Random Blog Clay Feet: 2008-09
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Secrets in the Two Altars

A reading that I looked at this morning referenced the verse in Revelation 16:7 about the altar in heaven speaking out. What followed really grabbed my attention and a flood of thoughts began to come to me. Here are a few things I had to quickly write down.

The two altars in the sanctuary seem to be linked very closely with each other.

They both have fire on them.

They both have incense burned on them in one way or another.

They both give off smoke that appears to affect God's thinking.

They both seem to be focal points but in different areas of the sanctuary.

The fire that is used on the incense altar comes from the sacrifice altar.

Is it possible that these two altars represent the final destiny of two groups of people?

If we refuse to be separated from sin in our heart do we end up being consumed on the altar of sacrifice? That is where all the animals were burned up that represented the sins of the people – after they had already been killed.

In contrast, there is no animal or flesh offered on the altar of incense. The coals from this altar are brought from the sacrifice altar to ignite the fire that is used to burn the incense. But the main purpose of this altar is to fill the inner sanctuary with an atmosphere of sweetness that is attractive. The incense clearly represents the prayers of believers who are called saints in the Bible.

Those who make up the body of Christ in the end will be all those who allow God to completely cleanse them of all their bondage to sin in their minds and hearts. Their lives are marked by the presence of much prayer, constant interaction with God, praise, gratitude and encouragement. This is the atmosphere that produces in the life the reflection of the attractiveness of God's character.

But the fire that ignites all the elements that smell so nice after being burned comes from an understanding of the true nature of sin and its effects on the life. Fire represents passion, but that passion must be the holy fire, the holy passion that can only come from God. It is a fatal mistake to ever substitute human-generated fire into the sanctuary service. And that is clearly a stark warning that human passion must be completely eliminated from our thinking as a means of achieving at-one-ment with God.

It is not that we must be free of all passion. Far from it – we were designed for passion. Passion is the fuel which causes us to grow and thrive and be more fully alive. But the tainted fuel of human passion that has been contaminated by selfishness and sin is so inferior and dangerous that to allow it to remain in our system to motivate our spiritual life will cause fatal meltdown when we encounter close proximity to the presence of the Almighty.

The altar also are the focal point for the issue of justice. A closer look at references to the altars reveal that justice was a key issue involved in the services that revolved around the altars. There was even provision for mercy – another aspect of justice – whenever a person was being pursued for an accidental death by an avenger if the person being pursued ran to the altar and grabbed the horns of the altar. They were to receive instant protection by this act of claiming justice and they were to be given a fair hearing before anything else was decided.

In Revelation there are several references to the altar which have interesting insights related to justice. The “souls beneath the altar” cry out for justice for all the suffering and maltreatment they received on the earth. Later in Revelation 16 the altar itself cries out declaring that God Himself is just. This makes sense because all the demands for justice that have ever been made on earth are ultimately directed at God. The implication is that God is responsible for restoring everything to being right, fair and in balance again. At the same time there is always the implicit implication that God is not being fair or just because injustice still seems to be rampant. Sin is still wreaking havoc against the hearts and bodies of millions suffering injustice at the hands of others and people are supposing that God is not doing anything about it.

Revelation is the place where we find the story of how all of this will be resolved and justice will ultimately be maintained for all – but in God's ways, not the way we would choose to do it. Man's preferred methods of establishing justice is to impose revenge and serve out arbitrary pain and suffering in greater proportions than what was originally committed. But this only tends to further the weight of injustice in this world instead of making things right. The cycle of revenge through men's methods only accelerate the vicious cycle of sin and death. Throwing people in prison and treating them like animals for many years for some act they committed that crossed human-made rules is not justice; it is the amplification of injustice.

God makes it very clear that His ways are not our ways and that we must leave all vengeance up to Him and not take our own revenge. Our revenge only serves to cloud the issues and add to the problem, not resolve it. God views justice and fairness from a far better perspective that we can and He knows that when we finally get all the facts and can see all the motives laid out plainly that we will all agree without any coercion that He was really just and fair all along. But the real core issue involved is the reputation of God. This has been the issue from the very inception of sin in the mind of Lucifer and is the core problem to be finally resolved on the great day of God's judgment when everyone decides the verdict in God's trial.

The sanctuary plan is the parable-like model that reveals the way salvation works and God's method to fix the whole sin problem and recover the universe from this terrible cancer that has caused so much infection and doubts about God. Every detail of the sanctuary and its services are filled with rich significance that cannot be exhausted for it is the wisdom of God folded into a very compact container. So if we want to begin to grasp the way God plans to resolve the great controversy between Christ and Satan and save all who are willing to cooperate with His means of restoration, then we need to spend some time examining the illustration He has given in the sanctuary as the outline of our path back to wholeness and reality.

I want to spend a lot more time contemplating this link between the two altars for I believe it holds some important keys to unlocking more mysteries of the kingdom. I know that the Holy Spirit is ready to teach and mentor everyone who is willing to listen with a correctly aligned heart open to new ways of thinking. I sense that there is a lot here that I have never seen before and I look forward to unpacking this much more.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Love and Force

I could tell you but then I would have to kill you.

I could show you my glory but you could not survive the experience.

I could force you but that would destroy your heart's ability to love.

Force has a very important place in the workings of the principles of creation. God has set up natural laws that have unimaginable potential for force. We sometimes call them “forces of nature”. Likewise, there are principles in the spirit realm of intelligent beings (that includes us) that have tremendous forces in place that can either be powerful motivations for living and thriving or terrifying threats that induce fear and submission and suck away the life out of our bones.

As I have been thinking about this issue of force it seems to me that while God put in place all the counter-balancing forces in creation designed to perfectly function together, He intentionally carved out a sacred space in His creation design that was to be free of all force, where relationships could flourish and love could blossom. Force is a poison that prevents love from growing in the heart and it is extremely important that the atmosphere surrounding the heart be free of all coercion if it is to flourish and thrive. And because God operates only on the principle of love in all His dealings with the intelligent beings He has created, He fiercely defends each individual's freedom of will and choice so as to protect the potential for the plant of love to spring up and thrive in the heart.

But here on earth we have already experienced so much force and abuse of authority that our hearts are numb with pain and fear and are incapable of producing real love on our own. Often the thing which we do feel from others and that we think is love is only the selfish advances of people who may try to care about us but in the end are seeking to exploit us, even when that is not their conscious intention. And it works both ways. Even when we honestly believe we are motivated by genuine concern for others and try to bless them, our motives are always mixed and the selfishness that mingles in with our love contaminates it and confuses the heart.

Selfishness is always looking for ways to make us feel better, to have a sense of value, to draw attention to ourself in some way so we can feel more important. We legitimately do have a need to feel valuable and important to others. It is one of the most elemental needs of the brain to feel cherished and loved by another – that is the definition of joy. But trying to get it from others without first genuinely knowing we are valued and loved by God is an exercise in futility in the long run. We end up substituting pleasure for satisfaction and exploiting others more and more to try to fill our own emptiness. This is what sin is all about.

The suspicions aroused in the heart by repeated experiences like this have made us extremely skeptical of even the existence of genuine, selfless love. So when someone tries to describe to us a God who loves us with no selfish motives attached we find it nearly impossible to imagine it, much less believe it could be true for us individually.

Because we are so unfamiliar with the nature of real love but are intimately familiar with the workings of force, all of our beliefs about reality and the supernatural are distorted by our mistaken assumptions about the use of force. We do not cherish the fierce protectiveness that God has for personal freedoms. We are far more focused on performance, appearances and solutions to problems than we value intimacy of relationships. To us, putting healthy relationships ahead of looking good in our behavior appears to be weak-minded, maybe even fickle or sinful. We also assume that relationships must have some degree of force involved at least once in awhile to keep them on track. We simply can't imagine having “successful” relationships with others without having the option to resort to force “when necessary”.

What ends up happening is that we insist on mingling our addictions to force in with our assumptions about God and coming up with a formula that we believe He must use to solve the sin problem. We end up creating our own religion based on teachings about a loving God who tries as long as possible to reach people with gentleness, kindness and compassion but in the end is compelled to resort to force to get His way when all else fails. Depending on our own experience and upbringing, the point where we believe God switches from being nice to getting stern and resorting to force varies greatly. But the very fact that we insist that God cannot win this war against evil without resorting to our ways of dealing with problems through force betrays the immense unbelief we cherish about the true power of love operating free of all coercion.

One of the ways we convince others of the supremacy of force over love is to bring intense emotional pressure on those who are truly trying to imitate God's ways. If and when in their weakness they succumb to the fear of our intimidation and are overcome due to their immaturity, we then hold up their failure as an example of the inferiority of trusting in love alone. But is forcing someone else to fail a legitimate proof of the weakness of love to overcome all sin? How does this line up with the teachings of Jesus who came to reveal the heart of the Father to us?

Jesus told Paul that His strength was made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9) So why do we as Christians continue to glorify the supposed virtues of force when repeatedly throughout Scripture God tells us that His ways are strikingly different than our assumptions? If we are ever to find the truth about reality we must be willing to release our vise-grip hold on our life-long assumptions about the use of force and allow the gentle Spirit of Jesus to retrain our thinking and rewire our reactions and fill our hearts and minds with the ways and will of the true God.

The more I have studied the story of Elijah on Mt. Carmel and the surrounding stories, the more clear it becomes to me that this was one of the main lessons that God had to reinforce in Elijah's mind and heart when He took him through the retraining session on Mt. Horeb some days later. Elijah had succumbed to the temptation to indulge in the use of force by killing the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel, and all the subsequent embarrassing choices made by Elijah flowed from that wrong decision. I believe Elijah realized this too late and is the reason why Elijah ran back to where he was sure he could sort things out with God and get his head on straight again. God lovingly but carefully took Elijah through a series of examples of things to avoid when trying to discern the voice of God in the soul. And pretty much all of them were typical reflections of force.

In the end it will be seen that the use of force to accomplish what we believe is God's will is never the right thing to do no matter how right it feels like at the moment or how much affirmation we get from those around us while doing it. Man's ways are not God's ways and until we learn to trust His ways and be constantly led by His Spirit, we will be vulnerable to falling into the trap of resorting to force on occasion to accomplish what God can easily do through other means and resources.

What God desires more than anything else – including perfection of performance and behavior – is a trusting heart that is humble, teachable, full of self-distrust but also full of confidence in God's love and ability to accomplish what He wants done in our lives. God wants a deep relationship with our heart far more that He wants what we think are good outward appearances. When the heart is changed and transformed first, then the outward life will begin to reflect the inward transformation without our having to work hard at it. This is natural righteousness by faith. And this is the life that trusts so fully in God's character and righteousness that it can release all desire to employ force to gets its own way.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Passion Continued...

For those interested in more thoughts on this issue of passion that I have been visiting for several days, I have posted more thoughts on another blog where I am studying the book of Romans currently. As this issue has been swirling around in my head I am seeing interesting implications in the passage that I am currently considering. The relevance of the effect of force on passion is what I am considering right now. Sorry for seeming to jump around between blogs, but generally I keep this blog for things not directly related to my current passage study. But sometimes the train of thought crosses back and forth between the two.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Poor in Spirit Advantage

As I was showering this morning my thoughts wandered to my feelings of isolation that part of me has felt for pretty much all of my life. I remembered the feelings that sometimes cause me to try to connect with people emotionally so quickly that typically they withdraw in alarm which only adds to the weight of “evidence” used against me by those who want to judge me as an imbalanced and untrustworthy man.

As I was contemplating this pattern that seems to be a mark of my life, the words of Jesus suddenly popped into my head, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3) In the context of what I was feeling and thinking about, these words suddenly took on a whole new dimension that I had never been able to perceive before.

I thought about my own inability to form deep relationships compared to others that I have either observed or heard about who seemed to have satisfying soul-mates, those with whom they could bare their hearts without fear of being judged or misunderstood. It seems that every time I have tried to do something like that that sooner of later the result was some sort of betrayal. It was almost like I was destined to live under the influence of the Miranda warning, “everything you say can and will be used against you...”

But the more I thought about this the more I realized how much this just might be a genuine blessing in disguise, except for the first time I was getting a peek behind the disguise. I sensed that maybe it is actually a handicap for a person to have wonderful friends who care about them deeply, people in one's life who seem to be able to connect in some way to deep needs. Because the deepest cravings of the heart can simply never be satisfied by any mere human and to the degree that I believe they can bring lasting satisfaction is the same degree that I will not be hungry for the companionship and intimacy of my Savior.

In reality all of us are poor spiritually. But what I am starting to see is that Jesus was touching a deep sore spot in the hearts of anyone who was not blinded by the counterfeits offered by the alternative system invented by Satan. When a person is keenly aware and conscious that nothing is really meeting their hunger, that no one is coming close to fulfilling their deepest cravings for intimacy and deep fellowship and trust – that person is actually in a position of great advantage from heaven's perspective. And while they may not yet know that their condition is an advantage or even yet know that God is the one who is ready and eager to fulfill those deepest cravings of the heart, Jesus' words are clarifying reality, and He states unequivocally that these people are really the one's who are more fortunate.

One of the greatest hindrances to living a life of freedom for an addict is the intense feelings of temporary satisfaction they get from indulging in their drug of choice. While they intellectually may acknowledge that their real needs are not being met by the substance or activity that gives them such a rush, the attraction of feeling relief from their inner cravings even for a few seconds can be overwhelming and is their greatest hindrance to staying clean long enough to return to a “normal” life where they can learn to find more legitimate means of addressing their deep longings.

Maybe Jesus is talking to people here who are not living in denial or depending on a counterfeit fix to meet their deepest longings and numb their pain. While their lives may appear to be quite messed up by others who look down on them, these people are keenly aware of their poverty of spirit and they are longing for an intimacy at the spirit level that nothing has come close to satisfying yet. Jesus wants them to know that, far from being a curse or a terrible liability, their poverty of spirit is their greatest asset because it is a powerful motivation to come to Him and find the peace and joy that their heart is craving the most.

Those who know they are hungry and also know that nothing they have yet tasted addresses that hunger are the most likely to recognize the perfect object of their desires when they come to really perceive it. Those are the ones who are keen to be skeptical of every imitation and sometimes have a sharper awareness when a relationship or activity is not addressing or relieving their sense of emptiness. They are actually much closer to being willing to embrace the real riches found in the true kingdom being set up by Jesus than those who are still bottom-feeding in the illusions promoted by typical religion or humanism or any other counterfeit system promoted by this world. It is the poor in spirit who's very awareness of their poverty are the most ready and eager to latch on to real riches and cling to them with a tenacity stronger than the desire for life itself.

Some people who are not yet aware that they are actually poor in spirit are like those described in Revelation 3. You say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked... (Revelation 3:17)

As I thought about these things my heart began to warm. I realized that these words that had been brought to my mind were something of a compliment, an assurance by Jesus that, far from viewing my situation as a terrible curse I should see it from heaven's perspective.

Being poor in spirit should cause me to sharpen my focus on finding what really satisfies.

Being poor in spirit means more quickly turning away from cheap imitations that fail to bond me to other hearts with the proper adhesive.

Being poor in spirit, according to Jesus, is to be part of a group of people who are actually the citizens of the kingdom that will supersede all the kingdoms and political powers of this world.

Does that mean that I should relax and embrace my poverty of spirit and deep relationships with others? Somehow I don't think so. But while I still seek to discover points of connection with others who are also poor and starving in spirit under the guidance of my heart by the Spirit of God who is carefully knitting together the various elements of the body of Christ, I do not have to feel that my poverty is something to be ashamed of or despised. Being poor in counterfeit relationships, being poor in addictive substitutes is not a bad position to be in.

I must learn to see my poverty of spirit as the motivational engine that propels me toward living in openness and honesty with others, with myself and most of all with God. I must learn to focus my feelings of emptiness on narrowing my attentions and affections to that which really brings faith, hope and love into my life and exclude everything which only distracts or confuses me. I need to avoid more and more the things which neutralize or numb my awareness of my real poverty of spirit and instead fill my mind more and more with a true awareness of what is really valuable, what has eternal value and what will genuinely satisfy my heart and make me truly wealthy in my soul.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Faith and Passion

I woke up early this morning with more thoughts about what was in my imagination yesterday about this issue of passion and electricity. As I pondered it more and listened to God's Spirit for what He had to say about it, I remembered my study of Jesus' answer to His disciple's request to increase their faith. It was one of the most surprising and enlightening studies that I have done and I continue to see more and more meaning in that passage found in Luke 17.

What came to me this morning with considerable force was the thought that it was the spirit of service and passionate devotion as portrayed in this story that was the secret enjoyed by the servants who had increased levels of faith. The distinctive attribute about their attitude was their unique devotion and selfless spirit in the service of their master.

Then I also remembered a quotation that was often quoted by the people and culture around which I grew up.

Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us, of which we know nothing. Those who accept the one principle of making the service and honor of God supreme will find perplexities vanish, and a plain path before their feet. {DA 330}

Just like the servants in Jesus' story, people in His service serve Him first, not themselves. That is one of the main points that I realized when I first saw the true significance of the story that Jesus told. This story was not so much a formula to follow for getting more faith but was an illustration of the kind of relationship that people will be in who have ever-increasing faith.

But one of the questions that came up immediately in my mind was, how do we serve Him? In my mind, that is sort of like wondering how you are supposed to come up with a Christmas present for someone who already has everything they could ever need or want. If my duty and my desire is to serve my Master, my Father in heaven first before I attend to my own needs and desires, what does that really look like in practical application here and now?

The answer came to me again in the words of Jesus. The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' (Matthew 25:40)

What I am learning from this passage in Luke 17:1-10 is that these servants are living in right relationship to God emotionally. They have actually become conductors of the power of His passion in the right direction. And the direction of passion is always extremely important. As I touched on yesterday, I am beginning to see more clearly that passion is the fuel that is needed for motivation. It is not bad in and of itself. The problem is the way and direction in which it is channeled.

To suppress or try to eliminate passion is to rob the soul of the energy it needs to thrive. Those robbed of passion live a stunted, dwarfed existence. Likewise, those who do allow outlet for passion but refuse to accept the healthy boundaries provided by God to properly channel their passion become drunk with the wine of fornication as seen in Revelation 17:2. This kind of passion is rooted in selfishness and will use and abuse others for its own pleasure at their expense.

True, God-like passion is not suppressed or perverted and does not exploit others for its own benefit. Real Godly passion is the spirit of blessing and uplifting others at any cost to one's self. That is what Jesus came to demonstrate first hand.

Jesus' life was a demonstration of the attitude and relationship described in the story of the devoted servants who had increased faith like the disciples wanted. When a person is in that state of mind and has that kind of orientation with the Master, they reflect the selfless passion of the Master in their determination to make sure His needs are met ahead of their own. But they do not do it merely from a sense of duty. If that were the case it would be impossible for them to enjoy the passionate kind of faith that is needed to thrive and live joyfully in the service of the King. They do it spontaneously from a passion that fires their heart to serve compulsively.

What is even more important is that they can easily confess that they are not the source of real worth, that their relationship with the Master is really one of reflective service. If they were not oriented to the Master with this kind of attitude it would be impossible for them to serve Him properly and selflessly. It is their state of mind that is the crucial point of this whole story, not so much the outward manifestations seen in their activities.

To think and function in any other way in the Master's service would actually be to live with a spirit of competition with the Master. To feel that the Master owes them something would be to subtly think of themselves as a master in some respect and God as their servant. Unfortunately that is the attitude of most Christians even though we don't realize it. But just take a look at many of the prayers that we pray asking God to serve us in some way. Where is the joyful eagerness to serve and bless our Master before we expect to be fed.

While it is true that Jesus came to reveal the servant spirit of God to us and relay to us that God has the same attitude toward us as the Son, it does not necessarily follow that we should assume that being served by God implies that we are somehow deserving of that service. To do so is to unconsciously invert our relationship which reverses the flow of passion. This is the trick of the enemy, to reverse the flow of current which always produces tension, unrest and ultimately resistance heat and finally death.

This story reveals that keeping the direction of the current always in the right orientation is one of the most important things we can ever learn if we ever hope to participate in the kingdom of God. It is more clear to me now that we need the current of passion to grow and thrive. Passion is not bad, it just needs to flow in the right direction.

So we need both the passion and the proper orientation to the true source of all passion in order to thrive as Christians. Getting those two things straight will result in producing the attitudes revealed in the lives of these servants and revealed in the attitude of Jesus while here on earth. That is the example that Jesus came to give that we are to follow. It is not the perfect outward symptoms of His life that we are to attempt to copy, it is His spirit of total abandonment to the will of His Father and the channeling of the Father's passion in selfless service to others and to God that is to be the prime object of our attention and imitation. That is the same spirit and motivation that is seen in the attitudes of the servants in the story that Jesus told in Luke 17.

Orientation of our relationship is everything.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Passion, Electricity and Integrity

Here are some thoughts that came to me about passion.

I have not found a better illustration for understanding the government of God than the way an electrical circuit operates. To me, passion is analogous to electrical current or voltage, I'm not sure which is more accurate or if that is really relevant. But passion is a power very similar in nature to electricity. And just like electricity, passion in and of itself is not the problem. The problem arises when passion is applied backwards to the original circuit designed by God that synchronizes with reality. When passion is run backwards, like misapplying electricity to a circuit, it changes appearance and produces results that looks like something very different than intended by the designer. The way you can know if it is running backwards is the degree to which selfishness is involved.

Selfishness transforms passion into exploitation and fornication. In Revelation the evil woman is represented as having a cup full of wine and elsewhere it is noted that this wine is the passion of immorality. Immorality certainly involves passion and often it is passion itself that is blamed for the problems of immorality. But passion is not the problem, it is the way in which passion is exercised and the direction of its orientation. Immorality is very selfish passion that is craving to exploit others for its own pleasure.

On the other hand, the passion of God is always totally selfless. This passion is even more intense than the passion of immorality but because it is totally selfless it is generally foreign to our way of thinking. In fact, the great confusion that has arisen about God's passion is because it is so foreign to our way of thinking that when we do perceive it we see it through the distorted assumptions of our own false passions, our backwards way of experiencing passion, and so we believe that God's passion is actually wrath. Because we believe it is wrath we even experience it as wrath and we are fully convinced that indeed it is wrath.

But what makes God's passion seem like wrath to some and glory to others is the amount of resistance that is in the heart to the ways and the motivations of God's heart. If I am resistant to the selflessness that always motivates the heart of the God of heaven then the heat generated by my resistance creates in me a sensation of wrath. But if I am completely freed from all resistance to the unselfishness and the real truths about God's character and if I have been completely transformed so that my heart synchronizes with His heart and motives, then instead of feeling the heat of resistance to His passion I am empowered to be fully alive and can live as a conductor of massive amounts of the current of passion that flows to and from the heart of the Father throughout the full circuit of all the universe.

So I think it is safe to say that those who will be safe to save are the ones who have released their resistance to the truth about God's goodness, grace and passionate love. For when the full measure of God's passion is revealed to all the universe on the final day of revelation called the day of Judgment, only those – humans and angels alike – who have accepted and freely chosen to embrace the real truth about God's fairness, kindness and perfect motives will be safe to be exposed to that awesome power of passionate love. Being safe to save means being free of all resistance to the current of selfless love and choosing to live life in sync with the spirit of service and other-centeredness that is the hallmark of heaven's pure atmosphere.

Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." (Mark 9:35)

Looking unto Jesus we see that it is the glory of our God to give. "I do nothing of Myself," said Christ; "the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father." "I seek not Mine own glory," but the glory of Him that sent Me. John 8:28; 6:57; 8:50; 7:18. In these words is set forth the great principle which is the law of life for the universe. All things Christ received from God, but He took to give. So in the heavenly courts, in His ministry for all created beings: through the beloved Son, the Father's life flows out to all; through the Son it returns, in praise and joyous service, a tide of love, to the great Source of all. And thus through Christ the circuit of beneficence is complete, representing the character of the great Giver, the law of life. {DA 21}

If you understand anything about the way electricity works and the requirements for its distribution, you will know that the closer you get to the source of current the larger the capacity of the conductors is required. I believe that this correlates closely with the circuit that defines the universe. A spirit of selfless service, of passing on all credit and glory is the purity and capacity needed for being a larger conductor.

Jesus declared that John the Baptist was the greatest in the kingdom. I think this was partly because he was safe enough for enormous amounts of God's passion to flow through him without being embezzled for his self-interest. His life attitude that he expressed in the words “He must increase, but I must decrease” is the needed qualification for one who is closer to the throne which is the source of all passion, the current that powers the universe. That is getting very close to what Lucifer's job was originally.

The more selfishness and self-focus we have the smaller the wire we can be in God's circuits. It is too dangerous for very much current to flow through us because we will quickly overheat and be consumed.

God is working patiently to increase the size of our wires. But He can only increase our capacity according to the willingness and humility with which we are willing to open up and accept His spirit of selfless love and service. We must be cleansed of all resistance to love and selfishness which are fatal elements in the high voltage world of the electricity of heaven.

To convey the passion of God safely requires a higher level of selflessness that what we are used to. We must be transformed by that passion to be in sync with its motives which are pure, out-flowing love and self-sacrifice. But to resist the current of love is to endanger ones very existence by default.

The counterfeit form of passion is selfish and craves attention and recognition for self. Misdirected, selfish passion lives to exploit others for one's own pleasure and benefit at a cost to them. It is more interested in what I can get from others than what I can do to benefit others.

God's passion is always oriented to bless and uplift and impart life to others at any cost to one's self.

Another question came up in my mind relative to this. How does doubt, questions or unbelief fit into this picture?

As I pondered this I came to sense that there is a distinct difference between questions spawned by willful unbelief and questions arising out of a sincere discomfort with what is known. The first is the product of a self-centered heart that is becoming more and more skeptical, a heart of unbelief that resists evidence of the truth about God. The key active ingredient here is resistance, and resistance is the element that hardens the heart against the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit.

The second kind of questioning is the product of a heart that has integrity and is willing to honestly consider evidence that disagrees with one's own feelings or assumptions. This is a mind that is not so self-focused that it only looks for the negative in everything or is looking to defend its own opinions in spite of evidence to the contrary. This is the kind of skeptical but honest questioning that even some of the angels in heaven have about God's approach to dealing with sin.

God respects this kind of honest questioning with integrity and will never force anyone to change their opinions. He is confident that the questions that have arisen out of the minds that He created will be fully satisfied in the end when enough evidence is presented. And those answers will always end in the vindication of God's ways and God's righteous intentions.

What man is there who will not have fear before you, O Lord, and give glory to your name? because you only are holy; for all the nations will come and give worship before you; for your righteousness has been made clear. (Revelation 15:4 BBE)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Secret of Forgiveness

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12 NAS95)

Thank-you, John, for taking a very careful look at this verse. I always find it very rewarding to ask the kind of tough, close questions that you brought up with a mind open and ready to receive deeper insights from the Spirit of truth. And while I do not want to replace the role of that Spirit I believe that when people join their minds and hearts together to seek to see God's face more clearly through this kind of study that they are never disappointed. God is eager to interact with people ready to receive.

I combed through each word of this verse in the Greek and tried to listen to the sense of what it seems to be saying. I am not sure which translation you were referring to when you said you looked at the literal translation. I have Young's Literal Translation but it does not have it written the way you described. And I have to also say that since I know nothing about how Greek is written sequentially I cannot propose myself as an authority of any kind on the subtle aspects that may be in the original language. All I can do is to compare the meanings of each word in relationship to the surrounding words and then try to get a sense of how those meanings may interact in various ways that are consistent with the truth that God has revealed about His character.

I did see the word for our from the Greek and it denotes ownership of something. In fact, it seems to be the word defining ownership. It is the exact same word used in the previous phrase also translated our connected to debts. So both of these instances seem to be noting the owner of whatever is the object of the phrase. In the first phrase the word debts seems to be the object of the our. In the second phrase it is debtors who are the object of the our.

What I find interesting is the difference between the words behind those two words that could give some insight for the our in each phrase. The first one refers to something that is owed, a debt but not just in a financial sense. It refers to a moral debt which in my understanding involves a hurt or injury at the heart level. It is that feeling you get when you know that someone owes you an apology, a debt that has been created by an injury or a violation of your freedom or your spirit. Your feelings and your spirit have been injured and damaged and someone clearly is the cause of that. Because of the way we are created we sense that an imbalance in our connectedness with others (or even ourself) has been created that needs to be restored to balance in some way before we can feel at peace.

The second word translated debtors is very similar but refers directly to the person involved who apparently created the injury. It carries all the same implications of the first word but places the focus on the person involved, not just the nature of the feeling.

Now when I add the our to each of these words involving debt what I see is that in the first case I am the owner of the debt created and in the second case I am the owner of the debtor – not owner in the sense of the one who generated it but owner in the sense that I am the one still holding the bag, the one who has controlling interest in the existence of this debtor and what is done about it.

When I see it from that light I see more clearly how consistent that is with everything I have learned from the various healing ministries and my own experiences in this area of life. The mistake that most of us make in relationship to the concept of emotional debts is that we think that the person who has offended us is the one responsible to remove the debt. After all, they are the one who clearly created it and therefore we assume that they likewise have the power to remove or fix it.

Wow, the more I get into this the more my own heart is being affected by what is emerging. This is really stirring up deep feelings inside of me as I ponder this. Thanks again for inviting me to look at this. Maybe God prompted you to bring this up for some very specific purpose that I am not aware of quite yet.

Believing that the people who have offended me are the ones responsible for repairing the damage they caused me is like going down a dead-end street expecting to emerge into the freedom of a super-highway. For it is becoming more clear from my own study and from all the things I have learned from other people that have explored this area is that the only way any of us will ever become free from the heavy weight of the emotional debts we all experience is to first take full ownership of the debt. Otherwise we can never be in a position to do anything truly effective about it.

The other alternative that produces even worse results is to indulge in the temptation to desire revenge or retribution against the debtor (who happens to also be owned by us in some sense according to the wording here). And this brings me back around to the main point of your original question yesterday. You said that what you saw in a literal translation of this verse was that we would be forgiven our debts by God just as we forgave ourselves of our debts. In a certain sense that is actually very accurate to a degree but can be confusing if not carefully considered in the context of everything else surrounding this.

The sense in which this can bring significant insight to this concept of forgiveness is the fact that we are the owner both of the debt created and have controlling interest in the existence of a debtor. When this is more clearly perceived I believe the difference between whether the debt was created by ourselves against ourselves or was created by someone else against ourselves may become possibly insignificant. What may be the main point that Jesus is making here is that we are the one with all the power to initiate a resolution of the problem and that even the forgiveness of God may be blocked from us by our unwillingness to release a debt or grudge that we carry, either against others or even possibly ourselves.

I hasten to add that blocking God's forgiveness from our heart has nothing whatsoever to do with God's side of this matter. We cannot prevent God from forgiving us. That is a fact that has always existed, even before Jesus died on the cross. Jesus did not come to die in order to procure forgiveness for us but He came to die to reveal the forgiving reality of the heart of God, both the Father and the Son. Forgiveness is a fact of reality that we only struggle to believe because of the massive deceptions that we struggle under, not because God has to be convinced to forgive. Forgiveness is something that describes the very nature of God that has never changed and never will.

The process of salvation is totally dedicated to bringing us back into alignment with the heart of the God in who's image we were created. Because of that Jesus came to both teach us and demonstrate what that original looks like and acts like and feels like and thinks like. And part of that process of re-education is exposing the basic principles by which reality exists. This issue of forgiveness and who has the power to initiate resolution and reconciliation is one of those principles of reality that has been seriously obscured by the great deceiver.

What Jesus is telling me here is that if I want to experience the reality of God's forgiveness and all the commensurate healing that will accompany that experience, I must choose to be willing to act in the same manner as God acts toward me. Of course, if I still have mistaken ideas about how God feels about me or how He forgives, then those mistaken ideas will corrupt my ability to live in the perfect freedom from bitterness and resentment that Jesus demonstrated in His life on earth.

Jesus wants us to realize the tremendous power we have within our own mind and heart to initiate our own freedom from all the debt that is literally killing us slowly in our hearts. God respects and values our freedom so immensely that He will never force us to forgive. Our will is the most important part of our makeup and is the key element that enables us to reflect the real nature of God Himself. Our free will is the only thing we have that empowers us to enter in to the experience of genuine love, for love has to be free or it is not love.

God deeply desires our love, for He created us to interact with His heart in that way along with all those around us. Forgiveness is the door waiting for us to pass through on our way to that freedom of perfect love. But one of the most important parts of this situation that we must be aware of is that we ourselves are the owners and possessors of the key that can unlock our prison cells of fear and pain or resentment. Our will is the hand that can take the key of forgiveness and with the authority of ownership we can both release the weight of the debt that is crushing the life out of us and can change the attitude of our heart toward those who we insist are our debtors, whether that be someone else or even ourselves.

A debtor is a label, a description of our perception of the identity of someone. When we determine that someone deserves the label of debtor, we ourselves are the one who determines that label in our own mind, we are the owner of that mental and social opinion of someone described as debtor. So because the whole concept of indebtedness is really an attitude, a state of mind that we maintain about someone, we as the owner of that concept are the only ones with the power to change that belief. For nothing that anyone else can do can force us to change our belief about the identity of whoever we consider to be a debtor. That is something only we can choose to do.

But likewise, I believe Jesus is revealing a parallel principle in this verse. We will always act like the perceived God we believe exists in our life. So if we refuse to forgive and release a debt and a debtor from our hearts, we also incapacitate our own hearts from embracing that forgiveness that has always existed and has always been available to us from the heart of God. This is not because God withholds it from us but because we lock the door of our hearts from being able to let it in.

This is very clearly implied in the word translated as in this verse. It denotes a direct linkage between the way we choose to act and think with the way we receive from God. It is a law of the mind in this case that the only way we can experience true forgiveness is to be willing to exercise it just as it is offered to us. Apparently the same part in the brain is required for both of these things. It is only when we unlock the door of our heart and release the debt owed to us that we will be able to experience the receiving end of that same experience. It is a very pointed application of the principle seen in what is called the Golden Rule.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Getting Real About Emotions

When we deny the reality of what we feel, we force ourselves to live a form of self-deception. It also results in consequences for others.... It produces either dishonest relationships or no relationships at all. - Jon Paulien.

These are words that I read this morning from Jon's devotional book that made a deep impression on me today. He talked about the fact that there is a lot of reference to emotions in the book of Revelation. Emotions are part of God's design for us and as such, to live in denial of them is only to ask for trouble and dysfunction in our lives.

This was particularly interesting since just moments before I had opened up my heart to God in a deeper way emotionally than I have been able to do for a very long time. For whatever reason I found myself capable of a level of honesty, an ability for my left brain to more accurately give voice to the deeper feelings of my right brain than is usually accessible. As I did so I also experienced a deeper level of bonding to God and more assurance than I usually feel which creates greater trust and faith as a result.

For some this may seem like a discussion of what should be obvious. For others it may sound like dangerous heresy. I happen to come from a background more oriented to the second reaction. And though I have had trouble at times controlling my emotions and that has gotten me into trouble at times, especially when it comes to authorities, at the same time I have been subtly taught to repress my emotions for so long that I now find myself helpless to even connect with many of them that still need outlet in appropriate ways.

This issue of how to relate to emotions can itself generate a great deal of emotion among people. My own view of this has changed quite a bit over the years and I am still in great need of more training by the Spirit of God as to how to not only live in right relationship to my own emotions but how to rightly relate to others when they are experiencing emotions that may frighten or overwhelm my own. What I still find is that my own reactions to other people's emotions range from isolation and disconnect to urges that if followed through might compromise my integrity. This is likely the area of my life that is in the greatest need of more maturity.

One thing that I am learning however, and that was brought out by Jon Paulien in today's reading, is the important fact that it is not wrong to honestly express how I feel to God. In fact, that is likely the most important lesson that most of us yet have to learn and that can bring an enormous amount of release and peace into our lives if practiced regularly.

One of my good friends named Doug some years ago shared his experience with me of how he learned this important lesson. He was living the double life of a very practiced hypocrite in the church and had it developed to a fine art. However, his inner soul could not sustain the immense pressure that always accompanies such a life and one day while standing in front of the congregation he confessed to them that he had decided to go to a recovery house designed for drug addicts and alcoholics to get help for his addiction to religion.

As he related to me, this did not go over well at all with the people sitting in the pews and their faces reflected little emotion or compassion for him. Instead, what he felt was something like rejection and horror that he should be so brash as to blow his cover and threaten their own nicely manicured facades. He did go to the recovery house and ended up spending more time there than most of the other addicts because his problem was so deeply embedded. In fact, the leader of the retreat told him that he was one of the worst cases of religious addiction that they had ever seen.

While trying to work to a place of recognition of his problem there, he told the story of how he finally cracked the shell of his facade and broke into the reality of his true heart. During a group session he was finally triggered and angered to the point that he went off to a room by himself and burst into violent accusations and an intense outburst at God directly. He began to call God every vile epitaph that he could imagine and his heart just gushed with rage that had been pent up for many years.

He assumed that this would be the end of any relationship that he might have ever had with God and that God might even be so upset that He might send a bolt of lightening to end this outburst. But to his absolute utter amazement what he keenly sensed as his tirade exhausted itself was something the exact opposite. As he stood there emotionally exhausted and spent and in fear of what might happen next, he had a most distinct perception that God was looking down on him from heaven and was clapping vigorously and even smiling. He had the impression that God was very excited about him and was eager to establish a whole new relationship with him based on the new honesty that had finally emerged from this release of emotion. He heard God in his heart saying, “Finally! I've been waiting for years for you to get this off your chest and out of the way. Now we can start to build a real relationship.”

This story that I have heard from Doug many times never fails to be given without fresh emotion each time it is told. And because of that it has had deep impact on many with whom it has been shared. And while each person comes from their own background and will have very different experiences in their journey to being real, I have no doubt that God's deep desire for each one of us is to get real and honest about what is really in our hearts instead of obsessing about keeping our appearances in order and propping up the facade that we have so carefully constructed for most of our lives. As one of my favorite speakers and writers, Clarissa Worley Sproul has said, “God doesn't meet with shadows and He doesn't dance with facades.”

Learning to be real and to be honest about our own emotions is a very delicate and tricky business many times. But it is also what Jesus was talking about when He insisted that unless we become like a little child we will never be able to enter the kingdom of heaven. I often find it so refreshing and energizing sometimes to just intensely observe little children who are still open and honest enough to live life without a facade. It is like a glimpse into the potential of what God created humanity to experience all the time but has been largely obscured by the oppressive darkness of hypocrisy and deception that nearly all adults practice in this world.

While it is very frightening to even consider moving toward that place of living in total honesty and transparency, it is also one of the important requirements for being able to function within the true body of Christ in the kingdom of God. But at the same time it is generally well beyond my own capacity to accomplish. That is exactly what I was discussing with God this morning. For if God does not work in me and transform me supernaturally by His grace to bring me to that place of complete openness and truth then it can never happen at all. For it is not something that I can ever do in my own effort.

Jon finishes his reading for today by offering this advice. We can begin to achieve God's design by expressing our feelings to God. Jesus did that on the cross. God can take it. He prefers an honest disagreement to a dishonest submission! And He already knows how you feel, so it is safe. Feelings can hurt, but they can also bring us healing, togetherness, and love.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Poverty of Spirit and Faith

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

Wow! This has got me really thinking again. As I thought about this after writing my last piece on this I continued to become aware of more verses that are very relevant that connect with this.

What is the natural reaction to learning that one is poor? Well, I don't think it is wrong to believe that a person upon discovering that they are poor should desire to be enriched in that thing in which they are deficient. And even though Jesus declared that the poor in spirit are blessed, I am not sure that it is safe to conclude that they should be satisfied to remain in that poverty just because they can be considered blessed. I believe that the reason they should consider themselves blessed is not because they should be happy and content in remaining poor but are blessed because they are honest enough to recognize their true condition. And this honesty will allow them and motivate them to hopefully move in the right direction to effectively address the problem of their poverty.

So what is the right way to deal with poverty of spirit? Well, it only makes sense that one would need to find a source that is rich in spirit and then establish enough of a relationship with that entity in hopes that possibly the one who is more wealthy may have enough generosity to take pity on the one who is poor and share some of their wealth with them. Isn't that what most of us would conclude?

That is why I got excited when another verse was brought to my attention that fits this very scenario. Check this out.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us... (Ephesians 2:4)

Now link that thought with this verse that explicitly tells us what God is.

"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24)

So what I am seeing here is that God is clearly a spirit, the very area in which I am poor, and as a spirit He is extremely wealthy in mercy. In addition, a few verses on in Ephesians it says that He wants to demonstrate through us the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (v. 7)

Now, I don't think there can be much dispute about the fact that God is rich. In fact, far beyond being rich in mercy as is described here He is rich in absolutely every sense that we can imagine the word to define. And I don't think many people believe that God does not share what He owns with us because He is too impoverished to do so or His supply is just too limited. No, that is not the reason most people have when they doubt God's generosity toward them. What is far more likely to emerge is people's doubts about God's feelings and intentions and motivations.

Most everyone believes God is both wealthy enough and capable enough to give us absolutely anything we could ever desire or want. But at the same time very few people really believe in their heart that God is willing or eager to do so. As a result Christians tend to come up with all sorts of rationalizations and explanations to excuse God's apparent stinginess so as to make Him not look quite as bad as we might suspect Him to be otherwise.

Jesus addressed this problem quite a bit when He was here on earth. He had a lot to say about our attitude about God's disposition toward us. He even claimed that if we had even a tiny amount of real faith that we would be empowered to do astounding things that would amaze the world – like pick up whole mountains and drop them effortlessly into the ocean (look out for the ships and the swimmers below). But so far I have mostly only heard excuses trying to spiritualize away these bold statements by Jesus with the effect of seriously diluting the effect that His statements were intended to have.

What I am starting to sense is that the real problem is not on God's side of the issue but is always on our side and our willingness to really take Jesus and God seriously about what they claim about God's feelings toward us. I have heard enough rationalizations throughout my life to keep my spiritual life quite impotent. What I want to experience is the real effects of genuine faith that will accomplish what Jesus claimed could be accomplished by anyone bold enough to take God seriously.

What I am also becoming aware of is my own deeply-embedded doubts about God's claims of mercy, love, compassion and spirit of forgiveness, especially when it comes to my situation personally. Yes, I am beginning to believe it slowly over time, but the reluctance of my own heart is a constant source of frustration for me because I know that I am the reason that God cannot do what He so deeply desires to do through me if I would just allow Him through the choice of faith. I am quite confident that Jesus could say accurately about me as He did about His own disciples when He was here on earth, O foolish men and slow of heart to believe...! (Luke 24:25)

But I notice a real obstacle to living in the awareness of my own poverty of spirit. It can be embarrassing to admit that I am poor in spirit. It goes against nearly everything I have been trained to do in religion and in society. Appearances and public perceptions are such an important part of life that to be honest about a lack like this in my spiritual life is to admit that I am not nearly as competent as I may think I am or may appear to others. This creates a strong potential for others to look at me with suspicion, to question my credibility and beliefs and to maybe look down on me as inferior to what they thought of me before. And that can really mess up my careful image management program!

The only effective path that I see to arrive at that place of genuine faith and vital power under the control of the Holy Spirit is for me to continue to seek God's face, to pursue the real truth about Him and more frequently expose my heart to the truths about God's richness and kindness. Because the very things that we doubt the most about God are the very things that He is most rich in – like mercy, compassion, patience, justice, goodness, kindness, faithfulness and all the other things that describe the actual truth about Him.

So after coming to acknowledge the reality of my own poverty of spirit, which is a very important first step to maturing in my relationship with Him, I need to come to believe in the reality of His generosity and that He is not only willing but is intensely eager to share all of His true wealth with my impoverished spirit.

There was a man who came to Jesus and wanted Him to heal his demon-possessed son. He had enough faith to at least show up and ask for help but he also had a lot of doubts that were being reinforced by the intellectuals and the religious leaders present who tended to look down on those who thought God might actually want to help them. These people worked tirelessly to promote their view of God as a stern, judgmental deity looking for every reason to keep people out of heaven and who had rigid demands for perfection and purity that must be achieved before He could approve of anyone.

But in spite of all this the man approached Jesus and timidly, fearfully petitioned Him to take a look at his son's case. But Jesus, instead of immediately addressing what appeared to everyone else to be the main problem turned to the father and confronted him directly about the true condition of his own heart and his doubts about God's goodness and kindness. This man suddenly came to see that his words to Jesus had betrayed the reality of the double-mindedness that he had in his picture of God and that what God really needed in order to help his son was a total commitment from the heart to the truth about God by this father.

And Jesus said to him, "'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief." (Mark 9:23-24)

What Jesus did for this man is what I need for myself and what everyone of us needs. What I believe Jesus wants from us even more than faith is honesty. Faith can be produced in an honest heart, but self-deception and an unwillingness to acknowledge inner confusion and unbelief is something that effectively blocks even the Almighty from accomplishing what He so much longs to do in our lives. But when this man confessed his true feelings even though they were less than admirable, immediately Jesus was able to bring healing and closure to this tragic situation and fill their lives with joy and peace and life.

I believe this story may be a vivid illustration of one who was poor in spirit and yet was blessed. When this man came to acknowledge his true poverty then he found himself in a position of willingness to receive from the riches of God's abundance. What a wonderful lesson for me. I pray for a spirit of complete honesty like this man so that I too can be in line to experience first hand the power and blessings of God and so that my life can be a demonstration of the amazing riches of His grace in kindness toward me.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

What's Wrong with Self-sufficiency?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

I have been enjoying a teen devotional each morning this year that sometimes elicits some very good insights for me. Today was one of those times. This verse was the one under consideration and the comments about it got me to thinking about this issue of being poor in spirit that has somewhat baffled me all of my life as it has the author.

He posed the question, What is wrong with self-sufficiency? I believe he hit the nail right on the head. After all, self-sufficiency is something that nearly every one of us in this culture have been trained to pursue all of our lives. We spend a great deal of time, training and energy on trying to cultivate independence from others, skills to market ourselves and years trying to get a better job in order to make more money in order to....

But then the author brought up another text that puts this issue into a different light, which is what usually happens whenever we are willing to look at life from heaven's viewpoint instead of our own assumptions and culture. What does God have to say about a group of people who have worked all their lives to become self-sufficient?

Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked... (Revelation 3:17)

Yes, I know that it is very easy to spiritualize away the meaning of both of these verses. That kind of reasoning is often used whenever we are still caught in the trap of compartmentalizing our lives into different sectors and carefully keeping them separated from each other. We work hard at religion when we go to church or other religious functions but feel free to be a different person to a great extent when we are out in the “real world” as we call it. Oh, we may feel come compulsions to restrict how far we go in our “secular” life so as not to damage our religious reputation, but we find no problem with living a double life. After all, isn't there even a text in the Bible that warns us against becoming over-religious?

So what is the problem with being self-sufficient in our secular life as long as we don't feel too self-sufficient in our religious life? Isn't that how we are supposed to interpret these verses? After all, the only thing we can imagine a person being who is not self-sufficient is somebody who lives as a free-loader mooching off the charity of others and we certainly would never want to stoop to that level.

But one thing came to my attention this morning while I was reading this. It is the issue of complete honesty with one's self which is possibly the most difficult thing for many of us to ever accomplish. Deception is one of the most important elements of Satan's kingdom and has been his main mode of operation since the very beginning of his rebellion in heaven at the throne of God. And self-deception is a given for anyone born into this world as a sinner which all of us are today.

The fact of the matter is that every one of us are really poor in our spirit. It is in our spirit where the real problem of sin affects our lives the most and sin has impoverished our spirit more than anything else. But self-deception that has been strongly reinforced by the deceptions pushed on us by the world around us keep us from understanding or believing the real truth about our own condition. Religion as we have almost always known it plays right along with this notion of the importance of self-sufficiency though it has a different spin on it at times. But if we really want to know our true condition as heaven sees it we must be willing to open our minds and hearts to the possibility that reality is radically different that what we have been led to believe all of our lives.

This is often a very frightening and intimidating proposal whenever it is encountered, especially for people who are confident in their religious life. Some people are forced to face the truth about themselves through tragedies or traumatic events in their lives and later come to deeply appreciate what at first they strongly resented. They realize that through intense trials they were actually given the opportunity to get in touch with reality and the true poverty of their own spirit and resources, and as a result they chose to turn to the only real Source of spiritual wealth and cast their souls completely on His mercy.

However, trauma and trials are not guaranteed to bring this wonderful result about in every situation. The choices each one of us makes are dependent on our own willingness to acknowledge the truth about ourselves whenever we are exposed to it. We can either embrace the truth of what we could not see before and humble ourselves to accept it from heaven's perspective or we can choose to go into even deeper denial in our effort to cling to the self-deceptions or religious scaffolding we have depended on for most of our lives.

I have been learning that this is not just a one or two time event but is something that occurs on a regular basis. I am daily faced with choices and opportunities to receive convictions from the Spirit about the real truth about myself that I have to decide what to do with. In fact, I have come to sense that if I am not under conviction about something for a long period of time that there is something likely amiss in my own relationship with heaven.

The most effective way that God uses to expose the poverty of my spirit is to allow me to see it in contrast to the beauty and attractiveness of His perfect Spirit and goodness and kindness. I am finding that the more real truth I discover about what God is like as opposed to what religion has often taught me, the easier it is to see my own inadequacies by contrast. For it is a fundamental truth that it is the kindness of God more than anything else that leads me to repentance. (Romans 2:4)

So I see that self-sufficiency is not all that it is cracked up to be. In fact, it is something to become legitimately alarmed about and a cause for concern and investigation. For to enter the kingdom of heaven requires nearly the very opposite of all the things we assume are true from our life in the kingdom of darkness. And just because we are very religious does not exempt us from still discovering that much of our life is still operating under false assumptions. After all, those described in Revelation 3:14-22 fully believed they were religiously correct and had nothing to worry about.

Father, thank-you for Your mercy in revealing to me my true condition. And thank-you for doing it in increments and not all at once most of the time. Your are so kind and gracious and merciful to me, but I need to perceive that so much more clearly. Continue to increase Your light in my heart and mind and mold me into the prince that You created in Your image. Dwell in me with Your Spirit today and cause me to reflect Your gentleness, kindness and goodness to everyone that my life may touch today – for Your name's sake.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Slow Clay Posts

I have been fascinated to observe the different sources or locations from which people arrive on my blog sites. Even more interesting is to see that many times it is the pictures that I selected for illustrations that seem to attract people to look at my sites which is still a bit baffling to me. I have not figured out how people can track a link from a picture on the web to a blog that is utilizing that picture. I plan to do some more research and investigation into this soon.

I realize that I have not been writing nearly as often on this blog as I used to. There are several reasons for this. The biggest reason is that most of my thoughts and ideas have been absorbed by my nearly daily postings on my other blog site, deeperword.blogspot.com where I have been carefully meditating and analyzing how the Word of God applies to me personally. This emerges from my daily times early in the morning listening to God and marinating in the Word. Even then I sometimes have difficulty getting my thoughts posted regularly even after they are written because of my increased busy schedule. I often have to leave the house for work before I have time to edit and post what I have recored that morning and end up doing it later in the day. Sometimes they even pile up until the weekend when I have time to finish each one and back-post it to the day it was written.

And that is the second reason that I have had less presence on the web over the past few months on this particular blog. God has blessed me with the opportunity to have a good amount of work this summer with a friend that I met at the Barbershop chorus that I joined early this year. In the past couple weeks we have been working long hours on starting a new home for a customer that will have solid log walls around the house and log siding over the rest of the attached parts. In the past few days we built the garage and put the roof trusses and decking on. We hope to dry it in tomorrow before the rain starts that promises to last all weekend.

Another possible explanation for why I have not spent more time posting to this particular blog is possibly something I might call cyclic – whatever (can't think of a good word to fit here). It is just that there seems to be times when ideas tend to coalesce more often and become more persistent in their need to be processed and captured. But then there seems to be other times when life tends to get more involved in other directions and I wonder what is going on in this arena. But it is during these cycles that appear to be something like down times that I sense somehow that the things I learn during the more spiritually intense times are trickling down deeper into the heart level many times and much of the unseen absorption is taking place. I don't know if that makes any sense but right now it seems to be the best way I can explain it.

I have been requested to lead out in a Bible study class at church this coming weekend. It is the first time they have asked me to do anything like this even though I had previously asked to be involved more. They have tended to act almost afraid or suspicious of me in the past and I suppose that this may be a test of the waters so to speak to find out if I am “safe” to interact with others within the structures that currently are in place. Of course this all may be just my own imagination and lack of mind-sight on my part. I certainly have a lot of improvement in this area to gain.

I know that the notes I have prepared are far more than I could ever possibly have time to cover in the very short time alloted for the study. That is already very frustrating to me but I also must learn to be patient and to develop a much more settled level of trust with them before suggesting alternative ideas to deepen the level of people's interest in hearing God in His Word.

Much of my heart dialog is being expressed on my study blog as I mentioned previously. And even though it revolves around what I am currently observing in the book of Romans, what I am recording is almost always very personal and many times uncomfortably vulnerable. That has not come back to bite me yet as I was afraid when first beginning to blog but that is still a very real possibility. However, as I have revealed in previous blogs I made a decision sometime back that I want to be a more open and honest person and these blogs have been probably my main outlet for expressing my deeper emotions, frustrations, convictions, dreams and desires.

I suspect that as the weather changes in the fall and I find myself homebound more often due to rain-outs at work that I may cycle back into a mode of much more writing again. But most of all I intend to pursue my passion to seek God's face, to discover the feelings of His heart, to be much more sensitive to the voice of His Spirit and to be much more tuned to the promptings and impulses that are available to all those who are truly led by the Spirit of God.

With that in mind I sometimes have to restrict my desires to write to allow my heart to have the time and space to grow without being constantly under the scrutiny of my paparazzi left brain taking notes for its next writing stint.

I have been disappointed that such very few people who actually visit my sites are willing to touch base with me in this venue. But then I continually remind myself that this platform is not something I want to turn into a means for leveraging others or trying to manipulate what they believe, but this is a venue for me to simply express what I am experiencing deep inside. I still find it very difficult at times to share with others verbally what I find much easier to put into writing. And I also remember that God is in charge of all these venues and that the thoughts He shares with me and that I simply report in these posts really belong to Him and are not mine to claim ownership over. As such, it is His business if He wants to use what I post to be a seed of truth or a channel of encouragement for someone without any need for me to know how or where He is using this. My position is to simply rest in Him, express what He is doing in me – which is the real definition of a witness – and leave all the results in His hands.

This reminds me of the parable of Jesus that He gave in response to His disciple's request to have more faith. That story has remained in the back of my mind for a number of years ever since I saw its much deeper meaning. It was not so much the activities of the servants in that parable of Luke 17 that were important but it was the attitude and disposition that they had in relationship to their master that was the key ingredient of the story. God has many times reminded me that that is the direction I am to move toward and the closer I get to having that kind of relationship with Him the sooner I will have much more faith myself. With them I will be able to more honestly say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.' (Luke 17:10)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I Want to Fly

I woke up a while ago from a kaleidoscopic of dreams involving various emotions, desires and problems that swirl around from my past. After I woke up, a thought began to condense that was amplified by the reading I enjoyed a few minutes later. I need to capture it before I lose it.

In my dream I was riding along a highway and saw a small group of people laying on top of a large kite-type wing riding it like a hang-glider. Then I saw other various similar flying contraptions, some without people on them and some being towed by boats or cars. Immediately an intense desire welled up within me to be able to fly on one of those. My desire to fly has been one of the deepest longings all of my life and when I was younger I used to have frequent dreams about flying, though many of them included great difficulty and inhibitions.

The dream moved on to other unrelated but strange and unexpected events involving pets, estranged family members and the collapse of a trailer house with our things in it after being hit by the wing of an old fighter aircraft taxiing past. I have no idea if any of these things have any meaning for me or they were just a collage created from the process of filing away yesterday's batch of memories. But the intense desire to fly continued into my waking consciousness and linked with the verse I read from one of the devotionals I read.

And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; (Revelation 14:6)

I have heard this text espoused and expostulated all of my life, but I never linked it with my own personal craving to be able to fly like the angels do even though that is exactly what I have always wanted. One of the conditions that I always had associated with my desire to fly was to have as little props as possible while enjoying the freedom of flight. In other words, gliding would be better than motorized flight and hang-gliding even better. Better yet, I heard about para-gliding in which a person could catch an updraft with nothing more than a carefully designed parachute type outfit and could soar around in the air under a giant canopy with very little apparatus involved while enjoying the thrills of seeming weightlessness and seeing the world from high above the ground.

At one point in my life I did manage to earn a private pilot's license but I have not been able to afford to fly for many years now in that capacity. But my desire to fly has not diminished much and I think that maybe it goes beyond just a fancy of my own and is rooted in a primordial function for which humans were originally destined to enjoy and has been stymied by the entrance of sin.

But there was another little element of my dreams that alerted me to something that I believe might be very significant in this context. As I watched some of the flying contraptions I noticed that some didn't have anyone on them and the reason was because it was against the local laws. This stirred up a bit of resentment in me that laws can be so limiting to restrict the natural desires of the heart that are implanted by God.

Upon reflection after I woke up I sensed that there was more to this than simply being prevented from having a good time for a few minutes riding around on something similar to a hang-glider. In fact, the more I consider this in the light of the messages from the three free-flying angels in Revelation 14 I think there is something here that may be very significant. For the longings and desires that have been slowly awakening in my damaged heart currently under reconstruction by the Spirit of God includes an intense desire to be free of the inhibitions that have suffocated my spirit for all of my life and prevented me from thriving and growing and really celebrating life with joy and abandon. And that is the same feeling that I begin to experience when I am allowed to really fly.

One thing that seemed drawn to my attention was the artificial restrictions imposed on those who fail to conform to the ways that the world demands they must live just a few verses earlier.

And he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:17)

This is accomplished by the means of rules, part of the counterfeit system of control that has been invented by Satan to mimic the true ways that God relates to His created beings. I have explored this at some length before, but to put it simply, God operates on principles but the world follows the lead of the great deceiver and imposes artificial rules, laws and commands to accomplish its goals. The counterfeit system is based on force and fear and coercion while God's form of “government” is rooted in relationships linked with bonds of real love, selfless service and joyful community. The principles that “govern” all the universe far transcend just the spiritual dimension. What we have labeled as laws delivered by God throughout the ages are often simply revelations of innate principles of reality that have natural consequences both good and bad depending on how we cooperate or try to violate those principles.

But men's laws are based on the artificial system of government developed and refined by Satan, originally Lucifer who once was the closest created being in the whole universe to the throne and the mind of God. This angel is so well acquainted with the ways and truths about God that he is able to counterfeit them extremely convincingly and deceive many throughout the universe into thinking that his new ideas are superior to the ways of God that he considers too weak and too restricting.

In this context it is interesting to see the basic elements that will be involved in one of the final confrontations between the ways of God and the inventions of men following Satan's lead. One of the core beliefs promoted by the world is that community and success must be based on creating rules and laws that force everyone into conformity for the good of all. Law is considered the solution for nearly every problem in this world. But laws and regulations must be backed up by the threat of force through artificial means of enforcement in order to induce fear which is the primary emotion utilized to motivate all who are under the domination of Satan and his agents.

One thing I have noticed about the counterfeit system of law-dependence in this world is the ease with which laws can be enacted and changed on a whim. Laws are almost always created to promote the selfish interests of those in power and whenever another group of people achieve power they immediately follow the same pattern and use their position to impose their own will through laws on those around them.

Sadly, religious people have bought into this counterfeit way of thinking and viewing reality and are too ready with a great deal of condemnation and contempt for anyone who dares to challenge the whole concept of artificial law itself. As a result many people have come under criticism or have had their reputations maligned and destroyed by religious leaders and followers alike simply because they were trying to follow their conscience and the Spirit's leading in their life in contraflow to the imposed restrictions of laws and man-made rules. Religious people often have mistakenly believed that men's laws somehow carry a certain amount of divine weight and must be considered somewhat equal with the far greater principles of reality often referred to as God's laws.

Great wrongs have been committed and excused by following this kind of thinking. Christians under the reign of Hitler demanded that everyone should go along with his ideas and the laws he instituted because they were the rule of government and God commanded us to obey earthly authorities. This sort of logic has been repeatedly used all throughout history and is still very much in vogue today. However, the more I have contemplated and considered the ways and methods of God in relationship to His people the more I see the fallacy of this line of reasoning. On the surface it first appears to be very compelling, but upon closer examination I see that it is a very diabolical deception designed to control and suppress the true people of God by inducing fear and false guilt within their hearts to secure their compliance to men's artificial rule system of control.

So what does this have to do with flying? I think it has a great deal to do with it. For if my heart was designed to experience the thrill of uninhibited flight in dimensions far more important than just my physical body, and if that is God's real plan for my life, then I can be sure that the world's system is going to set itself up against the plans of God for His children and will employ anything and everything possible to prevent God's people from enjoying the freedom of the sons of God. And one of the methods that will be employed most is the full use of the artificial system of law with all its associated guilt, fear, condemnation and intimidation. It will culminate in the use of laws that will prevent God's people from participating at all in the economic system of the world which is another aspect of the counterfeit government that we live under.

Just as men create laws that prevent us from enjoying physical flight with freedom, so too are many of men's laws calculated to prevent us from flying in other dimensions of our life. So if I have a mindset that is controlled by the idea that men's laws are on a par with God's principles of creation and reality, then I am very vulnerable to the manipulation and inhibitions of the world designed to prevent me from following my heart in the ways God desires for me to do. I not only will be prevented from enjoying the thrill of physical flight on this earth but far more importantly I will remain grounded in my spirit and soul from following the lead of the Spirit of God in many other areas of my life.

Romans 8 tells me that those who are the real children of God will be led by the Spirit of God. But that leading will often put them at odds with the artificial restrictions of this world that are subtly designed to force us in a different direction. The tension between the world's system and the gentle, quiet leading of the Spirit will intensify until there will be a complete break between the two and the world will forcibly expel from society those who refuse to comply, they will be completely shut out of the world's sphere of privileges.

Those who have all their life served God from a spirit of fear, have tried to follow His “laws” from a spirit of duty and obligation rather than from a passion induced by and responding to His love for them, these will find it foreign to their thinking to break with their habit of obedience based on fear and will be overcome by the greater fear induced by the world's increasing threats against those who refuse to comply. But those who have been weaning themselves away from the counterfeit model of life on this earth and have instead invested their efforts toward intertwining their hearts with bonds of love and joy with the very heart of God will have a faith that will be found to be their vital link to the salvation provided for them by Jesus Christ. As Revelation puts it, they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. (Revelation 12:11)

Like the angels that they are listening to, they will have learned how to truly fly. For it is not just the words of the angels in Revelation that are significant to God's children but the example and demonstration of how to live life with joy, with fullness of heart, with loud shouts of praise and honor for their God - this is the example that those in tune with the heart and mind of God will learn to emulate. And as we learn to align our thinking and affections with the true ways of heaven we will find that we are in the midst of the greatest flying lessons we could ever imagine even right now. We will learn to fly so well that we will be prepared to fly away from this earth and join the angels in their joyful abandon of praise and song in devotion to the greatest Lover in the whole universe.