Sunday, February 21, 2010
One of the basic lessons in grade school science that fascinated my young mind was the Water Cycle. An amazing process it is that brings rain out of an invisible vapor, and the rain then through another step is absorbed into the roots and stem of a plant and from the plant is released back into the air again as an invisible vapor that repeats the cycle. The statement I saw on one site I researched indicated that all the water that ever has been on earth moves through this cycle again and again, and what we are drinking today may have been in the glass of Alexander the Great. It’s been re-purified, of course!
As I pursued the subject, I encountered several terms that identify the different parts of the cycle. First, the SUN is an essential part of the cycle’s equation, for its energy of heat or lack thereof, causes both the change from water to vapor and the reverse. VAPOR, of course, is first, the invisible essence of the water, and when cooled in CONDENSATION forms rain clouds, then PRECIPITATION in the form of rain, snow, sleet or hail from the sky. Here, the invisible becomes very visible and it forms both SURFACE and SUBSURFACE RUNOFF that flows into streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. Some is absorbed by the ground whereby INFILTRATION draws it through the roots and stems of plant life. Here the energy of the SUN enables plant growth and TRANSPIRATION, the process of releasing the water through the leaves into the atmosphere as VAPOR. The water that finds its way by runoff into the ocean is then heated by the SUN causing EVAPORATION, also releasing water in the form of VAPOR. This water, having been carried through a variety of mineral deposits, on arrival at the ocean has resulting SALT content. EVAPORATION causes the remaining water to have increased SALT content levels. The water is also moved in its cycle by living organisms, human and animal. It may be consumed in its liquid form or be present in the food that is consumed. It then leaves as a gas during RESPIRATION, is excreted, or may EVAPORATE from the skin as PRESPIRATION.
Now that I have laid out a brief summary of The Water Cycle, allow me to set forth a spiritual parallel as it relates to the INCARNATION of Christ into human form. The great INVISIBLE God sent “His only begotten Son” to be born into VISIBLE human flesh by the power of His Spirit. This flesh-made image of God the Father then had both the divine spiritual nature and the earth-bound human nature. Out of God in the Spiritual heavenlies the Very WATER OF LIFE performed a holy CONDENSATION and RAINED Himself down upon the earth. That WATER was collected in a human vessel that was formed by the Master Potter Himself. Then, through the process of bonding vessel and WATER, overshadowed by the Potter’s Hand, His Holy Spirit, God’s Son came to the time of INAUGURATION of His primary work. Coming to the Jordan River, this Son, the WATER OF LIFE was IMMERSED, WATER into WATER’S burial of submission to His Father’s will. Rising from it in a prophetic RESURRECTION, He received the Father’s commendation, and left for the wilderness to have His vessel FIRED in the kiln of TEMPTATION. Once tested and His vessel affirmed in the Father’s will to bear the precious WATER OF LIFE, He proceeded to share His contents with many whose own vessels were dry and cracked, restoring and filling theirs from His own. After three years of pouring Himself into His chosen disciples, this WATER OF LIFE came to the close of His purpose as INCARNATE Son of God. He went up on a mountain where a TRANSFIGURATION of His true nature was revealed, both man and Divine, in a foretaste of the INVISIBLE and VISIBLE in ONE, conversing with Moses and Elijah. From this point, His WATER OF LIFE Cycle moved deliberately into a HEATING process that would bring about His CRUCIFIXION, DEATH of the visible WATER OF LIFE’s VISIBLE form, revealing further His cycle’s RESURRECTION movement through the final state of ASCENDANCY back to the INVISIBLE realm from which He came. In a way, a spiritual EVAPORATION which paralleled His INCARNATION’S PRECIPATATION to earth. (Let me give credit for inspiration of the cycle of terms I’ve illustrated in The Cycle of Jesus’s Life. It’s the brain child of my Broco, i.e., Bro/Cuz, Ray Edwards. I’ve simply expanded on it by adding analogy’s parable. Thanks, Ray!)
Permit me, if you will to make some further analogies on this theme as it relates to the work of Christ as the WATER OF LIFE that has come to us. My analogy in the preceding paragraph follows the WATER CYCLE’S process by EVAPORATION, however, spiritually it can be pointed out that the purpose of Christ’s coming was to also INFILTRATE the lives of men, thus giving an added result of His INCARNATION, not only into the physical life of the Son of man on earth, but into the lives of men who allow Him entrance by belief and confession’s invitation. Here, too, the INVISIBLE becomes VISIBLE through the active presence of the Holy Spirit in the display of His gifts. Here, also, DEATH brings the blessed release of spiritual TRANSPIRATION, again into the INVISIBLE realm of the departed in Christ.
Perhaps now you are saying, “Okay, I get the picture. Now, your point.”Simply this, first, that just as Jesus taught in parables to bring great truth to light, often the use of such can help us visualize the reality of God’s plan to send His only Begotten into visual human form, to enable us to experience what our senses often tell us cannot be real. The CYCLE OF WATER is an illustration of reality we can understand, that can reveal that deeper truth that can evade some minds. Secondly, for me it again affirms the creative purpose of God in orchestrating nature’s laws and CYCLES, for they are reflective mirrors of His own nature, purpose and glory. Paul writes in Romans 1:20, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”
Oh, yes! I mentioned the SALT left from the EVAPORATION of the ocean. It is true also that with the coming of Jesus into the Christian's life, that with the process of that INFILTRATION and TRANSPIRATION, we become more SALTY with His greater Presence in us.
My friends, be encouraged today as Christ Himself INFILTRATES and makes Himself VISIBLE through your lives.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Nineteen plus years ago, while serving as a missionary overseas, I led our mission’s prison ministry. Our target was the prisoners of two prisons, one which was for “lighter” SENTENCES and the other considered maximum security with 8000 men serving twenty to LIFE, and DEATH SENTENCES. My team of eight men, each with different language ability, would enter the steel gates of this facility one Wednesday morning each month, go to its large meeting pavilion, and begin to work with the four to five hundred prisoners who chose to attend. After a combined time of singing and testimonies, the prisoners were divided into language groups to be led in Bible studies by team members. I elected to work with one group and used a prisoner with a good English skills as my translator, as none of the team members were proficient with that group’s language.
After a couple of years of work, and many denied requests to allow us to baptize prisoners in the water canal located inside the prison walls, we were finally granted permission by the warden because, as he said, our team had done much to make their task easier through the changed attitudes of prisoners. That year we baptized eighty-eight prisoners, and three years later, had a total of over four hundred, with a “church” group formed in each of the prison’s eight cells blocks.
As I think back to those experiences, and the feeling I had each time those steel doors slammed shut behind us when we entered, then again when we left, I recall a mixed feeling of despair and relief. One was from my temporary INCARCERATION and the other from my monthly PAROLE into the world outside.
As I think about those experiences I am reminded that I shared, in a spiritual way, in the SENTENCES of those men, all of whom had committed serious crimes. Some were thieves and murderers, many others were those who trafficked in drugs, a significant and serious crime in that part of Asia. Those awaiting DEATH SENTENCES in a worldly sense mirrored my own SENTENCE OF DEATH for my sin, to be carried out at God’s final judgment. Even as a child I had willfully chosen to disobey God’s law and go according to my own way. The SENTENCE OF DEATH was as a result of my sinful choice, as surely as the crimes committed by those prisoners resulted in their scheduled forfeiture of LIFE.
What a paradox! I chose DEATH instead of LIFE and received the just SENTENCE, but now because of Christ’s DEATH, I am PAROLED free of that arm of just retribution. I’ve been given a LIFE SENTENCE, but not one behind bars and high walls, for I am free indeed. It occurs to me that as I stand outside the spiritual prison of my making, that there are many who have that LIFE SENTENCE granted by trust in Christ’s DEATH, but they continue to live inside spiritual prison walls, when by their choice, they could daily accept the PARDON. For them the gates would swing open to freedom.
Stay with me through this analogy. I’m PARDONED free. Correct? Well, hang on, for now that I am free indeed. I’m not on PAROLE but I do need to check in with the One Who granted my PARDON, and it’s His purpose to see that I do not return to the lock-up ever again. So what do I do with this new found freedom? I choose with another former prisoner, Paul, by name, to lay claim to another DEATH SENTENCE. Not one for crimes or sin that I have done, but I choose to DIE to the flesh that attempts to imprison me. I choose to mortify, to put to DEATH this body of DEATH and its claim upon me for these few years of earth bound captivity, that I may spiritually LIVE unto Him Who has rescued me from eternal DEATH and given me eternal LIFE through the Spirit, and a promised new body that will never suffer DEATH. Oh, great Giver of LIFE Who is the Way, the Truth, and the LIFE, help me to daily choose to die to self that Your LIFE will be shown through me to all who are dying and as yet do not even know it.
Oh Father, now I do aspire
To walk with Thee in life up higher.
I now seek to be Your own,
And gladly bow before Your throne,
But help me know, if I would be,
A vessel fit to worship Thee,
That I must daily die to all
That pulls me from Your holy call.
Help me, dear Lord, through deeper trust,
To find life’s higher, heavenly thrust.
Postscript on the prison ministry: My last time into the prison, I was asked to meet with one of the church groups that were trying to practice being the church. They had elected deacons and gave me the privilege of performing the “Laying on of hands” of their ordination. What a scene. Prisoners, serving prison terms, finding LIFE and SERVICE while they SERVE their SENTENCES. Only in God’s Kingdom!
Check out these related passages of Scripture:
11 Corinthians 1:9 – “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us.”
Matthew 10:39 - “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
11 Corinthians 4:11 – “For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”
11 Corinthians 12:10 – “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for which I am weak, then am I strong.”
Philippians 1:20-21 – “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
BE ENCOURAGED, MY FRIEND, FOR OUR LIFE SENTENCE WITH CHRIST WILL NOT BE SUFFERING ON THE ROCK (aka, Alcatraz Penitentiary), BUT WITH THE ROCK, JESUS!
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Have you ever felt that the TRUTH of God went against your normal perception of what is TRUTH? Have you ever considered that what He asks of You goes against everything you’ve learned was the correct way to proceed? Indeed, if we are honest in our response, all of us have and it is entirely natural to do so. The operative word is “natural” for the TRUTH we are debating with ourselves is SUPERNATURAL! No small wonder that in this realm of thought everything is upside down.
As I pondered this, I began to examine what we are often confronted with that fits our faith response to God’s upward call from earth-bound logic. Go with me as we consider a few applications of LOGIC that are ILLOGICAL.
The FIRST truly must be the beginning one to apply, for without it the others will not be understood in their TRUEST sense. Jesus says to us, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” (Matthew 8:35) LOSE TO GAIN?. Illogical! Yet the context makes perfect sense. Christ’s purpose is to bring us into another realm of life – His heavenly! Anyone can see that there is a vast difference between the earthly and that which is spoken of as heavenly. In a physical sense, we can see this truth applied in the recent space launch. The astronauts, in order to reach beyond the earth’s law of gravity into the freedom of space’s weightlessness, had to LOSE earth’s hold as they GAINED the new realm of space. You think they may have been disoriented the first time they space “walked”? Ask them. You’d be right. The point is if you desire to walk in another realm, be it space or the kingdom of Christ, you have to leave one to reach the other. Logical, pure and simple.
Now, consider another related passage. “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the gospel of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” (Philippians 3:8) LOSE TO WIN? Again with the LOSING! Paul’s not talking about a game. There perhaps is our hangup! Paul is merely applying the truth we’ve stated before. He’s our spiritual astronaut, who has “slipped the bonds of earthly” cares and consuming passion for things, stretched forward like a track star breaking the tape, and laid hold on the prize – WINNING an intimate knowledge of God in Christ. To WIN he had to put the LOSERS behind. Not people, but the things that attempt to keep pace with us, that they might win our focus from the prize that awaits. To push the astronaut analogy one “step” more, consider the natural attempts to keep one foot on earth and test the freedom of space with the other. Never happen! Now, that’s illogical in any realm.
Next, here’s one that many will know is true, particularly those with any background on the farm. Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 12:24) A related verse declares, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth (prunes) it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (John 15:2) DIE AND YOU WILL LIVE or, at the most have YOUR LIFE TRIMMED TO PRODUCE is the thrust. Now, if you’ve ever planted a garden you know that a seed has to be planted in the ground, and begin to have its contents consumed by the tiny sprout it contains, until that sprout breaks free of the softened hull. This new plant lives because the seed died. The death of life produces life. In the other passage, the reference is to the necessity of having excess branches cut off, in order that the life force is not wasted on just limbs, but channeled into new growth producing fruit. The application of both gives the logic of DEATH TO LIFE issues. And the example of Christ, Himself, is supreme. Christ DIED, was CUT OFF, from the LIVING in order that those who are the ALIVE BUT DYING might TRULY LIVE and NEVER DIE. The lesson in LOGIC also is extended to those who, after His example, would SACRIFICE themselves that others might LIVE, as well. Illogically strange, for we call that logic “heroism” and applaud it vigorously.
Another that often takes a good bit of heart change is GIVE TO RECEIVE or GAIN. Now, I caution you at the outset. This is not to be applied as motive for giving, though some, out of avarice, apply it so. Nevertheless, it is a LOGIC that is ILLOGICAL. I mean how, if you GIVE something away, can you expect to have an INCREASE in your own pocket? Note this passage, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (Luke 6:38) Now, actually this passage winds up a whole discourse of related ILLOGIC that Jesus shares regarding kingdom behavior. He spoke of HUNGERING TO BE FULL, WEEPING TO LAUGH, and of BEING HATED TO REJOICE and contrasted it to being FULL AND ENDING HUNGRY, of LAUGHING THAT ENDS IN TEARS, AND PRAISE OF MEN THAT’S FINISH IS DESPAIR. His counsel? Love those that hate you, bless those that curse you, offer the other cheek to be slapped, give another garment to the thief who takes one, and give and don’t expect return. Hard “pills” to swallow, are they not? Well, they can be for the one who has invested so much in REAPING, whether he has SOWN anything or not.
How do they work? Like the food you eat, it must be digested and absorbed into the blood stream, to carry its nutrients of growth to every part of the life. Practicing this LOGIC with an open and trusting heart will bring about an ILLOGICAL miracle. We will receive fullness, love, joy, and a basket of blessings that is packed solid! I like that kind of LOGIC, don’t you?
Well, I’m going to call a halt to this LOGIC’s launching for now. Maybe you’ve thought of some others that could be stated and debated. I invite you to share them in your comments. Now, for one last thought.
When I think of the attempts to hang on to the TANGIBLE and test the INTANGIBLE, I am reminded of the cartoon type, like Beetle Bailey’s Sergeant Snorkel. He has again fallen off his proverbial ledge and is hanging by one slender sapling growing perpendicular (now there’s logic) to the cliff. He cries for help and out of the blue, the Voice of God tells him to let go and He will catch him. (Unknown to Snorkel, who is afraid to look down, the ground is only about two feet below him.) Weighing this heavenly counsel, he finally cries out again, “Is there anyone else up there?”
FOR YOU “WOULD BE SNORKELS” OUT THERE, BE ENCOURAGED THAT IF YOU WILL TRUST THE COUNSEL OF GOD TO LET GO IN FAITH, HE WILL CATCH YOU, AND YOU WILL FIND MORE TRULY SOLID GROUND UNDERNEATH YOU THAN YOU EVER EXPECTED!
Monday, February 8, 2010
Our perception at times is so oblivious to the obvious! Consider the one who is so overwhelmed by the whole “forest” of people and circumstances that surround him, that he cannot see just one individual “tree” that may have special unnoticed character or need.
In the year since we moved to our present home, surrounded by trees, I have been drawn to one particular one, season in and season out, and it striking at its composure amid all of the swirling world of leaves and conditions that surround its vigil on the edge of our property. Last year’s ice built up so on its branches, that one large one broke and was suspended, seemingly holding on for whatever life source could reach through the remaining wood fibers which held it. Not having the means or time to cut it loose, I let it alone. During one night’s wind a few months later, I looked and saw that it had finally let go and lay at the base, beginning the long process of decay. The tree lived on, continuing to stand strong, in spite of its loss.
Now, with another winter storm upon us, I continue to watch its silent vigil as the snow heavily builds upon its branches. It speaks a message to my heart out of its very stable character, now covered with what might be a “mantle from heaven” sent to acknowledge its faithful service through all the adversities that the world has thrown at it.
I recall reading from a devotion book by Mrs. Charles Cowman years ago, and found a kind of prayer liturgy I wrote as a result. Trees. Such a strong testament of creation’s strength and endurance, shelters for those seeking such a place of retreat from sun’s heat and the storm’s pelting rain. Strong and stable through years of silent growth, they stand against the strong winds which only serve to push them to the limits of their rooted footholds in the earth. Such winds do not destroy, but only serve to open cracks in the earth through which the water bearing nutrients may nourish the tree’s continuing life. So let me be like the tree, Father. Allow the winds of adversity to blow against me, for I do know Your sustaining hand of protection that keeps me from being uprooted and destroyed. You know how much I may endure without breaking. You alone know how much is needed to loosen my rooted faith to receive fresh new waters of truth, that bear the true food to make me strong in You. So, blow ye winds. God is in control, and allows such for my good. Oh Father, help me grow so today, and may my branches reach out and up in praise to You alone, and may they be filled with the kingdom fruit borne out of Your abiding presence, and my abiding response to and in You. Oh, Father, trees. Help me to see them and be reminded daily of Your great purpose and plan for me. Thank You, Lord, for the truth borne in the trees.
And today as I reflect on such imagines again, I am struck with the fact that God gives His blessed affirmation by His Holy Spirit that wraps us in heaven’s snow white mantle of peace. “Come to me and I will give you rest” indeed.
Two scriptures have some added thoughts to communicate about trees.
“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heart cometh, but he leaf shall be green: and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Psalm 3:1-3
LOOK AT THE TREE AND BE ENCOURAGED!
Saturday, February 6, 2010
This morning I was reading from a journal I kept during 2006 and came across a poem I had written regarding that morning’s devotions. I have been thinking a great deal lately about my life’s daily progress, in other words, my pilgrimage as it relates to tasks and daily needs that I need to address. Retirement has provided some measures of time that I’ve not experienced to quite this degree previously. I did have a period of eight months when I was between positions, but much of that time was exploring where next I would discover employment, so the freedom of my mind’s pursuits was not quite the same as the present.
I’ve been doing a good deal of writing, both my own autobiography, as well as, a historical novel based on my mother’s life. As I mused about the process of writing these narratives and the pursuits of the daily tasks of a bivocational pastor and teacher, I began to examine my own life’s “pages” as a Christian. My conclusion? That our Sovereign God is the true Author of the Storyline of man’s existence. As Creative Author, God wrote the beginning chapters, and continues to write the scenes of each day’s progress. Interestingly enough, He has already written the last chapter of the book, and as I have often commented, “I’ve read the last chapter, and we win!” But, the middle pages of the story are still in process. Oh, they’re in His mind but He’s daily writing the manuscript that includes our life’s pages.
The Author penned sweet rapture’s theme,
Then poured Himself into its scene.
He, reaching into His storyline,
Felt with His characters, those, too, His design.
Oh, what utter condescensions
That Author’s pen so purely mentions,
As framed we are in time and space,
And yet perceive His timeless face.
He smiles and we are warmed by such,
His holy hands, His passioned touch.
Then capstone of such holy pleasure,
He gives out another treasure.
We’re made to know our Story’s written,
And for us Author’s heart is smitten,
Thus He says that all we ask
He’ll give, so in Him we can bask,
And freely live out His Story’s task.
II Corinthians 3:2-3 “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.”
WHAT A PURE DELIGHT TO REALIZE WHEN I HAVE “WRITER’S BLOCK” AND KNOW NOT WHAT TO DO, HIS MIND CONTINUES TO GIVE ME NEW LIGHT TO “WRITE!”
BE ENCOURAGED, MY FRIENDS, IN WRITING YOUR LIFE STORY.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Yesterday the great weather prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil, made his annual prediction about winter’s grip or release on our land. Emerging from his hole he saw his shadow, which of course, means six weeks more of winter. Interestingly enough, his human counterparts on local weather stations are forecasting more snow in the next few days.
Whenever February 2nd rolls around I am reminded of the movie with which this day shares its name - GROUNDHOG DAY! This film, starring Bill Murray as disgruntled and petulant television weatherman Phil Connors, is a true study in the process of re-tooling human behavior. Covering the special day’s event, Phil becomes hopelessly trapped in a time warp that causes him to have to repeat the day over and over, with everything and everyone in sight, except him, set on REPLAY. The only changes around him come as a result of his actions, literally re-writing history. He is the only one who retains an awareness of each and every “re-write” which takes place. Can you imagine the possibilities of such power?
His first impressions are understandably disturbed. Then resigning himself to his fated repetitions, he realizes that regardless of his actions, there are no consequences faced the next day. Feeling trapped he initiates a spiraling cycle of self destruction that involves bank robbery, drunk driving altercation with police and other immoral activities culminating with several suicides, all to no avail, for he still wakes up at 6:00 a.m. to a fresh, new February 2nd. Finally coming to the end of himself, and out of what has been a latent attraction for his pretty producer, he begins the process of daily learning about her likes and dislikes, each day gaining enough knowledge to change her initial loathing for him into an attraction herself. He, of course, has not changed, but uses his knowledge for his own conquest. When his true nature is revealed, she rejects him again and again. Now realizing his real problem, he sets about to re-create a true and new Phil Conners. He seeks to help a homeless man, changes tires for helpless ladies, rescues children and adults in dangerous circumstances which he alone can forecast and thus, lend aid. Coupled with these actions he learns through his repeated cycles, to play the piano, to do ice sculptures, and to embrace everyone with a spirit of joy and pleasure. This transformation from his pre-Feb. 2nd persona ultimately wins the heart of his producer, and just as suddenly as the cycle began, it ended happily for the two.
I’ve given this brief on the film to give you my “take” on how we can apply it to real life. We’ve all heard the typical remarks made by people who rue the mistakes they make from time to time. “If I only had it to do over, things would be different!”, “If I could only turn back the pages and re-write my past!”, or, “If I had only not said what I did!”, and the list of remorseful wishing goes on. Indeed, all of us would love to have Phil’s power if we could plan and control it. The only problem, it would be like his approach and we would come near to destroying ourselves and others through selfish applications. The truth emerges from its place just below the surface of the storyline, when Phil begins to redirect his life toward others, with his own self wants relegated to last place. There is the place of real power and the “where with all” to change things for the better in the lives of others, which has a reciprocal effect on his own future.
The question may be raised, “without the power to re-live lost days, how can we change the world and recreate our own future, as well?” The answer is not as far from our reach as we may think. Simply stated, its been said many times in our hearing. “Live one day at a time.” And we are given the promised ability, not to re-do the past, but to make the very best day we can, today. With the truth of God’s Word and the guiding Holy Spirit to prick our conscience, we have sufficient awareness of right and wrong to make the right choices and to act accordingly. We may not have the “time cycling” to learn to play the piano or ice-sculpt in “one day”, but with each day’s commitment and application, who knows what we might accomplish in several “one day’s” time.
The Scripture’s ARE RICH in showing us the way to change our lives and our world, too. Paul writes one of my favorite’s. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope. Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God…Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered….And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:15-28)
Oh, yes! About Punxsutawney Phil’s prognostication of another six weeks of winter, I don’t really believe he can predict with certainty, any more than my local weather guys and gals. The writer’s of the script did a masterful job of putting two concepts together. The movie’s groundhog said there would be a long winter ahead and for Phil, his winter of discontent was certainly that. Our application might be that regardless the weather, we know Who is the real WEATHER FORECASTER, do we not? And if He is in control, we can live joyfully with hope, sunshine or snow!
BE ENCOURAGED, MY FRIENDS!
POSTSCRIPT: It's Feb. 4th and the ground is already covered in snow again and still coming down with more expected during the next few days. Thanks, Phil! Yeah, right!
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Ever since I was introduced to Plato’s Cave Allegory by my college professor, it has held a particular fascination for me. As a missionary in Asia, I even developed a series of messages using it as a launching pad to reach young people with the unseen reality of God. Later, while teaching philosophy in a junior college, I was able to take Plato’s example and apply Christian truth. Now, many might say that using a 3rd Century B.C. philosopher to teach Christian truth is a stretch, particularly when the philosopher made no claim to relate his philosophy to belief in the God of Jewish thought.
What redeems the Cave Allegory and Plato’s Philosophy of Forms, I believe, is the extent of his discovery, beyond his contemporaries and earlier thought, to reach further toward the realization of something or someone higher than the earth-bound intellect of man. Well, allow me to capsule the essence of his Cave Allegory, then make some applications to our understanding of what is real.
Plato wrote the Allegory as a dialogue between his teacher, Socrates, and a student. He believed that the world revealed by our senses is not the real world but only a poor copy of it, and that the real world can only be known intellectually. Thus, the mind beginning to understand the “unseen” world can begin to impact the values of the “sensed” world.
As depicted in the drawing, Plato described a cave in which there were prisoners bound with chains. They were bound in such a way so that no movement to turn their heads to see anything but that directly in front of them was possible. And this was their state of life for all of their recollection. No memories of any other life existed. (Now, don’t begin to question the possibilities of such for that is not the point.) Behind them in a raised area is a fire which is constantly burning. A raised walkway is between the prisoners and the fire, and on it individuals walk and talk in daily interaction, some carrying objects and images of every sort. Get the picture?
Now, realize that what is seen by the prisoners is their reality, the only one they’ve ever known. And what is that reality? Combine the constant flickering of the fire with the reflected shadows of those walking, their burdens, and the shadows of the prisoners themselves, and add to it the conversations of those on the walkway. What “sensed” reality do the prisoners have? At best, images are varied and in a constant state of movement due to the flickering flames of light. Put yourself in their place and all you have ever known is that wall of wavering shadows created by the fire.
Now, let us imagine that one of the prisoners is released from his bonds. (Again, how is not important – just stay with me.) At first, he is resistant to change his stance and turn around. Why should he? After all, it goes against his trained life tradition, and to do so would be to deny the reality that had been his perception. His fellow prisoners might even call him a heretic to explore such an act. But he yields and immediately receives the pain which comes to the eyes when one turns from darkness to a brighter light. But as his eyes adjust and he begins to observe all that is around him, he comes to the realization that the wall of shadows is not real, for it in an only limited way reflects the reality which was behind him. He is finally led up an incline and out of the cave, where again he suffers pain from an even greater light. Adjusting to it, his awareness of reality is expanded to realize that the reality of the cave becomes less real than that which he senses now in the world and sun.
After a time of digesting this new perception of reality, he is struck by the plight of his friends still bound in the cave, staring at shadows. He returns to try and explain to them their error, but receives for his act of concern only rejection. We will leave him at this point, and the analogy’s possible continuance, and begin to interpret and apply the story to our perceptions of what is real today. I will begin by identifying the various persons and objects found in the cave.
The PRISONERS represent man as a sensing and perceiving creature with the ability to see and interpret what is seen in light of its basic inner logic. Putting two and two together, as it were, they deduce that the shadows are real, for they have no knowledge of fire, other objects or people as having separate existence. The voices and sounds are meshed into coordination with the shadows before them. The FIRE and the SUN are those which create of the real images that are outlined shadows. The other PEOPLE and IMAGES simply press the point and provide the fire with a variety of shapes and content to enlarge the shadows’ influence.
The FREED MAN is the one who begins to open his mind to another plane of reality. It brings him initial pain and, perhaps, the persecution of his fellows, but he preservers to discover higher planes of reality that exist. First the fire, then the sun, and his deductions about the place of shadows in relationship to them. He represents further the returning enlightened and caring freed prisoner, with the desire to help his fellows to their own discoveries. A commendable character he is.
Plato’s allegory illustrates his point that true reality is always above and beyond our sense capacity to perceive. It is a reflected image of what is real. He would slap his hand down on a table and say, “This is not real! It is a temporal manifestation of that which is the perfect FORM!” And by the word FORM he meant that which is the invisible and perfect pattern from which the table is imagined and built. He doesn’t call it God, but his logical approach of discovery would only require one more equation to do so, connecting the sun to that which is far beyond it and the True Light that shines everything into existence.
It was out of his philosophic thought that St. Augustine of Hippo, a great theologian of the 4th and 5th centuries A.D., began to set forth the great Christians doctrines of the Scriptures, and form a bridge between the Greek philosophy of Plato and that which would enable deeper Christian study and thought to advance God’s kingdom purpose.
Now, again, stay with me. I realize this is somewhat a heavier subject than usual, but I am drawing close to my conclusion and application.
As I weigh Plato’s allegory, I see first, the natural perception of those of a worldly mindset, that only that which is experienced through the five senses can be said to be real. If I can see, hear, smell, touch or taste it, it qualifies. If one cannot find God in any of these, He can’t be REAL. But all of these Plato would call experiencing SHADOWS. Augustine would say they are images reflecting God’s hand in all that is. The Psalmist wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork.” (19:1) John wrote, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (4:24) In the beginning, when God created man, He made him in His own likeness and image, made him to reflect the spiritual makeup of man. (Genesis 1:27; 2:7) His likeness, however, was not the fleshly form, but possessing the spiritual capacities of love and choice. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John 1:18)
Plato’s philosophy might describe the FORMS as FOREVER, perfect and unchanging, whereas, the SHADOWS are constantly changing with the fire’s flicker and even the sun’s movement across the sky. Sometimes they are smaller, sometimes larger, often distorted. And they disappear with dying embers and the sun’s setting beyond the horizon. Man’s life is described like a shadow that’s fleeting, too. “Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.” (Psalm 144:4)
Paul describes a similar allegory which could have fit in Plato’s Cave. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (I Corinthians 13:12) And again in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not see: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (4:18)
Oh, yes! About the freed prisoner and his return to the cave to help his fellows to grasp their REAL REALITY, welcomed or no. The Scriptures are full of references to the call and care of those who have “seen the light” to share it with those who have not, the bound by, not physical chains, but those spiritually forged by earthly tradition and ego-flamed pride. The call to go armed with the light of truth is recorded specifically. Paul references this in the Colossian letter, chapter 2, verses 16-17. He calls for no man to judge in the tangible things, “which are a shadow of things to come.” Then John writes this word of promise. “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ.” (I John 1:3)
Now, let me leave you with this prayer of Paul to the Ephesians, as he said he would, “Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints…the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head overall things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” (1:16-23)