YouTube soaking playlist. A collection of restful, reflective pieces that draws me closer into God’s presence. Includes some Vineyard, Jesus Culture, Rivera, Delirious, etc and some spoken word accompanied by soothing instrumentals. The songs are different from what you hear in the Soaking.Net playlist. This YouTube playlist was compiled and put together by Katherine Walden of I Lift My Eyes Ministries.
DISCLAIMER: I believe the Canon of Scriptures as we have them today is necessary and inspired. I’m basically exploring how the early disciples lived their faith and what texts they used as basis to teach and make disciples. And what we can learn from it.
How many times have we heard the longing expressed for a return to the power and simplicity of the Early Church? What gave them this experience and reputation we so envy? Is it possible we are missing something as to where they drew their “doctrine” from? I am becoming more and more convinced that it is the case.
Even Paul in his writings was basically unpacking the massive prophetic legacy contained in the Law and the Prophets, the Torah and the Tanakh. Just as Jesus did for the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. Just as the Bereans did after hearing the Gospel preached to them – they went back to the Hebrew Scriptures of their day. Just as Peter preached on the day of Pentecost. Just as Steven did before being martyred. And so on.
Now, tradition tells us that the first book of the New Testament was written “around” 50 AD. That would be close to 20 years after Jesus’ ascension. Yet, merely 50 days after his ascension the first revival broke in Jerusalem. The Church was born then. Not in 325 AD. Under the power of the Spirit, not under the authority of Constantine. Their Scriptures? Torah and Tanakh. And these are the ones of whom it is said they loved one another so much they shared their wealth, and acted like Christ so much that they were called “Christians.”
So what happened? Have we seen over the centuries the rise of a doctrine born of the New Testament rather than the Old? Indeed we have. There has been a clear Hellenization of Yeshua, the stripping of the Jewish roots of our Messiah, and therefore we ended up with a religious mixture called Christianity, based almost solely on the Canon of the New Testament. History recorded the extreme abominations the Church drew the world into. So completely different from the teachings of Yeshua and the Apostles. Continue reading
A couple weeks ago I talked about Reader’s Digest Christianity, and how it reduced the Christian faith to pithy, easily-achievable goals that ensure our personal improvement. Here, I have a different (though depressingly similar) target: “LiveStrong” Christianity. LiveStrong bracelets are today even more popular than the infamous WWJD bracelets were 10 years ago, despite the public fall from grace of their namesake, Lance Armstrong.
In the minds of many people inside the church, “Livestrong” is the essence and goal of Christianity. You hear this obsession in our lingo: We talk about someone having “strong faith,” about someone being a “strong Christian,” a “prayer warrior,” or a “mighty man/woman of God.” We want to believe that we can do it all, handle it all. We desperately want to think that we are competent and capable— we’ve concluded that our life and our witness depend on our strength. No one wants to declare deficiency. We even turn the commands that seem to have nothing to do with strength (“Blessed are the meek” or “Turn the other cheek”) into opportunities to showcase our spiritual might. I saw a church billboard the other day that said, “Think being meek is weak? Try being meek for a week!”
We like our Christianity to be muscular, triumphant. We’ve come to believe that the Christian life is a progression from weakness to strength—“Started from the bottom, now we’re here” (Drake) seems to be the victory chant of modern Christianity. We are all by nature, in the terminology of Martin Luther, theologians of glory—not God’s glory, but our own.
But is the progression from weakness to strength the pattern we see throughout the Bible? Continue reading
by A.W.Tozer (Man – The Dwelling Place of God)
THESE ARE THE TIMES that try men’s souls. The Spirit has spoken expressly that in the latter times some should depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron. Those days are upon us and we cannot escape them; we must triumph in the midst of them, for such is the will of God concerning us.
Strange as it may seem, the danger today is greater for the fervent Christian than for the lukewarm and the self-satisfied. The seeker after God’s best things is eager to hear anyone who offers a way by which he can obtain them. He longs for some new experience, some elevated view of truth, some operation of the Spirit that will raise him above the dead level of religious mediocrity he sees all around him, and for this reason he is ready to give a sympathetic ear to the new and the wonderful in religion, particularly if it is presented by someone with an attractive personality and a reputation for superior godliness. Continue reading
Healing is a strong dimension of my experience with music and the Arts. Arts are a canvas for the soul, where emotions, ideas and inspirations can be projected, even randomly, meditated upon and often somehow deciphered, at least by some part of us, as dots are connected.
Where artistic exploration joins with a personal journey of discovery of our hidden selves, Arts reveal the human soul and its experience of life. This website is here for all to draw from. It represents a sum of ideas and thoughts, artistic works, experiences about life and creativity, as well as a number of creative works I (and my wife Kimberly) have done so far: music, writing and graphics.
Past events are still with us today as they contributed to form who we are. They have given us insight, strength, wisdom, love, self-esteem, a sense of identity, etc. However, certain traumatic events have overloaded our emotional tank and most of those have been stored in regions of our being and seem all but forgotten. As we continue living, there is a constant flow of energy diverted toward that pocket of stored emotions to keep it from coming to the surface and overwhelm us again. Rather, what worked then, is put to work every time this memory surfaces: shock, agony, anger, bitterness, rage, hate, unforgiveness, etc. These are often expressed through addictions, self-destructive behavior, toxic relationships, physical sicknesses and health conditions, depression, lack of boundaries, manipulation and control, criminal activities, etc.
Then one day, out of the blue, someone says or does something and we catch ourselves in the act of having again the same inner dialogue. Only this time, it is more than rambling, it is revealing, as we speak we become aware of something very wrong with us. We can become acquainted, according to life’s seasons, with these fragments of our selves that are not integrated, but are lingering at different points of interruption. This systemic denial is a defense mechanism that should have been temporary. But a great number of sicknesses and health conditions can be directly related to past unhealed traumas. Unhealed because our response to them was interrupted, because we had probably had more questions than answers, more pain than we could endure, and surviving the moment was everything. Revisiting these can be a major key in opening the door for healing of our body and soul.
There is enough noise around us in our cities and our media, as well as visual stimuli and chaotic soundscapes that invade our homes and workplaces. And anywhere we go there is a radio station playing music and there’s no way to shut it off… too many voices speaking out to us, uninvited, arrogant and boastful, mechanically enticing us with words and images. They vie for our attention, our devotion, our time and resources.
Because Arts call forth that which is most alive in us, the natural and the spiritual, connecting us to the essence of who we are, and because it bypasses any barrier and touches the very skin of our souls, arts are used by the powers of this world to try and inlfuence, even shape the masses in a way that is predictable and yeld a world that will function in the way they want it to. If they could. And so artists are the ones hired to create the marketing tools of what we now culturally refer to as “the Matrix.” While our culture is a testimony to the mind-boggling talents we are blessed with, it is also a landscape wherein the heart and soul of most of the work we are exposed to is designed to illicite a response from our heart that will make us reach for out wallet and assent.
I would argue that this is basically violating an unspoken oath that artists should be aware of, if they would but turn their heads away form the voices that keep enticing them to serve a system that is heartless, cold and calculating. The sheer power and the edge inherent to art and artistic ability calls the artist to a level of accountability: “Not only do we have gifts, we are also a gift to our people.” There should be integrity…
by Graham Cooke
“Church! Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse!”
(A prostitute from Chicago as quoted by Philip Yancey in What’s So Amazing About Grace?)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Am I the only one who didn’t think this Scripture was such great news the first time I heard it? Yes, I know it speaks of an incredible gift God gave so that we would not have to perish for our sins. For us, it is undoubtedly a great thing. But what does it say about God?
When I heard this in Sunday School as a child, my first response was, “If he loved us so much, why didn’t he do it himself?” Admittedly I might have been influenced by the chores I had to do at home: For Dad so loved a well-kept yard that he sent me out to mow it. Dad so loved his vineyard, that he sent me to work in it. Dad so loved an ice-cold Pepsi, that he sent me to the refrigerator to get it for him.
So why didn’t God himself appear in human flesh and submit himself to the most painful and humiliating death imaginable? No, he sent the Son instead; or so I used to think. And my confusion didn’t end there. While I was grateful for the salvation he provided, I had some concerns about God because of the way he provided it.
What kind of Father satisfies his need for justice by the death of his own Son? Couldn’t he have just forgiven us without taking it out on an innocent victim? If someone wrongs me and the only way I could satisfy my anger was to punish someone else as the means to forgive them, what does that say about me?
If the cross served God’s need to be appeased by a human sacrifice, especially that of his own Son, we are left with a host of disturbing questions. Raise them with others, and most will escape answering them by claiming that God’s demand for justice is beyond our comprehension. But I am convinced the dissonant perspectives about God that result from an appeasement based view of the cross, cause many to shy away from the intimate relationship he seeks with us.
Instead the unanswerable questions should invite us to reconsider our distorted view of the cross. Since Adam’s fall we have come to picture God not as a loving Father inviting us to trust him, but an exacting sovereign who must be appeased. When we start from that vantage point we miss God’s purpose on the cross. For his plan was not to satisfy some need in himself at his Son’s expense, but rather to satisfy a need in us at his own expense.
Living by appeasement is a frightful game, especially when you play it with the all-knowing, Almighty God. Though I don’t believe for a moment that God plays it, many of us were taught that he does and, thus, we alternate between trying to do enough to please him or trying to hide from him when we realize we can’t.
The moment Adam and Even ate the fruit, their eyes were opened to see good and evil. The first evil they saw was in themselves. Though they had been naked since they were created, now they were aware of their nakedness and sought a cover-up for their shame.
Evidently what they first saw big enough to cover them were fig leaves. They plucked a few, sewed them together and slipped them on. I cringe at the thought. I’ve been in fig orchards and know how prickly and itchy those leaves are. As material for underwear it was a poor choice indeed, as are most of the ways we try to cover for ourselves.
But the real price of their shame is seen a short while later as God revealed himself again in the Garden. Instead of feeling safe with him, they felt compelled to run and hide. Notice that God neither hid from them nor was he angry at their disobedience. Instead he just showed up to be with them. They were the ones cowering in shame hoping the bushes would cover what the fig leaves couldn’t.
As God came closer they told him of their shame and their failure. In doing so, they still sought cover. Adam blamed Eve; “the woman… gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” No wonder they felt unsafe in their nakedness. They were. He turned on her to justify himself, using blame for the same purpose he had used fig leaves.
Adam’s blame doesn’t stop at Eve. It is not just the woman who tripped him up, but “the woman you put here with me.” Adam even tried to pass some of the responsibility onto God. When God turns his attention to Eve, she blames the serpent’s deception.
The creation was stained, and God parceled out the consequences of that failure. Already spiritually dead in the relational brokenness that resulted, their future physical death would follow. God threw them out of his Garden, not wanting them to eat from the Tree of Life and live forever in that sinful condition. By preserving eternity in holiness, God prepared a safe haven for their eventual rescue. “The soul that sins shall die,” is a proclamation of mercy, not anger. It means that sin must have an end; and we an opportunity to regain what we forfeited.
TERMS OF APPEASEMENT
Their failure had profound consequences in the creation and in their relationship to their Creator. He could no longer be the friend who walked with them in the Garden, because their own sense of shame would cause them to cower whenever he approached.
Knowing good and evil didn’t provide the joy Adam and Eve thought it would. Because they came to know good and evil outside of their trust in God, they had no power to resist evil and choose the good. They, and all generations after them, have found themselves captive to evil passions, with its destructive consequences and overwhelming sense of shame.
When God did make himself known, even the most righteous people fell on their faces, overwhelmed by their own unworthiness. The friendship he desired with his creation was thwarted. Instead of seeking his friendship, people only thought to appease him—doing enough good to somehow stay in his favor. The Creator had become someone to avoid not to embrace.
This shame so permeates our nature that this appeasement-based approach even emerged in every false religion humanity devised. From the earliest tribal attempts to appease the “gods of the earth” or the “god of rain” to more sophisticated religious systems with idolatry and tradition, the objective was always the same. What can we do to appease the wrath of the gods and find their favor?
He loves me, He loves me not.
Good times led to complacency and bad times to even greater rituals of repentant prayers, sacrificial offerings and good deeds. Their offerings started with small gestures of fruits or grain, but increasingly difficult times demanded ever-greater gifts. Soon animals were sacrificed, and in many cultures throughout the world eventually human sacrifice became the ultimate expression of commitment to their conception of god.
But this is not how the true God wanted to be known.
I WILL PROVIDE MY OWN
If you go to Tel Meggido in Israel today you can stand on an overlook and view an altar used to sacrifice first-born male children to the gods of the Canaanites. Your guide would tell you that that very altar was in use when Abraham came unto the Promised Land. They thought they could appease their false gods with such sacrifices.
Thus it was not so incredible for Abraham when the God who had touched his life had asked him to sacrifice his only son. All the other gods in Canaan did it, why not his? But this God was not a false god like the others interested in human sacrifice. This was the true and living God. He was going to reveal himself to Abraham and wanted him to know this God had nothing in common with Molech, Baal, or Asherah.
At God’s word, Abraham took his son—a treasure born in his old age—and set out for Mt. Moriah. As they got close to the mountain, Isaac noticed that they had no sacrifice. “The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
It appears that Abraham’s response was less a brilliant insight into God’s nature than it was a deflection to stave off the curiosity of his son. He nonetheless spoke prophetically the lesson God wanted to show him. “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
Only later, after his son lay tied to the altar and Abraham lifted the knife to plunge it into his son, did he see just how prophetic his words were. “Abraham! Abraham! Do not lay a hand on the boy . . . Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son” (Genesis 22:12).
Abraham had faced the ultimate test in trusting his God. He discovered that God never wanted his son as a sacrifice at all. After God pointed out to Abraham a ram nearby caught in the bushes, he offered it in Isaac’s place. Abraham declared that place “The Lord Will Provide” (Jehovah-jireh), understanding that his earlier words had proved more true than he could have imagined.
God drew a line that separated him from all the false gods men have ever created. The false gods demanded sacrifices for their own appeasement. This God would provide the sacrifice we needed that could finally cover our shame and allow us to know him as he really is.
At Mt. Moriah God foreshadowed to Abraham what he would literally accomplish some three thousand years later on another hill not far away called Golgotha. It would not be the appeasement of an angry God by any sacrifice we could give, but an act of a loving God to sacrifice himself for those who were held captive in sin.
Far from being a blood-thirsty Sovereign demanding sacrifice to satiate his need for vengeance, the Living God spends himself to bring back the banished son or daughter. He did not need a sacrifice to love us, for he already did.
We needed a sacrifice for our shame so that we would be free to love him again. At the cross, God provided the undeniable proof of just how much he loves us. For those who understand that, it opens the door for us to do what Adam and Eve could not do that fateful day in the Garden—entrust our lives totally to the Living God.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. —ROMANS 8:1-2”
For your personal journey
Can you recognize the effects of shame in your own life? What effort will you expend to make yourself look better to others, to yourself, or even to God? In your relationship with God do you think more of what you have to do for him or what he has already done for you? Ask him to show you how appeasement thinking distorts your relationship with him and ask him to free you from it so that you can participate in what he wants to do in you.