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Sub Title – Are You Primarily A Soulish Person, Or A Spiritual Person?
God sometimes teaches us with illustrations and visible examples. Jesus used illustrations of farming and nature to make his points. The Apostle Paul spoke of athletics and the military, as well as alluding to the human body.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews also used the illustration of the human body to present a spiritual truth.
Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV) For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The writer of Hebrews speaks of the nature of God’s Word; that it can cut through our thoughts and intentions. It can reveal our true motives compared to what we might be saying. We may verbalize something that is a 90% good thought with a 10% selfish motive. To the human listener, it may sound 100% good, but God’s word opens us up like a surgeon, and shows us what’s inside of us.
The writer makes two comparisons; he compares two groups of two things that coexist but are not the same. He says that soul and spirit can be divided, and he says that joints and marrow can be divided. A consideration of the dividing of joints and marrow will show us a spiritual truth, so we will start there. We’ll start with that which is visible and knowable.
Marrow grows in the bone. It is not bone, but it grows in the bone. I won’t go into what bone marrow does, but suffice it to say this: marrow grows in the bone but it is not bone, it is marrow.
Here is where things get amazingly interesting: Marrow is separated from bone by a porous membrane one cell thick. That is the thinnest of membranes possible. There is virtually almost “nothing” separating bone from marrow, but it is separated, and one is not the other. I spoke to four physicians about this, including an oncologist and a retired surgeon who teaches.
The writer of Hebrews uses that anatomical truth to illustrate this spiritual truth: Soul and spirit are as close as they can be, but they are not the same thing. They almost are the same thing, but they are not the same thing.
That observation begs for definitions, and this is where things can get tricky, but here is what I think.
The soul of a man is that which pertains to all the intangible aspects of that natural (not born again) man. The soul speaks of desire, thoughts, passions, emotions, and the appreciation for art, music, movies. The soul wants things, rejects other things, likes and hates things, feels things, etc. It is that part of you that isn’t physical. It’s that part of you that gets really happy or miserably sad.
The soul can be moved by a good movie, inspired by the Olympics, or enraged at injustice.
Here is another verse that seems to point to the triune nature of man.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NKJV) Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Some say that body and soul are synonymous while others make a differentiation. I am obviously in the camp that believes humans are triune creatures: body, soul and spirit.
For all that the soul is… it isn’t spirit. The spirit seems to be that part of man that is made alive when one becomes “born again”.
John 3:3-8 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
I’ll leave you with this observation, and try to develop in more in my next article, but I’ll end with this thought: If soul and spirit both exist, but are different, then how can we know the difference between a soulish experience and a spiritual experience?
I think that many people wrongly interpret soulish experiences, thinking they are spiritual experiences.
Christianity is a subculture among every greater culture in which it finds itself. Jesus taught that “narrow is the way that leads to eternal life and few find it”. The implication is that there are more people that haven’t found Jesus than those who have. In any given city, there will be more unbelievers than there will be Christians. Therefore, the Church is a subculture of the greater community in which it is found.
Then within the Church Universal in any given city, there are different churches, with different philosophies of ministry, different doctrinal emphases, and a different flavor in music, dress, etc. Each individual church is a subculture of a larger subculture.
I am not suggesting that any Church should conform itself to worldly standards to be more relevant or relateable. Jesus taught us otherwise…that following Him would actually separate family members. Every Christian knows that or ought to know that. Following Jesus puts you in a subculture of the great community you live in.
For me, that’s all OK so far.
Here is my concern…
The Church in its purest form is already a smaller piece of the pie in any given culture, but I find that we often “Gospelize” non-Gospel issues, making ourselves even more unrelatable and marginal than we naturally are or are intended to be.
We have strong opinions on lesser issues, and we go soft on major doctrinal issues and commands. In my opinion, church leaders or congregants sometimes over-emphasize such issues as home schooling, vaccinations, politics, or support for Israel. We fight over issues like drinking alcohol or church membership. We hang Israeli flags in our foyers, and then wonder why people of Arab ethnicity are uncomfortable in our churches. We are blind to the fact that our churches aren’t multi-generational, and if we do see that, we hate making changes to welcome people of others age groups. We forget about loving our neighbors as ourselves.
The phrase is true: “like attracts like” and we usually choose to gather together with people that share more preferences than one might imagine.
The negative result with this can sometimes be a silent or spoken disapproval of others that are not like us, even from Christian to Christian. It’s not wrong to have strong opinions; it is wrong to over-emphasize secondary preferences.
If we insist on living with the idea of “like attracts like”, we inadvertently reduce our approachability and relatability to others that might simply want to worship God and hear a good Bible study. We chase them away with our silent or spoken disapproval.
We become a subculture of a subculture of a subculture, and then we wonder why “no one wants to come to our church”.
I believe that the solution to the “overculturizing” of our churches is to have increasingly less absolutes both corporately and individually. I like to use the phrase “vanilla church”. When you eat vanilla ice cream, it is suited for any kind of topping you might want add. I want our church to be as vanilla as possible regarding all secondary issues, but I want us to be deep and strong in the main truths of the Bible.
Being more vanilla on secondary issues means that we need to be more flexible with negotiable things. It means we forsake personal preferences that matter only to us and our friends. It means allowing people to all scoop from the same bucket of ice cream, but having a wide variety of toppings for individual taste. (Forgive the food analogies. It’s how I think)
Instead of overculturizing our churches with secondary and tertiary issues, let’s major on the majors, and let people be free to “work out THEIR OWN salvation with fear and trembling”, without the fear of the disapproval of others in the next pew.
There is so much I want to tell you, and hear from you, but…
I don’t know if I will drive you away, make you mad, make you sad, or be misunderstood. There are those who would tell me that my feelings don’t matter, and that the truth must be told, whatever the cost. Yeah, I understand that…tell that to my heart.
I am telling the truth right now. I worry about you…I wonder about you…I pray for you…I ache for you. Yeah, I do.
There are a thousand million “truths” out there in the world, and I very humbly but very firmly believe I have found “the” truth. I believe in Jesus.
I know that you say you do too, but I wonder if you really do. Who am I to judge, you ask. You can consider me a busy body, a self righteous snob, or a loving friend…that’s up to you. No, I don’t know your heart, but Jesus said that “from the treasures of the heart, the mouth speaks”, and I hear you saying and see you doing things that cause me concern. (Matthew 12:34)
OK…here I go…
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Daniel 8:27 And I, Daniel, fainted and was sick for days; afterward I arose and went about the king’s business. I was astonished by the vision, but no one understood it.
The book of Daniel contains many of the prophecies given to Daniel regarding future times, including what is called “the last days”. Daniel received many visions from God, and those truths affected him greatly. Daniel actually suffered because God gave him insights into the things that would come to pass. Daniel suffered because God revealed truth to him.
Understanding the truth of God is certainly meant to be liberating. Jesus said, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”. (John 8:32) Many of us have experienced the freedom which comes from knowing and embracing the truth of God.
However, not many of us consider that knowing the truth can also cost you. It can sometimes intrude upon your comfort and your sense of well-being. Knowing the truth of God can sometimes bring you great pain, great consternation, great concern, and physical discomfort.
Here are a few examples…
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
You may have a friend or loved one who is proud, arrogant, and haughty. You know that eventually, they are going to fall, and that there will be some kind of destruction, some kind of suffering. You love them, and care about them, and though you know that they need to discover humility, you hate to think of what it will take to get them to the place of humility. Your confidence in the truth of God’s word makes you sick over your friend’s impending fall.
Galatians 6:7, 8 7Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
This verse brings the Christian great concern and heartache over the spiritual condition of loved ones who constantly “sow to the flesh”. We know that corruption of some sort is guaranteed to come into their life. It may be the corruption of a sinful life, with all the fallout that happens when people reject God. It may ultimate in eternal separation from God. Because you love this person, it makes you sick to think of what their future looks like if they continue to only “sow to the flesh”.
Daniel believed what God revealed to him, and it affected him, because of the sadness and destruction of what God showed him would take place.
As a Christian, I know that God is good, merciful, loving, etc., but I also know that he is holy, and will judge the nations. Knowing the truth of God made Daniel sick. Jesus was known as “a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief”. (Isaiah 53:3) The Apostle Paul wept over those whom he described as “enemies of the cross”. (Philippians 3:18)
Those statements are not shared as an excuse for a Christian to have a sour life. There is much about which we ought to be joyful.
But my point is this: Somehow, some of us have decided that the Christian life should always be about being up, happy, joyful, about never feeling down, never being serious, etc. That is a narrow and incomplete understanding of the Christian life. I agree that there is much to be joyful about, but there is also much over which we may, at times, grieve.
So, if you find yourself sorrowful over sin, yours or someone else’s, that is appropriate and right. If God has revealed a great truth to you, it may cost you some joy to carry that truth in your heart. You may discover that you are feeling “Daniel-ish” at times…even physically sick over the sadness of certain situations in the world.
And if you work or live with a Daniel, give him/her some extra grace. They are carrying a burden that you may not understand.
The good Bible teaching that occurs in many churches is not enough to equip Christ following congregants to interact effectively with the world. In fact, I believe that some pastors are unconsciously hindering their flocks, and are, as a result, “ill-equipping” them for the work of ministry.
I recently heard a tremendous quote, and I will try to paraphrase. The speaker spoke of the American Church and said, “We are a subculture of a sub culture. We read each other’s book, we sing each other’s songs, and we scratch each other’s backs”.
I completely agree that the Body of Christ is a sub culture, and that each movement or denomination is a further sub culture, and finally, that each individual church within a movement or denomination is a sub, sub, sub culture. There is nothing wrong with that…to a point.
Each culture and sub culture has its own language. The lack of awareness that we (the Church) have regarding our sub, sub culture language is the thing that concerns me. What do we sound like to the world?
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With the advent of the internet, blogging, and social networking, much of humanity now has the ability to share their thoughts and feelings almost instantly. That is not news to most of us.
On a humorous and slightly sarcastic note, someone wrote, “Just because you have an internet connection doesn’t mean that you have anything important to say”. I suppose “important” is in the mind of the writer, and not always the reader. I’ll leave that statement alone.
I find myself in a season of life where the words are not coming easily or clearly. There are different kinds of concerns on different fronts. There is instability from the human perspective. I am wondering about the future of certain people and not sure what to think or say.
I am purposely not going into details to try to explain things, because sometimes the words just don’t come. I am learning not to be bothered by that. If you know me, you may know some of what I am talking about, but I am not really looking for people to understand me. Please don’t feel that you need to respond.
It is a strange sensation for us humans to feel things very deeply, but not be able to clearly understand those feelings, or be able to communicate them. If we are fortunate enough to gain some clarity of thought, we then have the challenge of trying to express clearly what we are thinking, and then having the right person to share those thoughts with.
When we are struggling with the issues of life, though there can be people that are sympathetic, some dear people actually make life a bit harder for us. They try too hard to fix things. They give off the cuff advice without thinking. They offer up a quick “prayer of faith” that is more confusing than healing. We can appreciate such intentions, but sometimes we find that we avoid such help.
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Filed under: Blogs
, Fellowship With God
, God's Love
, God's Will
, Good Intentions
, Promises Of God
, Self Awareness
, Spiritual Joy
Some thoughts for fellow followers of Jesus…
The ten second sound bite version of what I am writing is this: If you blew it, and have a mess on your hands, let God fix it. You thought you could be in control and do things your own way, and now you have a mess. In your flesh, you made a mess. What makes you think that in your flesh, you can fix it? Better to walk in the Spirit like you should have to begin with. Walk in the Spirit, and let God fix it.
The longer version of the same story line is as follows…
Sin is a nasty thing. It promises much, and delivers little. The consequences are always bigger than the gratification. It never seems as bad as it really is…until later.
We get used to sinning. We minimize it. We get de-sensitized to it. We agree in our heads that something is wrong, but we do it anyway, intending to stop.
There are sins of commission: we do things that we know are wrong.
There are sins of omission: we don’t do things we know that we should.
The sin in a Christian’s life can run the gamut of not reading your Bible (dumb…you need God’s Word, heart, and direction) to something much more obvious, like substance abuse or sexual immorality. We can be committing little sins, like being disagreeable, or we can be committing bigger sins, such as being violent and a striker. A sin of omission might be that you don’t think that church attendance is important, and eventually find yourself isolated, alone, unchallenged, un-encouraged, etc. There are numerous examples of sins of commission and omission.
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Filed under: Christianity
, Decision Making
, Dying To Self
, God's Will
, Good Intentions
, Self Awareness
, Spirit Filled Life
, Spiritual Blindness
, Spiritual Growth
Dear friends….please take 33 minutes to watch this documentary video.
It is upsetting, shocking, and compelling, but it brings forth some facts and asks some questions that need to be considered.
Pastors and church leaders make many valid efforts to promote church unity. In any city, there is the church universal. Each of our particular churches is a sub culture of the City Church, and then within each church, there are sub-sub cultures, such as youth groups, 50’s plus groups, college groups, etc.
We are conscious to understand each sub-sub culture, to speak on their terms, and be sensitive to their world. We seek to promote activities that appeal to those sub-sub cultures, and to bring age appropriate blessings to them.
These efforts are good efforts, in that they reach into people’s worlds. We meet them where they are at. We become “all things to all men that we might save (and bless) some”.
Human nature is such that we love our peer groups. Birds of a feather flock together. We all have that tendency. Like attracts like. Little or no effort is needed to mingle with people like ourselves. It is an unconscious human response to seek out peers that understand us, accept us, and approve of us. And so, sub-sub cultures exist within our church.
While recognizing and ministering to sub-sub cultures in our church has its benefits, it can also create problems regarding church unity. The blessing of attending church can revolve around easily fitting into our sub-sub culture peer group. There is almost if not actual immediate gratification in peer groups. Social and cultural mores are understood, and have been previously navigated. People enter into sub-sub cultures, and though the balance of things changes at times, lesser adjustments can be quickly made.
Most people that I know have little time to expand their circle of friends, much less try to break into a different sub-sub culture. The thought of learning another social language, another culture, etc., is not only not natural, but troublesome and too challenging for most people.
Yet this is what must happen if our churches are going to continue past one generation, and if they are going to be trans-generational. Younger people need to learn from older people, and older people need to realize their responsibility to raise up the next generation.
The Apostle Paul teaches that in Christ, we are created as “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15). There is a new culture called “Christian”. There is a new man called “Christian”. There is a new peer group called “Christian”.
If a man or woman or teen can see that the greatest oneness they have is not the cultural “sameness” of this present fleeting moment, but the eternal oneness of being one in Jesus, then suddenly that person’s “peer group” is no longer a sub-sub culture, but has grown to include the entire Body of Christ.
If a person can capture the idea that they have settled for the ease of living in a sub-sub culture peer group, but have missed the greater blessing of knowing the entire church, they just might be motivated enough to push past present cultural trends, and actually try to understand another Christian from a different sub-sub culture.
We all understand that the best evangelist for a teen is another teen. Kids come to church because their friends convince them to. Like attracts like.
I submit that if a pastor can convince a few teens that their peer group is the entire church, and not just the youth group, that those kids will begin to reach out to older people in the church. They will convince their friends to go with them as they do it. The same is true for every sub-sub culture peer group. All you need is one or two people from a sub-sub culture to break out and be convinced that their true peer group is actually the entire church.
Therefore, whereas understanding and reaching into sub-sub groups can be effective, and ought to be done, I suggest that we never sacrifice the unity of trans-generational fellowship for the sake of reaching out to a slice of society. Both are needed. We may reach people by focusing on a sub-sub culture, but we need to help them mature into seeing the entire Body of Christ as their peer group. Trans-generational love and nurturing must occur. Kids need to know that the old people want them, not that they simply hire a youth leader to reach them. Old people need to know that young people genuinely respect them for their accomplishments, and are willing to sit and listen to them.
Cultural awareness is important, but love always finds a way to navigate through cultural waters, and reach a kid, a single mom, or an elderly person. Cultural relevance is a tool of understanding, but love is the heart of the matter. Oneness in Christ is the banner that every Christian needs to ultimately see as the glue that not only builds the church, but holds it together, and pushes it forward into the future.