Eastern Philosophy

Sun Tzu: “it is the business of a general to be quiet… upright and just, and thus maintain order.” (Variation in Tactics: 36)
I’ve been re-reading The Art of War and The Tao Te Ching. It is interesting the themes that run through Eastern philosophy. Themes of honor, respect, and slow decisive action are weaved throughout each work. However, in contrast there is a theme of deception, power, and oppression as well. For example, Sun Tzu first explains that the general needs to be upright and just, honorable and wise in order to earn the admiration of their subordinates. However, in stark contrast to this noble reality, he also states that the general should be deceptive and shrewd, manipulative and self motivated. It is encouraged to keep the masses ignorant of everything that you plan, and thereby maintain blind obedience.
Strange how men without Christ need to ensure that they remain in power, and yet men with Christ may apply the first form of leadership without the latter. The greatest leaders need not manipulate, they depend on the voice of the Lord to direct their paths. Although the eastern philosophers can challenge some of our practices, they cannot guide morality or motivation. Those must be dictated by Christ.

When you became my chief poem

When You became my chief
Music began, Noise ceased
Every fruitless thing faded
My glory my name my self was traded

for something…

Something free that cost me my everything,
But grants me more than my eyes could ever see
More than this world could ever give to me
More than our hearts could ever receive

More and more and more…

When you became my Joy
The sound of creation became my delight
Obedience my life
Submission my desire,
and on You I set my entire

Being.

Knowing full well only you can see me. Really see me…

My life, my family, my toys, my successes,
my romances, my self exalting joys,
I count as loss, only You, only You,
only You through the cross!
All else faded save your grace,
entertainment became a waist
Of time, of intellect, of life, of truth
A waist of everything that once was of use

When you became my desire
All material things became as ash in my stomach
As gravel in my soul, weighing me down
No pulling me down, down, down into the pit
Stripping me of my delight while I lay blinded
Until you taught me the joy of Your presence
You answered my cry and pulled me from despair
And I finally breath the air of You… delight
Here earthly treasures fade
My Joy is You, my goal beyond the grave

Now you are my desire, my joy, my chief, and my song
My soul filled with wonder my heart longs
To hear of your Grace, to sing of your beauty
My delight my hope my dreams rest in You

Oh LORD speak now! Let us hear Your truth!
Then turn us with hearts laden with praise
Give our hearts song, give our souls love, give our minds truth
But Lord, Oh LORD give us You.

The Chasm

REVIEW OF The Chasm: by Randy Alcorn

The Chasm  is an abridgement of Alcorn’s book The Edge of Eternity.  In this abridgement Alcorn focuses on one of the many portions of this magnificent allegory.  There is a chasm that must be crossed to reach the city of ”Charis” (heaven).  Ultimate joy lay on the other side of the Chasm and deceit and falsehood lay in the shadow-lands behind.  We follow Nick Seagrave as he travels the red road to Charis.  The characters that Alcorn writes about are vivid and powerfully relatable.  We’ve all met the crazy saints that seem so terrifyingly obsessed with Christ.  We’ve all met the false messiahs who look great and promise life and only deliver death.  We will all see the woodsman who can make away.  The Chasm is a powerful allegory that will encourage any reader.  It is short and easy to read. 

However, due to the nature of abridgement, much of the detail is passed over in The Chasm.  Alcorn strives to catch the reader up to the middle of the larger work The Edge of Eternity, yet the details of the first work are so paramount it is difficult to grasp the second without it.  If this is your first introduction to Alcorn, it is a worthy read.  However, if you are an avid reader, I would recommend finding the larger work and digging deep into the allegory.

How do we judge success?

            I am a 29 year old seminary student and pastor. 

At Seminary a fellow student asked, “How do you measure your success?”  Now, the reality is that every pastor hates this question.  Mostly because every pastor knows that we are judged on the basis of numbers, to some extent.  The people who are in the church, understandably, want to see others in the church as well.  So we think of getting people in as the dominant form of success, and thereby judge the effectiveness of our pastors on this yard stick.  If you ever want to see an interesting response, ask a pastor this question.  When asked the question we immediately feel the need to explain ourselves (as if we have to explain a malady and give an account for every member that we have not seen for a while).  We feel like we ought to say something incredibly wise and profound, but what usually comes out is a stammering blubbering nothing, usually sounds like this, “well, we have a good, you know…  the real measure is…  well, I guess our people are, its not about numbers, we need to provide some.”  There is no good answer to that question.  Precisely because if we have great numbers, we often feel like we are performing for the crowd, if we have low numbers we feel like people must not like us.  (Never mind the fact that people hated Jesus, and crucified Him) 

            The truth is that Jesus measured success in a far different manner.  Constantly, when crowds get to be large, Jesus says or teaches something that turns them away.  In fact one of my favorite stories is John 6 when Jesus goes across the lake at night (seemingly to avoid the crowd and get away from them) and they chase him down and Our Lord’s response is “You’re only following me because you had a good meal!”  In verses 66-67 we see that Jesus teaches something that turns them away.  On another occasion in John 10, Jesus has the opportunity to make friends with the Pharisees by saying something like “turn to the LORD and be saved, let us go to the temple and worship!”  Instead, He intentionally tells them that they are thieves and robbers and that He is God.  This enrages them and they try to stone Him and then they try to arrest Him. 

            So how did Jesus measure success?  It seems like one criterion is love.  How much do we love each other, how much do we love the lost, and how much do we love the work of the LORD?  Check out John 13:34-35, 15:10, and the Lord’s conversation with Peter in John 21:15-24.  Seems like Jesus measured success by love and the way that love poured out on others. 

            Yet another criterion seemed to be obedience.  In fact the first measure is observed by this, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)  And in another place, speaking of salvation, we see Jesus saying: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36) This verse intrinsically links belief and obedience.  Thus, the validity of belief is measured by obedience.    

            Now the reality is that we are not so good at these two measuring sticks, and I don’t really want to be judged on them either.  How much do I love those who hate me?  How much do I love the poor, lowly, and despised of this world?  These are not questions I enjoy.  They are hard to answer and I cannot easily see the results.  You see to answer these I actually have to know the people in my congregation.  To answer these I actually have to desire for my life to intertwine with the people I teach.  To answer that question I have to care about the heart and not just the outward actions of my people.  I have to bleed with them, I have to struggle with them, and I actually have to get into their business with them.  It’s much easier to count them and ask them to check off the boxes.  If I can say, “we had 50 who checked off that they brought their bible to church, did their daily devotionals, and tithed and we had 200 who didn’t do those things.”  Then I have a measurable target.  But if I ask these questions, I have to say, “We have 25 who clearly love other people and obey the Word of God in real and tangible ways, which I know of because I am actively a part of their lives and am involved in their work, and 300 who are just too darn busy to love or who I don’t know.”  The whole conception of measurement gets muddled and nebulous!  After all, how does one measure loving other people?  And when do you know if you’re obeying the Word of God correctly?  We must learn to do this.

            So as we strive to learn to measure success, we can keep the easy model of numbers or we can dig into lives and measure love and obedience.

Psalm 1

Psalms 1

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers:”

            The man who walks straight.  In Hebrew it says Happy.  Not blessed, but happy.  The word happy is closely related to the word for “to walk straight or upright.”  Thus, we can see that the man who “walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits at the seat of scoffers” will be happy.  However, I think our definition of happy needs to deepen a bit.  In light of the word for walk straight being so closely related (they use the same exact letters, big deal in Hebrew), perhaps happiness is not defined as a mere feeling of joy that is here for a moment and gone the next.  Could it be that happiness is interconnected with “walking straight?”  Could it be that true happiness stems from righteousness? 

            We spend all our time attempting to make ourselves happy… have we missed the point?  Is there more?  In case you’re reading this and don’t know me… yes there is!  Note what the Psalmist says in verse two.  “His delight is in the Law of the LORD.”  The word delight (‘cHePhetsu’) is an active term meaning “to delight in” or “choose to delight in.”  It carries with it an understanding that the happy man’s active pursuit of the Law.  Now what is interesting about the Torah (Law) is that it was the only Scripture the Psalmist had.  The first five books.  Honestly…  could you imagine finding your delight in Leviticus?  Perhaps Numbers?  What about the genealogies in Genesis?  Why do you think he finds his delight in the Law?  I believe it is because the Law teaches us of the character of God.  Within the Law is the revelation of God’s character.  Thus, one who is happy find his delight in the pursuit of God’s character.  Not only this, but he “meditates on it day and night.”  Meditation can also be translated sighing or a breath.  It is as if to say, the happy breath God’s word.  This would be consistent with II Tim. 3:16.  The blessed or happy find their breath within the revelation of the creator of all things.

            SO we seek happiness, and yet we do not seek rightly.  If we are to find happiness (or blessedness) we would do well to meditate or breath the Word.  So seek the Word.  Stop pursuing shallow happiness!  True happiness, true filling is in the Word!  Find your delight in the character of the LORD! 

            The rest of the psalm describes the contrast between the wicked and the upright (blessed, or happy).  Notice, the happy are like a tree.  The tree remains.  But it still goes through seasons of leaflessness.  It still endures harsh climates.  But it remains.  Again, our paradigm for happiness needs to be challenged!  We think happiness is a smile and laugh!  Happiness, or blessedness is much deeper than that! It yields fruit IN SEASON!!!  We have appointed times when we are to yield fruit, it is not for us to decide…  it depends on the season!  Does this sound like happiness?  If it does not, then we need to reevaluate our definition of happiness.  Compared to the wicked, the wicked are blown away like chaff!  Verse 4. 

            Finally, “the LORD knows the path of the righteous.”  This is an intimate knowledge.  It is more “understanding or perception”  The LORD is intimately connected with those who seek their delight in the character of God.  It is almost as if in the final verse, the LORD draws back to the beginning.  Straight, upright, then here at the end.  The LORD knows the path intimately.  Walk straight.

I John 4:7-12