To my precious grandchildren, Gracyn, Hallie, Sullivan, Hudson, and soon to be, Shepherd,

One day you will be old enough to read what Crank Pop (see yesterday’s MwM post) has been writing to you. In the event that you ever wonder why he wrote, here’s an explanation.

When I write I am learning. Forcing myself to grasp something well enough to express it in words takes me through a process of thought and consideration that helps me take some ownership of the concepts (which is essential if I am to live them out). I think of writing as meditation with a crutch. It may even be more appropriate to just call my ramblings rumination in print. I would encourage you to experiment with writing to see what it might yield; I will share how I go about it most mornings.

As I think about this process, I realize that I am always reading scripture on two levels and that the activity on those levels is underway concurrently. I will start by describing what I perceive to be going on at the level of my mind. I will typically read a passage through several times, often in different translations. At the outset I am just trying to get the story straight. As a young Christian I was encouraged to ask lots of questions such as: Who is speaking? Who are they speaking to? What are these people’s circumstances? What is the relationship of the speaker to his audience?  What has prompted this communication?  These questions always produce more questions, new trails to follow. Because there are typically so many, the trick becomes choosing the right ones.

Even though the process feels a bit mechanical at first, it quickly changes as things, at a deeper level, kick in. At this level, which I will call my spirit, things are more personal than academic. In this space, between the Lord and myself there is an understanding (more keenly on his side than mine no doubt) that my heart belongs to him, and because of this, he has permission in advance to question, reprove, teach, encourage, and train me with his Truth.

When I think about scripture, I don’t think of it as just being truthful. I think that narrow way of thinking about it allows it to be co-opted by the-powers-that-be (the world, the flesh, and the devil) to use in their classic right-versus-wrong ploy. They probably don’t sleep, but if they did, the demons probably wake up and plan their first meal. Perhaps Wormwood asks the team, “Among our assignments today, how can we best divide men from God and from each other?” With a proud smirk, some hungry specter weighs in, “I make a proposal we use Our Father Below’s proven right-versus-wrong ploy.” The demons all bow in mock reverence and say, “Amen brother.” They know exactly where they will be dining for lunch–the local church, a place that has provided (in their defense of doctrinal purity) a steady crop of proud, wounded, rigid wineskins for centuries.

Later that day around the table, dining contentedly on the decaying remnants of religious flesh, Slimejob comments, “You know, I don’t know that I have tasted anything quite so exquisite since Caiaphas. I just love the almost-crunchy texture.”

In my certainty of God and his ways, I believe I have been this tasty morsel but much has changed. While my doctrine remains orthodox, I am much less rigid in how eternal reality finds expression. Dear grand-kiddos, this is why your Crank Pop has called his blog In The Middle with Mystery. With Christ in our hearts and our hearts in Him, we are living at the epicenter of something incalculably beautiful. I have become more comfortable of thinking of myself as being in the middle with Christ—the Mystery of the Ages, from whom I have traced my linage and have found my identity; I now pursue my simple destiny —union with Him. I propose to you, this is yours as well.

Mystery, the Person—the first born of a new race of men, puts doctrinal purity in an entirely different light. It is not that I completely devalue the defense of doctrinal purity as a valid undertaking; it is just that, in itself, “doctrinal purity” has never changed a single life. In itself, it has only set the table for a demonic-religious feeding frenzy in which we (the doctrinally pure) are the main course. No, the idea of Truth as a mere systematic theology, a collection of principles by which we must live, in itself, is a sad parody of Life in Christ. An organized collection of beliefs is a way too rigid understanding of Truth. When we awake in the morning, we must instead think of Truth as both present and alive, a Person to whom we are now related.

So, the scriptures for me are inspired by way of their nature (their DNA), which is Truth. However, since I am a descendent of Adam and have lived in a world hostile to God, my thinking is not completely accurate or true. Where I still believe half-truths (and even blatant lies), I am not yet free. At this personal level, between my spirit and God’s, there is a process of liberation underway. He came to set captives (like you and me) free, and it is Jesus, the Truth, who is our Way and Life (our core DNA).  All this to say: the mechanical first steps I take are just an introduction into the spirit-to spirit communion with God for which I was created. With these thoughts serving as the backdrop, even the academic part takes on more meaning because I know from experience how frequently this digging process exposes Life, the priceless treasure that we already possess.

This will help put the kibosh (a term I like for destroying a lie) on the idea of a quiet time with God as some quid pro quo arrangement in which we are obligated to ingest massive dosages of little “t” Bible truth in order to produce a meaningful relationship with God. While this idea, on the surface, might initially looks and smells right—and is broadly marketed in many a religious franchise as the way to God—it is in fact a toxic half truth, which when divorced from the greater and more mysterious realities we are caught up in, will not lead us to Jesus, our Way, our Truth, our Life.

As those who, even now, are living and moving and having our being in God, operating with the assumption that God knows where we are, that He is good and that He is intentional, I just assume He is speaking to me always through His (in-print and in-sprit) Word. Somehow I discover as I read (with my heart and my head), that word of scripture relates to me because it and I (with my new heart) share the same DNA. So, as things are whirring on two levels, I am also asking, “What do I have in common with the people in the narrative I am interacting with?”

There may be a great fork in the road for some at this point. The pure academic might shun that question, thus choosing the path on which revelation hinges upon refined understanding of the original languages. They may require much deeper understanding of the historical context before they dare think that the scriptures might personally yield them any holy treasure. This is typically not the path I take.

Christ’s disciples were not scholars. In fact, if you look for scholars and trained seminarians in the early church, you will hurt your eyes. Jesus himself was a common man. He spoke a common man’s dialect. It feels quite awkward to say this, but Jesus was not an educated man (in the formal sense). Yet, even from his honest and boyish heart came questions and insights that held even the scholarly priests spellbound. I operate with the assumption that Truth has not been reserved for academics. It was always intended to be accessible to common men who were inclined to obey it, to discover its Author, not committed to just studying it to death. It was always about the spirit, not the letter.

When I think about the inspiration of scripture, a historically accurate book filled with truthful moral principles is not what first comes to my mind. While these things are certainly true, I think of scripture being inspired in the dynamic sense of a catalyst, something that sets my spirit in motion and propels it along a pathway of discovery. It is not just information to log away in my data storage, which I may accesses on an as-needed-basis in order to live a moral, profitable or functional life.  No, by virtue of its spirit-nature it awakens and stirs the spirit Life (and nature) that is already in us.

Within the well-settled Christian camps there seems to be a great divide. One camp leans hard on formal academics. The thought for these folks having anything other than a seminary grad feeding the flock their weekly or bi-weekly ration would be practically unthinkable. Other camps, often filled with travelers less inclined to read, think or study, will read the Bible and not feel they have in any way been locked out of the inner sanctuary of Truth for want of academics. These believers may be inclined to trust the inner promptings of the Spirit without much attention to the Bible. There are errors-a-plenty in this direction as well. Been there done that, kiddos.

I have wondered if—when Jesus said that he was seeking those who would worship him in spirit and in truthif he did not mean that he was looking for those who recognize how God had made them with both a soul and a spirit, beings designed to listen to God’s voice with these two vital dimensions within them working in concert—the cognitive and intuitive in play, the objective and subjective in balance. I have wondered if this idea were ever realized on a broader scale, if it would not bring much healing in the Body of Christ where rigid, religious, black and white thinking has wounded and isolated so many.

If our circumstances find us, like Elijah, collapsed beneath the broom brush, intimidated and without motivation to proceed, perhaps God would say to us, “Get up and eat,” and then even, “Get up and eat some more.” Perhaps we have expected to hear God in some dramatic way. He certainly has been known to speak in that tone! That being true, let’s not rule out the possibility that, in his faithfulness, he has been speaking to us all along from his place of residence within. I am encouraging my community of spiritual friends to experiment with reading and writing as one means (a means) of hearing God’s voice. Perhaps we will hear it in the same tone Elijah finally heard it—in a subtle whisper. Maybe the answer to us when we are in the doldrums (depression) is simply, “Rise and feed yourself.” I am proposing for some, perhaps even you, that your pen (as it has with me) will become your fork.


Crank Pop

Father, May we learn to feed ourselves and live by all the words that have proceeded and shall proceed from your mouth. Help us to personally make your words our words, your thought our thoughts. May the living word of God pierce our hearts. May it subdue and conquer the traditions of men that we have exalted above your words. Amen.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap