Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Orthodoxy, Orthopathy, and Orthopraxy: Know it, Feel It, Live It

The Christian faith is not mere ideas, not a series of facts or depictions of reality, no, it's more. It's alive, and burning brightly like a fire.  It's not mere emotions either, there's daily practice to it, a true walking and living of it.  Yet it is not about doing, but it is about believing, and not just a vague emotion or vacant assent to, but there is a deep, specific, clear set of concepts, fact and truths in which we yield our minds to.  And at the center of these three areas of truth, feeling, and living, we find a person, the person, the God-man Jesus Christ. 

We're surprised a great deal, surprised by Him.  Surprised from behind, by our love for Him.  We're surprised by joy.  Surprised by peace.  Surprised by trials.  And amazed by our own inability to come to know Him in our own efforts.  We're amazed by our failure and amazed by the fact of our total dependency on Him for anything good to be in us.

There are tears that flow. They flow deeply and meaningfully. There are truths, truths that run so deep, and cut through so many layers of society, of philosophy, of history, and deep into the mind.  And joy in the knowing. Mysteries that God delights in revealing to us. There is a difficult practice, a fighting, a warring, a yielding to God. 

Too often we fail to explore.  We get up and leave, just before we ought to.  There is so much to explore with our God.  There is such a journey of relationship, when we willingly engage with Him. Let us consider it...

Orthodoxy, to know. Of course my favorite thing is to know. I love knowledge, I love wisdom.  I love to study and learn. The greatest truths are to be discerned in the words of God.  To know is to understand the world.  To know is to understand what is wrong with the world.  To know is to see the truth beyond all the lies and propaganda of our world.  Christianity is paradox. The obvious answer of this world seems right, but then we realize the paradox, that it is not. We always have to think twice. Thinking once, the gut reaction leads us one way, then the second thought, well, that's where we realize the paradox.

"If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows...then we must starve eternally." -C. S. Lewis

Jesus said, I am the light of the world.  Jesus said I am the bread of life. Jesus said I am the resurrection and the life. Jesus said I am the good shepherd.  He said I am the gate for the sheep.  I am the true vine.  I am the way, the truth, and the life.  

Without orthodoxy there is no Jesus, without Jesus' words, there is no Jesus.  Without the Bible, there is no Jesus.  Jesus is discovered in orthodoxy, in truth, and the knowing of it.

"Poetry too is a little incarnation, giving body to what had been before invisible and inaudible."
C. S. Lewis

Orthopathy, to feel.  We are not mere machines, programmed with data. We do not simply assent ourselves to core truths, no matter how important they are, they are not the end.  To know God is to feel Him.  To know God is to feel His presence with us.  To know God is to feel deeply the emotions of life, the joys, yes and the sorrows. 

"There is a road from the eye to heart that does not go through the intellect." -Gilbert K. Chesterton

Those first Christians, in the ancient Roman empire, doused in kerosene and set afire to light the streets of Rome, they felt the pain.  Those first Christians, arrested by Nero, and sent to the lions, they felt the pain of their death. But perhaps they felt something else, as they saw the glory of the kingdom of God... they felt love. And joy.  And peace. 

I long to feel God and to commune with God.  But there is little communion with God in a vacuum, though the times I've felt him most deeply have been in times of personal prayer and meditation, turning my eyes to Jesus. But I feel God, when I serve God.  I feel God, when I'm at work for God.  I feel God when I preach the gospel.

And God communicates to us through experience.  He speaks to us through the larger events of life. 

“Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.” 
-Malcolm Muggeridge

To experience God is what we are hoping for in this Christian life.  To really have relationship with God is the goal.  In daring to go deeper in emotion, do we find a new depth to our relationship with God.  But emotion in a vacuum, with minimal truth or action, is a recipe for disaster, milquetoast therapeutic deism can result, or even prosperity gospel, or simply superficial Christianity, a cherry picking of feel good verses. 

Orthopraxy, to practice. Is being a follower of Jesus just on Sunday morning?  No.  Living it is the hard part, day in and day out.  I suppose that's why I was drawn to Methodism, which emphasized the daily practice, a method of living differently.  I want so badly to really live out my faith.  I want to make sure it's real.  I'm not messing around here being a Christian, I'm deadly serious about it, and I'm going to make the maximum impact for the kingdom of God.  That's what it's about. 

I want to live it.  I want to pray an hour a day. I want to faithfully attend a small group.  I want to head over to Bible study. I want to ready my Bible, literally every night before bed!  I want to witness faithfully for an hour a week to people I don't know.  I want a real praxis. And I will do it.  I will, God willing. 

Orthodoxy, orthopathy, and orthopraxy. It all fits together, to form a true worldview that is functional in all areas of life and mind. 

"Order your soul; reduce your wants; live in charity; associate in Christian community; obey the laws; trust in Providence." -Augustine, ancient theologian

Related Posts:
  1. Fasting and Prayer: Why You Should Fast Twice a Week
  2. An Investigation of the Biblical Concept of Hell
  3. Why Do I Exist? A Quick Look at the Human Life
  4. What is the equation that shows us how to inherit Eternal Life?
  5. How to Repent of all Sins in your Christian Life
  6. Should I Tithe 10% to my Church?
  7. God will Uphold His Army: Standing on the Truths of God's Word
  8. God's Fingerprint on Reality: Emotions of Life
  9. To Those Who Overcome: How to Be Free from all Sin
  10. How to Serve as a Leader in Christian Ministry

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Pilgrim's Forest: An Allegorical Dream of Fallenness

Despair, yes, ruin... and self destruction. These are things common to our world.  Something inside of us, an impulse draws us toward the wrong, even when we know the right.  Something inside, it's not even a decision, but an impulse takes us away.  It causes us to sabotage that perfect relationship.  It causes us to leave that great job.  It sends us back to the bottle after years sober.  It's an impulse, that of self-destruction.  

This cancer permeates reality. Yet reality persists.  It's laced through the rotting stump, in the forest of this world.  It cuts through in the wild fire triggered by the lightning strike.  It leaves ashes.  But life persists, somehow.  

After all, don't we exist in a temporary reality, a broken, fallen place?  I can see the straps and trappings and duct work, I can see all the equations and temporal realities and time space phenomenon that hold it all together just begging to come crashing down.  I see it when a storm rushes across the horizon.  I see it when lightning cuts through the dark clouds.  I feel it when the ground shakes beneath me during an earthquake.  The clock is ticking on this entire universe.  It is destined to be burned, and remade. 

Long ago, I fled into a shimmering sphere, a beautiful mysterious expanse in the woods outside the door of my life as it was. I had dreams about it, I wrote about it, but I'm not sure I ever really understood what it was, until now.  It was the mirage world, the alternate universe hidden all around us, the world of self-ruination. I finally understand what it was, that world I entered twenty years ago.  One day, I went into that deep dark woods, with shimmering lights within it.  

It was so beautiful. Yet so foreboding.  I felt the fascination, and also the terror. That majestic woods, the lanterns and golden lights hanging from the trees, the bizarre mysteries I encountered there.  I recall it so clearly now.  And of course the dangers, the deadly nature of the forest, and all that I encountered there...

It was a labyrinth of extremes, beautiful and hideous. It was safe and warm, yet cold and treacherous.  A reality that consumed my life, like a virus.  It was growing, and growing.  

It was a complex metaphor, appearing in my dreams, in my stream-of-consciousness writing, and in my mind's eye as I'd look off into the backyard.  

I was inexorably drawn to it, and I was convinced it was a positive good.  I was certain, that the journey through the forest, to the center of the reality, this vortex, would lead to paradise and salvation for my soul.

I recall an episode of Star Trek Voyager, where the crew thought they had encountered a wormhole back home, but they realized that there was some kind of deception taking place.  But as they got closer, they all fell victim to the seductive appearance and the belief that might finally make it home.  As they sailed into the wormhole, they didn't realize, they were sailing into the belly of a giant monster seeking to devour them and their ship.

The mystic forest, was a bait and switch, a trap door reality.  And beyond the gentle flickers of light and beautiful scenery there was great danger.  It was a trap.  And monsters would soon seethe through the doors of the reality to attack and kill me.  

That's where I went.  And I knew that I had to get to the meadow at the center.  I'd seen it in my dreams.  So I went deeper and deeper into this forest. I chased a mysterious owl through the forest, as well as a beautiful butterfly that kept appearing here and there.

I think I finally realize what this forest was... the great vortex of self destruction.  I recently viewed a movie called Annihilation, a rather gruesome, dark movie.  In this movie, there is an expanding sphere called the shimmer. Many went inside, and were lost in it. It was expanding, threatening to destroy the entire world.  So they sent a last team inside of it, five of them, and they discovered a beautiful reality, yet also deadly, and dangerous.  And the story bounces between the self-destruction of the main characters and the saga of their journey into the shimmer. I don't recommend watching this movie, it's very dark, even demonic, with brutal, disgusting scenes of murder and death within the shimmer, as well as adultery and demented sex scenes.  But it did help me understand something from my past...

I recall in my dream, the story of the forest, there were tornadoes ripping through fields, and terrifying sojourners along their way.  The tornadoes were vortexes perhaps, vortexes to hell, that I only nearly escaped.  But after that I went underground, to a place of crystal miners.  And they were mining the crystals surrounding the center of the forest, which had broken to bear broken fields.

I went deeper, and deeper.  I had been chasing an owl through the forest all that ways.  And then something terrible happened... I encountered myself, a dark version of myself.  It was almost like A Wrinkle in Time, and the dark version of Charles Wallace.  And I wrestled with the evil twin of myself, and defeated the evil twin.  The owl turned evil, and attacked the butterfly.  But the butterfly though crushed, appeared once again, and the owl was defeated.  And then the woods broke, and the forest disappeared, and the meadow came into view.

I realize what happened... the forest was the matrix of self-destruction, death, and brokenness in my soul.  The boy journeying through the forest was me.  At the center of the forest was the consummation of self-destruction, death.  The various encounters in the forest were delusions and hallucinations and false realities of the broken-state, mirroring and distorting true reality.  The monsters attacking me in the forest were Satan and the evil ones.

Yet something was frightfully necessary about the journey inward.  If I had fled from it, it would've invaded the real world and destroyed my life.  But by turning and going bravely into the depths of it, I was able to face it, fight it, and defeat the true enemy deep within this vortex: The brokenness in my soul, and the old self, the old man, the man of sin, within each of us, that must be put to death, for us to be reborn, and drawn into the new kingdom of Christ.  We must each face the darkness, and defeat it.  If we run from it, it consumes our waking states, if we turn and face it, and march on it's black gates, we have a chance, to defeat the evil in ourselves, in Christ, and crucify the old self, and become entirely new.   

I recall in the dream, in the vision of the forest, the underground cavern... where I saw the great figure standing above the waters... and the butterfly that kept appearing, and leading me away from danger... and the vision of counting the stars and the dialogues with the little boy named Luz, these were encounters and protection provided by God, as He came to me, protected me, and guided me toward the black darkness of caverns, where He would bring me to the point of ruin, and teach me to cry out to His son Jesus for salvation.  

At that moment, the fallen forest was destroyed, the false self was put to death, and the new self was born.  Do you know what's interesting?  The story doesn't end there.  What happens next, in the next two books I wrote, is that the boy became a man, was given a new name, fell from a city of delusions, and woke up in a broken world under siege by a dark kingdom.  Just a dream?  Another delusion? Or a metaphor to waking up in a real world in the midst of a fierce spiritual war? 

Related Posts: 
  1. Journey of the Christian through the Forest called Earth
  2. What is the matrix?
  3. Living in the Suburban Sprawl (Mountains beyond Mountains)
  4. Ancient Doorways in the Brickhouse: Fields of Green in your Dreams
  5. Depression & Meaninglessness: Where is God in the depths of sorrow?
  6. The Awe of Dreams & the Surreal
  7. Big Picture: The Solution to all the Problems of Earth
  8. What is the meaning of Life?
  9. You Oh Lord are my Strength: The Manifold Provision of God
  10. Daybreak: Examining the Problem of Pain

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Twelve Steps & Jesus: Steps 6 through 9

Click here for post on Steps 1 through 5

Previously we talked about steps 1 through 5, about how we want to admit our powerlessness over the drugs and alcohol, and that paradoxically because of that surrender we are then able by God’s grace to come to believe that God can free us from the mentality of addiction and commit our lives to serving and obeying God. Those are steps 1 through 3

Then importantly we talked about the fourth and fifth step, about the importance of being free from the baggage of the past, by putting it all down on paper, and then sharing it with a trusted friend or sponsor. When we did that, we felt the weight of the past lifted from our shoulders, and the sunlight of God’s spirit come into our hearts and lives.

Now we consider steps 6 through 9.

Step 6 says: “We Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

Step 6 is simply recognizing our former ways of living life, that didn’t work. Selfishness, anger, self-pity, being inconsiderate of others, those ways of living our lives failed us. They landed us here. So we recognize that we’ve got some defects of character, and we become willing for God to remove them. That’s the hard part, is becoming willing. Because pride wants to get in the way. But we have to humble ourselves and overcome that pride if we want to get well. Which leads us to step 7.

And Step 7 says: “We Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.”

So if we’ve recognized our character defects, mine was always fear, selfishness, and self-seeking, pride, ego, and manipulation. I always tried to play the game to make things go my way, and then they wouldn’t go my way, and then I’d flip out. Recognizing that stuff in myself was very, very hard.

Even today I can struggle with pride, and ego, when it should be all about Jesus, sometimes I make it about myself. And that’s not acceptable if I want to stay well. We have to recognize these things in ourselves. And once we do, then we take them to God. Because we can’t remove these defects of character. Only God can.

So then we ask God to remove them. Usually people will pray this prayer: "My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen."

Then we watch for opportunities to live differently. And each day we consider how we’ve lived at the end of the day, taking an inventory of our day, to see if we lived as the new man, or if we slipped back into old ways of thinking. We continue that process, in prayer, and in taking action and over time God removes all our character defects and makes us like Jesus.

If steps 4,5,6, and 7 are about getting right inside ourselves, then steps 8 and 9 are about getting right with the people around us.

Step 8 says: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”

So if we’ve done our 4th and 5th steps, we have the list of the people we’ve harmed already. If not, then it’s pretty simple to point out who we’ve hurt. For me it was mom, dad, my sister, my grandparents, several close friends, and a few bosses and coworkers. We make a list of how we hurt these people, and we become willing to make things right.

Step 9 says: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

It’s pretty simple, but not easy. We go to the person we hurt, for me, we’ll take the example of my dad. I went to my dad. And now, from my perspective, my dad has hurt me far worse than I ever hurt him. There’s things I won’t go into right now, but it was difficult to come humbly to my dad and apologize for what I did. Because I would prefer to hear apologies from him.

But that’s not the purpose of the 9th step. It’s about cleaning up our side of the street. They may leave their side of the street dirty, but that’s not our problem. Never, ever, ever, when your doing an amends, never ever bring up anything they did wrong. Your there to clean up your side of the street. You can’t control what they do.

So like with my dad, I talked about how I stole from him, used him for money, manipulated him, and hurt our relationship. I didn’t bring up the divorce, or the fights we had, because its about my cleaning up my mess. And I apologized. I told my dad I was wrong, asked for forgiveness, and I also asked how I could make it right. Part of that was agreeing to regularly spend time with my dad, and call him. That’s what he wanted as part of the amends. We do that again and again with people we’ve hurt, and its interesting, you know the promises that they read in AA? Those are in the big book right after the 8th and 9th step. And the promises say “by the time we are halfway through we will know a new freedom.” And people always wonder: “halfway through what?” If they’d read the big book, it means halfway through their 9th step amends!

So in conclusion, work the steps in order. I’m still available to help anyone who wants to work on their 4th and 5th step. I’ve had two residents talk to me about that, and I’m still willing to help anyone with that. So come see me. I’ll also help you with the character defects portion or help with making the list of amends.

Do this process, just do it. Do it with a good sponsor. And you’ll see big changes in your life, and this will provide the foundation for a lifetime of recovery. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Twelve Steps and Jesus: Steps 1 through 5

The twelve steps are by far the most effective method of permanent recovery from drugs and alcohol ever developed. That’s why we make use of them here, in your workbooks, and that’s why twelve step fellowships like AA, NA, and GA have sprung up across the globe.

We’re going to today look at steps 1 through 5 of this process, and hopefully you’ll be able to gain a better understanding of the steps and how they function toward recovery.

Of course we must always remember that the greatest help to recovery and new life is Jesus Christ himself, as displayed in the gospels.

So let’s look at step one: "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol/drugs–that our lives had become unmanageable."

Surrender is the key
Recognition of Powerlessness
Willingness to see the reality of total brokenness 

What does it mean to make an admission of powerlessness? Its to admit that we can’t do it ourselves. We admit that we can’t overcome addiction alone. Let’s be real, many of us have tried time and again to quit, and we couldn’t on our own.

The Big Book of alcoholics anonymous refers to it this way:

“The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so called will power becomes practically non-existent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.” –Big Book, pg. 24

So, step 1 is a difficult thing. None of us like to admit we are powerless over anything. We want to think that we have it all under control. It’s only humility after a lot of suffering in active addiction that gets us to admit step 1.

Next we consider step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

So if we’ve become powerless over the drugs and the drink, then we need to discover a power outside ourselves that is stronger. Step two is about the process by which we come to believe that God can restore us to sanity. Because to drink and use drugs until we’re near death is insanity. And this power greater than ourselves, God, is the only one who can remove the addiction problem from our soul.

We had always tried to quit on our own will power. We would swear off and say “I’ll never do that again.” And that’s how most normal people quit drugging or drinking. They just quit. But with an addict, we can’t just quit. We always go back. So the solution is to seek God and be broken free by the power of God. 

Essentially this is a realization that God can do what I can’t
Builds upon a recognition of personal powerlessness
Begins to point the key to recovery away from self and toward God

Step 3 says: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

The Big Book says pg 14: “Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.”

There’s no way around it. If we really want to be free from addiction for life, then it means turning our will and life over to God. And that is a decision we make.

Essentially what this is, is a design for living that works in rough going. According to the big book, on pg 15. “There is scarcely any form of trouble and misery which has not been overcome among us.”

Bill Wilson, the creator of the 12 steps, thought to himself, when he had finally accepted these facts and taken his 3rd step prayer: “These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but the moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a peace and serenity as I had never known.” Pg. 14. 

While step 1 was a recognition of our own ability to force ourselves out of addiction
And step 2 was a recognition that a force beyond ourselves is the only way to escape addiction
Step 3 is the point at which we recognize God is real, that only God can break the chains of addiction
Then we turn our will (our choices) and our life (our future) over to God

But it’s important to remember that faith without works is dead. Which is why after taking the 1st three steps we have go on into steps four and five.

Step 4 says: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

I’ve worked with many guys on the twelve steps. And I would always get every excuse under the sun for why they don’t want to do a 4th step inventory.

“I want to leave the past in the past.”

“I don’t need to do an inventory I’ve already talked about it with others.”

And a million excuses. But the truth is they’re afraid. They know if they open up all those memories from the past, of all the things they’ve done, it will be painful. And it is painful. But when we keep all of that stuff locked in the past, it eats away at us, and the pain of it, even locked away in our minds, leads us back to addiction.

Which is why we have to do this step thoroughly. We have to get a notebook and fill that thing up with these memories and stories. We absolutely have to, because these memories and experiences are the key to why we feel miserable when we’re sober. They affect our present mind, even though they exist in past memories. These are traumatic experiences that fill our present with pain, post-traumatic stress, intense anxiety, and depression. We have to bring them into the light, and then the pain disappears.

So on the screen here you’ll see an example of how I was taught to do the 4th step inventory, and I’ll just walk you through the process. If you’ve got a notebook with you, just jot down this diagram on some paper and use it in the future. 

Most never do this and wonder why they keep relapsing
An honest personal inventory forces us to see who we really are, good and bad
This takes guts & courage to do

If we are brave enough to do this, we will be transformed by the process

Finally we reach step 5 which states: “We Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

So very simply, this is where you take what you’ve written and share it with your sponsor, or a pastor or priest. You read through everything you wrote, and share the memories, and the pastor or sponsor provides feedback on the various resentments, fears, and harms to others.

I want to let you know that while I’m here I’d be willing to hear any of your 5th step inventories if you’d like. My office is on the 2nd floor. I’m sure others staff here might be willing to hear such an inventory as well, though you’d need to ask that person directly. Or if you prefer, go to some outside AA and NA meetings, and see if you can find a sponsor to do the steps with. That is probably the best way to go about this. 

Take your 4th step inventory and read it to a trusted individual (preferably a sponsor)
Discuss the issues involved
Leave nothing out, even talk about the very worst things that have happened
After completing this step, spend some time alone reflecting on what was said

So I’d really encourage you to work all of the steps. The truth is, if I had just started going to church, and I never attended AA or NA. And if I hadn’t worked the steps with my sponsor, I would’ve relapsed, and probably be dead today. Church isn’t enough for most of us, we need the weekly support of AA and NA meetings.

But remember, the steps are all essentially about Jesus. The twelve steps were inspired from the Oxford groups movement, which was a Christian movement. So as a Christian you don’t have to be afraid of the steps. The 12 Steps are biblical, and based on biblical principles. We can work the steps 1 through 12 but if we don’t know Jesus, we won’t stay sober in the long term.

We need the steps to stay sober and clean, but if we want forgiveness from our sins, and eternal life in heaven, we need Jesus Christ as our savior. 

The 12 Steps actually have their origin from principles taken from the “Oxford Groups” a movement of 19th century Christians
Thus the 12 Steps are biblical, and based on biblical principles
We can work the steps 1 through 12 but if we don’t know Jesus, we won’t stay sober in the long term.

We need the steps to stay sober an clean, but if we want forgiveness from our sins, and eternal life in heaven, we need Jesus Christ as our savior.