, famine, and slavery for ignoring the law over their history.  Though a closer examination of God’s patience running out usually corresponded to Israel worshipping other gods that required them to throw babies (mostly male) into the fires, while preserving female babies to become temple prostitutes.  The ruining of young lives just seemed to be the straw that broke the back of God’s patience with the people who claim His name.  Consider that as you examine the state of how we treat young lives in our own country and churches.  So the modern church leadership in the days of Christ, had a very keen intent to keep the law so as never to see the wars and slavery they had experienced in the past.  They developed then, an extensive additional set of context around what it means to “keep” the Sabbath.  Their list of rules, eventually devolved into walking only a certain number of steps.  Food preparation must be done the day before, or you went hungry.  And yet despite all these precautions, Rome was still in power, and Jews were still slaves.  However since the Sanhedrin still existed, they reasoned, they had to be doing something right.
Then along comes Jesus.  Matthew begins chapter twelve of his gospel touching on the most important commandment, the primary one that sets the people of God apart from every other religion on planet earth.  Outside of circumcision, and kosher diets, what makes a Jew a Jew is the keeping of the Sabbath.  The Sanhedrin had become confident in “how” they did what they did.  They became confident that they were “obeying” the law, to the extent that the law required, and a good measure further just in case.  So does the modern Christian.  While not obsessed with the law, we are equally as certain, that we obey our Lord, to the extent that He has asked, and a little extra just in case.  But perhaps in our certainty of obedience is nothing more than vanity.
Matthew begins in verse 1 saying … “At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. [verse 2] But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.”  A lot to unpack here.  First, Jesus and crew were walking through a corn field, this act by itself would negate the idea of how many steps one could take before it crossed the line into work which was precluded to do on the Sabbath.  Strike One.  Then, his disciples get hungry, likely from seeing and smelling all the ripe corn right in front of their faces.  It is kind of like sitting in front of the TV watching your favorite show, and after a few advertisements for pizza, you begin to crave pizza.  But no matter, the disciples begin to pick and shuck the corn in preparation of eating it.  This was food preparation, for which there were specific examples in earlier scripture of why this should be prohibited.  Also note, Jesus Himself, was not actually doing this, He elected to go hungry.  But for His disciples, Strike Two.  Then the disciples proceeded to eat the corn (apparently none of them offered ears to Jesus, their Master, clearly an oversight driven by bodily needs).  But legally, eating fruit of the poisoned preparation tree results in, you guessed it, Strike Three.
The Sanhedrin knew the law on this matter.  So the leadership brings this horrible infraction of the law to Jesus’ attention, giving Jesus no credit for refraining from it Himself.  The disciples (people who they did not appreciate) were breaking it.  The patriarchs of the faith however, were people the leadership venerated.  Long dead, Moses, Joshua, Samson, and David, could do no wrong.  They had become Jewish saints if there could ever be such a thing.  So Jesus chooses to use that in His response to them.  Matthew continues in verse 3 saying … “But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; [verse 4] How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?”
In our day we call this “what-about-ism”.  Jesus does not actually say that what the disciples did is OK against the letter of the law.  But He does make a comparison of people the Pharisees besmirch with the honorable can-do-no-wrong, compared-with-the-heart-of-God David and his crew.  The Jewish saint they venerate, and his men (who in actuality, were all incredibly efficient killers on the battlefield, none other of their skills preserved in Jewish scrolls), went into the Temple.  This was a huge no-no, only the priests are even allowed in there.  Then they ate the shewbread, which is an offering to God, that ONLY the priests were allowed to eat under specific conditions.  Another huge no-no.  Those infractions are also clearly a part of the known Jewish law, at the time of David, until this time.  And scripture records no prayer of David begging forgiveness for what he and his men did.  They just did it.  Net result.  How can the leadership there in attendance criticize the disciples of Jesus for doing something far less an infraction, than the historical leader David did (who they publicly venerate as some sort of saint)?  It would be hypocritical, or rather, it would point out the hypocrisy of valuing people in any sort of caste system, putting them on a level playing field with the very men they “knew” they were above.
Next Jesus really twists their thinking as He continues in verse 5 saying … “Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?”  This one is a true mindbender.  On Sabbath, priests (and in our day preachers) “work”.  They do the “work” of the Lord, but it is still “work”.  Back then, that “work” involved killing innocent lambs as a symbolism foretelling the killing of Jesus Himself.  It was and is shedding innocent blood, for the remission of sins.  Killing too, was prohibited in the law.  The shedding of blood in the Temple was highly controlled, and on Sabbath, would have been considered work.  They “profane” the Temple by continuing a practice driven by the evil in men’s hearts.  But the priests are held blameless.  Working to bring men to God is not considered “work” by the God on the end of that equation.  Even though we pay preachers and priests to do it, and even though “most” of their work is conducted on the very day we are commanded to rest.
Now Jesus has pointed out publicly that the priests who are so critical, have a profession where they work on the Sabbath with regularity despite the incongruence with the law.  The anger brews in the mind of the rebuked Pharisee, for they remain certain in their vain obedience, that correction even from the mouth of God is not met with acceptance, but with hatred.  Jesus continues in verse 6 saying … “But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.”  Now Jesus has gone too far, now He has crossed a line He will never be able to uncross.  The Temple was “the” place where God Himself sat upon the Mercy seat.  It was His holy presence behind that curtain that made all of Israel fear and tremble daring not to peek behind it even for a second, lest the contrast between true Holiness and our state, cause us to die.  Only once a year did the High Priest, after much consecration and prayer, dare to go behind the curtain for a prescribed practice.  Even then, he wore bells on the hems of his garment and a rope around his ankle, so that if the bells went silent, the attendants could pull him out knowing he was dead, and being unable to retrieve his body any other way lest they themselves die in the process.
That was the definition of Holiness to a Jew, it is irony we have so casual a view of it.  And here stood Jesus, claiming to be One greater than the Temple (upon whose seat it was He who sat).  Jesus was now making a clear statement that the buildings dedicated to His service, are NOT as important as the God they purport to serve.  Jesus was saying He can be found outside of Temple walls.  Jesus was saying that being close to His people was and is the most important thing to Him, even when that is in the middle of a corn field on some random Sabbath.  Proximity to Jesus is not about buildings, it is about a desire to be close.  Here was the God they worshipped standing right in front of them, but they failed to see, all the while believing they were in perfect obedience to the law.  And their certainty resulted in the idea that God Himself did not understand or obey His own law.  Literally the definition of error, or hypocrisy, or vanity, all stemming from the certainty of human “wisdom”.
When met with correction, they responded in hatred, for vanity has no room for correction.  And are we even the slightest tittle different than they?  We create “standards” of Sabbath keeping in our minds, and then judge all others by them, while refusing to see the God who so longs to stand right in front of us.  Because we believe in the sanctity of the law of God, and in the continuing proscriptions of Sabbath keeping that started in the Garden of Eden, was given to Moses in the law, and is prophesied to continue in Heaven after this world has passed – we translate our “belief” into our obedience to keep this day.  Yet we know nothing of “how” to truly obey, we have only lists we construct of do’s and don’ts ignoring the God who could put us in harmony with His law.  We take our eyes off of God and put them on what we do against His request.  And irony of ironies, we are rather loose with His direct context of the cessation of work, either working ourselves “for the benefit of our families”, or causing others to serve us “because they were going to be at work anyway”.
But Jesus then cuts to the heart of the matter as He continues in verse 7 (no pun intended) saying … “But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. [verse 8] For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.”  The Sabbath is not about what, it is about Who.  The Sabbath is not even about how, it is about Who.  It was Jesus who “made” a block of time Holy.  Only His proximity to it could accomplish that, the same way His proximity to our earth on Mt. Sinai made a block of ground Holy, that Moses was asked to remove his shoes before he walked on it.  Without Jesus involved, the day is just time, and the earth is just earth.  It was about Jesus who “hallowed” it.  He set aside His time to be with us, in a special way, for an entire day, at the end of every week.  He asked us to put aside our other distractions in order to have time to be with Him.  He asked us to be unselfish and not keep others from having time to be with Him as well.  Being close to Jesus, putting away other priorities is what Sabbath is all about.  Hanging out with Dad.  Playtime with Dad.  That is what the Sabbath is all about.  And because the disciples with Him are doing just that, they were in fact guiltless.  It is up to Jesus to decide what is “keeping” the Sabbath with Him, it is not up to us.  Our ideas do not count, only His.
That is how the incongruent actions of priests back then and preachers in our day on Sabbath still make sense.  They are about bringing people to the Lord of the Sabbath.  That is why the disciples choosing to eat with Jesus on their way to demonstrate the gospel to people in need make sense.  They were already with the Lord of the Sabbath, escorting Him to people in such desperate need of hearing a word from Jesus, the Son of God.  It was more important for them to be with Jesus, than to be in the Temple on this day.  That is why we put away our amusements that take us away from Christ, why we cease working, but also cease thinking about working, it is all to have unrestricted playtime with the same Jesus.  You cannot contain that in a list of do’s and don’ts, no matter how long or how thorough you think it is.  You can only begin to see that in a set of principles.  Where I bring others to God, it is a good thing.  Where I do good unto them, it is a good thing.  Where I ask others to serve me, I cause them to lose time with God on my behalf.  It is mercy, I am to be showing.  It is mercy for others, love for others, that if it was my first motivation, would bring me in better harmony with the entirety of the law, not only the Sabbath, but not forgetting it either.
When Jesus saves us, from us, from our self-love and addiction of the same; He creates in us a love for others, that changes the nature of how we think about Sabbath.  The context changes.  The requirement does not, but the vanity begins to slip away.  A knowledge or belief that we are supposed to keep Sabbath is not the same thing as actually doing it.  Repeating the traditions of our forefathers; going to church, singing, praying and coming home again does not equal Sabbath observance as God defines it in a field of corn on a mission to actually spread His word to those who have never heard it.  The gospel does not only look inward, it looks outward where its mercy is so desperately needed.  
Only the unchanged heart is content to experience the praise of God, holding those good feelings inward, and sharing them only with those who also already understand them.  The changed heart is driven to the dirty, to the sick, to the hungry, to the least of these – because they have the greatest need.  Until we are led to discover what keeping anything Holy really means, we do not understand what was asked of us.  And we must be led to discover it, for Holiness does not originate in us.  Following God, leads us there.  Attempting to blaze the trail based on our accumulated wisdom leads to the path of the Pharisee, to the path of vain obedience based upon certainty and trust in “our wisdom”, that when confronted with what God thinks, responds in hatred and desire to kill God and anyone who truly follows His lead …
And the dispute over this was not over yet …

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Ivy League of Illiteracy ...

Imagine what happens to the quality of education at Harvard, if the minimum requirements for entry were reduced to a third-grade literacy standard.  The teachers do not change.  The exorbitant price does not change.  But the quality of the students drops from “the perceived best-of-the-best” to nearly illiterate students.  How could a class progress without at least some semblance of a baseline education?  Imagine Oxford trying this out.  Would parents who fund a “prestigious” education continue to be willing to fund one at Oxford if the caliber of the people went from blue-blood to blue-collar?  If Yale did this, could even the sports or music programs survive?  While there are many talented people who can run or sing without the benefit of “much” education; lowering that bar all the way down to third-grade, are they still teachable or coachable at that level?  The reason why the ivy league remains the ivy league (apart from the small fortune it takes to attend them weeding out those ‘less desirables’) is the purported high academic and social activity bar they all set.  Being exclusive tends to foster exclusivity in us all, and so the economics of exclusivity remain largely untarnished.
But the economics of brilliance are not truly confined to the halls of ivy league institutions.  Many a man or woman who has yet to step upon an ivy league campus will find themselves having accomplished so much, or innovated so much, or inspired so much; that the first time they step on campus at Harvard will be as a guest lecturer.  And while ivy league engineers (or drops out of) continue to produce technology that enables entire populations to advance, the economics of those made rich by technology advances are not constricted only to the ivy league alumni.  They extend into the populous of “regular” people who come up with “good” ideas.  The good idea that pans out in the realm of technology can produce a level of wealth the inventor hardly imagined.  Is he solely dependent on his own prowess to achieve this, perhaps not.  But if the wealth created is possible without benefit of the ivy league student debt (or absent parents of sufficient means), then is the need for these vaunted institutions still as high?
Yet the common perception remains, the person with the highest formal education is most likely to succeed.  People who have attended an ivy league institution for that education are even more likely to succeed.  Statistics bear that out.  At least the statistics of common intuition, or perception by those who are not as high on the social or educational rung.  And let’s face it, it is hard for someone who did graduate from Harvard not to think of themselves as having achieved something the “common man” will never be able to do.  This self-perception will only be enforced by their peers who are forced to admit it is probably true.  So when you go to the doctor, and you see the certifications from Harvard on his/her wall; don’t you feel just a little bit better?  Oh sure, other doctors can achieve brilliance in any field, and not all of them are ivy leaguer’s – but if you don’t know them that well, an ivy league diploma does inspire a little more confidence than a night-school equivalent.
And where we understand this phenomena in our social world, we seem to have taken it into our spiritual one.  The “masters of divinity” educational title, as taught by institutions of higher learning, that enforce rigorous educational standards like an understanding of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.  Deep intensive studies of the Torah, or prophetic interpretation are standard fare.  The life of Christ is a big topic.  And most institutions that are affiliated with a particular denomination, teach that denomination’s doctrinal interpretations on many matters, expecting a deep level of understanding of these interpretations before graduation is possible.  Ministers, evangelists, or workers in the gospel who have graduated with these types of degrees and diploma’s are thought to be well prepared, and perhaps so they are.  It is as if, our Pharisee and Sadducee forefathers were still writing the scripts and setting the social expectations of our day.  And the same self-perceptions of arrogance that are easily adopted from colleagues in our ivy league institutions in the secular world, give way to our colleagues in the spiritual world who complete their education in this manner.  And in the spiritual realm, there is deference by the “common” man, to the well-educated one.
But is this how it was meant to be?  This is how traditional Jews expected it in the days of Christ, and perhaps how we continue to expect it now.  As Matthew continues to write his gospel to his fellow Hebrews he knows what they will expect.  It has been the societal norm for generations.  And what he is about to recall is going to upend it.  Picking up in his gospel in the last part of chapter eleven, Matthew begins to relay a message to his fellow Jews they may not enjoy, and neither will we by the look of it. Beginning in verse 25 he continues saying … “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.”  Yikes!  This is earth shattering.
The most brilliant religious truths that will ever be understood are “hidden” from the wise and prudent.  No amount of preparation will make them ready to receive or understand this Truth.  In fact, it has worked to keep them from understanding.  Think of it.  All that education.  All those hours studying the Torah, and reviewing the scrolls of the minor and major prophets.  All that time debating with peers about the meaning of scripture.  The right scripture by the way, not something from a different god’s agenda.  But it did not matter.  When the time came to see the Truth, the wise and the prudent, the best prepared of Jewish society, the most likely to succeed, saw nothing.  The Truth was hidden from them.  But not as punishment, as cause and effect.  When my education leads me to believe I “know” what is true, instead of forever being dependent upon God to show me what is True; I block myself from the Truth.  This is the danger in thinking that permeates our society and our church to this day.
The people who should know the Truth, do not.  And how do you know?  The measure of the yardstick is love.  How much a person loves, is an indicator of how much they know the Truth.  It is not the depth of the doctrinal understanding, but the depth of the love that bubbles over in them.  For it is the second part of what Jesus says that confirms it.  What was hidden from those who believed they had no need, was revealed unto babes.  Babies have no doubt of their need.  They respond to love and offer love in the only ways they know how to do.  They are not deep in other knowledge, but essentially empty vessels, who know nothing, and are ready to learn everything.  They do not teach anything but learn everything.  They observe everything.  They notice everything.  And they are so dependent, they would die without being taken care of.  This is the state of people God the Father chooses to work with, because this is the only state of people ready to hear what God has to say.  It is as if the “common” illiterate man, is capable of learning more from the mouth of God, than is the doctoral candidate.  Let that sink in for a while.  The Jewish community to which Matthew was writing was sure to have a field day over it.  But these were the words of Jesus, who was in fact the Truth.
Jesus then continues in verse 26 saying … “Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. [verse 27] All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.”  This was even more mind boggling.  The Jews had made a lifetime of knowing the Father God through the scriptures.  They simply presumed that is who scripture revealed.  The Messiah was somewhat of a mystery to them.  They had little expectations of really getting to know the Messiah, He was simply supposed to come in and overthrow the Romans, and usher in an era of Jewish supremacy for all time.  This Jesus was clearly NOT doing that.  Ep-so-facto this Jesus could not be the waited for Messiah.  But in addition, the Jews felt like they knew God the Father already, Jesus had nothing to teach them on that score.  They simply did not need Jesus, they already had a direct connection to the Father by birthright and by study.
What they missed in their “infinite wisdom”, was that scripture revealed Jesus, was inspired by Jesus, and it was Jesus who had the direct connection to mankind all throughout scripture.  Jesus in the Garden of Eden walking with Adam and Eve in the evenings.  Jesus walking to Sodom before it would be judged, sitting with Abraham and having a meal, telling Sarah she would give birth at 90+ years old even while she giggled at the thought of the shear mechanics.  Jesus wrestling with Jacob at night.  Jesus revealing his back to Moses on Mt Sinai, and His finger writing out the Ten Commandments.  Jesus in the fiery furnace with the three Hebrews who would not bow.  Jesus throughout all the stories, and now here in the flesh.  Jesus the embodiment of God’s love for His people.  Later Jesus who stopped Saul and made him Paul.  And Jesus who would be revealed in prophecy through the remainder of time by John at Patmos.  Scripture does offer us insight as to who God the Father is, but only through the lens of Jesus Christ. 
The learned Jews felt no need of Jesus to see God, so they did not see Him.  And the learned Christians in our day seldom recognize how much baby they are, and so see the Truth very little.  We have supplanted birth right with self-awareness.  We are now self-sufficient in our salvation, and therefore have little need of Jesus to save us, trusting to our knowledge to take care of that.  And so we see little of the Truth.  We have replaced the Truth with our collective wisdom.  And what happens in the modern secular economy of brilliance happens in the sacred one as well.  Men and women arise, who have very little formal education, and wind up accomplishing so much, inspiring so much, innovating so much – that we admire them long after they leave the world stage.  The 12 disciples carried with them the Holy Spirit, their lack of education was no impediment to creating the first church.  Obscure heroes since like a teenage girl who carried the gift of prophecy and penned so many books and testimonies they can hardly be counted.  The babes see, where the prepared of us, do not.
Then as if with laser vision, Jesus looks right at the Pharisee and Sadducee who can hear Him speak.  He speaks to their greatest need, and to ours.  He continues in verse 28 saying … “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. [verse 29] Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. [verse 30] For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  This message may apply to the common man, but the common man Jesus was just speaking about is already being given the revelation of who Jesus really is.  The message is spoken to the church leadership who needs it the most.  Stop trying.  Stop taking the burden of your salvation and your education upon yourself.  Bring it to Me instead.  The greatest promise in nearly all of scripture was not meant in a physical context, but in a spiritual growth one instead.  See the baby you are, and find rest letting Jesus be the Parent He is.  Letting Jesus teach you is easy, and light.  Letting Jesus be your tutor will bring rest unto your soul.
It does not take your self-dependence and self-reliance to achieve greatness and see truth in the spiritual context.  It takes your recognition of your complete baby-hood.  No matter how far you think you have come.  No matter what you think you have learned or wisdom you have amassed.  You know nothing.  You have no wisdom.  You have only the loving eyes of a very small child that Jesus longs to pick up, cradle, hold, feed, and protect from the world around you.  Your every care is in the hands of an unfailing parent who loves you more than His own life, something He proved.  Think not to teach, but to learn.  Think not to speak but to listen to the still small voice yearning to share with you Truth beyond your wildest imagination.  The vehicle for learning is not an institution of higher learning, governed by a bunch of other babies.  It is the source of education in the Truth, who alone can reveal what you need to know, in the only way you would understand it.
There is rest in this approach.  There is peace in this approach.  It is promised by Jesus Himself.  And it is waiting for you, in the dependence you have only to recognize, discover, and embrace …