Random Blog Clay Feet: 2008-02
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Friday, February 29, 2008

Righteousness or Self-justification

Righteousness verses self-justifying.

Self-justification is an attempt to be right by insisting and proving my rightness through logic, proof-texts, quotations and if necessary brute force. This is a self-focused orientation based on externals and intellectual prowess or even emotional intensity. It is what the Bible calls self-righteousness or a righteousness by works of the law.

True righteousness from God's perspective is an internally-oriented dependence on the faithfulness and goodness of God and a submission to the influences and promptings of the Spirit of God at the heart level. It is outward focused on the justifying of God instead of ourself. It is insisting that God is good all the time and forever and consistently without variation. Beyond that it is trusting in the identity that God has endowed on us as His children and resting in the value that He has for us, not in anything we can do or accomplish.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sheild of Faith or Walls of Fear

As I start to read a book that has unknown and possibly questionable ideas in it, I analyze the reasoning going on inside me and question the assumptions used for my apprehension. I find some interesting things that I would have never questioned a few years ago.

I hear the voices from my past and my people warning me to not read anything that is not in strict harmony with the doctrines I have been taught from my youth. They say that it will be too easy for me to become deceived and then I won't have any ability to live in the truth any longer.

What I realize is that this kind of thinking effectively puts a padlock on my heart that is not necessarily from God. It may well be a counterfeit lock purporting to be a god who will protect me.

I turn in my spirit to God and ask Him to be my protector, my guide, my warning system. As I do so I begin to sense that God wants to use my connection to His Spirit to be the protection for my heart instead of the fear-based locks that have been used as my protection for so many years. I sense that in some way it is turning to a positive faith-based protection system instead of a negative fear-based protection system.

Fear produces stress, worry, apprehension and narrow-mindedness. Fear produces bigotry and condemnation and alienation. God has not given us a spirit of fear... Then why have we relied so heavily on it for so long to lead us to the truth or keep us in the truth?

I sense that if I turn to God and learn to trust His goodness and power to keep my mind from deception and guide me into all truth, then I will grow in genuine faith. Whatever is not of faith is sin. That includes fear.

So my mind continues to pepper me with questions from my past. If this is the right way to live and learn and grow, then what is it that potentially places me in real danger of being deceived? I have to acknowledge that deception is a very real possibility, to think otherwise would be the height of arrogance. I would agree. But if I am to shed my blanket of fear that has claimed to protect me for so long and if it is truly the counterfeit that it is being exposed to be, then I need to know what the true protection is and how I am to avail myself of it.

Maybe this is partially an issue of maturity. Maybe the immature are required to depend on a certain amount of fear to keep them out of trouble until they develop enough trust and a dynamic spirit connection with God to trust Him more fully to shield and guide them without the need for fear-based walls around the heart. This is right along the same line as what I have been learning in my intensive study of the book or Romans. This looks terrifying to the uninitiated but also looks unimaginably exciting to the one ready to move to the next level of grace.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand..... (Hebrews 11:1-3)

What I think I am starting to see is that I will either subscribe to the religion of fear that produces hardness of heart by building thick walls around it to protect myself and my identity or I will trust in the shield of faith that God is good enough to watch my back while I have the freedom to make mistakes and grow and learn while living under His protection. If I am God's child – and I am – then I need to trust His protection around my heart just like a little child would trust a loving parent to keep them safe while they indulge in relishing the joys of playing and learning and growing without inhibitions.

To the degree that I will not trust I will always fear. To the degree that I fear I do not trust. The two are mutually exclusive. Satan has filled religion with the leaven of fear and so distorted our view of God and His love and care for us that we have minuscule amounts of real faith and trust in Him. I believe that one of the most effective antidotes for this besides getting a much better picture of God in our minds is to discover the enormous amount of faith that God has in us. For faith awakens faith just as love awakens love. This is a powerful but mostly untapped resource of transformation for our life of faith.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

God's Valentine

Speaking of Valentine's day, I think God may have had something in His heart along this line when He brought something to my mind this morning. It had something to do with the Ten Commandments and especially the first two.

Whenever I wake up in the morning I always try to make it my first intention and purpose to turn myself over to God completely and connect my heart with Him before allowing myself to get carried away by any other distractions. If I wake up from a bad dream which has been too often lately but not terribly frequent, I bring my emotions into consciousness and offer them to God as a sacrifice of myself for Him to take and repair. If I just start getting busy thinking about all sorts of things without the context of first placing myself into neutral in the presence of God and inviting His Spirit to be the atmosphere, the “background noise” of my heart for the rest of the day, then I feel empty and vulnerable throughout the day.

Anyway, as I was talking with God in my mind this morning for some reason it moved toward the idea of images and my relationship with God. I wish I could remember more clearly the path that took me there but I am trying to reconstruct it in reverse as I write. I do know that it had to do with the misperceptions about God that still plague me and cause me to remain afraid of Him.

Yes, it is starting to come back to me now after asking Him to show me “the dream as well as its interpretation”.

I was praying for God to touch my wife's body with His healing touch because of the pains she has been having lately. But then one of my oldest false gods within starting his worn-out line about not having enough faith to get God to perform a miracle, that I had to either try harder to eliminate all doubt or just give up praying for miracles. Yes, that was it. The rut of thinking is so routine and familiar for nearly all of my life that it feels like my identity.

And that was another important ingredient in the mix now that I think of it – my perception of my identity. As I explored in much greater depth many months ago, these false gods, these lying spirits that take up residence in my heart and reside in lies buried in old memories heavily manage my thinking and much of my life. They claim that they are my true identity and that I cannot be anything else but what they declare me to be. To prove their claim they then influence me, confuse me and cause me to make mistakes in line with their claims and they always dispute and deny any truth about my real identity that God declares in His word and by His Spirit. But I am so used to their subtle suggestions that I very often buy into their claims that they constitute my identity and I feel trapped into a lifelong struggle to overcome their discouraging manipulations of my life.

As I was distracted a bit from my praying for my wife's benefit by these doubting spirits and their claim that I will never have enough faith to please God, the thought progressed to the realization that I have within my heart a false image of God that I have worshiped all of my life. To reinforce this truth I was directed to the verse in Genesis that speaks of Adam being created in the image of God. Because of our penchant of externalizing everything we tend to think more of his physical features being like God but I believe that it had much more to do with his whole being and makeup. Man was created to reflect the likeness of God even more so than a mirror reflects the likeness of whatever is in front of it. For humans were designed to be a multi-dimensional and interactive dynamic reflection of all the characteristics of the Godhead.

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

What does that have to do with my problem? It has everything to do with it because whenever I think of God it is necessarily referenced through the inner perception of what I think God is like – the image of God that has been created within my mind and has many false roots in memories of past experiences. But therein lies my biggest problem. My heart has been filled with false notions about God from all sorts of places and people for all of my life and so the God that I bow down to in fear within myself is most often a false representation of God, an image of a false god composed of the lies and partial truths of the lying spirits that still haunt me from my past. With some of them I can identify the lies even though they still remain attached, but because of the nature of deception many of my false beliefs still may feel very true and do not arouse enough suspicion on my part to even question their validity. They are simply the assumptions and paradigms which make up the context from which I make my moment by moment decisions and choices. They are the composite god that I know as God.

Then God spoke all these words, saying, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. "You shall have no other gods before Me. "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. (Exodus 20:1-4)

You shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them, for I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God. (Exodus 20:5 WEB)

Now it is becoming more starkly clear why it is so important to always include the first verses of Exodus 20 whenever thinking about the Ten Commandments. By removing those verses the enemy of God has literally stripped away the very context and motivation that brings sense and power to the Ten Words of God and turns them into impossible demands that cause us to recoil in discouragement or work harder in desperation. It is the description of the true God and His heart motives that have to be the context for thinking about the “commandments” or else they throw us into instant legalism. Those verses are a hark back to the original image of God that we were designed to have within referenced in Genesis. By disconnecting them from the abbreviated revelation of God's character from Mt. Sinai we reinforce the false image of God in our minds that was implanted by the serpent from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

I am beginning to see it more clearly now. Because most of my life is subtly influenced by the fears produced by the false image of God still wired into my thinking and the triggers still in place inside of my memories of the past, I am really being forced to bow in bondage to the power of that false image of God and in reality am in direct conflict with at least the first two commandments. I have seen this somewhat from an intellectual basis in the past but it is starting to make more sense to my heart today.

What God seems to be trying to say to me, if I perceive it correctly and am translating it properly into words, is that somehow I have to become completely disconnected from any reliance on the distortions of Him that make up the false image of God inside of me and learn to trust only what comes through His word as interpreted by the Spirit of Truth and Love that reveals His true likeness to my heart. In other words, I have to rely totally on objective truth instead of subjective truth. But before someone lunges to affirm that statement as meaning I can never trust my feelings but have to maintain a completely dispassionate, intellectual head religion I must say that is not at all what I am perceiving here. That is another counterfeit of God's true plan, I believe.

What I am attempting to form into language but remains mostly outside of that restriction is my need to actually engage my whole being – body, soul and spirit – left brain intellectual capabilities and right brain emotions and intensity equally – in a much more balanced and intentional way. I need to interact with God through every means possible and have His image reinstilled within me while having the false gods of stony hearts removed. I have learned that I will never, ever win the arguments that I have with these lying spirits that have so long stolen my identity. They will never change their minds about who I am and unfortunately they often use other people around me to reinforce their assertions about my identity. Whenever I feel shamed by someone or am accused of self-serving motives or a desire to exploit others for my selfish satisfaction, the false gods within are eager to link up with the accusing spirits without and emphatically declare that what I am hearing is uncontrovertably true and that I just need to live with it.

All of what I am writing is coming to me as I write it and feels so real that it is unnerving. I think God must be taking me places inside where I have to let go of my control and trust Him to explore areas of my heart that make me very fearful at times. I really don't know what might be ahead of me, but I do want to accept the truth that I am seeing right now so that I may be equipped to cooperate with whatever He has planned for me next.

God, thank-you for communing with me this morning about this. How do I respond? I can only confess that I have been bowing to a distorted image of You for all of my life for that is all I have known. I cannot free myself from these lying images of You because I not only don't have the power to be free from bondage to them but I also still don't really have a very clear revelation of the real truth about You.

But what You have been sharing with me over the past few years has been very appealing to my heart and I choose to embrace it. But it is up to You to finish the work of restoration in me, of re-forming me into Your image, of once again breathing Your Spirit-breath into my lifeless soul that has been deformed in rebellion against You. I choose to cooperate with whatever You are doing today to reveal Yourself more clearly to me and free me from bondage. Please deliver me more completely from the unbelief of Egypt's spirits and break the bonds of lies that still enslave me. For I know that as the Almighty Yahweh that is supreme above all gods You are going to accomplish Your word and Your promises in my life.

Because You are my God Who delivers me from the enslaving, lying spirits of Your enemy and You break their bonds that hold together the false image of You in my sinful flesh, I will more consistently reflect Your true character as revealed in these simple statements of reality that You shared about Yourself. I renounce all permission for any of these false gods to have any influence any longer in my heart and mind and I invite Your Spirit of freedom and humility to replace them. I devote all of my allegiance and affections along with all of my burdens and cares, fears, guilt, shame, hopes and dying dreams to You, the One whose image I was formed to truly reflect.

Revive the unused parts of my heart that have been broken or damaged to interact with Your heart and Your thoughts and emotions. Continue Your massive repair operation within me. I claim Your covenant promises and protection for not only my own life today but for my family that You have given me. I ask for a flood of blessing to fill our lives with overwhelming attraction to You and fresh revelations of Your beauty as we see more clearly past the distorting misrepresentations of You that have made us so afraid. Let Your true glory intensify in our minds, hearts and emotions until we are swallowed up in Your consuming fire. Glorify Your name today and for the rest of our lives.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Does God Respect Me?

I just had a thought that made me feel very uneasy but seemingly without justification. I was telling God how impressed I was at how He orchestrates various readings or events to all talk about the same subject just when I need it and He replied, “So I'm organized. What's such a big deal about that? Wouldn't you expect Me to be organized? There's a lot of other things about me a whole lot more attractive than being organized!”

I certainly had to agree with that and realize that in my beginning stages of being attracted to the truth about God that getting really excited about His characteristic of being organized is a bit simplistic, though certainly not bad. But He wants me to move beyond my amazement at His ability to coordinate things in life to really getting excited about much more intimate things that will bond us much more tightly together. Jesus had a similar problem when people of His day were more interested in experiencing miracles than they were in experiencing the inner transformation of the gospel, the real truth about God that He came to show us.

Then I heard something that struck me as strangely odd. He said that He respects me. That is even why He does not make me feel stupid for getting awestruck about such a mundane thing as being organized.

Respect me?! God respects me? Something about that seems very strange and almost irreligious. Then it began to dawn on me – the reason it sounds so strange is because my typical perception of God from my past does not allow for me to believe that about Him. It is exposing yet another lie about Him that prevents me from appreciating His attitude toward me and responding in love and admiration for Him.

The more I ponder this idea the more awestruck I am even to the point of tears. The idea that God would respect me almost seems to have more impact on me than the almost worn-out phrase that He loves me. But then it also makes a lot of sense in light of the things we learned about the differences between men and women from the Love and Respect seminars. Women crave and need love more than anything else in life to thrive and flourish, but men's most deepest need is to feel respected. This goes far beyond any desires to feel loved even though that is a very real need. When a man feels respected it connects with something at the deepest level of his psyche and brings an intense emotion of satisfaction and – well – a sense of real love and value. A male mind spells love with the letters, r-e-s-p-e-c-t.

So if God says that He respects me He is telling me that He really does understand me and is willing and even eager to meet my deepest needs to realize a sense of value and identity. And as I continued to think about this issue of respect I also realize that respect is at the heart of all true freedom. There can never be real freedom without a great deal of respect. That is why we are seeing the very rapid erosion of all of our freedoms today in our society. People in power have lost all respect for others and are employing their authority in abusive ways to dominate and control the lives of everyone under their influence. Power corrupts. They are living only for themselves and increasingly use their position to exploit others for their own selfish ends.

But God is not like the way we have been treated by abusive leaders and parents. God is full of both love and respect for all of the beings He has created. That is precisely why this whole Great War has gone on for so long. It is because He has so much respect for our freedom to choose for ourselves that He has allowed the whole sin experiment to run its full course. He knows that to shorten it in any way would create a loophole for it to return again for another round and He does not want that to ever happen. So He treats everyone with the utmost respect for their freedom and dignity because His opinion of each one of us is of infinite value no matter what we have done or thought about Him.

God's respect for my freedom means that I am allowed to make mistakes without censure or condemnation from Him. And even seemingly more crazy than that, He then has to step in repeatedly to limit the natural consequences of my mistakes so that I can learn from them instead of being destroyed by them. (I just finished writing about this very thing this morning and am posting it on my other site.) Respect also involves exercising His grace to protect me from myself and the full impact of my mistakes while I am given undeserved opportunities to come back without fear and then grow through the experience. That is a level of respect that is foreign to me but is also very appealing. Yes, that is definitely even more attractive than the ability to be organized.

(But I still think its cool when He has a devotional reading or some surprise source to reinforce what He has brought me from another direction or talked to me about in my heart just before I came across it.)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Close Encounter

I wish I could write with my heart and not have to go through my head and my hands. But I can't and if I don't write I am afraid I will lose many things that I don't want to forget so here I am again.

Yesterday I felt God surprise me while I was driving home on slippery roads by saying something very intimate to my heart. He said something like, I want you to love me intelligently, not just blindly. How would you feel if someone you loved just blindly did whatever you told them or wanted them to do without any spontaneity or passion. You would not feel loved, you would just feel like you had a very submissive servant. But there would be no spark there, no excitement, no back and forth interaction like two lovers animated to find ways to make the other light up with pleasure. But that is the kind of relationship that I want us to have with each other.

I was surprised and delighted and confused all at the same time. My first question (the plague of my intellectual orientation) was, “How do you have an interactive relationship like that with someone who already knows everything you think and everything you will think. The element of surprise would seem to be one of the most important parts of intimacy but it is obviously impossible to surprise God. So how does this work?”

I told Him all that and He reminded me that, as a matter of fact, He is bigger than the little box I am trying to put Him in with that question. Just because I am not capable of being surprised if I already know something doesn't translate to Him not being able to deal with that problem Himself. He is much bigger than the simplistic problems my mind comes up with like this and I can trust Him to handle His side of the relationship very well without my having to understand how He can do it.

I accepted that gentle rebuke and then began to ponder just what this offer really means. I could not mistake the fact that I had felt the invitation and that I wanted the same thing myself. I felt that He was getting tired of many of my attempts to expect Him to do all the loving on both sides even though He is the only real source of love to start with. What He seems to be asking me to do is to begin to use more of the creativity and inner resources of my own heart to begin to make this relationship more dynamic and “balanced” and not so limp and tiring.

In one way that sounds like an impossible request. After all, the imbalance between us is so extreme it is ludicrous. How does a lowly, stubborn, sin-confused peon have a dynamic intimacy with the One who is bigger than the whole universe, who is so intimidatingly awesome that... well, you get the point. But on the other hand that is really what the whole plan of salvation is about and He wants me to start getting more serious about it on the intimate level.

That is mind-staggering and I definitely am going to need His help in teaching me how to love the way that He wants. Intellectually I may understand the theory about all of this (or maybe more like a little part of it) but for Him to come and personally invite me in such a quiet, surprising way to turn my attention in that direction with my heart is, well, flattering. To even write about it seems to spoil its excitement to some extent. Maybe I am spilling too much and He might prefer to keep this between us. I don't know yet.

On the other hand, I know there are many others like me who are hungering for that personal touch, that personalized invitation from God to step across the line from theory to intimacy and discover the sparks that breath real life into the inner being. I know that is what He wants for me and He also wants to make an example of me to attract others into the same kind of relationship with Him as I am privileged to enjoy. Yes, I say that all with my head, but my heart is still back there somewhere asking the basic questions about how to start from here.

I am glad, though, that the questions are finally starting to originate from my heart and not just my left brain spouting off blissful-sounding aphorisms. I want to live more from my heart and keep my left brain as a supporting partner instead of a dictator/suppressor. I want to learn how to nurture and enhance this intimacy in ways that elicit positive feelings in God's being and make His eyes light up with pleasure. Wow!

So here are some tentative questions that my heart has – and it doesn't want platitude answers from the other side of the divide (in my head that is)!

In a lover-type relationship, how or what could I do to make God light up with delight? I assume that's one of the most prominent things good lovers do for each other. (Sorry self, I'm exposing you in other areas by even asking the question and hope I don't catch too much flak for it) Honestly, I think that if God wants me to contribute something to our relationship not based on performance to get Him to love me then I would like to know how to do that. I need some serious mentoring here.

The next thing that blows my mind is that God would even think I am capable of bringing something to this relationship that could really have an influence on His feelings. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around that one, but I need to because that seems to be exactly what He is asking for. He seemed to specifically note that He wanted me to view Him in some way as an equal partner in making this relationship blossom and deepen. So what does that look like? How do I start from where I am right now?

As I asked Him a few minutes ago about some of this and wondered how I fit into this process I finally just had to say, “I trust You to show me how to do this”. At that point He responded, That's something that makes my heart light up with pleasure – when you trust Me. Hey, that feels good. I think we are starting to make sparks already. I know its a slow start and quite a way into my life, but its never too late to fall in love.

As I even contemplate posting this on my site I feel fear rising up inside of me. What assumptions will people make about me? What expectations will they have about me? I will feel trapped into some kind of claim to holiness or something like that and I won't be able to live up to it. Hey, where is all this coming from?

So I asked God, “Do you want me to allow others to read this and find out what we have been sharing in secret?” and He said, Isn't that what commitment looks like? Part of having an intimate relationship with someone is publicly being committed to the relationship and not keeping it hidden. Hidden relationships are usually illicit and demoralizing in nature. I want us to be open about our commitment to each other. I even exposed my own nakedness on the cross in my expression of love for You. Are you willing to commit openly to your heart desire to be in covenant with Me?

I feel vulnerable, but I am in covenant with the biggest protector that can be had. I will trust Him to protect my heart and help me learn how to interact with His heart as this deepens. I like this.

While my brain is eager to join in this conversation and come up with all sorts of ideas and suggestions, I have to insist that my heart must lead in this one and utilize my intellectual imagination as a partner and resource instead of a director. Thanks, but no thanks, left brain. Only my heart is big enough for eternity and has the ability to really resonate with the passion and thrills that God wants to share with me. I'm starting to look forward to more close encounters of the Divine kind.