Random Blog Clay Feet: 2008-10
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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Preach It, Brother!

I have started listening to some stories and talks by a very faith-filled missionary that is having significant influence on my thinking. But at the same time I also feel uncomfortable about some of the things he says. Maybe I should say I am uncomfortable with some of the feelings that are aroused inside of me as a result of the way he says some things. For what I am noticing is that my discomfort is very often connected to things I experienced when I was much younger more than what I am hearing today. And it would be very easy to assume based on emotions that what someone says today is with the same intent or spirit as those who tried to use fear and intimidation to motivate me in the past.

One thing this man says is that he does not want to make people comfortable. As I continued to think about that this morning I remembered that the Bible seldom has positive things to say about being comfortable. This is partly understandable because, as this missionary says, when we are comfortable we are not likely to grow. It is usually only when we get out of our comfort zone that we are challenged to change the way we think and to take decided steps to move in a different direction.

But as I stop to think about this word “comfortable”, I also think that some of the problem may be with language itself. For to believe that God does not believe in comfort would be to imply that He would refuse to comfort us when we are hurting, and I will not fall into buying that lie. So there seems to be a wide variety of meanings attached to this word “comfort” or “comfortable” and I believe we must be careful not to be too dogmatic about God's intentions as relating to these words.

What I have seen at times is that religious agitators who like to promote their radical brand of religion often seize upon this issue of being comfortable and use it abusively in ways that I don't believe God ever intended and that misrepresent Him. They confuse peace with comfort and thus promote an atmosphere in the soul where a person feels guilty if they are not in a constant state of fear and agitation thus robbing them of peace. But this is completely incongruent with the inner peace that God has promised to all who live in close connection with Him. Again, this is another classic case of a counterfeit supplanting what is supposed to be an important part of our experience.

Something else came to my attention while I was listening to these talks. Every once in awhile there was a noticeable outburst in the audience by someone who would enthusiastically say “preach it” whenever the speaker said something particularly discomforting. I have observed this kind of spirit and behavior a number of times in my life and almost every time I encountered it I had the same feeling of uneasiness. As I now try to analyze just what this produces inside of me I would describe it as a mixture of guilt and intimidation. I sense that these kind of people want opportunities to impose forcefully on others what they believe is sharp truth that they perceive as coming from the speaker. I have to admit that there have been times when I myself have felt that same spirit inside of me, and now I wonder about its legitimacy and my own motives.

What suddenly came to my mind as I thought about this today was the experience of Paul and Silas as described in Acts 16 when they were followed by a slave girl who was saying apparently only positive things about their message. She was strongly affirming that they were preaching the gospel, and yet they eventually were not comfortable with her public affirmations and support. After a number of days of this experience Paul finally turned around and ordered the spirit within this girl to leave and she was delivered. But the results of that miracle were anything but pleasant for Paul and Silas over the next few hours.

I have often wondered about this situation each time I read this story in Acts. Now it makes a lot more sense to me. When I put this together with the spirit that I sense in people who typically urge a speaker on, supposing that stern, fear-oriented messages are what people need the most while appearing to be strongly promoting the spread of “truth”, I am beginning to sense that the spirit in both situations may be very similar. Just because a person is enthusiastic about some presentation of truth because it is sharp and convicting does not necessarily mean that they are in tune with the real Spirit of God. And it is also true that just because a person indulges in this spirit while someone else is speaking that it does not necessarily follow that the speaker shares that same spirit.

I often wondered about this story with Paul and Silas. Why did they wait for a number of days before doing anything about this situation with the slave girl? And why did they feel the need to do anything at all since she was not saying anything bad about them?

I believe that they probably struggled with these questions themselves which is why it took so long to decide what to do about it. I can imagine that they may have had long and intense discussions at night about how to relate to this unusual situation and did a lot of praying and soul-searching to figure out what the right thing was to do. It was an extremely clever ploy by the enemy of souls to come up with this unique circumstance and it was not really clear as to how they should relate to it.

I believe that the other situation that I have described with enthusiastic extremists eager to broker fear into other people's hearts may be even more difficult for a speaker to know how to deal with. For it is not nearly so clear to others that this person may have a spirit out of tune with God's Spirit because they are so enthusiastic about religion already. For a speaker to confront them like Paul did with the slave girl would likely be highly offensive to the person unless they first came to realize that the spirit they possessed was not from God as they had believed so strongly for so long.

And as I think about the times when I myself feel motivated to be enthusiastic about some strong message I hear I wonder how much of my enthusiasm is really God-inspired or how much is from my flesh being influenced by a spirit from a more diabolical source.

What I do sense is that I do not want to judge another person who is clearly being led by God in their life. I must remember that they are growing still, that they are God's responsibility and that there may be blind spots or weaknesses that God is still working on in their life that may trigger past unresolved issues in me. I have no responsibility for taking care of their growth but I do have full responsibility to cooperate with God in resolving my own triggers and in guarding the condition of my own spirit. I am accountable 100% to God for myself and I must answer to Him first before anyone else.

Father, I want to learn Your gentleness. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great. (Psalms 18:35)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Nature of Sin

I have thought a lot about what is the real essence of sin. I have heard all sorts of arguments about what sin is (and some of them probably demonstrated a bit of it in the process) and have been confused by various pronouncements about it. But underneath it all I have searched for a clearer understanding of what it is about sin that is so repulsive to God and at the same time seems to make it so attractive to us.

As I was sitting in church thinking about various things my mind came back to this issue again. Here is another stab at what I believe is at the very heart of sin.

Sin is the very resistance that a created mind has internally that resists the love and attraction of the One who created it. And because resistance prevents the fulfillment and bonding that is inherent in a reciprocal love relationship, God hates sin with a perfect hatred. For God did not create any of His intelligent beings to live apart from His love but created all of us to thrive in the atmosphere of love. So when we entertain lies about God that cause us to pull back from Him in fear or resentment, God becomes deeply hurt and also intensely passionate about doing everything possible to eliminate whatever it is that interferes or distorts our relationship with Him. Some people call this God's wrath.

Sin is the attitudes, the beliefs and the lies about God that causes our hearts to resist the real truth about His unconditional love for us. That is becoming very clear to me. But then another truth presented itself to my mind in this context. I remembered the following verse and the implications that it has on this issue of sin separating our hearts from God.

The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. (1 Timothy 5:24)

I have commented on this verse at various times and have come to understand it in a different light than most might view it. After learning so much about our great need for emotional healing and the tremendous freedom and joy that it brings into a person's life, I have come to believe that this text is talking about the crucial need that each one of us has to allow all of our pain, our triggers, our emotional land mines to be uncovered, exposed, unlocked and resolved as soon as possible. For it is the condition of our spirit which is linked to our emotional make-up and history that is the most important part of our being and that will make us fit or unfit to thrive in heaven's atmosphere of perfect love.

If we have allowed all of our sins, fears and lies to become evident instead of trying to repress them, deny them or run from acknowledging their presence in our hearts, then we can experience the freedom that real judgment can bring us if we are willing to be judged by God's Spirit here and now instead of procrastinating until it is too late. As the light of the real truth about God increases in our heart it will expose the dark lies about Him and about ourselves that we have lived under for all of our lives. If we allow this healthy kind of judgment to occur in our lives, the healing kind of judgment where we choose to allow the Spirit to expose all the evil and bitterness and pain from our past and dissolve it in the truth of His love for us, then when the final day of judgment comes we will find ourselves already free of all the resistance that would prove fatal when the full current of God's passion is revealed.

The more we learn about the true God, the less we are inclined to resist Him and be afraid of Him. All of our fears about God are based on lies that we still believe deep in our hearts about Him. As long as any of these lies and pains are cherished in the heart and we refuse to let them go, we are in danger of suffering the natural results that occur whenever power and resistance to power meet in the same circuit. This process of releasing our lies about God and ourselves is the process of sanctification.

Friday, October 24, 2008

More on Motivation

I have written recently about the two very different ways of motivating the will. Now those thoughts are starting to circle around and apply themselves to my own heart in various ways that I find convicting and helpful.

I think about the typical way that I naturally try to get some people to view God differently, say for instance, people in my church that often view Him from a very external religious perspective. When I contemplate this and try to be as honest as possible about the intensity that rises up inside of me sometimes whenever I feel like confronting false opinions about what God is like, I realize that my spirit is conveying the very kind of negative motivation that I do not want to use myself.

As I was observing previously, the will can either be attracted and drawn toward something or someone positively like a magnet draws other metal or magnets to itself, or the will can be pushed and intimidated by fear, force and intimidation like a physical object can be moved in a certain direction by brute force. What I am now seeing is that my natural instinctive way of trying to motivate others is usually by the last means and not by the first. Of course I am not very successful in making much of a significant positive difference in their lives doing it this way and many people complain that I am not very friendly.

I certainly do not like this state of affairs that I find in my natural ways of doing things. The problem, of course, is that we tend to do whatever has been modeled to us and it is difficult for me to remember making very many decisions based on positive attractions rather than avoidance of punishment or bad consequences. But I am so grateful that God does not treat me the way others have treated me and that He continues to try to attract me to Himself instead of driving me harshly.

Somewhere I read that Jesus is like a good shepherd that never drives his sheep. A skilled and caring shepherd always leads his sheep and invites them to follow him instead of forcing them ahead of him. This speaks volumes about the character of the shepherd.

I confess that there are more and more times that I am finding myself with options now that I never experienced before. What I mean is that I am sometimes sensing more clearly alternative motivations that I never felt before my perception of God was challenged and transformed through better knowledge of His personality and character. It is becoming so much clearer to me the past few years that what we feel about God at our gut level absolutely determines how we are going to respond to His words and actions in our lives. And this revolves directly around this issue of how we perceive the ways that He tries to motivate us.

What gets me excited each time I realize it is that more and more I find myself sensing the option to make a positive choice, do the “right” thing, or refrain from something harmful because it will enhance and deepen my joy and intimacy with God. I am not talking about a left-brain theory that is imposed on me from a religious perspective but I am talking about an option that my heart senses at times that involves a sense of real attraction as an alternative to fear motivation.

It would be very easy to analyze this and quote a lot of scripture verses to support it and thus turn it into another left-brain doctrine, and that would certainly support the truth of what I am sensing. But it would also possibly rob my heart of the opportunity to more deeply explore what is really going on in this area of my life that I really want to experience much more. I sense that my heart needs far more training in positive attraction motivation than I presently have, and it does not respond very easily to just left-brain lectures about why it should do that. What I really need is to experience it first-hand and to see it in action both in my own life and in others.

Often when I attempt to think of how to go about relating to others from this new way of thinking rather than my normal, ingrained way of fear-motivation I find myself coming up with a blank. I honestly cannot visualize what that might look like most of the time because it is so unfamiliar to me. But I also know that this is the direction I want to move in my own life and in the way that I treat other people.

But I sense that this can only happen in my own life to the extent that my picture of God is transformed and I chuck the lies about Him that have poisoned my thinking and assumptions for all of my life. My mind operates on the principle of being transformed into whatever it dwells on just as everyone else's mind does. I want to be transformed into a person who can relay the attractions of heaven to other's rather than dwelling on terrible consequences while trying to force others to change their opinions. Instead, I want to become much more a channel of attraction for God and much less an agent of fear.

Yes, I am aware that there are times when fear is the only option left for God to get people's attention. Those, who like me have been raised with minds trained to only respond to fear to motivate them often have to initially be jolted out of their deep ruts by warnings of the consequences of the choices they are making. I realize that God often has to use this method to get our attention, but I also am learning that this is not the goal of our loving Father for our relationship with Him. I believe that He wants to move as quickly as possible to a relationship based totally on attraction and to discontinue having to warn us of dangers. And this is largely due to the terrible distortions about Him that are created when we think that He is like the effects that we feel in our heart while experiencing the internal results of fear.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Motivating the Will

I read an article in a newsletter recently that I found very interesting and enlightening. It had to do with the role of our will which has been a favorite topic of discussion among my people for very many years. However, it has also been at the center of a great deal of misunderstanding about how to properly relate to God, how to live as a “successful” Christian and is also at the center of the practice of legalism. Most people assume that we have to fulfill certain requirements in order to get God to save us and these requirements entail exercising enough will-power to fulfill them correctly. Of course this also sets one up for a great deal of discouragement as well as feeding into the cultivation of a lot of hidden pride.

As I read this article I remembered many of the typical assertions and quotations bantered about during many discussions of this subject. But suddenly the author took an unexpected turn and began to explain something that I myself have been discovering over the past few years in my own experience. When these two subjects were put together I was amazed at the perfect fit that could be seen. And it also got me to thinking about it subconsciously which is often the case after learning about something very compelling.

What came to my mind a couple nights ago (quite inconveniently just after I had gotten into bed) shortly after reading this was the thought that there are two ways to motivate our will to make decisions. As with pretty much everything in this life, there is an authentic way to live and think and believe that we were designed for by God and then there is a compelling counterfeit that is usually much more familiar to us that we often assume is the right way. Of course this would definitely be the case with something so important and central to our life and our well-being as our will.

What came to my mind were these two ways to motivate my will. First and most common, I can be induced to make decisions based on fear. This mode of motivation is a driving kind of force from behind me that intimidates my will to make decisions in a certain direction. Whenever I am using my will from this basis the resulting decisions will also take on a certain flavor in the process, a certain hue that will be incorporated into all of my life and thinking and the atmosphere that surrounds me.

Secondly, there is a less-known alternative for this kind of living but one that I am coming to believe is the truly authentic way that God intends for His children to live. This is where the will operates by the principle of attraction instead of being driven. A will that makes decisions under the influence of attraction involving the affections instead of fear and avoidance will also take on a certain atmosphere that will color and flavor the whole life with its influence.

These two principles can both be very strong motivations but are opposite in their relationship to our will. Being driven and being attracted conjure up mental pictures of something being pushed from behind by force verses something being pulled from in front by something more magnetic in nature rather than brute force from behind. I hope I am explaining this adequately since it is difficult at times to reduce into words things that seem much more clear internally.

What I have observed over the years is that many people believe that we need a mixture of these two motivations in order to have all the incentive possible in order to get ourselves into heaven. This is why the carrot and stick approach has so much credibility. Of course, to most people it appears that fear is the far more powerful motivator and so we tend to dwell on things that frighten ourselves and each other in order to compel right action of the will, or at least what we think it will be right action. I believe that if we can get honest enough to discover what really motivates us inside most of the time that we will discover that most all of us rely largely on fear to get us to make difficult decisions.

I know that I have discovered even recently upon careful reflection that I too often wait until the fear factor rises to a high enough level of discomfort before I am willing to face a tough decision or make a hard choice. This is so common that it is accepted as the way we are supposed to live. But now I am seriously beginning to question that premise. Just because it has always been that way does not necessarily make it right.

Living a life dependent on fear motivation is to live a life comfortable with being enslaved. People who have been slaves all of their life many times have no concept of what freedom might look and feel like and so sometimes they come to believe that they are not really under slavery at all. Because the status quo feels so familiar it is difficult to believe that God has something radically better for us to experience and so we tend to morph the words of God to fit our current assumptions and embrace a religion that is more in our own image than reflective of the true character of our Father in heaven.

But as I begin to get a taste of the better wine offered by Jesus and as my understanding of the real truth about God has begun to change radically over the past few years, I have been forced to challenge all of my assumptions about what I think is real and how to live life in true freedom. And one of the conclusions that I am coming to is that God does not want me to continue living dependent on the driving force of fear as the compulsion for my will. God's ways are not man's ways, and when I begin to experience the superior power and results of exercising my will from a motivation of attraction, the attraction of my affections toward a God whom I am beginning to really perceive with my heart actually loves me with unconditional love, I am starting to see more clearly the danger of continuing to depend on fear to be the fuel for my will.

I will not assert that God never utilizes our fears to initiate our movement toward serving Him and experiencing His passion for us. But what I have learned is that while God may often start our relationship with Him from where we are currently in fear, He never wants us to remain in that enslaved condition as the norm for our new life in Christ. We may start out making choices to accept God's grace, forgiveness and power in our lives from reasons motivated largely by fear. But if we do not learn to soon move past those elementary and selfish motivations we will find that our experience will become stunted and dwarfed and stagnant. For the Christian life will always lead us toward true freedom and that freedom is mainly the freedom from all fear. Perfect love casts out all fear.

I want to not only learn more about this new way of thinking, living and motivation for my will, but much more importantly I want to experience from the heart this new way of making decisions based purely on attraction instead of on fear. I want my affections and thoughts and heart to feel the magnetic power of being drawn to the powerful passion that emanates from God's heart for me that I am now only dimly starting to perceive. I am tired of depending on fear to keep me moving forward. And I am tired of the debilitating effects that fear has to drain my energies and leave me feeling tired and exhausted from trying to fight against evil in my life.

I believe that as I find how to exercise my will using the correct motivations that attract me toward God that I will find myself maybe actually being energized in fighting the good fight of faith. Somehow I sense that the closer I draw to the Source of all energy and life and as my will is attracted to His beauties and amazing attributes that my chains of fear and apprehension and even depression will lose their power over me and I will experience more and more fully the abundant life that Jesus promised for all who would come to Him.

"They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes." (Revelation 7:16-17)

Thank-you Jesus. I accept this truth from You and crave to drink from this water of life. Fill me with fresh revelations of Your truth, Your beauty and Your magnetic passion. And use me to be an agent of attraction to draw others to You as well.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Biggest Lightening Rod

The following are insights that came to me in the middle of the night that I want to unwrap here further. Bear with me while I quickly jot them down and then unpack them further so that I can understand them more clearly myself.

Praise is the medium of conveyance by which pain and fear can be effectively transferred to Jesus.

So I thought about what praise really is and why I am subtly resistant to it still. I discovered that I have a residual gut-level belief that praise is something that has to be earned and if my feelings don't believe someone deserves it then I am resistant to doing it. It is partly for me an issue of honesty. (These are feeling-based beliefs, not conscious beliefs that I subscribe to. For another perspective read this post from last November.)

So my heart is really saying that if I don't feel blessed right now then God doesn't really deserve praise right now. That is likely because praise and affirmation toward me was always predicated on my performance and so I of course assumed the same principle applied to God. I felt that there were certainly times to praise God but that was generally when things were going well, I was feeling blessed and prayers were being answered etc. But when circumstances seemed very much against me it seemed much more real that God was likely upset with me and so praise simply did not make sense at those times except as a duty to be fulfilled.

After recently revisiting and reigniting the truth about God's unconditional forgiveness – that seems so hard to keep firmly in my mind and heart – I am more in a position to put these other pieces together properly so that they make more sense in the bigger picture. When one piece of the picture is misunderstood or misplaced it has a distorting effect on how I view many other pieces of the puzzle.

Pain is almost always very closely associated with fear. Nearly everyone is afraid of pain which is why it is so easy to manipulate everyone with fear. This is the grand strategy of Satan to control the whole world through fear. If he can use the threat of pain to frighten us into submission or motivate us in a certain direction then he can control our thoughts and actions. So the plan of salvation must somehow effectively address this problem of fear and pain.

Pain is also in essence closely linked with death. This is what is referred to in the plan that Jesus came to put into place described in these verses.

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

But this is only part of the answer as to how the death of Jesus effected the liberation of our hearts from all fear. I have puzzled for years over what Jesus' death had to do with my problems and my daily experience. The way that it was presented was so convoluted religiously that it simply made very little real sense. This was largely because most religions believe in very dark views of God and most of Christianity pits Jesus and the Father against each other in counterfeit versions of the plan of salvation. Again, if one part of the puzzle is false it seriously affects many other pieces and makes them have a lot of tension when trying to put them together. Often typical solution that people have used is to simply force the pieces together illogically and then declare that the tension created is simply the mystery of God and dismiss all further questions about it.

But add to the above text the passage from Isaiah and it begins to make even more sense.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)

Even as I just considered these two texts together right now I noticed this phrase for our well-being and realized that it is directly linked to the slavery in the previous passage. Our well-being from God's perspective is to be freed from our slavery which is our fear of death and all the things associated with death and that includes pain. It is significant that this passage in Isaiah is full of descriptions of pain that Jesus took upon Himself for the sole purpose of creating a way for us to become free from that very pain in our own lives.

So how does this work in practicality? What does the real plan of salvation look like with more of the pieces in proper position and understood more clearly? And just how, in very practical and useful terms, do I get my pain, guilt, shame etc. out of my own heart and where it belongs, on the cross of Jesus Christ?

I certainly am not going to make any claim as to having a complete understanding of the plan of salvation since it has been said that we will be trying to more clearly understand it throughout all of eternity. But on the other hand, it is definitely our privilege to have a much clearer perception of it and experience in it than what we have had up to this point. That is God's will and deep desire for us, and the more clearly we perceive the real truth about God's character and feelings toward us the easier it is going to be to get a clearer grasp of the true outline of the real plan of salvation as it is in Jesus.

As I lay awake around 1 AM this morning not being able to sleep, I listened to whatever God might want to have me think about. This issue of fear was one of the first things that came to my attention since it is often fear that wakes me up at odd times during the night and robs me too much of my sleep. So I have a vested interest in learning how to become free from all my fears. I also have a longstanding question as to what is really meant by the passage in Hebrews 3 about entering into His rest.

I chose to simply follow this thread of thought and slowly put together things that I have been learning recently from various sources and see where it might take me. As I did so I was praying for God to deliver me from all my fears. But I think part of God's answer to prayers like this involves also teaching me the process that He uses to deliver me from my fears so that I can more fully cooperate with the effective way He has in place to accomplish that.

I remembered previous lessons that I have learned about my need to transfer all my fears and emotional pain to Jesus since He already suffered all of of that very pain and fear on the cross. His death by this means qualified Him to bear it for me and receive it from me. I no longer believe that He died to appease a justice-hungry God full of wrath toward me, but He did it instead to reveal the heart of the Godhead that has been obscured by the myriads of lies produced and promoted by Satan about how He feels about me. It was for our sense of justice that He suffered all of the emotional consequences of our sins, not for God's satisfaction. It was to appease the wrath of all created beings who misinterpret the truth about God's heart that Jesus made Himself the lightening rod for our vengeance and wrath.

And furthermore, He has become the permanent lightening rod firmly in place onto which we must continue to unload our pain, fear, anger and negative emotions or we will not be able to be freed from our slavery to fear. And as I look back again at the verse from Hebrews I suddenly realize that this lightening rod was the secret resource that God unveiled to neutralize all the power that Satan had unleashed to keep us bound firmly in the slavery of fear. A lightening rod acts to “ground” electricity directed toward another object thus neutralizing its destructive potential. It does so by absorbing all of the powerful energy into itself that would otherwise cause fire and ruin if it were to reach its original target. But in our case, even though Jesus has already absorbed the full force of the evil that we experience we have to choose to transact with Him in order to enjoy the freedom of the sons of God.

Satan's power of slavery has always been based on force, intimidation and fear as well as deception. This evil control is even more real than the surging, destructive power of powerful lightening bolts that can wreak so much havoc in the natural world. Satan's emotional lightening has been used with impunity for centuries to tear apart relationships, to ignite fires of hatred, inflame evil passions and incite bloodshed throughout the history of this world. Satan's lightening represents his demonic passion that is actually the great counterfeit of God's pure passion. And this false passion has been at work to keep all humanity in slavery through the fear of pain and death since the days of Adam and Eve.

So how can we become free from this overwhelming fire of false passion that is rooted in fear and pain? How can we use the lightening rod of Jesus' death to become free of the slavery that has controlled us all of our lives? And what is the process of allowing Jesus to take all of this out of the heart?

These are questions I will not attempt to tender simple answers to at this time. I can only explore small aspects of the answers as my mind is simply not of large enough capacity to contain such enormous concepts all at once. But the more I learn about the true nature of the salvation brought to light in the life and death of Jesus and the real truths about the nature of God, the more excited I get and the more attracted I am to engaging more fully in my participation with it.

But something that is starting to emerge to my consciousness is the idea that praise itself is actually the vehicle by which we are to transfer our sins and the internal results of it onto the lightening rod of Jesus who earned the right to accept it from us. But as I thought more about this I noticed a subtle sense of resistance to this idea of unconditional praise. So I decided to focus on that emotion and find out why it is there to start with.

The epiphany that shocked me early this morning was the discovery of a lie deeply entrenched in my psyche about praise needing to be linked to someone earning it. It is simply not enough to insist that God deserves all of our praise. That may certainly be true, but for me it little effect except to irritate me to some extent. It is such a left-brain lopsided assertion that it fails to address the real underlying issue. And it also usually contains subtle false assumptions along this idea of needing to earn praise just like the assumptions behind all other performance-based religion. The reason I believe I have so much resistance to worshiping God is because my concepts of God are reflections of my false assumptions about what He expects from us.

If we believe we have to earn God's favor, beg for His forgiveness or earn anything in any way from Him when it comes to His love and salvation for us, those same root assumptions are going to poison and hinder our own ability to spontaneously worship and praise Him as we need to. And because praise is the very carrier that is needed to transfer our sins, our fears, our pain, guilt, shame and everything else into the death of Jesus – our lightening rod – in exchange for His life and everything opposite to what we are giving Him; because we do not know how to understand, use or relate to praise properly, we may remain stuck for years with little way to effectively unload all of this accumulating garbage that continues to poison our spirit and soul.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What's Happening

Since I sometimes have difficulty deciding which of my two blogs that I actively post to should receive something I write that day, I am going to refer this blog to my post for today on my other blog. I share what is going on right now in my life and experience and I don't want to simply copy it here. So if you like you can click over to that post and enjoy the read. Thanks for coming by and always feel free to drop me a line or comment.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Short Takes, Proverbs and Brain Pushers

From time to time I hear short quotables or intense epiphanies in my mind that I hurry to write down before I forget them. I have collected some of these over the past year or so and decided to put them out for others to ponder. So here they are. I will add more to them I suppose as they pop up in my journey.

Far more than just wanting to study Systematic Theology,

I want to experience genuine Systemic Spirituality.

Temptation is the counterfeit of attraction to God's alluring beauty.

Profession is the counterfeit of confession.

When we demand that our children give love when they have not received it, or anything else for that matter, we are teaching them to attempt to play God, for God is the only one who can give love without first receiving it.

Delirious freedom in Christ – when you feel so free that you are not afraid to laugh with joy in the face of intimidation and evil.

We can exercise our emotions, even in religion, and think we are living from our heart. But just because we activate the use of our right brain does not mean we are correctly living from the heart that God gave us.

Masking fear with pleasure is a counterfeit to expelling fear with truth and peace through love.

Worship is looking to something or someone as a source of life and hope, pleasure and satisfaction. We increase our faith in that god the more we look to it to receive. And the more we look to it the deeper into our heart that faith takes root.

Putting all our faith into one source only is terrifying because we have been taught never to put all our eggs in one basket. Inherently then, we believe this is not true wisdom.

Much worship is an exercise in creating masks to numb our fears. As such it is nothing more than another addiction, albeit a very socially acceptable one. But as long as we fool ourselves that our worship is good enough to mask our pain and fears without challenging its validity, we will not enter into the kind of real worship that is radically transformative and is compellingly attractive to deeply hurting people. Whether our worship style is rigid and formal or expressive and emotional does not make it any less a counterfeit for deep, heart-driven vulnerability and total abandonment to God that is indicative of genuine worship.

Faith is believing in spite of the evidence, and then watching the evidence change – Jim Wallace.

What Fear of Freedom looks like. If I was too free I might do things that I would regret and then there would be a lot of shame and pain. People would deride me – or I would deride me. I would still have no friends but a lot more people would feel confirmed in their estimations of me as odd, not likable, strange, suspicious.

You have chosen to serve a God who is not always a welcome citizen here on this planet. You don't have time to waste trying to please everyone, You are too valuable to God for doing greater things. Yes, really. That's why He calls you to follow His lead. With each move you make for Him, you'll see people trying to seek your approval. And when that happens, direct them to your Manager. (God Space p.46)

Humility is the vacuum environment that makes us safe for the glory of God to shine brightly without burning us out, just like a light bulb needs a vacuum inside to preserve the integrity of the element.

The seal of God and the mark of the beast are trademarks.

Fear is the handle on my heart that allows someone else to control and manipulate me.

Thomas lost a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the advanced kind of faith that future believers would have.

The job of the left brain is to acquire and compile information and arrange it properly to create an atmosphere that will be the most conducive for the right brain to be able to do efficiently what it was designed to do best – worship.

For me, writing is often like taking hold of a silken thread from my heart and gently pulling on it to see where it leads me while listening to what the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to me about myself and about God. I have to be gentle but persistent if I want to find the deeper things that lie at the other end of this thread. If I am too rough then the thread will break and it may be a long time before I can uncover it again.

Fear in the heart allows the power inducing the fear to have control over us. We empower the enemy when we are afraid.

Fear must be displaced, not ignored. Fear can be subordinated by an even greater fear. But the better way is to live with so much love in the heart that fear cannot thrive. Perfect love casts out all fear. Fear has torment, love has peace.

Conscience is designed to accuse or defend ourselves. But when we accuse others we are attempting to substitute our own conscience for someone else's. And when we do that we are joining the “accuser of the brethren”. That is the counterfeit of true judgment; it is the condemning kind. Our conscience is supposed to be for our own benefit only, not to be used against others. They have their own conscience that is accountable to God directly themselves and for us to substitute our conscience for theirs is a violation of their freedom that God will never violate Himself. We have no business violating others freedoms just as we do not want others to violate ours.

Here is an Affirmation Sandwich to overcome someone's apprehension and fear of rejection.

Affirm first, then gently convey our difference of opinion and then sincerely affirm them even more strongly.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Resistance and Forgiveness Revisited

I have been pondering the issue of resistance for quite some time and the effect that it has on our relationship with God. Ever since I started becoming aware of the truth about God's wrath it began to become increasingly obvious to me that the real problem is not God's lack of patience or His supposed anger but our resistance to His love and passion.

But this morning I became aware of another dimension to this problem of resistance. I was reading a story about a terrible injustice committed against a black person in South Africa years ago and how he later was able to engage in a life of compassion because of his choice to let go of his bitterness and forgive the one who had tortured him and ruined years of his life.

This is a typical story in many respects of things that go on in this world, at least the first part of the story is very typical. Injustice has become the norm in this world and true justice has almost become extinct. I myself am struggling right now to have a proper attitude about a very corrupt judge that is playing the system to unjustly keep a dear loved one of mine in an extremely abusive prison month after month without any trial or conviction. It is taking a heavy toll on the one receiving this abuse along with all who are close to him. And the greatest temptation for all of us is to give in to anger, bitterness, evil thoughts and desires for vengeance against the corrupt officials who so selfishly are abusing their positions of power and using people's lives like pawns to be played on with impunity.

But this is just the normal attitudes of the heart of flesh. And tragically the temptations that are assaulting each of us who are aware of this terrible situation of injustice is the intense attraction to become just as hateful, selfish and abusive as the corrupt people we are tempted to hate. My natural reactions of the flesh is to wish that I was in a position of power over them so that I could inflict at least as much pain and abuse on those judges, officers and wardens as what they are doing to my friend. But when I face those internal impulses honestly and confess them to God I have to admit that morally I am just as bankrupt as those that I desire to get revenge against.

So I am brought face to face repeatedly each time this situation stirs up my emotions, with my own very real need to receive and embrace the spirit that comes from Jesus, the spirit of complete and comprehensive forgiveness. Now I am not talking about the mistaken notions of forgiveness that most people have in their minds and that I grew up with and had until recently myself. I am talking about the true attitude of forgiveness that I have only learned about recently in the past few years that has challenged me to move far beyond my old habits and attitudes as a typical kind of generic Christian.

But it is precisely at this point that I am now becoming aware of one of the most important factors about this issue of resistance. For what I am now realizing is the true nature of those feelings that surge up in my mind when even the suggestion of forgiveness is presented under such obvious conditions of injustice as I am facing now and that millions face every day. Those feelings inside cause resentment at even the suggestion of relinquishing my rights or my independence and freedoms and are full of this very attitude of resistance.

The core ingredient that motivates most if not all of the sinful desires that surge around within me are driven by my resistance to the ways and will of God. When I face the convictions of the Word of God and the promptings of the Spirit to accept His grace and extend that same kind of grace to others, it is my resistance that causes me to even hesitate and struggle with turning in that direction. It is resistance that attempts to prevent me from accepting the invitation of Jesus to come to Him to receive rest and peace. It is resistance that causes me to rebel when someone tries to point out my faults. It is resistance that fuels my intense and fierce emotions and reactions whenever someone uses fear and intimidation to force me into compliance with their rules or their immediate control over my life. Nearly everywhere I look I am becoming aware that there is an element of resistance present to some degree or another.

Even as I write these things I am feeling that sense of mixed emotions that arouses intense questions and even confusion of identity in my own heart. I feel an urge to defend myself and to justify these desires. Part of me screams out for fairness and justice and to be treated right but at the same time another part of me warns that to demand my rights and crave revenge against those who treat me abusively plays into the deceptions of the flesh and actually moves me into becoming more and more like those whom I despise. And right at the center of that whole struggle is my inner core of intense resistance that appears to be working for my good while actually acting as a traitor to my own soul.

Resistance is possibly the main element within me that the Bible calls my sinful flesh. It is resistance to believing that God's ways are superior to my ways and is the only way that I can continue to enjoy real life. It is resistance that inverts sinful humanities perceptions of reality and causes us to believe the opposite of what God declares is real and for our best good. It is the spirit of resistance that was the original infection that poisoned the mind and heart of Lucifer and that he intentionally spread throughout the universe that started this whole messy situation of sin. And most importantly of all, it is resistance that will tragically produce the very fire that will ultimately bring the final end to sin forever.

So to bring it back to me personally and to get things into proper perspective, my resistance to forgiving those who mistreat me, abuse me, commit any amount of injustices against me or others whom I love is infusing me with lethal explosive ingredients that may detonate at any time whenever intense passion becomes present. It does not even have to be the final day of judgment when sin is forever exposed in the great explosive meltdown when it encounters the passion of God's perfect love. My resistance can produce the same kind of lethal effects internally on a smaller scale whenever it is expose to passion from other sources such as abusive authorities or religious fanatics or from any number of directions.

As I consider this it seems to be emerging that the lethal mixture here is something like nitro and glycerin getting together. It is also analogous to epoxy ingredients that create intense hardness after being combined. When resistance and passion are mingled in the same heart then the results are going to be a hardening of the heart and destructive heat that will destroy the soul.

Wow! I have never looked at it this way before, especially in relation to forgiveness. Of course, just because I now see this a little better does not mean that my flesh will cease to crave revenge or give up its practice of constant resistance. My sinful nature is unfixable and unchangeable. No amount of knowledge or truth will ever change the opinions and desires of my flesh. The only solution for dealing with this internal source of sin in my life is to continue to crucify it, to die daily as Paul talked about, to be crucified with Christ so that His life and Spirit can produce His fruit in my life by His resurrection power.

At this point all I can do is confess my sinful resistance that permeates nearly every part of my mind. I am frightened at how pervasive this dangerous influence is within my psyche, but I am starting to see the connections it has to what has happened to me many times in the past. I wish I could say I will just stop resisting and let God have His way in me from now on. And I can choose that direction consciously but I am all too aware that the fight is going to be much deeper than just a one-time conscious decision. If God does not keep daily working His miracle of transformation and grace in my heart there is no hope for me of becoming free of this fatal element.

God, deliver me from all my fears. And even more importantly, cleanse me of this terrible but most familiar attitude of resistance. Teach me and mentor me in Your ways and wash my inner parts with Your healing grace and Your lubricating oil of the Holy Spirit. Fill me with Your oil today so that all resistance is eliminated and I can grow more quickly into the fullness of Your kind of maturity.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Something Better

I noticed something interesting today about temptations. As I pondered the reasoning processes going on inside of my mind in response to various temptations that came to me today, I realized something I had not noticed before. Maybe because the new factor that is just starting to show up on the picture has not really been there in enough force to even be a noticeable factor before. Let me explain.

One thing I noticed is that all of my life the main reasons for resisting most temptations are somehow rooted in fear when I analyze them honestly. And some of those fear-based reasons are actually pretty crass when they get exposed to the light. But nevertheless they are part of my fundamental reasons why I have resisted most of the temptations that I have met for all of my life.

One of the most common fear-based reasons for resisting temptations is the fear of what others might think of me if I was discovered. Again, I am not claiming that this is a healthy reason or motivation, it is just what I have observed. It is also not the only reason for resisting but it is certainly one of the most common reasons. In close connection with that is the thought of what might happen to me if I were to indulge in this temptation. My mind can quickly factor out the potential scenarios of what might likely happen if I were to indulge in this activity and the consequences can easily be seen to be quite ruining for my life, my happiness, my social standing and many other things that make life enjoyable. But still, the underlying reason that is revealed when all of this is boiled down is fear.

Today as I thought about a certain temptation (and right now I can't even remember what it was in particular) I caught myself weighing the amount of attraction that it had on my mind and deciding that it had nearly none. As a result my sense of danger associated with this temptation was extremely low and my subtle conclusion was that at least right now I would not have to keep very much guard up against this temptation.

But that last thought triggered an alarm in my brain and I began to take notice of what was going on inside. What was this line of reasoning anyway that was going on just below my radar of attention? Something seemed quite askew about this kind of thinking and now it was starting to look a little suspicious the closer it got to my conscious attention.

In addition, as I thought about it more I realized that there is actually another option that might be available as a motivation for resisting temptation that is not rooted in fear. I had to admit that I certainly don't have much familiarity or history of experience with this other option but I was now becoming aware of it at least. That other option might best be described as “something better”.

When this thought came to my mind I remembered a quote from a wise person I learned many years ago. It said something to the effect that the watchword of all true education is “something better”. I continued to ponder this as I drove toward home and wondered how this might fit into what I had been observing in my own heart earlier. What does education have to do with the motivation that I use for resisting temptations?

Well, I must say that I still don't have it all completely clear in my mind even as I write this. In fact, the very reason I sat down to write about this was so that maybe in the process of writing I might flush out more of the answer and condense it under the light of examination and the presence of the Spirit. I am actually asking the questions while I am writing and at the same time listening for the answers.

What I did sense when I was observing that most of my motivations up to this point have been based on fear-type reasoning is that the alternative to depending on fear is a growing attraction to a better life that I could enjoy in closer connection with God if I choose not to indulge in temptations. What alarmed me and alerted my attention to the fear-factor analysis was that my mind was actually caught subtly weighing my options based on how much fear there was attached to a temptation. In other words, some dark part of my mind was calculating how much danger there was associated with the potential of giving in to this temptation and if the danger was low enough it might actually try to sabotage the other part of my mind and cause me to go ahead and indulge myself if the opportunity were to present itself conveniently enough.

This looks very suspiciously like the kind of logic that my sinful flesh would use to sabotage my spirit and get me into trouble while trying to hide from the radar of my spirit. (think Romans 7) I also suspect that God is prompting me to get a closer look at some of the things that go on inside that I have not really noticed before so that I can depend more fully on Him for more healing and mature more in this area of my life.

But this idea of transitioning from fear-based motivations for resisting temptations to attraction-based motivations toward something superior and more satisfying than what the temptation can offer is a very intriguing and compelling idea. In fact I suspect that it is a very God-inspired thought that was likely planted here by something or someone outside of my own brain's imagination.

I realize that I have been thinking lately about the difference between a fear-based, fear-motivated religion and a love-based, divinely energized spiritual life. This line of thinking has likely set me up to have this kind of epiphany about how I have related to temptation in the past and how I potentially could relate to it quite differently in the future. I really think this is an important transition that is the direction that I want to see my life moving through.

I want to know more about this new option of responding to temptations from a basis of choosing something better in place of avoiding them motivated by any number of fear-based reasons. I feel that this kind of life would be much easier to grow in and would produce much more solid results in building useful character and integrity in my life. I have been learning for years how unstable and fickle fear-bonds are as a means of motivation and the danger it presents when integrity comes under extreme pressure. But I have not spent nearly the amount of time needed to explore with my heart what the other better option might be where I would live from a positive growth-based orientation rather and a negative, avoidance-based attitude.

For right now I think I will leave it at that. I am sure this is going to continue to circulate in my thinking and I am also sure that God has much more to say about this. I look forward to that and to the positive effects this new dimension might bring into my experience.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Two Religions - Fear or Love

I am starting to see clear outlines of the contrasting approaches to religion in the following passages and the resultant attitudes that those two approaches foster in the heart and life. The true religion of Jesus is based solely on love and fosters confidence and unity. The counterfeit system of religion is founded upon fear and power.

Those in the counterfeit system view God as a power-broker that utilizes fear to intimidate His subjects into submission and obedience. Because of their insistence of false assumptions about the character of God they come to believe firmly in forceful punishment as the way that God executes vengeance. Believing in a God of force and control leads to believing in a God who uses threats of punishment as intimidation and motivation for His followers.

Yet this is not the true religion of Jesus. In these passages are revealed very different spirits with very different outcomes. However, this cannot even be easily seen in these verses if one has filters in place, beliefs in a vengeful kind of God who depends on force and fear to achieve compliance with His rules. Under these conditions many of the words have been assigned alternative meanings and as such they only tend to reinforce the false ideas about how God relates to His adversaries.

First let's review the passages that give us some of these insights.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. (Hebrews 10:19-27)

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:16-19)

Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory. Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain, and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds. (Revelation 16:9-11)

Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY." And again, "THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. FOR YET IN A VERY LITTLE WHILE, HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME, AND WILL NOT DELAY. BUT MY RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; AND IF HE SHRINKS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:28-39)

I think it is very helpful to take the phrases from these verses and place them in a contrasting column structure to be able to see more clearly the opposing nature of the underlying belief systems about what God is really like.

we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh...

Is His flesh the veil itself, or is it the new and living way to enter the holy place beyond the veil? Either way, this identifies that our confidence is now to be based on something different and newer than the previous reasons used for confidence.

In previous times under the legal model of thinking, the holy place was off-limits to everyone except the priest. The veil was in place to hide the glory of God from humanity. But this was necessary due to our deeply distorted views of God that put us in danger of being consumed by that glory. But the veil can also refer to the deceptions that have blinded us for so long about the real truths about God's character.

let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

The dramatic shift of emphasis here contrasts counterfeit religion with true religion that is based primarily in the heart. An evil conscience is one that believes the old lies about how God relates to us. The demonstration of God's love at Calvary is the blood that sprinkles our conscience and cleanse us from those lies about Him.

Under the old system it became assumed that the externals were the most important thing to God though that was not His original intent for that system. Those who drew near to the holy place often did so with great fear instead of confidence. Evil was thought to be something that external blood had to expiate. But sin is rooted in the heart and conscience.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful

Notice the motivation for holding fast to a new kind of confession based on hope instead of fear – the fact of God's faithfulness, not ours.

Under the law the thinking was oriented more toward outward obedience and conformance to rules and regulations and social titles. Ancestry was very important to Jews and their hope was often based on their lineage more than their trust in God's faithfulness.

let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds

Again, notice the contrast in the motivation that we use to invite others into obedience from the heart and fellowship.

In a legal model the motivation is not based on love but on fear. Good deeds are viewed as a way to impress or manipulate God or cause others to value us more.

not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Love-based spirituality from the heart attracts people to draw toward each other and encourage each other. As they see the end of the world approaching they do not depend on fear to keep their loyalty and obedience strong but they press together even tighter to give strength to each other in love and courage.

When a person is law-oriented and living in a performance-based religion they will tend to separate from others and withdraw more and more over time in their attempts to achieve personal perfection. Their critical, fault-finding bent will wear away at their relationships with others and they will become self-focused in their attempts to purify their lives of everything they perceive as sinful. They will depend on fear of end-time events to motivate them to greater efforts to perfection their characters.

This knowledge of the truth is far more than knowledge of true facts or doctrines. It is a revelation to the heart of the beauty and attractiveness of the character of God, a realization of the drawing power of the love that is radically different than anything we have ever known before. When we see the real love of God and all that He has risked in His sacrifice on Calvary to change our minds about Him and then choose to keep on living in resistance to that love by self-indulgence and allowing sin to remain in our hearts, we will find that we have cut off our own ability to respond positively to that love and no longer have the capability to repent.

(compare this with Isaiah 33:10-17)

if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.

I see this sinning willfully as an insistence on believing false concepts about how God feels about His children. If we reject the real truth about God by returning to a fear-based religious way of thinking based on false ideas about judgment and God's fire, then we will only have terror to motivate us in our relationship with God. And as a result we will ultimately experience the very things from God that our terror expects He will execute against His enemies even though in actuality that is not what is really going on.

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.

This is another description of true religion of the heart. This kind of know relates to intimacy that includes affections and emotions and personal shared secrets of the heart. As we experience this kind of intimacy with our loving Savior we learn to really believe with confidence the transforming love which God has for us.

In counterfeit religion we can talk about love from the head but we fail to really experience and embrace it at the heart level. Love that is not appreciated and experienced in the heart cannot really be truly believed. Thus we become hypocritical in our profession of being followers of Jesus while not having the evidence of true love emanating from our lives.

love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment

Love is other-centered attention and a spirit of kindness that lives to bless. As our hearts receive and practice this through fellowship in the body of Christ, our confidence (absence of fear) grows. We learn that judgment means being fully exposed, not arbitrarily condemned, shamed or denounced.

When we think our confidence comes from our behavioral achievements and the elimination of all sin from our lives externally, we are setting ourselves up for a terrible shock. Perfectionism will never prepare us for the kind of heart and motive exposure that judgment always involves.

as He is, so also are we in this world

We take on the same view of the Father as Jesus demonstrated while here on this earth. As a result we learn to relate to others around us the way Jesus did while here.

When the wrong filters are in place, this verse will be assumed to mean that we must perfectly copy the behavioral perfection that we believe Jesus demonstrated while on this earth. This thinking assumes that Jesus worked very hard to resist all temptations to sin and that we have to do the same with extra help from God. But this belief system is riddled with false definitions about the words involved here.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

This is another explicit contrast between love-based religion and fear-based religion. To be perfected in love one must let go of all counterfeit beliefs about God rooted in fear.

False religion is based on using fear as the primary motivator for driving people to repentance and turning them to God for salvation. God is viewed as having duplicity by coming to us with a carrot and stick approach to induce us to obedience. We believe that God threatens disobedience with severe punishment and offers rewards for good behavior. But real love cannot be perfected in this environment.

When the real truth about God and reality is experienced, we will begin to see that the plagues that come are a result of rejecting God's mercy and protection over the earth; they are only natural consequences of unleashed powers that are out of balance due to the effects from our sins. In truth, God's power has been exercised for centuries to prevent us from suffering these consequences, but when the world totally refuses His protection and forces away His mercy we will become exposed to the natural destructive forces that are inevitable from our own choices.

Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues

Notice who it is who reacts with blasphemy – it is those who believe in power and control. Because their whole belief system is based on the exercise of power used to control others they believe that God is the one who is to be blamed for all their problems because they assume that He is controlling and abusing power like they do.

True repentance comes about by perceiving and appreciating the kindness of God (see Romans 2:4) When our repentance is thus motivated our lives will produce praise for God's goodness, mercy and kindness which is how He is glorified. When true repentance leads us into a complete trust relationship with God where He lives out His life from our hearts, our deeds will naturally become righteous because the One living within us is righteous.

they did not repent so as to give Him glory...and they did not repent of their deeds.

See here what the purpose of repentance is supposed to accomplish. True repentance motivates one to give God glory, not blasphemy. And those who refuse to repent are those who's religion is very externally oriented. This is why deeds are mentioned here. Deeds – behavior – is the basis for counterfeit religion. This also shows that fear is not effective in producing repentance.

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy

When choosing to function under the basis of law as the primary model, mercy is easily set aside. Violations of prescriptive law induce the arbitrary punishments attached.

It is dangerous to turn our heart away from the drawing cords of love back to selfishness once we have begun our romance with God. It does something to us that is much more serious than we can realize. It damages delicate parts of our inward abilities of the heart that can permanently prevent us from being able to return to that intimacy ever again. We must be aware of this danger and respect the sacredness of the intimacy that we are privileged to experience with God.

How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

This is very fascinating. It seems here that the author is still taking the view from the legal position. From that perspective – under the law – he is asking the reader a question, what do you think about how severe the punishment should be for such a serious crime as is itemized here?

For we know Him who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY."

Now the author is switching back over to God's system of operation – relational. He is saying that we know Him – something that is way beyond law-based logic in relating to others and God. We know HIM – His heart, what He is really like. And He is not like the arbitrary way that law and rules function. This also touches our need to understand the truth about God's view of vengeance. (see the real definition of God's version of vengeance in Romans 12:19-21)

When we perceive the word vengeance from our human assumptions about that word, we will automatically believe that it is talking about God loosing patience and lashing out with severe punishments that are arbitrary and even hateful. But a very careful examination of the Scriptures on this subject will reveal that God's definition of vengeance is almost totally opposite of what we always assume it means. That is why God tells us to leave all vengeance up to Him, because He only can do it in complete love without perversion.

"THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

This too has a meaning that I believe may be different than first assumed. The word judge really means to be completely and fully exposed – every thought, motive and inward attitude of the heart brought out clearly for everyone's examination and evaluation. That is the kind of situation that every Christian must be prepared for and that is certainly reason to feel somewhat terrified. But this terror is not so much intimidation-based but is more like the thrill type of terror that one might experience when bungy-jumping or riding a high roller-coaster. It is a combination of high risk and trust that produces potential thrills that take us well beyond our normal comfort zone.

Under the deceptions common in counterfeit religion the word judge is usually assumed to mean something along the lines of condemnation, denouncement, accusation, demeaning etc. As a result of these negative assumptions, when this verse is read we assume that the terror referred to here is the fear that we are supposedly to live under that will somehow drive us toward obedience to God. This feeds into all the false ideas about hell and all of the lies about God in connection with hell and suppositions about God's threatenings to torture sinners for failing to love Him. This has been the cause for many to reject the whole concept of God because these teachings are so repulsive to the human heart that was created to operate on love, not fear.

remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle

This is the definition of the previous reference to judgment. When God's people are judged they are exposed. But notice what it is that is exposed. His character becomes more fully revealed from their lives in the process. This verse reminds them of previous times when this happened in their life and alerts them that it will happen again.

In a fear-based religion, being made a public spectacle creates a great deal of dread and apprehension and shame. It also feeds into false ideas about how God treats us and leads many to think that God orders bad things to happen to us to teach us a stern lesson or two.

you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.

This is a reminder of how to correctly relate to judgment/exposure – showing what is inside. What is revealed is sympathy and non-resistance to the evil brought against you, joyfully accepting it by keeping your perspective of what is true reality, the bigger picture and your true identity.

For a person who is living in a legal, fear-based religion this verse is potentially very baffling. It goes against normal human nature to react with joy and sympathy under such treatment and so this would often be viewed as yet another command that must be fulfilled in our growing list of requirements that God demands we must meet to be a good Christian.

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance

It is not enough to just pass through being exposed one time. We need endurance – stick-to-it-iveness to cling to our confidence in God's faithfulness.

For a perfection-oriented religion the confidence of the person is based on some nebulous formula that keeps score of good deeds verses evil in our account in heaven. Endurance is yet another requirement that must be met by even more effort determination.


We have a choice to make when facing this exposure that is called judgment. If we choose to trust the heart and ability of God in our covenant relationship with Him, our soul will be filled with His pleasure in us.


If we are living in a religion based on fear we will will not be able to maintain our confidence when the pressure gets turned up. We will eventually crack and shrink back in terror because we have harbored the seeds of terror – fear in our hearts, and that is the fruit that will show up and produce its tragic results. When we live in a religion of fear we cannot experience the pleasure that comes from being linked with the heart of God.

those who have faith to the preserving of the soul

those who shrink back to destruction

Friday, October 03, 2008

Speaking Out or Speaking In

Speaking out for God or speaking in the name of God. What is the difference and how significant is that difference?

As I begin to think about this idea this morning I realize that this is another counterfeit/genuine pair showing up again. I have observed that much of what we do as Christians is based on the assumption that God needs people to defend Him, to further His goals and plans on earth and that maybe without our efforts for Him He might be in a quandary. I know we don't put it in those exact terms, but the way we talk and behave many times demonstrates that kind of thinking.

Much of the motivation used for enlisting volunteers and workers for mission work is spun in such a way as to sound like God would be almost powerless without us. We tend to formulate our grand plans for furthering the work of God as we believe it should be done and then ask God to empower us to carry out our plans for Him and then claim that they are His plans. All through this process we may be praying and asking God to guide us, but I question how much we are really tuned in properly to listen to what He might have to really say. We are so consumed with our plans and excitement about working for God's cause as we see it that we often become too busy to spend very much time feeding our own souls and hearts and in quiet meditation before Him, waiting to perceive His will that just might be completely different than what we are thinking.

Listen to many of the preachers and teachers today who profess to be working and speaking for God. The tenor of their talk tends along the lines of trying to say all the right things to convince others and even themselves that they are working for God. And I believe that indeed God does work a great deal through these people and in these circumstances. But sadly I feel that too often God is being pushed into working through our efforts in spite of our plans instead of our being synchronized together with His ways which would result is extremely higher efficiency.

Then there is the example of the true prophets of God. It is much easier to identify them from Bible times for there is much less ambiguity about who were the correct ones and who were the shams. But even then, more often than we might think even God's true prophets at times slipped into promoting their own agendas ahead of God's, though many times quite unconsciously at first. I have mentioned Elijah a number of times as an example of this but there are others as well. But over all, God's true prophets usually speak in His name after receiving His word that He wants delivered to the people of their time.

Speaking for God in the sense of championing our version of what we believe to be His causes takes on similarity to showing up on a new job site and trying to jump in and begin ordering people around without knowing what the boss has in mind. Our furious efforts to look very busy and productive may or may not help the situation depending on our own agenda for showing up, but if we fail to first accept directions and instructions from the one in charge and take time to be sure to understand them thoroughly, we will likely create more problems than accomplishments.

There is also the factor that many times God doesn't reveal His immediate plans to His people but asks them to trust Him and obey His individual promptings while He quietly coordinates everyone's activities from outside of our awareness. One of the main reasons Jesus gave for sending His Spirit to this earth in the Christian age was to coordinate the work of God on earth and impart God's wisdom and gifts to each one as He sees is necessary for the building up of His temple. When we go around claiming that God has ordained our plans that we have come up with for promoting His kingdom on earth we may actually be working counter to what the Holy Spirit is working to accomplish.

One of the biggest pitfalls in attempting this is the problem of our terrible poverty of real truth about what God is like. So when we formulate plans and call them God's plans and work with others with similar misunderstandings about God, we end up actually projecting very misleading impressions of God to the world that are both confusing and many times very discouraging. When we believe things such as a God that endorses the use of force, fear or sometimes even deception to further His work on earth, we end up misrepresenting the truth about our heavenly Father and would do well to step back and take more time to get better acquainted with who He really is before launching into our own grand plans for Him.

As I came away recently from sharing some spiritual thoughts with a friend that I have been praying for and didn't know how to relate to recently, I was reminded again that this man was not my responsibility. This is God's project and He is fully in charge of drawing this person to Himself. Yes, He chose to have me involved in a small way, but just because I am allowed to share what God is doing in my life and put in some hopefully attractive words on behalf of God whom this man has very little real knowledge, that does not in the least mean that I am supposed to come up with a plan to push this person into a relationship with God. In fact, this message became so clear in my mind that I said out loud while I was driving down the road, “You are God and I am not. I want that to be very clear in my head. I am not God and You are God. You are in charge of this situation and I can relax and just wait to see if you have anything else You want me to do or say. This man is all Your problem and it is not mine to solve.”

But what does it look like to speak in the name of God? How should one go about coordinating efforts with the Almighty to accomplish what clearly He has stated He wants to see done on this earth? Is there really anything that we can contribute that will actually make a difference in the true work of God on earth or is it all just a game of pretend?

And what about people who claim to hear the voice of God in various ways? What are we to make of these kinds of claims? Are they outrageous? Blasphemy? Silly? Dangerous? Absurd? What should we do or think in reaction to the many people who really believe they are hearing the voice of God to their souls?

I struggle personally with this question because as anyone knows who has read much of what I have written, I too claim to hear the “voice” of God in my heart and mind many times. I try to be very cautious about making such assertions but at the same time I feel that I must be honest about what I am experiencing. Otherwise by default I would be implying that many of the insights that have inspired me were of my own making or wisdom, and I know that certainly is not the case. So I have to confess that many of the things that surprise and inspire me that I then put into writing or share with others must be coming from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit whom I trust and ask to guide me and speak to me while I quiet my mind and heart to listen.

But there is a big difference between sharing with others what I believe that God has shared with me on a personal level and a person declaring that they have a message of God to deliver to some other person. To sort through this issue I have been helped by some talks from one of my favorite speakers, Clarissa Worley Sproul. I have a series of hers called The Great Teachings of Jesus. In one of the talks entitled Speaking Truth, she talks about the difference between my truth and God's truth.

When we talk to another person about something we feel convicted about or feel inspired to say, we must realize that this insight may be very relevant to our own life but may or may not be what another person is supposed to receive right now. We may even feel very strongly about their need to hear what we have maybe just learned, but that is even more reason to exercise extreme caution and reservation in what we say to them. And if we do share it with them we must make it clear that this is our truth and is not the same as God's truth which is really quite a different thing.

This is not to say that my truth is not true. God may be convicting me about something that I need to accept and incorporate into my own life and so my truth may be the voice of God to my soul at this time. But when I have any amount of feelings or intensity in my desire to share my truth and apply it to someone else's experience, if I follow through with that urge without first laying aside my own personal compulsions completely then I am engaging in judging or even counterfeiting the Spirit of God instead of passing along God's truth.

There are times when God sends messages through chosen people to pass along to others. At times those messages may be very painful to the recipients and the backlash against the messenger may be harsh or even fatal at times. But anyone commissioned by God to speak for Him to others with specific messages must be very authentic in his own relationship with God and disconnected in a certain sense from any feelings of intensity toward those to whom he has been sent. Otherwise the message will become contaminated with a false spirit from within the messenger and the clearness and effectiveness of the message will be greatly diluted.

I believe that we should be much more ready to share with others what God is doing in our own lives and hearts than most of us are at present. We can confess what we are receiving from God in our ongoing process of maturing into the fullness of Christ. This will result in much more openness and transparency in the lives of Christians which today is seldom seen. It will also enable us to more closely bond with each other, to pray with and for each other and to help bear one another's burdens. But at the same time I think it is very important that when we are sharing what is going on in our lives that we take ownership of our ideas and be truthful about our own need to relate properly to the convictions of God in our hearts without assuming to apply it to someone else as the truth of God for them.

As we share with others how God is working to grow and shape and mold us, others will be attracted to desire to have that same dynamic relationship with God for themselves and we can become more effective witnesses for God. A true witness is really testifying that God indeed can do what He says He will do in the lives and hearts of sinners who come to Him. We can bear witness to the transforming power of His grace to heal our pain, to resolve deep triggers from our past, to bring full healing to deep emotional wounds that keep us ineffective and hobbled in our relationships. As people see the effective work of God over time transforming our hearts and lives into exhibitions of greater beauty and godliness, then the works of God that He is using in our lives may become springboards for the Spirit to use to draw other people into a similar intimacy with Jesus.

I really have no desire whatsoever to be a spokesman for God to convey messages of rebuke or correction for others. If He ever does ask me to do so I will need to be sure to have any similar issues completely resolved in my own heart before I should attempt to speak for Him in that way. But to share the thoughts and insights that He is daily revealing to me in various ways and times is a privilege that I hope can be used to benefit others whom God may lead to observe my experience when the time is right in their life.

But I want to be very careful to not try to attach God's “label” to my plans and then assert that they are the will of God for others around me. I am trying to cultivate a spirit of open listening for His thoughts in which I rest in the presence of God in quietness or in meditation on His Word while suspending as many of my own preconceptions as possible. I can then feel safe within that protected environment to release even my beliefs on key issues, doctrines and definitions so that if need be the Spirit can bring me new insights that are more in line with the realities of heaven. As I have tried to do this more over the past few years I have found that indeed God's Spirit does come to alter some of my beliefs and assumptions, change what I think are the plans of God and readjust my understanding of the bigger picture and how I fit into it.

I believe that there is a great need for many to be taught how to think more carefully, to teach them in practical ways how to really listen for God's voice in their spirit and soul and to help people learn how to have their faith really grow and take deep root in their heart linked with the Word of God. I am amazed at how few people I meet have any real perception of God in their lives or even know much at all about the Scriptures. Religion to most people is a rather nebulous concept that they leave up to the supposed experts who will predigest it for them and hand it to them each weekend. What an extremely high risk way to prepare for eternity!

The Bible tells us that if anyone comes claiming to be spokesman for God that the most important thing we must do is to test their spirit. But to be able to do this properly our own spirit must be aware of the true perspective of God's Spirit and the way He thinks and relates to us. God has given us His Word to act as a most important objective “virus check library” so to speak, as the most important asset we can use to verify the authenticity of anyone claiming to speak for God. If their spirit is in harmony and synchronized with the Spirit of Jesus then we can move on to the next step which is observing the results of their words. God's Spirit will always be in agreement with God's ways and everyone who is truly led by the Spirit of God will resonate with all others who are of the same Spirit.

Let us allow God to be the one who orchestrates the plans to be carried out in His name. And let us allow God to chose who He will use to implement those plans without our meddling in His affairs. If we will humble ourselves and acquaint ourselves with His ways, be filled with His disposition and reflect His character by focusing our affections on Him, then He will be able to use us far more effectively in carrying out His great works among both the lost and the saints. Let us allow God to be God.