Random Blog Clay Feet: 2009-01
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Thursday, January 29, 2009


Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12)

I am not feeling well today. I woke up this morning right at 2 AM and had to get out of bed feeling like I was about to lose the contents of my stomach. I spent the rest of the morning huddled in front of our fireplace keeping warm and trying to position my body in various ways to appease my upset tummy and hopefully keep it contained until it recovers. As a result I will be rather late for work today if I manage to feel well enough to go at all.

As I felt a little better, at least enough to sit in my chair and read a little, the impression came to me of a verse that is well known among Christians. It is the verse quoted above. As I thought about this verse I sensed that this is yet another one of those places in the Bible that I have usually subconsciously avoided and where some of my inner discomfort gets exposed whenever I read it. I am not sure why God wants me to think about this right now, but even saying that much arouses feelings of apprehension that betray the very issues that I need to get healing for, to get freedom from.

I think it started up this morning while I was thinking about my relationship and feelings about my various blog sites. I have tried to be very careful to not allow these to become a source of pride or a soapbox for me that are used to try to force others to change their opinions about certain subjects. That is not to say that I don't think it is right to present things that differ from what other people believe. The closer I get to God and the more clear my perceptions of His ways have become, the more I feel inner urges to share these life-changing insights and discoveries with anyone that God may lead to read what I have been learning.

But I am also aware of some other dynamics that lie a bit more obscured in my heart in regards to this as well as my relationship in other aspects to those who believe differently than me. My personality has long been one that in certain respects is very timid and fearful about upsetting other people with ideas that they strongly disagree with and that might likely stir up intense opposition. I have had a life-long aversion even toward sales jobs because they almost always require that one uses pressure to change other people's opinions so that they will buy what you are selling. I used to say that I couldn't even sell a heater to an Eskimo. But what I am beginning to sense more clearly this morning is that at a deeper level, part of what I am really afraid of is persecution.

Now I feel compelled to qualify even that statement. I have seen way too many people who almost seem to thrive on a persecution complex, who seem to consider it a badge of honor or an affirmation of correctness to get themselves persecuted for being at odds with others in religious things. I am all too familiar with that kind of confused thinking and I do not want to fall into that model either. But what I am sensing is that my deeply-rooted fears of arguments and opposition, especially when they attack my vulnerable weaknesses through shame and dishonor, these fears are preventing me from fulfilling the role and intentions that my heavenly Father intends for me to carry out within the body.

I have long been very aware of Satan's penchant for using fear to manipulate and stifle the people of God. That is such a classic tactic that it should be a no-brainer to unmask and avoid. But fear lies at the very root of our fallen nature and controls us through the heart, not the mind. As such it is one of the greatest battles that anyone has to face. Feeling vulnerable to having my sense of value diminished, while cognitively is something I can perceive, still is a major threat when it comes to my heart feelings. And it is what we believe in the heart much more than what we believe in the head that determines our course of action and our decisions under pressure.

But as I thought about this verse this morning I could almost hear the Spirit say quite plainly to me, If you are unwilling to face your fears of persecution, of people attacking what you believe in the wrong spirit; if you don't deal with this vulnerability in your character, then in reality you are unwilling to live a godly life in Christ Jesus. I sense that this is simply a statement of reality, a law of the universe that is unavoidable and non-negotiable just as much as gravity. It is a choice of one option or the other. If avoiding conflict takes precedence over accountability to God's directions in my life personally, then the alternative to suffering persecution will be a life that is not godly from heaven's perspective.

I do not have to go to the other extreme and try to stir up opposition to me in order to live godly. That is just as un-godlike as avoiding confrontation at all costs. But I am realizing more clearly as I take time to meditate on this that God wants me to listen to what He has to say to my heart about this and cooperate with whatever plans He has for me in this area. I am in desperate need of boldness while still maintaining a spirit of meekness and humility. And those are not mutually exclusive character traits.

I suspect that possibly everyone is sooner or later going to have to make a decision on this point and maybe it is time for me to face it more openly. If I am really serious about living a godly life in Christ Jesus – and I am – then I have to allow the Spirit to expose these vulnerable areas of weakness in my soul and give Him permission to began seriously launching some major healing and repair operations inside of me.

As I read through the next few verses I began to also see some other exciting things that I have never noticed before. But right now I think I will leave this here since I still don't feel well enough to focus very long.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject if you feel convicted in this area or if you just have some good counsel for me. I am just as much in need of admonition and encouragement as everyone else in the body.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Remember the Prisoners - 2

Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. (Hebrews 13:1-3)

I feel compelled to stay in this passage and assimilate much more from this. I have been aware of too much fear, shame and other emotions that have prevented me from fulfilling the instructions in this text. I want my life to come into alignment with the principles embedded in these verses and to be a willing encourager for those suffering isolation, abuse and intense discouragement under the attacks of Satan. Whether they are in prison or out of prison, the ill-treatment suffered by those desiring to be loyal to God and follow His paths cries out for others in the body of Christ to stand up for them in some way and to come alongside them emotionally to provide courage, hope and most of all perspective.

I am also keenly aware that the good-intentioned words of many Christians to those suffering under ill-treatment or imprisonment often have the very opposite effect from what they may intend. This is largely due to the fact that they themselves are operating under false assumptions about what God is doing or how He relates to us in trials. Embedded many times in our comments to or about such mistreated fellow believers are subtle statements of judgment, insinuations that enforce the lies of Satan about God, ideas that these circumstances are somehow punishments from God. Conveying those kinds of sentiments is just an underhanded way of claiming to be more righteous than those who are suffering. This was extremely common among the Jews in Christ's day and was repeatedly rebuked by Him.

The other devastating option is to simply ignore those whose situations make us feel uncomfortable. In the back of our minds we are sometimes afraid of sharing in their sufferings because we are so afraid of the pain, the shame and the social stigma associated with such status. So we mistakenly think that if we just ignore them and go on with our own lives that somehow we might be able to avoid being mistreated ourselves or at least postpone it for as long as possible.

But this only reveals our own immaturity and lack of faith and understanding of God's plan for family and the principles on which His government is based. We are failing to identify with the real body of Christ in sympathy and joy. The real meaning of joy is to share in another's feelings, to identity one's self with them in whatever they are experiencing as a means of both encouragement and also to provide them with more joy strength and capacity to handle their trauma. We are robbing the most vulnerable people in the body of Christ of the comfort of God that He desires to have flow through us to them so that we can share in that comfort as we share in their experiences.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. (Romans 12:15-16)

Conversely, if we chose to publicly identify ourselves with those who are suffering under intense trials, if we chose to accept their social shame by identification with them as brothers and sisters in Christ, then we are proclaiming boldly before a hostile world that we are all in this together as family; when they attack one they are attacking all. In fact, by doing so we are really revealing the heart of the Godhead who has made it clear that when any part of the body is touched with pain and suffering that all heaven feels it fully and identifies with them.

If we refuse to be associated with those in suffering, in effect we are saying that we do not want to be much of a part of the body of Christ. We want the pleasure, the fun, the happiness and the promise of being saved ourselves but we are unwilling to be fully connected with the rest of the body when it may cause us embarrassment, bring us shame or damage our own reputation.

I am realizing even as I write these things that I am very guilty many times of wanting to avoid sharing in others shame or identifying with them in their sufferings. Even though there have been times that I have been powerfully blessed by others who chose to identify with me in my shame and public humiliation, how willing am I to do the same for others when it will inconvenience me or maybe even endanger me? There are all sorts of good-sounding reasons I can come up with why I should just pay attention to my own situation and not get too involved in other's messy circumstances. But is this a true representation of how God intends for His family members to relate to each other? Or is this a revelation of cowardice, unresolved shame of my own, fear of what others will think of me displacing my desire to align myself with what God thinks of me?

These are all very real questions that are confronting me forcefully right now. I am actually glad to see them and to see my own cowardly heart being exposed in this way because I know that each time God exposes selfish garbage in my heart that He also is ready to do something about removing it and replacing it with reflections of His own true character and integrity. Whenever I am challenged by the Holy Spirit to face my own faults it is always for the purpose of cleansing me even deeper and infusing His righteousness deeper into my heart and mind and soul on a more permanent basis.

There is a great deal of important instruction and truth in these three verses that I want incorporated into my character and life. And they all come under the heading right at the beginning – Let love of the brethren continue. If I am unwilling to give someone under persecution, ill-treatment, imprisonment and distress an opportunity to receive encouragement from me by sharing in their feelings or identifying with them in their circumstances somehow, then I am robbing both them and myself the strength that is inherent in this principle called JOY. The very essence of joy is sharing identity with someone and making them feel valuable. Joy literally means “someone who is intensely glad to be with me”. This not only strengthens me in my trials and emotional dilemmas, but it is also something that I am obligated to offer to others as well if I am to be an authentic member of the body of Christ.

The last verse here is quite explicit about that very point. If I refuse to fulfill the things listed in these verses, to offer the strength of joy to those who are strangers and need entertaining, who are prisoners and need hope, encouragement and others to identify with them in their condition – if I refuse to stand up for those who are ill-treated and abused and shamed, then I am not really in the real body of Christ despite all my loud assertions to the contrary.

I sense a need to embrace the conviction of the Holy Spirit, to let go of my pride, my fears, my confused notions about what it means to be a Christian, and to allow God to reform and reshape my perceptions of what it means to be part of the body of Christ. I need to engage Him in a deeper healing encounter for my own fears, to have my own shame replaced with a sense of infinite value as a son of God, to be infused with more boldness in the face of humiliation and to be filled with complete peace in assurance of God's everlasting lovingkindness toward me personally. I need to get more real about what it means to be a child of God, willing to be identified with all His other children and willing to provide the blessing of joy to everyone that He shows me in need of that blessing.

What does it really mean on a practical level to identify with someone in prison or who is being ill-treated? Does it mean that you join them in imprisonment? Does it mean that you join the fight when bullies are attacking someone and try to fight them off on behalf of the attacked? Does it mean simply standing to the side and yelling loudly at those who are causing so much suffering to stop what they are doing? What is the right spirit that I need to relate to these various situations so that I might find the right answers to know how to properly respond? What is the real underlying principle that supports the truth upon which this text is based?

I am not sure I have the answers for that, or if those answers can even by synthesized into understandable language. Sometimes the only way to discover truth is to step into the water first, to obey the commands of God without understanding how it is all going to work out. But isn't this what faith is all about? Obeying without explanations ahead of time as to all the whys and hows?

I am definitely one who likes to understand the reasons for things and the explanations of how things work and fit together. I have found this to be a very important asset in exposing many of the lies about God and about reality that have been uncovered in the past few years. But it can also become a liability whenever I allow it to prevent me from obeying instantly when the Spirit impresses me to do or say something that simply doesn't make sense at the moment. I generally tend to want to ask why first and wait until I have a reasonable explanation of how this is going to fit into all the others truths that I have been learning.

But as any good parent knows, there is a lot of time for explaining, for teaching, for enlightenment and instructions as to why and how life works. This is all a very important part of maturing children to empower them to live as responsible adults and to live and thrive more independent from their parents. Independence is not always a bad thing. Parents are very proud of their children's independence when it is a result of true maturity. It means that their children are growing up to be responsible, to be integrated into the fabric of adult life in close connections with the extended family, to bear their own weight in the larger society and to be a greater asset and blessing to the community.

But parents also realize that there are times when it is extremely important that children also have the willingness and trust to simply obey without question and instantly. It could easily save their very life at times. They need to have the confidence in their parents that will allow them to obey spontaneously, and that this obedience will result in their best good in the long run even though they may be clueless at the moment as to the why of the command.

The very same thing is true in our relationship with God. He is not against explaining to us the reasons and functionality of the principles that govern reality as He created it to work. That is an important part of growing us up in Christ, of maturing us to be responsible, interactive participants in the family of God. In fact, the word for perfect as used in the Bible is often better translated mature and that actually conveys better the intent of many of the passages. This understanding also helps one not become so infected with the virus of perfectionism which creates the blindness of legalism.

But there is also great need for the important character trait of implicit trust in the impressions that we receive from the Holy Spirit and a willingness to obey instantly when God commands us to follow his instructions. Failure to obey from a spirit of trust in His worthiness to be trusted will always result in harm and danger for us and quite possible loss to others around us as well. In today's society that prides itself on independence and logic, this has become a great liability and a danger that we have not paid enough attention to. Because the ideals of implicit obedience has been exploited by religious leaders for their own advantage and used to abuse their followers, we have tended to downplay the importance of immediate obedience in a trusting relationship with our Father in heaven.

Everyone who is a true child of God will be led by the Spirit of God according to Romans 8. If I want to be considered a legitimate child of God under His guidance, then I have to learn the lessons of explicit and instant obedience as well as the deeper principles of truth that under gird the government of God. I want to learn that kind of obedience, to be freed from my spirit of independence and rebellion that is rooted in my fears and lies about how God feels about me. I want to be an obedient and faithful son that can enter into the joy of my Lord.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Remember the Prisoners - 1

Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. (Hebrews 13:1-3)

I just received a sixteen page letter from a man who used to be one of the only people I could really open up with and talk about deep spiritual issues without fear or bias. A number of very painful events have transpired over the past few years that have driven a wedge of misunderstanding between us and caused him to think that he could not trust me. Consequently there has been a number of years pass where we have not been able to communicate hardly at all due to the false assumptions planted by the enemy of God that has divided our unity.

This has been very painful for me. I knew that he did not really understand my perspective, my lack of animosity toward him, my willingness to continue to have a relationship of trust. But because he made choices that compelled him to remove himself from membership in the church in which he had believed for all of his life, he evidently felt that there was no way I could relate to where he was at spiritually. But in fact it seemed to me to be the other way around. It was the assumptions about me that he chose to embrace that became the obstacles preventing us from communicating and enjoying each other's fellowship instead of the things he assumed I thought about him that were not true.

I have longed for many years to be able to get past the false assumptions he had about me and to restore our friendship and openness that we used to enjoy. But each time we did speak for a brief time it seemed that there were many unspoken feelings under the surface that strongly influenced what he thought I was really thinking about him. It is a terrible thing, this issue of lies and assumptions that drives friends apart and causes people to judge others without being willing to allow full disclosure or reconciliation. I do not hold this against him in the least, for it is quite clear to me that given his context, his past and the traumatizing events that have taken place at different times in his life that it would be very easy for him to withdraw and not feel safe trusting himself with others.

This man has gone through horrors that most people would only find imaginary and material for television drama. And even then such a show would only convey a small part of the pain and fear that he has experienced. In recent years, because he has chosen to follow his conscience to the best of his ability and knowledge, his decisions have put him on a different track than the mainstream of society and has elicited even more scorn, derision and rejection by many of the very people who should be there to encourage and strengthen him. But because most people who claim the name of Christ seem more interested in maintaining a comfortable life with little regard to issues of conscience, they cannot understand or relate to a person who is determined to follow a path of integrity in the face of all opposition.

As a result, nearly everyone familiar with his situation has withdrawn from him, assumed that he is guilty of disloyalty to the government and to the church, and consequently is out of favor with God. This idea of loyalty to the state being given equality with loyalty to God is a very dangerous assumption within the Christian community. But as I thought about it more this morning I realized that this has nearly always been the case throughout history. Consider closely the history of many of God's prophets and messengers and it can be seen that many of them were considered outlaws of a sort, rebels against the authority of the governments under which they lived and worthy of punishment or even death.

But this makes sense when one thinks about it logically. All human governments are simply expressions of the will of collections of like-minded people in a society who make laws and manipulate power to impose their opinions and control over everyone within their territory. Because all humanity is sinful and selfish by nature, then governments are always going to reflect false principles that will be to some degree in opposition to the principles of heaven. Sooner or later God's true followers are always going to find themselves at odds with human governments and will be forced to decide which power to give their highest allegiance to, which authority they are going to obey. No matter which way they choose they are always going to find themselves at odds with one authority or another, either in violation of their accountability in their conscience before God or in disagreement with the arbitrary demands of a corrupt government.

This is where my friend now finds himself. He has been accused by the state of not complying with conformance to their illegitimate demands and has been thrown into a federal prison for many months now, longer than what is even considered legal. He has never had a trial or conviction, but this seems of little interest to the judges on his case. In fact, it seems very apparent to most observers that the judges have been deliberately manipulating the legal system to keep him imprisoned with no recourse or justice in order to cover their own corruption and thirst for power. He has become the focal point of potential exposure of much of the corruption in the government that wants to convict him and as a result they have done everything possible to repress and isolate him from all recourse to real justice.

Meanwhile, his health is slowly deteriorating while he languishes in a prison in which there is no appeal for escape but without any conviction of a crime. Yesterday I received a sixteen page letter that detailed the horrors he is experiencing in prison life. It is crystal clear that this is not just a place of social confinement and isolation, this is a house of horrors, a den of demonic activity from which there is no relief day or night except for a very few hours in the early morning. The constant abuse and the incessant, intense level of vulgarity and demonic sounds that fill the place are a constant source of torture to this honest-hearted Christian who is misunderstood by nearly all of his former friends.

Even when he appeared in a courtroom to meet once again the corrupt judges determined to keep him locked away without trial, his testimony of his relationship to God was met with loud scoffing, laughter and calls for a mental examination to prove that he is insane. The level of total godlessness in the so-called halls of justice has become so evident that my friend shudders with horror at the potential consequences they may suffer from their flagrant disrespect of God's holy name and character.

As I read through his letter, my emotions were nearly raw and very delicate to some extent. I had to even wait for a day before I felt emotionally strong enough to begin reading the letter. I cannot explain why that is, but somehow I sensed that I needed to have God's presence to support me before I had the emotional capacity to even start reading this. I needed joy – the presence of someone willing and glad to be with me through this intense experience.

Not only did I have God's Spirit with me but my wife kindly waited until I was ready and then sat and read it after me. That too is another source of joy – someone glad to go through things with me and share emotional experiences of every kind. I have been learning a lot about the true definition of joy over the past few years and it has helped me understand reality better and how God designed us much better than I ever realized before.

As I thought about my friends situation after waking up this morning, I realized that, except for God's intervention and protection, I could just as easily be in his exact spot. There is no reason why I might not be in prison suffering all of the endless horrors and demonic attacks and health problems just as he is right now. I could just as easily be the one rejected by all of my friends, misunderstood and discredited and labeled as an outlaw and a disgrace to Christianity. I am just as vulnerable as he is to being subjected to the very same attacks by the enemy. The only difference is not what either of us deserve but that God somehow at this point in time has a different plan for my life than for his right now.

As I thought about this I told my wife that I want to cherish the time that we still have to enjoy with each other. I realize that the enemy of truth and right is hell bent on destroying and eliminating everything good and right on this earth. This is not just a scuffle between right and wrong, a somewhat polite war of opinions about who is telling the truth and who is lying. This is an all-out vicious battle to the death between the titanic, combined human and supernatural forces of evil in league with each other pitted against the principles of goodness, righteousness, love and God's plans for the universe. I just read this morning about this intense warfare that is coming to a climax in our days, and I realize that my friend just happens to be at one of the most intense hot-spots of this battle with almost no back-up forces to encourage or assist him.

God brought a text to my mind and I decided to look it up and take it to heart. As usual, the context carries a great deal of important instruction to anyone serious about being a true follower of God's ways and committed to having full allegiance to His side in this warfare. That is the text that is at the beginning of this piece. My responsibility is to identity with my friend as if I was in prison with him. I don't know what all that might entail, but I certainly can sense to a small extent how I might feel if and when I may find myself in a very similar situation. This certainly invokes what is commonly called the golden rule. I need to try to do whatever it is that I would want done for me if I were in his place right now.

My relationship with this man also reminds me of the predicament that God finds Himself in with all of us. As I reviewed God's feelings and frustrations with us as described in the first part of Isaiah 59, I realize that it is always the lies about Him that stand in the way of our being able to relate to Him properly. Because we don't think He understands us, or because we think He is angry with us, or condemns us, or all sorts of other illusions we firmly believe in our hearts, these very assumptions prevent us from allowing Him access to us to bring us healing and reconciliation with Him.

Over the past few years I have begun to understand that there is absolutely no animosity on God's part against any of us. In fact, the cross proves unequivocally that there is no amount of hatred, abuse, shame or rejection that we can heap on God that can make Him stop loving us or even reduce it in the slightest iota. As Paul exclaimed in absolute wonder near the end of Romans 8, nothing can separate us from the love of God that was expressed through that demonstration by Christ Jesus.

It is always and totally the lies that we cling to about God that prevents us from enjoying fellowship with Him and receiving His blessing and protection in our lives. It is always the false assumptions that we believe about how He feels about us that block us from accepting His presence and authority in our experience. The problem of sin is 100% an issue of our attitudes toward God, never His attitudes toward us. Yes, God is very, very angry – but not with us. He is extremely angry at sin, the lies about Him that tear away from His heart the very children that He created to share love with for eternity. And only those who stubbornly refuse to let go of the lies in their minds and hearts and refuse the overwhelming offers of forgiveness, grace and cleansing, will at last be lost for eternity. Because love always respects other's freedoms, God is forced to respect our choices as to whether or not we will allow Him to be our friend and Redeemer.

I have been praying for some time now for a much clearer understanding of the real meaning and purpose of the cross of Jesus Christ. As I wrote these last few paragraphs I sensed that God is using this to open just a little bit more my understanding of what is really going on in this war. My own heart is warmed with sympathy for God's predicament and responds to the passion of His desire for me personally. Last night I received an email from another friend who shared a dream that she had about God's desire for marriage to her. From this symbolic dream she awoke with an intense desire to respond to God's passionate love for her burning vividly in her heart and soul. Though she had known all these things in her head for years, this experience suddenly made it very real in her heart and she trusted us by sharing this dream as part of her desire to embrace what God is wanting to do from her perspective in the body of Christ.

God is marshaling His forces. But the forces that He desires for His army never use the weapons of the enemy. They are being trained to use weapons of heaven's design in the ways that overcome the evil forces of this world through love, service and humility. I ask God to train me in His boot-camp, to prepare me to be an effective agent of transformation, an example of His ability to turn a selfish, fearful, rebellious and confused man into a demonstration of grace, peace and kindness. I trust in His faithfulness to finish the work of training He is doing in me. I invite anyone who has working ears to listen to what the Spirit is trying to say to all who are listening with their heart. Let God expose and sweep away the lies about Him that block us from trusting His heart. Give Him permission to have full access to the heart and we can find the satisfaction and joy that we have craved most deeply all of our lives.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Growing Urgency

There is a reason that I may or may not be posting less for awhile, but it is not because I am meditating less or even writing less necessarily. For the past few weeks I have felt a growing sense of urgency that does not seem to originate with myself that I need to spend some time developing and organizing my thoughts and collections of insights from the past along with some serious Bible research on various topics into a form that can be presented in a more public forum. Some people might call that a “sermon” but I feel rather resistant to using that word since it carries too many unspoken expectations with it. In my mind, and I suspect in the minds of many others, a sermon has certain characteristics and formats that are expected to happen at certain times and places. I feel that we have so restricted our expectations and limited those who have things to share with us in this way that we restrict greatly the ministry of the Holy Spirit among us.

Be that as it may, I cannot shake off the feeling that sometime soon, and quite possibly very suddenly when it happens, I am going to be asked or maybe even urged, to share some of the things with others that I have been learning from my personal time with God and in His Word. When that time comes it very well may be too late to do the preparation for those presentations and so I feel this constant urgency to spend more time when I have it reviewing my collections of notes while listening carefully to the guidance and promptings of the Holy Spirit to know what direction I should move first. And most importantly I want to be extremely cautious to try to keep out of my presentations every trace of my own agenda that is tied to a spirit of bitterness or criticism.

I have seen far too many examples of the results of those who have a great sense of urgency about their favorite topics, who are quick to press themselves into the public spotlight and to strongly present their ideas, but with a spirit that is not in harmony with the Spirit of Jesus that I have learning about from God. I have become painfully aware of my own very deep infection with the spirit of criticism that goes back for several generations in my own heritage and that I have struggled against for some time now. I am extremely vulnerable to slipping into this state of mind at any time and have to be very guarded, sensitive and ready to obey the promptings of the Spirit to realize when it is starting to creep into my words and attitude. This is especially easy when my emotions become animated as I share about the things I have been learning over the past few years.

There may be nothing more neutralizing to the effectiveness of God's messages to others than to mix a false spirit in with presentations of otherwise wonderful truth. I see it happen all the time and unfortunately I also fall into that trap myself all too often. But I am growing and learning and maturing and making mistakes just like everyone else. That is not to excuse my mistakes but to remind me that I need grace and forgiveness at least as much as the next person if not more.

God has been sharing some things with my mind and heart that I find so different from the mainstream of accepted Christian teachings that I feel very isolated and vulnerable to intense attack by teachers and professors who would be ready to scorn and deride me into oblivion if they heard what I have been thinking. But then I have to remind myself again that my identity and value is not to be derived in the slightest from what other people think about me but is to come unequivocally and exclusively from God alone.

In essence, what God is asking me – no, requiring me to do, is to put into practice all the things He has been teaching and revealing to me over the past few years. It is not enough to just learn about radical principles of truth and deeper insights into the reality of what God is like, I must be willing to bet my whole life, reputation and even eternal destiny on what I have been instructed and privileged to learn recently. Now I am starting to sense that the time is nearing when I not only have to keep listening very carefully to the still small voice that has been tutoring me for some time now, but that I will be asked to shout from the housetops what I have been learning in secret, as Jesus phrased it.

This is actually quite frightening for me since in some respects I am a very withdrawn personality when it comes to public speaking. It has become much easier for me to share my thoughts in writing in this venue here primarily because there is such a small audience to start with and secondly because I cannot see anyone who might read what I am writing. In addition because I get very little feedback there is not much cause for fear of attacks or arguments or resistance of any kind.

I can remember when I was quite young my father taking me with him to a presentation that he did in his line of work. He was in sales for much of his life and then for a number of years was into solicitation for an organization that provided services for the blind. It was a very good cause and I have never had reservations about what he was doing, but the methods and sales skills that he used when talking with others made me feel so extremely uncomfortable that I couldn't wait to get back home. That is not to say in the slightest that what he was doing was unethical. The problem was not with what he was doing but was with my own deep fear of offending people or even pressuring them to do something that they at first were not interested in doing.

Later I realized that it was much more a matter of differences in personalities than anything else. My dad had had to support a large family for many years with very little education. He had to struggle all his life with low self-esteem and lived in a culture that was very performance oriented. Thus he was forced to push himself very hard to become successful in sales just to earn enough money to put five children through church school in days not long after the Great Depression. He had developed skills that were likely way out of his comfort zone at first because he simply had little other choice. But for me with my timid personality and fear of public speaking, to even entertain the thought of trying to follow in his footsteps in sales was simply unimaginable – and that was settled quite firmly by that one experience watching him do the typical sales pitch to a business club to raise funds for his organization.

In retrospect I have come to admire the great efforts of my dad to push himself far beyond what felt comfortable. He had to overcome far greater difficulties than I have ever had to face growing up and he did the best he could with what little he had. I would do well to learn many lessons of perseverance and courage from his example. I know that I have said many hard things about him over the years because of the deep emotional wounds that I carried for much of my life. It was necessary for me to face those issues, to recognize their source and to be honest about them in order to make myself available for healing. But as those past wounds and memories become restored to wholeness and peace through healing encounters with God at different intense points in my life, I find myself coming closer to being ready to take my own place to share with others my own experience and insights.

I still feel a great deal of internal resistance to seeing myself as one in a position of teaching others, particularly in public presentations. I do enjoy very much small group venues where people are interested in exploring the Word – I can't get enough of that. But public speaking is a whole different ball game. I am not sure where it is coming from but I always feel a sense of hypocrisy associated with talking about spiritual insights that God has been blessing me with for so long. I know it may not sound logical, but I suppose it goes back to my fear of being shamed by others who have far more education or recognition from the systems of this world and the church. Somehow it all comes back to my temptations to see myself based on what others think of me instead of resting in my identity in Christ.

Well, I didn't plan on writing all of this just to say one thing, but then again it doesn't surprise me. Most of the time when I sit down to write out what I am feeling it just ends up growing immensely before I can wrap it up. I seldom know where it is even going to go until I am finished. I don't know if that is a bad thing or a good thing. Some might say I should be more intentional and others would insist that I should remain free to be guided by the Spirit. I tend to lean toward the latter opinion.

I have been jotting down in a file on my computer over the past few months different subjects or “sermon titles” (I still squirm to even use that word) that sometimes come to my mind rather forcefully. When the list of titles grew to several pages long I then suddenly felt the impression that I needed to get more serious about developing at least some of them more fully so they will be at least close to being usable on short notice. A few days ago I put each one of them into a separate file in a folder all together which has been very helpful. Because of this I can now open a subject related to some thoughts that may impress themselves on me and quickly put them into the related subject for further organization as I have time.

I am praying continually that God will impress and guide me to know which of these subjects should be highest priority to work on first before the others. I do not want to just choose my own favorite topics when I believe that God has His own agenda as to what others may need to hear the most that I have no knowledge about. I am coming to believe and want to incorporate more into my life the awareness that God is doing something very important around me in my church, in my community, in my world. Instead of me coming up with great plans to work for God and then asking God to empower and bless me in my plans for Him, I just think it makes a lot more sense to spend more effort and time listening and praying and observing and trying to know what it is that God is up to and then asking Him how He wants to use me to assist in furthering His plans.

I just figure that if God initiates the plans and then I just come alongside Him to be used in any way He needs and wants for me; if I give preference to what He wants to do instead of trying to come up with my own projects, that His plans have a far greater chance of making a real difference in people's lives and hearts than my plans will ever be able to do. That idea just makes a great deal more sense to me. Now, if I can just tune in accurately enough to hear His voice against all the distractions and diversions of the counterfeits...

One more thing I have determined to do in relation to this urgent feeling of getting ready for I know not what. I have decided and feel impressed that it is the right decision, to not volunteer myself or push myself into trying to create opportunities to present what I have been learning. Again, it goes along with not trying to come up with my own plans in place of letting God work out His ideas. God's plans very often seem to be more delayed than our plans and often challenge our patience. But then, our patience is challenged often because we think God should be in more of a hurry like we tend to be. But I am convinced that those who wait on the Lord will be the ones who come out more satisfied in the end and have a closer connection with the heart of God.

That is the number one thing that I crave and seek after most.

I want to know God's heart, to come into sympathy with His feelings, to learn His methods and to see those around me from His perspective instead of my own.

I want to be more and more filled with His passionate love that is so lacking in me at this point.

I want to know the authentic experience of real holiness, not the counterfeit piety that is so common assumed by established religions.

I want to be totally and radically connected to God to be His conduit of grace and truth and beauty so that others will be irresistibly drawn to His overwhelming attractions.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Incompatible Opposites

This morning as I drove to work for about 25 minutes I decided to act on the convictions that I have been experiencing lately and turn off the news on the radio. I decided that it was time to simply spend time listening to whatever the Holy Spirit wanted to tell me from the mind of Jesus.

One of the first thoughts that came to me was that when I listen to the radio during times like this that it was something like going on a date with my wife and then choosing to be occupied with listening or getting involved with other people while ignoring my wife. I think most people would suspect correctly that she would not feel too good about this and would feel that it was an insult or a sign of disloyalty to her. Most of us try not to fall into this trap when going on a date with someone we love, but how often do we try to fill our “empty times” with distractions or information or even just music when God would like to have a chance to commune with our hearts and share little love whispers in our ear if we would just give Him more chances?

Well, I accepted that thought from Him as a statement of part of His feelings that He wanted to share with me today. I accepted the conviction that far too much of the time I do ignore many chances that I could spend listening and dialogging with Him. But today, right now, I would choose to spend this time listening, even if it just meant resting in quietness without anything in particular being hashed over. I accepted the beautiful morning colors in the sunrise as His present to me personally. After all, many times lovers just need to be able to enjoy each other's presence without having to always be talking about something.

But after I got to the job site early and sat waiting for my boss to show up, I realized that indeed a significant insight had begun to coalesce in my mind without my noticing it at first. I scrounged around to find some paper to write it down on so I wouldn't forget it. You would think that I would learn to keep pads of paper nearby everywhere I go I spend so much time wanting to capture things that come to my attention.

Anyway, what I wrote down and what ignited my interest was a coalition of ideas from my past experiences and learning which is often the case. The first part of it was that I have been learning more about the heart that Jesus gave me which is where I find my true identity. When I choose to allow God to have possession of my affections He gives life to the inner person that is created in His image and that is perfectly designed to reflect the nature of Jesus.

However, as we all know there is another inner person called our flesh or our fallen nature that is always present and opposed to the true heart that is designed to reflect our Creator. This fallen nature that closely reflects the nature of Satan himself insists that our behavior and our habits and mistakes define our true identity. Or maybe for some of us our flesh demands us to believe that our good works, our education, our good looks (not too much my problem) or any number of external trappings we may accrue define our real identity. Either way, our flesh always defies the claims of God to access control of our heart, our affections and our choices.

This battle is discussed at length by Paul in Romans 7 and 8 and is familiar to any Christian worth taking on the name. But what began to come to me more clearly this morning was the stark contrast between these two extreme natures and the complications that we experience when we attempt to co-mingle these polar opposites in the same mind. Here is what I am starting to perceive more fully.

The heart that Jesus has placed in me will ALWAYS desire to do what is right, will always want to follow God's will for me, will always be willing to submit joyfully to the principles of God's loving government. On the other hand, my flesh will ALWAYS desire to please myself, to look out for my own interests first before others, will always insist that I have the ability and wisdom to figure out how to solve my problems given enough help and time. My fallen nature is incorrigible in that it will never repent or surrender to the authority of God fully. Oh, it will do all sorts of pragmatic things to look religious and pious when it seems to be in my best interest, but behind it all, subconsciously it will always have a hidden agenda of selfishness and self-survival. There is no chance of converting my sinful heart, the only option if I want to be a real Christian who is radical enough to be saved at last is to kill my sinful desires, my sinful impulses and cravings and to surrender radically to the work of God in my soul.

Given that these two natures are alive and fighting fiercely inside of me nearly all the time, what is going to be the outcome of this constant warring inside of my head? Which one of these natures is going to come out on top in the end and determine my eternal destiny? Just because I call myself a Christian and claim to follow God and keep all sorts of beliefs and rules and traditions does not mean that my heart is really finding the relationship with God that is urgently necessary for me to be safe to enjoy heaven. Most of what is called Christianity today is not reflective of the life that God had in mind when Jesus introduced the human race to His Father 2000 years ago.

What I am beginning to see more clearly is that because of the radical, polarized nature of these two hearts or natures inside of me, that if I try to access both of them in my daily life that the inevitable conflict is very damaging to my spiritual nature at best and may cause my eternal loss at worst. Because both of these natures are unchangeable in their goals and motives and are incompatible with each other, when I try to accomplish what subconsciously feels like “balance” by indulging occasionally in compromise here and there to satisfy my flesh in any way, then my true nature given to me by Jesus suffers far more severely than I can even realize at the time. As Oswald Chambers so aptly put it, We have to recognize that sin is a fact, not a defect; sin is red-handed mutiny against God. Either God or sin must die in my life.

What really happens when I try to juggle these two warring opposites in the same mind and heart is that I demonstrate what James describes as mental and emotional instability. James labels this a double-minded man who should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Double-mindedness is the result then, of attempting to co-mingle two polar opposites that are incompatible.

I also began to sense a new heightened awareness of the definite attractiveness of the real meaning of purity. Again, purity is not just about sexual parts of our life but is about the subject that is being talked about right here. Purity is the same thing as being totally, unreservedly committed to one side or the other in this warfare. Purity is really the same thing as allegiance or loyalty. Purity is far more than abstinence as we have often assumed. Purity is radical dedication, devotion and passion for the cause and the leader whom we worship, whether that be ourselves, our earthly heroes on television or the God who has demonstrated His own passion to have us in a restored and eternal relationship with His heart of infinite love. In short, purity is the elimination of all competition in the heart.

When I fail to maintain or seek real purity in my heart, the result is lukewarmness, shame, fear, guilt and instability. And conversely, the only real cure for all of these ailments is not to work harder at becoming good but in making choices about the content of what fills my mind and imagination each day. When I put mixed mental food into my mind I am going to get much worse than just mixed results. But when I am willing to go far beyond my comfort zone and go to what others will consider extremes in my pursuit of God, then I will be able to experience the passion of God in loving service to others flowing through my life in currents so powerful and energizing that I will be literally beside myself with joy.

Fear of Injustice

It is starting to become more clear why I feel the increasing impressions about gentleness as well as purity and holiness. It correlates to the growing convictions about withdrawing myself from listening to the news more and more. I have often resisted this conviction because it is so easy to rationalize or compromise and the Spirit seldom argues with me about it but just lets me have my way. My justification is usually accomplished by measuring the after-affects and how much contact with God has or has not been lost as a result of exposure to the world's media.

But I am beginning to realize that intimacy must come at a cost – a high cost if I want to go all the way. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8) This purity is not restricted to sexually-related things. This has to do with everything that detracts from the true knowledge of the Father's heart. The truth in Isaiah keeps coming to my mind as a warning if I am to be serious about coming into the dangerous presence of God. "Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?" He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity, he who rejects unjust gain and shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe; he who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking upon evil. (Isaiah 33:14-15)

To come very close to God's heart I must enter into a level of trust and exclusiveness that others may not see necessary or even right. But this trust is a two-way relationship where God needs to be able to trust me through the work that I allow Him to accomplish in my heart. I have been asking God to draw me closer to Him but resisting that drawing at the same time. I figured that was what was going on but now I am starting to see it more clearly. Unfortunately I am too much like Thomas, wanting to be able to see and understand for myself before I am willing to more fully believe.

Well, last night I saw for myself more forcefully. I was listening to the news again and just after I got home while sitting in the driveway listening to the end of it they relayed the story of an innocent man executed by a policeman in front of a large crowd for no reason whatsoever except apparently from emotions of the moment. The event was captured on several videos and was soon posted on you-tube which is now raising quite a stir as would be expected. But what was not expected was the awakening that this caused for me personally.

The emotions aroused in me were all too familiar. But I sensed the strong impression that I needed to listen more carefully and obediently to the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit about exposing myself to these kind of strong stimulants. I was reminded of one of my own greatest weaknesses and fears that is starting to surface once again.

Just a couple days ago I revisited with someone the intern scene of one of the deepest roots of my own bitterness which has haunted me for many years and has caused me a great deal of trouble, particularly with policemen. It is a memory that might seem to have nothing to do with injustice and police abuse against me personally, but the perceived effect on my heart was one of the most traumatic moments in memory for me. I have sensed that this memory may contain many of the foundational lies that has allowed Satan to have a stronghold inside of me for all these years. I have been praying for God to deliver me from this stronghold of rebellion, fear and bitterness for a long time and I sense that I am getting closer to that freedom.

But Satan is also aware that I may be getting close to escaping from his diabolical control and he will resist that escape attempt in every way possible. What I am now starting to see is that one of his easiest methods to keep me inflamed with bitterness and locked into his prison is to keep presenting stories of police abuse to me to reignite my anger and frustration, particularly in ways where there is nothing I can do about it but complain. This also accomplishes the goal of training me to remain unresponsive in the face of real injustice should I happen to encounter it first hand. I fear that in my current condition I would be found among those who are too afraid to stand up against injustice and risk my reputation or even my life to come to the aid of someone being threatened or abused.

This too would become another opportunity for Satan to flaunt my misrepresentation of God in His face and attack His reputation. My failures to respond like Jesus while talking much about the growing revelations of the truth about God would be an act of hypocrisy and disloyalty that would bring shame on the name of Christ and on my own soul as well. Then Satan would attack me with that most familiar emotion of depression and despair as I wallow in the shame of my own failure and he might even reinforce it with fear and anger by direct exposure to the very kinds of abuse that I have feared the most all of my life.

This is a very frightening scenario for me right now and would absolutely terrify me if it were not for the fact of God's extreme faithfulness and goodness and lovingkindness. My only hope is to keep focusing on the truth about God that He has been increasingly revealing to me and to more intentionally and consistently withdraw from the sources of fear and depression that Satan uses to enforce the lies buried deep in my heart. I need to follow the example of Enoch who deliberately withdrew from public exposure for periods of time to be purified in the clean presence of God's intimacy before allowing himself to be exposed to the wickedness of the world around him.

If I really want to live in an intimate relationship with my God, I have to be willing to let Him have His ways in how my mind is exposed and shaped and the stories and emotions that are allowed to affect it. I now am seeing more clearly that I am receiving the opportunity to experience Elijah training, learning how to listen to the right source to detect the voice of the Spirit. Elijah was given notice that the true Spirit from God was not discerned in the more obvious ways, the spectacular demonstrations of power. The Spirit could only be recognized when the soul was quiet before God and all the distractions were gone. That was an extremely important lesson for Elijah and one that was sorely needed after he had lost touch with that quiet Spirit-voice only just recently on Mount Carmel. (see 1 Kings 19)

The prophecies of the Bible say that Elijah is going to return again; that is, the spirit of Elijah is going to be clearly manifested in God's true followers in the last days during the closing events of earth's history. We are very clearly in that time, but I sense that very few understand what it really means to have the spirit and power of Elijah. Learning to live life in constant awareness and obedience to the still, small Voice is a most crucial part of being able to live in the spirit of Elijah. But that is what I suspect God is trying to teach me right now.

I still am praying for deliverance from this massive root of bitterness that still remains deeply embedded in my mind and heart. I have no idea how God is going to uproot it, but I do know that He is faithful and He will do it. I want to fully cooperate with the preparation for that painful operation so that I can get through it as quickly as possible. I am going to need much prayer, much encouragement, much accountability and much joy-strength to face this trauma. And that joy can sometimes come from others who are willing to enter into the experience alongside of me and experience the emotions with me while emotionally guiding me to the way through this trauma when it seems like only hopelessness to me.

I can say all this right now from the seeming safety of an armchair and the quiet peace of an early morning time alone with God. But when all hell breaks loose and my heart is stirred up and my emotions overwhelm me and the lies are activated that cause my perceptions of reality to be terribly skewed – well, that is what I don't know about at this point. The only hope I have is to continue to trust the One who is drawing me, who is in charge of my repair, my surgery, my purification. And I can listen more carefully and obey more instantly the still small Voice that is still broadcasting instructions yet today for anyone ready and willing to listen.

God, I am not even sure what to pray right now. Keep me fixed on You today. Teach me the lessons of obedience in the little things that I have been ignoring. Keep me away from dogmatism and fanaticism, but also keep me away from the blindness of rationalization and compromise that has kept me in Satan's prison for so many years.

I give you full permission to proceed with Your surgery on my heart and mind. I don't understand what that even means or will involve, but I do know very clearly that I need radical surgery and that it will be extremely painful. Yesterday when I sensed this coming I asked if you use anesthetic when you do heart surgery. But I sensed You responding that if I didn't feel the pain while becoming free of the lies that it would leave me vulnerable to being reinfected with that cancer again. The pain experienced during the extraction of deep roots of sin is the very process needed to inoculate me against reinfection.

So I pray for deliverance from my fear of pain. That has been a handle that Satan has had access to in my heart for most of my life. By manipulating me through that fear he has been able to steer me and intimidate me much of my life. But Your Word says that this is one of the things You came to give me.

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)

Father, that is the freedom that I claim from You right now. I want to live in that experience of total freedom from fear that has kept me and everyone around me in slavery all of our lives. I trust You to accomplish this in my life however and whenever You choose. I am Yours – save me.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Exposing Deception

An important aspect of truth and of how God relates to us keeps impressing itself on my mind and heart. It sounds strange and even foreign in many respects to the way most people view life, but then the kingdom of heaven and the principles by which the whole universe operates outside of our little bubble of intense deception on this planet is nearly always upside down from our point of view. But in reality it is our typical thinking that is always what is upside down and backwards and the closer I come into harmony and awareness with those principles by which the rest of the universe lives, the more odd and out of place I am going to appear to nearly everyone around me.

What keeps coming back to my attention is the growing realization that the way God has chosen to deal with opposition, accusation and argument is to maintain consistently His character of tenderness, goodness, gentleness and love in the face of lies, fierceness and even violence. To my natural mind this simply makes almost no sense. My brain is wired to want to use force when necessary to overcome evil. I want to expose people's charades and deceptions and get the truth out in the open quickly. But the more I learn about how God operates the more these methods are exposed as coming from the wrong side of the fence.

I, like nearly everyone else I know, have always considered tenderness and gentleness as a sign of some sort of weakness in the personality. Of course, these things were handy to have around and especially were desirable in the female side of the world. But men are “supposed” to lean more in the direction of “strength” and boldness which implied that they had little use for these characteristics that seemed so ineffective against the real problems that we face in this world.

But I keep being reminded by the Spirit that this is all part of Satan's deception to prevent me from accessing what is truly powerful and effective in my battle against sin. Believing that force must be met with force is an illusion and a temptation that is so subtle and deceptive that it is an easy pushover for nearly every professed Christian. But contrary to our assumptions about God from centuries of misinformation by religious and non-religious tradition alike, God does not overcome violence and sin with violence and force. In fact, He never, ever resorts to force or coercion or compulsion to acquire His goals. He never violates His character of love, goodness, tenderness and mercy.

But at the same time I am also becoming much more aware that tenderness and gentleness are far from signs of weakness. In fact, it takes far more strength than I have ever had to maintain such a spirit in the face of intimidation, violence and pain. It takes superhuman stamina and deeply ingrained stability and maturity to face the ugliness of sin, the threat of personal harm, pain and violence or to be exposed to the terrible acts of exploitation committed all around us in the world and still maintain an inward peace and a mature attitude. It is so much easier to reflect the spirit that is being demonstrated in acts of violence and anger. It is such a powerful temptation to believe that the only means of fully overcoming the evil around us is to tap into the use of force and compulsion whenever the situation calls for it.

But this is one of the most diabolical lies that Satan has infected our minds with and undermines our effectiveness as representatives of Christ. And although my own heart still is wired to respond in these ways when under the pressure of strong emotions, my mind is learning that this is not the ways of God and that sooner or later following these kinds of beliefs will always end up dishonoring Him.

Yesterday I was reading a statement by a religious teacher of the last century and came across some very stunning revelations. In describing how Lucifer progressively developed his strategies of deception while still living in heaven, I read that “he manifested an overbearing desire for justice, but it was a counterfeit of justice, which was entirely contrary to God's love and compassion and mercy.”

This article went on to reveal that Lucifer slowly infected the minds of very many holy angels of God by subtle insinuations about God that caused them to view everything God did with suspicion even though nothing could be proven or was even obviously wrong. And one of the first casualties of this spirit of doubt and suspicion was that their love and confidence in God was marred. Almost immediately their sweet communion between themselves and God was broken.

That is one of the first warning signs of a wrong attitude that will dissolve the love and closeness that is necessary for God's people to be successful. But sweet communion is not something that can be imposed or forced on anyone. It is simply a symptom of hearts that are open and free of suspicion and fear of those whom they trust. When I view God with any amount of fear and apprehension or when I believe that God is willing to resort to force and coercion to get His ways when all else fails, then the result will be that my ability to rest fully in His love will be marred and no matter how much I try to convince myself of His goodness I will always have lurking in the back of my mind suspicions that will prevent me from enjoying the full, deep and sweet communion so necessary for preparing me to live in His presence.

What really got my attention was a description in this article about how God chose to deal with the deceptive nature of Satan's operations. Lucifer, who was quickly becoming Satan – the accuser – was so extremely subtle and two-faced in the ways in which he created insinuations and doubts about God, that he was extremely effective in convincing a very large percentage of the angels to believe that his claims were legitimate and accurate and his complaints about God were right. This method of quiet deception that made Lucifer appear to be the injured party was so convincing and compelling that God chose not to expose Him directly or to even resort to eliminating his rebellion by force of any type. He could have done that very easily as far as power is concerned, but power is not the primary interest of God. The number one and unwavering characteristic of God is that He is love and nothing can disturb or alter that in the slightest.

As I read more I came across this most revealing statement. “Many place such confidence in their own ideas that they present their theories as if they could make no mistake. Once their words are spoken, they never go back, never repent, never feel that they need forgiveness. They feel that they are infallible. Thus it has been in past history; thus it will be again. False religious confidence becomes supposed infallibility. How can these deluded ones think that they are the only ones led and taught of God? When this spirit is manifested, what can be done? You cannot convince them, because they say, "God has led me." They will not acknowledge that they have acted on wrong principles. They maintain that they have moved rightly. The only course that can be pursued is to leave them to develop their principles. They may never see their error, but others may be convinced and saved. To attempt to unmask them would be to call sympathy to their side.”

What disturbs me is that all too much I see my own desires to act in this way at times, to expose others when they are deceiving people around them especially when it is causing me problems personally. I want to call their bluff, to uncover their lies, to make them look bad in the eyes of others who are being sucked into their arguments and insinuations. But this is not the way God deals with deception and the sooner I adopt His methods and perceptions the more effective my own witness will become.

“Satan stirs up the minds of those who are selfish, who are not consecrated to God's service, who have not an eye single to his glory. He fills their hearts with the spirit of criticizing and accusing. If they think that they are not especially favored, they will talk of the mistakes and errors of the one against whom they are working. This step taken, Satan, whose special business it is to create alienation and strife, will place the matter before these persons in a most deceiving way, and they will bring against those in positions of trust the most unjust charges, in order to discourage and destroy God's servants.”

It has become more and more obvious over the past few years that I have inherited a long legacy of a spirit of accusing and criticizing. It is second nature to me and I catch myself many times stopping thoughts of criticism before they escape into the open. But I become almost angry that they are still so readily available inside of me, that there seems to be an unlimited supply of these fault-finding comments just waiting for opportunities to burst out whenever I feel threatened. But what I am learning is that this is all a reflection of Satan's character and totally opposite to how God deals with us. I clearly need a much deeper conversion, a total transformation, a radical heart transplant to prepare me to reflect the character of God when under pressure.

As I read further in this article I was nearly overwhelmed with the things that I need to learn and absorb into my own experience and character. Let me just share a few more paragraphs.

“Satan's representations against the government of God, and his defense of those who sided with him, were a constant accusation against God. His murmurings and complaints were groundless; and yet God allowed him to work out his theory. God could have destroyed Satan and all his sympathizers as easily as one can pick up a pebble and cast it to the earth. But by so doing he would have given a precedent for the exercise of force. All the compelling power is found only under Satan's government. The Lord's principles are not of this order. He would not work on this line. He would not give the slightest encouragement for any human being to set himself up as God over another human being, feeling at liberty to cause him physical or mental suffering. This principle is wholly of Satan's creation.

“The principles of the character of God were the foundation of the education constantly kept before the heavenly angels. These principles were goodness, mercy, and love. Self-evidencing light was to be recognized and freely accepted by all who occupied positions of trust and power. They must accept God's principles, and, through the presentation of truth and righteousness, convince all who were in his service. This was the only power to be used. Force must never come in. All who thought that their position gave them power to command their fellow beings, and control conscience, must be deprived of their position; for this is not God's plan.

“These principles are to be the foundation of education in God's church today. The rules given by him are to be observed and respected. God has enjoined this. His government is moral. Nothing is to be done by compulsion. Truth is to be the prevailing power. All service is to be done willingly, and for the love of God. All who are honored with positions of influence are to represent God; for when officiating, they are in the place of God. In everything their actions must correspond to the importance of their position. The higher the position the more distinctly will self-sacrifice be revealed if they are fit for the office. Every heart that is controlled by these principles will be loyal. But when those who profess to be in God's service resort to accusation, they are adopting Satan's principles to cast out Satan; and this never will work.” ( RH, 9-7, 1897)

I want God to transform me so thoroughly that I can reflect His spirit and demonstrate how He treats even His greatest accuser and enemy. I want to be filled with the patience necessary to wait for opposition to expose itself while maintaining a spirit of truth and love. I want to be filled with the spirit of self-sacrifice that reflects the very heart of both the Father and the Son. I want a full heart transplant, a new spirit, and a whole new disposition.

Father, accomplish Your desires for me and in me. Make me a channel of Your grace and mercy, an instrument of Your peace. I cannot get there from here by my own determination and force of will. I choose to cooperate with Your ways and trust You to do the healing work necessary in my heart so that my reactions and spirit under pressure will more accurately reflect what You are really like and how You treat those who misunderstand and misrepresent You.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Death by Sympathy

When I indulge in mourning and complaining I am in reality trying to draw sympathy from others for myself at the expense of someone else. This involves accusations that contain a force that is both infectious and poisonous yet is very deceptive in nature. Worst of all, when I engage in this kind of activity I am following in the footsteps of Satan himself, for that is how sin originated in his heart in the perfect atmosphere of heaven. But just because I don't live in a perfect atmosphere does not lessen my guilt or danger in the least, for God and His character has not changed in the slightest. In reality, when I complain I am ultimately complaining against Him and am doubting His goodness and plans for me.

The next step when confronted about my complaining attitude will be to blame others and to imply that I would be a much better person if I were not so controlled by the decisions of others and their effect over my life. Thus I am attempting to avoid or shift personal responsibility, again following the pattern of Satan's original sin.

The outgrowth of this pattern in Satan's life resulted in a “theory of justice” that we have inherited through our sinful environment and have generally assumed as being true. This false idea of justice tends to be exclusive of mercy. In other words, the two become antagonistic toward each other, you can either be one or the other but not both at the same time. Thus, to be just it will appear that mercy is impossible or is a compromise, and to be merciful will appear to violate or suspend true justice.

This is the concept of justice inherent in what is commonly called self-justification. A person who justifies themselves claims to be as right or more righteous than even God. This was the trap that Job fell into. They feel that their decisions are just, pure and without fault in comparison to others. They are unwilling to admit that their advice or opinions might be wrong; are unwilling to challenge their own assumptions. This progresses into a spirit of merciless justice, a counterfeit of real justice that is abhorrent to God and blasphemes His reputation.

But this version of justice that is so commonly seen around us is not really a safe kind of justice; it is not even real justice at all. Even though it may appear right in the eyes of those who sympathize with us, the real problem lies in not seeing things as God sees them – what is going on deeper at the heart level. It is impossible for us to know reality or to perceive motive as God knows it without living in sympathy with God and relying on His wisdom and revelations. When we indulge in this counterfeit form of thinking and living we misrepresent God to others and come into sympathy with His archenemy who's example we are following perfectly. We have set up our own standard of judgment on others and set ourselves up as judge in His place. But worst of all we expose ourselves to the danger of damnation itself – the experience commonly referred to as God's wrath. And this – all because we started out on the road of self-pity and self-indulgence through mourning and complaining.

This extremely deceptive spirit is highly contagious and will infect many around us with that same spirit. It is inflamed by reinforcement from the same spirit that motivates demons and locks us into a mindset that is worse than slavery because we can be totally unaware of our condition. This condition is extremely difficult to expose because of the defensiveness of self-justification and blame that permeates it. But at its core is the spirit of disloyalty and selfishness.

There is only one hope for anyone exposed to be in this condition; that is total submission to the convicting Spirit of Jesus and placing themselves completely on God's side without reservation. The other option is to engage in lying and denial about their true condition which will isolate their heart against further painful conviction and will eventually harden themselves against all hope of recovery. Lying about the true nature of our condition will feel like the right thing to do to sustain us, but it is the path laid out by our flesh which always feels logical and right to us. But that path invariably leads to death in the end. We desperately need the conviction and salvation of God to deliver us from this most intense power of self-deception and the allurement of pride and self-protection.

Ultimately I am going to die one way or another. The choice for me is whether I will choose to die to my flesh now which is so extremely painful, or will I maintain what feels safe now and be exposed to the glory of the truth of God that will so expose me later that it will prove to be my eternal destruction? If I choose to allow the fire of God's presence and His Spirit of truth to expose me now, if I choose to agree with the convicting urgings of His Spirit inside of me (confession) to lead me to repentance and allow Him full access to my heart, then I can experience the early death to self through my own choice that will result in new life from Jesus being able to spring up inside of me that can never die. But if I resist and refuse to admit the presence of Jesus into my heart and resist the real truth about myself to expose the secrets of my heart, then I will deepen my resistance and blindness and will store up wrath within myself for the day that wrath will destroy me.

One of the most deceptive aspects of this kind of thinking and feeling is that truth and lies can all be mixed up together making me look just the way I want to appear to others. It is all about image management and control to avoid humiliation and self-defeat or exposure. It is so much less painful to tap into whatever works to justify myself at the moment than to maintain a straight line of absolute truth no matter the cost. But this is the path of crookedness, it is the course of maintaining appearances more than maintaining openness of my heart and true honesty. This alternative course claims that true facts are the real definition of honesty instead of true confession of what is in the heart, my deeper motives that remain impossible for others to see clearly.

But in the long run it will be impossible to avoid the reality of truth. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Marley and Me

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a movie fan. In fact, I am moving in quite the opposite direction the more I realize how much the whole entertainment industry is brainwashing the world and synchronizing it together in preparation for the final showdown against God. But I am also aware that there are some unusual exceptions to the pervasive onslaught of perversion promoted by this industry and when I see them I don't mind sharing those with others.

Not long ago we saw the recent release called Fireproof that was produced by a Christian filmmaker and was quite well done as a movie, although at times a little idealistic as many Christian films tend to be. Tonight we watched another movie but this one not even produced by Christians as far as I know. But I was nearly stunned by the quality of the production combined with most amazing messages that run exactly opposite to nearly every other production of the movie industry.

The movie is called Marley and Me and revolves around a young family and the great impact their dog had on their lives. It is a most wonderful movie in my opinion and one I would highly recommend. The most surprising part was the obvious contrast between the main story line of the marriage and family who decided to stick it out together through all kinds of difficulties, and a friend who kept showing up all through the movie who lived the exact opposite kind of life, constantly moving from one exploitive relationship to another.

I am by no means a movie reviewer and I hardly ever even watch movies. I detest the effect that most movies have on my ability to hear God's voice to me personally and so I am always very cautious to the extreme about what I choose to watch. But the heart-warming and positive messages and emotions that this movie stirred up in me did not leave me feeling compromised like many of the ones I have seen in the past. So that is my story for the night.