Archive for June 1st, 2009
Are you salt? Jesus used this metaphor to help us understand the effect that we are to have on the surrounding culture. We are not to be unnoticed, blended consistency. We are supposed to make a difference – a difference that is immediately detected. Christians flavor life with a God-perspective.
You probably agree. What’s the point of being a Christian if your life is exactly the same as the high valued non-believers of this world? Why adopt a God-perspective if no one can tell the difference between God’s point of view and the best morality human beings can muster? After all, Christianity has to be more than just attending the church of your choice and learning a few Bible verses. The claim of Christianity is that Christians are actively involved in Kingdom endeavors in every aspect of their lives. Kingdom work doesn’t just occur on the mission field or in the Sunday school. Kingdom work is supposed to happen everywhere I go – on the job, at home, in school, even in the mall.
Does that mean that I am to carry my Bible or have a pocket full of tracts? Does it mean that I hold up a reader board emblazoned with “Repent or go to hell!”? Am I supposed to preach on the street corner to an audience with deaf ears? Most of us would say, “No.” Such actions might be what some feel called to do, but for most of us being a Christian has to mean something more penetrating. I have to learn how to be salt in every meal circumstances serve.
Let’s consider just one salty paradigm shift. How does being a Christian change the way that you organize, plan and execute decisions? How does being a Christian change your Standard Operating Procedure?
Amazingly, most of us never think that being a Christian makes any difference at all to the way that we operate. We never consider that the process of gathering information, sorting out options, planning strategies, considering risks, determining goals and constructing step-by-step tactics can be a “salt” experience. We just think that this methodology is the only methodology because it is the one that we have learned in the process of living in the world. We simply can’t imagine any other way of accomplishing tasks. Of course, there are lots of ways that don’t work. We are quick to point out the deficiencies in plans that fail, citing some overlooked step in the process. But we never consider that correct execution could be radically different. We never think about the salt perspective. It’s time that we did.
The methodology of the world is based on process thinking. Process thinking is the step-by-step rational ordering of actions in the pursuit of a goal. Nearly every goal oriented endeavor you have ever taken in life probably reflects this kind of thinking. It is without question the fundamental rational tool taught in school. But it has some serious implications for God-perspective living.
Process thinking moves me toward independence. The point of process thinking is this: I know what to do next without requiring moment-by-moment guidance. Correct application of process thinking is evaluated by progress toward the goal without further input.
Let’s look at an example. It is quite common in football to outline a “game plan”. Coaches often script in advance the first twenty of thirty plays that they will run. They construct a step-by-step order that they believe will advance them toward a touchdown before the team even steps on to the field. The coach develops this process thinking by going through the steps we commonly understand. He gathers information, outlines a strategy, determines tactics, assesses risk and develops a plan. It all looks great on paper. Then the whistle blows and suddenly someone intercepts the pass. There’s a fumble. A player gets injured. The game plan disintegrates when it comes into contact with the real world. Process thinking assumes controlled reality. Even when the plan is continually altered in the face of unanticipated events, process thinking still assumes reality can be brought back under control. The biggest problem with process thinking is that it leads me toward the assumption that I can control my world. This assumption stands behind nearly every business plan. It is resident in financial planning, retirement planning, educational planning. It is the Standard Operating assumption of the world’s system.
Unfortunately, reality constantly frustrates our process thinking assumption. Plans don’t go the way we thought they would. The stock market doesn’t behave correctly (why should it?). Enron and Tyco executives steal my retirement (my plans did not anticipate theft). Terrorism alters the world market demand (my sales plans did not anticipate September 11, as Disney quickly learned). Even on a personal scale, reality constantly frustrates the control assumption behind process thinking. A flat tire, a bounced check, a sick child, a missed appointment and suddenly my world isn’t quite so orderly. The world is determined to remind me that I am not in control in spite of all my efforts to batter it into the shape I desire.
Salt mentality takes a different approach.
The Standard Operating Procedure from God’s point of view is not process thinking. God is not interested in your plans. God is interested in your attention to His plans. And God never reveals more of His plan than what is absolutely necessary at this particular moment. Why? Because God’s SOP is not process thinking. It is consultation.
The Standard Operating Procedure of the consultation approach to life is radically different. It is fostered entirely by dependence. Consultation depends on externally provided guidance. It looks like this: STOP – WAIT – LISTEN – ACT
Consultation requires me to always be connected to another guiding source, not myself. Consultation requires that I do not move to the next step until I hear the command to do so. No step automatically follows another. Consultation demands clarified obedience as a response to guidance, not as a planned execution. Consultation is based on releasing the truth as God sees it by first encountering the present Lord. Consultation cannot move forward without direction and it does not move forward without assignment. Consultation is the posture of the obedient slave.
If we read the stories of men who understood what it is like to be salt in this world, we discover that they had no preconceived agendas. If fact, when they did come to the party with an operational agenda, God took great pains to remove their plans from the table. From Abraham’s attempt to handle the famine to Gideon’s effort to raise an army, from Peter’s proclamation of violent defense to Paul’s plan to go to Bithynia, God rearranges human plans to suit His purposes. God wants moment-by-moment obedience, not long-term strategy. Why? Because obedience means dependence and devotion, two characteristics that God values far more than goal achievement. Consultation thinking removes me from the subtle temptation to think that God needs me to accomplish His will. Surprise! God is perfectly capable of running the world without me. But He is very anxious to include me in what He is doing. Consultation begins with “What would you have me do, Lord?” rather then “OK, Lord, I know what to do next.”
Given this change in methodology, it shouldn’t be surprising to discover that Christians are unpredictable. They listen and respond to God, not to planned human project management. They operate exclusively under the assumption that God is in charge and the only real job is to hear what He has to say and do what He asks. Real salt Christians depend on God for their direction. Even in their methodology, they stick out like sore thumbs. They just don’t think like the world thinks.
That raises a penetrating question: How much salt is in your operating diet?
There are some other powerful implications for the consultation methodology. Contemplation is the doorway to Consultation. Unless I STOP and LOOK, I will not hear the voice of guidance from God. STOPPING is critical to the consultation method. It is, however, antithetical to process thinking.
Once I STOP, I must LOOK with loving attention and moral responsibility. Jesus contemplated the wild flowers of the field and he saw something about the hand of God in reality. Jesus spent hours in prayer listening to the voice of the Father until he was so sensitive to it that the Father’s voice directed everything he did and everything he said. Jesus was the fully dependent man. And Jesus says that this is a method that we can learn, if we STOP the propelling frenzy of process thinking.
The Greek word epignosis captures the consultation methodology. Epignosis is knowing by intimate interpersonal experience. It demands paying attention, not simply intellectually but also emotionally and morally. It is the epitome of relationship responding. From the Biblical point of view, epignosis is the gift of God.
Abraham Herschel once said that something sacred hangs in the balance of every moment. He knew that consultation and contemplation go hand in hand. He knew that God is the Lord of all my times and I need only STOP, LOOK and LISTEN if I am to know what God asks of me next.
The salt question of life is this: Am I living as though every moment is pregnant with the Spirit? Have I stopped to listen for God’s next command? Or is the push of the plan propelling me at a pace that prevents the practice of His presence?
I will go down and see if they have at all done according to the cry coming to me Genesis 18:21
Cry – As in the days of Noah, the days of Ezekiel and the days of Jonah, a cry went up to the Lord. He heard it and decided to bring judgment upon the earth. But unlike our mistaken ideas about Sodom’s sin, the cry God heard was not about sexual immorality. Our Sunday school stories do not teach the real sin of Sodom. It was not homosexuality, lasciviousness, lust or any of the other sexual perversions. It was far greater. And it’s all wrapped up in the Hebrew word tse’aqah and its companion ze’aqah. The first word is found in this verse (cry) and the second in the previous verse (cry), but as you can see, there are two different words in Hebrew. Nevertheless, the impact of these two words melds into a single offense so great that God brings wrath upon those who embrace them.
What does tse’aqah and ze’aqah mean? Sarna says that these two words describe “the anguished cry of the oppressed, the agonizing plea of the victim for help in some great injustice.” This is moral outrage at the total disregard for human compassion and civility. This is the very opposite of what any human being would consider justice. This is not simply dishonoring God. This is dishonoring our own kind, a wanton display of human insensitivity toward other human beings. If you want to see what this looks like, you do not have to descend into the brothels or the porn shops. You can watch the news about “racial cleansing” across the globe. You can recall the history of the Holocaust or the actions of Pol Pot. You can realize that we live in the most brutal, most inhuman, most despicable century that the world has ever known. And there is no evidence that things will improve. The potential genocide in the name of Allah that lurks on the horizon has the possibility of making all other acts of cruelty pale by comparison. The destruction of human beings in the name of religion, politics and economics makes us all look as though we not only live in Sodom, but that we have also expanded its city limits to the edge of the globe.
Do we really think that God will not repeat His expunging wrath on a world gone mad with the lust for power, possession and personal gain? Do we really believe that God can find one righteous man among us? It is a very frightening thing to contemplate. How long God’s mercy will outweigh His judgment is a gambling bet no man should ever want to take.
So, push aside the idea that Sodom was about sex. Sexual perversion was only one of the symptoms of a culture that cared nothing for those who could be used and abused. Ezekiel lays the blame right where we need to hear it:
“Behold, this is the guilt of your sister, Sodom. She and her daughters had pride, were more than full of food, and prosperous case, but did not aid the poor and the needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them, when I saw it.” Ezekiel 16:49-50
What does God see today? What are you going to do about it before He comes down to see if the cry is great?
Topical Index: Sodom, cry, tse’aqah, ze’aqah, moral outrage, Genesis 18:21, Ezekiel 16:49-50
“Descenderé ahora y veré si han hecho en todo conforme a su clamor, el cual ha llegado hasta Mí. Y si no, lo sabré.” Génesis 18:21
Clamor – como en los días de Noe, los días de Ezequiel y los días de Jonás, se levantó un lamento al Señor. Él lo escuchó y decidió traer juicio sobre la tierra. Pero a diferencia de nuestras ideas erradas sobre el pecado de Sodoma, el clamor que escuchó Dios no era sobre inmoralidad sexual. Nuestras escuelas dominicales no enseñan sobre el verdadero pecado de Sodoma. No fue homosexualidad, libidinosidad, lujuria o cualquier otra perversión sexual. Fue mucho mayor. Y todo está envuelto en la palabra hebrea tse´aqah y su acompañante ze´aqah. Esta primera palabra la encontramos en éste versículo (clamor) y la segunda en el versículo anterior (lamento), pero como puedes ver, existen dos palabras diferentes en hebreo. No obstante, el impacto de estas dos palabras se funde en una sola ofensa tan grande que Dios derrama ira sobre aquellos que la abrazan.
¿Qué significan tse´aqah y ze´aqah? Sarna dice que estas dos palabras describen “el lamento angustioso de los oprimidos, la plegaria agonizante por ayuda de la víctima en alguna gran injusticia.” Esta es la indignación moral por la indiferencia total por la compasión y civilidad humana. Esto es lo opuesto a lo que cualquier humano consideraría justicia. Esta no es una simple deshonra a Dios. Es la deshonra de aquellos como nosotros, una manifestación lasciva de la insensibilidad humana hacia otros seres humanos. Si deseas ver como se ve, no tienes que descender a los burdeles ni a las tiendas de pornografía. Puedes ver las noticias sobre “limpieza racial” en todo el planeta. Puedes recordar la historia del Holocausto o las acciones de Pol Pot. Puedes comprender que vivimos en el siglo más brutal, más inhumano, más despreciable que ha visto el mundo. Y no existe evidencia que las cosas mejorarán. El potencial de genocidio en nombre de Allá que surca el horizonte tienen la posibilidad de palidezcan todos los otros actos de crueldad. La destrucción de los seres humanos en nombre de la religión, política y economía nos hace ver como si no sólo vivimos en Sodoma, sino que también nos hemos expandido sus límites de la ciudad hasta los confines del planeta.
¿Realmente creemos que Dios no repetirá su ira expurgatoria en un mundo enloquecido con el apetito desmedido por poder, posesión y ganancia personal? ¿Realmente creemos que Dios puede encontrar un justo entre nosotros? Da terror contemplarlo. Por cuánto tiempo superará la misericordia de Dios a Su juicio es una apuesta que ningún hombre debe desear tomar.
Así que haz a un lado la idea que el pecado de Sodoma tenía que ver con sexo. La perversión sexual solo fue uno de los síntomas de una cultura a la que no le importaba ni un poco aquellos que eran usados y abusados. Ezequiel coloca la culpa donde necesitamos escucharla:
“Pues ésta fue la iniquidad de tu hermana Sodoma: arrogancia, abundancia de pan y completa ociosidad tuvieron ella y sus hijas; pero no ayudaron al pobre ni al necesitado, y se enorgullecieron y cometieron abominaciones delante de Mí. Y cuando lo vi las hice desaparecer” Ezequiel 16:49-50
¿Qué ve Dios hoy? ¿Qué harás al respecto antes que El venga a ver si el lamento es grande?
El primero de Junio es la fecha de transición a la comunidad de suscriptores. Hemos recibido muchas solicitudes de permanencia gratuita, las cuales gustosamente concedemos. Son muy importantes para nosotros. Las personas que se han comunicado con nosotros y/o han decidido contribuir, con la cantidad que deseen y sean capaces de aportar – $1, si es la cantidad que pueden aportar – nos demuestran que éste esfuerzo es lo suficientemente importante para que tomen acción.
Las otras personas, mas de 200, que no se han comunicado ni han ofrecido aporte, saldrán del listado de suscriptores. Comprendemos que todos tenemos prioridades diferentes, no podemos aportar a todos los ministerios. Pero avanzamos hacia la formación de una comunidad en la que todos sentimos que es una prioridad. Esa es la comunidad que buscamos, comprometida con el estudio y con el resto de las personas que comparten esa pasión.
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