August 22, 2002
It seems like ages since I wrote a letter here…(as several of you have reminded me…smile)
Since moving back to Mississippi, I have been focused on heavy-content-articles and, for the last two months, consumed by the proposal/plan for the computer classroom I hope to set up here in my hometown (see the prayer requests--pray.html). I submitted the grant proposal to IBM a couple of days ago, and while waiting on their response, have been working on the actual Java and Webservices course material (and doing some work for a client).
There have been many thoughts swirling around in my head/heart as I have experienced the last few months, and nothing seems to connect them into a coherent stream ("uh, glenn, since when have you been concerned with COHERENCE?!"…I can hear some of you chuckling now). So, as always, I will just blurt them out and let the reader pick and choose…
First, I have found a new way to "slander" someone…In the process of meeting with various important stakeholders in my LATI project (for the endorsement letters posted at www.lati.us), I had a meeting with someone I had never met before. I had heard some good things about this person, and some negative things about them as well. In the weeks before the scheduled meeting, while praying for them and their family, I found that I was apprehensive about meeting with them. I was constructing an image of how they would respond 'negatively' and even 'harshly', and then I would respond emotionally to that "expected future". Remember, I had no actual data to work with about them--only the conflicting testimony of others. As the day and time for the meeting drew closer, I worked harder at focusing on the positive comments about them, and tried to counteract the negative view which had already grown up in my head...sometime during the last week, as I pondered this emotional vortex, I realized that my non-factual 'construction' of their personality was tantamount to slander. This was not simply a case of 'not believing the best' (i.e., the I Corinthians 13 love-thing), but something a bit more sinister--unspoken slander.
Notice that this was NOT like the case of Jesus and Judas, in which Jesus had a factual knowledge of Judas' future betrayal. In that case, Jesus did not slander Judas in any way--and on the contrary, treated him as an insider, a friend, and confidant anyway. [How much more should I have done so, with the 'imaginary person' I had created in my fear?!]
This will really cause me to rethink situations in which I am 'afraid' of meeting someone new, or of broaching a difficult subject with someone I do not know very well. I will need to evaluate each case, to see whether I am operating on the basis of real, current, and consistent data--in those cases where I am 'afraid'--and to see whether such fear/concern is actually warranted. Of course, even in cases where it IS warranted, it should be always placed in the context of God's involvement in the situation and process. Paul described himself as being 'anxious' several times in the New Testament, but always in the context of reliance on the Lord. (As the counselors tell us, fear itself is not good or bad--it is merely an indicator of how we are responding to something. Then we can assess to what extent our response is 'reasonable', revelatory of other problems, etc.)
Secondly, I had an interesting theological 'corrective' applied to my thinking this week...(smile)...I have all these dreams/visions of what all I would like to do, in serving the Lord and helping others. I want to work through the Tank-backlog; I want the LATI program to help my community and be a witness to His love-in-practice; I want to start a little biblical studies program here for local pastors who don't have the formal seminary training they think would help them; I want to help the reconciliation movement in some way. I have long wanted to create a series of instructional videos, on the various streams of extra-biblical lit (e.g., DSS, Rabbinics, ANE lit, G-R religious texts). Any of these could be a full-time-plus commitment. I have long felt that my problem was "long on vision, short on resources"--your basic 'more good ideas than you could possibly get around to doing' kinda situation.
This had especially been on my mind the past month or so, when I have wanted to do some curriculum design on the biblical studies program, but was simply too swamped by the LATI prep.
Now, at the same time, I have been acutely aware for decades that real impact on the world was more a function of personal walk with God, than a function of talent, gifts, opportunity, time, commitment, planning, and resources. I read through John 15 at least a couple of times a year, and that passage is fairly clear (as in 'blunt'…chuckle) that fruit comes from 'soaking up' the life and love and character of Jesus. We know also that personal integrity, moral character, and sensitivity/submission to God are what the business world would call "Critical Success Factors" (smile).
But what hit me as I was driving on a back road in Mississippi this week was something like this:
"Glenn, the problem is not actually that your vision is bigger than the resources I have given you--it's really that your vision is bigger than your faith...Indeed, if you had but faith the size of a mustard seed, you would see how easy your dreams really are... "
(Can you tell I have been reading too much in the Synoptics recently? smile)
I have never considered myself a man of much 'faith'...I get too easily paralyzed theologically in the 'God's will' trap , and twist myself into knots trying work on the basis of "It's obvious He is able--the issue is instead, if He's willing"...And that issue gets more complicated as I ponder providence more deeply…
I don’t have the slightest doubt that God has the raw 'ability' to do any particular 'force'-type act (except maybe create a rock so small even He cannot see it to pick it up…(twisted smile)), and a perception of the absolutely-unique goodness of His heart has been growing in my life rapidly over the past few years, but the issue of 'moral governance' has made prediction from these two facts (omni-competence, omni-benevolence) too uncertain a task for me.
For example, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Jesus, when He walked the earth in His earthly ministry, could have healed everybody in the entire world with a simple, single spoken world. And, I have no doubt whatsoever that He could have raised all the dead, and could have expelled every malignant inhuman consciousness from 'operational residency' within the body-soul nexus of humans--just as easily. He could have forcefully killed (or 'banished' to someplace else in the universe) all the treacherous, oppressor, exploitative, and maleficent agents. He could have given the meek the land then. He could have walked around in Transfiguration-mode all the time, and/or could have allowed all the demonic spirits to reveal His true identity to everyone--with great effect and awesome 'evidential' impact.
Yet He did not. He only did a very small and very selective portion of that work--enough to prove to others the reality of the New Future, and therefore enough to inspire persistence in moral "optimism"--even though His life was literally consumed by compassion for the well-being of others (the Cross).
There were obvious reasons for some of the cases of non-relief and non-disclosure, of course. The Father would not let Him do God-honoring miracles in front of those pre-committed to the reductionism of unbelief (Mt 13.58). He could have prevented Lazarus' death, but didn't--for somehow, the resuscitation was more to the 'glory of God' than would have been the postponement of death (John 11.3). There were no doubt many, many people with needs in the crowd that day--but it was only the secretive woman with the blood disease that experiences healing (Mk 5). We know that there are more values at play in the universe than simply lack of pain, and that pain and suffering are often vehicles to something better. I remember seeing a book somewhere entitled something like "50 Reasons God Allows Suffering". I didn't pick it up or read it, but it presumably included the more obvious ones: character building, compassion engendering, empathy building, community response, cultural definition, creation of preventative efforts by humans, strengthening the weak and weakening the strong, illustrating the life of suffering of Jesus, revelation of secret attitudes (held both by the individual and by the public), dependency creation, openness to wider perspectives, future heart for ministry to others so afflicted, incitement to prayer, moral outrage initiation (e.g. atrocities of abuse), illustration of cause/effect, sowing and reaping, illustration of predictability of nature, creating thankfulness for other taken-for-granted things, removal of idols/destructive distractions, warning to others, etc. And the list of associated 'issues' is likewise long and complex (e.g., free-will, inhuman malignancy agents, recompense principles for victims in some proportionate form later, failure to take precautions, historical specificity, lesser-of-two-disasters, why-this-one-instead-of-that-one, etc.).
It has always been "easy" to explain why God allows generic suffering (even evil-created suffering, such as treachery or violence) in a big-picture, moral universe content with these 'reasons and issues', but it is next-to-impossible (IMO) to explain adequately why God allows a specific case of evil. A specific hate crime, a terrorist act, an abduction, an untimely death, sexual and domestic violence, betrayal of a marriage partner, natural disaster, slander of the innocent, exploitation of the meek…Our newspapers are filled with specific cases, and although I can go down the list of '50 reasons' and find many 'reasons' that are probably involved and find many 'issues' that are involved in the mix, the complexity of trying to 'compute the outcome' is just way too far beyond me…
And even in personal cases in which I have massive, up-close, personal, and in-depth knowledge of a situation, I STILL cannot 'compute this'. And often, the more atrocious the event, the more complex is the interplay of these many reasons and issues…But in my own life and situation, I have seen the interplay of the '50', and the evidence that some of them were involved in the providential unfolding of the particular events. I have no reason to suspect that God was simply 'not there' or 'cold hearted' in those situations at all…and actually have reasons to believe otherwise, as well…
The moral governance issue is very, very difficult and I have pondered this increasingly in the post-9/11 world. I remember thinking about what options were available to the government, once the hijackers took over the plane. For example, what would happen today if suicide bombers repeated the sequence. Supposedly, the enhanced alertness of the military/police functions would scramble jet fighters after the aircraft and attempt to force them down. But how do you 'force down' a plane that is piloted by someone on a suicide mission? Firing 'warning shots' ain't gonna do it, believe me…your only real option is to shoot it down…
Think about this for a second…some authority would (will?) have to make a decision between deliberately (and certainly) killing several hundred innocent passengers on a plane or letting the plane strike a densely-populated building with almost-certain casualties in the thousands. Believe me, I am aware of the "massively Gordian" philosophical challenges involved in ethical dilemmas involving the highly-nuanced differences between certain, almost-certain, highly probable, non-predictable, and merely possible events (complicated by matters of motives, complicity, and consequences). But I suspect that most ethical systems would support the position probably taken by most authorities--that of "select the option with lower casualty and damage rates".
Does this make the job any easier for the commander who gives the order to shoot down the commercial airliner, or the fighter pilot who presses the missile firing button? Of course not, and their memories would be likely scarred for life over the incident. Does it make it any easier for the surviving families of the passengers? Generally not, and their lives will be affected from that moment forward. And imagine a hypothetical encounter between a grieving spouse and the traumatized fighter pilot…The whole event--instigated by acts of treachery--is a black hole of grief and ugliness and chaos. Governance is tasked with trying to reduce the level of this as much as possible, and is forced to live with the horrors and ignominy of each case of 'our only choice'.
This might give us a general reason as to why--in this no win scenario of shooting down the plane or letting it crash into a building--the passengers of the commercial planes would suffer. It was not due to their 'guilt or innocence', but to avert some (presumably) clearly 'worse' outcome.
And notice that this choice is independent of the authorities' success at preventing other/previous such hijackings. A 99% prevention rate--although good--is not enough to preclude this situation from occurring.
But why those specific passengers that day? Why was John' wife or Mary's father on those doomed flights? Here the complexity gets beyond us, and we are lost in the matrix of all the 'reasons and issues' again.
But it should also be noted that the same 'computational problem' comes up in cases of good and in cases of prevented-evil and/or prevented-suffering. Why would God allow the miners to be rescued, at such massive public cost? Why are there vastly more 'attempted rapes' and 'attempted murders' and 'attempted abductions' than there are completed ones? Why would God allow 'normal people' to do acts of 'above-normal' altruism? Why are there more "non-government" volunteer and relief organizations than there are terrorist groups? In a "random" universe you might expect these phenomena to be 'symmetrical', but they are not. Why isn't God "fair" in allowing as much 'evil' as 'good'? Why did God 'allow' medical science to advance so far, in treating disease and trauma? There is no doubt a separate list of 'reasons and issues' for this question too, but they would be equally useless in trying to explain why that specific individual was allowed to develop a polio vaccine, or that specific individual was 'allowed' to start a movement to free the slaves, or even why that particular group of passengers were allowed to sabotage--at the cost of their lives--the third suicide plane on 9/11.
Now, back out another level and 'play God' (for a presumptuous moment), tasked with moral governance in a fallen world of active agents, and a system of hierarchical values. Except in this case, you/You have omniscience and you/You know that terrorist groups are pretty far along the development path toward having nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons of mass destruction. You know that certain authority/national groups are somewhat supportive (or at least not 'constrictive') toward such development efforts, and that the terrorist groups are well funded. The terrorist groups try many and various smaller attacks, with some successes and some failures. Some of these efforts you/You (as God) thwart simply through the agency of others. And You have a general policy of reducing the level of damage (e.g. by means of providence) of the ones that you/You allow to succeed (due to factors related to 'reasons and issues').
But the ones that succeed are not really taken seriously by a critical mass of people and governments, and so there is no public outcry or consensus effort to combat terrorism. It is categorized as 'their problem' , 'resistance movements', or 'statistically marginal extremists'…
But in 2001, you/You--as God--are confronted in your omniscience (with no distinctions between 'certain' and 'almost certain' in this version of the ethical problem) with two alternative paths of history:
· Alternative One. If terrorist organizations and trajectories of weapons development continue in trend, then in 5 years they will launch a biological AND nuclear suicide attack upon "the West" (and some of her allies). This attack kills tens of millions of families, destroys totally the economic ecosystem of the entire world, and plunges the world into a Dark Age (e.g., without the economic and distribution infrastructure required for medical/health care, communications, banking, and manufacturing operations), and one in which NO ONE is prepared to survive in--not even the terrorists (i.e., worse than the worst Y2K scenarios, actually).
· Alternative Two. You let their 'crowning glory' terrorist attack on the World Trade Center succeed, galvanizing for the first time ever (and probably only for a few short years) world opinion and support for a concentrated effort against terrorism. The world 'consensus' and 51%-plus cooperation levels of the relevant countries are NOT enough to eliminate terrorism, of course, but it is enough to set the more advanced terrorist organizations back about 10-15 years, thereby postponing nuclear/biological/chemical weapons development by them for maybe 25-30 years. Furthermore, the sheer horror of the event will cause public sentiment to fund anti-terrorism initiatives (not achievable without this 'visibility level' of horror), and will even give the agents/influences/spokesmen for moderation/peace within the world's second-largest religion additional strength and public support.
And, as in the hijacking-prevention scenario, You as God might have previously thwarted, "managed out", and distracted a billion prior such terrorist attempts, but some confluence of the myriad of governance principles of human autonomy/freewill, socially-constructed community mis-values, acculturated rage, 'tradition', failed security procedures, spiritual malignancies, and accumulated-official-indifference is likely to create a scenario in which one hijacker must be 'allowed' to slip through…and the dilemma then surfaces in all its horror.
Does this make it any easier for God to make this call? Unlike the fighter pilot or the military commander, He will hear and feel every wail of grief and anguish, and He will hear every weeping prayer-scream of 'Why my wife?" or "Why my father?" or "Why now?" or "Why to me/us?"…The survivors may see and understand that this event creates cultural forces that will make the world much safer for them, for their kids, for their loved ones, for their communities--but will 'reasons and issues' ever heal a grieving heart or plug the hole created by a close-death? I can personally testify that they don't…God knows all the 'reasons and issues' and yet He still 'weeps with those who weep' (Rom 12.15)…And remember that He wept constantly over His Old Testament people (and even their enemies!), as judgment approached them--'reasons and issues', and even true culpability did not deter His good-heart from sorrow…He has no pleasure in the death of anyone--good or evil.
Let me hasten to add that this hypothetical dilemma about 9/11 is not meant to be an 'explanation' of it. The reasons and issues involved in this staggering event are likely much more complicated than my simple scenario might suggest. (Indeed, remember that the terrorist organizations interpreted the event as Allah judging the infidel and materialistic West--a radically different perspective than the one described above.) The different 'constraints' on governance are mind-boggling and difficult--the answer to the farmer's prayer for rain might also be the cause of a wet-road driving accident…How I would hate to have God's “job”, being tasked with these choices…[It might be tolerable, of course, if God were hard-hearted and could dispense such trade-off decisions without emotion--but this is certainly not the God of the Bible, who weeps at every act of calamity and who postpones judgment as long as possible. For a good-hearted God, governance in a fallen world must be a heart-deep and constant source of sadness, tainting even His joy over sunrises, children, lovers, open hearts, and changed lives.] What the scenario above was meant to do was simply to illustrate that decisions of what-to-allow and what-to-prevent can be exceptionally complicated, at a moral governance level.
But let me also note that governance is difficult for humans too...
As I have pointed out before, I have had executive responsibilities and had to make tough choices, so I am no stranger to how complex and emotionally challenging this can be. But higher government figures and national leaders face a much more difficult situation, IMO...
1 Tim 2 says this: "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."
I used to wonder why we were supposed to 'intercede' for world leaders, but as I began to understand the incredible pressures and forces on them, I began to ask God for mercy upon them (i.e., intercede) in my morning prayers. My prayer for them runs something like this:
"Father, have mercy on our world leaders, because of the incredibly difficult position they are in. Protect them from the malignancies that try to coerce them, both external malignancies, internal malignancies, and from those around them with destructive agendas. Help them navigate through all the conflicting agendas being urged upon them. Visit them with sanity and peace and wisdom and strength to be able to bring goodness to their families and their peoples. Visit them with peace and grace, that will spill over into the lives of the governed. See through them, Lord, to the common folk and the poor and the struggling and the children in their land. Bless every good intention of theirs—especially impulses toward peace--and atrophy or distract every destructive one. And in your sovereignty, exalt and debase, in accordance with your tender will toward the common folk. "
But I digress (or 'continue to digress')... Suffice it to say that, for me, governance and moral governance are difficult arenas to reduce to simple and easy 'rules'.
But what has this got to do with my problem with 'faith'? "much in every way…"
This brings me back to Jesus…His life of faith (i.e., dependence on the Father's actions/decisions/directions for Jesus' response/choices/obedience) was possible because He knew not only the power of the Father, and not only the goodness/mercy of the Father, but also the specific activity of the Father in any given situation. He was so in tune with God the Father (possibly, but not necessarily due to His Trinitarian relationship with the Father) that He understood the specific configuration of 'reasons and issues' in the specific events of His life and ministry. He put it this way:
Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. [John 5.19]
Jesus would walk into a situation, see/intuit/realize perfectly what the Father was doing and was trying to do in that situation, and Jesus could align Himself perfectly with that effort. He could accordingly line up with God's will completely, and therefore, He could do the 'impossible' and more importantly for our issue, do it without the slightest doubt that God might not 'support Him' in every detail.
I personally do not believe that the Father 'showed' this to Jesus in visions or "paranormal media", and the scripture never suggests that it was done this way either--no apocalyptic visions or trips through heaven punctuating the ceaseless stream of ministry events in Jesus' life. I personally believe that His awareness of the correct blend of 'reasons and issues' was due to (1) His perfect alignment with the heart of the Father--both from Trinitarian essence, messianic and prophetic anointing of the Spirit, and daily communion with the Father; (2) His perfect 'reading' of human hearts and motives; and (3) His perfect understanding of the contours and boundaries of His specific temporal ministry. He could 'see' the work of God in the faces and words and hearts of the people whom He encountered. He could respond to their needs as the Father was so doing--be it forgiveness or confrontation or challenge or compassion. He was sensitive, in His human nature, to the leading/prompting of the Spirit of God (Who alone knows the things of in the depth of God's heart--1 Cor 2.10ff).
The "only" way Jesus could "move mountains" during His pre-resurrection life was by knowing when the Father wanted to move one, and they would sort of "do it together" (although many of these situations were probably based on transferred authority, in which the Father 'committed' the task to the Son, such as Judgment in the verses after the John 5.19 passage). And this knowledge--born from closeness with God the Father--was called 'faith'. His words of 'believe that you have received it' (Mar 11.24f) are based on a knowledge of the will of God (1 Jn 5.14).
For Glenn, the severely-less-than-Jesus one, ("oligopistic"--"of little faith"…sigh), this means that my confidence that "I will receive what I ask for" is on a spectrum, with little confidence about prayers where I am not sure about what God wants for someone, and with higher confidence about prayers where I know something specific that God seems to be doing in someone's life. And the prayer situations are mixed--when I pray for the various situations in what I call the 'crisis' section of my morning prayers, I can isolate different aspects for a person which I am very confident is what God is about in that event, from perhaps more specific--but less clear to me--results or outcomes of that particular crisis.
For example, before I go through the list of individuals and families on my 'crisis' list, I have a "blanket" prayer for all of them, something like this: "Father, I pray that you would communicate clearly to these precious and troubled people, and allow them to experience the fact/reality TODAY of (a) Your presence and closeness in their experience/situation, and (b) Your active and good-hearted involvement in the outcomes of their crisis." [I don't actually say 'left parens, A', etc., though…smile]
When I get to the specifics of the situation, however, I have to 'qualify' the requests a little more…God might NOT want my son to get THAT applied-for rental apartment, God might not want my friend to get selected for THAT hoped-for job, God might not want THAT situation of tension to calm--it might be time for separation or flight.
[This, of course, tends to make me increasingly pray in scriptural verbiage…For example, I pray that the Father "send forth laborers into the harvest", that He "beautify the Bride for the Son", that He" subdue the Son's enemies under His feet" (and I always add, "and especially me and my heart"--I know where some of the world's problems lie…sigh/smile).
But when I go into a situation of misery--even when self-caused--I have a high confidence that tears are warranted, or that compassion is in order. What specific action to take, however, may or may not be obvious to me.
So, for me, my visions may or may not line up with what God is doing in my life, or the lives of those "within arm's reach" of me [the 'normal' ministry field for most of us], or the life of my broader/extended community. Some aspects are clearer than others, and those which are perhaps more oblique to God's purposes here are not really hampered by 'lack of resources' (smile).
And believe me, I am more than thankful for the works of love I get to do for Him now…remember, I live a salvaged and rescued life, too…
Now, lest I entrap all of you in the theological paralysis quicksand too, let me hasten to add that very few events are to be subject to such detailed and thorough analysis! The life of faith is more often a simple and joyous "love and launch" program, in which 'spontaneous acts of grace and caring' are supposed to be simple 'overflowing of gracious and caring hearts' (cf. Luke 6.45). Such in-depth consideration applies mainly to long-term direction, career choices, ministry directions, etc... so don't go morbid or passive on me here!
Thirdly, I have been getting a clearer (and perhaps more 'sobering) view of the implications of New Testament believers being 'temples of God'.
The New Testament speaks about this in two different ways: (1) the invisible church as the temple (singular) of God; and (2) each individual believer as a temple(singular) of God.
The Church is said to be a temple of God (on the basis of the presence of the Holy Spirit in her sphere of community operation) in passages such as 1 Cor 3:16f, 2 Cor 6.16, Eph 2.21, and 1 Peter 2. But individual believers are also said to be temples of God, due to the indwelling of the Spirit, in 1 Cor 6.19:
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
In this passage, Paul has been talking specifically about the believers' human bodies (as opposed to the spiritual communion of believers), as evident from the words in the wider passage (e.g., food, sexual contact, "one flesh" etc.).
[Needless to say, the metaphysics of the Spirit are well beyond us--we don’t have adequate 'tools' to explore the 'substance of God', in order to understand how the Spirit could be 'centered' in each of us, and also 'centered' in a group. In my opinion, this is simply another insoluble metaphysical puzzle, like the 'three persons in one nature', 'two natures in one person', and (here) 'many distributed personal-centers within one personal center'…Remember, we don't really know metaphysically how the human 'person' relates to the physical body, so all such discussions about how this 'could be so' in the non-derivative, real, ultimate plane of existence (as opposed to our derivative, low-resolution, and relatively 'flat' arena of existence) seems totally pointless and sometimes even "hermetically hubristic" in my opinion (sardonic smile).]
Now, my pondering went in this direction: what was supposed to happen at the Temple? What was different about the Temple, than say, a threshing floor, or a market place, or a common kitchen?
And the trail led quickly into my research into the meaning of OT sacrifice (see the long audio series here, at http://www.christian-thinktank.com/cross2.html ).
In the OT, when you went to the Temple (for correct reasons, that is), it could have been for any/all of several reasons:
Given this (incomplete) list, I started asking myself this question: "to what extent do people come to me--as a temple--to do these things?"
When people become a part of my life:
In other words, life and love and truth and peace and joy and growth and openness and development should be occurring as others interact with us…"Do good to all, especially those of the household of faith"…"speak a word to him who is weary"…"let your speech always be with grace"…"build one another up"…"bear one another's' burdens"…
Our care and gentleness and honesty and authenticity and love should be indistinguishable from Jesus', and therefore indistinguishable (in character, not extent, of course) from the Father's…those in our lives should recognize that "we have been with Jesus" by the activities that go on "in the temple precincts" (smile)…
Not pomp, not ritual, not formalism, not elite priestism... not proud, arrogant, self-righteous or sanctimonious ("we have this treasure in earthen vessels"…cracked pots, 'mud balls, with hair and teeth')--but the aroma and ambiance of the Suffering Son of God, the Man of Sorrows, the fully-touchable High Priest, the "for I am meek and lowly of heart" King of Kings…
Remember that sobering identification He spoke of -- "he who receives you, receives Me…and he who receives Me, receives the One who sent Me" (Mt 10.40).
And speak of sobering…there is a side to this temple-motif that is quite serious…the leverage-principle of the Temple…
In the OT/Tanaach, when the evil/elitist kings and/or evil/elitist priests decided to 'go polytheistic' (hedging bets? A slave to relevancy? Compromises for 'international relations'?), their community-destructive folly was first displayed in the Temple, and from this central focus of Israel's religious life, spread like rot throughout the people. Infidelity to their Liberating Lord and exploitation of others--done by the leaders and role models--spread to even the common people of the land (Jer 5, Ezek 22). Do I even need to describe the obvious analogue to this, in the lives of a modern 'temple of God'…?!
Overall, this notion of 'me as temple' doesn't make me feel 'proud' or 'holier-than-others' at all…but it DOES make me ask the question of whether people actually encounter God and truth and love and peace and authenticity when they become a 'resident' somehow in my life…
That's all the top-of-mind stuff…but I hope to get back to work on a couple of the unfinished pieces (and need-to-be-updated pieces) soon…But I am obviously dependent on God's providential movements on my grant proposal...
I know some/many of you 'worry' when the Tank goes 45 days without an update (truant officers we are?), but I must confess "so do I"... When I have to work extreme hours on other things (generally related to paying-projects, for food, future, and stuff...sigh/smile), and don't get to write on the Tank, I start praying (sometimes whining?) to our Lord "will I ever get to work on the Tank again?" or "Is that the end of the Tank, Lord—is it time to move on to something else, even though it is woefully unfinished?"...Generally God sends some sweet feedback emails to me during this period, to encourage me that the work was His anyway, but this "only" means that the past work is helpful to people (and that people are still reading the stuff)—NOT that I will get to continue with the many unfinished questions/series... But this past two months He did something different—a couple of precious people sent me books off my Amazon WishList (in fact, well over $1,000 worth of books! Thank you again, SW/RS/CST!!!)...these are tools for the future, and these encouraged me that I would be able to use these for grace someday on the Tank (God rarely, rarely ever provides resources for 'waste', I have discovered). People still send in questions—very good ones—and I am always interested in and hopeful about getting to think/research through these...
Well, gotta run to the next 'project'... May His grace be increasingly obvious to you, in your daily experience of life and love,
Because I 'saw' God in some of the 'temples of God' whom I knew up-close earlier in my life (smile),