True Worship and the Dual Nature of Man

“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth,” (John 4:23-24, New Living Translation). Who are the “true worshipers” Jesus refers to? It seems one need only two qualifications in order to become a true worshiper of the Father, to worship Him in spirit, and in truth. This passage speaks to our dual nature as Human Beings.  When we are called to worship in spirit and in truth, we are called to worship in both our spirit which is unseen, and in our flesh which is seen. The Greek word for truth in the original text is Aletheia, which means “the state of not being hidden; the state of being evident.” When something is evident, it implies the presence of visible signs that lead one to a definite conclusion (Miriam-Webster). We must ask then, what are people to conclude when they look at us while we worship? What visible signs do we give that we are worshiping the one true God?

To fully worship God we must engage both our spirit and our bodies. I grew up in a church that, while not officially discouraging displays of emotion, certainly did not encourage them. We stood to our feet when the choir director motioned, sang our hymns, and then sat back down. Yes, God was honored by the beautiful words we sang (although not always sung beautifully), and singing certainly is a physical action. There are those whose bodies are limited to praising God with their lips only, and so I do not mean to imply this form of worship is inadequate. What I am trying to say, however, is that worship is not merely a state of mind. Simply singing and focusing on the words and trying to mean them with all of our hearts isn’t all there is to worship. This is why many people choose to sing and dance and wave their hands while praising His Name, but it also goes well beyond that. Romans 12:1 calls us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship. Again, this speaks to our dual nature. When we offer our bodies to God and worship Him in the natural, this worship automatically engages our spirits and our spirits worship as well.

In the old Testament, kneeling and prostration were common, not merely as signs of respect and reverence toward a holy and fearsome God, but because we are of a dual nature – when the physical moves, so does the spirit, and vice versa. In fact, the bible teaches us to worship in many ways: kneeling (Psalm 95:6, Luke 22:41)), lifting up hands (Psalm 134:2, I Timothy 2:8), dancing (Psalm 149:3, 150:4), singing (Psalm 30:4, 95:1), standing (Psalm 134:1, 135:2), clapping hands (Psalm 47:1, 98:8), shouting (Psalm 35:27, 47:1), musical instruments (Psalm 150:3-5, II Samuel 6:5), and prophetic song (Psalm 40:3, 96:1, 98:1). For centuries it has been the practice of believers to kneel down at their bedside for prayer. The physical act of contrition puts our spirits in alignment with God. Too often we feel we must wait for our spirit to be prompted before we act, when we have merely to engage in the natural and our spirit will automatically follow! This is why faith is the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). When we step out in faith and begin to move in the things of God, it is the visible sign that our spirit is one with God, otherwise we would not have taken the step! That step is our offering to God, our living sacrifice, because we are stepping out ahead of our spirits, putting our bodies on the line and our faith in God’s promise to meet us there. Sacrifice gets the attention of God. Some would argue and quote I Samuel 15:22, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” In the story, Saul had been ordered by God to kill the Amalekites, down to the last man, woman, sheep, and cow. And that is what Saul did… almost. He spared the king, and kept the best livestock. Not for himself, mind you, but in order to sacrifice them to God. But God sees this and tears the kingdom of Israel away from Saul just as Saul tears the hem of Samuel’s garment! What did God want more; the sacrifice of sheep and cows, or the sacrifice of obedience against opposition? Saul tells Samuel that he was afraid of the people and gave in when they wanted to keep some spoils. Instead of stepping out and offering his body as a living sacrifice and leading his people in obedience to God, Saul did the more cowardly thing and offered a scape-goat sacrifice instead. Sacrifice does indeed get the attention of God, especially when it is our very bodies and lives that we offer. Even so small a thing as stepping out and asking a stranger if they need prayer is a sacrifice of our body, and God honors and loves it!

A closer look at Hebrews 11:1 reveals even more. We’ve seen how “[an act of] faith is the evidence of things unseen,” but lets examine the word “evidence.” The Greek word used in this instance is Elenchos, which means “a cross-examination for the purpose of refutation.” Evidence it seems is more than just visible signs, but a word of action, implying thought and reasoning. Elenchos is in fact the basis of what’s commonly known as the Socratic Method of teaching, in which a question is asked, only to be met by more questions in a sort of trial until only one plausible answer remains. This would have been a widely known concept at the time of the author’s writing, and the point was well made. Faith, the author says, is a test to reveal the level of trust and obedience a person has in what he or she cannot see. In his night-time discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus compares The Spirit of God with the wind, saying, “The wind blows (breathes) where it wills; and though you hear its sound, yet you neither know where it comes from nor where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit,” (John 3:8, Amplified) The wind is something we cannot see, although we can clearly see the effects of the wind. God is someone whom I cannot see, but when I see His children, born of the Spirit, acting in love towards others and giving of themselves as holy and acceptable sacrifices, I can see the fingerprints of God. It is this giving of ourselves that we are called to.

True worship is total life obedience, and our obedience is expressed outwardly in acts of faith. And not merely public acts where others can see us, but entering into our prayer closets and being alone with our Creator. The act of separating ourselves from everything and communing with The Spirit of God is an outward, physical act before it is a spiritual one. Going into the secret place and soaking in the presence of God is a physical act just as much as it is a spiritual act. When we see people “manifesting” the Holy Spirit, we are merely seeing their bodies following their spirits, the same way our spirits follow our bodies when we choose to physically worship the Lord in song and movement. We cannot escape the fact that we are of a dual nature, both spirit and body simultaneously. We are not a body with a spirit, nor are we a spirit with a body. We are body AND spirit. In the Hebrew language there is no word for “spiritual.” This is because, as pastor Rob Bell says, “To label one area [of life] spiritual, is to label other areas as not spiritual. It’s absolutely foreign to the world of the scriptures.” Every act, everything we do is a spiritual act. Eating, drinking, going to the gym, talking on the phone, shopping for groceries, doing laundry, the most mundane tasks in our lives are still spiritual acts because we are a combination of two existences, we are a fusion of spirit and body. Paul reminds the church in Philippians 4:8 to meditate on whatever is true, honorable, pure, just, etc. because he realizes that whatever we put into our minds in the physical sense translates into our spirit. It’s the same principle spoken of in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” What we behold, whatever we put in front of our eyes, we become. Jesus also alluded to this in Matthew 6:22-23, “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” And speaking of Jesus, we can look to Him as our example. Hebrews 2:17 says that Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man, and we are to be conformed into the image of Christ according to Romans 8:29. But more than just being conformed into the image of Christ, both body and spirit, we are created in the same image! If we look at the creation story in Genesis 1, we see God creating the physical realm, but it is man into whom He breathes His Spirit. At our very creation we are set apart from all other created things as wholly unique, both completely flesh and spirit. We are at the center of two realms, so to speak, bridging the space between the two. As such, we need to learn to function in both. We are all very acquainted with our physical surroundings and the laws that govern this world, but as spiritual beings, we need to become equally acquainted with our spiritual surroundings and the laws that govern that world, because we are living in both right now! And to become accustomed to that world, we have only to behold Jesus Christ who, according to Hebrews 1:3, “… Is the perfect imprint and very image of [God’s] nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power,” (Amplified). All things were created through Jesus (John 1:3), and so all things can be found in Him.

I recently had a dream in which the Holy Spirit appeared to me and beckoned me to give chase. And as I pursued, running with all my might and speed, my body became more and more suited to the chase. I entered into an accelerated season as I ran after Him, and my body became that of an athlete’s. I was soon running faster than anyone had ever run. In my dream, the Holy Spirit moved out over a large lake, and without even thinking I ran out onto that water, determined as ever to chase after Him. At the far side of the lake I saw a vertical cliff. Right away I knew I could simply jump to the top. I took a few test strides and then leapt into the air, sailing easily up and over the edge of the cliff. The Holy Spirit continued on up a mountain, and I gave chase, taking huge strides and leaps up the mountain as if it was the easiest thing to do. Just before I reached the top of the mountain, I awoke. Right away I knew the Holy Spirit was courting me, asking me to go deeper, to enjoy the pursuit. But the point I want to stress here is that what we normally consider a strictly spiritual act, pressing into the things of God, is just as much a physical act. In the dream, there was no distinction made between spirit and flesh. We need to stop thinking in terms of one or the other, and remember that we are union of both. Let us come and worship God in spirit and in truth, and may we all become true worshipers of our Father.

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Faith: part 1

Euripides, a fifth century B.C.E. Greek playwright tells us to “Leave no stone unturned.” He also advises us to “Question Everything. Learn Something. Answer Nothing.” With all due respect to our Greek fathers of Western Culture, I disagree. Absolutely we should question everything, for to accept all as fact and truth without some sort of sieve leads only to confusion and chaos. All things should be questioned, tested and proven. But once proven, either as truth or lie, are we not left with an answer? And isn’t that what we all, as human beings, want? Regardless of culture, chronology or geography, man has ever come to and asked the same questions: Who am I? Why am I here? It is the “who” and the “why” that has sparked thousands of years of debate.  Our species name, Homo sapiens, means “wise” or “knowing man.” At the core of man is a need to know, to acquire knowledge and to gain wisdom, a wisdom leading to, or at least pointing in the direction of, an answer to the questions that have accompanied us for all of recorded history.

This search is called philosophy. Philosophy means literally “love of wisdom” (Greek: philein = to love; sophia = wisdom). It has been the goal of philosophy throughout history to search for ultimate truth, the knowledge and wisdom to answer man’s questions about his own existence, and not merely his temporal existence, but questions concerning God (if there is one), and the life to come (if there is one).  I love what Pope John Paul II wrote in an encyclical letter to the Catholic Church called Fides et Ratio;

…At the present time in particular, the search for ultimate truth seems often to be neglected. Modern philosophy clearly has the great merit of focusing attention upon man. From this starting-point, human reason with its many questions has developed further its yearning to know more and to know it ever more deeply. Complex systems of thought have thus been built, yielding results in the different fields of knowledge and fostering the development of culture and history. Anthropology, logic, the natural sciences, history, linguistics and so forth—the whole universe of knowledge has been involved in one way or another. Yet the positive results achieved must not obscure the fact that reason, in its one-sided concern to investigate human subjectivity, seems to have forgotten that men and women are always called to direct their steps towards a truth which transcends them. Sundered from that truth individuals are at the mercy of caprice, and their state as person ends up being judged by pragmatic criteria based essentially upon experimental data, in the mistaken belief that technology must dominate all. It has happened therefore that reason, rather than voicing the human orientation towards truth, has wilted under the weight of so much knowledge and little by little has lost the capacity to lift its gaze to the heights, not daring to rise to the truth of being. Abandoning the investigation of being, modern philosophical research has concentrated instead upon human knowing. Rather than make use of the human capacity to know the truth, modern philosophy has preferred to accentuate the ways in which this capacity is limited and conditioned. This has given rise to different forms of agnosticism and relativism which have led philosophical research to lose its way in the shifting sands of widespread scepticism.

Man has traded in a search for capital “T” Truth, a transcendent answer to life’s questions, and searches now instead the reasons we can’t know those answers. Reason has turned Uroboros, focusing and feeding on itself as opposed to elucidating existence. Where once human meant divine, capable of knowing and accessing the heavens, human now means limited in scope and abilities, a terrestrial being only. Bertrand Russell, author of such gems as Sceptical Essays and Why I Am Not a Christian stated, “Brief and powerless is man’s life.”

While I would say the trend of philosophical skepticism is recent, it existed long before it became trendy. The Greek painter-turned-philosopher Pyrrho (ca. 360 BCE – 270 BCE) is credited as being the first skeptic philosopher, although most of what we know of his philosophies are in the writings of later men.  But his views were enough to eventually become a school of thought called Pyrrhonian skepticism, or Pyrrhonism. In short, Pyrrho postulates that we cannot agree with or adhere to any truth because a contradictory truth or argument will always exist, and therefore no argument or truth is better than another.  Similar philosophies include Academic Skepticism which says, “Nothing can be known, not even this”: Empiricism, in which sensory perception and experience guide knowledge and reason: Subjectivism, wherein all knowledge, even existence itself, is subject to an individual’s perception of it, and many others.  All of these philosophies are reluctant to allow for innate or transcendent truths, although by its very nature Pyrrhonism should allow for the argument at least to exist.

In fact, this way of thinking has surpassed trend to become the very age in which we live, Post Modernism. Relativism is the nature of our post-modern world; it’s all relative. What is right for you is not right for me: what is wrong for you may be perfectly good and allowable for me. This worldview positions the individual as the center of his or her universe, a universe where facts no longer mean anything and personal experience is everything. The Personal Narrative (“a story about something that happened to you and how you felt about it,” as defined by McGraw Hill) has infiltrated nearly every discipline and profession in today’s society, in large part due to the feminism movements of the last half-century. For example, sociolinguist Deborah Tannen labels the different ways in which men and women communicate like this: Report talk vs. Rapport Talk. Men tend to speak in reports, relaying facts in logical progression, whilst women feel the need to build a rapport, or relationship with whomever they are speaking or interacting. In society’s efforts to make men more sensitive to women, it has adopted personal narrative as its communication vehicle of choice. It no longer matters what is said, but how it is said. Facts and truth have taken a lower ranking than their presentation. Both Report talk and Rapport talk are necessary and valid, but when we forego one in favor of another we create an extreme environment, in this case one of absolute relativism. The expression absolute relativism is itself a contradiction in terms, assuming that the word everything encapsulates our universe and all things in it, know and unknown. To say that everything is relative is to say that there is at least one absolute truth, and where there is one, there exists the possibility of others.

And it is this very possibility that I would like to explore. If truth doesn’t really exist, why do people still talk about it? Why, if “nothing can be known” do people pay for years of education in order to say just that? Why, if everything is relative to individual experience and perception, do we rely on and trust in our own history? Neither was I alive nor did I witness Socrates drink the poison hemlock given to him as his death sentence. I know nothing about the lives of John Locke or Avicenna except for what I’ve read in books.  For all I know, based upon my personal experience, these men may not have existed at all! Even events closer to home, such as the American Revolution, I can neither prove nor disprove.  I could take the fact that I live in The United States of America as evidence enough, but how do I know it happened as explained to me by my 8th grade history teacher Mr. Carlisle? It seems an irrefutable fact that the horrors of the Holocaust actually happened (I have visited the remains of the Dachau concentration camp), but there still exists a small population who swear it never happened. Taking all the evidence, all the written history and the artifacts and even eyewitnesses, how can we still then be sure of anything outside our own limited sphere of personal experience? We take it on faith.

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The Warrior Bride rising up to meet her Violent Lover

The Warrior Bride rising up to meet her Violent Lover

Rayne Warne
2/8/09

trumpet-call

When I was a child I remember my church singing the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers.” As a young boy I was vaguely intrigued by the song’s theme of war as it evoked images of guns and swords and fighting, the usual fare of a boy’s imaginations. It was also a rare opportunity to sing the world “hell” in church as loudly as I cared to. But as I got older, I began to strongly dislike the song. Starting in high school and then into my college years, as I started to think for myself and have my own ideas about the world, I decided I was a pacifist. As such, I could never condone war. I laid down the guns of my imagination and picked up instead a pen and studied writing.

And so I found it odd that very recently, as I was drifting off to sleep, I began to sing aloud, “Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the Cross of Jesus going on before…” I sang this refrain several times before finally falling asleep.

Several months earlier, after reading the birth account of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25, I was prompted to discover the meaning of my own name. At the time I was searching for direction from God, inquiring about my destiny. I wanted to know if a clue to my destiny lay hidden in my name, as it did for the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. It turns out, as it so often does when it comes to things of the Lord, that the meaning was multi-layered.

My first name, Cory, means both Spear, and the Peace of God. My middle name, Rayne, means Judgment Warrior. Now, the Peace of God I liked and could identify with. My heavenly Father taught me about His peace at an early age and I have generally been able to walk in it through most trials and situations. But Spear and Warrior, those I felt less sure about. It seemed as if I had been named for both war and peace, two things that, in my mind, bore nothing in common. On my most recent birthday, I was in the company of a prophet and I told him that today, April 12th, was my birthday, and he immediately returned with Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart,” (NIV) The parallels struck me pretty hard: the verse begins with the Sword of the Word of God, and my first name means the Spear of the Peace of God. The verse ends with the sword judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, and my middle name means Judgment Warrior.

And then came the words. Over a period of 2 months I received several violent prophetic words from various people. This violence was never aimed at me, but they were prophetic words about my future as a warrior, slaying both lions and giants.

Now, as a non-violent person, I struggled with this, just as I had always struggled with the battle-talk of Paul in his letters. When Paul instructed us to put on the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6:11, I instead would think about Isaiah 61:10, “…For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness…” (New Living). When Paul said “the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds,” (2 Corinthians 10:4, Amplified) I was grateful that Christ was alive in me because I trusted that He would wield those weapons for me. When Jesus said that “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force,” (Matt. 11:12, NASB) I just hoped He meant we had to want it really badly.

But then when I found myself singing a song about Christian soldiers marching off to war, I began to realize that God was trying to tell me something important. During the next several days the phrase Violent Lover appeared in my mind repeatedly. Much like war and peace, I wondered what violence and love could have in common. I know that many fights and even wars have been waged in the name of love; for land, women, and even God. But again in my mind, the two seemed at odds. And then something clicked in my spirit. The tension I felt when comparing war vs. peace and violence vs. love was the same tension I had been sensing over the corporate body of Christ for nearly a year.

Few will argue that we, the body of Christ, “have not passed this way before,” (Joshua 3:4, NASB). Uncertainties in both the natural and the spiritual are growing. We have less and less sure ground on which to place our feet. But this is exactly what needs to happen. All that can be shaken is being shaken, “so that only unshakable things will remain,” (Hebrews 12:27, New Living). And what is the one thing that cannot be shaken? Jesus Christ the Rock. Psalm 18:2 says, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety,” (New Living, emphasis added). He is the “rock” upon which the builder built his house in Matthew 7. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:20 that Jesus is the “chief cornerstone” of Psalm 118:22. The cornerstone is the first stone set in the foundation of a new building. The first, and the most important. It is not chosen at random, but carefully crafted for that specific purpose.

When all that can be shaken has fallen away, we are called to look upon that which cannot be shaken: Jesus. And when our eyes and hearts are fixed on Him, He will reveal Himself to us in a new way. Throughout God’s history with man He has progressively revealed Himself and His relationship to us. First as Creator and Creation, then as Master and Slave, King and subject, Father and Son, brothers, and finally Bride and Groom – or lovers. There can be no more intimate metaphor for our relationship with Christ than as a lover.

Then what else has He to reveal to us about His nature? He wants to remind us of things we’ve forgotten. He wants to remind us that although He is indeed a lover, He is also a fierce warrior.

Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:11-16, New Living Translation

Jesus is not simply a lover, nor just a warrior. He is a Violent Lover, capable of great passion on the battlefield and in the arms of His bride. He is jealous over his bride. Exodus 34:14 says, “the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you,” (New Living). James 4:5 says, “…the Spirit Whom He has caused to dwell in us yearns over us and He yearns for the Spirit [to be welcome] with a jealous love,” (Amplified). And because He is jealous for us, He watches over and fights for us like a knight in shining armor of legend.

These two images of Christ are about to be brought together in a new and jarring way. Our world is being shaken so that we will turn our eyes to Him. And even more than a shaking, there is a pressing as well, as though through a birth canal or grapes pressed into new wine. But the Lord has also shown me that the tension in the spirit right now is like trying to push two magnets together as they repel each other – no matter what you do, the two sides don’t meet because a force keeps them apart. When that happens, it is because the sides of the magnets that face each other are the same pole: either north facing north, or south facing south. The two magnets are the two images of Christ, and the church is the force that has kept them separate. Depending on the individual, the congregation, and even the circumstance we have chosen to look to either one or the other but all the while the two images, like the two poles, are the same! God is about to step in and bring the two magnets together as one. We are going to see the Gentle Jesus and the Conquering Christ fully revealed and reconciled as one Savior, one King.

And this will be a sign of something even greater. “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them,” (Genesis 1:27, New Living). God created both men and women in His likeness, so God must also contain the likeness of male and female. This does not ascribe physical gender to God, but rather it means that the hearts of men and women, what makes them different and unique, exist within God. At the heart of every woman is a lover, and at the heart of every man is a warrior. This is not to the exclusion of the other because both exist in every heart. To paraphrase John Eldregde, author of Wild at Heart, every woman wants to be loved, and every man wants a love to fight for. This is how we are created. But in Christ, we see the two meet in a glorious One.

When Christ reveals Himself to the body anew as the Violent Lover, it will be a sign that that He will soon reconcile the feminine to the masculine, the lover to the warrior, the bride to the bridegroom. It will be a sign to ready ourselves like the wise virgins (Matthew 25:1-10) and the wise servants (Luke 12:35-38) for our Master’s return. An army caught without armor is an army caught unawares. We must do as Paul says and put on the whole armor of God. We must gird ourselves for battle and be ever-ready. We must follow Christ’s example as the Violent Lover and become His Warrior Bride. Not to do battle with the things of this world, but as we put on the Lord’s armor, we put on the Lord Himself and the things of this world die away. Wearing the whole armor of God is a sign of intimacy, and only intimacy will cause us to come through this shaking and pressing with our feet firmly planted on the Rock of Salvation.

And so, like the song, we must march forward as Christian soldiers, armed and ready for battle, with the cross before us, and His banner of love flying over us. And we march with confidence, our heads held high, because the victory is assured. Indeed, we march with the Peace of God because the victory is already ours as Jesus said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30, New Living). But we march, from all corners of the earth, ascending the Holy Hill of God, a Warrior Bride rising up to meet her Violent Lover. Can you see Him, there in the distance? Eyes like fire, voice like a mighty ocean… and a smile so big, wild, and full of love that it startles before it warms your heart. And the whole host of Heaven is behind Him. The trumpet has sounded. It is time for war.

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