The Pus of Life: Liquor Puris

I ran across a Latin term the other day, in the context of geek humor, but it made me think. The term was “liquor puris”, a Latin phrase and it means, essentially, pus: the goop that comes out of a pimple or an infection. Yuck.

Nevertheless, as I read about it, I felt the finger of God on it.

Pus, as you’re probably aware, is the byproduct of a serious battle: It’s “actually a sign of your body’s ability to fight infection. Pus means your white blood cells are attacking infections present on or in your body.”

Pus means you’re putting up a fight, you’re fighting off an infection. The infection is the crap that the enemy is trying to infect you with: lies (such as “You deserve this kind of thing”) or identity statements (“This is what you are”), emotions (“I deserve this; I’m this way”), desires (“I want this; I enjoy that”), compromises (“You don’t need to actually live that way!”).

The treatment of a pus-filled infection (as outlined by the WiseGeek) falls into four categories:

  1. Time. Just as your body has a natural and effective immune system, which takes some time to work. Your spirit also has an immune system, and your spirit’s immune system – in a healthy spiritual person – will protect your soul (your mind, will, emotions). The regular maintenance of a love-life with Jesus is enough to handle most of our small pus-filled infections (aka “pimples”). This is why we need to live a life of spiritual passion, not (primarily) spiritual discipline: it is a better immune system. And just living a life in love with Him will be sufficient to keep much of the enemy’s drivel from infecting our soul.
  1. Topical antiseptic and careful hygiene. The purpose of both antiseptic and hygiene is cleanliness: in this application, not letting infections start and/or grow. Purity is an effective weapon against the enemy. There’s a reason that wisdom teaches us that if there’s an area of our life that we’re tempted with, we maintain a higher standard of purity there, so as to not be tempted. That’s why recovering alcoholics don’t drink socially. (But someone else who is not tempted towards drunkenness may have a beer with dinner.) This is also why fasting is a powerful tool: it works to reduce the natural desire of the flesh to take leadership of the soul, subjecting it to my spirit’s leadership.
  1. Heat. Medically, that’s a hot compress to help the pus drain out more quickly. Metaphorically, it’s still a process of turning up the heat. Spiritually, we turn up the heat – we apply external heat – by worshiping more or with greater passion, by sitting under more or more anointed teaching, by participating in more prayer gatherings or participating with more intensity. Turning up the heat is a great strategy to fight off the infections of the enemy. It’s also a powerful tool for igniting passion in our spirit. (I would add that while a life of passion is “the normal Christian life,” that life should not depend on a schedule heavy with prayer gatherings, additional church services or conferences: those are the gravy on the meat, not the meat itself.)
  1. Antibiotics. There are times that our body just can’t win the fight. And there times that our normal Christian life – our personal practices and our community practices – just aren’t enough to overcome a particularly vigorous infection. There are times when we need to get ourselves into the hot-seat and get a bunch of seasoned warriors to lay hands on, anoint with oil, and go to battle on my behalf. James 5:14 is not limited to physical sickness. There’s a time to visit the healing rooms. There’s a time to sign up for Cleansing Streams or Sozo Ministry or whatever inner healing & personal deliverance ministry you trust. There’s a time to gather an increased level of prayer support for a season.
Finally, it is probably worth noting that a small amount of pus is typically a sign of good health: it’s a sign that our immune system is working as it should. Similarly, a life without some opposition, without some things that need to be resisted, washed or guarded against is probably not being as effective as we should be.

The reality is that the stuff that makes infections – staphylococcus bacteria, or staph – actually lives on pretty much all human skin; it only becomes a problem when it gets inside the body. We are not intended to live in a staph-free environment. We’re to live in the midst of the world. We’re just not to let infection inside of us.

Spiritual Adolescents

I’m a dad. I rather like being a dad. I think I’m a pretty good dad, though I know I can do better, and I really want to.
So I watch dads. More specifically, I watch guys who have kids – which isn’t quite the same thing – and I watch for two things: First, what are they doing with their kids – especially what can I learn from them – and second, how well does it work?
The “how well does it work” part is the tough one. I watch the kids for that one. How do they react to him? Especially, how do they do in the long run? As they grow up, do they turn into responsible (even fun-loving) adults? Or do they stay children, but in adult-size bodies.
I watch that child-to-adult transition pretty closely. I don’t think we do that very well as a culture. I can’t tell you the number of kids that I’ve watched who follow a particular pattern: they show every sign of being ideal kids during their teenage years: they have responsible jobs, they are involved in responsible things like scouting or youth group or the like, and they seem to be enjoying life. They appear to be making the transition from dependence to independence really well. Except they’re not.
There comes a point in the lives of some of these “responsible kids” where they just seem to blow up. They may run away from home, or turn up pregnant, sprout lots of tattoos and piercing, or develop a drug or alcohol addiction. If it happens, the meltdown seems to come just about at the point where they were getting ready to make the jump from “adolescent” to “adult.” They make it to adulthood, but they lost traction and crashed going around that last curve.
That tells me that something’s gone haywire: somehow it took something violent to make that final transition into adulthood.
I’ve talked to some of those kids, after their crash, and there seems to be a trend: they were being “adult-like” but they were doing it for someone else, usually for their parents, sometimes for a teacher or youth pastor or scout leader. But they weren’t doing it for themselves. They were play-acting. And as the time came closer for them to become the person that they were play-acting, they couldn’t do it. They panicked; they spun out.
Watching as an outsider, particularly watching from the viewpoint of hindsight, I could see what they were talking about. I could see the pressure to perform. Dad boasts to his friends about his little princess because he’s so proud of her and it’s his way of telling her that he’s proud of her, but she hears it as another chain tying her to this make-believe role that nobody but she herself knows is make-believe. And it’s terrifying. She looks independent, but she’s not. She’s acting out a role that has every sign of successful independence, and people think that’s her, but it’s not. Not yet, anyway.
The reality is that we really aren’t very good at becoming adults. Think about your own life: what was the defining point when you could say, “Yesterday I was a kid; today I’m an adult!” Was that defining moment an accident or was it something intentional? Most of us have made the transition, but for the vast majority of us, it was by accident: we just stumbled into adulthood as we’re aiming for something else.
So there comes a time in every kid’s life where he or she needs to make the jump: not from “kid” to “adult” (so much of that happens biologically), but from “dependent” to “independent”. We never leave the extended family, but we’re no longer holding onto the apron strings.
Some tribal cultures have rite-of-passage rituals: they have this ceremony one night where the men take the adolescent boys out into the jungle or the desert or whatever, and in the morning, or the next weekend, those boys come back as full-fledged adult men. Everybody in the tribe knows it. There’s no question.
And I don’t think we ever teach kids how to do that. 
But I’m not an adolescent psychologist specializing in child development; I’m an observer and a leader in the Church, the body of Christ. And I think we have the same problem there.
Perhaps you’ve heard the statistics that most churches don’t ever talk about: the majority of kids in their youth group will never make the transition to adults in the church. The Southern Baptist study that shows that 70% of the kids never make it from youth group in the church to adulthood in the church. The guy who ran the study said, “Too many youth groups are holding tanks with pizza. There's no life transformation taking place.”
In other words, there is no successful mechanism (and in most churches, no mechanism whatsoever) to help “youth” become “adults.”
As a result, we have a lot of young people who don’t fit in the church anymore. Many have left the church altogether. But there are a substantial number of disenfranchised “young adults” – twenty something and thirty something individuals – in many churches who don’t fit into church:
· They’re too old to still be in the youth group; that would maintain their dependent status, as “junior members” of the church, which they’re not interested in.
· They don’t want to plug into a bunch of programs that were designed by old people and are still dominated by them. That’s just dependence in another guise: “This isn’t for people like you; it’s for older, more mature people. But you can come and watch if you want.”
· They don’t want to abandon the church altogether: they aren’t looking for rebellious independence. Well, OK: some of them are, but they aren’t the ones still hanging around the church wishing they could fit in. The goal isn’t rebellion; the goal isn’t rebellion, it’s independence. But sometimes they just have to go through the place of rebellion to reach it.
Most of us fit in this description one way or another: we want to be in relationship, but we don’t want to be “junior members” of that relationship.
The church is really good at setting up programs to fix what’s wrong with you, and for people who are in a place of immaturity or of real need, that’s wonderful. Sometimes it’s a real life-saver.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this: what needs to happen – what needs to change – in order to invite the next generation of believers to take their place beside us in the Great Cloud of Witnesses?
Here’s what I propose:
· We start by talking with this generation rather than at them. We spend as much time listening to them as we do talking to them. Talk to them as individuals.
· We resource their plans and hopes and wishes. We provide money, training, opportunity, whatever it takes to say “yes” to their ideas. Not all of their ideas; they have as many stupid ideas as you and I have, and you know that’s a big number. But we say “yes” as much as we can.
· We make church center around them and their generation, not the blue-haired folks that have been here since they were that age. We don’t turn everything around for them, but we turn some of it around. What part? I don’t know. Ask them.
· We mentor them. Instead of plugging them into a program (“a holding tank with pizza”), we invite them into real relationship, one-on-one, with the “franchised” adults: the ones who hold the power, who have positions of authority in the church. We help them with the frustrations and the confusion of the transition. We teach them things that their single-mom-working-two-jobs never had a chance to teach them.
· We play with them. In their arena. Sure, we’re going to be a little slower in the laser-tag or paintball games, but the fact that we’re there means a lot. We need to be with them; we don’t need to beat them. (Maybe it’s more important that we’re there for the beer and pizza party afterwards. Not sure.)
· Follow their leadership. Did you know that under all that youthful energy, there are some honest-to-goodness powerful leaders? No, they don’t have experience yet, and they never will until someone is willing to trust them with actual leadership. Make them home-group leaders, choir leaders, worship leaders in their own right, not only as an assistant to someone older.
· Invite them into positions of power with you. Involve them in planning – and not just for the “youth events.” Invite them to the board meetings. Put them on the decorating committee (now there’s power!). Put them on the ministry team. Let them lead the ministry team sometimes.
· Notice them: when they do well, point it out and celebrate. When they screw up, don’t pretend it didn’t happen: deal with the issue. Laugh about it if you can. Believe them when they repent and move on.

Trust. Don't Lean.

By the time you read this, it's likely to be old news. But it bears repeating nonetheless: One of the words for this season is the promise from Proverbs 3:5 & 6:
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
A simple examination of the passage is sufficient to discern the basic structure of the promise: there are three conditions and one delightful promise.
The conditions:
1) Trust God with all your heart.
It's easy to trust God. It's hard to trust with all of my heart. We're so often tempted to trust Him with a little bit of our heart, enough that we can honestly say there's a level of trust there, but let's not get extreme, let's not commit ourselves to the point where we can't withdraw if it turns out to be awkward. And yet the command is clear: trust Him with all my heart, which clearly means trust Him more than I trust me.
2) Don't lean on your own understanding.
This one is difficult; I'm going to be a little blunt: most of the time, we don't want to trust God. We want God to tell us His plans, and then we plan to make a decision: will we obey Him this time? Do we want to believe Him or will we believe our feelings on the subject? For example: God speaks to us about tithing, and we suddenly discover our own opinions on the subject are numerous and powerful: we trust our budget, our "freedom" or our delight in Starbucks in the morning more than we trust what God has been saying to us.
3) Acknowledge Him in all my ways.
"Acknowledgement" involves submission; it speaks to us drawing from His wisdom, asking Him to lead and guide us, and then following His leading and guiding. Think about the Acknowledgements Page in a book: these are people who have helped the author understand more. This phrase speaks to the partnership between God and me, and that partnership extends to every part of my life, of my ways: He is not asking for blind slavery; He's asking for a relationship of trust, where I value His omniscient advice.
The Promise:
4) And He will make your paths straight.
Another translation says "He will direct your paths." The promise is that suddenly our cries for Him to lead us to direct us will be answered. How many ways have we asked God for His guidance? How many times have we prayed, "God, what do I do here? How can I handle this?" This passage is the answer to those prayers!
There's a catch though. We may not recognize His direction in our lives, and even if we recognize it, we may not approve.
That's an issue inherent to this process. If we're trusting in Him, then we're choosing to trust God and His word more than we trust our own observations, more than we trust our own eyes, our own ears, our own feelings.
(If I don't point out that trusting God rather than ourselves is not the same as blindly following untrustworthy leaders, then I'll get angry emails. This is about a relationship built on trust, and primarily about trusting God more than myself; I'm not talking about blindly following people with control issues. And I acknowledge that His voice to us includes both leadership and community. Please don't get stuck on that and thereby miss the point.)
An illustration is appropriate: some time ago, my friend Walt was in tough times; he was nearly homeless and running out of options, and so was praying desperately, and a couple of options opened up. One of those options was a particular homeless shelter in his town. Walt hated the concept of a homeless shelter, and saw some things in this one in particular that scared him, but he was pretty certain that this was the option that God was pointing him to: nothing more, no "here's why", no sense of the purpose in his being at the shelter. And so, after only a little whining, Walt obeyed, and checked into that shelter.
Within the first few hours, he recognized the work of God in the move. There were relationships there, waiting for him, that were like long-lost family. There were others there into whose life he could speak with confidence, and those people listened and welcomed his God-given wisdom; and his physical needs (like food and shelter) were wonderfully taken care of. Walt spent a fair bit of time worshiping as he marveled at God's precision guidance of his life.
Walt had a choice: he could have trusted in his own understanding ("I don't like the thought of a homeless shelter. This shelter has issues that I don't like!") instead of God's gentle direction. Rather, he trusted God with all of his heart and acknowledged His direction. The result was clear: he was better off for having trusted God, and others in the shelter were much better off for his obedience.
Let me say it a bit more bluntly for the direct communicators among us: when we want to understand before we obey, we're not obeying God: we're setting ourselves up as a higher authority ahead of Him, and breaking the first commandment ("You will have no other gods before me."). When we choose to trust Him instead of ourselves, then we are in fact living as Christians, following rather than leading the King of the Universe who is so madly in love with us.