Random Blog Clay Feet: 2008-06
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Monday, June 30, 2008

Jesus as a Mirror

Jesus became a human because it was necessary in order for Him to be incarnated into a mirror like we are. All of God's intelligent creatures are only capable of reflecting life and light, not originating it. So for the Son of God who is the originator of light and life to demonstrate how His created beings are to live in proper relationship to their true Source, He had to take on the essence of the nature of humans in order to have the credibility with us that is needed to change our minds about God.

After sin entered this world we had no way of knowing how to live in proper relationship to our only Source of life except the rules and guidelines given over the years. But rules cannot transform us, partly because they only address half the brain – the half that is far less effective over the roots of our natural behavior. We need much more than simply descriptions of what righteousness is supposed to look like, we need a real live example of what all of this business God talks about actually looks like. For the most important and powerful part of our brain, our right hemisphere, can only learn primarily by imitation, not by instruction.

So Jesus had to become a mirror like we are in order to give us an example of how to live successfully as a mirror in proper alignment with the real Source of life and light. But He went beyond that and also demonstrated the consequences of what happens when a mirror with dirt on it encounters the fiery presence of God's passion. All of the suffering and agony that finally killed the human life of the Son of Man was due to His taking onto Himself all of the guilt and condemnation, the pain and sins of every person who has ever existed. It was like piling all the mud and filth of the whole world onto the surface of His mirror and then allowing it to be exposed to a lethal dose of the laser light of God's purity and holiness.

But there was one very significant difference between Jesus' human nature and the rest of us. The sin that Jesus took upon Himself was all on the surface of His mirror creating the distortion and dissonance that killed Him as He encountered God's presence. But the sin and filth that is in our lives is within the glass and is deeply embedded in the reflective part of our psyche. Jesus did not have our propensities to evil like we experience them, but He did understand the results encountered from having those tendencies vicariously.

But in taking on our condemnation and experiencing those natural consequences so that we would understand the danger of sin more clearly, He also earned the right and authority to replace our faulty systems and reflectors with new systems designed to once again reflect the glory of God properly. He is able and eager to also engage us in a lifelong process of thoroughly cleaning and polishing our mirrors so that we will more and more perfectly reflect His face and disposition if we will allow Him permission.

Our mirrors have imperfections both on the surface and in the substrates. We have deep roots of bitterness and lies buried in our reflective layers that distort the light and creates ugliness. We also have habits, addictions and false notions that smear the surface of our mirrors that likewise distort and confuse the reflections that we emanate. We also have problems with focusing on the things of darkness and turning away from light that might expose our weakness and imperfections.

But God is in the repair and cleaning business for all who give Him permission to do so. He even works behind the scenes with those who do not yet know Him properly or who are filled with many lies about Him that keep them afraid and at a great distance from Him. There are many I believe, who cannot tolerate engaging with the God that they have heard about through the misrepresentation of those who raised them or who claim to represent Him currently in their lives. But that is not the real God who passionately loves them, it is a fictional deity that has been created by the enemy who stops at nothing to slander and distort His true image in our hearts.

So when a person claims that they want nothing to do with God or Jesus or reject the Holy Spirit as they have perceived Him through the distortions of others, He knows that they are not really talking about Him but about the caricature of Him imposed on them by their surroundings and by religious impostors. So He works quietly in the background and in their conscience sometimes for many years to untangle their many lies about Him until the day when they are ready to let down their defenses and give Him more open permission to actively engage in their restoration and repair. This is the experience I believe happened to Saul of Tarsus.

If I want to know how to live in freedom, joy and peace as a good mirror like I was created to live, then the best way to do this is to immerse myself in an emotional and deeply spiritual journey into a heart-oriented study of the example in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus demonstrated throughout His whole life what it looks like to live as a mirror with a constant focus on the face of God while interacting with sinful humanity like we may do. He laid aside His inherent natural tendencies to always living perfectly and choose every moment to live only as a mirror in order that we might have an example to follow. It was not so much the consequent perfection of His outward actions that was our example as many have supposed, but it was the orientation of His spirit/heart mirror that was the most important aspect of His example that we need to emulate.

The very greatest temptation of Jesus while living on earth as a mirror was to allow His own natural tendencies to support or supplement Him in His life interacting with others. And His natural divine tendencies are to always do what is kind and perfect and loving and graceful. But we make a huge mistake when we believe or teach that Jesus' life was good because He was God in human form. That is precisely where His greatest temptation actually lay. He never once accessed His divinity in order to supplement His needs as a human mirror, and He did that precisely because He needed to show us how to live in total dependence on an outside source for our identity and power.

But in doing this He placed Himself in a situation far more severe than any human will ever face. For to have infinite power and natural desire to be good constantly right at your fingertips so to speak, and never access it for your advantage is the greatest temptation one could ever face. Satan knew that and did everything he could think of to amplify and exploit that vulnerability in Jesus' life.

On the other hand, we humans who have nothing but natural tendencies toward selfishness, the very opposite of Jesus' divine natural tendencies, somehow feel that we can use our own strength and abilities at times to produce what we think is a good life or to make good decisions. We have all manner of variations on this with many versions claiming we just need a little more assistance from God to accomplish it. But the message of the Bible and the example of Jesus shows us that we must come to a point of total abstinence from all dependence on our own natural tendencies whether they appear to be good or otherwise. We must follow the example of Jesus in learning to live in constant and intimate vital communion with the only Source of life and light if we are to live in righteousness as mirrors. We must live a life led by the Spirit of God if we are to be true children of God.

Jesus made it very clear that only God is righteous. Since that is a fact, then for us to be righteous while existing only as mirrors, we have to align ourselves properly with the Source of righteousness so that we can reflect that righteousness and light effectively. And when that same light exposes the filth and distortions on our own mirrors, instead of turning away from the light we need to accept His provisions for cleaning our mirrors and healing us from all the embedded flaws and cracks and brokenness so that we will reflect His light and face more accurately.

This is not an optional idea for us, it is a matter of life and death, of survival itself. For there is coming a day when the laser light of God's glory is going to be unveiled and will permeate every place of the whole universe. All who have allowed God to bring healing and wholeness to their hearts and minds and have been realigned with His perfect character and law will become an integral part of the new creation He is planning. All who are prepared will become reflectors of that powerfully dangerous but glorious light that will fill the whole world and even the universe with the dazzling light and color and love and our Creator.

But those who resent or reject His offer of repair and realignment will, upon exposure to that same laser light, find that the intensity of passionate love is far too much for their little damaged hearts to handle and all the dirt and filth and imperfections they clung to in their mirrors will become painful liabilities that resist the light. When intense, overwhelming light meets distortions and flaws in the glass or mirror, those imperfections create resistance which becomes fatal to the very existence of the mirror itself.

So we all have an individual choice to make right now. We can ask God and continue to ask Him to clean us and grow us in maturity and reveal to us what needs to be removed from our hearts and minds, or we can resist His offers of sanctification and end up self-destructing in the day when we should be glowing with the passion from the heart of God.

I want to cooperate with this process while I have been given time in this day of grace. Jesus has postponed the natural consequences of my sin by taking them on Himself at Calvary. But that does not exempt me from ignoring His provision and ending up suffering the consequences myself in that final day of revealing (judgment). I want my spirit to be perfectly aligned with the sweet spirit of Jesus and my life to become the fragrance of love that fills the courts of heaven and earth. I give my permission for God to continue His work of grace in me so that I can participate and enjoy and walk in the fire when everyone is exposed to what is currently veiled deep in the heart of God.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

More on Living as a Butterfly

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. (Romans 13:10-11)

Not long ago I wrote a piece about wanting to become a Butterfly. Not literally, you understand, but in many other respects. God has embedded within the many things of nature powerful lessons that can illustrate spiritual truths for us that can be revealed to us by the Spirit who was involved in the original Creation of both nature and our own minds and hearts. Very often things in nature can better unveil deep emotional and spiritual truths and facts much easier than the difficult exercise of translating them into the symbols we call words and language.

This issue of letting go of resistance is very often on my mind since it has been brought to my attention over the past few months in my study of Romans 13. One reason I wrote the piece about the Butterfly was directly related to this very thing. Butterflies are almost the perfect demonstration of living a glorious life and beauty and freedom while exercising an amazingly low amount of resistance to the environment in which they fly. And yet they can travel thousands of miles across land and sea to arrive at very precise destinations which they have never even been to before.

It also occurred to me this morning that a very great percentage of a Butterfly's noticeable makeup is constituted of the beautifully decorated wings designed to utilize the sunlight to dispense loveliness and beauty wherever they go. Their bodies sink into near insignificance to our attention in comparison to the beauty of their wings. This is in contrast to most other insects that have no such large displays of extravagant beauty. It really appears that the main purpose of Butterflies may be to dispense beauty primarily – and maybe in more ways than we thought.

As I reread the above text this morning it came to me that the very process that creates the beautiful Butterfly – metamorphosis – is strikingly parallel to what I read here in this verse as well as in 12:2. And it is also very closely linked with the verses before it which talk about not resisting and being filled with genuine love. What verse eleven seems to be saying is that it is time for me to be born again and emerge from the cocoon of metamorphosis into a totally new creation that doesn't even resemble the body (my internal perception of my identity) and surroundings (the emotional and spiritual atmosphere in which I function) that I have been so familiar with all of my life. And if this parallel is true – and I believe it is – then salvation itself must be something descriptive of beauty and joy and freedom and intimate interaction with the breezes of the Holy Spirit that Jesus talked about in John three.

I suppose that there may be instances where Butterflies may cause damage somewhere, but I am not aware of them. But given the pervasive nature of the effects of sin in this world that is certainly possible. But in most respects I believe that Butterflies live to dispense beauty and inspire gratitude and praise on the part of all who are capable and willing to engage in and be blessed by this exercise.

Along the same line of thinking, verse ten says that Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. This is clearly an indication that the law, far from being done away with or ignored in the life of a true, converted, born-again Christian – the law will be the internal structure now implanted in the heart that has become so much a part of the natural thinking and reactions of a person that that person's life will reflect the light of God's love in unique and startling, even dazzling ways that will enrich the lives of all who are blessed by their influence.

Just as a Butterfly is not generally known for any damage they cause or even being a nuisance, the life of the true, transformed Christian full of real love will never do any wrong to others. And never doing any wrong to others is another way of saying they are perfectly in agreement and alignment with the Law of God. They will not be found dissing the law or complaining about talk of the law or feeling threatened by the law. But like David expressed so many times in the Psalms and particularly Psalm 119, they will love God's laws and guidelines and descriptions of the principles which govern all of His interactions with others.

I was again reminded this morning as I meditated on these thoughts of the passage that I received as something of a prophecy of my future a few years ago. And the spirit of the Lord will come on you with power, and you will be acting like a prophet with them, and will be changed into another man. And when these signs come to you, see that you take the chance which is offered you; for God is with you. (1 Samuel 10:6-7 BBE) You will be changed into another man. That sounds an awful lot like what happens to a caterpillar when it is changed into a beautiful Butterfly.

And the last part of that passage also reminds me of the close interactions that Butterflies have with the wind and the words of Jesus to Nicodemus. "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8) Doesn't that sound strikingly similar to the flight of a Butterfly?

But as most people know that have ever learned much about the process of metamorphosis necessary to transform caterpillars into butterflies, the creature itself cannot bring about this amazing transformation. It simply cooperates with the impulses that God implanted into it and then rests quietly and safely inside the cocoon while the power of God mysteriously does its work of total transformation until the day it is ready to emerge in glorious and surprising beauty to live a completely different life.

When you are still living in a cocoon it is very hard to see what is going on in your own transformation process. I feel like I have been in the form of a caterpillar or in a cocoon for most of my life, but all I can do is rest and trust in the transformational work of the Spirit in my life until the day it becomes more obvious that I can learn to really fly. And when that happens I am also certain that the beauty of God's light and love will be so much more clear than it ever has been in my life that it may well be breath-taking – especially to me. But that beauty will not occur because of anything I have accomplished but because God has created yet another new creature, a wonderful experiment of grace to be a glorious reflector of part of His own beauty to attract others to Him with the loveliness that originates in His own heart.

Another thought that was brought to my attention this morning was again about this issue of resistance. I have been praying for some time now for God to remove all resistance from my heart, and I still feel that is very much needed. But in my cursory look through the Bible on the subject of resistance I noticed that a few times we are instructed to resist – but only against the devil himself.

I find this a bit curious and have wondered what this really means. I am specifically instructed not to resist an evil person (Matt. 5:39) while at the same time told that I must resist the devil (James 4:7). I have had a number of discussions about this with others and realized today that I need to pray to be full of resistance to Satan and all his suggestions while at the same time totally devoid of resistance to God and even to the evil that comes my way from others. This is all part of the alignment process very necessary to get me prepared to encounter the power and presence of God safely. Most Christians claim to desire to encounter His presence but they very often fail to see the enormous danger inherent in such a request. I will have to meditate and listen for more on this topic as the Spirit unpacks it more thoroughly for me.

Friday, June 27, 2008


As I rode home with my boss today after being gone all week on a job, I shared with him about some of my feelings about thinking and how little people seem to be willing to do it. I found it very refreshing this week to meet and work with a person who is also interested in serious things about life and is open-minded and willing to dialog and listen. But this encounter highlighted to me how few people really seem willing or interested in doing this. It appears that most people want someone else to do their thinking for them and be their idol to simply follow without considering things seriously for themselves.

The discussion got into this area when we were talking about listening to the radio on the job. I have often been frustrated and felt emotionally agitated whenever I was forced to listen to rock music or country music or other such fare when I was on a job site. But in the construction field that is almost a given. I realized how peaceful it has been the past few months to work with a crew who does not have to have the radio blaring all the time. It leaves room for me to talk with others and to dialog with God internally all through the day without a constant irritating distraction poisoning the atmosphere.

I relayed to him how on one job I had to listen to the abrasive cacophony of talk radio for a number of weeks and how irritating and depressing that was. It rather cured me of ever wanting to listen to it on my own and I couldn't wait to get away from it every day. As we talked about that subject we agreed that the caustic nature of talk radio hosts, whether they be left wing or right wing, is really aimed at accomplishing the same thing. They are all trying to whip up people's emotions and attract followers to adopt their opinions while training people not to think for themselves. They often make very strong generalizations about people and foster in those who listen to them a spirit of bigotry and prejudice. Personally I find this very disgusting and feel that it hardens people's hearts from being able to listen to God effectively.

But exercises and techniques like this are all too common today, and have been for many centuries. People seem to desire someone else to assert strong opinions and sway the public to follow their suggestions. And there is never any shortage of people eager to fill that role for the public. But where are those who are willing to turn away from the enticing words and caustic attitudes of those who teach with itching ears eager to draw an ever larger following? Why are there so few who have interest and desire to seek more truth for themselves and maintain an open mind instead of taking pride in their prejudices and fears?

I am beginning to think that thinking itself is in danger of extinction to some extent. It is becoming easier and easier to have your mind and emotions exercised by entertainment media, talk shows, preachers, politicians and a whole host of other idols offered up for the masses to worship on a daily basis. But just circulating thoughts and feelings and ideas through the mind and stimulating the emotions does not necessarily constitute real thinking. It is really more like riding on a bicycle for exercise but having a motor turn the pedals for you and do most of the work. It may look just like exercise but your muscles will not be benefited very much in the long run.

I have a desire to meet and become friends with more people who are hungry and honest of heart and desire to share a pursuit of real truth without fear of where it may take them. I am not talking about those who pretend to pursue truth but have an ax to grind and refuse to take God into account. I am not saying that God is not working in their life. I just find it hard to connect very much with those who refuse to be honest enough to see the real picture of reality as presented by the Author of reality.

But I often miss the fellowship of sharing a common pursuit and enjoying the company of others who are on a similar journey of discovery as my own. I want to be able to discuss ideas, insights and revelations that I feel God blesses me with from time to time and to receive similar insights from others who also are listening to the same Spirit that I want to be tuned into. I suppose what I really desire is better synchronization, that commonality of purpose and attitudes that make people feel that they click with one antother to some extent. Once in awhile I sense that with someone, but it is all too rare for my liking.

Am I just very narrow-minded and bigoted myself and refuse to synchronize with others as I insist that the problem is with them? I am sure many people would quickly accuse me of such, and I certainly accept that I have a lot more to learn about open-mindedness. But much that is pawned off as being open-minded is more of a counterfeit than it is true honesty of heart.

I believe that a truly open-minded person will be one who is willing to listen to the convictions of God's Spirit deep in their heart and will find themselves more and more resonating with others who share that willingness. It is really back to one of the main issues that has emerged to capture my attention over the past few years – the need to live from the heart more than just from the head or just the emotions.

I am hoping that some of the people we have met recently and are slowly getting to know better are those kind of honest seekers after truth. I realize that I need to treat everyone with the kind of hopeful love described in 1 Corinthians 13 and not judge them or put them in a box. I have been learning the importance of refraining from false judgment and I have seen good things coming from that. But there still remains that deep, unsatisfied hunger for connecting more closely at the heart level with others who will prove to be deep, genuine friends who are willing to invest their trust and their dreams and problems with me and I with them. It is how the human heart is designed and this desire lies behind much of the interactions that go on between people much more than they realize.

But I will wait patiently on the Lord who is the orchestrator of my destiny and the best arranger of my relationships. I find that to wait is better than to lurch. I have spent most of my life lurching from one attempted friendship to the next and then feeling deeply wounded when people seem to feel threatened and begin to pull away from me. I am learning that my first trust must always be in Jesus and His Spirit to arrange things for me instead of me trying to set up relationships for myself. It is part of the maturity project that God is in charge of and in which I have a great deal farther to go.

But as I learn important truths I also want to learn how to think better, to think properly and with the right perspective, and most of all I need to think and question and challenge and absorb with a right spirit that does not poison my heart from roots of bitterness. I need not be nearly so afraid of being wrong factually as I need to be concerned about being wrong or caustic in my spirit. This is the area where I have the most work to be improved and refined. I need to have my spirit sweetened with the presence of the true Spirit of the one who demonstrated a perfect spirit in His life here on earth. And as my own spirit is healed and sweetened and refined it will be easier to connect with others who are presently repelled by the subconscious negative messages they receive from me.

I can only leave it in God's hands and choose to cooperate with His work and timing in my life.

Truth and Relationships

As we approach the end, Satan will do all he can to deceive us. Just because something is religious doesn't mean it is right or honors God. The Word of God is our best safeguard against Satan's deceptive advice. (The Gospel from Patmos p. 187)

When I read this statement this morning it made a real impression on me. It seems that I run into this kind of thinking so often with people, that the more religious-like something is the more people assume that it must be the right thing. But religion as seen in most of the world today is the counterfeit of true spirituality. And most religious teachings have extremely subtle errors or discrepancies in them that can make them fatally dangerous if a person is not willing to examine them carefully.

But there is also the danger of living in so much fear of being deceived that one can never have peace or live with others peaceably who may think differently than themselves. I have been in that position many times and realize that it is also a danger that I must guard against. It is a mindset that nearly everyone is out to deceive me in some way and I must live in constant suspicion of everything people present to me looking carefully for the trap that is hidden somewhere in the information.

But this kind of thinking generally only produces a life of isolation and strained relationships. It also secretly fosters a spirit of pride that I am wiser and better than most everyone else and tend to measure others by my own set of beliefs instead of checking the spirit first. I have been learning over the past few years that it is far more important to pay close attention to the spirit of a person and ask God to reveal to me through His Spirit if this person is sincere and open, whether or not they beliefs may be accurate. This is a much better indicator to use in determining if it is safe to develop a closer relationship with them than whether or not that agree with my set of beliefs just that way that I do.

I have been impressed more and more that God is much more focused on the condition of my spirit than He is on making sure all of my facts and doctrines are correct or not. That is not to say that sloppy facts are acceptable to God. I am just saying that as a matter of priority, God can make much more progress in a life that has a right disposition of openness and sincerity that is filled with misinformation than He can in a person who is sure they have the truth and their job is to indoctrinate others with the “truths” that they have figured out no matter what their methods are.

I think there is strong evidence that there may be many who have “figured out” very many factual truths from the Bible and other inspired sources and may have all the prophecies explained and have their doctrines in line with the Word of God, but who will be lost in the end, not because they overlooked some detail that escaped their careful study but because they failed to allow the entrance of the sweetness, kindness and humility of Jesus to transform their own spirit.

As I was praying early this morning I lifted up my hands to God to release to Him my problems and fears and invoke the authority of Jesus to address the situation of certain individuals for whom I am concerned. As I did so I also began to form words in my mind to receive whatever God had for me. The words took on the form, “I receive you Jesus unto myself...” and suddenly I realized I was quoting from Jesus own words to me. At first I was a little startled and wondered if I was quoting His words and misapplying them. But I sensed the assurance that Jesus intends for me to follow His example and apply His words and sentiments equally in the opposite direction as the way He used them.

If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:3)

I choose to receive Jesus to myself that where I am, there He will be also just as He desires to receive me to Himself that where He is there I may be also. The focus here is much more on being close together much more than on where we may be. Jesus, I believe, is much more interested in being close to me than in the amount of accurate knowledge that I have acquired. He desires intimacy with my spirit and wants to synchronize my spirit with His Spirit.

...lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. (Matthew 28:20 ASV)

Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, "I will never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5 NRSV)

I want today the peace and contentment that come from the presence of Jesus who has promised to always be with me. I will trust Him to continue to educate my mind with the facts and things that I need to know, but this will happen within the context of the transformation of my spirit as He mentors my heart and shows me how to live and relate better to others.

To help facilitate this I choose to focus on the things I have been learning about what God is really like, His character, His desires, His goodness and faithfulness and never-ending love. I focus on these things irregardless of what circumstances around me may insinuate about Him, for the enemy can distort my opinions about God too easily if I allow circumstances to influence what I believe about Him. But as I insist in my own heart that God's declarations about Himself are true no matter what my feelings or other's feelings and opinions try to infer, I find that I receive strength and hope and encouragement.

When I am afraid I put my trust in Him by focusing on His goodness and faithfulness and promises to be with me always. When I weep I can know that He understands the cause of my weeping and sympathizes with me. When I am joyful He is glad with me as well. When I am in doubt He does not condemn me but is willing to be patient with me while I grow and settle into more confidence in Him.

Thank-you Jesus for the way You relate to me and Your desire to finish the work of transformation that You are doing in me. Thank-you for the many blessings I enjoy, birds than have inspired me, like the great show they put on for me yesterday morning. The Barn Swallows were circling joyfully round and round outside the barn eating their breakfast and singing and flying very close to me as I gazed on with delight. I knew You did that to delight me and I appreciated it very much.

Thank-you for the new friends that I have just got acquainted with who are very interested in spiritual things as I am. We had such an enriching and encouraging time of sharing while we worked together yesterday and I want Your will to be done in this relationship. I release all of my plans and ideas to You and just rest in Your plans for me, both for today and in all of my relationships. I trust in You and Your goodness. Bless me and make me a channel of blessing today for Your name's sake.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Funerals and What Comes After

Yesterday I had off work as my boss and I both needed to attend a funeral. It was for one of the men in the Barbershop Chorus that we both belong to who had died unexpectedly and the chorus was singing for his funeral in a nearby town. This man and his wife had been very involved and dedicated to the activities of the chorus for many years and as to be expected it was a very somber occasion.

We sang three songs for the service which were very nice arrangements. The first was called Loving God, Loving Each Other which is a song I had not heard before I joined this chorus but which has become one of my favorites. They said that it was the favorite song of the man who had died as well. We then sang Farther Along and then sat down through the rest of the service until we sang The Lord's Prayer at the end. The arrangement for this last song was a very nice one and I was deeply moved by it.

There were not a lot of people at the service. I would say that there were a few more other people as the number of people who showed up for the chorus itself. I saw a side of the chorus that was interesting to me, a sense of deep loyalty and quiet camaraderie that they share as a group. Many of them took off work and drove many miles to sing for this event and that itself says a lot about how they feel about each other. I like this kind of group who care about each other in ways that almost seem rare in many places these days.

After the service we gathered outside and took this picture. It is the first time that I have had my own picture taken with this group as I have missed most of their public concerts so far. But even so I enjoy singing and practicing and associating with them just for the fellowship and getting to know more people in this region.

As I listened to the sermon during the funeral I was encouraged by the many Bible references that were shared. And even though the pastor did not share my knowledge of the sleep that people experience after death, the verses that he used reinforced that truth and reminded me of how much peace this fact can bring to those who are left grieving after a loved one's death. To realize that someone is not whisked away to either heaven or a supposed hell to live on in some other state of consciousness, but is oblivious to everything going on in this world until the resurrection brings a great deal of sense to life for those who grapple with the difficult questions that always arise after someone's passing.

As I have learned more and more about the bigger picture, the context in which all of our events take shape, I realize again how human-centered most religion has made our perspective and how important it is to see things from the true and broader perspective of heaven for them to really make sense. For to think that the resurrection will require people who have already lived in heaven for many years to somehow return and move back into an earthly body so that they can then be resurrected simply makes no sense whatsoever. But the Bible is very clear that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked and then the judgment will take place.

So much of popular religious doctrine seems to imply that there is no specific day of judgment. They may talk about it that way but it seems that it must be a different day for everyone because it is often implied that it takes place just after someone dies. But this simply does not align well at all with the rest of the events that are clearly prophesied in Scripture and the whole thing does not fit well together as taught by most Christian churches.

But when the truth as understood by a correct reading of the Bible is seen it all makes a great deal of sense and brings peace and comfort to those who wonder what has happened to their loved ones. Those who die fall asleep just as Jesus described because the judgment is not finished yet. God does know each person's heart at their point of death and knows if they are safe to save in heaven or not. This allows Him to know who will hear the voice of Jesus when He returns again as promised to this earth the second time to gather all the ones who have responded positively to His plan of redemption. Those who have chosen to depend on themselves or others as their source for hope and life will simply not be able in death to hear the voice of Jesus at this time. But even at the Second Coming of Jesus the Judgment still will not occur in the final way that is yet in the future. This is only a transition event in the grand trial that centers around the Judgment of God Himself that is at the core of the real issue going on in the Great Controversy of the universe.

So I find it very encouraging that nearly everyone who has died is still unconscious in their graves waiting for the time when they will be raised up to complete the process that they have chosen to start while living here on this earth. Yes, there are a few who have already experienced resurrection ahead of time as symbols and representatives of those who at last will join them in heaven. But the vast majority are sleeping until either Jesus comes the second time or when He returns the third time after a thousand years of preparation with the saved in heaven. At that time the final day of judgment – of full revelation – will take place that will completely vindicate God in the hearts and minds of every intelligent being that ever existed in the history of the universe.

The big picture centers around God and His vindication in the judgment far more than it has to to with our going to heaven or to some place called hell. The real issue to be resolved in this great war, this conflict between the diabolical accuser of the brethren and the Creator of the universe is whether God is fair, is just, is right and whether His form of government can really work or whether Satan's inventions of force and fear must be employed to bring about unity through conformity.

So in this broader view of the background, it is comforting to know that we are not being watched, analyzed or second-guessed by our deceased loved ones somewhere or wondering if they are suffering the agonies imposed on them by an angry God (who is really the invention of His worst enemy in our minds). God is keeping all those who have died in safe protection in their graves until the right time and then the end of all sin and suffering will be accomplished.

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:51-55 KJV)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I Want to be a Butterfly

God has given us many, many illustrations of the principles of true reality within nature. When guided by the Spirit of the One who created everything we can glimpse very helpful insights into truths that have escaped our notice or been obscured by the deceptions we have lived under all of our lives.

As I have been contemplating the idea of the importance of letting go of all resistance over the past few days (from my study of Romans thirteen), I was led to think of the example of the Butterfly. The dramatic change that is seen in the formation of a Butterfly after living most of its life as a lowly caterpillar has often been used as an illustration of the new birth experience that is needed in order to truly enter the kingdom of heaven. But I noticed that the way a Butterfly interacts with its environment is also descriptive of how a true Christian will live in many respects.

A Butterfly has a very important relationship and dependence on the sun. After it emerges from its cocoon it waits while its wings dry out and fill out in the warm sunlight. The sunlight highlights the striking and unique beauty of the Butterfly wings and are also examples of the loveliness that can be seen in the life of a person who is reflecting the true light of God's beauty.

Then as the Butterfly takes to the air, it does not surge into the sky with powerful wings like a hawk seeking out its prey but it simply lets the gentle breezes carry it along while guiding itself through those breezes to seek for the sweet nourishment from the beautiful flowers that God has provided for it to feed on. It does not seek out the rottenness and garbage like the flies commonly do but looks for the sweet and the beautiful.

I am reminded of the words of Jesus when speaking of the new birth experience. "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8) A person who has been transformed and reborn by the miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit at the heart level will live as a gentle, beautiful Butterfly carried along by the breezes of the Spirit as they seek out the loveliness of Creation that God has given to cause us to thrive.

That is the kind of life I hunger for and that I sense God has been preparing me for in the many lessons that He is seeking to teach me. I think back over several of the important points that He has been instructing me on in the past few months and years and notice the pattern that is preparing me to live this kind of life.

He has warned me of the dangers of criticism and fault-finding and the destructive effects that it has not only on my own heart but on my influence on many around me. This problem is very deep-seated and is even generationally rooted in my past, but God wants me to become free of it so that I can become a more useful agent of blessing and truth in my sphere of influence.

He has worked to help me focus more on the goodness of God and the positive blessings all around me in direct contrast to the negative perceptions that I have had most of my life. I insisted that I was simply being realistic, but I have come to realize that what I believed was realistic evaluations of circumstances were actually endorsements of the enemy's spin on what is real in contrast with God's declarations of what makes up true reality. My dark views of God were due to the lies about Him that Satan has implanted in all of us to keep us from discovering the life-changing transformation that we could enjoy if we would simply believe in God's kindness and true attitudes toward us.

God took me on a two month intensive study of Hebrews twelve to focus on my deep roots of bitterness and carefully search out from His Word some of the causes of them and the ways in which I can become free of them if I allow the Spirit to have its way in my heart. Soon after that and more recently I plunged into a very uncomfortable study of Romans thirteen as I was forced to face some of the most volatile roots of bitterness and rebellion that are like tap-roots in my heart implanted there at a very early age by negative experiences with authority.

As I have opened myself up to the searching and convicting presence of the Spirit of God during this study, I have begun to see that resistance itself is possibly the most important part of the problem that is exposed by my problems with authority. But the issue of resistance is not confined to just confrontations with authority, but it may be most easily exposed under those circumstances. In contrast, Paul immediately presents the antidote to resolve this root of resistance which is the softening effects of true love working in the heart. Genuine love at the heart level puts me into proper relationship with everyone else and produces the result of aligning me perfectly with the requirements of the Law of God. But that love only comes from the Source of all love and is not something I can work up myself.

As I think about the flight of a Butterfly, one of the most obvious aspects of it is it's lack of resistance to the breezes that carry it from flower to flower. Even in the migration patterns that carry them for thousands of miles to places they have never personally seen before to join millions of other Butterflies for a giant love festival, they do not fight the winds but allow the breezes to assist them and guide them to their destiny. And as they are carried along they enjoy the blessings of beauty and sweetness provided for them as they also reflect the striking beauty of the gifts God has written all over their wings.

God reminded me of the destiny that He has spoken for my own life and how this example of the Butterfly fits so well with it. And the spirit of the Lord will come on you with power, and you will be acting like a prophet with them, and will be changed into another man. And when these signs come to you, see that you take the chance which is offered you; for God is with you. (1 Samuel 10:6-7 BBE) Another version puts the last verse this way. Now when these signs meet you, do whatever you see fit to do, for God is with you. (1 Samuel 10:7 NRSV)

That reminds me of the glorious freedom of the life of the fragile Butterfly that lives in perfect harmony with the provisions that God has given for it and that spreads blessing wherever it goes. Yes it is very vulnerable, but it trusts implicitly in the provisions of its Creator and lives a life that exemplifies perfect freedom and joy. It is carried around seeking out and sharing the beauties of nature on the warm breezes just as God wants me to do likewise trusting in His Spirit and living out a similar life of freedom and joy.

I crave the experience of the Butterfly that God has planned for me. I want to become free of all resistance and trust in the wind that blows me where It wishes. I want my life to be more full of beauty and attractiveness to inspire others who are still crawling around on the ground to allow God to take them through the metamorphosis needed to transform their lives into the wonderful freedom of Christ that He desires for all of us. I desire to be changed into another man so that as I live from my heart that the natural impulses that flow from it will be those that reflect the beauty and loveliness of heaven and the very heart of my heavenly Father.

Once again I find myself waiting for the Spirit to do its work in me today. I cannot change myself but I can and do choose to let go of my resistance and trust in the kindness and faithfulness of my God. I choose to accept His lessons and corrections and pray that God will finish to completion the work that He has begun in me. I feel like I am still wrapped tightly in a cocoon but I have to wait for His timing to accomplish His purposes in me.

I want my loving Father to make me a clean channel of love and light to others who are longing for something better themselves. I want to be a reliable friend of the Bridegroom to interact with those He is seeking to attract to His love nest so that He can ravish them with His attentions and comfort and lavish love. God, make me an instrument of Your peace and grace and loveliness today for Your name's sake.

Hey little butterfly, where'd you come from? Dancin' in the meadow playing in the sun! Hoverin' over flowers in the warm summer breeze Silently making music with your wings as they tease. Flitting high, flitting low, through the garden gates you go Until the perfect flower comes to make your day in the sun Free to linger, free to fly, Free to mingle with the sky, never showing you are shy Just free to be a butterfly! Hey little child, what do you know? Before I could be free, I had to learn to grow..... - By Licia Chenoweth

Saturday, June 07, 2008

My Part in the Covenant

I've been thinking about covenant the past couple days and some of the things I have learned about how covenants operate. One of the most important aspects of covenant is the unconditionalness of how they are observed. Unlike the contracts that we are so used to thinking about, covenants obligate the participates irregardless of the performance of the other party. The ones who have entered into covenant relationship are bound by their word and their very life to honor the terms of the covenant no matter what the disposition of the other party is or becomes. They promise to keep their obligations within the covenant even if the other party ignores or even turns hostile toward them. For a covenant is not based on mutual performance but on personal integrity completely separate from anyone else's performance or integrity.

Given this context it is extremely reassuring to study and understand the terms of the covenant that God has with His children, especially those who intentionally enter into the covenant with Him themselves. This gives us the assurance that we so desperately crave that our God will never renege on any of His promises to us no matter how much we think we deserve or fail to deserve His blessings. This does not mean that there are no conditions to some of the things He has promised us, but particularly the attitude and desires of God's heart toward us are never affected by our performance or lack thereof.

There is such a thing as removing ourselves from the covenant relationship that God has with us, but the results of breaking a covenant is always death. And if I think about it in the big picture that only makes sense, for to cut off relationship with the only Source of life in the universe can only result in the loss of life. But that is still not God's desire for us but will only happen because He respects our freedom and desires un-coerced love above all things.

Because of the nature of covenant relationships I can rest in confidence that God will always be working for my best good no matter what circumstances seem to indicate. I can know, in spite of apparent contrary “evidence”, that God is working everything out for my best good and for His glory in all things pertaining to my life. God has committed Himself to me in a covenant-type relationship not based on the whimsical nature of contract law based on performance. This means that even when I make mistakes or loose my head at times and embarrass or dishonor Him before others, He is still committed to my restoration and transformation as long as I allow Him to draw me back into His more perfect will.

These are all concepts that my mind and heart are still trying to grasp and internalize. It is a wonderful and refreshing truth that gives far more stability to my spiritual life than the kind of conditional love in religion that I lived for much of my life. But there is another side to this covenant that has been coming to my attention the last couple of days that is just as important to think about – but not using the contract-type thinking that is so easy to sneak into our logic.

Because I am in covenant relationship with my Creator and Redeemer that holds Him bound to me with obligations not tied to my performance, the very same principles of covenant also apply to me. So what does that implicate?

I am also bound to adopt an attitude of trust in my covenant partner irregardless of what His assumed performance seems to be in any particular moment or day. Because participating in a covenant is NEVER predicated on performance or contract, I must learn to never base my opinion about God or how He feels about me by the assumptions that I may draw from the circumstances I find myself in. I have noticed that this is one of the greatest problems that we humans have to deal with. Billions of people form their opinions about God based on what is going on in their life or what is happening around them instead of believing and trusting in what God Himself says about His attitude toward us.

Our picture of God is formed by how our parents treated us, our bosses, our political leaders and all others who exercise authority over us. We base our opinions about God on how well off we are financially or how our emotions feel when we participate in religious activities or just living our life. We form opinions about God and judge Him based on how often and accurately He jumps to meet our demands in prayer with little latitude for His superior view of life and our real needs. But in doing these things we are imposing our own cravings and selfish desires into our picture of God and are really trying to form Him in our own image.

So when God does not perform the way we want Him to we react in ways that violate the covenant. We sulk and think that God doesn't care about us very much or we think He is mad at us. Or we think that when things seem to be going well – according to our measurements of good – that we must be doing the right things because somehow we deserve the “blessings” that we are enjoying. Or we may even put a more pious front on it and take pride in our humility and say all the right religious words and immerse ourselves in religious activities and think that we are now ready to be saved in heaven. But what does this all have to do with our covenant with God?

It is starting to become a little more clear to me that my part in this covenant has a lot more to do with choosing to trust in the goodness of God Himself irregardless of circumstances than it has to do with my spiritual or religious performances in the external realm. When I indulge in doubt about His good intentions toward me and refuse to let go of the lies about God that have so long infected my thinking, I am compromising and abusing the covenant relationship that I have with my Creator. And when I try to trust to any degree on anything that I do as a reason for God to love me and save me from sin, then I am trying to have a contract relationship with God instead of trusting in a covenant relationship with Him.

It is true that certain blessings are based on coming into line with certain conditions so that we can enjoy the benefits of those blessings. But this has nothing whatsoever to do with the character of God and His feelings toward us. God is constant in His attitude and character and is always perfect love, compassion, mercy and justice. And while I may need to comply with certain conditions to enjoy certain blessings promised within this relationship just as a child must exhibit certain levels of maturity to be trusted with certain privileges, my position in the family of God and God's feelings and attitudes toward me are not based on the performance of those conditions.

What I am realizing is that I need to more aggressively challenge my feelings of distrust or my fears of condemnation in my relationship to God. Those things are symptoms of a contract mentality and immaturity, and they will always undermine my obligations to keep my part of the covenant. For just as God has committed Himself unconditionally to being real and taking care of me with love and to protect my heart and soul, I too am obligated to unconditionally trust Him and refuse to believe any longer the lies about Him that Satan has so filled the world with and that has terribly distorted my mental pictures of Him.

I give Satan advantage over me when I base my opinions about God on the circumstances in my life. For when I do that then all Satan has to do to keep me believing lies about God is to keep changing my circumstances, either for evil or for good. He can keep my perception of God on puppet strings manipulated by demons that can make Him look good or bad depending on how I feel at the moment. This keeps me believing that God is somewhat arbitrary or fickle, another popular lie that most of us still believe. This is why it is so important to begin accepting God's word about Himself in place of my circumstances as the basis to form my opinions of His feelings about me.

So what I am sensing is my own need to more consistently perceive God based most importantly on His objective revelations about Himself from His word and interpreted to my heart by His Spirit. Then I need to begin to view all of my circumstances in the light of that Word as well as denying my flesh's doubts about His intentions toward me. I have the obligation under the covenant to challenge every assumption that puts God in a negative light in my heart and seek for more consistent and positive perceptions of God in what is happening to me. I must start to focus more on the wonders of creation and foster appreciation for the blessings I do enjoy instead of dwelling on the pain and suffering that may be in my life at any point in time.

This does not mean that I am to become fake and deny that I have suffering or questions. It means that I choose to believe that God is not afraid of my questions and that I will not base my opinions about Him on the fickleness of circumstances in my life. I hate it when people misjudge me based on what they believe about circumstances without allowing me to define my real feelings for them. And the same applies to my relationship with God. I must allow Him the freedom to interpret circumstances based on the higher truth of His real character and not allow circumstances to define my beliefs about Him.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Musings on Resistance

I am starting to become more aware of the subtle ways in which resistance resides in my spirit and heart. I am sure there are many more ways than what I am aware of currently, but just the fact that I am capable of being more aware of them personally seems to be progress right now. I am quite certain also, that there are those around me who would be more than happy to point out what they think I have problems with in this arena. But that does not have the same usefulness for my heart for it usually tends to cause my fears and deceptions to run for hiding places instead of coming out into the light. Of course, the same principle applies to me trying to expose other people's issues in my desires to fix them. I am slowly learning to give more room for the Spirit to do what He does best instead of trying to play God in other people's lives. I have enough to cooperate with what He is trying to do inside of me.

In fact, it is starting to become more clear that anytime I am feeling tension inside of me that there is likely some sort of resistance going on. It may not be nearly so easy to correctly identify the true source or reason for that resistance, but I am getting much closer to being able to do so simply by acknowledging that resistance is present. I also notice that if I can observe this going on internally without having a sense of condemnation and guilt associated with it, then it is much easier to get closer to the real source without it hiding under some sort of camouflage.

One reason that it may have been so much more difficult in the past is because resistance has often taken on other labels and thus has been able to hide from detection. Another obvious reason is that to be honest about my feelings and fears has often invited unwanted analysis and “fixes” from others who thought it their job to point out my faults and then somehow shame or condemn me into being a better person. For some reason this approach has never had the intended effect that people expected it to have in me if they thought they could make me a better person by such methods. Again, I am painfully aware that this approach has been my own record with many of my loved ones and I deeply regret this habit.

I guess my left brain is getting its curiosity activated by wanting to know the different kinds and reasons for the resistance going on inside. And that may indeed be useful in a way, for I notice that when something makes more sense that my mind is more likely to embrace and believe it. And believing the truth is always a good thing, though intellectual belief cannot replace the more important functions of embracing relationships with the heart. This is where the left and right brain need to work in tandem to have a truly balanced life as God designed for us to experience. At least that is my observation that comes from what I have been learning.

I wonder how much effect it would have on my growth and awareness if I could record the sources and reasons for resistance without judging them or trying to immediately draw conclusions from them? The last couple days as I just became more aware of this condition inside of me I was able to sometimes identify likely causes for the resistance that I was feeling inside. It felt refreshing actually. It felt in a sense liberating to finally be able to perceive the truth of reality instead of chasing or running from shadows of guilt and threats of condemnation. Just to be able to be honest about what I am feeling or desiring without fear of being attacked or shamed for it is like a breath of fresh air.

This is not to imply that the causes for my resistance are something to hang onto or to justify. Just because I can acknowledge something as existing and present in my life does not mean that it should or should not be there. But being able to identity what is current and what is, without immediately heaping shame or guilt upon it allows me much more access to observing what it really is without chasing it into hiding from my own consciousness. I realize that this may sound absurd to many people who have done this all their life already. But for me it is coming out of a closet that I was forced into for much of my life.

This is only a small step in a progression toward the ultimate experience of living in the fullness of reality that is only found in proper, life-receiving relationship with my Creator and source of all life. But God leads me from where I am to start with and the first step is to become of aware of what is, as well as some notion of where I am headed. For to live in denial of what my real condition is – which is where most of us often spend our time – I make myself incapable of escaping the slavery of sin that is contingent on my continued state of deception. In reality, the only power that sin has over anyone is the degree to which they continue to remain deceived about true reality.

I am becoming more and more certain that true reality involves far more heart “knowledge” than it does factual knowledge. That is the big difference between religion and spirituality in my opinion. Religion focuses more on either head knowledge as the ultimately important, or on emotional feelings disconnected from objective truth as found in the Word of God. Both paths involve self-deception and avoidance of anything that will expose problems with their preferences. But true spirituality involves living with reference to the spirit more than living for factual truth or emotional fixes. Jesus stated very clearly that God is a spirit and those who worship Him must do so in spirit and in truth. I think the real truth of that statement still eludes most of us to a very great degree.

I think I will be thinking about this more during the coming days. If I have opportunity I might try to jot down on a paper or pad the observations that I am able to detect about my deeper sources that cause resistance in my heart and mind. I am realizing that there are many more than I previously thought, but it is also exciting in a way to finally be able to expose many of them so that the light of truth from the Spirit of God can begin to resolve and dissolve many of them and replace them with... well, whatever it is that needs to replace them. Since He is the Spirit of Truth then He is best positioned to reveal to my heart the missing ingredients that I need to thrive and enjoy life and better relationships.