Random Blog Clay Feet: 2008-03
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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Trusting in Fear

This is a collection of a number of thoughts I have had over the last few hours. I woke up at 2:30 this morning wide awake and decided that it must be an invitation to meditate and commune with God. The effect of my varied thoughts was fitting many of the pieces together that I have been learning lately into cooperating with the way God does things in stark contrast to how we usually perceive that He does things.

We are addicted to coercion and force. God never uses these things. That is very baffling to us and almost incomprehensible. But it is essential to accept this truth if we are to become free of the roots of bitterness.

My thoughts had been stirred up last night by reading an email from a person who I believe to be very close to God and living a life of faith. I was a little surprised to find that he was utilizing the teachings of another person who, upon investigation into his web site, is promoting some of the favorite topics used by radical, right-wing conservatives to induce fear in people. I was disappointed because, even though I believe in the importance of relaying warnings from God, I don't believe that reinforcing those warnings with larger and larger doses of fear is God's desire. It is mixing in ingredients from the enemy of God that dilutes the real truth about God.

It is far too easy to indulge in fault-finding instead of God-finding. Something I remember James Rafferty saying long ago comes back to my mind. We will never bring about the fall of Babylon by pointing out everything that is wrong with it. Babylon will collapse of itself when the real truth about God is revealed in all its glory. Then the deceptions and errors of Babylon will simply be revealed naturally in the light of the real truth about God and no one will be able to camouflage their lies any longer.

I know that it is very hard for me to shift my own paradigms from what is so familiar and is constantly reinforced by many around me to viewing things the way heaven processes them. But I also am confident that the song I am being taught in the dark, like the bird being instructed over and over with a certain whistle in the covered cage, I will be able to sing with confidence and harmony once the cover is removed and I am placed into position with many others who may presently being taught their own parts in the dark. I do feel somewhat isolated from the cacophony of opinions and arguments going on in the religious world right now and I consider that a wonderful blessing. I don't want those distractions to slow down the personal mentoring and paradigm realignment that needs to continue in my own heart and mind. I have enough distractions in my own small world right now that keep me occupied learning to resist them.

I need to keep my primary attention focused on learning God's ways more thoroughly right now. They are so different than what I am used to that it takes a long time for them to become more clear to me and settle deeper down into my subconsciousness where they can influence my reactions to circumstances.

God's ways are far more natural and consequence-based than man's ways. But grace is always present to prevent many consequences or we would not have opportunity to learn and grow.

A thought that came to me in the shower was about a possible 7-layer sequence of good-news, bad-news events in the history of the Great Controversy. Since seven is a perfect number it can denote the perfection of either good or evil depending on what assumption you start with. If you start out believing in the innate goodness of God and then cycle through the switch seven times you will end up with the last news being very good. If you start with the assumptions that there is a dark side to God or there are flaws in His governance like Lucifer inferred, then you will end up with bad news at the end and it will be very bad. There are many questions raised in the meantime but the most important thing to know is that what you start with is what will be perfected in the end.

I want all fear to be eliminated from my life, my conversation, my writing, and my thinking. God has not given us a spirit of fear and so it always must come from another source. I don't want any contaminating spirits from any other source infecting my mind with roots of bitterness. I already have far too many to dig up already.

I am still thinking about the effect on the spirit that dwelling on all the potential disasters coming soon has on us. I am not advocating living in ignorance about what is really going on in the world. But I believe there is a subtle deception that we are not aware of in somehow believing that if we just have the knowledge of what is going on in the darkness behind the scenes - like what the pope is up to, all the details of the latest conspiracies, what the government is about to spring on us, etc. – that somehow this knowledge will somehow empower us to escape. That is utter nonsense when flushed out into the light but why does it maintain such powerful influence over so many people? The solutions offered by most people who are promoting these inside scoops are even more absurd in light of the overwhelming power behind the forces preparing these disasters.

I am sensing more and more that the answers are fatally flawed because they depend on elements only found in that same view of reality. The fundamental assumptions that we hold about how relationships work in this world and what is real power derail us from discovering the only real way of escape offered by God. If we believe that God is going to use the tools of the enemy to fight the enemy we are already heading down the wrong road to finding an effective solution.

Babylon is all about force and deception and fear. If we employ those same tools in our explanations of God's plans for these times just ahead of us, we are contaminating and polluting the true nature of His ways and His character. We confuse ourselves about what is really going on and the true nature of the controversy. Man's ways are not God's ways – when are we ever going to believe that? God's ways are so radically different than what we extrapolate from most of our Bible study and from other sources that we continue to promote a false image of Him in our teachings and excited, urgent news bulletins.

It is time to begin pre-screening everything we publish or preach or teach through the filters of the real truth about God's nature and His unfailing love. We must radically rethink all of our end-time scenarios in the light of the absence of force and fear in the ways of God. I believe that the intensifying drumbeat of fear found in much of what is being promoted today by excited conservatives may actually play into the plans of the enemy. For his ultimate purpose to to entrap our minds and hearts in the atmosphere of fear which will create our greatest vulnerability to being overcome by his even greater fear.

Fear-bonding is highly effective for manipulating people for a time but it is also very unstable for healthy relationships. Fear-bonds used for allegiance are easily overcome (but often to our astonishment) by simply presenting the person with a greater fear to induce them to switch their allegiance. No amount of determination and will-power and good intentions have any real affect on these kinds of bonds. A person may be ever so certain that they will never waver in their determination to follow “the truth” whatever that means to them. But if they are depending on fear-bonds to keep them anchored when the testing time comes they will be caught off guard and will be blind-sided by overwhelming pressure that will easily change their whole perspective of reality. Fear-bonds may be powerful but they are not stable enough to get anyone successfully through the events about to crash into our lives. They are too rigid and stiff and as such are all too vulnerable to cracking and collapse.

That is also why Babylon will ultimately fall as well. Because Babylon is built as an empire founded on fear and deception, it too is vulnerable to collapse when that fear is reflected back to them in the image they have created in their ideas of God. Fear is not a reliable building material in our life and the sooner we quite depending on it and utilizing it the sooner God can build a safe fabric of protection around our hearts. Love (and joy in its true meaning) alone is the only antidote to fear. We have no business mingling fear and love in our presentations about God because we are distorting God's image in the hearts of those we are trying to save. Perfect love casts out fear.

I am afraid that maybe we are playing right into the enemy's hands when we use fear to motivate ourselves to prepare for the Second Coming. The purpose of Babylon is to teach people fear by any means possible and to weave it into the fabric of their lives. This reinforces the lies that keep us afraid of God, whatever they may be. If God's own people are presenting pictures of Him tainted with fear then they may in fact be simply pre-conditioning hearts in preparation for the greatest assault of fear this world has ever witnessed. By subscribing to the legitimacy of fear as a valid tool for getting people's attention and allegiance we may be inadvertently conditioning them to follow the path of fear wherever it leads them. If fear itself becomes our master, the thing we are trained to pay attention to, then we will follow it to places we never dreamed we would allow ourselves to go.

Someone recently commented that the most often repeated command in the Bible is to not fear, not be afraid. I have noticed this in my own study of the Bible over the past few years and it has caught my attention. If God repeats something that often it may be because it is so very important for us to understand and also because it is likely something we are not learning very well. We cling to the mistaken notion that we must have at least some fear to make our messages effective. It gets such immediate results and we quickly become addicted to its power to wield influence over others. We dress it up in religious clothes and justify its use by compiling many proof texts to support our assumptions. But none of these things change the fact that the spirit of fear never comes from God.

That is not to say that God will not allow fear to motivate people to move toward Him. God can use anything and anyone to coordinate circumstances and influence hearts to change direction if they are willing. But just because God uses things the devil does against him does not justify our employing those elements as correct representations of what God is really like. The closer we get to God in our character and thinking the more dangerous it is to mix into our thinking an element of the enemy. We must never pick up the weapons of the enemy to use against him. He invented those weapons and knows their potential and inner workings far more than we can ever know. If we choose to continue to use the enemy's weapons we will sooner or later be captured by those same weapons. Our only true safety is in keeping our minds and hearts aligned with the ways and heart of God.

When God delivers warnings it is very true that fear is usually produced as a result. We should not necessarily work to reduce this legitimate fear directly for it has the effect of dislodging our complacency and causing us to be ready to reconsider our assumptions. But only the Holy Spirit has the skill to know how to use this opportunity to turn hearts toward the real truth about God. We have no business trying to preempt the Holy Spirit and bring conviction or fear into people's hearts. Our primary business is to focus so clearly on the attractiveness and truths of God and the purity of His nature that fear will be melted away in the heat of His passionate love for all of His created beings.

I am coming to realize that the only way I can address the fears deeply embedded in my mind and heart about the coming end-time events is to obsessively focus on filling my mind and heart with more and more truth about God's glory. When God's glory fills the whole earth then Babylon will fall. And when God's glory really fills my own heart with the light and beauty of God, then the many lies and fears and excuses and resistance I have toward God will also melt away and Babylon will fall in my own heart.

Only when Babylon is conquered by the refreshing revelation of God's real character within myself will I be fit to take the battle to those around me using the same method. Truth exposes falsehood naturally just as light dispels darkness. You cannot get rid of darkness by describing it in detail or attempting to force it to leave. It simply melts away instantly when light is introduced. It works in the heart just as surely as it is going to work in all the world.

In Revelation 17 John is shown the great deceiving woman, the great whore representing false religion symbolically. John wonders at this woman, and this word also means to admire. The angel with him immediately asks him why he did this. This woman is shown to him riding on the back of a great beast which previously in Revelation 13 is described as the one the whole world wonders after. In essence John is feeling the same magnetic draw of awe and attraction that the rest of the world is overwhelmed with and I believe the angel's words are really warning John about the danger of even starting down that path of wonderment and fear.

If one examines the characteristics of this symbolic woman as well as the beast she ride on and is in close collusion with, it becomes clear that the primary means for gaining control over people's minds and hearts is fear, deception, lust and intimidation. Using these ingredients the power of this pair is irresistible unless one is internally divorced from indulging in the attractions the fallen heart has for these things. And the real fatal attraction that makes us vulnerable to them is the desire to use them ourselves. It is part of our fallen human nature and only the presence of the Spirit of Jesus in our heart can deliver us from this most alluring temptation.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Faith like a Cat

My cats have given me pause to think about my own attitude and relationship with God. As I lay in bed this morning working up the energy to get up and going one of our oldest cats continued to pester me to give her affection. She would scratch at my shoulder wanting me to caress her and pay her attention no matter how sleepy I felt. Once I started giving her what she wanted she would settle down inside my arm with her head on my shoulder and soak up all the attention she could extract from me.

This cat exhibits a very deep trust in me unlike any other cat we have right now. She enjoys not only being petted the normal ways but thoroughly relishes having her chin scratched and then rolls over to have her stomach and chest rubbed from top to bottom.

When she gets into this mood she also enjoys me massaging her shoulders and legs as she relaxes and allows me to move them freely with very little resistance. She just soaks up all the affection and rubbing that she can get and completely allows me to do whatever I want in our interaction.

I thought about this trust that she has in me as we interacted this morning. She exhibits implicit trust and faith in me that I will not hurt her, that my intentions are good and that we are close friends. As a result she is able to receive far more affection and interrelate with us much more freely than any of our other cats are able to do.

In contrast, our youngest cat is a long ways from having a stable relationship of trust with us. Although she certainly enjoys receiving attention at times and even desires petting, she has so much fear and distrust inside of her that our relationship seems more one of exploitation at times than of friendship. I have to admit that I have seen much improvement over the last year but she has a very long way to go before she can receive much of the affection that is available for her.

She will sometimes come up onto my lap while I am reading or typing in the morning and settle herself down to get some petting. But I have to be extremely careful where and how I pet her for she is like a little hyperactive tiger that is often quite unpredictable. A few minutes ago she was sleeping in my arms curled up and purring while I was typing looking very peaceful and calm. But I know that the motion of moving my hands beneath her is an irritant for her and she likely was internally about to come to the end of her very short fuse.

Sure enough, she suddenly lost patience with me and started biting the palm of my hand and going into one of her dangerous fits of rage that I am too familiar with. I am usually a pretty laid back person but there are times when my own fuse can run out rather quickly and this was one of them. I decided that there may need to be times when she doesn't get away with this kind of behavior without consequences and so I held her from escaping quickly (as she usually tries to do after such an attack) and gave her a sharp swat before she made a hasty exit. She can now spend some time alone until she changes her mood again which is her usual pattern.

Many people who know this cat believe she is incurably psychotic and there is no hope for her. I believe differently and think that over a lot of time and with the right mix of affection and discipline along with some very needed maturity from age that she could yet become a much more stable and reliable friend. But she is presently missing out on most of the advantages that she could be enjoying with us and may even herself desire, because of her unpredictable moods and our need to keep a careful distance from her claws most of the time.

The reason I spend time thinking about this this morning is not so much to talk about my cats as it is to reflect on how much they are teaching me about my own relationship with God. From my perspective I sometimes think I have a pretty good relationship with Him and that He shows me affection that makes me feel very special at times. I'm sure that is true, but at the same time I am seeing, from the descriptions above, that it is very likely I am too much like the later cat than the former in my way of relating to Him. This younger cat may actually think that she has a pretty healthy relationship with me and that we get along just great most of the time. That is true compared to many other people in her life, but she has no idea how much better and deeper it could be if she were not so paranoid about life and everyone around her. She is so suspicious that others might be out to hurt her that she keeps her defenses at a very high level all of the time which does not allow very much intimacy and interaction that we could be enjoying together. Her life is governed by many fears and it severely limits many of her options and opportunities.

I suspect that God may very well feel the same thing about me. While I may view our relationship as something very positive – and it is as far as it goes – I likely have very little comprehension of how much deeper and closer He wants it to be if I would just let go of my resistance and mistrust whenever He tries to do things in my life that I misunderstand. If He tries to move me around into a different position so that He can access me better I am liable to complain or pout or resist His plans. He may allow me to have my way many times but the results are much the same as the tense but slowly growing relationship I have with our youngest cat.

I want to change that situation. When I think about the faith that our oldest cat has and the resultant enjoyment we are able to share I also want to have that kind of faith with my Father in heaven who has far more exciting plans and feelings and opportunities for me to enjoy than I can ever imagine. But my lack of faith causes me to often use my claws to keep Him at a distance when there is really no reason to do so. The only reasons for these fears are the lies about Him that still lurk in the dark recesses of my mind causing me to doubt His goodness and His love for me so that I try to stay in control of my own life instead of trusting Him fully to shower His love and blessings on me.

Lord, teach me to relax in Your arms and just be ravished in Your love like our mature cat does with us. Thank-you for using her to show me Your heart a little better today. I don't know what it will take to remove these fears and doubts about You from my heart, but do whatever it takes to discipline and transform me so that I can be more compliant and safe in Your embrace.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tyranny of the Urgent

I was thinking earlier this morning about how much I am learning a new language. For many years I have wanted to learn a couple more languages and I figured that if I knew Spanish and German that I could likely fit in just about most places in the world except in Asia. I even went so far some years ago as to buy a Spanish teaching CD program for my computer which promptly disappointed me so I didn't take any more time with it after the first try.

As much as I wish I could say that I am making progress now on my dream to learn one of these languages, they are not the language that I am currently learning. What I am painfully and slowly learning is the language of the spirit. I suspect that more healthy individuals might grow up with a more natural adeptness to using this language but not myself. I only became even aware that I had a spirit just a few years ago and ever since then I have been trying to listen more carefully to it and encourage the use of my inner equipment necessary for utilizing this most important and universal language.

Another subject that was rolling around in my head this morning was formulas. I have noticed that most of external-based religion relies heavily on the use of formulas and most arguments about religion or philosophy or many other things for that matter revolve around who has the right formula that should be used for interpreting facts and words. Most of this discussion usually generates far more heat than light and I try to avoid getting entangled into them too deeply.

However, it occurred to me that maybe my disdain for formulas was misplaced. Maybe the real problem is not the use of formulas themselves, although using the wrong formula for a given problem will result in faulty answers. But many of our problems may lie in plugging in the wrong “figures” to fill in the various variables in the formulas and thereby coming up with faulty conclusions even though there may not necessarily be anything wrong with the formula itself. I think this may particularly be true when substituting external factors for use in Biblical formulas for things that should properly come from the spirit side of our beings.

There is another question I have in regard to life formulas. How do you know if you have gotten the right answer unless you have something objective to check it against? If you think you know what the answer is going to look like but you are looking at the answer book through human, external-oriented, behavior-based thinking, then quite possibly the answer you create by using a particular formula may be quite wrong according to heaven even though it matches up nicely with what you expect to see and is even confirmed by those who share your world-view and agree with your logic and findings.

A formula may be the same as that used by the Bible and heaven but the outcome may look different because the inner environment, background and deficiencies of the persons using the formula. It is clear that there are different perceptions of reality from one to the next and it is impossible for anyone to be truly objective. It seems to me that the way to truly know if the outcome of the formula is moving toward the right destiny is to measure the aspects if the conclusions as reflected in the spirit with the descriptions given in the objective word of God about what the fruit looks like that is naturally produced by the true Spirit.

When we try to measure a life more by external appearances than by the condition of the spirit it is all too easy to be deceived and misled. When we pay attention to the voice of the true Spirit and are guided continuously by that Spirit and are growing and maturing in that Spirit, then it will be far easier to recognize the same kind of spirit when we see it in another, even though the outward appearances or circumstances may appear very unfamiliar or even shocking at times.

For instance, if I believe that righteousness is defined by having the right doctrines and performing the right actions according to a checklist somewhere and if one is doing the right religious routines on the right days, then it may be very likely that it will be next to impossible for me to discern between similar-looking spirits because deceptive spirits are extremely good at replicating external results to appear the way we expect them to look. When we have a certain lifestyle that we believe is the right one, we will tend to use that model or image in our mind to measure everyone around us to determine if they are following God or not. This method is extremely convincing but is also extremely dangerous.

A person who gives priority credence to the externals of religion will tend to discount the discrepancies of the spirit that serve as warning signs for those using a different standard, even though they may be utilizing the same formula found in Scripture. Even this measure of looking at the spirit can be utilized by some to incriminate the true children of God as others point out their failings and emotional weaknesses as supposed evidence that they have the wrong spirit. The true measure of a right spirit is not determined by the occasional outburst or meltdown or even a spectacular, publicized fall into temptation, but it is discerned by the direction of the movement of their spirit over time.

As humans we are addicted to judging and condemning others. It is inherent in our selfish nature to measure ourselves against others and somehow think that if we can make them out to be worse than us that we will somehow be better by comparison. It is like sitting in a bus and looking out the window when all you can see is another bus next to you backing up – but you don't know the other bus is moving at all. It gives the distinct sensation that you are moving forward that can be overwhelmingly convincing. But the fact is that you may not be moving at all or you may even be backing up yourself but at a much slower speed. The only way to truly know what is really happening is to look elsewhere for a more reliable point of reference to find out what is really happening.

I am convinced today that there very well may be a demon named Urgent. I came to this conclusion after having my wife point out to me yesterday how much news personal on television news channels tend to almost shout most of the time. They have likely been trained to talk with a tone and volume that projects an ongoing sense of urgency that cannot be ignored so as to keep the largest possible audience riveted to their station for as long as possible. The intended effect of this urgency is to overrule our inner structures and conscience that is designed to point us to what is really more important. The urgent demands for attention are calculated to make noticing them more important than anything else and lingers in our minds and imaginations like a strong magnet to draw us back again and again to be reinforced and justified. We become secretly afraid that we are going to miss something important and so we stay in close touch with the news on a regular basis.

Similar kinds of logic and persuasiveness is used in other formats for those not interested in being addicted to news. Music, fashion, social idols, entertainment all clamor for urgent attention and consume most of our waking hours and our discussions with our friends. This is all calculated to subtly influence our spirit in ways that we are largely unaware of and even deny most of the time. But it is a carefully crafted formula designed to prevent us from spending enough time thinking about what is truly important in life or even robbing us of the capacity and desire to do so. This same spirit is clearly seen in most religion as well.

Urgency is not wrong in and of itself, but it is out of place and is employed to promote distorted perceptions of reality when urgency is used to empower things that are not the most important. We use urgency to give weight to what we want to impose on others for varying reasons, but it is often used for our own selfish desires to control or exploit others instead of being used to empower real warnings of danger. Very often we desire others to be afraid of what we are afraid of. These are called fear-brokers. We want to have influence over those around us by convincing them to value what we want to value or fear what we fear. That not only tends to make us feel more justified in our evaluations and fears but gives us a sense of importance in being able to affect others.

Urgency is like crying wolf – when it is used falsely it diminishes its own effectiveness which is precisely what Satan's intention is. We become so used to the urgent not being truly important that we become conditioned to ignore it and then fail to recognize the truly important when it comes with urgency. We are conditioned to disbelieve and doubt which is exactly where Satan wants us to be so that we will discount and reject the warnings of God to our spirit and mind.

All who are under the training of God need the quiet hour for communion with their own hearts, with nature, and with God. In them is to be revealed a life that is not in harmony with the world, its customs, or its practices; and they need to have a personal experience in obtaining a knowledge of the will of God. We must individually hear Him speaking to the heart. When every other voice is hushed, and in quietness we wait before Him, the silence of the soul makes more distinct the voice of God. He bids us, "Be still, and know that I am God." This is the effectual preparation for all labor for God. Amidst the hurrying throng, and the strain of life's intense activities, he who is thus refreshed, will be surrounded with an atmosphere of light and peace. He will receive a new endowment of both physical and mental strength. His life will breathe out a fragrance, and will reveal a divine power that will reach men's hearts. (MH p. 58)

There are two very different ways to relate to this most fascinating quotation. The way I have typically seen it related to is the external oriented way – to feel under compulsion to conform to the details presented here, things like hour, knowledge, quietness, etc. These are all tangible things that can be imposed on myself (or others) and also hold great potential for producing enormous feelings of guilt and shame if I don't perform to the standard I set for myself or others may have set for me. Usually the way we escape from this pressure of guilt is to avoid reading such things at all so that we can forget about what appears to be the source of our condemnation. But the real problem here is that we are viewing things pertaining to the spirit through the lenses of external religion which will always distort, complicate and confuse us at best about words that were not really designed to be used in such a context.

When a person who is learning to live life in relation to the spirit is trying to find effective ways of connecting with God in meaningful dialog, they will instantly recognize in this quotation something that resonates strongly with encouragement and hope for their heart instead of fear and condemnation. They will see a formula of sorts that offers a reliable pattern which they can use to really make progress in their movement toward connecting with and hearing God in their soul. They will not need to view this as yet another obligation to add to their already overcrowded checklist of things that must be done to be a good Christian. They will instead, see in it an invitation into the intimate place with God where He wants to personally share His heart, His thoughts and His real power with them in ways that no one else will ever be able to comprehend. They will see God's invitation to join Him in His passion to develop an intense, mutual intimacy and deep friendship that is closer than that of two lovers enamored with each other.

This also brings to my attention the alternative ways that I can view my current circumstances of not having work to produce income for my family. I can view my situation as others might be doing as a tragedy or even a shame on myself and feel condemnation for not launching into a frenzy of searching for anything to immediately eliminate this problem. But alternatively I can look at it as possibly a time of intense training, rewiring and priority realignment by the Spirit of God while trusting in His promise of provision for us unconditionally. That is not to say that I should not pursue finding work or should reject realistic opportunities for income. But what I am more interested in and feel is even more important is the condition of my spirit during this time of uncertainty and financial pressure. I can either give in to the debilitating effects of fear in my heart or I can fill my mind with resources and ideas and take advantage of this time to learn to listen more accurately to the voice of God as described in the above quotation. The thought has often occurred to me recently that maybe I am so entrenched in the thinking patterns of the world (externals) that God knows I need a lot of time to get my thinking and perceptions shifted and transitioned into patterns that are more in tune with heaven and the ways of the Spirit.

It is becoming more clear to me that until my own spirit is much more in line with the ways that God relates to people, it will be very difficult for Him to use me very effectively in His service. I may have all sorts of knowledge and insights and even much eagerness to share them with anyone willing to listen (or not). But knowledge tends to puff up according to Paul. What I need a lot more of is a right spirit that is humble, loving, caring and balanced. I need a great deal of character training far more than mental training I suspect. And character training comes primarily through the mentoring and rewiring of the way I think and relate to things of the spirit. This is the area of my life that was most neglected for most of my life and is the area in which I personally need the most remedial training. So maybe God is trying to do that right now.

The danger is that I may allow alternative distractions and false spirits that press themselves onto me as being urgent or promising me temporary pleasure to rob me of the extremely valuable time that God is providing for me to receive His training. It is like sitting in a classroom in front of an extremely valuable expert in a field for which I am training who will only be available for a limited time. And while he is trying to teach me important concepts crucial for my training I become distracted by flirting with the pretty girls in the room or reading funny papers hidden inside my textbook. Those things may for the moment be much more fun and interesting than listening to the teacher, but the results will be tragic when the day of testing comes.

I sense that I may be sitting in that classroom right now and that the truly urgent is not the things that insist that they are urgent. I must deliberately and repeatedly remind myself of what is truly important and take firm actions to engage my attention toward what is important and refuse to be side-tracked by what appears to be more pleasing in the moment. It is only in doing so that I can be prepared to enter into the much greater work that is waiting for me after my limited time for training. When that day comes I will only have available the experience and spirit training that I allowed myself to receive during these days of preparation.

If I perceive my present circumstances as a training time just like sitting in school, then I can also reject the pressure to feel guilty about not working presently. A student is not expected to be working full-time when they are taking a full load of classwork and by the same token I need to recognize when I am supposed to be paying attention in class and when I am supposed to be practicing what I learn in the field without feeling ashamed for not working full time. Some may accuse me of using this idea as a cop-out for not wanting to work, but I must listen to what the Spirit of God is revealing to me about my life more than what others say in judgment of me.

I believe that when it is God's time to place me back into active work to receive worldly income or whatever other kind of work He has in mind, that I will again face a different set of pressures. Then I will have the need to jealously protect my intimate time with Him so that I will not loose my spirit's connection with God's Spirit and thus forget my true identity. During this “downtime” I need to avail myself of all the spirit training that I can get while the gettin's good, as the expression goes. I must reject the false guilt that tries to impose itself on me (with or without the help of others) in order to discourage or distract me. I choose to keep my guard up and ask for God's Spirit to protect me from other powerful distractions that are determined to derail my training and waste my precious time that I need to listen to my real Teacher. And I ask my Teacher for His Spirit that includes the gift of self-control, because I know that I cannot produce that myself.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Searching for Identity

This morning I was wondering why so many things about identity have been coming to my attention over the past day or so. Last night I attended a youth-oriented Bible study group for the second time where we discussed the story of David and Goliath. I really enjoy the spirit of these young people who are hungry for God and for getting into the Word. That is truly refreshing for me. As we read the story what jumped out at me was how intense and deliberate were many verses in addressing the issue of identity, especially concerning David. Almost everyone around him was trying to put him down, shame him and belittle his identity until after he took out Goliath. Then suddenly he was someone to take notice of. But even then his identity was tied to what he had apparently accomplished and he was considered a hero because of his actions, not because of what was on the inside.

This morning both of my devotional books presented thoughts that had to do with identity. The first talked about our need to embrace our uniqueness and not allow ourselves to be squeezed into the mold of others in the expression of our unique gifts and talents. This reminded me of something that was part of a dream last night just before I woke up. It seemed for a brief moment that some spiritually mature person that I admired offered me the chance to spend time with them and be mentored. My heart jumped at the chance with great enthusiasm and I was very disappointed when I realized it was only a dream. But then I began to question, how does mentoring develop uniqueness? Isn't that somewhat the opposite in some ways? Unless the person mentoring is more keen to bring out your uniqueness instead of trying to clone you in their own image.

The second devotional book talked about the problem of Laodicea being blinded to their true condition of wretchedness. They think they are rich, fat and happy when inside they are really the opposite. That is so much the description of our churches today that it is frightening. And I also realize that I am included in that problem though it is always difficult to see it the closer to one's self we look.

Then I remembered the likely reason why all of these thoughts about identity are coalescing so close together. I recently asked God to show me much more plainly what my true identity is in heaven's eyes, from God's viewpoint. He is simply beginning to answer my prayer. That is great. I really feel blessed when I realize just a little how much God cares about me by noticing and responding to my requests like this. But I am sure this is just the bare beginning.

My heart questions whether I should even share these thoughts in public posts as I am usually prone to do. It is like sharing private conversations with an intimate friend by immediately publishing them for the rest of the uncaring world to gawk at. In a strong sense that feels like a betrayal of the intimacy of my friendship and many times I wonder about the appropriateness of many of my posts. I remember something I read from Oswald Chambers that warned against sharing with others the intimate conversations we have with God. On the other hand I also wonder what Jesus meant when He said that what we hear from Him in the secret chambers we should publish on the housetop. (Matt. 10:27) I have never had a satisfactory explanation for that passage.

I sense that part of the process of coming into awareness of my true identity implanted in me at conception by God must include the unmasking of all the false ideas of my identity wrapped around my heart and mind like many layers applied by many people throughout my life. These are often rooted in deeply hidden lie-based beliefs about myself implanted at different times and accepted by me as being true about me because they came from people representing God to me in some way. All of us struggle with this problem and I seem to have a heavy maze of these issues that keeps me staring through fuzzy glasses trying to see what is real. They are like layers of cobwebs sticking to the lenses in front of my perceptions distorting both the picture of God and my perceptions of who I am. I need release from these confusing distortions so that I can more clearly reflect the true image of God to others who also need their lenses liberated.

Now that I think of it, this is the primary issue being addressed in Romans 12:1, 2 where I am returning to pick up my previous journey through the book of Romans on my other blog. I always liked the Phillips translation – Don't let the world squeeze you into its mold. That is so descriptive of the constant pressure that we all experience throughout all of our lives, to be squeezed into the ideals of those around us instead of discovering what God has designed already inside of our hearts. The renewal of our minds spoken of in this text I believe at least partly involves the liberation of our hearts from the tyranny of our intellectual minds sometimes. It also means becoming freed from the many emotional escape addictions that we employ to cover up the pain that we are afraid to face deep in our memories.

As I allow my mind to drift around my surroundings to see what I often use to describe or support my usual perceptions of my identity, I notice many things that I realize are props that are typically used to define who I am, both to myself and/or to others. What my house looks like is a factor in what people think about me and what I think about myself. The many books that line the shelves and fill the boxes in my house are also indicators of the kind of person I am perceived to be. The food that I choose to eat is often a big factor in how I am perceived. The various musical instruments in my home speak of a previous time in my life when music was a much larger part of my passion. When I was a teenager I couldn't imagine a future that was not predominantly filled with activities revolving around music. How very different my actual life ended up working out from what I had imagined and hoped.

I remember when I was much younger how much my looks and clothes were considered an important part of defining who I really was. Now I am doing good to just look presentable as my value-basis has changed over the years. I don't put much stock into outward appearances nearly as much as most people do when they are young which puts me at odds with those who still insist on such measurements of worth or identity. The way my children act and my relationship with my wife is often a measurement of who I am perceived to be. That is oftentimes a source of pain or shame as I see all the ways I have failed to be the father and husband that they needed.

I think of the many prejudices that are used to define identity. Fortunately I was raised by parents who intentionally tried to teach me that racial prejudices were not something to subscribe to as accurate measurements of identity, though on occasions some of my Dad's prejudices sometimes flashed through in a comment or two. I came to realize that there was a difference between the color of a person's skin and the results of the culture they grew up in and that people need to be allowed the freedom to reveal their own personality apart from preconceptions based on their looks. But I also find the same problems when I sense that my own appearance many times may negatively influence other people's opinions of me before they allow time to get to know my real, inner self better.

I recently have pondered my own inner dissonance between how I perceive myself, the person I think I am acquainted with internally, and the person that stares back at me from a mirror. For some strange reason the person that claims to be me that I see in a mirror does not look anything at all like the person that I am so sure I know on the inside. I am almost frightened and intimidated many times by the looks and features of the person looking back at me and hold out little hope of ever being able to get that person to look like what I feel. And yet I argue repeatedly with my children and wife who insist that I really am the intimidating person that is seen in the mirror and that I need to change the way I look and speak so I do frighten people away so easily. That is another ongoing issue that is always affecting my pursuit of finding my real identity.

One thing that has emerged lately that creates mixed feelings about my identity is my recent and growing obsession with writing. I have found it recently an effective outlet for my inner feelings and ideas that I have never accessed very much before and it has at times almost turned into an overwhelming flood of inner feelings and ideas clamoring to get out for recognition. This sense of relief for the inner pressure that has built up for many years has been tainted by my uneasiness of the realization that this is something I do very much alone. It is not helping me connect in a community of fellow traveler's sharing my journey and as a result I do not feel any bonding going on which should be an important part of real expression. Because people can read my posts and remain distant and unresponsive so easily I still feel very isolated and even vulnerable many times. There is the gnawing fear lurking in the shadows that someday all of the things I have so freely expressed and shared from the sensitive places of my heart will be used viciously against me in some other context. And my heart also wonders at the distress of the disconnectedness of the whole arrangement. But then I realize that many other people likely feel the same frustrations, not only with the internet but even in writing books or articles for magazines. They may have a much wider audience but the feed-back mechanisms that cultivate true community and bonded relationships are still largely missing.

Beyond that I struggle with how much my mind is using other's perceptions of what I write (or my assumptions about what their perceptions might be) to create my own sense of identity and value. Our culture has often places greater value on those who can write eloquently and attract larger and more appreciative audiences. This has been another means of creating a false sense of heightened value for many apart from their true worth in God's eyes that can be a hindrance to sensing their true value and identity. How much am I being affected by this distortion? On the other hand, how much of my writing is a means for me of encouraging my process of discovering my true identity in God? I sense many times that in the midst of writing things down as they come to my mind that it makes way for many more insights that sometimes almost seem like a gusher that I can hardly record fast enough. That does not mean they are all divinely inspired – there are plenty of prolific writers around who are clearly inspired but often by more spirits than that which comes from God. But it does seem many times that I sense the promptings of the sweet Spirit of God trying to reveal to me new and exciting things as I immerse myself in His Word. This does not really have to be a method to directly create value and identity for me but a way to discover God's true identity through which I will better find my own.

Another question that arises around this particular topic as I ponder it is how to deal with the lack of interaction in my choice to post my inner thoughts and feelings on the internet. Is it in some ways a good thing that I don't hear much from any readers? Sometimes I suspect that if I knew the nature and interests of those who might be reading my posts that over time my writing my evolve into a direction of trying to be targeted toward the readers instead of being simple, unaffected expressions of what is inside of me. Sometimes I wonder if God shields me from knowing what effect my writings have (if any) on others so that I will not become contaminated with false pride or self-conceit or conversely fear and intimidation. That is a very real possibility. (I can think of at least one or two people that I would be afraid to have them see my writings) I know that already too often in the midst of writing something that the way I word things at times is framed in the context of thinking about someone who may end up reading it and what I think they might need to hear. But I try to contain myself within the context of just a dialog between my own heart and God and not allow myself to indulge in writing as a means of convincing or admonishing others of what I think they should hear. But would the pressure increase in that direction if I knew that many people were really interested in what I have to say and were actively responding to what I have written? I direct these questions to God who knows my heart much better than I do and I believe wants to guide me in the best way to discover my true identity and feel my true worth as He feels about me more importantly than what anyone else thinks.

Perception of identity is also strongly linked with what we do for work as well as the efficiency or tension that we have in our relationships with others. Since I have not had much work to support myself for some time now that has been an increasing pressure to distort my sense of value in my own eyes and others around me. My many difficulties in having healthy, love-bonded relationships with others is also a constant source of distortion to properly perceiving the true identity that is so camouflaged inside of me. And of course what other people think and say about me has far too easy access to my heart that often greatly distresses and confuses me about my true value, worth and real identity. I have been trained since earliest years to discount compliments as flattery that is dangerous to my soul and have also been very defensive and sensitive to attacks and accusations against me by those who want me to be seen as a danger to others and one who is not safe to get very close to.

All of these things are mingled together – and many more that I cannot think of right now – to create the artificial image of the person that I perceive myself, or others perceive me to be. But very little of this mix, I suspect, comes from God's thoughts about me, His perceptions of who I really am and the real personality and character that He hard-wired into my DNA (or wherever it resides) from before I was ever thought of by others. But God's original plan for my identity, although it is so masked and camouflaged by all the false ideas and feelings that seem so much more real to me, is the identity that I am becoming more and more hungry to discover and engage.

Not yet knowing what that true identity is I feel like I am looking for someone that is currently a complete stranger to me. But I also sense that when I begin to get acquainted with that stranger that something inside of me will begin to resonate with excitement and recognition that this is indeed the real me and I will be overwhelmed with excitement and emotion as I begin to grow into the true image that God pre-planned for me to thrive in as I reflect His own beauty and perfection.

Another important part of this discovery process came to my attention a few minutes ago as I was pondering all of this. There are many programs and gimmicks in the world purporting to help people “find themselves” or some such variation on that theme. I do not want to discount the deep hunger that all of us have in our desire to do this that feeds the proliferation of all of these ideas and programs. This hunger really reflects an important aspect of the real plan of salvation that God has put in place for all of us. Salvation really means a healing, a restoration process whereby we can be restored to the true image of God that we were each designed to reflect. The closer we come to engaging in our true destiny as pre-designed by God the more satisfaction and joy we will experience in our hearts. This is one of the main purposes for Jesus sending the Holy Spirit to us.

But the most important aspect of discovering ourselves, myself, is to not miss the most important ingredient of all – discovering who God really is and how He feels about me. This is not just a disconnected religious notion but is the most fundamental basis for our existence and self-awareness. To the extent that our perceptions of God are warped and skewed will be our inability to properly discover the real truth about our own identity and feel secure in our infinite worth to Him. Because we are designed to only be reflectors, our beliefs about God will pretty much parallel our beliefs about ourselves.

My perception about my own worth and identity will always be distorted to the extent that my perceptions about God are distorted. Satan, the greatest accuser of God ever known, has filled our minds and hearts will lies about Him that have grotesquely distorted God's image in our minds to actually look more like Satan's image than like the truth about what God is really like in many ways. As a mirror of my perceptions of what God is like I will inevitably project to others and to my own inner image the beliefs that I carry about how God thinks about me, how much He values or scorns me, how much anger or love He has toward me, how much He cherishes or shames me, etc.

By the same token, my perceptions about my own identity that are determined by other people's opinions about me will also be contaminated by their skewed and distorted perceptions about God and my feelings will be confused not only from my own mis-perceptions about God but also by other's. I not only have to contend with my own life-long struggle to discover the real truth about God but also have to be aware when other's false ideas about Him are re-infecting my heart with lies that I am working to become free from myself.

I think that possibly many people involved in religion assume that we will not find our true identity until Jesus returns and we can find it in heaven. That sounds very discouraging and I don't buy that notion completely at least. I do find from my study of the Bible that we likely will not experience our full potential that we were created to enjoy until the final day of revelation at the end of the millenium. But I believe it is very much God's purpose and desire for us to immediately begin to enter into and bring out in the open the true identity that He created us to be right now and as quickly as possible shed off the false ideas about ourselves that have defined us for all of our life up to this point.

I have been learning some very important things lately about the true nature of judgment. In essence, one of the most important things I have learned is that real judgment is the reactions of people when exposed to the presence of God and they are confronted with the truth about what He is really like. The one question that is predominant in judgment is, “Who do you say that I am?” This may take many forms but the essence of the question is always the same. What do we really believe God is like – deep in our hearts, not so much our intellectual theological pronouncements?

Judgment is not something imposed on people but is induced from people as they reveal the true beliefs of their hearts about what God is like. That is always reflective of their perceptions of what constitutes reality. Judgment always produces separation and discernment between those who reveal from their deepest heart some level of trust in the real goodness of God and those who choose to cling to their dark opinions about God's nature and reject the love and kindness that is necessary to lead them to repentance. In judging God – which is really what judgment is all about – they judge themselves and expose what they have come to believe is their true identity. Because our own sense of identity is inevitably linked to our perception of God's identity (because we are really only mirrors by nature) what we come to believe about God will be reflected in what we ultimately believe about ourselves. Those who are ultimately lost will be those who insist on rejecting the beauty and loveliness and the ever-lasting nature of the mercy of God in favor of beliefs that He is sometimes angry, vengeful and arbitrary. We will all in essence get the effects of the God we believe in at the deepest levels of our hearts whether it is true or not. That picture of God may not be the same as the one we mentally profess to follow, but judgment reveals the thoughts and intents of the heart far more explicitly than the assumptions of the intellect.

Those who choose to go beforehand to judgment may be those spoken of the this text. The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. (1 Timothy 5:24) If in our desire to find our true identity we are willing to allow our sins to become evident, we can then bring them to Jesus and receive the healing that we need and the heart-truth implants that will replace the lies we have lived by for so long. When we do this ahead of time, before the final times of judgment, then when the days of exposure come upon us we will not be vulnerable to fear and collapse like those who's sins are suppressed and follow (chase) after them. The more I study and contemplate these things the more clearly I see how they are all inter-related.

Jesus, please bring me into judgment early and show me the lies that I still believe are true, the lies about you and about myself that have been a part of my emotional makeup since before my birth. Continue to reveal to me the value and identity that You see when You think about me. Grow me into a more accurate reflection of Your own perfect beauty and integrity and maturity. Show me much more about Yourself so that I can know much more about myself and become a more efficient channel of Your light and grace to others.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Conviction about Hoax

After reading a small piece of an allegory yesterday out of an email about the true nature of the money system, this morning it began to soak into my slow brain the immensity of the implications that this truth has to effect every aspect and detail of our lives, both socially and spiritually. Then when I opened the devotional reading for today and saw that the text talked about Laodicea's illusion that it is rich and prosperous when in fact in heaven's view it is exactly the opposite, I begin to sense that maybe God wants me to be more informed about this matter.

I do not want to follow the example of many others clamoring about these issues and use education of this problem to promote a sense of fear or advocate violence in any way. I believe that would play directly into the hands of Lord Mammon from which this whole system came from originally. But on the other hand, to have conviction to take an opportunity to be aware of a system of slavery that has subtly deceived the whole world and is tightening its noose around our necks; to reject the chance to enlighten ourselves about the truth of the matter because it makes us uncomfortable, well, I believe that is at the very least highly irresponsible. It would be a choice to leave ourselves in the dark because the light of truth is so radically different than what we have always believed and we assume that it will be too painful and embarrassing. To choose that path is to willingly stay in darkness when we have been offered light and that to me would be a clear choice to sin against light.

But just because we become aware of the enormous hoax that we live under and how it is working to destroy us does not also mean that we know the way to respond to it. I believe that it is entirely two different issues that need to be addressed separately. I believe I am morally responsible today to investigate and clarify to the best of my ability the true nature of the trap that I find myself in, but just as I feel prompted by the Spirit to become more aware of this I also must remember that only the Spirit has the right answers and guidance for each individual to know what to do in response to this knowledge. In my experience it is nearly always true that the first thing that comes to our mind in reaction to bad experiences is the wrong thing to do. That is most likely because it springs from a root of fear and fear is the opposite of the most important element of God's system. So at this point I want to explore further clarification under the guidance of the Spirit and then listen carefully and peacefully to what I am instructed by God to do about it.

First I am going to look up the reference and find the allegory that appeared to me to greatly simplify the complexity of the financial hoax that we live under. That is like tapping into the big picture which has always been a great asset in helping me understand the details in any situation. Then I will listen and pray as to where to go from that point.

Several thoughts come to my mind regarding this situation from what I already know about it and from what is stirring my mind this morning. Part of the outcry about the fallacy of our current money system is that it is not backed by anything valuable like gold or silver anymore. While that is a very valid and critical point of truth, the question always comes to my mind, “What is inherently valuable about gold and silver?”

It almost seems to be a question that many people dismiss as trite and irrelevant. But I think an open-minded person will not dismiss it so easily. When it comes right down to the essentials that we need for living as humans on this earth how much does gold or silver contribute to making our life better or how does it make us thrive? It seems to me that the value placed on these metals in people's minds are always overblown and out of proportion to the real, actual usefulness of these elements.

This is actually part of the deceptive nature of the discussion about the monetary system that makes it so confusing. The arguments usually center around demanding that our currency should be backed by something substantial like gold and silver instead of just the assumptions of millions of people willing to accept pieces of paper stamped with unique lines and colors. There is a certain amount of truth in that argument, but my question goes even further. How life-giving is gold and silver in the first place? What is it about gold or silver that makes people so obsessed to value them so much?

Gold and silver are just metals. They have been found to be useful for decoration, for conducting electricity efficiently and for various other practical applications. But that does not explain the enormous obsession that people have had with these metals for thousands of years. I think a careful observer will have to sooner or later come to the conclusion that there is a supernatural spirit of some kind that infects people thus obsessed that is beyond normal reason and explanation. Careful study of the Bible and the history of money will reveal that, in fact it is a very specific spirit that is demonic in nature and extremely deceptive in its workings that has a specific name from very long ago. It was known to the ancients as the god Mammon.

This was the god believed to be in charge of wealth and everything associated with it. As such, it was worshiped, placated, prayed to and manipulated in man's ever-present desire to obtain more for himself. This is the god who encourages the selfishness inherent in our sinful nature and actually operates at the foundational level that drives the other two legs of the false systems that make up civilization: social position or kingship and law.

As I opened my Bible this morning to restart my study in Romans I read the following verses that again reinforce God's viewpoint of all of this. "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:34-36 NIV)

These verses clearly draw our attention to the true Source of the supply for everything we need for life. And it also makes it very clear that it is completely impossible for anyone anywhere in all of creation to get into a position as a creditor toward God. No one has anything that they could loan to God expecting a repayment because God is the originator of everything to start with so it would be silly at best to think that God could become a debtor. This applies to everyone in this world as well as the rest of the universe. This principle applies in economics just as it does in salvation. We cannot obligate God to us in any way with anything we do or have or attempt.

At first one may wonder what this has to do with our current system of economics. That is generally consigned by most people to the arena of religion and economics is a completely different arena that seldom involves anything about God in most people's minds. But that is part of the massive deception that we have been duped into assuming by Lord Mammon. Economics is not only amazingly deceptive and enslaving as it is currently configured, and far more so than most people realize, but the whole concept of economics itself at its most basic concepts is in defiance of the true system of heaven of which it is a counterfeit.

The prophecies in the book of Revelation make it clear that God's true and loyal children in the last days of earth's history are going to find themselves pushed out of the world's economic arrangements. ...no one can buy or sell who does not have the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. (Revelation 13:17 NRSV) We have usually viewed this as a terrible calamity that we must endure if we are to be God's loyal followers, but I think we need to view it quite differently. The more I realize the interference that the three false systems that make up civilization cause in our perceptions of reality and our proper relationships with God and His children, the more I believe that this time of separation from the world will actually be a great blessing in disguise.

Religious people all over the world, especially Christians, usually believe that to have harmony and unity among believers that we should live more like the early believers as described in the early chapters of Acts. There are many attempts to approximate or even force people to form groups or communes to look as much like that description as we can. It appears to be an ideal toward which we are supposed to strive. But the reality is that those people described in Acts did not come up with the right formula and achieve that kind of unity because they got the formula right or they set up the perfect set of rules that made everything synchronize perfectly. That had absolutely nothing to do with the “success” of the early church. In fact, they were so different and were becoming so foreign to the counterfeit systems of the world that they were being slowly cut off from access to those systems, both economically, socially and spiritually. They were being ostracized from the synagogues where they had spend their whole life worshiping together. They were being marginalized socially by those who refused to accept or appreciate their new, radical notions about God, and they were also being squeezed more and more out of the mainstream of commerce because their value systems were so at odds with each other.

The reality of the situation at that time was in fact just the opposite of what we often view as “success”. Those people were beginning to experience freedom from the systems of the world – economics, kingship and law – by the liberation of their hearts and minds through the light filling them from the Holy Spirit and they began to live under a radically different set of paradigms that were almost totally obscure to most people of their day as well as people today. They were living lives guided and motivated by the unselfish promptings awakened in each person by the unifying Spirit of Jesus. They became charged and empowered as they began to catch glimpses of the real world of the Kingdom of God that the counterfeit system had kept hidden from them for all of their lives. They lived lives of humble, self-forgetful service to others that was not forced or imposed on them in the slightest. In essence, they were being transformed quickly into the likeness of Jesus and were consequently repulsed by the world around them just as Jesus had been.

These two systems of thinking, living and motivation are so diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive that any attempts to mingle the two systems resulted in instant death to anyone daring to try to remain grounded while attempting to connect with this high voltage of God's presence. That is what happened to Ananias and Sapphira and that truth was very clear to all of those who heard about what happened. They were not killed by an offended, angry God as some would assume, they were killed by their own choice of trying to touch a high voltage, pure and transparent atmosphere of love and open hearts while trying to remain grounded by retaining a part of the spirit of Mammon in their own hearts.

Likewise, in the end times when the true body of Christ once again coalesces into a similar purity, it would be fatal for those in such a pure atmosphere from heaven in their spirits to mingle any more with the earthly spirit of Mammon inherent in the whole system of worldly economics. Thus it will really prove to be a great blessing and will even be for their protection to be completely disconnected and cut off from buying and selling, because to remain attached to that counterfeit system would prove to be a fatal choice for anyone trying to cling to the world when God is preparing them for transition to heaven.

The real question arises then today, “At what point do we disconnect from the counterfeit systems and start living life in heaven's systems?” I do not claim to have any insight on this right now except to say that we need to listen much more carefully to the guidance of the Spirit and be willing to be educated as to the real issues involved so that we will hear the Spirit better. That is what I am feeling called to do right now and I choose to move even further in that direction. I believe there is coming a crisis very soon, very possibly in the next few months, that is going to shatter the relative peace of this world that will never be restored. We cannot imagine how frightening or intimidating it is going to be and we don't really need to dwell on that, for our greatest danger is in allowing fear itself to overwhelm us instead of clinging more tightly to the only real Source of life. Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18) I want to deepen my dependence on Him now so that I can be better prepared mentally and emotionally to trust Him even more when all hell breaks loose.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Corporate Body

I just received a question in the comments for a recent post that I think is very good and needs careful consideration. This arises from my series of posts about my visit to a community of the 12 Tribes a number of days ago. I am not setting myself up as an authority here in answering this question but I feel a need to stimulate genuine thinking on the part of everyone including myself to pursue a clearer understanding of reality and what is true and healthy for us as well as what may be enslaving our minds and hearts while leading us to think we are God's chosen people.

First I would like to repeat the question here and my short answer that I left in the comments and then explore further what I feel impressed is some of the important issues raised here. The question from an anonymous reader was:

Do you think God will find a people willing to do His will? Not just scattered individuals, but a corporate body at His beck and call?

This is my posted answer:

I really appreciate your question and I think I would like to take a whole post to address it. In brief here is my belief about this. The biggest problem I have seen in every attempt to duplicate what is described about the church early in the book of Acts is the human interference and manipulation to achieve what only the Holy Spirit has the right and ability to do. I looked up the word "corporate" in dictionary.com just now and here are two definitions. 3. done by or characteristic of individuals acting together; "a joint identity"; "the collective mind"; "the corporate good" 4. organized and maintained as a legal corporation; "a special agency set up in corporate form"; "an incorporated town" Unfortunately the last definition is always closer to what churches and organizations designed by humans always end up being in an attempt to achieve the first definition. Will God find a people willing to do His will as a corporate body? My answer to that is completely conditional on the assumptions buried in the word corporate. Thank-you so much for helping me think about this more and I would love to dialog further about this with you if you are willing. I will write a post on this maybe even today.

Do I think God will find a people willing to do His will? Absolutely. But I will also preface that by insisting that in reality He will not find them – like as in discovering them or running across them somewhere – but will find them because His own Spirit drew them individually to Himself and they were willing to be drawn. The underlying assumptions are vastly different between thinking it is up to us to get ourselves ready and organize a special group so that God can accept us or believing that we are completely helpless to change or do anything as sinful humans unless God supplies all the desire and ability.

If God did not keep us artificially alive we could not even exist to even make any choices. Because we are born into a sinful human race we are disqualified technically from even deserving life at all. But because God is not as interested in technical pre-qualifications as He is in harmonious, love-bonded direct relationships with His children, He has demonstrated His mercy and grace and provided time for us to exercise the only thing we really own – our power of choice. Dependent on the ultimate settled choice that we make, we will either be transformed back into His image as we were originally created in Adam and Eve or we will be deformed into the image of God's enemy and suffer the tragic consequences that will be suffered in the end by Satan.

I think the danger always lies in thinking that somehow we have to perform what God has clearly indicated is only possible in Him. We artificially set up preconditions to salvation that were never God's idea or plan. We fail to realize that there is nothing we can ever do or say to get God to love us or to save us in heaven. Not understanding the real definition of the word salvation we inadvertently believe we have to establish our own righteousness (or at least a certain amount) before God is willing to save us. But an honest study of Paul's writings and the teachings of the Son of God will reveal that God is the one who only can transform us and eliminate sin from our lives. The only real thing we can do to facilitate that process of cleansing and renewal (which is what salvation really means) is to keep giving God permission to live in and motivate us from within our spirit.

One of the most misused texts in the Bible about this subject is misunderstood precisely because it is not viewed in the context of the even more important verse immediately following it. So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

The second part of the question is something that I also want to carefully consider with an open mind as I hope each person thinking about this will also be willing to do. Will there be a corporate body of people willing to do His will?

As noted in my first response to this question, there is more than one definition of the word corporate and in that lies the real problem. Depending on which definition is assumed by the person making the statement, the answer could be a resounding yes or also a resounding no. I notice more and more that in trying to dialog with others about matters of importance that too much of our disagreements come about because the two parties are utilizing quite different definitions for the common words they are using in the discussion and that disparity creates a great deal of confusion, heated debate and sometimes even animosity. I find it necessary to sometimes make certain that it is understood what my words mean before I even make a statement so that an honest listener will have a better chance of knowing what I am really trying to convey.

Ultimately however, a common understanding or at least mutual respect, will only come about if the spirit of the people involved is of the right source. There can appear to be wonderful unity and agreement among a group of people who all subscribe to the same ideas or follow a common leader but the spirit that motivates them may not necessarily be of God. Conversely there may also be much disagreement between parties who are coming from different directions on some subject who strive to be understood or influence each other's opinions, but if they are willing to keep their own spirit within the sweet influence of God's true Spirit and pursue diligently an attitude of humility and love toward the other, the world will be astounded at the revelation of God that will emerge as the Holy Spirit brings about reconciliation and progressive harmony. The condition of our spirit is far more important and critical to true unity and fellowship than the correctness of our doctrines.

I wanted to visit all of that as a prerequisite for addressing this question about a corporate body because it has so much potential for controversy and alienation if not related to in the right spirit. What I want to say about this may appear to be wrong or antagonistic to some people but I believe that God will guide each of us who are willing to listen with a priority of staying in tune with His attitude.

Our beliefs about religion are always reflective of our preconceived pictures of God. If a person believes that God is one who is sitting up in heaven waiting for humans or some group of humans to get their act together before He can act, then it would be easy to see how we might believe that it is up to us to get the world prepared (whatever that happens to mean depending on which religious brand you subscribe to) so that He can return to earth. I understand that kind of mentality for I grew up in that kind of belief system, but I no longer feel confident in that kind of man-centered religion. One thing I have noticed is that all religions tend to focus attention on man and his performance more than on God and the real truth about His character. As a result we have all the millions of multiplied ideas and formulas about how to be saved as seen in the world today, most of which claim to be the exclusive truth and denying the rightness of all others.

Because of the egocentric nature of most religion it is only natural to follow that it is up to men to accomplish God's purposes here on earth. As a result we look at the words of God or the prophecies in the Bible and come to believe that to a great extent we are going to have to make them happen. Or we might take the stance that God forces His prophecies to take place even if He has to personally interfere with the natural flow of human history and activities to accomplish that. We have such a difficult time trusting that God could simply be relaying to humans through prophecy what He can see more plainly than we can predict what happened in our lives yesterday. God does not need to force into reality what He already knows will happen without His intervention. Our perceptions of God are amazingly puny.

But that is a little off the main point here. Will there be an actual group of people on earth that could be described as a corporate body acceptable to God? Again I would say a resounding yes given that we make this statement with the right underlying assumptions. Let me first be very explicit about what I believe is the real truth and then address my concerns about what I believe are false assumptions or misguided applications of this idea.

I firmly believe based on what I find in the Word of God and other inspired sources including the impressions of the Holy Spirit, that God is going to personally oversee the assembly of a corporate body of believers who have allowed the sweet Spirit of Jesus to so infiltrate their hearts and transform their minds that they will individually be directed and orchestrated by the Spirit of God to act in harmony and unity with all others who are also thus led. But most importantly I want to point out that this assembly of true disciples (those mentored directly by the Spirit of God) will not be following any human intermediaries claiming to speak for God. When we look to a human as our source for truth it is a direct assault on the freedom of conscience so fiercely protected and valued by our Creator. Anyone claiming to be an authority and a source of truth that others must conform to or be lost is attempting to usurp the place of the Holy Spirit and is really taking on the spirit of anti-Christ. No matter how convincing or appealing, persuasive or emotionally comforting they may be, no human has the right or authority to intimidate others or speak as God to the conscience of any other human being. To do so is to set one's self up as a false god. The first commandment clearly forbids having any other gods in our lives as a priority or influence other than Yahweh, the supreme God – no exceptions.

When I use the word corporate in relating to the body of Christ, I only use it as relating to the meaning as in: done by or characteristic of individuals acting together; "a joint identity"; "the collective mind"; "the corporate good". I even qualify this to add that all of this emanates from purely the coordination of the work of God's Spirit and not by any human devices, teachings or programs.

The counterfeit and the characteristics most widely seen in demonstrations of this is the other definition noted above: organized and maintained as a legal corporation; "a special agency set up in corporate form". This is the artificial human model of organization utilized by governments and societies for human-oriented purposes. Do you realize that in our country a corporation is also considered officially as a person? It is really only a fiction on paper but in the fictional world created by governments of men it holds great importance.

Since this man-controlled model is pretty much the only one seen on earth except on rare occasions, it is easy to see why we settle for this model mixed with the previous one and believe that this is what God intended for His body. But this is not God's design for His people and anything that has the fingerprints of humans in its construction is not going to be the true corporate body that God is going to demonstrate before all the universe at the close of this earth's history. To believe that we must assist God in patching together a body of like-minded people imitating the outward symptoms seen in the early Christian church is to play God with the hearts of innocent people and will ultimately lead to disaster sooner or later. To subscribe to this way of thinking means that the God we believe in is simply not big enough to handle the job and He needs our help to bring to pass the final events of the Great Controversy.

God does not need us – not really. But He is intensely desirous of our fellowship with Him and as such chooses to offer us the privilege of participating with His work in the wrapping up of His trial before the universe. For if one takes a look at the much bigger picture of what is really going on in the Great Universal Controversy it is God who is being accused, who is on trial and who is calling everyone forward as witnesses to state what they think about Him. Everyone is a witness whether they claim to be religious or not. He offers to transform the lives of anyone (religious or not) willing to cooperate with His plan of salvation (restoration) and in doing so transform their testimony about Him to be more truthful. We are not the focus of the trial – God is!!! When we get this into our selfish, egocentric minds and realize our true role in this universe we will be much more likely to cooperate with God's desire for us to be conformed into His image and be released from the bondage of fear and the slavery of sin. Anything other than this is a cheap imitation that will collapse in the light of the glorious truth about our loving Father.

Anytime there are counterfeits it means that somewhere there will soon be found the genuine that is extremely superior to all counterfeit imitations. So far all I have seen is counterfeit “bodies” claiming to be the body of Christ. I am eager to see the real body emerge from the fog with the clear trademark glowing from their lives of the perfect humility and sweetness of the Holy Spirit and the likeness of Jesus. It will not be manipulated or designed by any human being or be under the domination or control of any human being. It will be an amazement to all the world in its ability to perfectly function and coordinate without any visible control system and will by its very presence expose all other counterfeits for what they really are. Then everyone will be faced with a final choice as to whether to cling to the comfortable systems they have enjoyed for so long or to be out of step with everyone around them and become part of the radical Christianity spontaneously motivated by the Spirit of God and His Spirit alone.

I want to refer at this point to stories that come from the old Soviet Union and the dark, oppressive days of communism when Christians were in danger of their lives for worshiping together. There were times when the spies and secret police were so effective that true believers did not even dare to share with each other the place and time when they could meet for worship. Obviously this would normally prevent them from doing so at all except for one very amazing secret that the spies could never penetrate. The believers learned that if they listened individually to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, that still small voice that Elijah was reminded to listen to, that miraculously they could all come together at the same place and time and then worship in perfect peace knowing that no one among them might be a dissenter since it was not any human directive that had brought them together. Since only those who were in tune and harmony with the Spirit of God could hear that Spirit and respond to it, all those who thus worshiped together were assured that each person there was safe to trust and they could fellowship together without inhibition or fear. That is the very same Spirit that is going to operate in a similar manner to assemble the true body of Christ in the final days of this world's tragic history.

When this true body is seen “corporately”, it will be very similar to that seen in the early days of the Christian movement. But there will be absolutely no force or fear or control to motivate them just as there was none in the early days of the Christian believers. The early church did not have a rule that new believers must give up all their possessions to join the body, they did so only because they were motivated by the liberating Spirit of Jesus and their heart priorities were so radically turned upside down that they felt no more attachments to what they previously had clung to so strongly. Jesus became the overwhelming and overriding passion of their lives. The disciples did not have to create and enforce rules to hold the early believers together because the power of the love of Jesus was so intense in each heart that all they could think of doing was to press together in sweet, unselfish fellowship and look out for the need of those with whom they were bonded in perfect love.

Some may claim that the story of Ananias and Sapphira proves that the apostles had a rule about giving up everything to join the church and that they employed fear and intimidation to hold the believers together. But after a careful study of this chapter and with consideration of the context I have come to the conclusion that we have dreadfully misinterpreted this story to support our mistaken notions and our desires to control the church of God. It is very clear in the story that they did not have to do what they volunteered to do. The problem was not that they did not bring all the money but the real problem was in the deception and pride that they harbored in their heart. The reason they died was not because God was mad at them but was because evil hidden in the heart when brought into proximity to the pure and holy passion ever present where God is produces such intense inner conflict that death is the inevitable result. They were trying to introduce a human-based, corrupt spirit of pride into a pure atmosphere still charged with the electric presence of the pure sweetness, humility and unselfishness of God and the two are always a fatal mix.

Likewise, when the true body of real believers begins to coalesce in these last days, there will likely be scenes similar to this story that will easily be misconstrued to slander the truth about God and His people. As the pure passion of God becomes more evident in the purified lives of His true followers, that rarefied atmosphere will became dangerous and even lethal to anyone trying to bring their selfish heart into fellowship with those who are completely devoted and swallowed up in the love and kindness of God's true Spirit. The final polarization will take place as everyone is compelled by default to either surrender fully to the sweet influence of the Spirit of Jesus in personal, direct communion with Him or they will embrace some brand of counterfeit that claims to unify the religious and moral agendas set forth by their human leaders.

When this true glory of God fills the whole earth with the real light of God as prophesied in Revelation 18, the darkness of all counterfeits will be exposed and the myriad false systems of beliefs about God represented in Revelation as Babylon will collapse. No humans will orchestrate this event just as no humans can put together the body of Christ. Only the true Creator can create His body and when it becomes evident I want to be a small part of that body. In the meantime I want to be part of the pre-assembly process of learning to fellowship with small parts of the body and learn to be moved and guided by the Spirit that promises to accomplish this work in the true power that God uses – the power of unadulterated love and love alone.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV)