Random Blog Clay Feet: 2008-08
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Friday, August 29, 2008

The Empty Fuel Tank

I had another dream last night that woke me up some time after 3 AM. But when I woke up another situation immediately took over my thoughts and after awhile I realized that I should just get up and process it with God, for I was unlikely to get any more sleep unless I ignored the invitation and then lost this opportunity.

The details of the dream seemed less important than the use of it to activate certain parts of my emotions that needed to be addressed in the current situation. I am finding myself increasingly in tension with someone I work with and I have been wondering why for the past several days. It is slowly becoming more clear – though not nearly as much as I want – that likely most of the problem is with me. But the complicating factor is that it is hidden almost entirely behind a blind spot in my life.

I think that I have been making jokes at someone else's expense thinking that it is completely in harmless humor. But I am being convicted that this may not be the case at all from the other person's perspective. I, in fact, may be in the process of tearing down the “joy bonds” that God has been working to build up. My study of Romans 14 is being applied to myself in a very personal and practical way here and I want to allow it to have its intended effect on my character and personality.

So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God.... (Romans 14:19-20)

As I think back I slowly begin to realize that many of the things I have been saying lately are not up-building or encouraging for him. My intentions may have been innocent enough, at least I think so from my limited or blind spot perspective, but the potential effects of my words have been more along the line of tearing down the work of God in his heart.

As I prayed about this and dialogged with God about it for some time this morning, several things came to my attention. Some of the principles that I have been learning recently began to fit into place with each other quite effectively. Those who have been educated from some of the same sources that I have been exposing myself to over recent years will recognize some of the context from which I am coming.

I am having a great struggle learning how to act like myself because I don't know very well at all what that looks like. My problem lies partly in that my perception of my identity is based far too much on my past behaviors and mistakes instead of on what God reveals about my true identity. I feel like I need to be able to visualize in my mind what it would look like for me to act differently so that I could then actually begin to act it out in reality. But when I find it difficult to even visualize myself acting differently than what I do then I know I have a very serious identity problem.

What does it mean to act like myself? What I am referring to here is based on the presumption that acting like myself is referring to my real self that God designed me to be, not the false, selfish self that has been fabricated by the many false gods that continually hang around and assault me with lies about my identity. This group of false gods has been with me most all of my life and are so familiar that they often convince me that they are really me. But no matter how much my past is reflective of their attitudes and ways of relating and doing things, they will always be false and will never change their minds or their ways. I must find my true identity in the Source which designed me in the first place.

Another aspect of learning to act like myself is that I learned how to do this by imitating my parents or others who mentored me. So if I am to learn how to act like myself and like the “us” that is my true family, I have to have a much clearer perception of what my true Father acts like so that I can imitate it more readily. And this has to happen in the right-brain part of me, the heart level or it will never really be effective in changing and transforming me from the inside out.

Another insight was given to me as I thought about these things. I noticed that even when I did catch glimpses in my imagination of what it might be like me to do to resolve my tension with my fellow worker, that I lacked the motivation to actually want to follow through with acting that way. I realized that just knowing how to act properly or what love might look like, which is difficult enough in itself, was not sufficient to actually get me to go ahead and carry it out. I asked God what I was lacking to motivate me to take action on any insights that He might give me as to how to act like myself.

I then sensed that very important thing that is lacking is passion – the kind of passion that pulses from the very heart of God and is the source for all life and energy throughout the entire universe. If I try to have love without passion then it is like having a wonderful, shiny new sports car without access to any fuel with which to fill it. I can sit in it and image myself screaming around corners and feeling the exhilaration of a thrilling joy ride, but without the fuel of passion I am just living in a dream world.

But I have been carefully trained all of my life to be afraid of passion. Passion was always considered something very dangerous and out of control. It was something that could never be trusted as so must always be suppressed, ignored or locked up in the deep recesses of a prison within. But God did not design us to just sit in a broken vehicle and imagine ourselves getting somewhere. He designed our brains and our souls to actually thrive and grow and mature in vital connection with the resource of His passion. For without passion we have nothing but a cheap imitation of real life.

So much of my problem is that fear is preventing me from living life with the passion that God implanted into me early on. My passion was perverted, mislabeled, condemned and suppressed. It was done so effectively that most of it I can no longer even find inside of me. I feel that much of the life or passion for life has eluded me and I am just doing little more than putting in time. But God is telling me that He has very different plans for me. And that somehow includes a re-infusion of true passion that will empower me to carry out the things He is telling me are necessary for healing and reconciliation with those around me.

Right now I feel like a have a love/fear relationship with passion. It is something I crave deeply and yet fear intently. In my damaged heart passion is inextricably linked with fear, shame and guilt as well as pleasure, satisfaction and desire. At times it almost feels like having the brakes and the accelerator on at the same time. That is a recipe for a lot of internal tension that affects all of my relationships.

So what I need is vision to know what it looks like to act like myself and passion to be empowered to fulfill the vision. I have to leave this in God's hands. I am praying for the right spirit and perspective to act on my need to reconcile and confess my faults to my brother without being prevented by my fears or pride. I want to repair our relationship and live in such a way that I am building him up instead of tearing down the work of God in his life and in mine. Right now I don't know just what that looks like, but I want to seek God's face more intensely so that I can see how to act like myself more consistently.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Three Dream Warnings

I had last night three series of dreams that at the present are somewhat baffling as well as disturbing. As soon as I sat down to write this after getting up this morning I got a call from my sister and before we hung up we discussed the possible reason for these dreams. She feels that this is a series of warnings to me to prepare me for whatever might be coming ahead.

The dreams seemed to fall into three distinct categories. The first had to do with immorality of a very intense nature. The second had to do with explicit violence at a very diabolic, evil level and the third involved spiritualism that connected with my emotions in a very surprising way.

The first dream that deeply disturbed me and that I have no desire to describe in detail had to do with explicit acts of moral abuse carried on by religious leaders of some sort. I was observing activity going on in front of me that was both reprehensible and at the same time strangely fascinating. It was evil of a nature that makes one's imagination want to feed on it in a spirit of judging similar to when people hear about sexual abuse by clergy. It is so easy to allow the imagination to begin to fabricate what might have happened and it simply begins to feed on itself in a sort of self-righteous indignation environment.

By the time I awoke enough to begin to come to my senses, quite literally, I realized that this was not just another dream because my imagination simply does not try to dwell on such things as I was observing in my dream. I then realized that this was more likely an assault from outside of me being artificially implanted into my mind by demonic instigation and I needed to turn to God for deliverance. As I cried out to God in my mind repeatedly, even forming the words with my mouth to externalize some of my prayers I began to get relief from the oppressive thoughts and feel more peace so I could go back to sleep.

But then I began to dream about a different kind of revolting evil, much more violent in nature. Part of it included visualizations of actual events that I had heard on the news a number of years ago where people were thrown out of military aircraft at night over the ocean because they were opposed to their government. As my mind recreated these scenes with again a fascination of horror, I realized once again that I was under assault and I had to pray my way out of this second round of dreams.

But then came another dream that completely caught me by surprise. I didn't recognize the setting from anything that I know about but it was some sort of farm located on a hillside with various buildings around. For some reason in the dream I knew as part of the dream that one of my sisters had recently died, though it is not actually true in real life. But in my dream this sister suddenly showed up to visit me and acted her usual self like nothing was amiss.

I was a little surprised and disconcerted but didn't do anything about it for awhile from simple politeness. But then our daughter's dog who in fact did die a few days ago in real life also showed up in the dream and was likewise acting like his usual self, jumping around with excitement to see me and wanting to jump up and sit on my lap.

At this point in the dream I needed to walk over to another building where other people were sitting around in a room if I remember right. At any rate, as I walked that direction and headed for a set of stairs, I was struggling with what to do about my “dead” sister walking along with me talking about what was going on in her life and family as she always has done and the dog who also had recently died running around wanting to play with me. Both of these I knew for a fact in my dream had already died and yet here they were as solid-looking and feeling as life and I agonized over confronting them to be apparitions as I knew they really were. My conscience told me that I needed to confront them as the demonic counterfeits that I knew them to be in my mind, but my emotions wanted desperately to just leave them alone and enjoy having them around for awhile because I knew that I would miss them and feel much more sad otherwise.

The internal struggle continued and intensified as I walked to the other building and started up the stairs. As I did so I heard someone nearby audibly tell me, “You know what you need to do, don't you?”

Yes, I knew what I was supposed to do, but my emotions were being drawn intensely in the opposite direction and were urging me to just wait a little longer so I could enjoy their company for awhile before I did what I was supposed to do. But then I also began to realize that this was really a trap designed to take advantage of my softer emotions and if I allowed the situation to continue I would quickly lose my ability to escape the control of the demonic spell. After that I would find myself enslaved in a satanic trap that would be far more difficult to escape.

At last I turned to my sister as tried to tell her apparition to leave saying, “In the name of Cr-cr-cr-cr--” But I struggled to even say the word. I realized by this time that the intensity of this temptation was far greater than I had estimated and that it was vital that I follow through on what was on my conscience. Finally I was able to say to her, “In the name of Christ Jesus I command you to leave.”

But the response was not as dramatic as the many stories I have heard growing up, partly because the demons probably knew they were still able to play on my sympathies and that I had a divided heart. So instead of disappearing into thin air as I had hoped, my “sister” began to act very hurt like I had just rejected her like so many other people have done all of her life. She slowly turned away in sorrow and began to walk in the other direction with me following her wondering what would happen next and trying to force myself to repeat the words again against all the desires of my emotions.

As she left, I turned to go up the stairs and the dog was still running and jumping around me and wanting to play and be close to me. I found this even harder to deal with, maybe because my mind knew that he really was dead in real life outside the dream. At any rate, as I tried to bring myself to confront this demonic apparition I collapsed on the stairs writhing in emotional pain and agony, crying and groaning with an intensity that I have not felt in a long time. At this point the enormity of the emotions woke me up again and I had to begin praying my way out of yet another dream while wondering what all of this was about.

I still don't know what it is all about, but like my sister told me this morning, it may possibly be a warning given to me by God in His mercy to prepare me for something coming ahead that no one knows about yet but Him. I pray that if this is true that I will have internalized the lessons needed from this warning so that I will be prepared for whatever it is that is coming.

I do sense that it is increasingly important to pay attention to the material that is allowed to feed my imagination and thoughts. Just listening to news broadcasts often implants images and thoughts and reactions that feed into these areas of evil unnecessarily all too often. I feel that God is calling out a people who will become more and more separated from the way the world thinks and operates and considers harmless and normal. I am particularly pricked by the high standard that I recently found in Isaiah 33:15 describing those who alone are fit to survive and thrive in the fiery presence of the Almighty. Maybe this is another wake-up call for my heart to more closely align with the ways and will of God in the kind of person I am becoming from the things I allow my mind and imagination to dwell on.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Intense Emptiness

Last night I had a series of some of the strangest dreams that I can remember. Of course, I can't remember but bits of most of them and they were so illogical that my logical mind simply can't relate to them enough to keep them in memory on that side of my brain. But I do remember at least one small piece of the end of one dream, not because of what happened, because I can't even remember the context, but because of the most intense emotion that I experienced for a few moments. It was so intense that I could not stay asleep until after I had been awake and lost the intensity and fell back asleep into a different dream.

As I said, I can't remember the reason or the context of the dream except that I sensed that it was an emotion of very intense – well, its even hard to describe an emotion with words – intense, maybe repentance, sorrow for my sinful condition, sadness for the condition of those around me, something along that line. At the same time I felt that I was very close to the presence of God while experiencing this intense emotion and felt something along the line of deep satisfaction at the same time. Actually, after I woke up from this most intense sensation I experienced something of an excitement that I had even dreamed such an emotion at all. I was actually almost relieved that I am still capable of having that emotion at that intensity. It was almost like I had a growing fear inside of me that my capacity for even experiencing certain emotions has nearly slipped away.

After waking up in the morning I thought about this some more and realized what most likely had caused it to happen. Since the main function of dreams is to file away the important events and emotions from the previous day into long-term memory, dreams often contain a strange mixture of whatever happened the previous day plus a large dose of whatever happens to leak out of the “file drawers” of the mind when they are opened to place within them the new additions to memory. As various sections of the mind are accessed to store away new memories, old events and emotions are reignited a little bit and mingle in with the new information to put them all together into the various emotional categories by which the brain indexes memories.

It has been observed by some researchers that our memories are usually filed and indexed according to emotional similarities, not by logical categories like we do in our intellectual world. That is why our brain is triggered by situations that subconsciously remind us of early intense experiences of a somewhat similar emotion. That early experience may not even look at all like the current situation we find ourselves in, but the emotion-index is not linked to logic but to the similarities in emotional content. And if any of those early events that are used to index all the rest of the file drawer are not resolved or contain deep-seated false assumptions or lies, they will act like a violent trigger to cause intense emotional reactions whenever they are touched by new but similar-feeling emotional stimulations.

Some of the recent developments in Christian ministry utilizes these principles of the mind in correlation with prayer and the presence of the Holy Spirit to bring resolution to those early problematic memories. This has resulted in bringing wonderful closure to not only the early memories but to all the ones linked to it throughout the rest of the life. This has been a great source of hope and excitement for many people as they have found incredible and almost unbelievable freedom from triggers that have enslaved and haunted them for many, many years. But what I believe is really happening is that we are finally learning enough about how God designed our brains to begin cooperating with God in its healing in more effective ways. Funny how when we learn to synchronize with true reality that things suddenly work so much more effectively.

Well, all that is simply background explanation for what I am trying to say about this intense emotion I experienced in my dream last night. As I thought about this while getting out of bed this morning it occurred to me that in a way I have almost become the person that I determined many years ago I did not want to become. Let me explain.

When I was in boarding school at around age 16 or 17 I remember coming to the realization that I was facing a major life decision about the kind of person I was going to become emotionally. I realized then that over a period of time I had become very hardened in my heart, in the emotional part of me, calloused to the point that I could no longer even feel awe or appreciation for a beautiful sunset or a colorful flower. Upon reflection I sensed that it was because I was quickly building emotional walls around my heart to keep me from being hurt by other people who had damaged or abused my heart, either intentionally or unintentionally. Nevertheless, because of my attempts to protect myself from further emotional pain I had begun to close myself away from access to others and was creating thick callouses around my inner self.

What alarmed me was that in doing so I also was sealing off my very ability to feel anything at all at a deep level. My emotions were trapped inside in order to prevent others from knowing about them and I was becoming a prisoner in my own cell that was originally designed to keep others out. I increasingly sensed that I had a choice to make about this situation that could potentially effect the course of the rest of my life.

I can remember lying on the grass with my fingers digging into the ground struggling with this decision trying to figure out what to do. A principle of reality emerged very clearly into my thinking that I still believe yet today. This maxim of truth says that a person can only experience, receive and appreciate love and related positive emotions to the same proportionate extent that the person is willing to make themselves vulnerable and open to being hurt or taken advantage of by others. Conversely, to the degree that I try to protect myself from being hurt inside I will also lose my ability to feel and connect with others at the heart level.

I clearly remember yet today that I made a very difficult choice at that time that I wanted to take the high road and to make myself more vulnerable so that I could also begin to enjoy life more. I think that was a very wise decision, but the problem is that over the many years since then I have had great difficulty knowing how to actually live out that choice. In spite of my good intentions I have repeatedly discovered myself back in my prison hiding in fear of pain and withdrawing from the withering emotional blows inflicted on me or even simple neglect by people who had access to my heart.

The result at this point in my life is that I have become a mixture of the results of decisions in both directions which does not make me feel very fulfilled or satisfied at the heart level. I feel like there have been times in my life when I made strong attempts to break out of my cell and have made some progress in that direction. However, overall I still feel very isolated at the heart level and feel very little emotional bonds with anyone which actually makes me a sitting target for the forces of evil if they were allowed more access to me. But I thank God that He has protected me thus far from those opportunities for Satan and God is still in charge of my healing process to prepare me emotionally for those assaults when they arrive.

Maybe it is extremely foolish to even disclose these things in public. I am sure many would insist that is true and maybe they are right, I don't know right now. What I do know is that when I got up this morning I had a deep sense that my emotional connectedness with others and my ability to feel emotions along with other people, particularly in their presence, is extremely limited and handicapped. I am very dissatisfied with the condition I find myself in which is revealed by my sense of relief last night that I can even feel the intense emotion that I did in my dream.

Upon reflection I remembered what happened yesterday that my brain was likely filing away that produced this strong sensation in the night. I was sharing with a friend about a book I had read years ago written by the man who played Jesus in the Matthew videos. It is called In the Footsteps of Jesus and the man's name was Bruce Marchiano whom I was privileged to meet in person later. I was describing to my friend how Bruce had spent days, maybe weeks pleading with God to give him a glimpse into the emotional mind of Jesus, to allow him to catch a perspective of how Jesus viewed reality and felt about the people around him. He wanted this experience and perspective so that he could more accurately portray the truth about Jesus as he acted out the various scenes from His life from the gospel of Matthew.

God answered his prayers at different times throughout the filming of this movie in ways that left Bruce permanently changed for the rest of his life. I as related these stories to my friend I suddenly found myself tearing up with emotion myself and realized that the ability to feel the passion of God like Bruce longed to do is also one of the deepest desires of my own inner being. All of my life I have longed to be a passionate person in a positive way, to be able to be expressive and intense and connected with others and still to be able to return to a “normal” emotional state of peace without feeling stuck in any particular difficult emotion.

As I have been listening again to the Joy Bonds series by Jim Wilder over the past few days I have been reminded of how out of sync I am with God's desires for my life that He implanted deep within me from before I was even born. My dissatisfaction with my present condition seems to be growing and I long more intensely to be a person that I currently am not. I have for many years felt secretly jealous of those who were able to be expressive seemingly without inhibitions. Some of those have used that ability to really mess up their lives and I certainly do not wish to imitate their example in that direction. But, as I was telling my friend yesterday, I have met a small handful of people over my life that I immediately sensed were living their life deeply from their heart. They seemed to have a very open, vital connectedness with God's heart, they seemed to live with transparency that felt compelling and their presence felt like a powerful magnet in contrast to my sense of emptiness. I felt a great urge each time I met someone like this to rush up to them and beg them to give me whatever it was they had if that was possible.

I firmly believe that this is the proper way to “conduct” evangelism as God originally intended it to happen. Evangelism today has evolved into something completely different that I don't even want to discuss right now. But whenever people get around someone who is real, who reflects from an open heart the intensity of God's passion reflected through their life, their body language, their spirit and their very atmosphere, the attractiveness of God becomes so much more clear and the Spirit of God seems to be able to draw people to Jesus in ways that most evangelists only dream of accomplishing. The real question is, how do I get there from here?

I have no clue as to the answer to that question except to intensify my pursuit of God even more. But I am convinced that God is the originator of that desire in my heart and He also has the answer for it. I likely won't be able to figure out the answer myself, but if I keep focused on pursuing His heart, of seeking His face as He has invited me to do, that somehow, someday I will experience what my heart was designed to experience I sense that this is the only thing that can really make me feel truly alive and that can make my heart thrive. Last night was just a momentary taste of what I want my whole life to be like. I want to be consumed with the passion of God's heart and be swallowed up in His obsession for drawing everyone possible into the powerful current of His most intense love.

Right now I can only dimly sense the outlines of a little bit of this. But I ask Him to come into my life in a much more intentional and direct way and transform me into the kind of man He designed for me to become. I am tired of living life without passion. I know I have a lot of healing to take place to make me safer to live in that kind of intensity, but I want to progress faster than I have in the past. I leave it in God's hands to lead me into that path when He knows I am ready. And in the meantime I have to trust His heart and His timing to get me ready for the exciting life that I know He has planned for me. I have missed far too much of it already and I am impatient to move ahead closer to the real source of safe passion, of real love, of emotional fulfillment and of deep, open connectedness within the true body of Christ.

Jesus, please do Your thing in my life as soon as possible. Thank-you for promising to always be with me for that is the joy that is my strength. I trust You to accomplish Your longterm plan in my life. Teach me how to cooperate better with You. Make me a flaming torch of Your passion to attract others who are starving for real life and satisfaction to come to You for healing and wholeness. Fill me with Your Spirit and have Your way in my life today and for the rest of my life, for Your name's sake, for Your reputation's sake.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cults and Leadership

I spent some time on the internet this morning researching some things about cults and specifically about one that I know about. I looked at a number of links from a very large collection put together by a self-proclaimed cult-exposer and even talked with him on the phone for a few minutes. As I browsed through the hundreds of names listed on his site I was surprised by the number of entries that he had listed – things like MLM groups and even ministries that I have heard nothing but good things about previously.

As I looked around on his and some related sites I was also surprised and even baffled for a few minutes by the proud display on the margin of one of them of an award for being so negative. I wondered that we have come to the point where we can be proud of our negativity. What does that tell others about us? And I also wondered just how much of this kind of atmosphere is reflected in many of the things that I say and write. I am aware that this is one of my great weaknesses and I am praying for grace and awareness to weed out more and more of my penchant for dwelling on the negative.

I thought about this more as I began to realize that I did not notice anything on these people's web pages that promoted anything positive or uplifting. It seemed only to be a collection of everything they could find wrong with everyone possible along the lines of their favorite soapbox subject. And while I realize that this was the reason for this particular web page I also sensed that focusing on all the bad things about others tends to reproduce those very same attributes in our own lives. I also noticed that “hard edge” in some of the comments and strong opinions that this person shared with me in our conversation on the phone. It was pretty clear to me that he had very little interest in hearing anything from me that might disagree with his opinions about the people he wrote about.

One thing that bothered me in his comments was his insistence that certain people were just intrinsically bad and, as he put it, were just wired to be evil. I cannot share that sentiment about anyone no matter how reprehensible their life and actions may have become. People are born with the image of God still to some degree intact in their hearts and most of the evil that they engage in throughout their life comes as a result of the evils committed against them in their early upbringing along with the progressive maturing of evil resulting from many of their own choices in life. Just as people can mature and grow as Christians, so too people mature and worsen in evil the longer they indulge in selfish desires and exploit others for their own pleasure.

One of the articles that I came across from this web site really resonated with me. It was written by an alumnus of Bob Jones University but could just as easily apply to any number of institutions or organizations that carry out similar practices and methods. It was very well written and I found it very sobering – a real wakeup call to return to the authentic teachings and example of the real Jesus instead of the polished, self-serving version of Jesus so popular in religion today.

One of the verses that he quoted in his post reminded me of what I have been learning in my study of Romans 14 over the past few weeks. As I thought it about it more I decided to look up this passage and review the context and message God may have for me there. I find that it is very rich with meaning and relevance to what God has been teaching me in Romans.

Matthew 20:25-28, Mark 10:42-45 and Luke 22:25-27 are all parallel passages that have a very important message to me about relationships and attitudes particularly in the body of Christ. They talk about the way that the world achieves order through control, force, intimidation and domination. This is the common method used in all relationships throughout the kingdom of Satan and the governments of men. But Jesus states unequivocally that in His kingdom this is not to be the way things happen. We must have the exact opposite attitude towards each other and to be great we must be the most devoted in service to others.

The bottom line problem that I have observed in all the dysfunction seen in religious groups whether they be cults or mainline churches is this penchant for domination and control by the leaders. It is a fierce temptation that seems to take down many aspiring leaders that try to start up a new movement of genuine Christ-followers. And the more they use intimidation and control of others to manage their image and produce good appearances for their organization, the more the reputation of God is blasphemed and the hearts of millions of followers are wounded.

In Romans 14 I am learning that the real problem behind judging and viewing others with contempt occurs when I fail to stay true to this command of Jesus to watch the condition of my spirit. And it is not so much a command by Jesus but really more of a description of what those will look like who accept His transformational work in their hearts and lives. Instead of working very hard to produce similar results to that described in the early church of Acts, if we allow the spirit of humility and love to permeate our hearts and emotions we will see a spontaneous outbreak of true primitive godliness in its natural form.

Something very important about this has come to me recently in my study of Romans 14. I noticed that the problem arises when we begin acting like a lord in someone else's life instead of treating them respectfully and with love like a good sibling. As soon as we begin to lord it over someone with judgment and contempt we run counter to this clear teaching of Jesus to achieve greatness through humility and service to one another. This is the core problem that I believe derails every cult gone awry and is the problem underlying the weakness of all Christian churches today to really be effective in changing the world around them.

And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' "But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. (Luke 22:25-26)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Learning to Learn

How do I learn? I mean, really learn, not just with my head, though that is an important aspect of it, but learn in a balanced, effective, thorough way so that it becomes a fully integrated part of my very being, my real, gut-level beliefs, my core identity? What are the attitudes and choices that might help me to learn more easily? What are the things that inhibit or block me from learning?

One problem I have in knowing the answers to these questions is my lack of learning already. For what I already know about this subject, like any other subject, I have already learned, at least to some extent. So I have to take what I have already learned about learning and trust that it is correct or at least useful enough to practice so that I can learn more. But if the skills or methods that I am currently using to learn are faulty or misleading or too restrictive, then the very means by which I am attempting to learn become the inhibitors that keep me from learning. That's a little scary.

Since I can only speak from my own experience and what I already think I know, I may not have the best answers at this time for these questions. But I have been sensing through my previous experience that it is better to ask questions and not insist on immediate answers if one wants to learn more effectively. Sometimes answers do appear rather quickly and are very useful and helpful. But other answers are blocked from coming to me or may be cut short if I have the habit of wanting a full or conclusive answer immediately. Unfortunately this is the model that I have seen in far too many teaching situations, whether in church or in school.

I remember years ago someone explaining to me how a highly effective teacher usually operates in relationship to their students. They told me that a really good teacher does not often give their students answers but instead induces a deep hunger and curiosity in their minds to know things they don't presently understand. Then the teacher provides the resources and opportunities for the students to themselves delve into the information provided or even seek out more resources to satisfy that deep hunger that the teacher has helped induce in their hearts. So according to this example, the greater the curiosity the more likely real learning is going to take place.

But one of the most important ingredients needed for that scenario to happen I believe, is that the relationship between the teacher and the student be a positive one of trust and admiration. The student's emotions must be activated to some extent and they need to have some level of admiration, respect and even awe for their teacher. They need to see their teacher as someone they would aspire to become like and be attracted to their inner qualities as well as their knowledge. There must be some sort of magnetic pull in the life of the teacher before the information he/she wants to instill in them becomes something they hunger for deeply.

If a hunger is always immediately satisfied, then it never has a chance to intensify. (That is also a symptom of addictions) And if a person is never very hungry they will never have that much deeper appreciation of things that really satisfy like those who have experienced deep hunger know about. A person who has endured very intense experiences of deprivation in any area of life and then received what they were craving and have known the immense relief and happiness and fulfillment that satisfaction can bring is a much bigger person inside as a result of that experience. They have greater emotional capacity which is important for growth in maturity. They are also much more qualified to be an effective teacher than those who have simply had their head filled with lots of facts but have never experienced the intensity of need to highlight the importance of those facts in their own experience.

But is it necessary that all answers need to be waited for and must be delayed in order to be more deeply appreciated? I don't know the answer to that question either. But I do know from my experience that it seems to be necessary to have at least a certain level of both skepticism and patience in order to avoid easy, glib and generally misleading answers to very difficult questions. Patience is always a very important virtue to have in most situations, but skepticism is something that must be handled very carefully or it can become more of a liability instead of an asset for us.

It seems that a certain level of skepticism is necessary to avoid falling into the trap of simplistic answers, of accepting the first thing that comes along claiming to be truth, of avoiding heavy use of the brain without the heart to uncover deeper truth or relying on others to spoon-feed us mentally and emotionally. There is far too much dependence on others these days and far too little real thinking and searching going on that produces real answers to real problems. It is not just mindless people flocking to popular religion that have this symptom. There are millions of “unbelievers” who tend to scoff and sneer at religious people and jeer at their hypocrisy and mindless solutions. But these very same people have their own forms of mindless thinking and reflective reactions and tend to follow their own leaders and depend on others to do their hard thinking for them instead of being open to sensing truth from an outside source in their spirit.

I firmly believe that truth is not something we are capable of knowing by simply trying to uncover it. I realize that this is the foundational presumption of the scientific method that is the most pervasive religion of our world today. And while it is certainly true that we may be able to discover many facts through research and observation, the scientific model carefully excludes some of the most important elements necessary to experiencing true life and a wholeness-based existence in proper relationship with all of our surroundings.

The root issue in this aspect is whether reality can be determined by the sum of our own discoveries and conclusions or whether real truth can only be received from an outside provider of truth that is the only source of it. This is where science-addicts and unbelievers begin to roll their eyes in scorn and turn away from the conversation to return to their favorite toys of self-based religion. For all religion or philosophy that is not a revelation from the only Source of truth and reality is false religion of self-worship and self-dependence. There is no third option in this case. We either trust in ourselves and our own abilities to provide us with knowledge and a true perspective of reality, or we must trust in God and believe that we cannot really know reality and truth without His self-revelation and provisions for us. And even when we claim to be listening to God as our source of truth, our deceitful minds may still be depending on self and the world around us while believing that we are following God. But the god we are following is most often a god that we have created in our image instead of the other way around.

But I still want to explore a little more these questions about how I learn effectively. I want to flush out more clearly into the open some of the things I am learning myself about the process of learning. Maybe it is because the way I have learned is changing so much in the past few years. And since it feels like it is much easier to learn and grow and mature and perceive more clearly than it was for me for the first forty plus years of my life, I would like to know what the difference is and how to amplify what works and minimize what inhibits so I can grow even more.

One thing I am noticing is that I feel more need to lay aside my own opinions, beliefs and pre-conceived ideas and open my mind to the Spirit of God in my own spirit and literally pause at times to see what might come to my mind that was not already there. It is not that what I already think is necessarily wrong. The problem lies in that, if I am unwilling to challenge, reexamine or temporarily lay aside my own opinions there is not enough room for my mind to consider something I am unfamiliar with up to this point.

One thing that is very necessary for me to be able to do this is a safe-feeling environment. If I am feeling coerced by someone to comply with their demands or conform to their opinions, then I simply do not have the desire to feel open and receptive. That is a very important point that I also need to apply to my own treatment of others. I need to be much more sensitive to how I come across when sharing what I believe and not cause others to feel threatened or intimidated into thinking that I am trying to force them to agree with me without their own time of quiet reflection on the things I am presenting to them. I need to respect not only where they are currently but also their personal accountability to God as their primary source of truth. I need to respect their right to take what I am saying with a grain of salt until they have had time to check it out themselves in their own heart on their own schedule and listen to what the Spirit wants to convict them of without my interference.

One of the things I am seeing in my study of Romans 14 is the importance of maintaining proper relationships with the proper partners in those relationships. Paul talks about the problems that arise when a person within the body of Christ tries to take God's place in another person's experience and in essence tries to be their Lord. That is really what judging and condemning is all about. When I judge someone else and view them with contempt as described in this chapter, I am in essence trying to set myself above them and insist that my opinions are better than theirs and they need to conform to mine or they are wrong.

But this passage reminds me bluntly that these people are my brothers and sisters and I am not their Lord. Furthermore, as one of the children myself, I am going to have to give an account of myself and my treatment of my siblings to my Parents in heaven in the day of Judgment and I had better keep that in mind now so it can temper the way I treat those around me. I don't want to have to try to explain to the only real Judge why I was trying to take His place in someone else's life and mess around with things in their heart that only He has the right to work with. That is too much like spiritual adultery, meddling with the intimacy that belongs to God, and God does not take kindly to that kind of treatment of His kids.

So part of the reason why I want to know the real methods of learning that are truly effective is so that I can also help others to learn without meddling in areas of their life that belongs only to God and them. As I better understand how God is working to grow me in grace and maturity and knowledge of Him, then I can better know how to relate to others and what to avoid so as not to cause damage instead of joy.

I have noticed, particularly in my private devotional times of meditation, but also more and more during my waking hours in spontaneous conversation with God, that if I lay out a question that comes up in my mind or heart and leave it with God trusting that He will bring me something in response, that very often if not always, I will encounter something or almost “hear” something in my head or heart that addresses this question in very surprising and satisfying ways. Sometimes it may come as an impression while I wait in expectant silence in His presence. Sometimes it will come in something I am reading or listening to. There have even been times when an answer came unexpectedly on a billboard along the road or in the words of something totally unrelated.

There are also many times when it seems that God takes things of science and nature and daily events and shapes them into profound nuggets of wisdom like parables that have deep subtle meanings very useful for life application in another arena. What I have noticed is that the more consistently I fill my head with things of the kingdom of heaven instead of the entertainment and music and thoughts all around me in the atmosphere of worldliness, that these insights come more frequently and more easily. It really does make simple sense but seems so easy to miss. The outcome of my mental activity is reflective of the ingredients that are available for its use. And my mental activity and choices about input greatly determine the atmosphere that inhibits or encourages my ability to hear the messages of the Spirit offering true wisdom, knowledge and revelations of reality.

To effectively learn in a balanced way, which means learning and growing both with the mind and in the heart, I need to pay attention to how much I am synchronized with the means and ways that God has provided for this purpose. The atmosphere that results from my choices that surrounds my mind and heart will act either as a receptive catalyst in which I can perceive the messages from God or will act as a filter that blocks those messages and impressions so that I do not notice them. This atmosphere is largely determined by my own choices in the little things, not so much in my professed desires for spirituality or holiness.

Father, give me the spirit of a learner today. Mentor me as a disciple and help me to more clearly focus on Your face, Your actions, Your attitudes and Your Spirit. Cleanse me of pride, of arrogance, of resistance, of blocking assumptions and lie-based beliefs that prevent me from hearing You more clearly. Teach me patience, joy and the art of resting in Your love as I receive Your wisdom.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Another Sad Passing

Last weekend while getting ready to go to church we heard a commotion outside. We had just let all of our cats out to enjoy the nice weather and wondered what was going on. Soon my wife began screaming for me to come and help and when I ran outside I saw the neighbor's wolf-dog running around in our yard.

Usually he is kept tied up at all times just outside our neighbor's door and so it was quite a surprise to see her running around in our yard. I chased her off back to her own territory and we then began to look around for our very frightened cats. Our neighbor had told us that this dog is definitely a cat-killer and so we were worried about what might have happened to any of our cats in all the commotion.

Soon my wife found Mitsy, the youngest of our cats, hiding underneath a parked car in the yard and injured. Mitsy has been a very long time even getting up the courage to go outside with the rest of the cats but had been doing better lately. When my wife brought her in we found teeth holes around her back end and she was leaking, scared and hurting badly.

We cleaned her up as best we could and let her rest until we could get her to the vet later on. The vet sent her back home with some medication and seemed to indicate that they didn't see anything real serious. However, some time after I left for work on Monday morning she died while no one was at home and my wife found her upon returning later that afternoon. She was very upset about this and we both felt very frustrated with the way it was all handled by the vets office. We are both very sad that yet another one of our feline family has passed away in such a short time.

Mitsy has had a very colorful though short history with our family. My wife and daughter found her about two years ago nearby our home very frightened in a ditch by the road. They stopped and picked her up and for the next several weeks she was nearly unseen around the house. She was very frightened of people, particularly men for some reason. But after awhile she began to learn a little bit of trust with my wife and later my daughter took her up to Michigan to live with her for awhile.

During that time I was staying with my daughter there in Michigan while doing some work locally there, so I had time to spend getting to know Mitsy better. She turned out to be quite a little spitfire at times and rather unpredictable. Because she was often left alone all day in the house, when we returned home she would sometimes suddenly bite my daughter's ankles unexpectedly while she was walking around in the kitchen. Other times she might get on our lap and act like she wanted to cuddle up but we never knew when she might suddenly bite us and then flee before we could react. My daughter became convinced that she was simply psychotic though I continued to insist that she just needed a lot more discipline and careful attention.

After my daughter moved into an apartment where she was not allowed to have pets, we ended up bringing her back home and merging her into the family of felines that we already had here. She quickly asserted herself and tried to get the attention of the other cats, but the only one patient and mature enough to put up with her pestering was our fairly new cat Sir William. Over time they grew to appreciate each other and Mitsy would rush up to greet him when he had been outside for some time. She would sometimes jump on him or bat him about the head and generally try to play for awhile which he usually did not mind too much.

Over the past year I have seen Mitsy's behavior dramatically improve. Over the past few months she had quit her nasty little habit of hit and run biting escapades and often wanted to sit in my lap while I had my devotional time in the morning. She was starting to really settle down and take a healthy place in our cat society here when this tragic event brought her life to a very sad end quite suddenly. We took her body back to the vet for an autopsy which revealed that she had suffered a punctured bladder which is what we had suspected all along. There was not much they could have done for her there at that office, but we were still upset that they did not seem to even notice that problem the first time we took her in.

The last few days I have been greeted by our Resurrection plants that put out leaves in the early summer and then die out only to explode with these flowers later in the summer. Right now all over the yard these tall stalks are asserting themselves almost as a defiant testimony against death itself. It reminded me of a song we heard in a concert at a Mennonite church last night where they talked about renaming a graveyard to call it resurrection ground.

As I stepped through the Resurrection plants carrying Mitsy's body to her grave and buried her next to George in our front yard, I thought about what it might be like when Jesus comes to raise all who love Him. I know this might disturb some purists who don't believe in anything that can't be verified by proof texts, but in my own study and contemplation of what God is really like I have become convinced that I will once again be greeted by all of the pets I have lost just as certainly as all the loved ones that I am longing to see again. I believe this primarily because that is just the kind of thing that God would do because of the way He is.

As I walked back up to the driveway through the Resurrection flowers I took some time to enjoy Willy and Serena who were waiting for me there. I never know when something might happen to any of us and I am reminded that it is important to enjoy those we love in the present and resist the tendency to take anyone for granted. That applies to people and it applies to all the other creatures and blessings that God has filled our life with.

There is now another empty place in our hearts that leaves us with that intensified sense of something missing. When I open the frig door there is no Mitsy to jump inside and settle down defying me to shut the door on her. When we feed the cats there is no longer a frantic Mitsy underfoot acting like she is about to starve if we don't feed her immediately. When I sit down in my favorite chair there is no Mitsy to jump up and settle down to purr in my lap and keep an eye on what is going on around us.

I hate death. We were never designed to get comfortable with death and I have had too much of it lately. In the last year we have now had one daughter and two cats die and I am not at all willing to just accept it as normal. Our hearts were designed for eternity and that is what I plan to prepare for so that I can someday outlive death itself.

Then Death and the Lord of the Place of Death were hurled into the lake of fire. This is the Second Death--the lake of fire; (Revelation 20:14 TCNT)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

To Sin or Not to Sin

I have had a question residing in the back of my mind that rumbles around frequently seeking resolution. However, it cannot be satisfied with easy, pat answers that tend to be the source of most arguments on the topic but rather I sense that it is something that I deeply desire to really know the truth about. That is partly because at the deepest level it can really be an issue of life or death for me.

The issue is about whether it is possible to stop sinning before Jesus comes. I am well aware of the explosive nature of this subject having been caught up at times in heated debates between people of differing opinions about this. But recently I have found myself in less heated discussions about this with people who tend to believe the opposite of those I usually find myself around and it has caused me to feel my need to revisit this subject much more thoroughly so that I am more settled in my own mind and heart on this issue. I need to feel settled on this, but not, however, for the purpose of winning some argument with an antagonist but because the issue is so central to understanding how to properly relate to salvation and to God Himself.

I am all too aware of the perils of perfectionism and legalism, having grown up very much immersed in those problems. I have spent most of my life trying to become disentangled from the built-in wiring that those beliefs left me with in my reactions to various situations. But I realize that I am also in need of understanding the pitfalls of the opposite extreme while keeping a careful eye on maintaining the right spirit while unraveling all of this. And that is the most important aspect of this whole issue that must always be kept paramount – the condition of my spirit. For if my spirit becomes contentious and argumentative while trying to discover truth, then any truth acquired in the process may become rather meaningless according to the words of Jesus Himself. But even though truth should not trump a right spirit and relationship with Jesus, He desires me to grow in my knowledge of truth while resting in a calm assurance of His love and grace over my life.

The core of the discussion usually revolves around the question of whether a Christian will continue to make mistakes and sin right up to the Second Coming of Jesus or whether it is possible or even safe to believe that a person can be really freed from the control of sin in their lives before that time. What I see as a large part of the problem of even talking about it most of the time is the ambiguity of the real meaning of many of the words used in the discussion. There are so many assumptions built right into the words that we use that it is difficult many times to know what words to choose without being misunderstood. Inherent in the meanings that we assign to words are the reflections of our beliefs about the subjects involved in those words. So when one person uses a word or phrase seemingly familiar to others they may not necessarily be intending or implying the same thing as the assumptions that others will make when hearing those same words or phrases. This is what makes talking about these things so hazardous and contentious many times.

So I find it constantly necessary to provide explicit definitions for the words that I use in order to compile an available compendium with which to understand what I am really trying to convey. Of course, to complicate matters my own understanding of those words is constantly under review and is being updated each day as the Spirit leads me into clearer understandings of truth. That is another reason that it is so important to pay more attention to my spirit than to the accuracy of my knowledge on any given day.

I have felt the need for myself to compile some of these definitions in writing so that these questions can begin to clarify in my own mind and heart. The very fact that this issue continues to stir around inside of me lets me know that it is something I need to face squarely until I find more peace. It also has direct bearing on the condition of my relationship with God, for what I believe about sin and about the process of salvation to free me from sin has a very great deal to do with how I will perceive God's attitude and actions toward me and how I will interpret circumstances that surround me. It will also have a great deal to do with how I perceive the meaning of Scripture as I try to understand its true application to my life and for those around me.

What emerged in my mind very recently was along the problem of defining the word sin. This has been a real problematic issue in discussions on several hot topics and is core to understanding quite a number of related issues. My own beliefs about what constitutes sin has changed quite dramatically over a number of years but still continues to be open to revision as the Spirit tutors me. My recent discussions with friends has caused me to again ponder how this fits into my own questions of just how free we can become from sin without getting pulled into the whirlpool of arguments that this often generates.

The person that I have been discussing with tends to repeatedly go back to the insistent position that we will all make mistakes and will sin as long as we live on this earth. I have been mulling that statement over and over in my mind trying to figure out what is really behind it, trying to uncover the underlying beliefs that drive so many people to cling to this belief so much. One question that I have not asked them yet is, where in the Bible can I find support for this assertion? There is certainly a lot of support for the fact that we have all sinned, but where does it teach that we cannot become free from sin until the end of the world?

There is something about this assertion that conflicts with a number of very clear passages from the New Testament. But again, I don't want to approach this so much as to win an argument but in a way that pursues what is really going on inside and what the deeper beliefs are that cause this belief to show up so often. I want to get below the surface discussions to what is really going on at the heart level that is compelling people to cling so tenaciously to this kind of thinking.

These words often seem to be spoken in a spirit of defensiveness. People who say this often feel under attack from either real or perceived antagonists that they feel are too legalistic. They are usually very afraid that they might be sucked into legalistic thinking themselves and so they seem to be using this mantra as some sort of defense against getting too close to perfectionism. But as I have found a number of times, issues that only appear to have two options are often missing the real point altogether. And this may certainly be one of those issues I believe.

Recently I have decided to follow the assumed logic behind this statement without giving in to the temptation to paint someone in the extreme who thinks differently than I do. So if I were to believe that a person simply cannot stop sinning even though they claim to have Jesus in their heart and be born again, what would that really look like?

One problem that seems to jump out from the very beginning is that if I insist that I cannot quite sinning due to my fallen, human nature, then by logical implication I have to be also arguing that Jesus is not strong enough to accomplish this freedom in my life. I am claiming that the power of sin is greater than the power of God to transform my heart, my attitudes and the way I treat others completely. That seems like a rather hazardous conclusion to me.

Another issue that comes to mind is that sin fundamentally is disloyalty to God. So if I insist that I will not be able to stop sinning until Jesus comes I am also saying that I will continue to have a treasonous heart until that point in my life. On this point I will agree that everyone is handicapped with sinful flesh that is inescapable until we can be delivered on the day of resurrection. But on this point the Bible is very clear that I am to die to myself and my sinful “old man”, even on a daily basis. It is my flesh that stirs up all the desires to sin and rebel against the authority of God in my soul and I need to crucify that part of me every time it tries to assert itself.

But if I maintain the belief that it is impossible for me to stop sinning before Jesus comes, then it seems that I may be giving my flesh a loophole through which it can assert its defiance of Jesus' authority in my life. This kind of thinking seems to not only be very hazardous for my spiritual health but possibly could be a fatal flaw in my theology that could allow my flesh to eventually expel the presence of Jesus from my life altogether. And while this is certainly far from the desire of anyone using this argument, the enormous deceitfulness of sin may be able to utilize this belief as something of a Trojan Horse to deceive me into believing that I can tolerate some level of treason in my heart while still being safe for God to save me in heaven.

I can see where much of our conflict arises because it is still not clear at all what we mean by sin most of the time. If we are talking about behavior and acts of trespass against others or even mistakes, then it is easy to see why a person could have a difficult time believing that we will be “perfect” at some point in this life. But if sin is really much deeper than that, along the line of intentional resistance to the Spirit of God and His convictions in my heart, then it might be very dangerous to teach and promote that it is impossible to be free from sin before Jesus comes. So one of the biggest underlying problems in this discussion is to determine what we really mean by sin.

I have absolutely no desire to get back into the bondage of legalism again or to encourage anyone else to get sucked into that either. But neither do I want to get caught in the trap of subtle deceptions that will betray my heart to the evil one without my even realizing what I am doing. Sin is much more about what is going on at the heart level than it is about bad behavior or mistakes that I make. Those are really along the line of symptoms which will disappear on their own if the root causes are dealt with. At its core, the most accurate and pointed definitions of sin is selfishness and pride.

This is why I sense that we cannot be comfortable with the argument that no one can quit sinning until Jesus comes. For to subscribe to that belief is to leave a door open, no matter how small, for the enemy to enter and operate clandestinely in my heart. I realize that the typical alternatives to legalism and perfectionism are not the right answers to this issue, but that does not make us any more safe. The real solution is total submission to the radical transforming process of the Spirit in our lives to free us from all rebellion and treason against God's authority, all selfishness and all pride.

Real freedom from sin is not something unattainable in this life. It is certainly not something we can accomplish by trying harder or focusing on our own perfection. And it is also true that the very people who are the most free of sin are the least likely to think that about themselves. For the closer one gets to the perfect example of Jesus, the ultimate demonstration of love, compassion, goodness, kindness and justice, the more one will see their own faults, weaknesses and imperfections. This will always lead them to doubt their own perfection and rightly so. But at the same time they must not get sucked into the trap of doubting the ability of God to transform them thoroughly in spite of what they think they see in themselves. They are to trust implicitly in the perfection of Jesus which includes His claim that He will completely save them from the power of sin in their lives.

So the real issue in this discussion appears to be not so much the point of sinning or not sinning itself but the dangerous underlying assumptions that it betrays. Are we willing to believe that God can do in us what appears to us to be impossible? According to the book of Hebrews that is the description of what is labeled faith and is what was demonstrated in Abraham's example. He believed that God could do what was humanly impossible and that belief was accounted to him as righteousness. And Abraham is given to us as one of the best examples of faith because of this.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Warning From Solzhenitsyn

Upon listening to a radio report about the life and death of Alexander Solzhenitsyn yesterday, I heard something that reminded me too much of my own experience. Solzhenitsyn has been admired for many years as being a very bold proponent of exposing uncomfortable truth in the face of fierce opposition, slander and persecution. That is certainly a trait worth emulating and is in very scarce supply in our world today. But the reporter said something in her story that caught me by surprise and served as a warning to me.

She explained about his life in the U.S. after he was expelled from the Soviet Union and how he surprised Americans by being nearly as critical of Western society as he was of the brutal communist system for which he had become famous through his criticism and writings. He denounced the moral decadence of the West and the role of the media among other things. But when he finally returned back to his own country he also lost much of his appeal and influence with his own people because – as the reporter put it – he scolded too much. The younger generation felt annoyed about him dwelling so much on the mistakes of the past. They were not interested in hearing about the dangers of materialism and moral decadence that he harped on so much. They wanted to enjoy those things, not be scolded about them, so they lost respect for this man who, in their minds was just living in the past.

I realized instantly and intensely when I heard this that his problem is also one of my own greatest faults and blind spots. While many of the things that I say or communicate may be true and even very important, when I convey them with a spirit of scolding, that spirit permeates everything I represent with an “edge” that tends to turn people away and discredits the very things that they may indeed need to know about. This is another clear message to me again that the condition of my own spirit is of paramount importance, far more than the accuracy of my message or logic.

Evidently Solzhenitsyn had some of the same problems that I have and is an example for me to learn from. If I want my influence to have a deeper effect on the hearts of others I need to be transformed much more thoroughly by the sweetness and gentleness of the Saviour that I serve instead of the example of my earthly father. I want this warning to have its intended affect in my own life and I want to be much more alert to sensing the convictions of the Spirit to check my attitude and the tone of my communications. I want to learn how to speak the truth and not withhold anything for fear of consequences, but to do so in the spirit of genuine love like Jesus always did.

Monday, August 04, 2008


Forgiveness is related to debt – emotional debt. In fact, the very opposite of forgiveness is debt-collecting. This debt is directly linked to the internal heat produced by the accumulation of this debt. Debt is created when a wrong is committed against my spirit, a violation of my freedom, an incursion into my privacy without permission, the use of force or fear to compel me to satisfy someone else's selfish desires against my will, a trespass against me.

Debts are being created continuously. Just the very existence of corruption all around us induces a certain amount of debt within our spirit. The injustices committed within the context of our political justice system which violates our sensibilities of fairness and right creates an intense sense of outrage that creates more debt inside. Violations of my rights and disrespect for my person or dignity by anyone else can create debt inside of me. Even unintentional mistakes can be misunderstood and become cause for more debt by my suspicious heart.

The original meaning of debt from the Bible conveys the idea of someone chained to me, a person who owes me something that I emotionally drag around on the end of a chain until I feel their obligations to me are satisfied. It denotes something of a slavery mentality where I believe someone should feel like a slave to me because of the debt they incurred against me.

It is very helpful to understand the reality and the nature of internal debt if I am ever to understand how to become free again. This debt is mainly in the spirit realm of my life which intensely affects my emotional being. Depending on my personality and perspective and assumptions, some things may produce much more debt in me than the same thing might in someone else. Likewise, my emotional makeup also will affect how the internal pressure and the resultant heat will react when left inside.

This internal heat and pressure works exactly like the internal heat that creates a volcano. Scientist now understand that the way a volcano will act is greatly dependent on the type of material that composes the makeup of the mountain. Some volcanoes tend to run almost continuously and have destructive lava streams of molten rock flowing down their sides much of the time. Other volcanoes tend to keep it hidden inside, looking good on the outside like a lot of us try to do. But as we have seen a number of times with volcanoes, this kind of dealing with internal pressure can have very explosive and devastating results unexpectedly.

This approach to the problem can sometimes become a little simplistic when compared to volcanoes, however. We may tend to assume from this comparison that it would be better to let our angry emotions vent more often so as to avoid a giant explosion that could hurt far more people. And while that kind of reasoning may sound very plausible, it fails to address the real problem effectively. It only operates along the line of symptom management instead of effectively targeting the root causes of anger or whatever other types of outgrowth may come from this internal pressure.

And it is true that anger is not the only demonstration or symptom of internal, unresolved debts. It may be the most common one, but there are a number of other potential reactions to the buildup of pressure inside our souls from undealt with debts. Many times, much more than most people suspect, our bodies will become diseased in some way as a direct result of internalized debt. This has not only been proven by science but has been pointed out a number of times by people inspired by the Spirit of God.

Addictions are sometimes a symptom of the presence of debt. It is true that addictions are most likely to be associated with failure to advance adult maturity as James Wilder has so aptly pointed out. But this failure to move on in maturity by so many people that results in any number of various addictions will also create a certain amount of debt internally which produces the pressure that one seeks to resolve with the pleasure they derive from their addiction of choice.

What I find interesting is that the judging and condemning and contempt that I am studying about in Romans 14 currently is also likely linked to this issue of unresolved debt. In turn it also can induce debt in the ones whom it is directed against. So in essence, a person who is carrying around a lot of debt will often tend to create debt in the spirit of others by their improper words, actions and attitudes toward them. Is this a subconscious attempt to rid ourselves of our own debt? It might be quite possible, for the concept of revenge or vengeance is an attitude in which we somehow think we can re-balance the books, so to speak, so as to hopefully free ourselves of the sense of debt we feel in our own hearts.

A person who is full of debt in their spirit cannot limit who around them is going to be contaminated by their own spirit of debt-collecting. They may think that they have specific debtors in mind that they want to extract payment from for the feelings built up inside, but their spirit of debt-collection will infuse every relationship that they have whether they want it to or not. And debt-collection is exactly what all of us are wired to do in our flesh when we allow a sense of debt to remain in our hearts from a violation committed against us.

Debt-collection permeates nearly every relationship that we see in this world. And if you want to get a taste of the kind of reaction that debt-collection produces in others, just think about how you feel whenever a debt-collection agency calls you on the phone to harangue you about a real or supposed debt you owe someone. I don't know about you, but I know that the enormous intensity of emotions that instantly rises up in me when this happens is so strong that sometimes I cannot even think clearly. My adrenaline begins to flow and my blood begins to boil and I have to be very careful to quickly disconnect from the situation before I make a complete fool of myself.

I realize that this is primarily due to a lack of maturity on my part, but it also betrays a reservoir of unresolved, internal debt in my spirit that I need to become free from. For it is not just the supposed debts externally that are the problem but the much greater problem is the internal debts within my own spirit that compel me to act irrationally at times. These intense moments are usually connected with a lot of fear as well as anger mixed in with a lot of bitterness and resentment. These are all ingredients of debt that needs to be dealt with if I am ever to enjoy real freedom.

I intend to take more time to think about this issue of debt and forgiveness. For whatever reason it has become a very intense focal point of my attention today and I want to understand it and its implications much better.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Overcoming Evil God's Way

This is just a short post about a new book that I am reading. I found out about it from one of my favorite blogs written by Greg Boyd, a pastor in Minnesota. I ordered the book off the internet and started reading it today and am very excited to continue. What I am sensing just a couple chapters into the book is a person who seems to track very much along the same lines as I have felt led over the past few years. And while this author is a Mennonite by denomination I feel that he is very much led of God in his pursuit of truth, especially about the nature of God's government and how He relates to humans throughout all of history.

The book is called Overcoming Evil God's Way and is an explanation and exploration of the nonresistance beliefs long held and taught by Anabaptists since back during the Dark Ages in Europe. I find it interesting that the Anabaptists had influence in the beginnings of my own church back in the 1800's and that unfortunately we missed being shaped more by the influence of the insights I am finding in this book. But what I have seen so far is very consistent with the new revelations about God that I have been personally discovering in my own study and contemplation over the past few years.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is serious about knowing more truth about God's character and wondering about how to reconcile the violence in the Old Testament with the example of Jesus in the New. While I have not gotten to that part of the book yet, based on the reviews that I have read so far I think I am going to be blessed by the study and clear thinking that seem to be the practice of this teacher. If you want to order a book for yourself, you can get it from the same place I ordered it at this address.

If you would like to read a good review about it you can visit this post at Greg Boyd's blog.

If you do get a copy of it I would be quite interested in your take on this book and would like to hear from you. Meanwhile, I will continue reading it myself.