Limited vs Unbound Love: Valentine’s day musing

Everyone desires love. The question is what level of love they will settle for. Today on Valentine’s day, love is the theme. Examining the theme of love there are two concepts to which this mind is drawn. The two concepts are of limited love and unbound love.

First let’s examine limited love. Limited love is self-generated. It is love that focuses on loving others in reflection of love received. It is loving others based on what they do for you, the needs met. There are types of love that fall into this category. Romantic love fall into a type of limited love. It is based on attraction and being built up and loved by another. It eventually fades as it has a limit. Another type of limited love is familial love. Now there is familial love that transcends limits, however, all too often family is elevated about all and becomes soul focus. The focus on family and can result in limiting love in other directions outside the family sphere. It really comes down to loving those in our lives. It is what meets the needs of self or is derived from self. Limited love is limited in many ways including duration, scope, and practice.

There is another type of love though, the unbound love. A more familiar way of phrasing this is unconditional love. Unbound love knows no limits as it is love not self-defined. Unbound love flows from the heart and touches others. It is the type of love by which one can bless their enemies. It is the type of love that gives without hesitation. It is love transcending the limits of self and giving fully of self. This type of love is love that transcends self. It is the type of love that can flow with a person who is right with the Creator of the Universe. It is the love that is found at the cross and death of Jesus. It is the love that is seen by people giving of themselves at great personal cost. It is love that often is not seen as people quietly work toward loving others.

Personally, unbound love is this writers preference, but all too often fall short. My behaviors and responses are often steeped in self and trapped by my limits. I love my wife and family in perfectly, and often react out of my own needs and desires while missing or ignoring theirs. My own limits are seen in struggling to continue to be intentional in writing in a daily basis. My limits of love are seen in times of struggling to follow-through with made commitments. We all truly need to taste the unbound love. God created us with the un-quenching desire for that real charity. The wounds of life we all experience are due to facing on form of limited love or another. Our expectations and desires are squashed.

So how do we walk in greater levels of unbound love. It has to start with walking each dad in surrender to Jesus and following the leading of the Holy Spirit. It starts with loving God with the whole self and as we do that love becomes evident in our treatment of others. The more aware of being truly loved in a way unbound and immeasurable, as God loves each of us, the more able we are even able to love those who despise us. Ultimately, each of us are growing more and more in being able to love in unbound ways, or we face greater and greater limits to love, which results in fewer and fewer ways of truly being connected and truly loved.

Peace on Earth Goodwill to Humanity

Christmas and all the trapping of the celebration have come and gone. Gifts have been given and received. Carols sung. Time with family and relatives spent. Countless sermons preached on the various elements of the story of the birth of Jesus. For this writer though, it all boils down to reflecting on what the birth of Jesus means. More particularly, the reflection of what the Angels announced to the Shepherds. The angles announced that Jesus came to bring peace on earth and goodwill to men. It strikes me that the people at Jesus time missed the meaning. They expected Jesus to come as a conquering hero and bringing all things under his reign. He would bring peace by re-establishing the throne of David. Here is the amazing thing. The depth and true meaning of peace is a common element to life in Israel. The Hebrew word for peace, Shalom, remains the common greeting. Perhaps with the daily greeting of peace the true meaning of the word gets lost. At the same level, has the gift of Jesus sacrifice at the cross so common a reference that we lose sight of what the gift truly means?

Jesus coming to earth did bring peace on earth and goodwill to men, just not in the way people expected. The Hebrew and Greek words for peace point to wholeness. Peace is not about the absence of conflict or suffering rather it means being complete, whole. The gift was Jesus that we needed because since the fall, when humanity made a choice not to be dependent on God for knowledge of right and wrong, humankind has not been whole. True wholeness comes when we are in fellowship and at peace with God. Any peace without being at peace with the Creator is limited and impotent. In order for the restoration of all of creation, first the debt of turning from God had to be paid. Jesus paid the price and made a way of reconciliation with God. That way established through the sacrifice of Jesus. His death and resurrection set all things right for those who choose to walk in the way. The way is a way of giving of self in whole, for only by whole surrender is true wholeness found. This is the meaning of peace on earth, goodwill to humanity. Jesus reconciled us with God enabling humans to be in right relationship with God and thus whole. This option is of benefit for all and is good news for all to embrace. For there is nothing to anyone needs to do to be right with God, other than surrender to God. It is noting earned by merit, it is simply a benefit received by turning from self to be in relationship with God.

Here is the difficulty though, while all should embrace the good news it falls short of expectations. Jesus life resulted in death because of failed expectations. People reject true peace today because of failed expectations. People expect a loving God would do away with all suffering and strife. What people fail to understand is that you cannot have peace without surrender. True peace is readily available to all who are willing to stop fighting and striving for self and return to listening to God and following His ways. His ways are good and simple. We are to love God first and then love others. Simple to say yet very difficult to do, as it is far easier for each person to focus on self. The path of true peace though comes with ever growing in loving response. In addition, as we love, we help generate true peace and goodwill in the lives of others, as we reflect the light of God’s peace and spread His goodwill. So if your desire is to see more peace, and less conflict in this world. It all starts with yourself and being at peace with God. Any other peace is faulty and temporary. Remember it all starts and ends with Jesus. His surrender leads to our surrender and by which comes peace on earth and goodwill to humankind.

Question of week 9-23-2009: Where do you find your identity?

In this day and age we are all about who am I and what do I want. We have books about finding purpose, finding self.  There is a lot of money made on developing self, identifying self, and observing self.  The world we live is really obsessed with self.  So my question is, where really do you find your identity? What is it that makes up your self?  For me my identity is found in Jesus. Sure there are other things I can focus on including the my given name as well as the name peacebringer.  Yet, everything that makes up my self, is insignificant compared that what Jesus gives me.  He gives me far more than anything I could want or need,  though at times I do not recognize it.  Each of us is only truly at peace with self when we surrender the whole of self.  When we surrender whatever aspect of identity to Jesus, only then are we truely able to be what God intended.  Each of us when living solely for self, walk in distortion of God’s intended identity for us.  When we twist what God has created we suffer and lack peace, because what God created is twisted.  The only way our true identities become untwisted is through surrender to Jesus.  We get involved in fully trying to straighten out self it still ends up a twisted mess.  So think for a moment and ask yourself the question: where do you find your identity.  Any answer that comes up different from in Jesus and you are simply walking a distorted version of who God created you to be.

Reflections 8 years after 9-11-2001

 

Well it has been eight years since the collapse of the twin towers in New York City. September 11, 2001 is a day that is now infamous. In terms of reflecting on what to write given this date my mind has been thinking about trials and spiritual warfare. Certainly the content on the blog reflects the reality that trials and ongoing awareness of spiritual warfare and spiritual battles. Certainly like on September 11, 2001 things can come unexpectedly and we can ignore the warning signs of trouble in denial. However, in praying about what to share as a reflection I believe it is time to share what was going on with me and my wife at that point in time. So enjoy this reflective testimonial story.

For us September 11, 2001 was a day not unlike any other day. The wife had called into work sick with a headache. She was still sleeping. I had gotten up and was going through my routine of searching the internet. Generally I was home during the day because I worked evening shifts. I was perusing the free for all section of www.footballguys.net forum. I had noticed there was a thread talking about collapse of two towers. MY first thought was it was a thread related to something to do with basketball. Eventually my curiosity became peaked and I opened that thread and learned of the attack on the Twin Towers and subsequent collapse. I woke my wife and turned on the television and saw the replays of collapse. My wife was filled with a sense of fear and ongoing darkness. Also at the top of our minds was what did God have ahead, would be able to have and raise children. A strong desire we both have to this day.

Well, I worked with finding ways to calm and comfort my wife and suggested we pray over the events and fears and sense of darkness. It was a battle. We sought God and asked him to reveal His love and truth, to perhaps give my wife a picture of God’s love and purpose. I don’t remember how long I prayed with her and over her and sought God. I know there was a deep sense of darkness that the wife couldn’t get through. Well God answered her prayer and gave her a vision. Now I will reveal what I remember of the wife’s report of the vision. Certainly details may be missing because neither of us wrote it down. I know the prayer over and over was to ask God to show her the light, to bring the light.

As praying this the wife said at first she just closed eyes and saw darkness, but eventually she saw light and Jesus came to her with the light. Jesus then took her away from the darkness to a place of light and rest. Most of our family was also there in that safe place of light. I think Jesus gave her direction of just calling on him to bring her to the safe place of light at anytime, but not certain of that as part of the vision at the time. The family that was in the vision included two children, the wife believes they were girls, but it was definitely two children. Then Jesus showed her the people in darkness. The darkness was deep and people were stuck in the darkness. I don’t recall if there were chains or not. I think there was but am uncertain. What there definitely was within the darkness was serpents speaking lies to people. All throughout the darkness were serpents speaking lies. There was directive to bring the light of truth to people. Now there may have been more details that I don’t recall but this was the essential point. The vision contained to things in my mind, a promise to us of two children., a directive that God’s safety and peace is just a prayer away, and that darkness is indeed foreboding and I believe even fueled by the deceptions of serpents in the dark.

We are at an ongoing war, there is always for believers the place of rest in Jesus and is accessed through him. Darkness seeks to engulf all but cannot extinguish the light, because the light is Jesus who can always bring us to a safe place and will take or burdens. Yes, trials come, towers fall, darkness spreads. Yes, evil is at work. Yes there is pain and suffering. Yet, there is not one thing in all that darkness that can overcome the light of the world and God’s love for us. He cares enough even in the midst of a dark time of great fear to give us a promise. Yet, God not only gave a promise but made clear the urgency for bringing the lost out of darkness.

A safe place of light

A safe place of light

Now eight years have passed since that time. We have not reached the point of having children yet and have had struggles and periods of darkness engulfing our marriage. Yet, God’s light remained faithful, even during our times of greatest struggle and darkness, Jesus was ready to bring us into His light. There is always hope in Jesus at the worst of times. The serpents in the dark seek to bring destruction and like Wormtongue in Lord of the Rings say things that blind us to the truth. Jesus cuts through all the fog of darkness with His light. All any need to do is turn to Him in surrender and ask to be brought out of darkness. Jesus is faithful and will gladly take any of us out of the darkness.

Now that does not mean suffering and trials and difficulties won’t happen. In fact they will, not only that but there is an enemy at work looking for any opportunity to bring destruction. We need to not be caught sleeping and ignoring warning signs. The enemy will use whatever weakness we have to bait and entrap and seek to gets us trapped in the dark and off of God’s path. Yet, no matter how deep of darkness we get Jesus can and will bring us back to the light. In fact, as a pastor from my childhood used to say, God sends his sheepdogs after us to bring us back.

The Lion roared: A vision given to Kris Blake

My mother is involved in a home fellowship that has a weekly Eucharist service. She received the following vision during one of those recent services.

The Lion of Judah roars

The Lion of Judah roars

The Lion roared

As given to Kris Blake

Tonight during the Eucharist service I looked out the window and saw the branch of a big tree through the chapel window. There is a cross that hangs down into the chapel window. When I looked through the window the cross appeared right in the middle of the branches outside of the window. In my vision the tree was in a fresh green field of grass next to a creek. At the base of the tree was a lion lying down, and he appeared to be relaxed and calm. I saw a white horse and he was eating grass, drinking water from the creek, and meandering around the field. In the branches of the tree different varieties of birds came and landed and began building their nests. The birds ate and were nourished by the fruit that grew in the tree, drank the water and raised their young. The birds, the horse, and the lion seemed to be content in the rhythm of their lives. Each morning the sun rose over them and they attended their daily chores, and at night under the light of the moon they rested. Then rather abruptly one morning the lion got up and began pacing around the tree and suddenly he began to roar. As he roared, his eyes were like burning coals, and flames of fire came out of this mouth and he began to trot out of the field. The birds grabbed seeds and flew off with them in their beaks, and then the horse stood still for a moment and he looked at the lion, then his nostrils flared, his ears came up and he turned around and jumped over the creek and proceeded to trot off in the same direction as the lion and birds. They had heard the trumpet, the time had come to prepare for the final act, the curtain is about to fall.

Trading on power and influence: The Petters, Madoff and Tri Energy Ponzi schemes

Well as it turns out Thomas Petters is no longer the operator of the world’s largest and most extensive Ponzi scheme. Bernard Madoff is now the proud holder of that title. He bilked billions in his scheme which operated largely on reputation and word of mouth. He used is reputation and influence to convince others that he could help them reach great profit. However, neither the Petters or the Madoff Ponzi schemes were the only ones trading on power and influence, they just were far more successful. A Ponzi scheme run by Tri Energy owners Robert Jennings and Arthur Simburg also used power and influence to con people out of money. The power and influence traded on was that of Robert Jennings position as pastor of New Life Community church. Each of the schemes utilized essentially the same techniques and the same factors came into play in each case.

The starting point of the cons is that of using their position and influence to gain favor with others. Their position and reputations allowed them to engage in subtle persuasion that drew others into their web of deceit. Once a reputation is earned or once a person has a position of power or influence within a community, they are in position to sway others. Of course, nothing sways others more than the appearance of success. Mr. Petters, Mr. Madoff, and the Tri Energy owners certainly showed themselves to be successful and used that success to build their position and influence even more. Mr. Petters and Mr. Madoff did so by heavily contributing to a variety of charitable organizations. Mr. Jennings and Mr. Simburg on the other hand just used appearance of beneficial spiritual meetings and spoke of humanitarian aid. The better they looked to others, the more likely they would be able to gain funds.

It was the positions of power and influence that often led toward others ignoring red flags. These men were in the position they were in for a reason, and they apparently were just better skilled then countless others, at least to those taken in by these deceivers. In each case, there were plenty of red flags if people just paid attention and used discernment. The main reason for it is they placed trust on these men, in part due to their position and reputation. Each deceiver certainly went to great pains to foster that trust and have people set aside any use of critical thinking. Then if you add in the appearance of being able to be part of an exclusive set that will be able to cash in on these men with the “great” skills at investing and turning profit. In fact a key component of many cons, and certainly one used by these individuals is the appearance of exclusivity and being part of a “special” group which will help you profit and get whatever you desire.

Ultimately, these schemes fail for one reason or another, but usually not due to those being conned waking up to the deception, rather the schemes can only go so far before they collapse or someone has a change of heart and exposes the fraud. One thing these schemes show is that no one is immune from deception. We all are easily deceived and can place our trust in people and things that will ultimately fail. We each need to attend to the warning signs that exist. We need not turn to any man and their influence and power and trust them to meet our desires. When we focus on building what we want, and depend on those other important people, the end result is destruction and chaos.

The Gospel offers another way. A way not focused on building for self, but one of surrendering self. It is taking our wants, needs, and desires and surrendering them to the King of Kings. However, the surrender does not just happen once, but ongoing, as desires to move and build for self arise, turning them over to the King of Kings. There is an ever ongoing process, for while the gift of salvation that comes from Jesus death on the cross offers redemption, the process is a daily battle of surrender and renewing faith. We can often turn to faith in deceivers, we all do, but through Jesus there is always restoration. Suffering comes, sometimes at the hands of trusting deceivers, but when you move beyond self to trust in Jesus, the suffering is recognized as temporary, no matter how it comes. Yet, we all can be still easily deceived. There are many promises out there, even promises of doing perceived good. Those that will fall away, will do so biting big deceptions and ignoring the warning signs, and get hooked by the bait offered by those in important positions. We all need to be wary and ever watchful and daily take our own desires and motives and surrender them to the King of Kings.