Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Zacharias Factor: A Christmas Tale

Reading through the Christmas story in Luke, I was stunned by the story of the origins of John The Baptist. We sometimes fly over the details when we read and when we do, we miss the true meaning and impact. Zacharias and his wife are now some of the people I will seek out when I get to the other side. I will shake their hand and say thanks to them for being who they were.
So why heroes to me?

If you read the story in the King James, you will see some color not normally considered.  Let’s focus on a few things:

It was a priesthood household. (Lk 1:5)- One of approximately 10000 priests who lived near Jerusalem to serve in the temple. Each priest was a part of 24 divisions each which served in the Temple twice per year for 1 week. He was only one among thousands and yet was declared righteous in the scriptures and blameless before God.  What you may not know is that corruption was rampant and permeated all levels from the top down. Zacharias was in the minority – God saw him as blameless.  A man of integrity. Here is a thought: integrity is not always measured by how far one may ascend to in God’s economy. Zacharias was basically non-descript. I am sure that some considered one who had not even made a ripple others perhaps non-successful. Yet in the eyes of God he was noticed.

They were righteous walked before Him, blameless. (1:6) – consistency in service. I am sure there were some who looked at him and said ‘he doesn’t go along with the rest of us’. Why? He did not profit at the expense of others like perhaps the co-workers. He did not take a bribe, he did not profit from the moneychangers, he did not take from the altar what was not his to rightful portion. He played straight up.

And they had no child ( Lk 1:7) – This labeled him beyond measure. He was in the eyes of all he knew a man who walked out-of-sorts with God. God did not bless him with children. As his life progressed, the prayers Elisabeth and him prayed grew less frequent and fervent. Expectation of a new arrival, grew into hope and then regressed into reverie and finally to resignation. Was this over just a few years? No, it was a lifetime of waiting. The same verse chronicles that the two were  ‘well stricken in years’ what does that mean, they were elderly. Back then, you weren’t considered aged until about the 70th year. There was no hope and yet they remained ‘blameless’. How can one be blameless in the eyes of God? You live before Him not blaming Him for your lot. I know this all too well myself. I do not consider myself blameless but full of blame – maybe the scripture  ‘if we judge ourselves we will not be judged’, is relevant here. I do not blame God for my lot and I do not blame others anymore – especially my children. No there is too much to place on myself for that. I am a product of my own choices—but one redeeming thing is I have is I have not permitted my circumstances to impact my love for God. It has not wavered and will not. I aspire to be one like Zacharias.

By lot (Lk 1:7-8), it fell to him to go within the veil and perform priestly duties to clean the altar of incense and re-fresh all the incense that was to burn continually before the presence of God. This was not a regular thing. Think of it: only two times a year could one have a chance to be called upon and there was a 50:1 chance of getting the drawn lot. For Zacharias, it may have been a once in a lifetime privilege. What really intrigues me is the timing of the lot falling to Him. What we see sometimes as a random event is not that at all. It is a sovereign event. If you look at the things you consider unfair or that God did not care, then It is my conviction you need to adjust your thinking. The fact is God allowed it to happen and even ordained it. Please note though: this is never to justify your part in that course and flow of life. It does not justify your place or any decision you had a part of making. It is mostly because God wanted it that way. This reality is sometimes hard to swallow but if the scriptures can be counted on, and they can be, whatever injustice you may be suffering now is not the end of the game. This is where our faith comes in and where we prove ourselves His children. We live like Zachariah and Elisabeth did. Empty but not without faith, our integrity intact and our not blaming God for how it all turned out. We may even reach a point of resignation about the change we hope for. The important thing is we do not let someone or circumstance make us view God unfavorably.

He applied the incense (11-12) – when the smoke cleared, he realized he was not alone. An angel of God was there to bring him a message: “Thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord…” God is always right on time. I am firmly convinced it is not in the hands of our detractors nor in the hands of fate. The incense symbolizes praise and the prayers of the Saints (see revelation). If anything all the years of prayer and beseeching God and holding no malice against God in the struggle culminated in that one physical act. Zacharias poured out all his life on those coals that day. My question to you is when it comes your time to pour out your life what will it smell like…savor or stench?

He was vindicated – God shown on His face His favor (Lk 1:25) – It was a miracle. Hoping beyond hope as His ancestor Abraham – God gave him favor.


So how is this a Christmas story? It is perhaps about the greatest gift a man can receive. The gift of a son or a daughter. All my children know that gift now. For that I am thankful. They know the love now I still feel for them. It is the God-kind. Why do I aspire to be like Zacharias? I do so in the hope of a voice I once heard so frequently before my choices I might hear echoed in the small voice of their children. I will stand in the integrity I have –what there is of it. I will endeavor to walk the rest of the way blameless before the God I serve. I will live in resignation and raise my hands and worship the God who has always looked out for me. Should I see an angel which I do not expect but hope for bringing good news I will indeed rejoice. But should He not come, my God is enough for me and if it be told, He has always been enough.  I am standing near the coals and pouring my life out upon them praying what will be forthcoming is a savor. I have kept the faith and run the course set by God as painful and hard as it has been I still am able to look at the heavens at night walking my little Pomeranian and my mouth still whispers praise.

Merry Christmas to you who read this. May the coming year have the lot fall in your favor.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Butterfly Effect

It is a simple theory. How the brush of a butterfly’s wings stir into motion effects that cause massive currents and torrents far from the point of the swish where it originated as an inaudible disturbance of air by perhaps the most beautiful and fragile creatures God set Himself to create.

In another genre and sphere, I have felt the brush of the butterfly wing …or perhaps the wing of an angel. I want to tell you a story of how the life of a dear friend sent into my life such power it staggers the imagination and borders in the realm of miracle. I have a friend Joe. Two years ago we were having dinner and he told me of a brief bout with melanoma and showed me the scar just about at the top of the his hairline. He said the plastic surgeon did a pretty good job and looking at it, I recall agreeing with him. He looked good. I made an undetectable sigh for my dear lifelong friend. We had lost touch over the years but in the autumn of life, we re-connected and I realized then how much I loved him. A few months later, the cancer was back and aggressive. I prayed and prayed but there seemed to be no light at the end in sight. My friend grew weaker and the ogre had his death grip on him. He took chemo to no avail and the disease spread. He grew jaundiced and weak. I began to prepare for the seeming inevitability. Yet he began reading books on the subject o f healing and began to take to the Bible as the medicine it truly is. I recall the story. In his darkest moment during the last month of 2014, he was alone late at night in his bathroom and began to pray for God’s healing. Giving himself over and surrendered to the Almighty. I don’t know if it was for peace and strength or for healing maybe even both. But as he recounts it, he broke into a sweat, the jaundiced look was flushed over by pink and the next morning the tumors so prevalent the evening before were no longer there. A month later, he returned to the doctor and there was no trace…anywhere.  I rejoiced with him and his wife. God had surely healed my friend. I was relieved and happy.

Fast forward to the July of this year. I had been experiencing a rapid and irregular pulse and decided it was time to go to the doctor about it. I had thought that I was just out of shape and needed to begin my running in earnest. After the doctor took by pressure and listened to my heart, he looked at me most incredulously and said. ‘you mean to tell me you just walked in off the street and came in here to be seen…we usually see your type in the emergency room. Mr. Flynn, what you are experiencing is life threatening it is a very serious condition.’ Well to say the least, my wife and I were shocked. In the aftermath of that first meeting, I began a regimen of pills to see if it would help. I saw a specialist and he also tried to use medicines but to no help. In one meeting I heard the words ‘oblation’ and ‘you have congestive heart failure and your heart is operating at about half the rate of a normal heart.’ In other words, I was on the long slide to an inevitable end. Too much damage had been done and maybe just maybe, I might recover some capability but it was going to be a long and difficult road back. I under went the recommended treatment. Even under the anesthetic, I could feel the burn of the treatment to try to re-synch my heart rhythm.  For three days I stayed while they monitored. Then I went home. More medicine and more thinking about what was ahead. Tossing and turning each night by my sleeping wife wondering if I was going to be around for her the next few years or not.  Living day to day in quiet desperation.

The phone rang and it was my friend Joe. I told him all that had happened, He listened and then spoke words I had always heard and believed for others but never for myself. He reminded me of his own story and he said he was going to send me a few books that had helped him. I promised I would read them. When they came in the mail the next week, I looked at them like some strange story. I was reluctant to read them . One was only a small pamphlet. But there was one scripture it mentioned. It was Proverbs 4:20-22:

“My son, give attention to my words;Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes;Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all their flesh.”

I stopped in my tracks. I can take no credit for the recall of an experience I had a few years ago. I had come out of a group that had in my opinion used the scriptures inappropriately and at that time I was reviewing all I had learned there. One of the scriptures in Hebrews was the  fulcrum of all their teachings. I had purposed a year prior to review everything I had learned there and put each and every tenet to the test. When I got finished with doing this with the scripture in Hebrews, I was able to not only explain where what I had learned was flawed but in an objective fashion cast down by the words of God Himself what had been taught to me. That night was a healing and renewing of my mind through much effort and study. The word had healed my mind.  In my current situation, I had this nugget of true healing to make a toehold on the sheer wall to which I was clinging. It was if the Holy Spirit whispered Himself: ‘If the word could heal your mind, most assuredly it could heal your body.’

This was how it began. I had been given a great gift: prior experience from the Almighty to rely upon. I began to pray and take God’s word as any medicine. I recalled the words of my friend Joe: ‘Just reach out and take it.’ Not a fanfare or a lot of effort but simply receiving as one of the myriads over whom Jesus shadow passed and hands touched.

Today I went to the doctor to review my results of a stress test. I was hopeful but guarded. Vicki and I prayed in the office before he cracked the door that we were expecting a good report. We closed out that prayer. As he came in the first words out of his mouth were ‘Did you get my email?’ To which I replied I did not. He apologized and said. ‘After the stress test, your heart appears to be normal.’  I was shocked and surprised. I said ‘I am not sure what you mean.’ Does that mean that the decline has stopped? You mentioned I was operating at half the normal rate. He said ‘Well your heart is normal and is operating at 55% versus the 30%. It is normal.’

I could not believe what I was hearing. I was NORMAL?!  He mentioned that I should go off one medication and cut to half the other. I was on five now I am on three. He mentioned the one I was to cut in half, he would be okay if I discontinued it after some time or at least tried it out. 

The rest of the day I could not work or keep a thought in my head. My wife looked at me and said ‘Honey, congestive heart failure does not disappear and to recover fully is practically unheard of…’ We both smiled and knew there was a third person in the car as we drove home with a new lease on life. No dark shadows. No hidden storms. No days cut short. It gives me hope.  Hope to see my children, to see their children some of whom  I have never seen. To put the impending judgment some spoke and believe in its proper place, the grave itself…and to soar on wings of faith once again.

I am here and I am well by the power of the Almighty. So I pass on the Butterfly effect to you the reader. God has other plans for you. Open your sails of faith and let the growing power that started with my friend and passed to me fill them and move you along to pass it on yourself.

Maybe it was not a butterfly’s wing but an angel’s…who can tell. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

In the Counting House

I don’t get the opportunity to preach very often and I would not call this preaching but it is a ‘holy’ rambling meant to encourage you on the journey you may be on in your quest to follow Jesus. The road you may be trodding might not be a desirable one if you are thinking of leaving your group or on the road of recovery from influences that had called themselves ‘the way’ but turned to be nothing more that perhaps ones’ personal vision of God and it replaced yours. Here Is a story of one who replaced his own vision for Another’s  and in his life it was the right choice. The moral is it is okay to give up any man’s vision -your’s of someone else’s for His. No guarantees but perhaps the chance for a memorable life.

In the Counting House

When Jesus’ shadow crossed over Matthew, he spoke two simple words: 'Follow Me'. There was no retirement plan, 401K, or any guaranteed future. What followed Matthew from that time forward was that the road was never easy and mostly uphill but it was a trail of shimmering glory he followed and he logged his time with Jesus. What he saw, smelt, heard, felt and tasted  prepared him for the sixth sense:  ushered into a world of the eternal where he set his eyes , heart and will. He logged and traveled many miles to parts east of Jerusalem and took the message of who he followed and who permeated his life. At the end, it is said he died a martyr in an Ethiopian drama played out to the end. No doubt he was a founder of the Coptic churches in Africa when the One he followed called him home. Those churches are still alive today and their beliefs and writings are a look into the ancient past when the Apostle was among them.

Was Matthew’s life easy and victorious? Well of Paul’s commentary about his life is any inkling as to the life of Matthew, then it wasn’t  easy or victorious in all practical and temporal perspective. But that is not what he was aiming for at all and that should not be our perspective either. There is a sixth sense most definitely and in the life the Holy Spirit has graced, it is more real and allows one to see farther, go farther and arrive at places they would not have planned or expected. We are put on a road to the Holy Mountain where the city of God and angels shines all the brighter with each step.
We can make the decision to stay in the counting house immersed in its culture and plodding along while others rule our life with their own version of the Sanhedrin using the law to rule and lord it over others. But if we can peer as Christ did, we see the humanity in them and allow ourselves to think that we are not be fashioned into their image but Another’s.  Christ may be saying or has said already ‘Follow Me’. 

If you have just heard the words, then you are at a point of decision and it is not an easy one. In my case, He literally dragged me off my seat metaphorically as Old Testament analogy of pulling the lamb from the lions mouth.  Others still in the counting house gasped and said what a loss. In that process I lost all honor in the eyes of my family and friends and my ministry. Now, I look back and have no regrets. I was a brand plucked from the fire. In the years that followed up to the present time, the road has been more dark than light but I have pressed on because I no longer lead but  follow wherever He leads. I no longer have expectations on this earthly life. But there is hope there and it shines brighter every day.

If it has been awhile since you heard His words to leave the counting house and you in fact did, then I am sure the road has been much like mine. If nothing else, this is a confirmation that you’re decision to get up off your ‘pallet’ and walk was the right one. It is the path of all those who escape the counting house. We are exposed, shipwrecked and beaten in a metaphorical sense but whether in the proverbial prison or cast into a raging sea, we will see the piercing light and the clear trail of the One who leads us on. 

In either case, my prayer is the when you, as Matthew either look up and see the Man of the shadow now over you, you hear whispered perhaps the most beautiful words ever spoken or perhaps heard years ago and reminisce at this moment while catching your breath, you will have the satisfaction that you heard and acted on His word and that is the very purest definition of trust and more specifically: faith

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Measure of Authentic Faith

“Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: – Heb 11:35

The path of faith does not always yield a positive outcome on this side of heaven. In this world, there is entropy of just about anything you can name – physical or other wise. We all wear out, we all have unfulfilled dreams and aspirations and the day we die, our inbox will not be neatly arranged and all tasks there solved.

We have to be a people who allow interruption of practically anything: life, health, prosperity and the constancy of family. They are all in flux and temporary. So here are the questions:

Can you live with disappointment and…
Can you live with loss and…
Can you live with interruption and…
Can you live with estrangement and…
Can you live with separation and…
Can you live life on a solitary road and…
….not lose your faith?

How does our Lord view such people who find it within themselves to live life and not turn back to the world and lose their faith?
As sons and daughters. As brethren. Pilgrims too good for the life they have lived and what they have had to deal with on a daily basis.

There is a great deception in dysfunctional religious groups. It has to do with focus. What the focus is so many times is on the end game. In other words, it is a focus on a future where the one is pressed and lives with focus on being in a position to be rewarded and not punished. To be one of the elect, remnant…call it what you want. But the question is does that kind of life lead to godliness?. If one lives in such fear on not being in that number, how can a life produce fruit that pleases the Almighty. It seems to me that overcoming is not the outward act of discipline nor is it the collection of works that commend us to God.
So what is it?

It is the pure definition of faith as found in Hebrews 11, the entire chapter. In that chapter acts done by those confirmed their faith…in one and only one sight: God’s. The testament written of them was that in it all they remained faithful. They believed and kept believing in the One who has no name. They were exposed to the worst of life and yet the best of it because whatever measure of faith they had, it only shined the brighter as the world and circumstance honed it to a sharp edge.

This is the true measure of faith: Living in all the throes of life in all its ugliness and to not grow cold towards the Almighty. It is faith that causes me to look in the heavens and proclaim ‘It is not your fault, Father’ It is my own and the frailties and imperfection of those who even also call upon your name.
I am learning to take life one day at a time. Live it and be thankful for every breath. In that I find peace. In that I have hope that whatever is written in the books about me, the God I serve commends me to Life and counts me among the ones who have gone before.

I may not receive my dead back to life. I accept all that life may bring in all its hardship and towards God my heart is still full.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Game Over - Looking Back on a Life Lived

After some harrowing experience, it seems natural that one’s position needs to be re-evaluated regarding perspectives. Having been close to the edge these last few weeks, I can say that what I have come to the conclusion about is to be more of the following:

1>     Kind – how I view people whose viewpoints are dissimilar to me on several fronts: dogma, scriptural interpretation and just viewing them as brethren and not adversaries. The point is none of us see so clearly that we can say that we have all the answers. I certainly do not. So, if I am going to err, I am going to err on the side of giving the other guy the benefit of the doubt fully appreciating what I have NOT experienced.
2>     Gentle- if anything be willing to be mis-understood and remaining unflappable. Cruelty in its definition is being one sided and having the innate right to be severe because others do not act or behave like you do. Having been this intolerant and having such intolerance in my life now directed towards me, all I can do is have some higher capacity for understanding that. In a word, meekness.
3>     Unconditional Love – oh it is easy to say but to have it means I do not love or favor others based on how they comply with my own standards. This does not dissuade dialog to understand other points of view but to treat others as anathema simply because their faith-view is different from mine smacks of all the things that are religious and not Christ-based.
4>     Lower expectations – I do not believe one caught in anger and intolerance all in the name of Christ can see clear enough to really judge the body rightly. In fact, given some have the proclivity to live with this mindset – leads to illness and early death. The key is to lower expectations for people. The apostle Paul talks about being patient and giving to the weaker vessels. We should not let our liberty impede others in the faith.  What this is really is patience in another form.
5>     Have faith in people – eventually if God is indeed sovereign, we can expect people to do the right thing. Our problem is that we usually have a time table when God’s perspective is glacial on this matter. We need to believe in people that if they serve the God we all do (please don’t think that if I don’t serve like you do, we serve different Gods because we don’t—don’t be na├»ve and myopic – singleness of vision is not truncated only focused, know the difference), they will come to a meeting of the minds and hearts with those also naming the Christ as their savior.
6>     Allow people to live their own lives – this is especially true for me. It is not that I have given up because I never will. I love those who spurn me too much. But they have their life to live and have their own mistakes to make. WE sometimes must let those run their course as the prodigal did. The difference is communication, cutting off someone is an abusive form of this and tends to be emotional blackmail for non compliance. So I have re-lit the light in the window, opened my Bible for dialog and kept my heart free of my own expectation.
7>     Truthfulness – to strive for the truth but reflecting all the above is a real challenge but saying the truth in love is disarming. The truth is, my wife and I are being unfairly treated by our family. Even though in their minds, they are only acting obediently, they discount the scriptures and rely on roulette like epiphanies to justify their lack of compliance to the words of Jesus. They have taken their time and tithed it to the ‘Temple’ and say it is Corban – when it could have helped their parents and families. This is the worst of behavior. I say this in love because it is the truth. There are no scriptures in context that can move this statement of Jesus. We are believers just like them but perhaps a little more experienced and maybe a little wiser – unless we are viewed as reprobates but that has its own definition to wit we do not qualify.

In the end life is short, tragedy is a part of it but so is joy. In the end, when we all see clearly – because no one does—we will be different and be able to sit down together. We must remember there is only ONE wedding table at the feast. To restrict one or to think one will not be seated is not relevant. To exclude based on my perspective is religion.
I have time that is limited. In fact I do not know how much I have left. Days,weeks or hopefully years. I forgive my enemies and my family for their behavior and cruelty. IF they read this, what they may do is certainly up to them but it is a heavy burden to bear. Jesus has come to lift our burden. It is my prayer they let Him do so.

Friday, June 19, 2015

True Love: An exposition

It is an age old question and many over the years have tried to define all its qualities. After much reading, I can find no other definition that holds a candle to the Apostle Paul’s definition found in 1 Cor 13 (the whole chapter). This amazing discourse mentions all kinds of spiritual gifts and power. It mentions the willing sacrifice of a person to be burned (for the cause). Yet the conclusion Paul reaches is startling:….none of that or any other work we might do has ANY merit if love is not accompanied with it.

So how do we know if we have genuine love as Paul so beautifully describes it?

I Cor 13:4 : Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

General characteristics: longsuffering (patient), kind (acts benevolently), envieth not (not zealous about itself), vaunteth not (not self promoting nor looking after its own interest), not puffed up (does not think of itself as high).

So what love is not:

So if you are not patient with others, do not act benevolently, are zealous about yourself ( constant focus on lifestyle and pursuits), think you are special, then you do not have the characteristics of genuine love.

I Cor 13:5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

What love is not:
So if you act out or prepare disgrace for others (think less of them), are only interested in people in your immediate circle (group), easily provoked (offended by others because they are different), think evil of others (pray for their judgment or demise) , then you do not have the characteristics of genuine love.

I Cor 3:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth

What Love is not:
So if you rejoice in a deed violating law and justice, don’t rejoice objectively in any matter of certainty (i.e. look for truth not as it is perceived by one but open to all input and to judge them objectively on their own merit), then you do not have the characteristics of genuine love.

I Cor 13:7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Waht love is not:
So if you don’t hold out all things (support), commit to trust all things, wait or look for salvation for others, remain steadfast to others, then you do not have the characteristics of genuine love.

In the end, it boils down to a few things:

Care for what is right - regardless who tells you your thoughts are not in line with theirs, 
Do not consider yourself first - be careful you understand this self focus has many faces some parading as angels of light 
Believe in others even though they are not like you. here is a thought 'What if God is on both sides because both are groping towards the perfect. 
This is love.

I would venture to say the we all fall short of that but what I hope you gain from the above is the ‘openness’ of love. It is not that we become pushovers but we do remain open for dialogue and if I could say, we are not afraid of any particular thing or person. As Paul said ‘perfect love casts out fear’. 

With all my heart I wish my darlings love, happiness and the goodness of God. No regrets only forgiveness and know I love you all. 

Kevin - once a pastor, father and mentor. Now just a pilgrim pointed towards the city whose builder and maker is God. Nothing in my hands I bring, to Thy Cross I cling

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Mother's Day Entry

My wife Vicki posted this on Facebook today. It will not be visible to most and in that knowledge, I decided to re-post it here. This is for all the Mothers who will not receive any contact from people who are involved in shunning because it ti their group's practice. Notice that I say "group" here because they have no resemblance to their Lord or His body. In short, they should know better:

"Happy Mothers Day to the moms who will not receive poetic greeting cards or colorful bouquets of Spring flowers. Much love to the moms today who will not hear "I love you" from the other end of their phones or receive a hug hearing "thank you" whispered in their ear.
Happy Mothers Day to the moms who have lost their children to - a life that was interrupted too soon by death, a cult that stole away unconditional love or harsh words that severed a sacred relationship.
I give you hope today. Hope that you "will" see your children again, either in this life or the next. Know this..... a joyful, blessed reunion awaits you. A mother's love is stronger and holds tighter the bonds than any physical, spiritual or emotional schism can sever.
So Happy Mothers Day and look forward to that day! What a day it will be!!!"

We all have flaws, some perceived worse than they really are.  Nothing will over come the power of love. Nothing. Walls will eventually come down because of it. It is inevitable.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sonderkommando: A modern rendition

In the throes of WWII, an arm of the nazi regime was created called the Sonderkommando. This group of individuals were prime specimens for the work that they were tasked to do. They were handpicked by the Nazi command because of their stature, strength and traits often reflected on other groups of enforcers such as the Gestapo and of course the Totenkopf (Death’s Head) Division of the SS. They were steely in their work and the execution of their duties was documented to be highly efficient and notoriously cruel – true Nazis. Howver what you might not know is these infamous arms of the Nazi regime were not Germans, Poles, Ukrainian or Italian: they were Jews. 

The Sonderkommando executed inhuman acts on their own people. Their motive? To stay alive. To gain approval from their Nazi captors and to live for one more day. These were the ones who met the people coming in off the trains directly to file them into the gas chambers while the prison orchestra played light and happy tunes on the sod that covered the chambers. These were the ones who told the people to hang their clothes on hooks and remember the number on the hook so they could find them later after they had been ‘processed’. These were the ones who donned their gas masks and loaded the dead bodies onto the garrets and transported the dead to the furnaces. These were the ones who filed through all the items of the dead collected off the hooks.

These were the ones who shoved the naked, dead bodies of the people into the ever burning hot white furnaces. They breathed the smoke of their own people and were covered in their ash. 

These were the ones who loaded the ash from the furnaces and spread it out on fields to cover the dark acts of which they were involved.

Why is this relevant for this blog on the subject of dysfunctional groups? It is not from the perch leadership of such groups operate, it is in the trenches through the chosen few: the Sonderkommandos. There is no direct contact or damage, only the edict and the choice of those who fulfill their wishes. It is a father, a mother, a sister, a brother, a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law, a son, a daughter. In the dark realms it is not the foreign but the familiar who closes the door of the chamber and listens to the hellish screams of loved ones gradually fading into the past into only memory. The reward is approval and to live another day in favor from their leader and some ethereal promise tinkling on the breeze of mournful winds that God is pleased. What really drives them is survival and fear. Fear that one day they will be trundled into the chamber by a friend, a colleague, a son, a daughter all the while spouting ‘all is well, we’ll see you in a moment but for now listen to our leader’. In the aftermath of such times, there are only bodies to be cleaned out, processed…and burned from memory. 

What haunts these Sonderkommandos is not the act itself but the time wasted in indecision due to fear. The frozen will that is checked that they may be the next to come before a tribunal and be swept from their place. What haunts them is the coming end. The world will not understand their actions just as much as those Jews who threw their own into the furnaces and buried their ash measured in tonnage. No, the pang felt is a future unsure and a sense of pending reckoning and finally judgment. Due to the treachery in which they partook, there is no respite. One cannot take back the acts done in the name of the leader and I am being kind here. Ultimately the acts performed were in the name of Christ of which is diametric to His heart and His intent. 

There is a story perhaps fable from the death camps. There was a young girl who survived the gas chamber and it was the Sonderkommandos that found her and tried to hide her. In an act of penance or the self-disgust or self-hate, they looked to her for their redemption back into the human race. When the German Commander found this girl, she was brought before them to witness The Sonderkommandos being shot one by one by those whom they served. It is said that during this ordeal, upon completion of the executions, the young girl saw her chance to run out of the gate and skip away. It was not to be, she was shot to death and taken, processed and burned by the new crop of Sonderkommandos. I cannot say what may have gone through her mind those last moments before death. All she wanted was to escape the madness and the twisted reality she had directly encountered. She was almost driven by the nature of self preservation to escape. This is what sped the encounter with death she would no doubt experience shortly. 

Some of us could no longer take the madness and the twisted reality so we ran, when we looked back who we saw holding the pistol was the face of a son, a daughter, a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law, a father, a mother. We were shot through the heart. It was these that carried us to be processed and burned from their memory.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Real Stuff: A Simple Kind of Faith

So many things to mind, so many possible important subjects as believers. In the time of Jesus, religion was king. The society that He was steeped in was all about readying oneself to meet God,  serve God and ultimately please God. This was the life of the Jew. Yet what Jesus brought -- basically the same motives aforementioned-- is why His own people killed Him, no murdered Him. How could this be? Because one was the 'Real Stuff' and the other was not. It is said in the bible that there are two powers in this world. To put it simply, there is the flesh and the spirit. The scriptures also record that they are locked in mortal combat, one seeking to dominate the other. No better story about the flesh and the spirit is the story of Cain and Abel. One pleased God and one did not. What was the difference, one brought sacrifice through blood and the other brought his own efforts. One rose up to kill the other. Fast forward to the time of Jesus and see the same storyline played out. Jesus, bringing Himself as a sacrifice and on the other side, the culture (state religion run by the Pharisees and Sadduccees through a governing body called the Sanhedrin). Jesus confronted their approach to God in essence that it had become complex, convoluted and difficult to understand. How did this happen? Well, man did what he has always done. Taking the instructions of God and fashioning them into his own way of fulfilling those instructions. The historical fact is that there was the Torah and there was the Mishna Torah. One was the simple instructions given by God that the society was to follow. The other was an extrapolation of that law into everyday practice. What was that simple set of rules' purpose? To teach the people their ulitmate need for God to forgive and purge their sin: 
Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. Gal 3:19 
It was a pedagogue nothing more. To the Pharisee, it was the only way to heaven. Each simple law was broken down and applied to everyday practice. By the time Jesus walked the earth, there were almost 1000 different 'Mishnas' to follow. How many of us could digest that? So, religious experts were provided for guidance. Anyone who could wield the Law and help the common man apply it, were the leaders of that society. This set up the greatest and most tragic crime of all time. Jesus was literally put to death by the Mishna - an extrapolation of the Words of God written by His own finger.  
How did this come about? Jesus reset the thinking of His society and backed it up by the spiritual power He possessed. It was said of Him that 'No man can do these things unless God is with Him' Yet Jesus said of the rulers of that society:  
"Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel! What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence!...What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity." Mt 23:24-27 
Now, let's apply this to modern life. You see, the rules MUST be simple. They must be small and digestible. By the way, God has always given Man a simple plan to follow. It is the religious who cloud the way to God, make Him unapproachable.  
I have stated it before elsewere but to drive the point home, do we really believe that by our industry we will do any better than the Pharisee. When we move from the fulfillment of the commandments (love God with all you heart and love thy neighbor), we start going into the darkness and the viper's den of legalism.  
In a practical sense, let's examine the simple faith: 
1> The apostles preached the following. There was a man who was named Jesus who brought a message to bring man back to God.  
2>We were separated from God through our own choices that now imprison us, It is our sin.  
3> Jesus, a man who overcame sin, became a substitute for God's demand that transgressions against Him. There must be payment by death for our sins. . 
4> Jesus died on a cross, suffering the judgment of God, His Father on our behalf. 
5> God, the true God, vindicated Jesus and confirmed He was His son by raising Him from the dead. 
6> Jesus, in turn because of His sinless life and His willing sacrifice, His payment on our behalf was accepted by God His Father who allowed His Son to send the Holy Spirit to be with us.  
7> It is that spirit that was sent to us to be ever with us from the beginning of our faith and repentance.  
8> Jesus paid it all and a new kind of life awaits us as we accept His work. We no longer are condemned nor need to be condemned by anyone. We are free from sin and death. Free to live the life God has called us to live. 
That’s' about it.  No convolution, no further steps. All the above is based on the works and life of Christ and nothing else. It addresses all aspects of life and all the above is timeless. 
If you were to preach a message you wanted to last two millennia, what kind of message would  it be? Would it be a convoluted message? Would it be complex? Would it be cultural? Would it be a message that is inconsistent with itself? No. 
Looking back at the message given to us, one more question: Would it be a generally universal message and contains points that all people of faith could agree? Yes.  
If so, then my friend, this is where the true message is separated from the clutter of additional doctrines that have encrusted the true message to the point they obscure the pure and unchanging message. The simple message.  
On contrast, religious groups who profess that their message in its totality is required for the person to gain anything in God need to re-evaluate their message. It is pure presumption and Pharasaic to add to the pure message of faith and those that do get their doctrines from the darkness that seeks to cloud and obscure the simple message. To be clear, most churches in this day and time obscure the true message by adding requirements. We as believers must strip away teachings that move us from one another, make us feel superior to others and leave us alone with our teachings. 
When we add or take away from the true message, we bring curse upon ourselves because we become a  Cain and seek to present ourselves approved on our own merit and God will have none of that. 
Occam's razor  states 'The simplest explanation is usually the correct one'. Enough said