Author Archives: musingthemysteries

Opening to New Experiences (Avoiding Superficial Spirituality Part 9)

Summer Water Drop WaLP tangledwing

“Do not measure yourself by how much road you have covered thus far; rather measure with your eyes set on how much more there is in front of you.” (Jeanne Guyon wrote this to her cousin François Fénelon)

For the last few weeks we’ve been talking about things that influence our spiritual depth: a sense of wonder, widening the parameters of what we believe, letting go of the familiar, assessing the actual “spiritual” nature of our faith as opposed to “soulish,” etc. Here I’d like to propose that…

To go deeper in God we have to be open to new experiences with God.

Fear is not a good reason to stay in the shallow end of your faith. Remember how you feared to even try the water at first? Thank God you overcame your fear and took the risk. Now I encourage you to venture out into deeper water and let the Spirit teach you how to swim. Continue reading

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Just Wondering (Avoiding Superficial Spirituality Part 8) 

 wondering

“God himself works in our souls, in their deepest depths, taking increasing control as we are progressively willing to be prepared for his wonder.” Thomas Kelly

Speaking of “wonder,” I wonder a lot––mostly about God. I used to wonder if he existed, but since I got that settled to my complete satisfaction forty-five years ago, my wonder is now of a different sort.

“Wonder” itself has a number of connotations. There’s the wonder that involves frustration, another is more of a curious sort, and then there’s the kind that connotes unreserved marvel. My wondering about God includes all three at different times. Continue reading

Widening our Doctrinal Definitions (Avoiding Superficial Spirituality Part 7) 

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“Theological reflection is a pilgrimage in which change should be celebrated, not feared.” Clark Pinnock

We’ve been talking about deepening our walk with the Almighty, and certain attitudes we must cultivate if we want to explore “the deep things of God.” (See at the bottom of this post links to previous ones on the subject.) Here’s my next recommendation to that end:

To go deeper we have to be willing to expand our doctrinal definitions

I realize that considering making revisions about what they believe is frightening for some people. For many, their entire relationship with him is wrapped around their doctrinal statement, that list of irreducible minimum beliefs that identify them as “true Christians.”

Don’t get me wrong, there are non-negotiables in our faith, and I wouldn’t think of trying to wrest any of them out of your white-knuckle grip. I’m not recommending that you toss everything out and start over. What I propose is that if you haven’t ventured into deeper waters for quite a while, you might want to take a fresh look at the width, if not the length, of the things you believe. Is it possible that your list of givens is too short or too long or too narrow or too wide to take you to a more profound place in Jesus?

Could it be that what you believe is fundamentally correct in and of itself, yet you’re not flexible enough in your thinking to tweak it if the Spirit were to bring fresh revelation to light? If the very thought of adjusting your theology makes you hyperventilate, you probably suffer from a fixation, if not a mild addiction, to the strictures of your spiritual beliefs. If you wish to have a more profound experience with him, you might do well to ask yourself if you love your beliefs about God more than you love God! Continue reading

Releasing Our Attachment to the Familiar (Avoiding Superficial Spirituality Part 6)

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Last time I concluded with a promise to share some of the human factors involved for us to live more deeply in Jesus. I propose these neither as some sort of sure-fire formula or a bullet-point list in the order of importance. They’re just some of my own observations and aspirations about how to have a deeper walk with God.

I begin with a profound Thomas Merton quote:

“Contemplation does not simply “find” a clear idea of God and confine Him within the limits of that idea, and hold Him there as a prisoner to Whom it can always return. On the contrary, contemplation is being carried away by Him into His own realism, His own mystery and His own freedom. It is a pure and a virginal knowledge, poor in concepts, poorer still in reasoning, but able, by its very poverty and purity, to follow the Word “wherever He may go.”

Continue reading

How Deep is Your Deep? (Avoiding Superficial Spirituality Part 5)

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  • In Part 1 “He’s Not Here” we looked at how easy it is to forget what Jesus says, especially when we didn’t hear or want to hear it in the first place.
  • In Part 2 “Who Is That Masked Man?” we reviewed the conversation two men had with Jesus, bemoaning how Jesus was nowhere to be found, and how the first prerequisite for deeper revelation is that we actually want
  • In Part 3 “Half Seeing” we talked about the inadequacy of a one-touch salvation our need to have our eyes opened wider so that we can see clearer.
  • In Part 4 “Too Deep To Cross” we mused about an ankle deep, knee deep, or waist deep Christianity in contrast to reveling in the River of God too deep to fathom.

That there are deeper places in God that we’ve not explored is no shock. But I propose that we consist of deeper layers in ourselves into which we are challenged to live, and it’s the shallow Christian who goes about as though his/her surface is all there is.

Solomon had some idea about the treasure that exists in those deep layers: “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters and the person of insight draws them out.” (Proverbs 20:5)

It takes “insight” to see into our inmost place, our deepest part. If we’re willing, the Spirit will give us that insight to see deeper inside ourselves and “draw out” the submerged treasures we contain. Consider this… Continue reading

Be Overcome or Be An Overcomer . . . Your Choice

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“Do not repay anyone evil for evil . . . Don’t be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12

I’ve been wrestling with how to respond to Charlottesville and especially to the alt-right event in my city (San Francisco) this weekend. The easy thing would be to be overcome by the evil demon of hatred for the lunatics that wave confederate flags, don riot gear, and carry weapons and shouting “Jews won’t replace us!” That’s what my lower nature wants to do, repay hate with hate, even though Jesus prohibits it. That’s the definition letting evil overcome me, i.e. come over me, seep inside me and ruin me.

Jesus said labeling people “raca” gets us into trouble with God and with one another (Matthew 5). It’s an Aramaic word that is probably best translated “empty” or “worthless.” Jon Carlson said, “When we insist that others are ‘raca,’ that others are empty and worthless because they’ve given themselves over to evil, we don’t defeat their evil. We actually endanger ourselves, feeding into the very destructive tendencies we wish to overthrow.” That’s what it means to be “overcome by evil,” when we take on their evil by hating them with the same hate with which they hate us. Continue reading

Too Deep To Cross (Avoiding Superficial Spirituality Part 4)

Going-Deep

“Knowing by faith that He is present to you and realizing the utter hopelessness of trying to think intelligibly about this immense reality and all that it can mean, you relax in a simple contemplative gaze that keeps your attention peacefully aware of Him hidden somewhere in this deep cloud into which you also feel yourself drawn to enter.” Thomas Merton

  • In Part 1 “He’s Not Here” we looked at how easy it is to forget what Jesus says, especially when we didn’t hear or want to hear it in the first place.
  • In Part 2 “Who Is That Masked Man?” we reviewed the conversation two men had with Jesus, bemoaning how Jesus was nowhere to be found, and how the first prerequisite for deeper revelation is that we actually want
  • In Part 3 “Half Seeing” we talked about the inadequacy of a one-touch salvation our need to have our eyes opened wider so that we can see clearer.

Someone asked me what prompted me to write about this theme. If I’m honest, in some ways I’m sad about the glib expression of faith that I perceive in many of my contemporaries. Though I fear having judgmental spirit towards anyone, what I fear more are the consequences of a shallow spirituality going unchecked. We have so much more to get and so much more to give to emerging generations.

The Psalmist prayed: “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.” (Psalm 71) Many of us are positioned to declare his power, when all we have are old testimonies of the good old days. We have the opportunity to invite someone younger to climb onto our shoulders so they can see further than we can and do more for Jesus than we could ever do. They deserve to inherit a deeper faith from us, yet many of us suffer from a “hardening of our categories,” and can’t seem to learn anything new or experience God in fresh ways.   Continue reading