Thursday, April 18, 2019

FINDING AND BECOMING OUR TRUE SELVES


René Descartes (1596-1650)
In 1637, René Descartes wrote, “I think, therefore I am.” On hearing it in high school, I argued, “No one can think without first existing!” But now, seeing how his idea damaged modern culture, I reject it even more vigorously.

By placing the subjective realm above objective reality, Descartes echoed ancient Gnosticism, which exalted the spiritual soul while devaluing the material world, including the physical body. This error ignored the Creator’s “very good” evaluation of creation (Gen 1:31). Later, building on Descartes dictum, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) drove a philosophical wedge even further between soul and body. The results have been socially and morally disastrous.

A Christian adoption of this conceptual divide is exemplified in religious porno-prudery (a term I use to warn pastors that “a prudish view of the body is a pornographic one”[1]). That view leads us down a moral rabbit trail. By sexually objectifying human anatomy and treating the body as the stimulus of lust, porno-prudery shifts blame from where Jesus puts it: on the adulterous heart (Mat5:28). While God created our “being” as an integrated unity of both the material and the spiritual (Gen 2:7), this error affirms a Gnostic split in our body-soul nature. Beyond assuring pornography’s success, this false view has opened many doors of departure from healthy Biblical morality and from a human-friendly treatment of the body.[2]

While this divided self-understanding confuses the search for our true identity, Scripture comes to our rescue. In Exod 3:14, God told Moses His name: “I AM WHO I AM.” Earlier, in Gen 1: 26, God had said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.” Since my Creator, I AM WHO I AM, made me in His “likeness,” I can confidently say, “I am who I am, too!” A human sense of being comes directly from God. If Descartes had acknowledged this Biblical fact, he might have more correctly written, “I am, therefore I think.” But even that expression falls short of describing how humans reflect the nature of the Great I AM. God is not just a thinking Mind but a Person Who acts.

Because “God is light” (1 John 1:5), the focus of His thought is truth. He thinks clearly, accurately, and perfectly about objective reality. Simultaneously, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Primarily, this describes Gods relational nature as a Trinity of Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—eternally in loving union. But this loving quality also extends to His personal interaction with creation, especially with us.

In the scroll at the side, someone parodied three ideas of being. Sinatra’s punchline is on target only if we reverse Descartes’ phrase, as previously suggested (“to be is to think”), and balance it with Camus’ existentialism (“to be is to do”). But without God’s “light” guiding thought and His “love” shaping action, any perceived balance will miss its true fulfillment. An integrated human sense of being requires authentically living in connection with I AM, our Maker. Activities of enlightened thinking and loving interactions with things and people must flow from a central, personal union with God. His indwelling presence enables us to sing the divine balance of “do, be, do, be, do.”

God’s plan for us to be reflections of His unity of “light” and “love” defines our true selves. But, if honest, we must confess that a unifying both-and relationship in our body-spirit nature has been disrupted by an either-or alienation. This disunity began in Eden, when humanity fell away from God’s presence by choosing moral independence. Today, personal disobedience to God affirms that original choice and confirms its ongoing disruption in our lives.

From cradle to grave, we live in a fallen world where this disobedience hurts us inside and out. Turning outward for relief can lead to a fruitless search for significance in materialism or in conformity to popular trends or attractive people. Turning inward for comfort can become a dead-end of meaningless fantasies or endless self-introspection. Bending our soul toward these internal and external distractions is a dysfunctional and damaging form of idolatry. It perpetuates disconnection from the God of truth and love. In such a world of false gods, people keep hurting themselves and others.

Inward and outward searching fails to retrieve a lost sense of being and provides no sense of well-being. In this disconnected state, we can miss authentic self-discovery by mistakenly listening to our inner disruption, as if its voice was our true self. It is not. We were created to listen to our Maker. Finding and becoming our true selves happens only by reuniting with God. He has graciously provided for that reunion through His Son. That’s the “Good News” of the New Testament.

By becoming human and dying in our place, Jesus invites us to receive forgiveness for our personal disobedience to God. But by His resurrection, He calls us to bury our old lives in His death and rise with Him to walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). This “walk” is a progressive, step-by-step surrender of all remnants of moral independence from God. A new birth occurs in us by our initial decision of faith to turn “to God from idols to serve the living and true God,” (1 Thes 1:9). But experiencing our new and true selves involves a journey of growth, with Jesus Himself as both our divine Pattern and our daily Pathway. That journey, if seriously pursued, will uncover all lingering idols that we must also abandon and replace with the “true God.”

Recently, in preparation to attended a MPC[3] retreat, I began reviewing The Healing Presence by the late Leanne Payne,[4] whose scholarly insights from the works of C. S. Lewis were a major influence in her inner healing ministry. One morning I awoke with the words of a poem coming to me which I knew was meant to capture some of the major principles in her book. I immediately got up and spent the rest of the morning writing it:

BENEATH THE SURFACE

Deep in the inner sanctum, where grace alone can bless,
roots of a tangled present from lower layers press,
pushing injury’s pressure—infected, tender, keen—
up to the naked surface where well-hid hurts are seen.

Down in neglected infants, fear’s toddling girls and boys,
childhood’s deprived upbringings, lost adolescent joys,
fester the wounds surviving within a buried past,
remembered but misshapen by passing pains that last.

Lovely tip of the iceberg, sculpted by wind and rain!
Dangerous, what lies under the tearful years of strain—
hurtful to nearby strangers, poison to wedded love,
fatal to life’s full meaning, if kept from God above.

Only His healing Presence governs the twin release:
giving and getting pardon that offers inner peace.
Letting go of the rancor, where memory is marred,
forgiveness starts the mending of what the trauma scarred.

Childlikeness echoes Heaven, but childish ways must go.
Our bitter, vengeful tantrums resist God’s healing flow.
From faith’s baptismal waters, where old life finds a grave,
We rise to live our true selves, whom Jesus came to save.

New birth refills our being with God’s love through His Son.
Our war beneath the surface, the Lord’s already won.
But we dispel the damage that entered us through sin
by coming home to wholeness from Christ Who dwells within.

— David L. Hatton, 3/23/2019

When we turn from our old life and invite Jesus into our heart, He takes up residence at the center of our being. This marks the beginning of our journey “in Christ” as “a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). It is by living out of this central union with Christ that our true self will be manifested in daily life. Oswald Chambers wrote, “after the moral decision to be identified with Jesus in His death has been made, the resurrection life of Jesus invades every bit of my human nature.”[5] Our healing and self-discovery both need an invasion of Christ’s life into every facet of our conscious experience. The more aware we are of His presence, the more aware we will be of our new identity in Him.

In concluding these thoughts on finding and becoming our true selves, I want to suggest a helpful daily devotional, Jesus Calling, written some years ago by Sarah Young.[6] Her personalizing of Bible verses and Scriptural teachings by putting them into Christ’s voice has an edifying appeal. We all need daily reminders to listen to His life-changing truth with our rational minds and to enjoy His loving presence with our relational hearts. So, give Jesus Calling a try, to see if it helps you with a disciplined practice of listening to and obeying the Lord on your healing journey with Him.

---------------
ENDNOTES:
1. See my articles, “Adopting God’s View of Bare Anatomy” and “Pornography in the Pulpit.”
2. Love Thy Body - Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality, by evangelical apologist Nancy Pearcey, astutely examines the social and moral fallout from this philosophical divide between subjective mind and objective reality. Her book is a must-read for understanding how postmodernism’s morally confused thinking on abortion, euthanasia, sexual immorality, homosexuality and transgenderism has taken over both secular and religious culture.
3. Ministries of Pastoral Care (MPC) holds a limited number of week-long conferences, carrying on a similar ministry as that of the late Leanne Payne’s Pastoral Care Ministry schools.
4. Amazon has a list of Leanne Payne’s books.
5. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, April 11 reading.
6. Used copies of Jesus Calling can often be found in thrift stores, for yourself or to give to others.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

"DO IT NOW!"

No one knows what tomorrow may bring. The good that we would do must be done while we have the strength and the presence of mind to do it. Putting it off till later can easily become forgetting it altogether.

Such procrastination not only affects our own happiness but the ones we might potentially bless. Others might be sorely needing our kind words or kind deeds, which the Lord is prompting us to say and do. Not all urges to do good things may be His leading. But if we are listening to Him as He listened to His Father, we will probably hear Him saying more often than not, “Do it now.”

Write that letter or text now, make that phone call now, plan to visit a lonely person today. Don't wait for your bedtime prayers to pray for someone. When they come to mind, it may be Jesus letting you know they need your prayer of blessing right now.

Procrastinating actually assumes too much. The reality is that time is fleeting and stops for no one. Doing things we think of now is logically informed by the words in the above cartoon: “Today is seldom too early; tomorrow is usually too late.”

The following poem from my book Poems Between Here and Beyond tries to express the need to be aware of the good we can do while we have the time. It's a good way to wrap up these few thoughts on the exhortation to "do it now."

     CARING
This world around us surges—
   duties vie
      for all our time,
      our energies,
      our care. 
But greater Duty urges,
   “Don’t pass by
      a hurting heart
      with burdens hard
      to bear!” 
Routine is not our master,
   nor is fear,
      or vanity,
      or trivia,
      or show.... 
Amid a day’s disaster,
   let’s live here
      to lighten loads
      and griefs, before
      we go. 
— David L. Hatton, 2/23/2016

"Do it now!" And the Lord bless you in it!

Friday, February 1, 2019

LIST of BLOG-ARTICLE TITLES from the start

(chronological list, with keywords and date posted - updated 2/1/2019)

INTRODUCING MY BLOG
(Incarnation, nakedness, nursing, pastor, poetry, theology, truth)
2/23/12

ART IS A TEACHER
(art, artist, creativity, Creator, God’s image, seeing, theology)
2/27/12

MY REWARDING DOUBTS ABOUT THE TRINITY
(doubt, God, Holy Spirit, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus, Trinity)
3/1/12

IS YOUR HUMANITY HUMAN-FRIENDLY?
(belief, Gnosticism, human-friendly, humanity, humanness, Incarnation, Jesus, materialism, pantheism, resurrection)
3/27/12

THE PROBLEM WITH HELL
(C. S. Lewis, free will, Hell, light, love)
4/19/12

THE VISIBLE BREAST CONTROVERSY
(Bill Sears, body acceptance, breast acceptance, breastfeeding, breasts, creation, Jamie Lynne Grumet, nursing, pornography, prudery, truth)
5/15/12

HEALTH OUTSIDE THE BOX
(alternative medicine, bra, breast cancer, Creator, earthing, grace, grounding, healing, health, healthcare, Provider, sunbathing)
6/23/12

SEX IS CENTRAL TO GOD’S SALVATION PLAN
(body acceptance, creation, Creator, gender confusion, Gnosticism, God’s image, human-friendly, humanity, humanness, Incarnation, marriage, pornography, prudery, sexuality, Trinity, truth)
7/20/12

THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST’S ATONEMENT
(atonement, C. S. Lewis, Christus Victor, God, Gospel, human-friendly, Incarnation, Jesus, Narnia, the Cross, theology)
8/6/12

GOD’S INTERACTION WITH HUMAN WILLS
(belief, free will, God, God’s sovereignty, human-friendly, humanity, predestination, theology, Trinity)
8/12/12

THE SUPERSTITIOUS FAITH OF EVOLUTIONISM
(Creator, evolution, evolutionism, faith, ID, Intelligent Design, science)
10/22/12

“YOU MEAN. . .MEN ACT LIKE BABIES?”
(body acceptance, breast acceptance, breastfeeding, breasts, immodesty, modesty, morality, porn addiction, pornography)
10/26/12

GRATIFICATION, GRATITUDE AND THANKSGIVING
(Buddhism, desire, gratefulness, gratification, gratitude, thanksgiving)
11/21/12

BEYOND SAME-SEX ATTRACTION
(female, gay, gay activism, gay politics, gender, gender confusion, healing, homosexual, homosexuality, Leanne Payne, male, Mario Bergner, marriage, Ministries of Pastoral Care, same-sex attraction, sexuality, SSA)
12/2/12

WHY DO THE INNOCENT SUFFER?
(doubt, Francis Andersen, God’s love, God’s sovereignty, Job, questioning God, suffering, why the innocent suffer)
12/29/12

PRUDERY AND PORN ADDICTION
(nakedness, nudity, porn addiction, pornography, prudery)
1/10/13

LET’S FINISH THE SONG
(caring, creation, now, procrastination, sharing, time, today)
1/15/13

A HOLY HELL, NO LESS. . .
(C. S. Lewis, Calvinism, free will, George MacDonald, God’s sovereignty, grace, Hell, prevenient grace, Rob Bell)
2/2/13

BETWEEN THE WOMB AND THE TOMB….
(creation, Incarnation, poetry, resurrection)
3/12/13

GOD HAS SOME QUESTIONS FOR YOU
(body shame, confession, deception, disobedience, fig leaves, forgiveness, healing., lost sheep, nakedness, questions, Satan, shepherd)
3/23/13

COLORBLIND IN A PURPLE WORLD
(atheism, faith, heaven and earth, Incarnation, magicians, materialism, the Second Adam)
3/29/13

“WILL YOU SURVIVE?”
(afterlife, ambition, Creator, death, desire, dream, evolution, survival instinct)
6/1/13

PORNOGRAPHY IN THE PULPIT
(art, artist, body acceptance, fig leaves, gender, gender confusion, God’s image, nakedness, nudity, porn addiction, pornography, prudery, Satan, sexuality)
11/27/13

THE MIRACULOUS HEALING OF ROBERT LIVINGSTONE
(faith, healing, miracle, prayer, scepticism)
3/20/14

THE LIFE LESS UNRAVELED
(God, health, love, psychology, relationship, responsibility, truth)
5/1/14

POEMS BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL - Introduction
(choice, Christ, decision, Heaven, Hell, Jesus, poems, poetry, rhyming)
11/12/14

POEMS BETWEEN DARKNESS AND LIGHT - Introduction
(Christ, darkness, God, Jesus, light, poems, poetry, rhyming)
12/8/14

POEMS BETWEEN DEATH AND LIFE - Introduction
(afterlife, Christ, death, decision, Jesus, life, poems, poetry, rhyming)
12/8/14

POEMS BETWEEN BIRTH AND RESURRECTION - Introduction
(afterlife, birth, Christ, Jesus, nakedness, poems, poetry, resurrection, rhyming)
12/9/14

WHY I’M CATHOLIC, BUT NOT ROMAN
(Apostles Creed, catholic, church, faith, Foxe’s Book, heresy, Huguenot, I will build my church, Inquisition, martyrs, Nicene Creed, on this rock, persecution, Peter’s chair, Romanism, Rome, Waldensian)
4/16/15

“OBJECTIFICATION SUSTAINED!”
(body acceptance, body shame, breast acceptance, breastfeeding, breasts, modesty, nakedness, nudity, nursing, objectification, porn addiction, pornography, sex object, sexuality)
4/25/15

STILL MY BEST POEM ON THIS ATROCITY....
(abortion, evil, Satan)
5/24/15

OUR SUPREME COURT ISN’T SUPREME
(abortion, afterlife, gay activism, gender confusion, homosexuality, marriage, same-sex attraction, sexuality)
6/29/15

DESTROYING THE LIE OF BODY SHAME
(baptism, body acceptance, body shame, nakedness, nudity, pornography, Satan)
7/19/15

CRIB-DEATH CONSOLATION
(afterlife, birth, crib death, death, hope, perinatal loss, SIDS)
9/16/15

THE HEALING POWER OF LOVE
(blessing, caring, God, gratitude, healing, healing of memories, inner healing, kindness, love)
10/1/15

SOUL AWAKE—DNA SLEEPING
(body, death, DNA, Heaven, Jehovah’s Witnesses, NDEs, near-death experiences, resurrection, Seventh-day Adventists, soul, soul sleep, spirit)
11/4/15

THE MIRACLE GOD
(agnosticism, C. S. Lewis, Creator, God, illusion, pantheism, reality)
11/14/15

EarthEarthEarthEarthEarth!
(art, body acceptance, Christ, Creator, Earth, healthcare, Holy Spirt, nakedness, nudity, Trinity)
1/22/16

WHY JUST ONE GOSPEL?
(Christ, E. Stanley Jones, Gospel, Incarnation, love, religion, resurrection, the Cross)
2/25/16

CREATIVITY AND BEING
(children, creativity, Creator, identity)
8/16/16

POEMS BETWEEN HERE AND BEYOND - Introduction
(afterlife, Christ, death, Gospel, Incarnation, life, poems, poetry, the Second Adam, theology)
9/19/16

“ANYONE ELSE? ANYONE!”
(Christ, government, media, politics)
10/14/16

IS TRUMP ‘A Dark Horse’?
(dark horse, election, government, politics, prayer, Trump)
11/9/16

THE FIRST ADVENT: THE INCARNATION
(Adam, Advent, body, Christ, embodiment, human, humanity, humanness, Incarnation, redemption, salvation, Trinity, Virgin Birth)
12/9/16

PANDORA’S BOX & THE EMPTY TOMB
(Easter, empty tomb, faith, hope, Jesus Christ, resurrection)
4/4/17

ARTIFICIAL BEAUTIFICATION
(beauty, body acceptance, body image, body shame, cosmetics, makeup)
8/1/17

THE CRÈCHE AND THE CROSS
(Advent, atonement, death, God’s love, Incarnation, the Cross)
12/17/17

UNION LIFE’S INCARNATIONAL SPIRITUALITY
(humanity, humanness, Incarnation, Jesus Christ, spirituality, the Cross, the Second Adam)
1/28/18

TWO “MEANS OF GRACE” FOR HEALING
(baptism, Eucharist, foot washing, healing, Holy Communion, means of grace, the Lord’s Table)
3/9/18

THE CYCLE OF REPENTANCE
(change, Christ, complacency, confession, contrition, conversion, conviction, Holy Spirit, repentance, spiritual growth, union life)
4/13/18

WHEN THE MIND STRAYS IN PRAYER...
(guidance, prayer, spirituality)
1/23/19

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

WHEN THE MIND STRAYS IN PRAYER...

Spiritual disciplines can be valuable sheepdogs effectively nipping at the feet of our straying souls. At times, special periods of devotional activity—prayer, fasting, silence, solitude, confession, meditation, spiritual reading, self-denying service—may assist us in staying on the narrow path of spiritual health. Yet, it’s always better to have the Shepherd in sight, or at least in hearing distance, so we can hear His call, “Follow Me.” He is not only the true Lord of our Christian life but its primary Spiritual Director.

Christ’s presence in practicing these disciplines is essential, if they’re to remain a source of nurturing our spirituality. In fact, our whole life in Christ is best understood and lived in the same way Jesus Himself lived His earthly life: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.” (John 14:10).

For me, learning to acknowledge this pattern—myself in “in Christ” and “Christ in me”—is itself a new spiritual discipline, and not one easily mastered. Yet, as I described in a previous blog article, “Union Life’s Incarnational Spirituality,” this isn’t only the real secret of Christian living but the ultimate purpose of the Incarnation. God’s Son became human to purchase and wed a human Bride. He was after an eternally intimate union with us, but this intimacy already began the moment we were “born again” into His Body, the Church.

How does this fact of personal union with Christ relate to this article’s title? If Christ is present in us, living through us, even living as us, which is the bold proclamation of Gal 2:20, we ought to acknowledge this spiritual reality practically, especially in our conscious prayer life. Therefore, we need to explore the direction of our straying minds, which are in union with “the mind of Christ,” (1 Cor 2:16). Straying thoughts that seem to interrupt our intercessions and supplications may actually be a divine source of refocusing our attention. God has certain concerns related specifically to our unique individuality. There isn’t an aspect of our lives in which He is not interested and involved.

We know that God uses lists. He listed many laws in the Old Testament for His people to follow. But when Jesus reduced the Old Testament Law into two commandments—loving God and loving our neighbor (Mat 22:37-40)—He was expressing the ever-expanding motive within His very nature. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are eternally a Triune Family of Love (1 John 4:8). That divine love cannot be packaged in a list of rules, nor can its reach be limited to our usually useful prayer lists.

So, how does this play out in experience? We try to make sure we get through our mental or written prayer list, but God already heard these requests when we listed them. Now we’re suddenly thinking about the gas dryer that needs to be replaced, or the fence that needs to be repaired, or the bill that needs to be paid, or the bad news in this morning’s paper or news report. Thoughts may be scurrying around all over the place. Why do we let them distract us, when they can be immediately, one-by-one, invited into our prayers? God may be so pleased that we’re finally paying attention to His direction for our prayers that He extends His guidance to deeper areas in our hearts, as long as we keep listening.

Speaking of deeper issues... how do we handle thoughts easily recognized as personal temptations? We may be thinking of an injustice recently done to us, or of a sale we missed or the latest gadget we wish we owned, or of a nagging worry about a situation we have no control over. What if even darker possibilities enter our minds? What do we do?

I believe this is where the discipline of acknowledging our union with Christ’s mind is an essential practice in prayer. In the presence of especially troublesome thoughts, Jesus is still Lord. He knows exactly where these straying thoughts come from. He may be leading us to include their source in our hearts as a prayer target. He may want us to intercede in special ways for the individuals involved in or connected to these thoughts. After these seemingly distractive thoughts are thoroughly bathed in prayer, He may say, “Now, go back to your prayer list. I'm also interested in those things, even more than you are.”