Random Blog Clay Feet: 2008-07
Feel free to leave your own comments or questions. If you would like to be in contact with me without having it published let me know in your comment and leave your email address and I will not publish that comment.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Muriel's Date-Filled Cookies

We have had a number of people want the recipe for my step-mother's cookies. We even had requests during her funeral which considerably baffled the presiding minster. So I decided to just post the recipe here so that people could access it whenever they like.

Muriel's Date-Filled Cookies

by Muriel Phillips

March 7, 1985

¾ cup shortening, soft

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

¼ cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sifted enriched flour

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon soda

½ cup nut meats

3 cups quick cooking oats, uncooked

Mix together shortening, sugars, egg, water and vanilla; blend thoroughly.

Sift together flour, salt and soda. Add to shortening mixture, mixing well. Blend in oats.


1 lb. Dates pitted and cut up

¼ cup sugar

2 Tablespoons flour

1 cup water

Mix above ingredients and boil until thick. Let cool.

Drop a teaspoon of dough on greased baking sheet. Put ½ teaspoon filling on top of this dough.

Lastly, cover with ½ teaspoon dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until lightly brown.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Reason for Resistance

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:15-19)

After I wrote the previous post in which I used these verses as the end, I began to wonder all day what it is inside of all of us that resists believing the truth about God's unconditional, unthreatening love for us. What is it deep down inside of us, myself included, that rises up to resist any assertion that God does not use force, does not rely on threats of torturing punishment delivered directly from His hand to push us into obedience? What is it that causes us to doubt and disbelieve that God's love is as God has said it is? Why is it that we feel compelled to justify our darker views about God and immediately rush to supposed examples in the Old Testament to vindicate our entrenched beliefs that God is somehow bi-polar? Why are we so obsessed with insisting on an angry God and discounting the notion that His grace and mercy and forgiveness are all-pervasive and His love really does endure forever? Why do we feel so compelled to rationalize away the real truths about God that conflict with the beliefs promoted by religion?

This question hung over my mind like a heavy cloud for part of the day and I even shared it with my wife who also immediately brought up the issues of what to do with the Old Testament stories. I did not get an answer as to what lies at the root of this penchant but certainly got a typical demonstration of how we normally react to such assertions. I myself struggle sometimes with believing in the total goodness of God even though I have been revamping my whole belief system and revising nearly everything I think about God over the past few years. I have written hundreds of pages on this subject and have been thrilled with many fresh revelations of God's goodness and true glory as I unpack this. And yet, in spite of all that my mind is learning and accepting about the real truth about God, there are still deep pockets of resistance to this truth lurking in the recesses of my heart that react strongly whenever I am faced with situations that elicit strong emotions and questions about the real goodness of God just like everyone else struggles with.

Later in the day I sensed something that seemed to be an answer from God to this question of what lies inside resisting the real truth about God. But it was an answer that almost sounded too classic for me to accept. It sounded more like the clichés that I have heard all my life instead of the ringing truth that I sense when I receive fresh insights from the Spirit. But at the same time I could not deny that this answer did have the ring of truth to it and that it is likely the real answer that many of us would prefer to deny, at least when it comes to admitting it for our own hearts.

The answer I heard was that the part of me that resists the revelations of real love and the real truth about God is the core demonic, lying, sinful nature and the false gods that thrive in that part of my mind that are irreconcilably opposed to the truth about God. Because of this it is impossible to ever change the opinions in that part of my psyche no matter how much proof or evidence or even experience I may have to the contrary. And that is precisely why I have to die to self if I am ever to live successfully in the Kingdom of Heaven, either here on earth or throughout eternity.

While it may be true that there are real misunderstandings and false intellectual beliefs that can be countered and flushed out and replaced with truth that will enable me to embrace the truth about God's love, there will always remain a core of sinful flesh inside of me that will resolutely resist the conviction of God's Spirit in me and this inner resistance is impossible to escape until I am given a new body and more complete emotional freedom at the Second Coming of Jesus. But that does not mean that I must succumb to the lying assertions of this sinful flesh. I am to actively pursue its demise and surrender its control to the authority of Jesus Christ in my life every day and resist its resistance to the work of God in my heart.

This is likely what James was thinking about when he wrote, Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:7-8) Resisting the devil is much more likely an activity carried out in the mind and heart than externally as many have supposed. It is in my own heart where the devil has the greatest influence to counteract God's convictions about the real truth about Himself and is the place where the devil is most urgent to stop that process.

In this case, submitting to God is to believe in the goodness and love of God instead of the lies the devil has implanted in my sinful core. The more I surrender to love and the real truth about love – which is the very same thing as drawing near to God who is love – the more I will find that His presence of love is close to me – which is the same as Him drawing near to me. The process of purifying my heart is urgently needed because I am double-minded about my opinions about God and this is due to the influences of the lying spirits, the false gods that contradict the truths about God in my soul. These lying spirits cannot be converted, they can only be resisted. But resistance can only be successful as I submit to the influence of the true Spirit of the Source of all love.

So the mysterious, changeable belief that lies hidden in the minds of people that causes them to compulsively resist the truths about God's love may not even exist in some aspect. That is because at the core of us all there lies an unchangeable, unfixable element of rebellion that we cannot escape but must be exposed by God for what it really is and submitted to the cross that each of us is invited to carry. Maybe that is why Jesus asked each of us to pick up our cross and follow Him – so that we would all have a cross very handy to crucify the lying, subversive nature, the selfish inner being inside of us that rises up repeatedly to defy the truth about God's unconditional love for us.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fire, Fear and Real Power

Sometimes my dreams give me clues as to what my subconscious is doing out of sight. I am usually rather cautious about drawing hard conclusions from dreams as they can often be rather fickle and easily affected by things like what you ate the night before etc. My Dad used to say that if you wanted to have a lot of dreams then just eat mashed potatoes before going to bed.

Well, I didn't eat mashed potatoes last night but I did eat a little ice cream which also can have rather strong effects on my sleeping at times. I often wake up literally dripping with sweat in the middle of the night after eating ice cream which gives me quite a strong incentive to avoid doing that. I did wake up last night with a little bit of that but not the full blown version. But I'm not sure how much effect that had on the dream that I had earlier this morning that also woke me up and nearly ended my ability to sleep the rest of my alloted time.

I dreamed that things were getting very dangerous in the world and somehow our house and belongings were reduced to shambles. We were hiding out in lower parts of the house and beginning to search for food in the wreckage while also aware that everyone else was in a state of very heightened distrust of everyone else. During this time I also became aware that some of those I loved and considered part of my family were willing to betray me if the opportunity afforded itself.

At some point in the dream we decided that it was time to leave the area and somehow were going to use our car to drive away. (I don't know where the gas was going to come from.) We hardly started to leave when sure enough we were stopped by an impromptu check-point set up by people in the neighborhood and our car was searched for anything valuable, especially food. I recognized the loved ones I knew in the group and things went from bad to worse at this point.

For whatever reason (dreams seldom follow logic or consistency) the next thing I knew gasoline was being poured on my body and I could feel the burning sensation of it on my skin. I could see my wife and young children looking on with horror and I wondered what was going to happen next. At this point the dream begin to slow down – probably because I was starting to wake up and interfere with the flow of the dream – and I wondered if the gas was just to irritate me or if they planned to turn me into a lighted torch. When the dream got to this point I finally woke up fully with all sorts of fear and questions filling my mind and emotions.

As I have learned to do over the past few years when attacked by strong fears, I began to talk with God about my fears and present them to Him to take them from me and replace them with peace and calm. I prayed for His perspective about the situation and about these people and also remembered that praise, gratitude and focusing on the goodness of God and on His covenant promises are very effective weapons against fear. As I did so I found my emotions beginning to find relief and I continued to push my heart to focus on God and the good things I have been learning about Him over the past few years.

I realized in the process that this was the very same situation that every martyr for Jesus has found themselves in and what I was doing was also the secret weapon that they used when facing fear of death. Instead of allowing the fear to overwhelm them they positively displaced all fear by filling their minds and hearts with the presence of God and some of them are even reported to have died singing long after it was reasonable physically possible.

I pondered whether I should get up or if I should try to finish out the night's sleep that was so intensely interrupted. I finally drifted off back to a much more peaceful sleep and found myself dreaming something almost the very opposite to what had previously occurred. I found myself sharing with a small group of young people what I was learning inductively from a passage in the Bible and encouraging them to process through the verses like I do to discover the connections and the exciting truths that could transform their own lives.

As I was doing this I became suddenly overwhelmed with such a powerful, stirring inspiration of God from the passage to my own heart that I could hardly continue to speak. I began seeing connections in the verses and thrilling revelations of God's passion and love and truth and I eagerly tried to get the others to see them for themselves and feel it with their own hearts, not just their intellect. The whole experience became almost supernatural and my heart was intensely warmed and excited with the opportunity to share and enjoy the very presence and power of the love of God.

When I woke up again about half an hour before our normal time to get up I again lay there talking with God and asking what He wanted me to do today. My plans have been changed radically several times and right now I still have little idea what I will be doing today. But I believe God may have something specific in mind and I want to be in His will wherever that needs to happen today.

But as I prayed my mind also became filled with fast-moving insights about the nature of the great war we are caught up in between God and His archenemy, the accuser. I sensed in a very strong way that the sharpest conflict is between the forces of fear and the power of pure love. My mind seemed to be presented with story after story from the Bible and other places in history to illustrate this and it became very clear that in each story the choice was always between becoming intimidated and subjected to the control of fear or turning the mind deliberately to seek God's face and focus on Him instead.

I pondered for awhile what must have gone on in the thinking of the three Hebrews who ended up in the fiery furnace. They had no assurance that things would work out as they did but they showed unflinching calm and resolution to stick with God at any cost. But this was not due to some super-human ability to grit their teeth and win this stand-off with guts, courage and sheer spiritual determination. That is a sure recipe for experiencing a spectacular meltdown in front of God's enemies.

It occurred to me that these men did not face this decision suddenly as the story might imply to some people from the way it is sometimes told. There was quite a long period of time required for building this giant statue and the furnaces were not exactly built out of sight either. In addition, the attitude of the king was also quite apparent to anyone paying attention at all and it was becoming increasingly clear what his intentions were the closer they got to the great time of forced worship.

So during all these months leading up to this confrontation with the king's demands, the three men had time to consider what their attitude was going to be. They must have known that they would certainly face the fire if they choose to hold to their allegiance to the God who loved them so much. They had literally months to pray and seek God's face and focus their hearts on Him on a daily basis which likely was the real preparation that empowered them to stand with quiet boldness when the time finally arrived for the great showdown. By that time their minds and hearts were so obsessed with the beauty and attractiveness of God's character and His ways that all fear had been banished from their hearts and they were able to face the possibility of torture in the flames without flinching.

By that time it was crystal clear to them that the real issue here was not just about worship but was about whether fear and force would be the controlling, dominating power in their lives or whether the goodness and grace and glory of the true God would so fill their lives and minds that everything else sank into insignificance. For fear cannot be countered with more fear but has to be displaced with genuine love and the true glory found only in God's face.

As I thought about these things it permeated deeper into my heart and mind the clarity of the issues in this great controversy. Fear itself is my greatest enemy and is the primary tool used against me to keep me from having a saving connection with my real Father in Heaven, my Creator who longs to bring me back home to be enthralled with His love for eternity.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:15-19)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hope or Love?

In a sermon I heard recently I heard comments about Christians through the ages being motivated primarily by the desire to hasten the Second Coming of Jesus. It was presented that this was the main desire that consumed their attention and compelled their reasons for witnessing.

As I thought about this I realized that we have been somewhat misguided in our zeal for promoting the Second Coming as the primary motivation for our Christian witness and the explanation for all Christian's activities in the past two thousand years. And while I certainly do not want to downplay the great importance of the Second Coming, I am convinced that we are making a serious mistake in overemphasizing it to the exclusion of other even more important elements in the plan of salvation.

It was pointed out to me some time ago that there are a number of denominations, of which mine is certainly one, that put great emphasis on the idea of hope. This emphasis is so strong in the culture of these churches that it often overshadows both faith and love in its influence on the lives and beliefs of most of its members. As a result there are significant problems that arise by procrastinating dealing with many issues as it is believed that we simply need to wait for the Second Coming to resolve all of our problems. I have noticed that it is even used sometimes as an escape mechanism to avoid facing difficult issues or emotional healing by simply assuming they cannot be dealt with and must be left to somehow evaporate mysteriously at the Second Coming of Jesus.

While hope is important, it should always be subservient to the passion of selfless love which Paul declares is even more important. (see 1 Corinthians 13) Looking to the Second Coming as our escape from pain and dysfunction is inherently selfish in nature in the way it is often taught. While the Second Coming is certainly a legitimate reason for hope, we need to examine our hearts and allow God to expose our mixed motives for looking forward to this great event.

The real motivation for all true Christian witness throughout all the ages is the compelling attractiveness of God, not a future time of escape when everything will suddenly be fixed. When once our heart is captured with the overwhelming truth of God's amazing love for us personally, we simply cannot refrain from desiring others to be able to experience this sense of aliveness, this compelling feeling of being valued that comes from experiencing the faith that Jesus has in us.

When understood correctly, the cross of Christ is really a demonstration of God's feelings about us and the lengths to which He will go to accept abuse from us to prove that we cannot extinguish His love no matter how hard we may try. The cross of Calvary is not about an angry God venting His wrath on His Son instead of wicked sinners but is about wicked sinners like us venting our wrath on a loving, forgiving God who refuses to stop loving us. If we can ever catch even a glimpse of the enormous passion that drives the love and kindness of God toward us, then faith and hope will simply be spontaneously present in our lives but will not inappropriately overshadow the place that love needs to have in our hearts.

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Control or Authority?

Over the recent past I have become more and more uncomfortable with using the word “control” when referring to God's relationship to our lives and especially to what goes on in this world. Because of the implications intrinsic in the way in which this word is used it conveys popular misconceptions about God's character and fosters a great deal of hidden bitterness in the hearts of millions of people.

Nevertheless it is a very popular theme in much of Christianity. There are popular songs written to promote this belief, and if considered carefully one will come to realize that songs are one of the most powerful means of instilling beliefs that there is. A great deal of the beliefs of many Christians is derived from the theology in the songs that they listen to far more than in any personal study and examination of the Word of God for themselves. This is why so many errors can perpetuate for so long undetected because there is so little accountability to the virus-checking function of the Word of God.

This idea of insisting that God is in control is possibly one of the most widespread assumptions in Christianity. It seldom is challenged as it never occurs to most people that there should ever be any doubt about it to start with. But if they stopped to consider it much more carefully I think most people would soon come to realize that in their real heart they don't really want God to be in control nearly as much as they thought they did.

What I have observed is that people like to believe that God controls events and people's choices as long as this God controls things for the benefit of the person believing that idea. It is definitely part of the create-god-in-your-own-image syndrome. Since we are ourselves addicted to wanting power and control over others we tend to gravitate toward belief in a God who will reinforce our desires and punish those whom we think are not making things work out the way we want. However, when it comes to our lives being at odds with someone else's concept of God and their desire for God to control or punish us to come into alignment with their desires, we recoil with horror and label them as heretics or even dangerous terrorists.

Just think about the world conflicts and tensions brought about by the discrepancies between the typical Christian view of God and Islam's view of God. Most Christians tend to view Muslims as dangerous because they are often so militant and violent in their promotion of their religious views. But if you stop to think about it more carefully you would realize that Christian's desire for domination and promotion of their pet beliefs are not that different as far as the issue of control goes. Muslims simply believe in a God who is to be defended at all costs and unbelievers are to be eliminated. But deep down inside many Christians harbor similar beliefs and want to eliminate all those who don't agree with them by converting them or causing them to become powerless when they refuse to cooperate.

So it can be seen that both sides of this conflict subscribe to the notion that God must be in control and many times His human followers are eager to help Him be in control. Our ideas about religion are deeply infected with the poison of belief in the power of force and coercion if gentle persuasion does not have its intended effect. The history of the Dark Ages is filled with the results of this kind of thinking and it is not nearly as far away from us now as we might imagine. We still worship, to a great degree, the god of power and control.

But to suggest that God is not in control sounds at first like one of the greatest heresies that a person could suggest. I know that many recoil with horror at the first thought that maybe God is not in total control and are afraid to even discuss that possibility. But again, if we are willing to be honest and consider the implications of a controlling God seriously I think most people would come to loath the idea of a God in total control because in their heart they know that they despise such a God.

Cherishing a picture of a God who is in control also affects the way we relate to each other and especially those under our “control” such as our own children. I have personally been aware of unspeakable horrors perpetrated in the name of godly control in the home by husbands or mothers who have tragically mistaken views of what God is like. Outsiders look on these situations with total disgust and unbelievers jeer at such examples of religion gone awry. But if we were to be really honest we would see the seeds for similar potential in our own hearts of flesh and particularly found embedded in these notions of the need for control.

Control, as the way it is typically inferred, is in direct opposition to the concept of freedom that God has such passion about. We simply have very little concept of how important freedom is to the heart of God. This is because of the blindness brought on by our addictions to power, control and force that permeates nearly everything else we believe in our hearts. Because we pay little attention to what is really important to God and instead try to make God out to be the enforcer of what we think is important, we largely miss the ability to see things from God's perspective or value the things that God deems most important.

Our theology of a God in control has lead to a lot of tragic notions when it comes to times of grief and pain. Because of our mistaken ideas about control we come up with suppositions and theories that fly in the face of reason and end up sometimes doing more damage to the heart than healing. We think we are comforting someone who has just tragically lost a child by telling them that God is in control and wanted to take their baby to heaven to be with Him. But in reality we are enforcing a picture of God as a selfish being up in the sky jerking us around on a whim with little consideration for our feelings or needs.

Our belief of a God in control also leads to all sorts of other false ideas that are generally accepted by popular Christianity too numerous to enumerate here. It lies at the root of popular Evangelical notions about the physical, political nation of Israel being restored to a place of power and prominence in the last days. It sometimes figures prominently in our nationalism and patriotism and our penchant for confusing the desires of God for the desires of our politicians to control other nations in the world by force if necessary. We find ourselves frustrated when this God who is supposed to be in control doesn't seem to be utilizing His abilities and powers to control things the way we think He should and so we sometimes assume that He is waiting for some help from us.

Insisting on a God who is in control influences the way we conduct evangelism and infiltrates many of the beliefs and conclusions we arrive at even in our study of the Scriptures. This is not a new notion and all throughout history can be seen the ill effects of people desiring a God who is controlling – of course always on their behalf and not the other way around. When it comes to someone else's idea of God being in control and ourselves being on the controlled end of that exercise of force we suddenly shift gears and then insist that their God must be a false God and their religion is dangerous. We then tend to turn to our own notions of God and try to figure out how to help Him be more effective in staying in control. Thus all of religion becomes something of a power struggle between opposing belief systems about God all subscribing to the use of force to accomplish their domination.

But the real truth is that God has no interest whatsoever in being a controlling God and He never created our hearts to thrive in such an environment. The whole problem of sin did not catch God by surprise and He has not needed to change tactics or His character to deal with this problem that has infected the universe. What He is about is working in and around and behind all things to bring us to a clearer revelation of the real truth about Himself and the truth about His feelings about us so that our hearts will be won back to allegiance to Him without any force or coercion. For the use of force is an element introduced by the enemy of all righteousness and has absolutely no place in the Kingdom of Heaven.

So if it is considered that maybe God is not in control in the way we usually think of control, then what relationship does He have over events in this world and our daily lives? As frightening as this scenario is for some to consider, if it is potentially true enough to examine then what is the alternative belief that will replace our penchant for believing in a God who is in total control? And how could we even come to appreciate the superiority of a God who does not control?

The real crux of this issue is the incredible respect and value that God places on the freedom of the intelligent mind and heart and will of every individual that He has created throughout all His vast universe. The real problem that He has to deal with in overcoming sin in the universe is not bad behavior but maintaining respect for the rights of freedom that every person has to not love. Yes, that's right, the freedom not to love. For love by its very nature is impossible to coerce, for the moment that force or coercion is introduced then any love that was ever present in the heart of the individual instantly evaporates and fear takes its place.

You see, God only accepts the service of true love and nothing less than this will ever satisfy His desires for any of His children. Love by its very nature must come from a heart free to not love or it is something other than love. If one stops to think about it carefully, our own hearts crave to be loved with this kind of unconditional love ourselves because that is just how we were designed – in the image of God. So to employ any amount of force precludes the very existence of real love and any imitation of love simply does not satisfy the heart the way real love can and must do.

So for us to live throughout eternity in the presence of a perfect God who is Himself the very embodiment of love we must be restored to a state of perfect freedom fostering spontaneous love based on genuine appreciation for the love that God has for us – for love cannot be based on fear. This is made explicitly clear in 1 John. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)

If we were not designed to be controlled or to control others through the use of force or punishments, then what motivation is left to obey God? This is a very frightened question that often comes up into the minds of many who have been “serving” God from a basis of fear for all of their lives. They honestly believe that if we are not afraid enough of a God who waits to inflict dire punishments upon any who dares to cross His will that there would be no incentive left to obey Him and everyone would suddenly fall helplessly into the arms of temptation and would follow every evil desire of their heart. And that is true in the absence of a knowledge of the real truth about God and His passionate love for us.

But “obedience” based on fear of punishment is also based on selfishness at its root, and selfishness can never produce true love. This is why, when properly understood, God, in fact, never punishes the wicked directly in spite of what we assume the Bible teaches. Yes, God has used human language and adaptations to convey His warnings to us that make it appear that He uses threats and punishment to coerce obedience. But when we pull the veil back and we see more clearly into the real workings of God's heart, it will be seen that God is simply respecting our choices and allowing His protection to be removed from our lives in response to our insistent rebellion against Him and the natural consequences of sin take their course.

One thing must become very clear in our thinking, and the sooner the better. It is SIN that kills, NOT GOD. God is the Source and Author of all life and God does not go around conflicted with Himself. Death is not a punishment dealt out to anyone who refuses to pretend to love a God who threatens them with punishment if they don't love Him. Death is simply what happens to a person who refuses to align themselves with the only Source of life that exists.

So if control is actually a counterfeit, then what is the legitimate principle that it is counterfeiting? The bottom line issue at stake that we must relate to in this most important arena of our life is authority. And there is something quite interesting about authority that is often overlooked; authority must be given or ceded to someone, it is not something demanded or imposed on them. Authority is a choice made by the person living under authority, not something coerced on others against their will.

Our sinful hearts have all of our lives lived under the authority of Satan, the archenemy of God instead of choosing to make God the rightful authority for our lives. But since authority (along with love) cannot be forced on us by God, then if we are ever to experience the reality of salvation that He has provided for us, we must choose to come under His authority in response to a knowledge of His real love and kindness and compassion for us. Fear does not inspire love and God never attempts to do what our heart was not designed to do. It is only by love that love can be awakened and it is only by respect and love for the real truth about God that we will be attracted and drawn to cede authority over our hearts and lives to a God who genuinely cares for our heart no matter how good or bad our performance may be.

So the real truth about control is that it is actually a very convincing counterfeit of true authority and has become very confused in the minds of nearly everyone in this world. Subsequently we have projected these mistaken views of authority and control onto our beliefs about God and tend to view His actions toward us in the light of our own ideas about obedience and authority instead of the truth as it is in Jesus. We need to engage in a much more careful study of His Word and His dealings with His created beings all throughout the whole conflict brought about by Lucifer's rebellion and see more clearly the true heart of the Father.

If I want to know God and experience the power of His transforming love in my life, I must be drawn to Him by fresh revelations about Him to the place where I will freely choose to make Him the ultimate authority of my life above my own selfish desires that clamor for control. God will never offer to control me against my will, but He does offer to transform me so thoroughly through the presence of His indwelling Spirit and the influence of His kindness that I can become a loyal servant filled with the real joy of love to the One who loves me beyond all comprehension. I will become so glued at the heart level in my attachment to His heart that it can only be described in human terms as a love-slave, a bondservant of Jesus Christ. This is how many of the apostles came to see themselves and they enjoyed using this term to describe their emotions about their relationship with God. And this is the kind of relationship that I crave to experience much more fully as I get closer and closer to knowing the real truth about God.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ambulance or Fence?

When I was growing up I remember a story that was a favorite of some teachers as well as my own Dad who used to like to tell it in defense of the validity of God's law. As the story goes, there was a high cliff near a town where people liked to go and hang out because the view was so striking. You could see the whole city and beyond from this high vantage point and it was often frequented by lovers who like to sit and watch the sunset while holding hands and savoring the beauty surrounding them. (O.K., maybe I made part of that last bit up.)

But there was also a problem with this high cliff. Every once in awhile someone would fall off the edge of this cliff and would sustain serious injuries or even death after striking the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. Because of this a great debate developed among the people of this town over what should be done about this serious problem.

Some of the people insisted that an ambulance and a crew should be stationed at all times at the base of the cliff so that if anyone happened to fall that they would have immediate attention and could be rushed to the hospital in time to prevent them from dying if possible. But other people said that was a silly idea and that instead the city should build a strong fence along the top of the cliff so that people simply could not fall off the edge.

As the story goes, this debate became very intense and heated and caused a lot of strive and division among the people of this great town. Finally it was decided that the best thing to do was to station the ambulance and crew at the bottom of the cliff. Of course the story was told this way to illustrate the fallacy in the teachings of many denominations that all we need is grace and forgiveness and the law no longer applies to our lives today. Of course the assumption in the telling of this story was that the law acted like the fence at the top of the cliff to prevent people from hurting themselves.

This story certainly had its intended impact on many people's thinking including my own. But as I thought about it this evening something puzzling began to develop in my heart about this story and I realized that once again I have come across a tradition that has tended to mislead my thinking in regard to law and the principles of reality.

For instance, why did it never come up in the purported debates by the townspeople that the law of gravity should be suspended so that no one would get hurt if they happened too close to the edge of the cliff? After all, wasn't it really the fault of gravity that people got hurt in this way to start with? Yes, I realize that for humans this is not a realistic option and that is why it did not enter into their discussions. But as I think about it now I realize that the nature of true law is more along the line of principles like gravity instead of along the line of arbitrary rules and artificial restraints with attached punishments. Therefore, to use the analogy of the fence to prevent people from walking off the edge of a cliff as the thing to represent God's Law is to miss the main point that gravity itself is much more representative of God's Law than an arbitrary fence is.

But this is the nature of human thinking and we see the outgrowths of it everywhere we turn. We are forever coming up with more and more rules, restraints, barricades, walls and control mechanisms in our attempt to manipulate human behavior while largely ignoring the true problem which is usually immaturity. We are destroying the very beauty and freedoms placed in this earth by God for human enjoyment in the name of safety and security. We are selling our souls to those in power for the false promise of security and will wake up too late to find that we have only sold ourselves into abject slavery – and all in the name of law and order.

So let me go back to the fence and cliff idea. Let's just suppose that the argument was won by saner heads and the typical strong fence was installed keeping people well back from the edge of the cliff. Now since we are so used to seeing such installments nearly everywhere commercialization has invaded nature we don't think too much of this arrangement. But as a person who has enjoyed hiking in places where such restraints have not yet been imposed on the awesome scenes of wonder I can tell you that such barricades spoil to a very great extent the wonder and awe that such places tend to inspire when in the raw.

Most of the time these restraints are imposed on the public due to fear of lawsuits. As most people know our world is fast becoming shaped largely by the greed of lawyers who have more power to manipulate people's choices than nearly anyone else on earth. Our addiction to using laws and statutes and regulations to impose control over everyone around us and to fix every imaginable problem and many that don't even exist, is fast becoming not only ridiculous but suffocating. And unfortunately we believe that we are simply following the example of God who we suppose has imposed similar laws and punishments in order to manipulate and control His subjects. Thus we come up with illustrations like the one above to explain why God's laws are so necessary.

So the people have a barricade put up on the top of the cliff and everything is now just fine – right? Well, that depends on who you listen to. If you take the version put forth by the lawyers and the ones in power then you might come to that conclusion. But if you talk to the people who no longer can sit on the edge of the cliff arm and arm with their lover and watch the sun slip behind the horizon and listen to the birds and feel the warm breeze on their faces without artificial impositions obstructing their view; if you talk to the people who live more from their hearts than by a list of rules and enjoyed this special place but are forced by threat of arrest to stay away from this favorite spot, you might get quite a different story.

For you see, the real problem is not that there are not enough rules to prevent people from getting hurt but that there are people who have not been raised in a proper family that mentored them to use common sense and take reasonable precautions while learning to enjoy life to the max. You have people who are irresponsible and thoughtless and immature who are looking for attention or simply not paying attention who create these problems that society takes upon themselves to solve.

Now I'm not claiming that there is no need for rules or no place for artificial restraints. Paul makes it very clear in his writings that the “law” was given for those who are immature until they are grown enough to live in harmony with the underlying principles of the law. The problem is, in our world now there is very little maturing going on and a great deal of controlling going on instead. The way things are set up now actually works against encouraging people to mature and instead induces them to remain in very immature conditions while they blindly follow rules created by other quite immature people.

Maturity has to do with learning how to live in harmony with the natural principles of reality. We sometimes call some of these principles natural law and other ones we call spiritual laws. But really they are all one and the same thing, just showing up in different venues. All of God's principles are laws if you want to use that word and all of the external laws throughout the Scriptures are based on eternal principles although some of them were more localized to specific cultures or situations that no longer are useful today. But the underlying principles or laws are eternal and permanent in nature and cannot really be broken. Its like the “law” of gravity – you don't break that law but it certainly has the potential to break you if you violate it in the wrong way.

So I propose that neither the ambulance nor the fence is the ideal way to resolve the issue of people falling off a cliff. Neither is believing that all we have to do is believe that Jesus paid for our sins so we don't need to worry about quitting sin because that's impossible. That is certainly like depending on the ambulance at the bottom to make up for our foolishness committed at the top and if thought about honestly doesn't make sense either.

But likewise, I also no longer subscribe to the idea that the best solution is to impose artificial law with attached punishments like the fence and new regulations on the cliff as the longterm solution to resolving our problems. While that may appear to work in some respects it also robs us of much of the joy and freedom that we were designed to enjoy. Attempting to remove all risks from life is to remove all freedom, and freedom is something God values far more than we tend to.

I believe that God's real plan is to grow us up in maturity and allow us much more freedom so that we can return to sitting safely on the edge of the cliff and once again enjoy the love and fellowship and the stunning beauties that God created for us, not because we are forced to be safe by some imposed barricade but because we are living in harmony with the natural laws that govern all of nature and even the universe. Living in harmony is what love is all about and harmony brings peace and joy and satisfaction like no rules will ever be able to produce.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Positive Pressure

As I walked out of Wal-Mart yesterday I noticed that I couldn't feel the hot air outside until I had cleared the outer set of doors. Knowing how air systems typically are designed in commercial buildings like that I realized that this was because they keep the inside of the building so full of cool air that it has a little bit more pressure than the hot air outside to keep that warmer air from coming in. It is called positive air pressure and works very well to keep both buildings and even coolers from getting too warm in the summer or even too cold in the winter. It means that when you enter the building you immediately feel the temperature of the inside without much mixing of the air going on around the doorways.

But as I thought about this neat little trick that designers use to keep our bodies more comfortable while we spend our money on someone else's products, it occurred to me that my own soul is very much like that building. Depending on the attitudes and choices and self-perception that make up the atmosphere I have in my soul building will determine very much how I relate to other people around me.

I sense that sometimes I feel like maybe I have something more like negative air pressure inside of me emotionally instead of positive pressure. Negative pressure is usually referred to as vacuum. A vacuum acts very much like a dry sponge that tends to soak up moisture that it comes in contact with instead of oozing out liquid as when it is full. A vacuum condition, or negative air pressure inside of a building will draw in the atmosphere from outside whenever the doors or windows are opened and that incoming atmosphere will influence whatever is already inside the building. If it is very cold outside the incoming air will cool off the room or building below what it already is. And of course the opposite is true; if the weather is very hot and humid outside the building will begin to heat up and feel muggy inside causing much more work for the air conditioning systems.

As I continued to think about this for awhile after leaving the building I realized that this helps explain some of my dysfunctional problems with some of the people in my life at various times. When I feel emotionally empty inside in some way, when I feel an emotional craving or need that is not filled or satisfied, the natural tendency is to begin to look to someone or even some activity as a source to satisfy my desires. This is simply part of being human, how our brains are wired to operate. We are designed to have desires that need to be fulfilled and one of the most important tasks of childhood is to prepare us for moving on in maturity by learning about what truly satisfies.

Failure to learn what appropriately satisfies our needs and desires is one of the most common and basic problems in the world. Because we are so often turning to the wrong sources to find satisfaction we never really find what we are looking for but we often find something we think may do. What we usually find is something more along the lines of pleasure or something that inflates our pride (or even other more physical things like our body). Eating is a very typical outlet for cravings that has its obvious unhealthy affects on our lives. Drugs, sex, alcohol, pornography, intellectual prowess, religion in many forms, entertainment, star and model worship, social power – the list is really endless. And while not everything we turn to for satisfaction may be bad in and of itself, they are many times not the appropriate thing that addresses the need we are trying to satisfy and they thus become something of a false god for us, albeit unconsciously.

There is nothing inherently wrong even with having a sense of vacuum inside of our hearts emotionally any more than it is wrong to get physically hungry. Hunger actually is a blessing at times as it helps us become more acutely aware of flavors that we might not notice otherwise and our appreciation of food can be sharpened. But the real problem lies in when we fail to recognize the correct “food” for the specific hunger or craving that we are experiencing and instead try to address it with something else.

Those of us who grew up with a great deal of missing ingredients in our emotional life (which includes all of us to some degree or other) have some very long-term hungers that have never known much satisfaction to the degree that we sense we need. Anyone who did not receive enough unconditional love as a child or who didn't receive affirmation and repeated confirmation of their intrinsic value in the eyes of those who represented God in their young minds will have a deep reservoir of emptiness that cannot be filled with the platitudes of religious cliché's or artificial accolades from achievements or performance. They will likely find themselves struggling all their lives to discover those missing ingredients that will fill that gnawing hunger inside to feel valued and loved and worthwhile. They may try to deny it or avoid it or suppress it or even exploit it in others, but deep inside every person craves to be valued by someone else who is a significant person in their life.

Scientists have recently discovered through the latest technologies of brain science scans and research that the most important thing that every baby needs and craves above anything else is to be the sparkle in someone's eyes, to be cherished and valued by someone who is significant to them. They have even gone so far as to label this experience of being desired and cherished and loved by someone “joy”.

Joy, according to the neurology cravings in the brain, is when someone is genuinely happy to be with you no matter what the circumstances are or what your emotional condition may be. Joy is the most intense need of the human soul and this need is never outgrown. All through our lives we continue to crave and seek for someone who is willing to be glad to be with us, even in our dysfunctional moments, maybe even especially in those times. Because we know deep inside that if someone is really willing and even wants to be with us in our worst times they will certainly also be glad to be with us in our better times.

But when we grow up in a joy-starved environment our heart will continue to grope for anything that seems to address and reduce the deep pain and emptiness that we feel inside. This is the main driving force behind most addictions. This is what drives the whole porn industry and what causes most of the immorality that goes on in our world. We are all looking for someone to satisfy our deep cravings for someone to be glad to be with us and will even settle for people pretending to wanting to be with us if necessary. Sometimes people are even willing to pay people to pretend to be glad to be with them in various ways, but this only deepens our cravings in the end instead of satisfying them.

What is going on here is that we have a vacuum condition in our heart and we are opening doors or windows to various sources that in turn infect us with all sorts of contaminating influences that only aggravate our brokenness and intensify our sense of longing. This can happen in obvious ways like adultery or abuse or it can often happen in very subtle ways that are very socially acceptable. But the eternal principles continue to operate just as gravity is never suspended and we will always have problems as we remain in a vacuum condition at the heart level.

So if all these things we try to fill our hearts with don't satisfy the vacuum we feel inside, how are we supposed to have it filled? How are we to change over from having a vacuum in our heart that sucks in everything it can get hold of to fill its hunger, to a condition of being full to overflowing so that we can become givers of life instead of takers?

I could easily launch off into some great-sounding platitudes right now that I would be as disgusted with as most other people. I am asking these questions very honestly and am looking for realistic answers myself. I am describing to some extent my own condition that I often find myself in and am daily addressing in my pursuit of God and His presence. I want to be a person who really exemplifies the reality of the words of Jesus, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life. (John 4:14)

I want to know what it feels like to be so satisfied and full of life that when I am jostled that life will just spill out of me all over others. I want to be a sponge so full of life and joy that when I am squeezed that I will be life-giving instead of complaining or becoming bitter. I realize that too often in my relations with those around me I am grasping for a sense of intimacy, of belonging and desiring affirmation to fill the emptiness that I too often hide inside. Instead of denying my emptiness I want to have it so full of the life of God that I can be the one genuinely glad to be with others who are hungry and hurting and desperate for joy themselves.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Just Say It

Yesterday on the way home from work I was thinking about my relationship with God and my weaknesses in how I perceive my own identity. I thought about the discrepancy between what I have been learning and writing about and the contrasting beliefs that still lurk in many of the darker recesses of my heart. This unsettles my stability and disrupts my assurance and affects the way I relate to others and even greatly inhibits my ability to rest and trust in God at times.

I know that learning new truths about God are very important but are not enough to really transform my life in the ways that need to happen to make me a truthful and effective witness for Him. I also realize that I am generally incapable of directly changing the opinions of my heart (or anyone else's for that matter) by assaulting it with lots of information no matter how true or wonderful it may be. The heart learns primarily by imitation, by picking up on the nuances of body language, voice tone and absorbing the atmosphere of the spirit that surrounds the one it is learning from. Words for the most part seem to not get very deep into the heart part of the makeup and are not able to put down deep roots in that part of my brain. That is why a person can be very surprised at their actions or reactions when caught off guard under intense circumstances and temptations. They may suddenly find themselves doing and saying things that are later very embarrassing or humiliating and that reflect more their fallen nature of sin than reflecting the new heart Jesus has given them.

As I was reflecting on some of these things and the frustration that I experience at not being able to change my own heart's opinions about God or my feelings about myself to agree with the way He sees me, I found myself asking the question, “How can I do this? What can I do to really take hold at a deep level the real truth about my identity that God has given me and what He says about me?”

At the same time I remembered that whenever I get into times of sharing with others on a personal level the exciting truths about God that I have been learning, I often come away almost in awe myself at how much my own heart has been listening and absorbing during the conversation. I many times feel almost something like a buzz, an excitement of spirit, a warm kind of emotion that feels energizing and life-producing – I suppose it is something like the word thrive. This word has intrigued me for a number of years as something that my heart very much desires. I want to feel that sensation of thriving, of being filled with life and hope and energy and joy. I want to feel it much more often – all the time if possible. I believe that is what our hearts are all designed to crave and to enjoy because our hearts were designed to thrive in the presence of the Life-giver for eternity.

Of course it takes so much longer to describe these thoughts than the time it took for them to transpire originally. I drove along the highway contemplating this idea of my need to really embrace God's identity, His opinion about me much deeper into my psyche. I pondered His reminder of my experiences with what I suppose many people call witnessing (I still have baggage associated with that word from the past that I am getting free from slowly) and the effect that it has on myself. Then suddenly I passed a big billboard beside the road and read the words printed across the shirt pictured there.

When I read the words (and I never could figure out what the reason was for the message on the billboard), I realized they were so appropriate and direct as an answer to my unspoken question. In fact, it was so immediate that I was startled at first and then overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation for God's willingness to communicate with me so quickly and directly through any means available. The words on the billboard simply said, “Say it out loud”.

I couldn't avoid the truth of how those words applied to the things I was thinking about. It was clear to me that God was reminding me that my heart needs to hear me express what I am learning through my own ears so that in the expression of it to others I come to believe it much more deeply myself. I have heard about this principle before but I have had some skepticism about its effectiveness because of problems I have had experimenting with it. But I have also seen it work very effectively at times and I felt more and more strongly as I drove on down the road that this message was indeed from God in direct response to my question and desire to deepen His feelings about me into the heart-part of my being.

One of the reasons I have reservations about just speaking things out loud is that my own voice still reminds me too much of the negative feelings I got for many years every time I heard my own Dad's voice. It ignited many triggers and reminded me of many hidden messages buried in the tones of voice and the phrasing of words that usually tended to make me afraid of God and of authority. Long into my adult life those triggers were still very active and potent and it was not until just a few years before his death that I was able to start effectively getting free of many of those triggers.

Tragically I reflected the same pattern of child-raising to a great extent in my own family and today my voice has a similar effect on my own children. This distresses me greatly but as I have explained to them, I only have one voice and I am stuck with it for now. Until God makes significant progress in my healing in this area of my life, I don't seem to be able to change the affect that my voice and inflections have on certain people who are triggered by it. The problem is, in the times when I try to express certain things out loud even for my own benefit I am sometimes triggered myself in much the same way. It is almost like having an emotional auto-immune disease.

But I also notice that there are other times, times when my spirit is in tune to listen to God's spirit and I am humble enough to hear and synchronize with His quiet internal suggestions while I am sharing with someone my passion for the God I am learning about; there are those times when my heart seems to begin to ignite and burn with a sensation and passion that intrigues me and actually feels more life-giving than intimidating. It feels like I am finally finding that place as a channel of the Spirit to be used to bring hope and truth and life to someone else who is willing to listen and consider what I am so excited about in my personal pursuit of God.

I feel during those times a sense of almost fear and excitement mingled together. I have fear because I know all too well how easy it is for me to allow this passion to overwhelm the other person and turn them off the to very things I want to share with them, or I might begin making the conversation about me instead of about the God I am becoming so passionate about. But I also feel excitement not only because I see new life and hope and understanding and interest being generated in another heart that is hungry to thrive but that in the process my own heart is experiencing something very similar once again.

I suppose that something my left brain is deducing from these observations is that it seems more life-producing to share with others what God is relating to me than to just try to verbalize these things for the sake of saying them out loud. However, there are also exceptions even to that that I have noticed.

I have discovered in the past few years that writing has become an outlet for things that I cannot express any other way very effectively. There have been times when I have written very passionately what was stirring in my own heart and what I was hearing from God. But when I got done writing I still felt that it was not having the effect inside of me that I needed to experience or that could be seen in the words. There was a discrepancy between two different parts of me that needed to get together in agreement and I felt impressed to go back and literally read what I had just written out loud and try to do it while engaging my emotions and feelings and heart more than with my head.

Those times felt somewhat awkward for me, for when I speak out loud it has a little of the same effect on me that having someone else in the room has to stifle and suppress very effectively my ability to externalize my deep emotions and feelings. For whatever reasons, I have been extremely intimidated to share some of the deeper emotions that make me feel extremely vulnerable and so far I have generally just played it safe. I have gotten better about sharing deeper things with others to a certain degree, but there are still many levels that I simply do not have the courage to share with anyone and even believe to some extent that it is not even appropriate to do so whether that belief is right or wrong.

But that system of inhibition even affects my ability to verbally say those same things that I feel to God even when I am alone. That does seem a bit strange. And the scary part is that I am finding it easier and easier to write these kinds of things but at the same time I still cannot speak them out loud. It is at this point of tension that sometimes God asks me to go back and read out loud what I have just written to allow it to take on another whole dimension of reality for me that I cannot experience by just leaving it in writing only.

When I have done this I have experienced new and strange feelings that definitely were along the lines of what I likely need to experience much more but is still outside my “comfort zone”. But it is very likely quite necessary if I am to effectively grow in maturity and stability and intimacy with God and even with others. It is likely indicative of yet another false god that is trying to stand in my way of connecting intimately with God's heart, a fear that resists expulsion and replacement.

As I drove on down the road toward home I took the suggestion from the billboard seriously and began to speak out loud what I thought maybe I needed to hear about God's opinions and feelings about me. At first it sounded downright cheesy and artificial and I felt like scoffing at myself. But it was likely not really me scoffing but the false gods still hanging around inside my flesh that keep insisting that they are me and reflect my identity. So I persisted and continued to grope for what to say out loud that would affirm what my left brain had on file about how God feels about me.

It did not take very long before the verbalized messages began to have their intended effects. Even though it was very brief and simplistic, the words about how God feels about me as His son began to stir my emotions unexpectedly. As I said, “I am a child of God and God takes good care of His kids. In fact, God is very jealous about taking care of them and looking out for them”, I was amazed at the power that hearing words like these had on my own heart. I began to tear up and began to feel the truth of those words in ways that I very seldom feel.

So my typically skeptical left brain is forced once again to admit that its opinions or fears about some things are simply off track and I need to obey the promptings of the Spirit more readily. I want to live a more balanced life of utilizing both my left and right brain in better synchronization with each other and with God's Spirit. And for me that generally means much more exercise in certain activities designed to engage the heart to synchronize with the truths that the left brain is embracing. I want the truth of God and His presence of love and joy to pervade both sides of my cranium and electrify all of my body so that I can glorify His name more and be restored to my original design and function.

When I opened my Bible this morning to 1 Peter 2 I immediately saw a confirmation of this from God waiting there for me. It explains not only some of the aspects of my true identity but the reason behind why I have received that identity. In verse 9 it tells me that I am chosen, part of a royal priesthood, part of a holy nation of people and that I am designed to be God's own possession. Then the very next words give the underlying reason God has given me this identity. It is so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

While that may certainly include writing out those things about God's excellencies, it must also at times include proclaiming them verbally so that they become even more real to me. This also helps explain why evidently Jesus prayed out loud even when He was praying alone. If He had not been praying aloud His disciples would not have been able to hear what He was saying and thus had intense desire awakened in their own hearts to learn how to really pray with passion like Jesus did. I believe that Jesus realized that at least sometimes one has to pray out loud in passionate intimacy with the Father to stay fully connected with Him from both sides of the brain.

I do not take this as an arbitrary rule that I must now obey; that I must feel guilty if I don't always pray out loud. I do not feel God convicting me that only those who pray out loud will be listened to and will receive answers. That is very inconsistent with the truth about God's character that has so much warmed my heart over the past few years. However, I do feel Him reminding me that I am too much the other direction and that I will need to be more willing to engage my physical voice at certain times if I want to have more efficient growth in my soul. And I will have to leave it up to Him to heal me of the triggers that my own voice still sets off both in both myself and in others.

I sense that as the sweetness of Jesus more fully pervades my heart that the “edge” that comes through in my voice will gradually fade away. It is not something I can force on myself but is something that is going to have to happen in God's way and His timing. It is part of the transformation that He is in charge of and that I trust His faithfulness to accomplish.

For you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. (1 Peter 2:10)

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Passion Reactor

In harmony with the ever-increasing knowledge of a principle of parallels, the fact that every truth seems to have its counterfeit and every counterfeit definitely has its counterpart in truth, I am beginning to see more clearly that the core of the battle going on in the universe is a struggle to the death between passion and passion, but two different versions of passion.

This word passion has been so hijacked by the enemy that some are even afraid to attribute it to God. They have come to believe that there is no such thing as good passion. But that is not true and believing that can actually blind our minds from perceiving the true nature of the Great Controversy. For I believe that the titanic struggle going on all around and inside of us is the clash between the passion originating in God's heart that is completely selfless and constitutes pure love, and the passion first seen in the heart of Lucifer that now infects all of the world – the passion of selfishness.

I have become much more aware over the past few years of the reality of the enormous, unfathomable reservoir of passion burning in the great heart of our Creator. It is usually referred to by other names such as love or wrath. But it can equally be described as intense passion by God for an intimate and synchronized relationship with everything that has been created by His Spirit.

However, one of the created beings who was at one time the very closest of all intelligent beings to that unapproachable nuclear core of energy and powerful passion and who understood it better than any other created being in the whole universe, figured out ways to misrepresent and distort our perceptions of that passion and to hijack this foundational power source that God had implanted in the beings created in His own image.

I believe that God designed humans to be motivated and empowered by passion similar to the way He lives and functions. It is very much like a nuclear reactor that is motivated by the immense power of controlled atomic fusion. And just as nuclear power can be unleashed in controlled ways to accomplish much good or in uncontrolled ways to wreak unspeakable destruction, so too the nuclear core of passion that has been embedded in all of our hearts to be used to impart life and help us thrive can either be a source of good or unbridled evil.

When sin came into this world by the choice of Adam and Eve to turn over the control room of their nuclear reactors to God's archenemy, we lost the ability to recapture the deadly radiation that spilled out into our lives and began to quickly contaminate not only ourselves but everything and everyone around us. The security of our power plant had been breached by an enemy and when he gained control he quickly smashed the locks, began tearing down the defenses and supplanted the control programs with his own altered version. As a result our passion power plants have been malfunctioning ever since, spreading death and pain and broken relationships in place of peace and love and joy.

Just as nuclear power often carries a bad reputation because of its association with nuclear war and the disasters from mismanaged power plants, so too, passion has gained a dubious reputation as a reliable source of energy and power for our lives. It is clear that passion has very great power – that is an unavoidable fact of life. But to think that it was designed to be a legitimate means of motivation is for some Christians a disturbing thought.

What I am starting to see is that, far from desiring us to abandon all use of passion, God desires to replace our passion with His pure and holy passion. He is offering each of us the opportunity to have our security systems repaired, our reactor buildings reinforced and rebuilt and our nuclear cores refitted with fresh fuel that will burn much hotter than we have ever imagined possible. But with this new potent power in our hearts, if we allow God to fulfill the passionate desire of His heart for us we will realize that we can again function in the image of our Creator and begin to thrive and give out energy in life-giving ways that will bless those around us instead of leaking radiation and hot steam causing damage and pain and destruction.

God is not wanting to shut down our power plants because of the damage and the false operators that have taken us over. But He does need our daily permission to continue His work of expelling the false gods, of exposing the security breaches and giving us opportunity to allow Him to repair them. This is done through the means of allowing us to get triggered by someone or some circumstance that ignites a false belief deep inside that needs to be exposed and replaced. If we try to live in denial of our core faults and false beliefs in the heart that resonate during these times of exposure, we will only have them continue to be triggered in opportunity after opportunity until it is too late to have them repaired.

God will respect our choices as to whether to allow Him access to the central controls of our heart to do His reprogramming and improve our security systems or whether we will insist that we can handle some of it ourselves. But if we do not allow Him full access to every detail of our heart and our belief systems, it will be exposed sooner or later that the unrepaired, hidden faults will prove to be our undoing and will culminate in catastrophic meltdown when least expected.

God's laws and principles must be written into the code of our programs and God's principles of living, both in physical and mental arenas must be incorporated into all of our life or else our defenses will have gaps that will be exploited by the enemy of our souls. This enemy is very aware of all the aspects of our security apparatus and knows the weak areas of our passion reactor far better than we can ever know on this earth. He is determined to sabotage our passion with every means and deception possible and our only safety is to turn all authority and control over to the only One who has the wisdom and skill and power to counteract the schemes of the enemy.

One of the greatest weapons of our enemy is deception, and the very nature of deception is usually not knowing you are deceived. Pride often deflects God's attempts to alert us to our weaknesses. God has provided a way for us to become undeceived by giving us His Word in the Bible and His Spirit to properly apply that Word. But if instead, we fill our minds with the entertainment of the enemy, the news propaganda that is calculated to brainwash everyone into false assumptions about reality or any of the other many distractions provided abundantly all around us, we will not be able to enjoy the salvation purchased for us at the cost of the very life of God's Son. Many believe that they have a secure salvation and are satisfied with a partial repair job. But if our passion plant is not fully retrofitted in every respect and detail, then the time of revealing and testing will expose our vulnerabilities and we will be compromised, to put it mildly.

God, I have lived for many years either expressing passion in lethal ways or in trying to suppress it altogether. I am beginning to see that, far from living without passion, You want me to have a life with far more passion than I ever dared to think possible. I also know that my security systems and defenses are still badly damaged and my reactor has far to many cracks causing radiation leaks that hurt those around me.

I ask You, Father, to take over my control room, place your angels around the perimeter of my heart and life and home to secure the premises and continue Your work of repair, reprogramming and refueling my heart with the passion that originates in Your own heart of pure, selfless, serving love.

Install Your receiver the the power plant of my heart to synchronize my passion with Yours. Help me to avoid all false broadcasts designed to distort Your signals to my heart. Continue to accomplish Your wonderful experiment of grace in my life. Surround the core of my passion with the water of Your Spirit so that the output of my passion becomes life-giving instead of spreading pain and fear.

I am excited about Your plans for me and trust You to do whatever it is You have designed and created for me to do. Live in me every moment and link me closely with Your great heart of passion. Thank-you for hearing this prayer and thank-you for Your amazing goodness and passionate love for me.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Faces From the Past

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. (Romans 14:1 NRSV)

Do not put on one side him who is feeble in faith, and do not put him in doubt by your reasonings. (Romans 14:1 BBE)

Last night I had a stirring experience of the spirit that I want to continue and I want it to have a directional effect on my whole life. It was not a glorious moment of worship as one might think of typical worship with wonderful music and powerful feelings and sensations of God's presence. It did cause me to feel the presence of God, but much more along the lines of deepening convictions and growing revelations of my own faults and a refreshing feeling of need for the transforming grace of Jesus to radically change my deepest motives.

It all began when I remembered the request from a long-time church member for old pictures of our local church building. They are preparing for a “home-coming” later this month after finishing a major renovation and building project over the past few years that connected the church and the old school building where I attended the first eight years of my education. Since my step-mom was the church clerk for many years and was known for collecting records and making scrapbooks, they were sure that she might have some old pictures that would be useful for showing during the homecoming weekend events.

I have been quite forgetful for a number of weeks about looking for this in our home where my parents lived until they died a few years ago, but yesterday I finally had the thought and the time both together and decided to act on it right away before I forgot again and it would soon be too late. I went upstairs and began looking through old scrapbooks and photo albums and eventually found one or two pictures that will be of use.

However, in the process of searching for church pictures, I also began browsing over many pictures of my own parents and family and their old family pictures. I was surprised at how many of them I had never really noticed before and the feelings that seemed to begin to stir inside of me as I spent extra time staring at their faces and trying to perceive something about their personalities from their expressions. I realized that I had never before really taken time to look at some of these pictures of my parents when they were much younger and their parents when they were at different ages. I began to sense much more about them and see similarities between their expressions and some who have come along several generations later.

I also realized that most of the times I have looked at old pictures it has always been in the company of others who may have had their own emotions so stirred that we were all distracted from potentially sensing our own deeper potential feelings. When things like this are experienced in a group the mutual dynamics tend to overshadow the ability for any individual to go to deeper levels in their own spirit. Of course, there are significant advantages to exploring the past with others who can shed light on it. But the aspect of really focusing on one's feelings and wondering about the identity received from previous generations and how much affect that has on shaping the life and spirit and perceptions seldom happens when many people are discussing and focusing more on the externals and events of the past.

As I have tried to develop the habit of being more alert to real-time emotions over the past few years, I began to note that I had a growing sense of pain very deep in my spirit. I tried to unpack the real reasons and identify just what was involved in this pain. I felt nostalgia in some ways, but more so an intense wish that I could connect with these people and form bonds of friendship with them, listen to their stories, perceive their personalities, ask them hundreds of questions and just have the opportunity to hang out with them. The present impossibility of doing that felt repressively frustrating. I was severely limited to just staring at a piece of paper with ink on it that could only convey a snapshot of a point in time of their life and try to perceive what little could be gleaned from the look on their face, the way they dressed or the body language they expressed in their posture.

I spent some time staring intently at my own mother's face when she was much younger than I had ever known her, maybe when she was in her twenties or thirties. My mother died when I was sixteen and I have very little specific memory of what she was like now. So looking at these pictures for me seemed like trying to probe into the mind of a stranger who looked vaguely familiar. I had an unusual, intensified desire to know her heart much better and wished I could share with her my own feelings and hopes and problems. I know she was the kind of person who longed to do that for me and I caused her a lot of pain as I repulsed her attempts to connect with me. Now I wish I had another chance. But I will have to wait for heaven to reconnect with her and catch up on everything.

What seemed quite strange and surprising was that in some of the pictures of her face I thought I could sense something that reminded me strangely of my own wife. Her cheeks and mouth were distinctly different, but somewhere else in her expression, maybe her eyes, I seemed to sense something similar to the one I have been married to for over thirty years. I wondered about this sensation and also wondered if that was part of what unconsciously drew me to my wife in the first place.

I looked at pictures of her father and mother and cannot remember ever really observing them before. I could see in the faces of her siblings and parents a little of the pain and struggles that they must have felt on a daily basis. I searched their faces and eyes for clues as to how they interacted with each other and what their own deepest feelings must have been about life. But pictures are deeply frustrating things for the extreme limitations they place on communication. But they are still better than nothing.

Anyway, I realized that quite likely my own psyche was being stirred at levels not normally visited by my conscious mind and I was not sure what else might develop from this state of mind. But I also knew that I need to occasionally stir up the much deeper levels of my memories in order to allow freer access to the roots that lie buried in that mud that need much more healing from God. I knew that I was only scratching the surface, but in a sense I felt good that I was at least again feeling at all in areas that have laid dormant for many years.

My search for pictures or records took me into more rooms and old drawers and old scrapbooks that I did not even know were in the house. When I moved my search to the old office of my step-mom that contained many of her meticulous records from many decades of letters and bookkeeping I began to uncover more things that began to stir old memories and emotions. Mingled in with much of her things I also discovered some of my own old records that had been stashed in the closet when we hurriedly moved into this house originally upon her death. I even came across my academy yearbook that I was certain had been lost completely. I wonder if it was not here all along and not with my things when we moved in. Or maybe it was a copy originally given to them years ago.

As I began sorting through many papers and files that I have never seen before, I came across financial records involving the construction of this house including when I spent a summer here 34 years ago helping to start it. I found papers in my own handwriting (that amazingly has hardly changed at all) of the hours I worked getting $2.50 per hour. I also came across notes and documents that answered questions I thought had been lost with my own father's passing memories about his intervention for me when we moved away from Texas many years ago. I found the record of how much he paid my previous landlord for the large debt that I had accumulated there and refused to leave until that issue was satisfied. My Dad took out a loan to pay off my debt so that we could move away and make a fresh start in Michigan, but he refused to ever tell me how much it cost him until he couldn't even remember what he had done in later years.

Then I came across a letter that was not that old, maybe five to eight years ago. It is difficult to read the blurry postmark but it is clearly after the turn of the century. The letter was addressed to my Dad and came from myself. I knew immediately what the likely nature of the letter would be given the dynamics of our relationship at that time, but I decided to open it up and read it a little just from curiosity. Little did I know the impact it would have on my own heart and the state of my spirit that I find in myself today.

As I read through the pages that I noticed my Dad had numbered in his own handwriting, I felt like I was reading something familiar while at the same time listening in on a conversation by someone I didn't really know very well. The words conveyed very clearly a person in touch with their heart and trying to be in tune with the Spirit of God. They were appealing desperately to an old man who had become so embittered by years of indulgence in critical attitudes and interactions with others and from persistent fault-finding that he had nearly lost all ability to connect with anyone else from his heart.

I read with growing interest the words that I myself had written and was sometimes amazed at the depth of passion and the humility that came through in the letter. I felt almost ashamed that I seem to have not grown much since then and have even lost sight of some of the perceptions and attitudes expressed in the letter. It certainly brought back to my consciousness many of the issues that plagued our relationship for much of my life and in a sense I was glad for the reminder. I want to give God access to every part of my mind and memories and feelings, for anything that is not yet faced and repaired is a very dangerous liability for me when I come under unexpected pressure or trauma.

But as I finished up the letter I sensed a surprising but overwhelming conviction that I am still in extreme danger of remaining stuck in the same rut of dysfunctional relationships and attitudes as that which trapped my father and his mother and has strongly influenced most of those who have come from them in succeeding generations. Even in the letter I expressed the insight that we were very much alike, and the Spirit of God did not miss the opportunity to reinforce that point on my heart. What I began to realize is that this letter not only applied to my Dad's condition back then but nearly equally applies to my own condition right now. Even though I may not have the extreme problems of these faults fully matured in the life, the tendencies and habits are very much yet embedded in my own psyche and need to be recognized more clearly.

Particularly, I was convicted by a graphic description that I quoted from an inspired source of the activities of Lucifer when he first began to experiment with his ideas of disaffection among the pure, loving angels of heaven. What was so startling to me was the similarities between the way he related to them and the way I see myself relating to people today. I was shocked and horrified that I have so much of the spirit of the enemy operating freely and undetected in my own heart right now. I began to see the results of the subtle spirit of disaffection that still permeates too much of my attitudes but that stays out of sight below the surface avoiding detection. Truly the evil part of my nature is deceptive to the extreme and does anything to avoid exposure.

The discovery of this letter seemed to be calculated to synchronize perfectly with other convictions that God has been placing on me lately. My relationship to the local church – the very same church that my Dad had so much conflict with for so many of his later years – is unfortunately not a great deal better. My spirit at its roots is all too similar to the attitudes that my Dad was enslaved to in his dealings with religious leaders. As I pointed out in the letter to him, when looking at the results of my Dad's choices in life it is not very appealing at all for me to follow in most of his footsteps. But as much as my logical mind can reason that way, my natural tendencies subtly pull me like a strong undertow in directions that I do not want to be led.

At a deeper level I began to perceive even more the deceptive attributes of my fallen nature and its treasonous tendencies that will always lead me into disharmony with God and with those around me. I often feel like I am escaping its control over me but then come to find that it is just operating more out of sight but still all too effectively. I still feel like I am only glimpsing the tip of a giant ice burg, but I thank God that He is at least letting me see that much so that I can beg for mercy and deliverance and seek for help.

I want to cooperate with the Spirit's promptings in this area. I want to grow up and mature and move beyond the obstacles that blocked my Dad's growth for too many years. I deliberately choose to accept and acknowledge what God is showing me about myself and ask for His continued healing. I realize that I need much more help from others, even though I resent being helped by people I sometimes consider more messed up than I am. (Now isn't that a real revelation of a bit of pride.) Coming on the heels of a fresh mining experience through the chapter of Romans 13 I think I have been prepped for an even deeper work that God intends to accomplish in me.

Father, all I can do is to thank You for Your coordination of circumstances and reminders of my imperfections. I confess that I am all too much naturally like my ancestors who seemed to consistently indulge in roots of bitterness and fault-finding that has poisoned far too many people and infected several generations. I do far too much of this myself and I want complete deliverance and healing from this terrible, pervasive disease of the heart and mind. I plead for Your repair and restoration plans to take place in my heart right now. I choose to listen and respond to and agree with Your convictions and I ask for Your sweet Spirit to shine Your brilliance into my soul and expose all the evil and ugliness that still lurks inside. Cleanse me from all of it and fill my life to overflowing with the perfection of Your unselfishness, compassion, humility and genuine goodness.

Father, deliver me from the subtle habits of insinuation, of planting doubt in other hearts and manipulating opinions to make me look better than others. I can sometimes see that I do this on a regular basis and I desperately plead with You to heal me of this fault. It is so deep-rooted that there is no hope of my deliverance without Your strong intervention. Do whatever it takes to transform me into the likeness of Your Son. Glorify Your reputation in my life.