Archive for June, 2010


I have borrowed, for the title of this entry, the chapter title from a book which will be introduced later on.  Those aren’t my words, just borrowed because they’re a perfect fit for the Favor Line discussion.

Have you ever sat in a meeting or lesson where the questions start morphing into a “what do we have to do to merit x, y or z?”  Where the impetus is always on what we can do to get something?  Today, at the beginning of a lesson in church, the opening monologue from the teacher concluded with the following question:  “What do we have to do to make it to the Celestial Kingdom?”

By the end of the lesson – a lesson on David, Uriah and Bathsheba – the general conclusion was this:  “we have to try harder and work harder to avoid temptations” and “we have to try harder to do what is right” and, in order to make it to the Celestial kingdom, “we need to try harder.”  Before we arrive at that conclusion, though, we were treated to a couple of statements by generic authorities on just how much we need try harder.  Before any of this gets lost on us, I should point out that the name “Jesus Christ” was mentioned a total of 0 times.  Not once did His name get brought up – it was all about us trying harder in order to make it over what should be called the Favor Line.

The instructor concluded his remarks by saying that, “even though some sins are unforgivable, we still must try and repent,” but bookended that comment with these two quotes.  The first is from Bruce McConkie and the second from Richard Scott, both apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ™.

McConkie:

“But under certain circumstances there are some serious sins for which the cleansing of Christ does not operate …” and “…a sin for which there is “no forgiveness” (D&C 42:79), meaning that a murderer can never gain salvation. “No murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:15) He cannot join the Church by baptism; he is outside the pale of redeeming grace.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, page 92, 520).

Scott:

“Do not take comfort in the fact that your transgressions are not known by others. That is like an ostrich with his head buried in the sand. He sees only darkness and feels comfortably hidden. In reality he is ridiculously conspicuous. Likewise our every act is seen by our Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son. They know everything about us. …  If you have seriously transgressed, you will not find any lasting satisfaction or comfort in what you have done. Excusing transgression with a cover-up may appear to fix the problem, but it does not. The tempter is intent on making public your most embarrassing acts at the most harmful time. Lies weave a pattern that is ever more confining and becomes a trap that Satan will spring to your detriment.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 103; or Ensign, May 1995, 77).

The reason I’m writing on these quotes was because, to me, the lesson was one predicated almost entirely on fear.  Fear that we might fall, fear that we might not do enough or be enough.  And, perhaps most importantly and as emphasized in Richard Scott’s quote, fear that God and Jesus Christ are watching our every move, our ever act and that they know everything.  They are that creepy Santa Claus who knows “when we are sleeping … when we are awake … when we’ve been good or bad.”  Yes, today I was taught that God and Christ are these scary taskmasters who see everything I do, who are watching my every move waiting for me to screw up and waiting for me to try even harder, only to screw up again.  And, not only are they waiting for me to screw up, but so is the Tempter who is “intent on making public” everything screwy I’ve done.  And, lest I forget, I was also taught that there are some things for which the Atonement has no effect, some things so “grievous” that it might put me “outside” the “redeeming grace” of Christ and His Atonement.  So, now I must live in fear for everyone is out to get me.  Dear me!!

So, as I was pondering on these dark and sullen ideas, I was reminded of a topic I’ve been wanting to address here for some time – the idea of the Favor Line – but was always too preoccupied or distracted or into some other topic.  And so it sat on the sidelines, waiting to be posted, to be put here and to be re-read again.  This “Favor Line” is the idea that if we do or be enough, then God will love us and bless us, but, if we fall short of those amorphous standards (amorphous because we’re never really told exactly what those standards are, so we’re ever trying to reach something that may not even be there), then God neither loves us nor is willing to bless us.  Perhaps He does still love us, the reasoning goes, but that love is diminished by our sinfulness.  So, to church I went today to be taught that, “God’s great, you’re bad, try harder.”

It is with that preface that I introduce the following words of Wayne Jacobsen, as found in his book, He Loves Me.  His words are were this term “Favor Line” first came into my brain and belief system.  I’d never heard it put the way he put it, and thought it might be of benefit to someone else – it certainly was of benefit for me to read it one more time this afternoon after church – a detoxification, if you will, from the partially hydrogenated lesson of fear and intimidation and of trying harder.  If anyone is interested in the .pdf of this book, send me a message, I have a copy that’s free (was obtained for free) and I’d be glad to share it.  The guys over at Wandering for Zion (who may or may not have just been evicted from his own parents’ house) and Discovering Zion (both hyperlinked on the right column) were my inspiration for reading and listening to Jacobsen’s stuff, and I’m glad they did point out his books.

Before we turn to the excerpt, though, I wanted to share a scripture I read while listening to this lesson on fear, or so was my interpretation of the lesson.  I found it by looking for a few scriptures on the earth, though I’m not sure why that topic was of interest this morning.  In one portion of the Book of Moses there is an interaction which centers on Enoch and a vision he had.  At one point of the vision and conversation he hears the earth groan.  Just prior to this point in the vision, though, we get a certain glimpse of Enoch that I thought worth sharing:

44 And as Enoch saw this, he had abitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said unto the heavens: I will refuse to be bcomforted; but the Lord said unto Enoch: Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look.
45 And it came to pass that Enoch looked; and from Noah, he beheld all the families of the earth; and he cried unto the Lord, saying: When shall the day of the Lord come? When shall the blood of the Righteous be shed, that all they that mourn may be asanctified and have eternal life?
46 And the Lord said: It shall be in the ameridian of time, in the days of wickedness and vengeance.
47 And behold, Enoch asaw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced, saying: The Righteous is lifted up, and the bLamb is slain from the foundation of the world; and through cfaith I am in the bosom of the Father, and behold, dZion is with me.

The point that I found especially enlightening was the very last part of verse 47.  This particular portion of the conversation concludes with a short, though poignant statement, “Zion is with me.”  Though there are other interpretations one can take of this verse, the distinct thought I had in reading it was that Zion is anywhere and everywhere, or can be, the Lord is.  If we are with Christ, we are in Zion, even if it’s a one-on-one visit (perhaps especially if it’s a one-on-one visit).  Just some food for thought as we read Jacobsen’s thoughts on the favor line.

So, what follows is Wayne Jacobsen’s work.  I take no credit for it, nor want any.  I’m only posting it because it may be of benefit to someone else out there, may influence someone for the better and may help bring us out from the tyranny of the Favor Line.

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A PLACE PREPARED

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

—JOHN 14:2-3

Could the invitation be any clearer? Jesus told his followers about a house, with a Father who waits for them to come and take their place in his home. Does this sound familiar?

We so easily miss the point of his words when we mistakenly relegate them to the distant future, of a second coming and man­sions in heaven. Here Jesus was still talking about his first ‘going away’—his death on a cross; and his first ‘coming back’—the res­urrection. These events would unfold in the next few days and Jesus wanted them to understand just how important they were.

The cross stands as the pivotal event in opening the door for us to dwell in the Father’s Love. The apostle Paul told us that when we really understand what happened there between a Father and a Son we would know for certain and forever just how deep their love is for us. Later on we’ll take a look from this vantage point at the power of the cross.

He was going to open a door, and return after the Resurrection to show them how to live in his Father’s house—the place in Father’s heart he’s prepared for each one of them.

The disciples, however, couldn’t make sense of his words. When he told them they knew the way where he was going, Thomas challenged him. “We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

“You know me, Philip, and I am the way.”

He knew they were confused. He knew they didn’t under­stand the new relationship they would be able to have with him and his Father after the Resurrection. But he says it simply—you know me! I will get you there. Notice how he focuses here not on the process they would have to follow, but on the person they would need to know. He takes it right back to relationship again. “Stay with me; you’ll know everything you need to know.”

A FATHER YOU CAN TRUST

To have the relationship God desires with you, and for which your heart must cry out or you still wouldn’t be reading this book, you simply have to learn to trust him.  I know that is far easier to talk about than it is to do. We’ve learned all our lives that trusting other people will only leave us frustrated and disappointed. Even the people who might have loved us the most probably failed us at some point. The lesson our flesh teaches us from a very young age is take care of your­self, because no one else will.

Perhaps like some of the strays who come to our house, everyone you’ve ever trusted has betrayed that trust. Maybe you even feel that God has betrayed your trust when he didn’t do things for you that you thought a loving father would do. If the truth be told many of us have been exploited by people who came to us in God’s name, claiming to know God’s will for us, who only wanted to exploit us to meet their own needs.

My heart goes out most of all to those whose earthly fathers betrayed their trust and whose past is marred by failure and brokenness. I know some of you reading this book, keep doing so because the message stirs you. But every time you read the word Father something cringes inside of you. It’s not a term of endearment to you, but one that scratches at old wounds.

For you, Father only conjures images of abuse or abandon­ment. It amazes me that so many who hunger to know God had fathers who were so broken they couldn’t even reflect the smallest hint of his love to their own children. Either selfishly seeking their own pleasure, or using you as a punching bag for their own pain, they left a wake of wounded children who don’t know what it is to have a father.

Betrayal by the people we most want to love us can leave deep scars. But even these are not beyond God’s ability to heal and redeem. In fact, the reason those wounds hurt so deeply is because God created us to be loved by a Father that puts even the best earthly examples to shame. Even those of us who had good fathers, can’t imagine how much greater a father he really is. Even the best fathers, as we saw in the last chapter, can’t hold a candle to the love the Eternal Father has in his heart for you.

It may take awhile, but God can help us not define his father­hood based on the failed record of broken humanity, but let his fatherhood define what it really is to be loved by the most awe­some Father in the universe.

So even if the word father doesn’t convey the most tender image to you, please don’t write yourself out of his house. Learning to trust him is the most difficult thing any of us will ever learn to do. If I can understand that for a stray puppy cowering in my front yard, how much more does the Father of heaven and earth understand our wounds and our insecurities.

With incredible patience and love, he coaxes us out of our fears to embrace him. He waits for that moment when suddenly we know we are safer in him than in any other place we could be. It may be timidly at first, but turn toward him and abandon yourselves to trust him in the smallest way you can.

He understands how afraid you are that you’ll be disap­pointed once again. But he’s still there patiently extending his hand to you. He will try to get closer, until you cower away in fear. Then he will back off so as not add to your pain, hoping his gentleness will one day win you over.

ONLY TRUST HIM

Trust. It is so easy to talk about, but so hard to put into prac­tice. Nothing is more theologically certain than that God is faithful and trustworthy. But learning how to live in that trust through the twists and turns of our lives is the most difficult challenge we face.

It took God almost Abraham’s entire life to teach Abraham the joy of trusting him. But he did it. Even when he was asked to give up his only son and heir, he trusted God’s plan and God’s nature enough to set about the task. This, from the one who had risked his wife’s virtue by lying to Pharaoh that she was not his wife. This, from the one who had impregnated his wife’s maidservant when it didn’t appear God would give Sarah the child he promised.

To accomplish that, God did some extraordinary things for Abraham. Rest assured, God knows how difficult it is for you to trust him. He is not threatened by that nor angry with you.

He simply wants you to keep your eye on him and learn.

He knows that only by trusting him can you participate in relationship with him and enjoy the fullness of life in his house­hold. He also knows that you’ll trust him only to the degree that you are certain of his love for you.

This is why he created you and why he designed such an extraordinary plan to teach you exactly how to lay aside your fears and walk into his arms. Then he can scoop you up, hold you closely to himself and fulfill what began in his heart for you since before the creation of the world.

This is the journey of a lifetime—to trust him more and more everyday for the rest of our lives. The more we trust him, the more of his life we can experience. But don’t try to do this on your own. You don’t have it in you. He can take you by the hand and teach you just how much you are loved so that you no longer have to pursue your own way and protect yourself in ways that only seem to backfire, hurting you and others around you.

NICE GOD OR MEAN GOD?

We had just completed a spirited discussion on God’s grace from Paul’s letter to the Galatians at a men’s retreat in the Sierra Nevada mountains. A young man had been waiting to talk with me for some time until enough people cleared out so we could talk privately.

“Over these two days I’ve listened to you talk about God as a loving Father. Since I became a Christian I have only served a mean God, fearful every day that I might miss his will and be rejected. I really want to believe he is the incredible Father you speak about, but I’ve decided not to.”

“Really?” I asked. “Why is that?”

“I’m just not sure you’re right. I’ve thought about this over the last day or so and I’ve made a decision. I’m going to keep serving the mean God.” He had it all worked out. “The way I figure it, if I’m right and serve the mean God, then I’ll be fine on judgment day. If I’m wrong and he is the Father you’re talking about, he will understand why I did what I did.

“But if I change now and serve this loving Father, what hap­pens if he turns out to be the mean God I’ve always thought him to be? Then I’m in trouble.”

“Certainly, that’s your choice,” I told him. “But before you do, can I ask you a question?”

“What’s that?”

“Would the God you’re serving ever trade his life on a cross for yours?”

He looked up at me and shook his head. “No way!”

“Then how can he be the God of Bible?”

God knew it wouldn’t be easy for us to accept such an incred­ible offer of friendship, which is why he went to such lengths to convince us.”

I was only with him for a weekend and I don’t know how he has walked it out since, but he is like so many others I’ve met along the journey. Out of the dissonant portraits of God they have decided that it is safer to treat him as the mean God.

They don’t have any idea just how wrong they are.

And they don’t know that fearing a demanding God, will never take them into the house. They will never be able to do enough to earn what he wants to give them.

To enter the house we must trade our fear of him for a love that is far stronger.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

—MATTHEW 11:29

The Tyranny of the Favor Line

“God is good. You are bad. Try harder!”

– the observations of a fifteen-year-old summing up an evening with her youth group

Who could blame the young mother? I certainly couldn’t?

She was in her early thirties, the mother of two children. I don’t even remember the congenital disease her youngest child had, but at six years of age he was already confined to a wheel­chair. Often his parents rushed him to the hospital in such critical condition that they were never sure if they would bring him home again.

Every time I was with them, I was touched not only by the depth of their need but also the sweetness with which they seemed to endure it. They had grown up in Christian homes and had sought to follow God faithfully into their adult years. I often prayed for them and their child, hoping he would someday be healed.

I had no idea, however, that the stress of his illness was also shredding their marriage until I called one morning after I had not seen them for a few weeks. I found a devastated mother on the other end of the phone. Her husband had left her two weeks before, and she now had sole responsibility for their sick boy.

Overwhelmed with pain, she told me that she was no longer sure God even existed, or if he did that he was not the God she had thought him to be. Not only had six years of praying for her son’s healing proved fruitless, but the need had also destroyed her marriage. She was alone, disillusioned and angry.

I tried to tell her that God still loved her and cared about her needs, but she rebuffed my encouragement. “Do you have any idea what it is like not to be able to ever just relax and enjoy your own child, because you are never sure that he will be there tomorrow?”

I told her honestly that I did not. I only had a brief taste of anything similar. Our first-born daughter had a severe case of jaundice, and I remember how resentful I felt having to take her for a daily blood test and watch my baby scream in pain as they drew it from her toes. That lasted only a week and her life was never in jeopardy. How do you multiply that by six years of standing at death’s door with your little boy?

I did offer to help her with whatever resources we had to get her through the days ahead, but she declined. “I just can’t keep living this way,” she sobbed. “Whatever God expects of me, I just don’t have it to give.”

Rarely in my life have I felt as inadequate as I did the moment I placed the phone back in its cradle. After nearly fifteen years of pastoral ministry, I didn’t have the answers she needed. Only later did I learn why. At the time I was caught in the same trap she was, only on the other side of it. She thought her over­whelming need pointed to her faithlessness and loss of favor with God while I thought my more pleasant circumstances were proof that I had been faithful and thus had earned his favor.

We were both living under the tyranny of the favor line. She was already paying for it; I was about to.

THE FAVOR LINE

What is the favor line? It’s that invisible line that tells us whether or not we’ve met enough of someone’s expectations to merit their approval. It’s impossible to live in this world without recognizing its impact on every area of life.

Our parents had one. We knew what made them proud of us, and what brought their displeasure or even anger. If your parents expectations were fair you could play the favor line, acting especially kind when you wanted something from them, or hiding behind their back what you knew would merit pun­ishment. If your parents expectations were unreasonable, then maybe you grew up without any approval at all.

We found the same favor line when we went to school, though it existed there in a graduated scale. The higher expec­tations we met, the better grade we received and the greater approval from teachers and parents.

It didn’t take us long to discover that our friends had favor lines as well to derive the benefits of their friendship. Disappoint them however, and our so-called friends could turn on us in a heartbeat; as we would on them. We found the same line in the work world as well. Those who achieved or exceeded expecta­tions found themselves in the bosses’ good graces, with all the perks that favor brought.

We’ve learned to survive in this world by currying favor where we needed it, so it is only natural to assume that God has a favor line as well.

As long as our circumstances are pleasant, or even bearable, we may not think much about God’s favor. But, let trouble or disappointment encroach on our quiet existence and we begin to wonder how God feels about us. Does he love me? Have I offended him? Am I doing enough for him to like me? Struggling with those questions brings us right back to the favor line as we look for some way to get back on God’s good side.

King David expressed so eloquently how the favor line super­imposes itself on our pursuit of God:

“LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue…”

He continues with a list of traits that qualify people to come before the Holy God. Other lists in Scripture seem to underline his assertion—the Ten Commandments, the Great Commis-sion, the fruits of the Spirit just to name a few. It is easy to see why people who seriously pursue God end up with a favor line drawn across their lives and why they think they can assess at any moment how God feels about them by whether they are living above or below it.

Bible reading, prayer, church involvement, and helping others seem to put us above the line. Selfish motives or sinful actions push us beneath it. That would seem easy enough, except that we’re never sure how much of any of these things actually matter.

I’ve asked audiences all over the world, “How many of you think that you pray enough? Read the Bible enough? Or, wit­ness enough?” I’ve never gotten so much as one person to raise a hand to my query.

I know what they are thinking, because I’ve thought it too. How much is enough, after all? If I pray an hour a day, couldn’t I as easily do two? If I read two chapters a day, should I be reading four? Do I need to witness once a month, once a week, to every stranger I meet?

In the same way we know in our more genuine moments that we are not entirely free of sin. We may be able to hide it well enough, but thoughts, motives and hidden deeds all expose our ongoing struggle with sin and doubt. Can we ever be sure how much of our failures God is willing to overlook as part of our maturing process?

That’s why I call it the tyranny of the favor line. Trying to live under the weight of David’s list, or anyone else’s, would disqualify everyone of us from God’s presence and his favor. If you’ve tried it you know how hard it is to do everything you think he requires. The only way to feel good about it is when you think you’re at least doing more than other believers around you. But you know intrinsically that you’ll never be good enough.

This problem is compounded whenever we encounter dif­ficult or painful circumstances. Who doesn’t wonder at such times if we’re being punished for not being good enough? We joke about it in the most trivial things, such as getting stopped at consecutive stop lights. “Wow, you must not be living right,” someone invariably observes.

But it’s no joking matter when we suddenly lose a job or face a life-threatening disease. The tyranny of the favor line is unre­lenting, never allowing us to be certain about how God feels about us. So we’re left to pick through our circumstances: He loves me! He loves me not!

A FAR BETTER PLAN

Is it any wonder then, that my young friend would sum up the ministry of her youth group by saying, “Same old thing, Dad. God is good. You are bad. Try harder!” Unfortunately too many people think that’s the essence of the gospel and yet on that basis none of us could ever stand before him.

Even David knew that in his more desperate moments. As he hid in a cave from those who sought to kill him, he cried out for God’s mercy. “Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you” (Psalm 143:2). Aware of his own weaknesses, he was not willing to stake God’s favor on his performance.

Later, as he prostrated himself over the public exposure of his adultery and the murder of the cheated husband and as he grieved the loss of the son his affair produced, he again seeks another standard. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

The truth of the matter is that the same Scriptures that give us lists of qualifications to earn God’s favor, also clearly state that there is not enough goodness in any one of us to fulfill those requirements. Only Jesus would be able to do so. No matter how much we try to earn his favor we will always fall short. The more effort we give, the more distant he will seem.

Why? Because the favor line causes us to swing between periods of self-pity and self-righteousness. When we recog­nize our shortcomings, we want to give up in despair. But even when we feel good about our efforts, we cannot understand why God doesn’t make himself as real for us as Scripture seems to indicate he wants to. Self-righteousness can be a far greater deterrent to the relationship God wants with us than our fail­ures and mistakes.

When our best-intentioned efforts go unrewarded, we may become disillusioned and drift away. For great periods of time we find ourselves distracted from even thinking about our rela­tionship with God and try to satiate our hunger with a host of other things—our work, other people, religious services or even buying new things. Though these may work for awhile, in qui­eter moments the hunger returns. None of these things will ever satisfy the hunger that longs to know the Living God.

That’s why trying to live to the favor line will at some point leave you stranded in hopelessness. Either like Peter, after he denied Jesus on the night he needed him most, you will be disil­lusioned by your own failure to do the good you know to do; or like Job you will question whether or not God even loves you or treats you fairly.

God never wanted us to end up in either place. He instead invites us not to walk the tightrope of the favor line, but dis­cover a far better way to know him.

AN INCREDIBLE SURPRISE

At a young age he had already advanced well beyond his peers. Educated in the best schools, he was recognized as one of the most influential religious leaders in one of the best-known cities of the world. His morals were impeccable and his wisdom knew no equal.

But all was not as well on the inside as it appeared on the outside. For all his diligence and wisdom, something ate at him deep from within. He was an angry man. He rarely let it show except in acceptable moments of righteous indignation, but in times alone he knew it was there blackening his soul.

His zeal to be the best servant of God in his generation had not led him to the lap of a loving Father, but to the cruel tyranny of his own ego. He had started out with a desire to serve God, but that passion had quickly been consumed by his desire for spiritual status. He loved the looks of admiration and awe that he saw in the eyes of his friends and mentors.

Then one day, on a journey to a distant city he came face to face with the Living God. His encounter was far more dramatic than most. A bright light appeared out of nowhere, knocking him off his horse and blinding his eyes. As he lay there in the dirt, a voice rumbled over his body. “Saul, Saul, why are you per­secuting me?”

His next words are quite revealing. “Who are you, Lord?”

He knew he had come face to face with the living God, and now he wasn’t sure who he was. But wait! Didn’t the voice say Saul had been persecuting him? Surely Saul must have wondered in those brief seconds, “Could this be Jesus?”

What if it was? Saul had killed so many of his followers and was on his way to kill many more. He regarded them as heretics and sought to crush them and their teaching before they could destroy the faith he had embraced since his youth.

Finally the voice spoke again, “I am Jesus, whom you are per­secuting.”

His worst fears had been realized. The people he had killed in God’s name were in fact God’s people. What would come of him now? What punishment awaited him in his blind helpless­ness? Like a man who closes his eyes, cringing in anticipation of being struck by a raised fist, he slowly realizes that no punch is coming. There was no anger, no vengeance.

Saul, later to become Paul the Apostle, had come face to face with the God he had actively warred against, and in that moment all he found was love. The Jesus he had persecuted loved him. He had not come to punish him, but to open his spiritual eyes to see God not as he imagined him to be, but God as he really was.

In that moment Saul discovered God’s favor when he had done absolutely nothing to earn it. Instead of being punished, he received an invitation to come into the family he had tried so hard to destroy. Instead of the death he’d brought to others, he was offered life that he never knew existed.

Saul was left with one inescapable fact. He had done nothing to propel himself above the favor line, but found himself there nonetheless. He found that Jesus had loved him even when he had no idea who he was. For Jesus had shattered the favor line to free Saul from its tyranny. It changed him more than all he’d learned about God previously.

This is where relationship with God begins. It may sound impossible especially if you’ve hoped for this in the past and, like the young mother who began this chapter, you have only been disappointed by how remote he seemed when you needed him the most. All you knew to do was try even harder to be good enough to win his affection.

But such thinking will never lead you closer to him. Instead of teaching you to love him, it only cements your fear of him even firmer. He wants to break this cycle the only way he can—by making his favor a gift instead of something you could earn.

I have long since lost touch with that mother. If I could speak to her today I’d want her to know that finding favor with God has nothing to do with what we do for him, but what he has already done for us.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

—PSALM 51:1-2


The Businessman and the Beggar

When we accept ownership of our powerlessness and helplessness, when we acknowledge that we are paupers at the door of God’s mercy, then God can make something beautiful out of us.

– Brennan Manning in The Ragamuffin Gospel

It turned out to be a tale of two men. These are the only two encounters Mark thought significant to record from Jesus’ last trip to Jerusalem and his impending death. One was at the beginning of the journey, near his home base of Galilee. The other came on the trip’s last leg, in the city of Jericho before he would ascend to Jerusalem.

Two men, each in dire need, approached Jesus for help. Clearly, Jesus extends his favor to both of them, but as we shall see only one received it. The other went away from his moment with Jesus, his countenance shattered, grieved because he had misunderstood the offer Jesus made to him.

Watch each of them carefully. Why does one receive and the other does not? If you’re like me, you’ll see yourself in both of them at various times in your life. But now you’ll know which example will show you how you respond to God, and which will take your best intentions and turn them against you.

The answer may surprise you because it is the opposite of everything most of us have been trained to think about God and how he works in us.

CAUGHT IN THE DOING

Jesus had no more begun his journey to Jerusalem, when a man ran up to him, stopped him and knelt before him in the dirt. “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Both his pace and his posture testify to the desperation in his request. He knew Jesus had something he lacked and wanted to find out his secret before he left town.

The question certainly sounds genuine enough, even humble. Jesus answers by referring him to the commandments.

The businessman’s answer tells us a lot about him. “I have kept all of these from my youth up.”

Really? Of course we know now and Jesus knew at the time that this answer wasn’t possible. Paul told us that no one has ever kept all of God’s law and that if even one person could have earned eternal life by the law, then Christ would have died in vain. If this man had been genuine, he would have known that. The Father had only given the law so that we might come to the end of ourselves and know that we needed someone to rescue us. Any genuine pursuit of the law would have led this man to the same conclusion.

Does that mean he was lying? Not necessarily. Though he had not kept the law, what was most critical in this exchange was that he genuinely thought he had. Since he was a little child he had worked hard to keep the law, in hopes of earning his place in God’s kingdom.

For him to think he had kept the law, however, he had to rec­reate it in his own image. In other words he would have created loopholes in his mind to justify those portions he had not kept, perhaps only focusing on major parts of the law such as murder and adultery and excusing his own hate, lust, or selfishness.

By his own desperation we know he had missed the point. The fact that he was still seeking eternal life made it clear that he hadn’t found it yet, nor was he confident that his current course would produce it. He wanted something more to do.

This man was steeped in his own works. That was evident by the question he had asked at the outset. The “I” and the “do” gave him away—“What must I do…?” He was focused on him­self, his ability and resources; trying so hard to earn what Jesus wanted to give him.

How Jesus wanted him to understand that! Mark specifi­cally mentions that Jesus looked on him with deep affection. What did he see? Did he see a little boy trying to be perfect as the only way to earn his father’s affirmation? Did he see the years of fruitless labor this man had endured? Could he see the twisted motives he used to justify himself and maintain his illusion of righteousness? Did he see the gnawing in the young man’s stomach, born of his obsessive drive to perfection that was destroying him from within?

Probably he saw all that and more, and Jesus wanted him to see it too. His next response seems on the surface to be one of Jesus’ most insensitive comments: “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” On hearing the words, the businessman’s countenance fell. Unable to do that, he walked away in grief.

How often I’ve taught this parable, and with unwitting arro­gance, railed at the rich man’s inability to do what Jesus asked of him. He was too greedy to follow Jesus, I had said. He loved his money more than God and now he would pay for it.

But, honestly, was that the point? Who would have come to this kingdom if those were the terms? When I first went forward at a Billy Graham crusade all I was asked to do was repent and believe in him. If he’d asked me to sell everything I owned and give it to the poor, I doubt I would have gone forward. I doubt anyone else would have either. In fact I’ve never met one person who ever came to Christ on those terms nor many who would stay if he required it of them today!

To condemn the man for not doing so is not only arrogant of us, but misses Jesus’ point entirely. He was not offering the man the opportunity to buy his salvation. He only wanted him to discover what his attempts to keep the law already should have—that he didn’t have enough in himself to meet any stan­dard of qualification for God’s life.

RAISING THE BAR

Coaches don’t train young high jumpers by putting the bar at world-record height and challenging them to try and jump it. They put it at a height their charges can successfully achieve and then, over the course of time, slowly raise the bar allowing refined technique, practice and conditioning to help them jump higher.

But Jesus doesn’t do that here. Responding to the rich man’s request, Jesus puts the bar forty feet in the air. Jump that! And the rich businessman did exactly what any athlete would do, he went away discouraged, knowing the task was impossible.

The man understood the lesson, but missed the point. Jesus wasn’t trying to be mean to him. He raised the bar beyond the man’s ability to get over it precisely because Jesus wanted him to stop trying. The gift he offered the man was to be free of the incredible burden of having to earn God’s love by his own efforts. He was caught in his own doing and Jesus was trying to free him.

He was hoping the young man would look him in the eye and say, “I can’t do that!” To which Jesus might have answered, “Good, then stop doing all the other silly things you’re trying to do to earn God’s favor. Stop striving, stop pretending, stop trying to earn that which you can never earn!”

Jesus didn’t want him living any longer under the tyranny of the favor line, but he knew how difficult it is for people of great resource to find their way into his kingdom. Such people always feel like they can earn it or pay for it. They are too focused on their own efforts and resources to simply receive God’s gift.

His dependence on his own resources was robbing him of the life he sought. No matter how much he could do, such efforts would never cover the empty place in their heart that seeks God’s approval. For it’s only in that realization that we can discover what it really means to be approved as God’s child and find security in his love for us.

That’s not to say that as we love him he won’t bring us greater freedom from our possessions and show us the joy of gener­osity, for he will. But that will rise not out of our attempts to earn his favor, but as grateful responses to the favor he already offers us.

Even when Peter started to boast that he and the others had left everything to follow him, Jesus reminds him that none of them had left anything that he wasn’t replacing with far more and far better. The fact is they had left their stuff not to earn eternal life, but because of a relationship with Jesus that had captured their hearts.

Sadly, we don’t get to see the end for this young businessman. My hope is that Jesus’ words finally worked through his heart. But whether they did or didn’t, Jesus still offered him an incred­ible gift—the secret to God’s favor.

“LORD, HAVE MERCY!”

As Jesus was departing Jericho a few days later for his final walk up the barren heights to the city of Jerusalem, another man wanted his help. This man was a blind beggar sitting by the side of the road. He heard a great commotion around him, he wanted to know what it was. Someone told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing through on his way to Jerusalem for the feast.

Bartimaeus had already heard enough about this teacher from Galilee to know that he had the power to help him. He began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

People nearby were embarrassed by his shouts and sternly told him to keep quiet. He was only a beggar after all, why would Jesus care about him? But that only made Bartimaeus cry even louder and above all the other noise Jesus heard him. He had Bartimaeus brought to him and he made his request. “I want to regain my sight.”

Notice that he did not ask what he needed to do to see again. He did not barter based on any qualification he might have to make him worthy. He simply put all of his confidence in the mercy of the man from God.

And that was enough.

Jesus didn’t ask him to sell all he had. Jesus healed him and noted that Bartimaeus’ simple focus was all that was needed. “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Not only did he receive healing, but salvation as well.

Jesus did not love the beggar more than the businessman, nor did he give to one and not the other. For he graciously gave to both of them. It’s just that one recognized it and one did not and the difference between the two contains all we need to know to find life in God.

Jesus didn’t want the disciples to miss that point. Even before he had left on this journey he had told them a parable that these encounters had illustrated perfectly. He told of a Pharisee and a tax collector entering the temple. The Pharisee delighted in his righteousness—how he was more committed than anyone else he knew. He even puffed himself up at the expense of the tax collector praying nearby, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people… even like this tax collector.”

That’s what living by our own works produces. Since we’ll never be good enough on our own we will seek to justify our­selves by being better than most other believers around us. To create that façade we have to focus on their weaknesses and hold them in contempt. Any time we set ourselves above others, we only demonstrate how little we understand God’s mercy.

The tax-collector on the other hand was not even willing to look up to heaven, but beat his chest praying, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” Then Jesus asked which one went home jus­tified? The answer was obvious, as obvious as Jesus’ encounter with the businessman and the beggar.

When you are tempted to stake your relationship with God on your own goodness or your sacrifice, don’t even try. Picture the bar so high that you’ll never find a way to clear it. Approach God on the basis of your own efforts and you will always go away disappointed and disillusioned. But that is not bad news.

What it means is that God has fulfilled in himself everything he would ever require of us. Abandoning our own attempts to establish our own worthiness is central to the power of the gospel. Learn that and a door stands before you that will lead you to the very heart of a loving Father. This is the way to know that he delights over you with joy, and is able to transform you into the fullness of his glory.

He absolutely, completely loves you. Discovering how much will revolutionize your relationship to him and your life in this world.

But go and learn what this means:

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

—MATTHEW 9:13


***This is a story a good friend of mine wrote a while back.  Thought I’d put it up here for others to read.***

The Tale of Two Sister-Missionaries

Sister Sally Smith and her cousin, Jennifer Ballard, went out on their missions on the very same day.  Sister Smith went to England, Sister Ballard to Taiwan.  Coming home from their missions, coincidentally, they arrived at the Salt Lake Airport at the same time, within 15 minutes of each other.  Sister Smith’s family was there to congratulate her for a job well done.  Honorably released.  Fifteen minutes later, Sister Ballard’s family was there also, cheering her return and excited for honorable release.

Sister Smith and Sister Ballard had been called from the same Ward, interviewed by the same Bishop and Stake President. In fact, they even went to the Temple together to “take out” their Endowments.  But then again, these two sisters had always done things together, going to Primary and Sunday School and Relief Society together. Family reunions, they planned together.  And now, here they were coming home together.

Next step?  Sally and Jennifer headed off to BYU, both majoring in accounting, both having their Associates Degree from Ricks College.  Two more years and each graduated from “the Y” with their Bachelor Degree’s in Accounting.  Sally went to work for the Utah State Tax Commission.  Jennifer went to work for a local accounting firm in Salt Lake City.

In the course of their employment, Sally met and fell in love with LaMar Christensen, a good Church member who was active and held a current Temple Recommend.  LaMar was Sally’s “boss” and headed one of the teams in Collections Department of the Utah State Tax Commission.  Sharp, and efficient, well-spoken, LaMar had a bright future before him.

But not so with Jennifer.  There were no prospects for marriage before her.  She was quite active in “the Singles program”, but no man seem to take any interest in her.  Of the two sisters, Sally was the better dressed, the better looking and more able to engage men in conversation. Jennifer was kinda shy, a little backward, dressed more homespun but she was deeply invested in the Restored Gospel.  Sally also had a testimony, but was more invested in the “social scene” the Church offers.

Three years from the time she completed her mission, Sally married LaMar in the Salt Lake Temple.  Sealed for Time and all Eternity.  Sally was excited. Family.  Active in the Church. Sending her sons and daughters on missions.  Grandchildren.  Some day, the Celestial Kingdom

From time to time, Sally and Jennifer visited together.  Sally subtly made sharp jabs at Jennifer because Jennifer remained in her spinster state and seem to have no prospects of marriage.

Sally and LaMar were happy in their Temple Marriage, living and struggling financially in their small apartment in downtown Salt Lake City.  They discussed starting a family, but LaMar announced that they needed to put off having children until “they were financially secure”.  One year turned into two years, then three years and four years.  Sally was growing impatient.  Soon enough, the couple was able to purchase a home, pay off their two BMW’s which they had purchased to commute “to work”  And still LaMar insisted that they needed to get a “nest egg to fall back on, in case things went badly for them financially.”  Sally was getting desperate.  Approaching her 29th year and still no children.  On one Friday, late in May, she had come early from work.  She really needed to talk to LaMar.  She needed to pour out her feelings on her strong and ardent desire to start a family.

LaMar came home looking sullen and serious.  The confrontation.   Sally blurted out, “LaMar, it is time for us to have a family!!!!”  LaMar looked down at the floor, shuffled his feet slightly, looked up with tears in his eyes,  “That will never be, Sally. We will NEVER have children together!”.  Sally felt a cold shiver go down her spine and lodge like a kick in her gut. There was more to his declaration than just the words. His body language was communicating something so very, very awful.  “I have fallen in love with another woman….” LaMar muttered.

Divorce!! A divorce was coming and she could FEEL it, like steel knives carving up her heart, knocking the breath and life out of her.  She just stared straight ahead, through LaMar as if he were not there.  Words that were from a distant galaxy came out of her, as if another woman not her was speaking.  “Very well,” she said with a hollow ring, “Who moves out? You or me?”  Then she caught herself. If he moves out, he moves out into her arms.  There is still a chance I might save this marriage—IF.. IF, he has not broken his Covenants with her.  “Did you break your Covenants with her? Did you break the Law of Chastity?”

His sullen reply, “No, I have not gone that far. But I want to live with her, not you.  I love her. I don’t love you any more.”

Again, the hollow question, “Can our marriage be ‘saved’?

The sullen reply, “No. I don’t want to ‘save’ our marriage.”

Sally wheeled around weakly, and headed for the bedroom. Invading the closet, she took out three suitcases and began to load them up with her clothes and other personal effects. In happier times, these same suitcases had been employed to make the week-end “get-away” for a few days of fun and games in not-too-distant places. But as she thought on these “get-aways”, she reflected that in the past nearly two years, they had not gone any where as a couple.  Their only excursions had been to far away places to attend Professional Seminars and those usually alone.

Sally moved out to live with Jennifer for a time, not knowing Jennifer’s “secret”. The divorce came.  Sally found her own apartment and moved there.  LaMar went on to marry his “new sweetheart”, the very woman who worked as his Personal Assistant and Secretary in his newly acquired position as “head” or “chief” of the Utah State Tax Commission Collections Department.  As LaMar had not broken his Temple Covenants, there was no “Church action” against his membership.  LaMar and Kristen were married in the Salt Lake Temple, after LaMar had successfully petitioned and received a “Temple Divorce” from the First Presidency’s office.  He personally knew one of the members of the First Presidency who was able to “arrange things for him”.

Now, Sally was back into the Single’s Program of the Church, searching for her Eternal Companion who would open the way for her to have children—a full life in the Church as she had taught on her mission and had always envisioned as a young MIA Maid.

Turning the page, we go to Jennifer’s family history and progress.  For five years, Jennifer was active and diligent in her Church callings, attending every Single’s Activity that was sponsored by her Stake.  She even took time off of work to make sure she was at every Single’s Activity. But each week, each activity she’d see the same old guys there, too frighten to marry, too timid that another woman would “take them to the cleaners”.  Most of the men were either divorced or so nerdy that they would never make a suitable Patriarch in any family setting.

As Jennifer was pursuing an active role in her Ward, she one day had occasion to meet Owen Jessop, a kindly older man, who seem to have a gentleness and a civility and charity about him that she found infectious.  He was having her do his taxes for himself, several businesses he owned as well as three single, Head-of-Household women with children which she found curious.  Upon further inquiry, she found this man was a polygamist.  Poor women!! She thought to herself, until she actually met two of his “wives”.  They were not poor at all. In fact, they seem quite happy, free and rejoicing in their children and in their family.  They all three spoke quite highly of Owen and what a great father and husband he was to the family.  But it was obvious they were not rich as to things of the world.

Jennifer wanted to know more.  She called up Owen and asked him kindly if she could learn more about WHY and HOW they were able to live the Law of Plural Marriage, as these three sisters called what they were doing.  Owen kindly received the 28-year old Jennifer and began to explain to her how the early Saints had made provision to continue the Law of Plural Marriage with Priesthood Authority. He challenged her to pray and ask God if what he shared with her was true, just as she had done on her mission with her investigators.

Jennifer went home, prayed about what Owen had taught her and the Lord spoke to her clearly in a personal revelation that what Owen had shared with her was in fact the Truth.  Jennifer burst into tears, full of the Holy Ghost, as women often do, when they are touched by the Spirit of God. Not only was she given such a testimony of Keys and Priesthood outside of the Church to effect these ordinances, but she was told that she should marry into Owen’s family and there become a wife to him and a sister-wife to his three other wives.

Jennifer returned to Owen’s home, knocked on his door and stood there humbly. Owen knew right away that she had received her answer and that she would be joining his family, the Lord having directed her to do that.

When Sally had come to Jennifer’s little apartment, as the refugee she was, Jennifer was but a week away from marrying Owen.  Jennifer dare not tell Sally. Sally was already upset with her impending divorce. No use burdening her with this bit of disconcerting news.

Jennifer married Owen at the beginning of June and Jennifer found out for herself what a magnificent and kindly man she had married.  He was wise in all his decisions and dealings with his wives and children. He was totally dedicated to the Fullness of the Gospel, and his family and loved the Church with all his heart, having served a Spanish speaking mission in his youth for the Church.

Within a year, Jennifer became pregnant with her first child, a little boy, whom she named Joseph.  Nine more children came over the years to Jennifer and Owen, to add to the other children of the other three wives which were 24 in number at that time.  The family struggled financially, with so many mouths to feed, so many bodies to house and clothe, but the family moved on and always had sufficient for their needs.

In her 34th year of life, more than five years after marrying Owen, Jennifer received a telephone call from Sally.  As she listened to Sally lament her singleness and her ardent desire to have children, she was suddenly struck by the thought of inviting Sally to join her family as a Fifth Wife.  She would make a wonderful addition, so thought Jennifer.

So, Jennifer invited Sally over to her home to meet Owen and her four children and show her the joys of family life, especially life in the Principle.  Sally showed up to Jennifer’s home, out in the boonies of Utah County and they met for the first time since Sally was a refugee and then divorced.

Sally was a little confused. Jennifer had never told her she was married, nor invited her to a Temple Sealings, as she had done when LaMar and she were married in the Salt Lake Temple.

“You are married? You have children? Why didn’t you ever tell me, Jennifer?” inquired Sally.

“Its because my husband is a polygamist and I am his fourth wife.  We were married by Priesthood Authority in a place where you could not come—an Endowment House.”

Sally shuddered and had that “weird feeling” come over her, as if she had been struck by lightening.  “You’re kidding, right?”

“No”, she replied, “This is where the Lord has led me—to a very righteous and kindly man who is the Father of my children. I am very happy living this way.”

Sally nearly wanted to jump up from the couch where she was sitting.  “This is nuts, Jennifer.  You don’t own a decent car. The cars which I saw as I pulled into your driveway are all junkers. Your house is in need of repairs and is not very comfortable at all, with all these kids running around.  I can guess that you don’t have much money if any at all and certainly NO retirement nest egg to ensure your future.  And I’ll bet you’ve even been cut off from the Church and from all your Temple Blessings. Didn’t you learn ANYTHING on your mission?”

Jennifer looked gently and sadly to the floor and then looked up with a serious expression. “Sally, I invited you over because I have compassion for you and joy for myself. I wanted to share that joy with you, to see if you might want to learn WHY and HOW we live this Law of Plural Marriage and perhaps join the family of which I am now a part.”

Sally’s eyes glowed with indignation and rage. “Are you kidding? Lose my Church membership to live like this!  Your authority is all pretend. You’ve lost your Temple Blessings and you are living in adultery, deception and apostasy!!!”

With that, Sally wheeled around and headed for the door, Jennifer pleading with her as she left, to at least sit down and listen and learn and pray about it, as she had done.  No more words were exchanged. Sally went out to her car, unlocked the door, jumped in and fired the engine up, making rather jerky motions in the car out of the driveway.  She was upset and hurt.  Jennifer had betrayed her and the Church!!! She vowed to NEVER see Jennifer again, UNLESS she repented and got rid of that adulterous man whom she claimed as her husband.  She vowed that she would ONLY see Jennifer at her re-baptism into the Church, a sure sign that she had again regained her senses and her testimony.

After this encounter, life flowed on for both Sisters, year after year, decade after decade.  Sally remained “active” in her Ward, faithfully paid her tithing and attended nearly all of the Singles Activities sponsored by her Ward.  At 70 years of age, Sally retired from active service with the Utah State Tax Commission, claiming her pension and her Social Security at that time.  All this time, she had lived in the same apartment.  She worked extensively on family genealogy and doing Temple Work in the Salt Lake Temple. She taught a Gospel Essentials class in her Ward for many years and also a Gospel Doctrine class, giving good information and testimony to her fellow Ward Members.

From time to time, she’d visit her two nephews, sons of her younger brother.  But as she grew older, those visits grew more infrequent, as the two boys had a life of their own to pursue and not much in common with their aunt. At 83 years of age, Sally couldn’t go to the Temple or the Genealogy Library any more. She hardly ever attended her Ward. It was just too much of a challenge and she didn’t feel like imposing on the younger crowd to help her get to Church. She was too frail and too old to make the daily or weekly trips. So, she’d stay at home and listen to the General Conferences over and over again, as well her Scripture CD’s. She’d watch the BYU channel on her television.

At 88 years of age, one dark and cold night in the Utah winter, with no one around, the angels came and took Sally home to the Celestial Kingdom, a faithful reward for all of her hard work in the Church and her faithfulness to her Covenants and her faithful activity up to the time she died. Yes, she had been stalwart and had endured to the end and the Lord now blessed her for her faithfulness to the Brethren and to the Church..

Meanwhile, Jennifer continued to have children up and including the time she was 45 years old—TEN children in all, 6 boys and 4 girls.  She struggled in her unfinished home and with her cars that would often break down.  She seldom had much money.  But many times, it seems that almost miraculously, food or what they needed would “appear” to satisfy a pressing need.  At 65 years old, her “final” child left her home to go out on her own, married to a fine man.  By this time, she had 48 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.  Frequently, they would drop by to visit her and she would travel to visit them. Each two years, the Owen Jessop family would gather to share genealogies, play together, tell stories, talk of common business ventures and catch up on all the family news.  Five wives, fifty-seven children which included the adopted children, 256 grand children and 46 great grand children were in evidence.  As Jennifer looked out at this family she had joined so many years ago, she could not help but see a vision of “this must be how the Celestial Kingdom is–FAMILY.” And she felt the indescribable joy of Family all united, loving and working together, overcoming challenges and growing.

But as with Sally, Jennifer’s time to leave this earth life came.  Funny enough, she died about a week after Sally died.  As she lay on her death bed, struggling for breath, but peaceful nonetheless and knowing her time to depart this earth life had come, her TEN children gathered around her bed, with multiples of her grandchildren and great grandchildren there also.  Her oldest son, Joseph with his brother, Hyrum, gave her a blessing of comfort and as a final send-off, thanking her kindly and sincerely for her many years of devoted sacrifice for them and for their family.  Tears of great joy and poignant memories were freely shed in that special place of Jennifer’s send off.  She knew she was going “home” to meet her husband and two of her sister wives.

But that expectation was all a falsehood, all a deception.  As Jennifer breathed her last, she was escorted by the devils to Hell, for her apostasy, deception and wanton rebellion against the Lord’s Anointed Prophet, having taken upon herself to live a law that had long been abolished from the Church’s requirements for Celestial Glory.  In fact, Prophets, Seers and Revelators had rightly labeled any such persons who lived polygamy as adulterers, deceivers, and as apostates.  And according to the Standard Works, such persons are cast into Hell where they suffer for their sins of rebellion, covenant breaking, and faithlessness.  They don’t come out until they have repented and openly and humbly admitted their errors in doctrine and their rebellions against the Lord’s Anointed and for the covenants they have broken.  Hopefully, Jennifer will come to that day when she will repent of a life lived full of deceptions and apostasy.

Thus ends the stories of Sally and Jennifer.

====

Thus ends his story of Sally and Jennifer, complete with the standard Mormon assumptions and judgments about what makes us worthy (or not) to receive some glory (or not) in the afterlife.  So, is Sally or Jennifer right?  Or are they both wrong?  Both right?  Which is it?


Just wanted to give a heads up to whomever might be interested.  Today, Thursday 06/24/2010, Clif High of HalfPastHuman.com will be interviewed over on the Jeff Rense show.  Here are the details:

Show:  Jeff Rense Show

Day:  06/24/2010

Time:  8pm – 10pm Pacific Coast Time

Link for the show:  http://www.renseradio.com/listenlive.htm

And, I also thought I’d add a brief note from a blip of the most recent Shape of Things to Come Report that was published this past Monday, which you can buy here (good read).

This was the conclusion of that most recent report.  I’d add more, but you really wouldn’t be getting the full picture of what they’re reporting and I’d be running up against copyright issues.  Clif undoubtedly goes through a lot of work (especially mental from what I’ve read of the processes and the actual information they see coming up so prevalently) to keep this project running and I’m not about to pirate his stuff for my measly post here…but I will pimp his interview.  This just gives a good glimpse of something and sets the stage for the interview.  I’ve only heard Clif High once previously on Coast to Coast AM, but it was well worth the time to stay up to listen to it.  No doubt this one will also be fun.  I’ll certainly be up listening, just to see what the Universe might be telling me, and would recommend it to anyone who might stumble upon this post.

=====

Conclusion:

“We (humans) are all doomed.  Not only at the personal level, but now, thanks to the rituals of TPTB, perhaps at the species level.  If ever there was a Summer of Change, this is it.  Here at HPH we choose large scale context labels for periods just as a convenience for internal discussions.  This year, 2010, has been labeled as the year of separation (completion of past trends).  The label of ‘year of separation’ has an internal context that includes the idea of [completion (of trends)] as well as [shift beyond transition].  Into ‘what’, has always been an issue, but setting ‘what comes next’ aside, we need to report that a number of people, including those of us here at HPH are undergoing changes that seem bent on ‘separating’ us from previous life trends, taking us in new directions.

“As part of a personal ‘separation’, I realized that interviews are a pain in the ass.  It takes time to prepare, and is draining of emotional energies to engage with the interviewer, and they most frequently, and most annoyingly, keep me up way past normal human bedtime.  Universe insists on this interaction, but I have always set limits *(such as refusing to do corporate interviews) that universe has allowed.  So George Ure and I are working on a new project over Summer … that I have labeled, “Umiak, the Conversation.”  We hope this will be a unique video presentation of a water carried bullshit session.  If we are not too shamed by our efforts, and do not perish in the experience, we intend to release a video sometime over Summer.  At least a portion of it will be placed on YouTube or other common internet carrier.  You are warned … if so released, view at your own risk as mystical initiatory processes will be engineered into this work (that’s our story, and we are sticking to it!).  We will let people know of the progress of Umiak, the Conversation, on our respective sites.  If the format is well received, we have further evolutions of the idea to present.  Thank you for your continued (although puzzling) support.

“Igor is currently wrestling with his own separation from previous trends of this life, as is George Ure.  Noting that many of the ‘friends and family’ of HPH are also undergoing this same sense of separation, including a willingness to put aside many long held positions, we are able to ascertain that this Year of Separation is a general trend out-and-about in the wilds of planet Terra.  And that the [summer of change] here in the northern hemisphere is a ‘good time’ to look at the past, the present, and the dubious future.  Those feelings that will naturally rise in such an examination need to be gnawed upon, and swallowed with a generous heap of acceptance … as universe is in charge of all that we experience, not ourselves, nor ‘random’ chance.  As humans, the manifesting circumstances are all challenges without any regard to whether we view them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  These challenges of separation will need to be faced, gnawed, and absorbed at individual and collective levels.  The process will not be easy, but then life is intended as suffering.  Nothing was ever learned in an ‘easy’ chair, and universe makes it just rough enough for us all.  Anyone saying that life is to be ‘easy’ is trying to sell you something … their particular delusion.  I am personally immune to such blandishments … just too damn full of my own delusions.  No room left for their bullshit.”

– Clif High, The Shape of Things to Come © June 21, 2010.   Pages 35-36.


Thought this might be worth sharing:

Driving the Moneychangers Out of the Temple

After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his abrethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days. And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of amoney sitting: And when he had made a ascourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.

John 2:12-16

The following interpretation of these scriptures comes from Paramahansa Yogananda:

“Meekness is not weakness.  A true exemplar of peace is centered in his divine Self.  All actions arising there from are imbued with the soul’s nonpareil vibratory power – whether issuing forth as a calm command or a strong volition.  Nonunderstanding minds might critique Jesus’ confronting the temple mercenaries with a scourge as contradicting his teaching:  “Resist not evil:  but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”[1] The forceful use of a whip to drive the merchants and money changers out of the house of worship may not seem wholly in keeping with the propagated lamblike image of Jesus, who taught forbearance and love.  The actions of divine personalities, however, are sometimes willfully startling to shake complacent minds out of their vacuous acceptance of the commonplace.  An accurate sense of spiritual propriety in a world of relativity requires a ready wit and a steady wisdom.  The proper course of behavior is not always discerned by scripture-quoting dogmatists whose literal dependence on inflexible dictums may pay homage to the letter rather than the spirit of spirituality in action.

“Jesus responded to an untenable situation, not from an emotional compulsion to wrath, but from a divine, righteous indignation in reverence for the immanence of God in His holy place of worship.  Inwardly, Jesus did not succumb to anger.  Great sons of God possess the qualities and attributes of the ever tranquil Spirit.  By their perfected self-control and divine union, they have mastered every nuance of spiritual discipline.  Such masters participate fully and empathetically in the events of man, yet maintain a transcendental soul freedom from the delusions of anger, greed, or any other form of slavery to the senses.  Spirit manifests Itself in creation through a multiplicity of elevating, activating, and darkening forces, yet remains simultaneously in Uncreated Bliss beyond the teeming vibrations of the cosmos.  Similarly, the Lord’s liberated sons act purposefully and effectively in the world of relativity, adopting any characteristic necessary to accomplish the Divine Will, without deviation from inner attunement with the unruffled calmness, love, and bliss of Spirit.

“The meekness of divine personalities is very strong in the infinity power behind their gentleness.  They may use this power in a forceful dramatization to admonish those who are stubbornly irresponsive to gentler vibrations.  Even as a loving father may resort to firm discipline to deter his child from harmful actions, so Jesus put on a show of spiritual ire to dissuade these grown-up children of God from ignorant acts of desecration, the effects of which would surely be spiritually harmful to themselves as well as to the sanctity of the temple of God.

“Divinely guided actions may command extraordinary means to right a wrong; but they are never activated by wanton rage.  The Bhagavad Gita, the revered Hindu Bible, teaches that anger is an evil enveloping one in a delusion that obscures discriminative intelligence, with consequent annihilation of proper behavior.[2]

“If Jesus had been motivated by a real spate of anger, he might have used his divine powers to destroy utterly these desecrators.  With his little bundle of cords he could not have seriously hurt anyone.  In fact, it was not the whip but the vibration of colossal spiritual force expressing through his personality that routed the merchants and moneychangers.  The spirit of God was with him, a power that was irresistible, causing throng of able-bodied men to flee before the intensely persuasive vibration of a single paragon of meekness.

“Spirituality abhors spinelessness.  One should always have the moral courage and backbone to show strength when the occasion calls for it.  This is well illustrated by an old Hindu story.

“Once upon a time, a vicious cobra lived on a rocky hill on the outskirts of a village.  This serpent extremely resented any noise around his dwelling, and did not hesitate to attack any of the village children who disturbed him by playing thereabout.  Numerous fatalities resulted.  The villagers tried their utmost to kill the venomous reptile, but met with no success.  Finally, they went in a body to a holy hermit who lived nearby, and asked him to sue his spiritual powers to stop the death-dealing work of the serpent.

“Touched by the earnestness of the villagers, the hermit proceeded to the dwelling place of the cobra, and by the magnetic vibration of his love coaxed the creature to come forth.  The master told the snake it was wrong to kill innocent children, and instructed him never to bit again, but to practice loving his enemies.  Under the saint’s uplifting influence, the serpent humbly promised to reform and practice nonviolence.

“Soon thereafter, the hermit left the village for a year-long pilgrimage.  Upon his return, as he was passing the hill he thought:  ‘Let me see how my friend the serpent is behaving.’  Approaching the hole where the serpent dwelt, he was startled to find the hapless reptile lying outside, half dead with several festering wounds on his back.

“The hermit said:  ‘Hello, Mr. Serpent, what is all this?’  The serpent dolefully whispered:  ‘Master, this is the result of practicing your teachings!  Whine I came out of my hole in quest of food, minding my own business, at first the children fled at the sight of me.  But before long the boys noticed my docility, and began to throw stones at me.  When they found that I would run away rather than attack them, they made a sport of trying to stone me to death each time I came out in search of sustenance to appease my hunger.  Master, I dodged many times, but also got badly hurt many times, and now I am lying here with these terrible wounds in my back because I have been trying to love my enemies.”

The saint gently caressed the cobra, instantly healing his hurts.  Then he lovingly corrected him, saying:  ‘Little fool, I told you not to bite, but why didn’t you hiss!’

“Although meekness is a virtue to be cultivated, no one should not abandon common sense nor become a doormat for others to tread over with their misconduct.  When provoked or unfairly attacked, one should show noninjurious strength in support of one’s just convictions.  But even a pseudo display of anger should not be attempted by anyone who has the tendency to lose his temper and self-control in violent behavior.

“Jesus ‘hissed’ at the merchants and money changers because he was not willing that the house of God be demeaned by worldly vibrations of selling and individual profit.  His words and actions signified to the people:  ‘Remove this crass commerciality from God’s temple, for materialistic vibrations quite obscure the subtle presence of the Lord.  In the temple of God the singular thought should be to possess, not worldly profit, but the imperishable treasure of the Infinite.’

“The subtle law of magnetism is that each object or person or action radiates a characteristic vibration that engenders specific thoughts in the consciousness of one who enters its sphere of influence.  The vibration of a candle or oil lamp in the temple induces thoughts of unruffled peace or of the illumination of wisdom – light being the first manifestation of Spirit – whereas any form of commerciality involving worldly goods stirs restlessness and sensory desires.  … The selling of … merchandise in the house of God, and marketing goods for individual profit, set up derogatory vibrations contrary to the purpose and spiritual consciousness of the holy place.”


[1] Matthew 5:39

[2] “Anger breeds delusion; delusion breeds loss of memory (of who you are).  Loss of right memory causes decay of the discriminating faculty.  From decay of discrimination, annihilation (of spiritual life) follows” (God Talks With Arjuna:  The Bhagavad Gita II:63).  This particular verse of the Bhagavad Gita meshes nearly perfectly with the original Hebrew translation of the 10 commandments in Exodus 20.  Whereas the modern bible we typically read (i.e. King James version, etc) don’t get to the true heart of the matter, the original Hebrew is based entirely off of what will “mar” you inside.  According to the Chronicle Project, the most correct definition of the latter commandments specifically link up to the following meaning:  “Don’t let your desire for things mar you.  … It is wrong to want things so badly that you will twist who you are to obtain them.”  This definition works particularly well with the commandments on “coveting” other things – it’s not the things that are the issue so much as our twisting and changing who we really are to get them.