Random Blog Clay Feet: 2009-02
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Saturday, February 28, 2009

My Eyes Are On You

I am still dealing with the swirling emotions inside related to a number of situations. But what I am aware of is that the real issue has little to do with the current situations and much more to do with deep, unresolved issues from long ago that still haunt me and dictate far too much of my current feelings and reactions.

Much of the information that I have been blessed with over the past years about healing of damaged emotions, freedom from internal embedded lies and the real truth about forgiveness and about God's feelings toward me are all coming into play in addressing my sensations of current re-ignition of old fires. But at the same time I am feeling somewhat a sense of confusion, or maybe more along the lines of a loss of perspective. I feel the increasing need for others to remind me of who I really am – except that I have serious doubts as to whether anyone really does know who I really am.

One thing that keeps coming back to my attention is the issue of forgiveness. As I was thinking about forgiveness a couple days ago in reference to my current repeated temptations to indulge in feelings of anger and bitterness toward those who are acting wickedly, the distinct realization came to me that forgiveness is very much like dying. The more that I sense the real truth about forgiveness the more it resembles in many respects a choice to die. I suspect that this is maybe why Jesus talked so much about dying to self if we ever want to enjoy real life as it was designed for us.

This also confirms for me that the typical notions about forgiveness are seriously off track. Most of peoples assumptions about forgiveness do not go anywhere near causing one to feel like they are dying. Many of them feel much more like engaging in a very long-term intense effort to suppress feelings of resentment, rage and desires for revenge. Because pseudo-forgiveness does not get rid of the original cause for the internal pain we suffer emotionally, we end up having to continue to deal with that pain over and over again and get very discouraged thinking that this whole notion of forgiveness may be just a mistaken idea that doesn't really change anything.

But I have been exposed to much clearer insights about the real truth of forgiveness that have caused me to shudder at its intensity to its similarity to death. Real forgiveness is far more sobering than the false concepts of forgiveness and makes a person reevaluate and take stock if they really want to do this or not. It forces a person to tally up the pros and cons of whether this is going to be worth the risk involved, whether this is going to produce a decent return on the investment made in ways that we often don't take into account.

This accounting and evaluation of whether real forgiveness is worth investing in will be heavily weighted and influenced by what we believe about the value and truthfulness of Jesus' assessments of the factors involved. If we come to decide that forgiveness is worth the high risk involved, it is only going to happen if we can come to believe that we can trust God's viewpoint about the risks and benefits that He says play into the decision long-term. Because in our own experience the benefits are sometimes not seen at all in some situations and are delayed uncomfortably in many others.

So it seems from this perspective that to take the risk of choosing to forgive someone that we first have to have a certain amount of trust in the integrity of the God who tells us that this is the only real option we have if we want to live in true freedom and enjoy life. Of course this is the same God who also tells us that if we want to save our life we have to be willing to let go of it; all those who try to keep their life will end up losing it. This all sort of has a similar ring to it as the issues I am starting to see in forgiveness.

I keep finding myself going back to the parable of the debtor in Matthew 18 where I learned the most stunning truth about forgiveness a number of years ago. I keep reflecting on the implications embedded in this story and consider how they relate to other stories by Jesus about forgiveness and related issues.

The original creditor in this story chose to forgive the astoundingly enormous debt by the first debtor – 150,000 years of normal wages! We tend to focus on the size of the debt as well as the cluelessness of the debtor to seemingly comprehend the gravity of his situation as demonstrated by his actions soon afterward. But I am drawn to consider the situation of the first person in this story, the master who forgave this enormous debt to start with because, it says, he had compassion.

It occurs to me that the loss that was incurred by the master is seldom very seriously considered in this story. We almost take for granted that it should have been somehow easy for him to just offer this forgiveness. Maybe we think that we was so incredibly rich that he might not really be affected by this write-off of this incredible debt. But that is not necessarily true. Because the size of this debt is so staggering, I think that we tend to gloss over the cost that was involved for the master to simply write it off and give up his right to collect on this debt.

It is this point right here where I am beginning to see the connection with death being closely linked with forgiveness. By relinquishing his right to collect on the debt, this master had to of experienced something very similar to death himself. If someone owed me that kind of money – well, I really can't even relate to how much money that really means. I guess this would somehow need to be put in a context that would make more sense emotionally to me.

This is the part of the story that I sense I must connect with for it to have its intended effect. Until I can begin to really sense and appreciate how much it really cost the master to forgive this level of debt that was legitimately owed to him, I cannot begin to really appreciate the intensity of that kind of forgiveness.

I suppose that the reason Jesus used this figure and put it into monetary language was to attempt to make it relevant so that we could begin to sense the value that God gave up in order to offer forgiveness to us. Saying that the debt was this size in terms of wages is trying to connect us to the fact that it is something extremely valuable involved here, something of unimaginable worth, something very costly to the original owner that had to be relinquished in exchange for settling the account that prevented these two people from being able to have a good relationship.

This master did not just temporarily suspend the debt for this debtor and then later re-institute it as most people assume when they read this story. There is not the slightest hint that the debt was ever re-imposed by the master. In fact, in the story it states very clearly twice that the debt was forgiven. This infers that the master had officially given up all rights permanently to ever collect on this debt again; he had literally died, so to speak, to his rights to collect or hold this account open against the debtor. This was an irreversible decision on his part but was taken by his own free choice with full knowledge of the enormous risk and loss that would be involved.

Compassion is the key element here that maybe lies at the root of part of my problem struggling with my own need to forgive. And I suspect that it also betrays the real reason that the debtor in this story seemed to have such a problem himself learning how to properly relate to those who were in debt to him. This element of compassion somehow baffles me and even frightens me in a way. I used to think that I had a lot of compassion inside of me, but now I sense that my compassion may actually be something else, more of a self-serving sympathy for only selected people whom I think may deserve getting a break from me. Or worse yet, it may be subconscious manipulative way for me to get others to appreciate and love me more.

The deeper I get into pondering this problem the more uneasy I am feeling. If what I am sensing is true, I am finding myself closer and closer to having to identify myself in this story with the ungrateful debtor who seemed unable to feel real compassion for those who owed him instead of being able to identify with the master who was able to so apparently quickly forgive a debt that I can't even wrap my mind around.

And that is really where I am starting to see that my own problem lies. I really am too much like the debtor who seemed clueless as to the enormity of his debt. Just like Simon at the feast where Mary anointed Jesus' feet, I find myself unable to see myself as the greater debtor weighted under an unthinkable debt toward God needing enormous amounts of forgiveness. To be really honest, I have never been able to identify very well with people who talk about our immense level of debt toward a God who provides us with life and blessings and grace all the time with very little in return. Yes, intellectually I can assent to that theory, but my heart does not buy into it yet. I really am an ungrateful debtor and I am getting more exposed as such all the time.

Maybe this is part of my rage problem. Oh no. Here we go on another discomforting insight that I wasn't expecting. It just became obvious to me that this debtor who was clueless about the size and impossibility of paying off his own debt displayed these very symptoms of rage and resentment against those who owed him. I suspect that these two things go together inseparably. My ignorance of just how much debt I owe is betrayed by how much struggle I find myself in trying to forgive someone else who has created a debt in me.

But I really don't see the answer for my problem very well yet. And that itself is quite frightening to me. I have always been amazed in this story of how this debtor could act so callously toward another person after just having such an enormous debt paid off from his account. But now I find myself in that very situation and am amazed at my own lack of ability to sense the same thing that I feel critical about in this debtor. That insight certainly doesn't leave me with warm fuzzies. That means that if I can't figure out how to have my perception changed about my own situation and whatever debt I have incurred that is so big, I am very likely to continue to live and relate to others the way this debtor did. And after reading the end of the story I really don't like that option in the least.

So far I can't detect any clues in this story as to how this ungrateful debtor was supposed to be able to change his perception of his own attitude and situation other than living under torture and in prison until he was willing to wake up to the option of freedom implied in the directions given to him near the end. But I really don't like that part of the story either, especially as I am seeing myself very much in his shoes right now. I don't know of anyone who thinks that being tortured in prison is something to look forward to. In fact, I rather suspect that this would only cause me to become even more angry, resentful and bitter. Given treatment like that I am afraid that I would melt into a ball of uncontrollable rage and hatred – which is generally the fuel that torturers love to feed off of and intensifies their delight. I really don't like where this story is taking me now.

I must find freedom from this rage and bitterness and hatred that is holding my soul hostage. It has affected me for most of my life, and even though it has not been very noticeable, at least not very often publicly, it has remained hidden deep in my subconscious memories and emotional psyche. I have felt its flames emerge at different times to torture me and cause me embarrassment occasionally and have had to be very careful to not burn others with its acid bitterness. But I am becoming increasingly aware of it over the past few days and sense that God is wanting to take me on a healing journey that is going to be way out of my comfort zone very soon.

I am not sure how to prepare myself for this trip. I have been feeding my mind with large doses of truth about God's love over the past few weeks and I wonder if that is not part of what is precipitating some of this happening right now. I wonder if I have been given enough soul training for the past few years that I am now prepared subconsciously to engage in an experience that will max out my ability to cope with old traumas so big that they will require a very large joy-bucket to handle them. Those familiar with some of the things I have been learning about the brain from James Wilder will know what this means.

Whatever is happening, I have to cling very hard to what I have been learning about the goodness and faithfulness of God to get through what I sense is starting to happen in my life. I am feeling more and more out of control and that is frightening to me. At the same time I almost feel a little sense of relief that maybe I am finally starting to really grow in some areas that have been deeply stuck nearly all of my life. One thing is very certain – I do not feel capable of facing this alone. I feel very inadequate to survive the trauma that I fear I am going to have to face as I experience eruptions from this deep cauldron deep in my psyche that has simmered for many years out of sight.

Part of my deep fears about this is that my reputation is likely to be seriously damaged at best. I am frightened at what people will think about me when they see feelings and attitudes and outbursts that are totally unlike anything they have ever seen before if they happen to occur during my healing process. I am also afraid that if this were to happen then God's reputation could be seriously damaged as well after all the things I have talked about. People may assume that I am supposed to be a demonstration of all the good things that I have been learning about what God is like. People might feel good reason to question whether God is really capable of changing a person who suddenly seems to be falling apart in the wrong directions as old garbage begins to spill out into the open. And even though that may or may not be part of what is seen in public, I suspect that at least part of this is going to be required for me to get the deep healing that must take place if I am to really move on from this wilderness I have been circling in for about forty years.

Now isn't that uncanny. I never thought of that before. I have spent very close to forty years stuck in this trap of internal, unresolved rage about things I have never even understood myself. Just like the children of Israel in the wilderness I have been learning and practicing and processing all sorts of things about truth and principles and experiences with God, but I still feel like I have not crossed over into a better land yet.

And maybe that is the best news about this that I have detected yet. Maybe God is about to show me a much better land flowing with good things that I have only hoped to imagine before. Maybe as I die to self and pass through a flooded obstacle, a river full of danger, hopelessness and fear, that through the miracle of God's providence and His resurrection power I may come out the other side to begin a life of miracles and conquests in which I can watch God knock down invincible walls of resistance and allow Him to drive out all the enemies in a land that He has promised for me.

I am choosing to trust Him in this. I really don't know how to progress from here. I do sense that I must make daily choices that will align me with His impressions about forgiveness to the best of my ability. He will have to provide the motivations, the feelings, the awareness of my enormous incurred debt with Him and the compassion that I need toward those who have incurred debt with me. He is the only source for all of these things that I so desperately need. So, like Jehoshaphat who was faced with overwhelming odds and very real threats to his very existence, I say with him – I don't know what to do but my eyes are on You.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rage and Healing

I woke up before 3 A.M. this morning and couldn't go back to sleep for awhile because my brain wanted to think about the events happening currently in the life of someone I care about deeply. The amount of abuse and injustice that he has been suffering for nearly a year now has taken him close to the point of death until he felt he could take it no longer. As a result he felt compelled to cave in to the demands of the corrupt judges who were instigating and promoting his physical and psychological torture just so he could continue to have some semblance of life left.

As I have watched this situation intensify over the past few months I have repeatedly struggled with feelings of anger, resentment, rage and deep desires for revenge against the evil men and even women involved in this case. But at the same time I also felt strong warnings from the Holy Spirit in my mind reminding me of the consequences of indulging in those kinds of feelings and imaginations. There have been many times that I have simply had to force myself to stop thinking about it to avoid become overcome with rage and hatred that I knew would become a source of regret and weakness for me very quickly.

Over the past two weeks the persecution has intensified for my friend. Even though he had not even so much as had a trial and had been refused opportunity to even be heard properly in a court of so-called law, he was thrown into a cell designed for the most hardened and dangerous criminals without any spare clothes. He had been stripped of even the bare necessities that he have been able to acquire through his long stay in prison and was only able to grab his Bible before they put him into solitary confinement under the highest level of security. And this is a gentle man who was not long ago voted as the teacher of the year and nominated for the national title as well. Nothing has changed about him except that he found himself the object of focus by a system so full of corruption that it feels threatened by any revelations of truth.

While held in this new oppression for the past two weeks he was harshly interrogated at length even though he was not even accused of any crimes remotely related to such treatment. He was fed through a slot in the door as if he were a dangerous wild beast and was even being deprived of many things he needed to survive physically without the outright taking of his life by execution. And all of this is taking place in this land that we call free and just.

Because of all these prolonged and deliberate intense attacks on his life by people claiming to supposedly uphold and protect the freedoms of all Americans, he finally gave in yesterday to let them have whatever they wanted in a plea bargain arrangement. He realized that there was no hope of them ever facing the truth that he has been insisting on over the past year and that all they wanted to do was to protect their cover of deception keeping the truth about their own corruption from becoming public even if it might cost the life of an innocent man.

There is much more to this story that I don't even know about myself yet – the horrors of prison life, the screaming guards who insulted him daily at times about things totally out of his control, the nutritional starvation imposed on him, the psychological abuse focused on him to force compliance with their desires. I am afraid that if I knew too much about this case that it might be too overwhelming for me emotionally at this point. I am actually very thankful that God protects all of us from knowing most of the horrors that go on all the time around the world because none of us have the capacity to survive such awareness.

But that is not to say we are to ignore abuse of authority or open cruelty whenever we become aware of it. What I have been struggling with is to know just how God wants me to relate to such revelations. And one thing that I am becoming increasingly aware of is that this is forcing me to face some of my own deep triggers that are set off each time I hear more of the details about the horrors of injustice going on. Whenever I feel that deep anger welling up inside of me I realize that my real fight is to face my own rage from that deep reservoir inside of me that has not yet been properly drained and refilled with grace and truth.

I have become more aware of this hidden cesspool of rage over the past few years. One time I saw a picture in my imagination of my heart of where this was located inside of me. I saw a scene that looked like a peaceful lake with nice grassy lawns along its shore and tall trees here and there. The water looked clean and it all looked like a good place to swim and boat and have fun and picnic with no sign of danger anywhere obvious.

But leaking up from deep beneath the floor of that lake were occasional bubbles of methane gas that would sometimes break the surface of the water and give off a foul stench into the air. I began to realize that deep under the bottom of that lake there was a giant container like a heavily reinforced concrete bunker very full of resentment, anger, rage and unresolved issues from all of my past history. Much of it was siphoned into that bunker when I was young and being filled with hostility by the abuses and dysfunction of those around me. As I grew older I learned how to manage it more effectively and thus the reinforcement around the container to keep it from coming out into the open and destroying all my relationships.

But the problem has been all along that I did not learn the importance of getting healing for all of this garbage being compressed deep inside of me. The religion that I grew up with taught me to simply repress all the feelings that didn't line up properly with the appearance-oriented religion so popular among Christians. So, like most of those around me, I learned to stuff my anger, my hurts, my pain and all the other garbage created by life and people's treatment of me into this deep hole in the ground and then trying to make stronger and stronger lids to keep it all contained. I was learning to use ever stronger garbage compactors to hide my waste and pain instead of getting rid of it properly and sending it away to the real landfill.

But just like the problem in landfills that we can see all around this country, the results of concentrating garbage into an enclosed area underground always produces dangerous and flammable gases that can become a real hazard to health and public safety. The same is true in my emotional life. What I have been learning over recent years is that anything that I have not faced and dealt with honestly and openly in my emotions has never really gone away even though I may think it has because it is no longer in sight. All these things simply accumulate deep inside to become a source of confusion, of explosive triggers that can be set off causing eruptions that come as a total surprise to everyone including myself.

The problem is even worse however. That is because, unlike physical explosives, these hidden reservoirs of ignition are not really disarmed by repeated detonations. They remain just as potent as ever to be detonated again and again and may even become more potent with time until the root causes are exposed and the embedded false beliefs are replaced with grace and truth only found in the face of Jesus and the real truth about God.

Though I have learned these things in principle over the past few years, I am now finding myself more and more in positions of opportunity to put them into practice. And in fact I have been practicing on many triggers that have been eliminated over the years and have enjoyed a great deal more authentic peace than I ever had during the first half of my life. But now I am becoming more aware that the real big stuff, the really volatile stash may still be full of even more deadly caches of ammunition just waiting to go off if it is not dismantled very carefully by a trained and sincere expert.

I am becoming aware that the only real expert that I currently know of is the promptings of Jesus sent through His Spirit to speak to me and mentor me as to how to deal with these issues as they become exposed. At times I wish that I could also work to disarm these munition dumps with other experts who have been trained by Jesus to do this kind of work, but so far that has not been available to me. So I accept the fact that God is faithful enough to work with me directly and in the process may even be training me to be His assistant in possibly helping others to disarm their emotional ammunition dumps in the future.

As I faced these intense feelings stirring up from deep in my cesspool of old ammunition yesterday, and especially as I was thinking about it very early this morning once again as I lay in bed not being able to sleep, I was impressed that another important lesson of disarmament that I have learned was also needed to be effective in the current danger that I find myself in now. I became aware that not only do I have to face my anger squarely and look for its underlying triggers, but that one of the most effective methods of disarming this overwhelming rage that threatens to destroy me is to implement the principle of real forgiveness that I have also been learning over the past few years.

I have felt so enriched and blessed as I have been learning the real truth about what forgiveness really is recently. But that insight has continued to deepen each time that I revisit it, and this time is no exception. It seems that time after time God brings me into new situations and then reminds me of my lessons from the past that He has taught me separately and asks me to view the pieces put together in the present. And each time I get the distinct sensation that the puzzle picture just keeps getting clearer and more obvious. This is always a source of encouragement for me and causes me to want to know even more of the ways that God has designed reality and how to live in a way that causes me to thrive and live from my heart in peace and joy.

What I am becoming acutely aware of now is that I need to apply the principle of authentic forgiveness that I have learned alongside the principles of exposure and healing that I have also been learning in order to more effectively deal with my current exposure of this hidden rage. Anger is a warning that something else much deeper is lurking behind it that needs attention if I am to ever resolve the cause of that symptom. I have been learning to be more intentional and observant in discerning what might be hiding behind various emotions like anger and find out what it has been trying to mask for so long. There is almost always a different emotion hiding behind anger that is very fearful of exposure but that needs to be identified and dealt with directly before the anger trigger can ever be dissipated.

Over the past few years as I have sought to practice this new skill, I am finding that it is becoming easier to spot these hiding background emotions and coax them out into the open as long as I make my mind safe for them to disclose themselves. It is as if they are like little hurt children terrified of being abused or misunderstood yet again and simply need time and caring attention to make them feel safe enough to disclose their secret fears and feelings. As I cultivate an internal atmosphere of kindness, honesty and freedom from all condemnation in my own heart, these quivering “little people” inside of me feel more safe to come out of hiding and trust me with their secrets in hopes that they can be released from their cells and grow up into full maturity and wholeness like other parts of me have been able to do.

Many times these “little people” are living in very old memories from my past that are long forgotten by my conscious memory. But nevertheless they are just as real and powerful as the day that they were forced into their little prison cells by the legalistic guards of condemnation and false religion long ago.

Oh my! As I just wrote that last line it hit me very forcefully how close this analogy is to the situation that my friend has been experiencing over the past year. Maybe that is why this situation is stirring up so much intense feeling inside of me besides the fact of the obvious abuse he has been suffering. What I may be feeling is resonance with a lifetime of similar feelings but from very different sources. I do not imply in the slightest that what I have experienced could be anywhere near as traumatic as what he has gone through. But the resonance remains and serves as an opportunity for me to discover some hidden prison cells inside of myself that contain prisoners kept in darkness far too long just as he has been.

One reason that I did not get up early this morning and begin writing all of this down sooner as I often do is because I wanted to focus more on experiencing it at the heart level instead of capturing it with my left brain, as stimulating as that may be. I am trying to move more into learning how to apply the many things I have been learning about healing and wholeness to my own heart to have more balance in my own experience and also become more authentic. So I just laid there in bed and talked with God about what I was thinking and feeling and focused on practicing the kind of forgiveness that He was prompting me to do. I found that as I did the peace that had been lost began to return and to fill my heart once again.

The more I focused on intentional forgiveness and taking ownership of my bitterness and resentment, the more I felt in real time the presence and love of God coming back into my emotions and internal atmosphere. I realized in amazement that all of these theoretical things God has been teaching me recently really do work in real-life difficult situations if I am willing to humble myself and choose to practice them against my natural feelings and reactions. I also realized that I need to be consistent in keeping my mind focused on that path and not allowing myself to indulge in even little feelings of resentment or I may be jerked off the road to real freedom quite quickly and have to make my way back all over again.

I am beginning to experience the awareness of the difference between knowing how to come to healing and actually choosing to go into it myself. I suppose this is the process of de-hypocritizing my life if I can make up a word here. The more I choose to practice with my heart what I am learning in my left brain the more real these things will become inside of me. I am very aware of how easy it is to learn and learn and learn but to continue to avoid submitting to the needed repairs in ones own self. But I want to come closer to having authentic balance in my soul where my left brain knowledge library is used to assist my right brain real-time applications of the principles I have been so privileged to learn over recent years.

In this case I am faced with the need to directly focus my attention on the rage that I am tempted to feel toward this judge in particular who is so obviously despotic and cruel. I remind myself of the destructive effects that my own anger will have on me if I allow myself to indulge in desires of revenge against him. I am then reminded forcefully of how God feels toward everyone who has sinned against Him and how much grace and forgiveness He has already unconditionally provided for everyone whether they want it or not.

God reminded me of the study that I did for several months on the roots of bitterness. Part of that study included facing my need for taking very seriously the command to let go of my desires for vengeance. This time God also reminded me while I was facing that choice again that He has been showing me the importance and benefits of obeying that command. The more that I have learned about how God feels toward me and toward all sinners, the more acutely aware I become of the truth that God's ways are not my ways and that His methods for retribution are very foreign to the way most of us want to see it carried out.

Then, in case I still have doubts about the validity of viewing this evil person from heaven's perspective, God reminds me of the consequences of not choosing this path of receiving His attitude of unconditional forgiveness and compassion. From the parable of the debtor I am forcefully reminded that I will only put myself in the hands of torturers and will keep myself in prison if I think I can get away with remaining angry and bitter toward anyone who makes themselves an enemy of truth and right. This thinking is totally contrary to my natural assumptions and perceptions of the right way to relate to evil people, but it has been clearly shown me through many lessons and revelations from the Word of God for a number of years now. It is just that now I am faced more intensely with actually practicing it at the heart level and applying to myself all the things that God has been making clearer to my head over the past few years.

What amazes me is the sudden and unexpected new feelings and perceptions and thoughts that appear in my mind and heart after I choose to act on what I know is the right way to respond in spite of my human logic and feelings. The impossible begins to happen very suddenly inside of me and I actually find myself becoming free of the very animosity that so recently was tormenting my heart and keeping me in chains of bitterness and even rage at times. But these new feelings and impulses are like tender little plants showing up that I need to protect, nurture and cultivate if they are to have time to take deeper root and grow up into stronger maturity in my own life. I cannot just assume that because I am enjoying their sudden appearance right now that I am safe to relax. I find myself repeatedly needing to make the choice to let go of my right to justice and fairness and to take full ownership of my pain without indulging in cravings for revenge. Otherwise the enemy will have more access once again to my heart and will fill it very quickly with the old chains and lies that have keep me from thriving for most of my life.

God, I want to praise you for the incredible things you have been teaching me over the past few years. I want to praise you for your faithfulness and goodness and kindness that leads me to want to live your way instead of the familiar ways of revenge and retaliation. I thank you so much for how you have been leading me all of my life toward real freedom from fear, guilt, shame and especially condemnation. I still want to feel completely safe in your arms, but I also know that this is more about you than it is about me. I choose to believe that you are going to continue to do what you say you can do in my life.

Thank-you for your unconditional forgiveness, your unconditional love, your unconditional grace. Continue to live inside of me, to display your character through my life, to make me a successful experiment of your powerful grace to transform a legalistic, condemning religion addict into a loving, humble, trusting child learning to reflect your beauty. Father, I am so painfully aware of how very little of your beauty can yet be seen in my life. I claim your forgiveness and simply trust you to continue your work in me until I fully grow up into the likeness of Jesus your Son.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Two Inspirations of Love

I came across the following statements this morning and it really stimulated my thinking. Allow me to share the thoughts that came as a result of these new insights for me.

The law and the gospel are interwoven as warp and woof. Here mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and peace have kissed each other. We want to come to God's standard. He has a law governing human intelligences and it is for our happiness to observe it. We are to love God. Love leading to disobedience is the inspiration of the devil; love leading to obedience is the inspiration of Heaven....

Carry the light of Jesus. Carry it to your neighbors. When we bring Christ into our experience, there will be a loving of one another, there will be an unlocking of the hardest hearts. God can take a worm and thrash a mountain. If we humble ourselves and have His converting power every moment, His righteousness will be our covering. {2SAT 97, 98}

This really surprised me. I have never thought of another love being available to our minds. But now that I think of it the Bible certainly talks a lot about other loves: love of money, love of the world, love of evil.

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

So, here is what I am starting to see. Obedience is impossible without being a symptom of love, and love itself is inadequate without its fruits of obedience being allowed to grow. But now I am seeing that part of our confusion may be coming from our lack of awareness of what both love and obedience really is. I have suspected this most of my life, but now it is becoming even more clear.

I am starting to sense that love is very close to, if not the same thing as, worship. I suspect that the words are simply describing two facets of the same thing but from slightly different directions. But at the same time there are authentic diamonds and there are fake diamonds. Both of these will have dazzling properties and will have various facets to examine, but only one will hold up when the hot light of God's presence is unleashed. At that time the fake diamonds will melt down in shame and disgrace while the true diamonds will glow with brilliancy never before imagined possible.

Like worship, love may be something that our hearts simply are going to do because that is just what hearts are designed to do. Maybe it is time to challenge our paradigms about love and our hearts and think more outside our old boxes in this area. For a heart to have reason to love is much like the reason that a fish will swim. It is not something you have to train, it is what it is going to do simply by its design.

The problem comes when the affections of the heart become attached in the wrong directions. Because sin at its core is selfishness, our hearts have been short-circuited by this counterfeit wiring pattern and we are naturally filled with self-love from birth. But self-love and love of everything designed to promote this model of thinking in our world removes us further and further from the source of life. God designed us to be part of the much greater circuit of life where we are to receive to give. This can be clearly seen in nature. Lakes that receive and give freely can thrive and remain healthy. Lakes that refuse to give begin to stagnate and eventually become dead and repulsive.

All true obedience comes from the heart. The heart by design is a loving machine so to speak – that's just what it is going to do if it has any life at all. Attempts at producing obedience in any other way only create fake obedience no matter how externally proper it may appear. Obedience that is forced is nothing but a sham. But it is really much worse than that because it keeps our minds deceived into believing that we are safe to encounter the presence of God.

God is the only power source of life and love in the whole existence of reality. Any belief that leads us to think that we can depend on any other source to get life for ourselves is conceived of deception and will eventually prove fatal to our very existence. But God has not just designed us to get life directly from Him, though that is part of the arrangement. God has ordained that we should function within a whole, complex circuit of life which means that we are to receive life both directly from Him and indirectly through other sources in many ways.

We are to receive life through good food, through breathing healthy air, through clean water, through our eyes by dwelling on beautiful things and enriching our hearts. We are to receive life through our ears by hearing inspiring things such as words of life and especially stirring, heaven-inspired music. We are even to receive life through our sense of touch even though this may be one of the most neglected sources for many of us. All of our physical senses and capabilities are designed by which we can intake life for our souls and synchronize our lives with the life of God.

We are also to learn to receive life through our contacts and connections with others that God has put into our lives. This is a much more hazardous source for us because other people have varying degrees of confusion about their roles in imparting life-giving nourishment to us. With their attempts to share life with us they are likely to also pass along confusion about life and love and false implications about how we are to interact and nurture each other. In so doing we can often become very confused about the nature of love itself and may become afraid of allowing others to pass along life to us.

This is where it is so important to have a deepening relationship directly with God for ourselves. His Spirit can buffer the problematic aspects of the life that we are to receive from others as well as teach us how to better pass along life to others ourselves in ways that more accurately reflect the true heart of our heavenly Father. While God intends for us to become bonded more closely with others in our position within His circuit of life, we must not allow their mistakes and confusion about God to define our own beliefs about the real truth of our Father's heart. We must listen carefully to our Father directly as He communicates more clearly to us through His Word and His Spirit the real nature of true love. We must give Him total access to our hearts and minds so that He can accomplish all the healing and repairs necessary to restore us into healthy, functioning components of His vibrant circuit of life.

But it is critically important that we live in constant expressions of out-giving as well or we will soon become diseased and begin to die. Just as it is extremely unhealthy and even eventually fatal to try to eat and eat without eliminating naturally, it is fatal to think that we can take and take of life-giving blessings from heaven without properly fulfilling our role of giving out life in the great circuit where God has placed us. In fact, our willingness to cooperate with the design for our lives, to receive to give of the life and love that is flowing all through God's circuit of life – that cooperation is itself the obedience necessary for us to thrive and remain as a viable part of the great circuit of life.

The real problem with artificial or forced obedience to God is that it deceives us into thinking that obedience is something we have to produce to satisfy some artificial rules imposed on us by God. This mentality in itself removes us from even being able to understand the reality in which we are supposed to be able to live and thrive. It views obedience only as the external descriptions of how a healthy person will appear when they are properly functioning in the circuit of life. It is more focused on appearances than on the condition of the heart and the spirit. It fails to understand that it is completely impossible to give without first receiving. Likewise it is impossible to receive and remain healthy without passing on all of God's input for healthy life.

Artificial obedience leads people to try to produce fruit without paying attention to the real causes of fruit. It attempts to force fruit to appear on the tree of our life while paying little attention to the things necessary to making the tree itself healthy. Self-righteousness leads people to think that God is primarily interested in performance rather than in blessing us and mentoring us into living within His circuit of life. False ideas about righteousness lead us to work very hard at trying to live a life of supposed obedience while failing to allow our hearts to receive the very nurturing ingredients necessary for it to thrive and be healthy. This is like trying to force prisoners to work ever harder while cutting back their food rations, their rest times and all the other things necessary for healthy bodies. You may for a while get more compliance and output from them through the use of increasing levels of fear and intimidation, but it will someday become evident that forced obedience is a dead-end proposal – quite literally.

Both love and obedience, like all the other religious words that we are familiar with, need to be carefully reexamined and understood in their proper perspective and in the light of the real truth about God. We have such distorted ideas of what these words really mean that it becomes nearly impossible to even talk about truth using words such as this because of the false conceptions inherent in people's thinking about what they mean. I have been discovering that the more I understand the real meaning of words and shed my false ideas associated with them, the easier it becomes to make sense out of life and the Word of God. But this is not just a good intellectual exercise necessary for us to decipher reality, it requires an engagement of the heart in order for our intellect to properly perceive the much deeper meanings of all of the language used to convey to us snapshots of reality as God designed it.

From the above statements it becomes very clear that there are alternative kinds of love that can be inspired. That tells me that just because my sensations of love feel inspired that it is not enough to lead me to believe that they constitute authentic love. There are deceptive forces all around us designed to create a great deal of inspiration in everyone thirsting for love and for life. I think most everyone is quite familiar with the fact that the entertainment industry has honed inspiration to a fine art. But that does not mean that the resulting feelings produced inside of our hearts are going to be the kind of love needed to deepen our proper connections in the circuit of life. Most of these inspirations are designed to embed us more deeply into the counterfeit circuit designed by the enemy of our souls to make us feel temporarily excited or to give us pleasure. This kind of love is the current that flows through and empowers the counterfeit circuit set up to imitate the original circuit enjoyed by the rest of the universe.

Pleasure is the great counterfeit of real satisfaction. Pride is the counterfeit of a self-confidence that comes from being genuinely loved, valued and cherished. Everything in Satan's system of reality is designed to mimic to a great extent the real elements in the circuit designed by God. But the counterfeits generally focus on appearing good on the outside but fail to meet the much deeper needs of the heart. That is because only the One who created our hearts to start with, who designed those deep cravings is the only one that can give us the ingredients needed to make our hearts truly thrive and enjoy peace and bond together in healthy joy bonds.

Forced obedience is one of the most deceptive counterfeits that religion has to offer us. Self-induced obedience is extremely misleading because it uses so much religious terminology, quotes so prolifically from the Bible and uses the name of God so liberally. It leads people to think that God has promised to help them in their efforts to obey His laws but that they have to invest as much effort as possible and God will make up the difference. Their mantra is the often quoted phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.” This sounds so logical, but then every counterfeit appears to be authentic on the surface or it wouldn't be a very effective counterfeit.

All true obedience comes from the heart. But it can only come from a heart that is receiving love and life and is also dispensing it to others as it receives. It is very important to notice that you can never give what you have not received. To attempt to do so will only lead to frustration, discouragement, emptiness and eventually lose of life. This is the destiny of all false obedience because it does not acknowledge our total bankruptcy of the heart. It tries to achieve an external obedience while trying to suppress the deepening hunger pangs of a starving heart devoid of love. This kind of person finds themselves struggling ever harder to satisfy increasing demands for perfection while facing equally increasing emptiness deep in their soul. They don't dare to admit their inner growing feelings of emptiness because it would discredit the claims of authenticity for their beliefs, so they steel themselves against all appeals to reconsider their assumptions and end up hardening their hearts in an attempt to satisfy the requirements of a stern, holy God.

Isn't it interesting that the analogy of a hard heart is so relevant to the situation we find ourselves in when we try to obey instead of living in a circuit of love. Our heart is our love organ. It is designed to receive and to dispense love just as our physical heart's primary function is to circulate life-giving blood throughout our body. When our attention gets fixed on obedience and performance instead of receiving love and life into our heart in order to pass it on, then our heart becomes more and more hardened from misuse and from starvation. We may engage in alternative forms of love such as that described above, but all forms of counterfeit love fail to nourish the heart effectively just as junk food cannot sustain a healthy body for very long.

True obedience is not created by focusing on the external symptoms and behavior as we are so often prone to think. True obedience, like so many other things in the healthy circuit of life, is simply the synchronization of our hearts and lives with the design of the circuit of life as purposed for us by our Creator. Real obedience is simply cooperating with whatever it is God designed for us to do in our role of receiving and giving life with our heart as a functioning component in the great circuit of life. Obedience is letting go of our resistance to the basic principles of reality that define how everything works together properly to enhance life.

Intellectually we need to understand increasingly the basic principles of reality that are sometimes called laws. But that intellectual pursuit can never be allowed to be substituted for the function which our heart was designed to do within us. It is our heart that only can produce real obedience which is simply cooperation with God's design for our life in conjunction with the rest of creation around us. Compliance through any other method will always be along the lines of counterfeit obedience which always leads to dysfunction.

And because the heart is designed to be loved and to share love, then the authentic obedience that naturally emerges from a thriving heart will itself be seen as encouraging and inspiring. The very word itself will begin to lose its false implications and associations as we begin to see that true love is the real current of life that is used to power all of the universe. It is not obedience that should be so much the focus of our attention because real obedience is simply the natural result of a heart that is learning to function as it was originally intended to function within God's circuit of life.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Is Truth in the Middle?

I have grappled all of my life over trying to understand where the truth lies between legalism and what is sometimes termed “cheap grace” or the “only believe” syndrome. While I have not had much exposure to the second philosophy and so am not nearly so fluent in explaining it, I have certainly been steeped in the arguments against it that have caused me great confusion when I am exposed to the real truth about the gospel.

Since legalism is very frightened by the true gospel, it always paints anyone teaching it into the “cheap grace” category and then fiercely opposes their messages and impugns their motives. I have slowly been overcoming my fears of the gospel deeply ingrained in me by my legalistic upbringing, but I still have a great many embedded automatic arguments that continue to rebut nearly every step of my growth in this direction. I still remain very confused at times and bewildered as to how to effectively answer the accusations and assertions made by the legalistic, argumentative part of my mind against what are clearly ongoing revelations about God and the real truth of the gospel.

At the same time, it is quite evident to me that the avid claims of both camps are equally invalid in their claims to be teaching the true gospel. Legalists paint anyone not subscribing to their rigid beliefs as being people who are only looking for excuses to sin without restraint. Conversely, it seems that while they live largely in reactive opposition to legalism, the second camp's version of what the gospel is avoids accountability to the principles of reality reflected in the laws of God. It is very clear that these two opposing belief systems feed much more off of their fierce antagonism to each other than they do from a careful, thoughtful study of the Word of God and the leading of the Spirit. But their arguments and teachings still have a great attraction logically speaking – and that includes arguments from both sides. Thus the enormous potential for ongoing confusion.

I am sitting here trying to understand if it is even valid to try to clarify the differences between the two camps in order to unmask the truth more clearly. That sounds very appealing and natural for me to do, but at the same time something else warns me that spending a lot of time investigating what I know may be deceptive and false will only perpetuate my confusion. Trying to understand a counterfeit does not contribute very much to knowing what the true really looks like, it only makes you more familiar with the counterfeit. But my mind is wired to want to expose the falsivity of the opposition. Maybe this is due to years of training and mentoring for arguing our way to truth. Arguments generally try to expose what is wrong with other people's thinking and attempt to prove through proof-texting the validity of our own positions. But it is becoming more and more clear to me that these methods themselves are at best suspect and maybe even fatally distracting.

While collecting various texts to help understand a truth can be extremely helpful and instructive, the difference between proof-texting and careful study of a number of texts is a very fine line it seems. But as I think about it now, I begin to sense that the difference is much more distinct when the motives and spirit are examined much more than simply the methods in which it is presented. As I think back on most of the training that I received through proof-texting I remember clearly that the conclusions were definitely foregone and that the texts were simply used to reinforce a belief already deeply entrenched. There was almost never a discovery process experienced whereby the student was allowed freedom to come to their own conclusions and affirmed for that. Almost always there was a careful micromanagement of their logic and reasoning process to produce the intended outcome and usually the conclusion was provided already.

As I think back about that style of training, it is no wonder I experienced so much excitement and enthusiasm when I was first exposed to real inductive Bible study. This was a method of study that was explicitly discovery oriented quite intentionally. The way that I was taught it was the exact opposite of the methods and motives of the teachers I had generally encountered previously. And while the facilitator usually had a good idea of what the students would likely discover after they allowed their minds and hearts to soak up the real truth from the Word, they avoided providing any foregone answers whatsoever. What they did to was to ask questions designed to lead others to that discovery, there was seldom the sense of agenda or coercion that I had always sensed in typical Bible study before.

I have to say that after that initial exposure I met a number of people who have attempted to conduct inductive Bible studies but failed quite badly because they didn't realize the need to leave out all preconceived agendas. They didn't realize how much they were trying to mingle in the attitudes and methods from the old way of study into the new. They were trying to force the participants to arrive at only the conclusions that they had already determined were the “right” answers, but in the process they tended to ignore or sometimes even repress other insights that could have come out of the study. As a result of this spirit in immature faciliators, inductive Bible study began to get a bad reputation as nothing more than another clever method of indoctrination just like all the other studies had been. I was very disappointed in these later encounters with poorly conducted study groups and usually didn't attend very long when it became evident that the leaders hadn't really grasped the true concepts and skills of leading properly without any coercion.

As a result I also became very aware that my own background of training in the counterfeit methods of coercive Bible study prevented me from being very effective myself in being able to conduct true, exciting inductive study. I realized that I had the same weaknesses because of the pervasive nature of everything I had been trained to do all of my life previously. It would take a great deal more time to train my mind and heart to be more open, less controlling and more trusting of the Spirit of Jesus to lead others to discover truth in a group setting without my trying to over-control their discovery process.

That is not to say that I haven't been blessed tremendously by learning how to think inductively myself. In my own study ever since I first learned how to do this, I have challenged myself fiercely to remain open-minded, to question all of my own assumptions and previous beliefs and to expose myself to be willing to flush out all prejudice and allow the Spirit to have freer access to teach me new things about reality and truth. This, of course, has had the effect of moving me farther and farther outside of the mainstream of beliefs and methods of teaching in the church. It causes some to become very suspicions and even afraid of me. I even learned that some leaders had instituted a ban on allowing me to participate in any significant way within the local church, evidently because of their fear that I might infect others with my untypical ways of thinking.

But my own box has been so shattered that I was released from that there is no going back for me now. That does not mean that I cannot find a place in the body of believers in the local church. But it does mean that I am forced to rethink the way I relate to others, especially those who are still trapped in strong chains of fear, tradition and mindless obedience to deference to others in positions of authority to decide what they should believe. I was raised on stories of the reformers and how they were forced into conflict with their established churches because they dared to think outside of tradition and listen to the Word of God more than the long-established teachings of the establishment. These people were later hailed as heroes for daring to follow God rather than the teachings of men. Yet some of the very same people who hail them as heroes will today heap disdain and reproach on anyone daring to follow a similar example today.

I don't believe that having a spirit of independent exploration of the real truth about God has to be coupled with a spirit of hostility toward the established church. I realize that can be a very strong temptation, but that is because the devil will push that temptation on anyone who is starting to move closer to truth in order to discredit what they may present to others. The devil's kingdom is not just threatened by new facts but is even more frightened by a spirit reflective of Jesus. The Pharisees and rulers in Jesus' day were more resistant to His influence with the people because of His spirit and disposition than they were by the facts that He was teaching. Yes, they were threatened by those radical new teachings to a great extent, but those teachings would not have had much power at all to disturb the status quo if they had not been exemplified in the spirit of the One who was presenting them.

This is where I need much more training. I have been and continue to learn amazing new truths about the real gospel. But these truths will only backfire and become attacked and discredited if I do not have the spirit surrounding me that is reflective of the nature of these new discoveries. And having a new attitude and disposition is far more slippery to experience than simply hammering out new lines of reasoning and figuring out the correct logic for explaining Bible texts.

What I am coming to realize more and more is that both my left hemisphere and my right brain/heart must be cooperatively engaged in my discovery of expanding truth about the gospel. This is the only way in which my life and messages can be used by God to be truly effective and dangerous to the establishment of darkness. It is not enough for me to just present exciting new discoveries in truth, my life must also be growing and transforming my spirit through those same principles of reality if they are to have any credibility and power to attract others to believe them experientially.

But back to the reason that I started writing this in the first place. I am still pondering how to effectively disarm the inner voices that pop up frequently to argue against new insights that the Spirit of God is presenting to me. To ignore them does little to put them away. To try to figure out what is wrong with their arguments may or may not be the right approach. I guess that is the core of what I am grappling with – how to relate to the inner voices of accusation that claim I am in danger of straying from traditional truth.

It still seems to me that there is validity in taking time to examine these arguments that defend past beliefs so that they can be exposed for the fraud that they may be. Many times this process of sifting through, carefully examining opposing ideas and working through the conflicting concepts both prove to strengthen what I am now learning and also permanently disarm the power of the old beliefs so that they can no longer assert themselves in my mind. I believe there is even more value in exposing the false assumptions that prop up old beliefs, and in the process there is also the potential to strengthen and maybe even correct or refine to some extent the emerging ideas that are trying to take their place.

This inner process of sorting, examining, critical analysis and careful heart-examination all taking place together is actually the process of maturing. It also prepares me to be both more effective and less threatened when other people raise those same objections from the outside. If I have already grappled with and resolved some of these arguments and objections from the inside, then I will not feel triggered or threatened when those arguments are raised by others. That sounds very valid. Now, I would just like to know the best way of doing that.

One thing that I have observed over the years that has helped me a great deal is this: truth is almost never found in trying to find the middle ground between two opposing opinions. Whenever I hear anyone talking about trying to find the center place between polar opposites in order to discover truth, I become a bit wary. For time and time I have found that real truth is in a completely different context and is based on realities and foundational assumptions which neither side takes into account. The real problem almost always lies in the underlying assumptions on both sides. And those assumptions are very often quite similar in nature to each other. Both sides have very mistaken views of God's character and His attitudes towards sinners. So the real problems and contentions will never be resolved and truth cannot be discovered by simply arguing about the differences or attempting to come up with more convincing logic.

I don't think I am going to conclusively figure out the full answer to this right now. This is something that is going to become more clear to me over time as I grow in maturity and experience. In fact, I suspect that if I were to settle on a single answer for this right now that I might be setting up yet another pillar of bigotry in my own mind that would later have to be disassembled and revisited. It seems the better part of wisdom to present these kinds of dilemmas to God and then trust Him to grow me into a better understanding of how to relate to these issues and perplexities.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Musical Valentines

Just a few lines to note what I have been doing most of the day today. Today and tomorrow several quartets from our Barbershop chorus are going around doing singing valentines for people who paid to have their love surprised. It involves singing a couple of love songs to them, giving them a heart-shaped box of chocolates and a nice card.

During the very first appointment I began wondering if I was going to be able to keep doing it all day. The emotions of these people were so strong that I had to check my own emotions just to keep singing. It was so fun to see the surprise on their faces and some even bursting into tears as we sang to them. Talk about a good feeling fix, this was pretty intense at least for me. I wouldn't mind doing this again next year or even more often.

During some of our downtime between visits we practiced on a song for our upcoming Lenten concert next month. I was very encouraged to see how quickly the guys caught on to the difficult song. I have been trying to introduce some new music into our repertoire without success so far. But there is a good chance that if we get this song down pat before we present it to our director that he may let it be used.

After singing three love songs over and over today you can imagine that I have them circulating in my head this evening rather consistently. We are in the midst of relating to several people in marital trouble right now and am soliciting the prayers of anyone who is serious about prayer. I am actually very excited about these situations because I am seeing God working so clearly in them. I have also been asked to speak at my church in about a week and also desire prayer for that as well. I have never spoken in this format before and am not really a public speaker. I am learning to really enjoy writing but speaking is a whole different thing altogether.

Well, that's what's going on right now. Keep in touch and be full of courage.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Global Warming - Bring It On!

Symptoms of global warming. You don't have to look very far to hear all sorts of excitement and controversy about this hottest topic of debate in our world today. So, what's the big deal about it anyway? Why is there so much fear surrounding this that fuels the intensifying arguments and causes people to become environmental fanatics more radical than even religious fanatics?

Well, I am not totally ignorant about the issues being tossed around in this debate. I am aware of the consequences that might take place if the massive shelves of ice were to slip off of Greenland and suddenly sink into the waters of the surrounding oceans. The sudden rise in sea levels would certainly cause some very interesting changes in the familiar outlines of many continents and many resort islands would suddenly find themselves needing to build rather tall pylons on which to perch all of their luxury hotels and homes. Florida might become a gigantic wading pool instead of a retirement village and inland cities would suddenly be faced with building docks for ships that once stopped hundreds of miles away.

All of these things while maybe tongue in cheek are quite realistically possible if the global average temperatures continue to elevate. In addition it is believed that the central regions around the world would become much more desert-like while the colder northern and southern climates would begin to warm and dramatically change their current landscapes. There is even talk by scientists that in a very short time from now that during the summer that possibly ALL of the ice surrounding the North pole may disappear completely leaving our planet looking almost naked from outer space. There have already been news reports from several years ago of tourist ships arriving at the North pole only to discover that there was no place for the passengers to get out and walk around because the ice had melted into a large lake at that very spot.

So why am I excited about global warming? Well, let me give you a hint. Because I am starting to feel some of the effects of deep cracks developing in the titanic glaciers of ice that have encapsulated my own heart. I believe that I am witnessing some potential developments in my own heart that may soon lead to much bigger changes over which I will have little control but that will forever change the landscape of my life as well as everyone else around me.

It suddenly occurred to me more clearly this morning what the main composition is of this ice that has held me frozen in its wintry spell for so many years. It is not unlike the long winter referred to in C. S. Lewis's Narnia stories. What came clearly to me this morning was that the ice field that has kept me frozen and incapacitated from really living for most of my life has been the reign of fear in my heart.

Just like ice, fear can freeze a person making them unable to move or function as they wish, sometimes locking them into a self-fulfilling terror of being hurt by a danger that they are immobilized to respond to effectively. Fear is our worst enemy because it robs us of all our power to live as God designed us to live – with joy and spontaneity, freedom and creativity. Fear blocks the heart from being able to trust others, to form bonds with other hearts through love and humility and real friendship. Fear isolates people more and more from everyone around them as it moves all of humanity closer and closer to an eternal ice age that would become the playland of demons gloating over their victory against the light and warmth that fills all of heaven. This might be the proverbial event of hell freezing over for real.

I have suspected for a long time that I had some deeply buried glaciers that were hidden from my view from years of overfill that kept them securely cold and inaccessible to the light of day. But there is something very significant about the nature of ice cover that needs to be understood. Ice and snow block the warmth of the sun from being effective by bouncing away the light and heat that would otherwise be absorbed into the earth or water and that would cause more melting of the ice. As long as there is a cover of white on the surface, it is generally very difficult for any significant melting to be able to occur and effect any real change in the conditions on the ground.

But as scientists are now explaining, as more and more pockets of melted water appear during the warm seasons and more land is exposed to the rays of the sun, more heat is being absorbed into the surface and transmitted into the infrastructure that dramatically accelerates the warming trend. Melted water then begins to move around and cause even more melting. It forms holes in the ice and then drops down through those holes to the ground below and begins to form a layer between the ice and the rocks. This has the effect of lubricating the movement of the ice sheets so they can more quickly slide toward the ocean which in turn opens up even more exposed surfaces behind that can absorb even more heat accelerating the process exponentially.

For many scientists around the world this process itself is becoming a great source of alarm and fear in their minds. Since most of them do not believe in a sovereign God in charge of everything on this earth, they are convinced that it is totally up to humans to attempt to reverse this process of warming so as to keep the status quo as we know it as much as possible. They believe that the very existence of humanity depends on our own success in saving our planet completely by our own efforts alone. Does that sound like anything similar to other beliefs floating around in this world? We have to save ourselves – now where I have heard that before?

I have been fascinated for years by many of the macro issues in science, partly because it just seems so intriguing to watch massive changes transform the earth's landscape in dramatic ways. Volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and dramatic changes in the polar regions have always held a special fascination for me most of my life. Now I wonder if that was not at least in part due to my deep desires to experience dramatic transformation in my own life, to experience radical shifts of thinking and to break free from the emotional restraints and habits that prevented me from really living life more fully.

There is one common thing about all of these events of nature that nearly everyone agrees on. There is almost nothing that humans can really do to alter their happening. We may be able to slightly better predict their occurrences at times, but we cannot alter the explosion of a volcano or have any affect on what an earthquake does. I know that there is a huge battle going on in politics and science as to how much human activity contributes to global warming. But I suspect that the real battle comes down more to who can manipulate and control the public media in order to convince the most people of their opinions more than what actual realistic ability people have to affect what this planet does in relationship to its core and the deep space that surrounds it.

I have no doubt whatsoever that this planet really is going to experience dramatic warming of the atmosphere and that all the terrifying results will in fact take place sooner or later, with or without all the attempts of humans to reverse it. And the reason that I am completely confident of this is because the irrefutable Word of God has already forecast it to happen in our day. Revelation forecasts a time coming very soon when the sun will scorch men with overwhelming heat that will be inescapable and that inhabited islands will disappear. Does that sound like global warming to you?

But there are other prophecies that make me even more excited because they have to do with the landscape of billions of hearts of the people all over this planet. While externally the global warming of this planet is inevitably taking place, God declares that there is going to be a massive and irrepressible display of the glory of God that is going to fill the whole earth with its warmth, its light and its transformational power. Nothing that humans or all the demons of hell can ever do will be able to prevent or thwart this outbreak of fresh life and revelations about God's love that will flood the whole planet with an exhibition of the real truth about God. But that global warming event will polarize every person and bring them to decide fully on which side they are going to be in the great battle over souls taking place primarily right here on this planet.

When this explosion of glory takes place in its fullness as described most clearly at the beginning of Revelation 18, the titanic forces of evil that have kept this world frozen in a cold wintry fear about God for so many millennia will not be able to stop the massive thaws that will occur in every home and heart and family throughout the whole earth. But that does not mean that the forces of evil will give up in dismay. No, evil never gives up as long as it is in existence, for the very nature of evil is resistance against the love of God and all demonstrations of the truth about God. The mighty battle of Armageddon is going to revolve around the forces of cold darkness confronting the release of this mighty heat of God's truth and glory that will permeate every place in this battlefield.

The outcome of this mighty battle, which is not military in nature as many Christians have mistakenly assumed, is possibly going to result in the true conversion of an amazing percentage of the world's population according to some people's beliefs about prophecies in Revelation. Quite possibly one fourth to one third of the whole population of the world will be converted to obedience to God's ways and will keep all of His commandments and devote their lives totally to His service.

But that is not the end by any means. The rage of the enemy will become so intense as never before in the history of the whole world that a counterattack will take place that will produce a time of bloodshed so horrible that it is impossible for us to imagine. But by what I am starting to perceive in my observations about these prophecies, nearly every one of those people who embrace the truth about God plus a great many more will be slaughtered in various ways in a last-gasp attempt by Satan to eliminate every loyal follower of God from this planet and claim this planet as his own through the use of brute force.

Only a very small number of God's people will survive this massive time of terror if I understand prophecy correctly, but this small group of people will be those who are so totally possessed by the Spirit of God that they will demonstrate the perfect spirit and reactions of Jesus in every situation, for Jesus Himself will be fully living out His life from within them without any resistance at all on their part. They will be totally surrendered to His Spirit, they will be pure followers of the Lamb who have become completely absorbed by His presence and will demonstrate in the last days what Jesus demonstrated Himself during His last days when He lived here on earth.

What does this have to do with me or global warming?

What I have detected the last few days are shock waves emanating to the surface of my consciousness of deep cracks beginning to happen at levels far deeper than I have detected for a very long time. Like pockets of superheated gases escaping to the surface in a volcano that cause earthquakes before a major eruption, I have felt some deep shudders of internal earthquakes that alert me to the fact that something very big may be about to happen. I also am detecting an unusual amount of thawing taking place of the ice and snow that have been in place in some areas of my life that have been frozen for as long as I can remember.

All of these symptoms are actually making me excited more than afraid. Do I have fear? Do I have FEAR??? Well, let me say that fear is an understatement at certain times. As I was sharing with a friend quite recently, the pockets of emotion that have unexpectedly shown up for brief moments have been more along the line of almost unexplainable terror instead of just fear.

But at the very same time another part of me welcomes these events and signs of something beginning to happen deep inside my soul. There is a growing desire for a real climate change in my life that will result in a much warmer personality, the liberation of vast areas of potential natural resources that have been frozen deep under glaciers of fear for many decades. I am sensing that the warmth of God's love seeping into deep passageways in my psyche that I have no direct control over are preparing my heart and mind for some very startling surprises in the near future. I probably don't even want to know right now what those are going to look like, it might exceed my capacity to even accept it at this point.

But what I can do and must do is to cling to my growing confidence in the heart and motives of the One who is orchestrating all of this taking place in my life. He has been working for years to thaw out key control centers and repair and replace many of the deep lies about Him that have kept me at too much of a distance from His warming presence. I have been experiencing more and more regional thaws over the past few years and months as I come closer to Him, but I suspect that they will pale in comparison to the staggering dimensions of the total meltdown that is awaiting me in the near future.

This brings up a key issue that I have to make a daily decision about. If I want to maintain control over my life, to try to continue to protect my own reputation or manipulate what others think about me, I will not be able to move fully into this thawing experience and will find myself sliding toward an even deeper darkness that will encapsulate me in even deeper glacier's than I have ever been in before. The only viable option that I can choose as I move forward is to practice the art of letting go of control over my life, of releasing my grip on my guidance systems and to increasingly trust the heart of the One who offers to lead me to a place that I am currently too afraid to go to by myself.

As I keep letting go, as I become more and more willing to die so that His life can thrive within me, I am assured that the outcome is not only going to be amazing beyond belief but that everything I have ever longed for or could even dream for will be realized in dimensions that I do not yet even have capacity to imagine. This is the future promised for everyone willing to lay down their weapons of defense, who surrender to the offers of love and forgiveness and allow themselves to be swallowed up in the waves of passion and love that flow from the very throne of God. That is what I want and this is what I choose. And as Luther said in his greatest hour of terror, “So help me God!”

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Discipline and Respect

This is a subject about which I have far more questions than I do answers or even suggestions. But it is also something that I am beginning to sense is far more important than it is ever given credit for or receives proper attention. It is also something that I have almost no experience with from personal mentoring so I have nearly no background from which to draw positive examples from extensively.

But as with many things that I end up writing and thinking about, it came to me earlier this morning just as I was waking up. It is the idea of respect, but from a different angle than how I have viewed it previously. I have a whole series on DVD, a seminar called Love and Respect that has been a tremendous resource for learning how men and women should relate to each other in the plan of God's design, especially in marriage. But as I was pondering the idea of respect this morning I had completely forgotten that seminar and was honestly trying to imagine what this word respect really means at all.

The reason I was drawing such a blank was because I was thinking about it from the perspective of how children are treated instead of how adults might treat each other. Even as I gave a cursory overview in my mind of the way that most adults treat their children or even the way many children treat each other, I realized that the most starkly missing ingredient seems to be the element of respect.

As I think about this concept of respecting children, it almost sounds like a conflict of interests. To suggest that a parent or adult should treat a child respectfully, even when disciplining them, seems to fly in the face of the assumptions most have about the reasons for punishment. Our ideas about punishment are almost always infected with counterfeit ideas from our surroundings and culture and upbringing. They are also heavily influenced by our own emotions and faulty concepts about truth. But what I am now realizing is that the problem here lies in our assumptions and reasons for punishing or disciplining children much more than in just the issue of whether they need respect or not.

Note that I said that children need respect, not that they deserve our respect. At first this sounds almost bizarre or even wrong. The first thing that jumps to mind when even considering the idea of treating children respectfully while dealing with misbehavior is that most people generally assume that children must be taught to always respect adults but almost no one ever sees the need for respect to go in the other direction. Respect and obedience are usually strongly linked together and if we can't get them to respect us we at least demand that they obey us unquestioningly.

The only thing that I can think of that usually comes to mind in most people's thinking about the issue of respecting children is when it comes to their sexuality. It is generally accepted, if not always practiced, that everyone should respect all children when it comes to not sexually abusing them. There is great social stigma associated with people in this country who sexually abuse children. However, this stigma sometimes is so exaggerated that people who are not guilty of real abuse are often accused of such by overzealous witch-hunters.

But I am not thinking about this arena so much as I am wanting to explore the issue of how we generally treat children, either our own or others, who are doing things that cause us discomfort or disagree with us. What is the spirit that infects our feelings whenever we see a child “acting up” and want to see them “corrected”? Is it even necessary to give consideration that respect should be a viable element to incorporate into our relationships with children outside of respect for their sexual safety? Is it important or even possible to have a deep level of open respect for a child while at the same time effectively dealing with misbehavior? Or will respect undermine our efforts to modify their behavior and make them be good?

Can we demand and excite the respect of our children by spanking them? Do we teach them to respect us by yelling at them, by getting angry and impatient with them, by demanding explicit obedience from them without trying to understand their perspective? Can we demand that our children respect us while miserably failing or not even attempting to respect them at the very same moment?

Do you see where this is tending to move? The more the questions come, the closer we begin to move toward exposing some of our own selfishness, pride and dysfunction in the way we relate to children. I am convinced that much if not most so-called discipline is far more about controlling children's behavior in order to make the parents or adults “look good” than it has to do with the beneficial training and character growth of the child. When the truth is more explicit, it becomes much more obvious that far too much of what we call discipline has very little to do with discipling them and much more to do with punitive control and venting of frustrations and anger on the part of adults.

One of the biggest problems in society today but that is seldom recognized is that most adults attempting to raise children or deal with other people's children are not really yet properly matured themselves. Because of this they are honestly incapable of knowing how to raise children effectively for the real nurture and good of the child. But the greater problem is that they seldom realize this fact and believe that they are acting reasonably and responsibly. But all the time they are in fact just passing along the dysfunction of their own messed up childhood to yet another generation and failing to model to their children the very character traits that they claim to be trying to teach them.

When I think about this issue of respect in relationship to children, it becomes evident that most people assume that children should always respect adults but respect in the other direction is seldom mentioned. It seems very much like the accepted norm that this is a one-way street and this assumption is almost never challenged. In fact, it almost sounds like heresy to suggest that a parent should treat a child openly respectful at all times. And to suggest that respect should be unconditional from this perspective sounds even more extreme, maybe even absurd.

But as I thought back over what I learned from the Love and Respect seminar about the fundamental definitions of what real respect is from the perspective of a husband and wife and how much that can improve their relationship with each other, it also occurred to me that the very same dynamics will produce similar results if we would apply the very same principles and insights to the way that we treat our children. If we would model to them respect under pressure – the pressure of their misbehavior and/or embarrassing us in public – then it would only make sense that they would begin to learn by example how to treat us with the same respect that they are seeing in our lives. This, by the way, is what real mentoring is all about. And mentoring is the essence of true discipling.

What I guess I am moving toward is the fact that true learning, when it comes to character development, happens far more effectively and takes place at a far deeper level of the mind when it is modeled. Effective learning is far deeper than demands or instructions. True learning involves demonstrating by example so that the heart can observe what it looks like to act like one's self. So when we insist that children must respect us and our rules or requests, it is not going to be our words that will make so much of an impact as it is going to be the way that we ourselves act whenever we find ourselves challenged by situations that tempt us to not act respectfully.

And what situation is more obvious to a child than how a parent or adult acts in response to the child's actions themselves. When a child makes a mistake or even intentionally commits an infraction of our rules, what attitudes do we demonstrate in our spirit when interacting with them under those circumstances? What emotions do we allow to take over our own words and actions whenever we are faced with people who don't cooperate with us, especially children?

Now I see another element beginning to move into the picture. This is the issue of authority – another very misunderstood word that ignites a lot of intensity in many people's minds including my own. There is plenty of examples of abuse of authority which cause us to seriously misunderstand what it really is or how to relate to it. But aligning ourselves properly to authority in the way that God designs us to live is right at the center of this issue of respect between adults and children. For it is quite evident to most people that adults are supposed to fill a role of authority for children, but at the same time the way their conduct themselves in that role is very often more abusive than it is helpfully instructive.

Because of our own confused ideas about authority and the penchant we have for complaining about the authorities that rule over us in various capacities, we generally fail to give our children any good example of how to understand the true nature of what real authority is supposed to look like or how to relate to it correctly. We complain much about our political leaders, their faults, mistakes and corruption. We complain about the leaders in our church or our families and we generally do this without any regard for the mental images being created in the minds of our children about the nature of authority and how they should view it. Then in exercising our own authority in the lives of our children we often demonstrate the very same corruption that we accuse others of doing; we abuse our own superior strength and advantages for our own benefits in relationship to those weaker and younger than us and think nothing of it. We even ignore the plain commands of Jesus regarding the treatment of children and relegate those instructions to just nice-sounding children's stories told in church.

I want to go back to the issue of the unconditional nature of respect. This was probably the most surprising thing that I learned about respect from the Love and Respect seminar that I have viewed several times. (For more information see my page on Resources) There were many things about respect that I found quite surprising and enlightening, but the idea that respect needs to be just as constant and unconditional as love is to be was at first a real shock to me as I think it is to most people who see this seminar for the first time. It sounds almost like heresy at first to think that respect is not something that has to be earned. In fact, in our world it is openly taught and assumed that respect is something that must always be earned. This counterfeit concept is one of the main reasons why there is so much confusion about respect and now I am realizing that it also infects our thinking about our relationship to authorities as well as to our children.

But in the true principles of reality as God designed it, respect is simply not a nice option to have bestowed on those who are honest enough to deserve it. In fact, now that I think of it more clearly, respect is another one of those unconditional character traits of God that comes as part of His grace which is also something that is clearly not earned. When I begin to consider how God treats us (I am talking about the real God of heaven, not the counterfeit assumptions about God promoted by religion that I have been discarding for a number of years now), I start to see a true model of how a parent should respect their child while working to correct their mistakes, nurture their spirit, encourage their growth and increase their maturity.

I could go on much more about this I am starting to see. But at this point I want to try to capture the essence of what I am starting to understand about this issue. If we want our children to be respectful, it is extremely important for us to demonstrate respect, to model respect in the way we treat them, not just simply demand it. And the most important and effective time to do this is when we are under the pressure of dealing with their dysfunctions, not just when they are acting “normal”.

It might be easier for us to pay attention to how we model respect in front of our children while relating to other authorities in our own lives, and that is also important for their training. But to train ourselves to act with kindness, patience, self-control, true, selfless love and freedom from all anger when dealing with their defiance or rebellion – that is a far more important tool for mentoring our children in real respect and self-control than anything else we might say or do. And failure to be respectful to our children will also plant the seeds that will quickly spring up in their own hearts that we will soon have to deal with even more so in their reactions to our attempts to exercise authority in their lives later on.

This rethinking of the way we all relate to children is not going to happen just by discussing it or making more rules for ourselves or others. This will have little to no effect on changing the root problems of our own heart that betray us when under the pressure of confrontations with our children. We must learn to be much more honest about the real motives and feelings inside of us whenever we are exposed by the misbehavior of children, whether our own or someone else's. Until there is true honesty about our own heart motives and our faulty thinking, there can never be true effective change in the way we relate to children. We may be able to put on a good front, assert strong arguments to justify our actions and words or believe that we can raise obedient children without treating them with respect on certain occasions, but we will not be able to nurture and mentor them in the ways of life.

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that there can be no exceptions to this requirement for respecting others. God does not ever suspend His respect for us, and if we think He does this opens up a huge reservoir of issues that needs to be addressed before we will be able to relate to this issue properly and truthfully. Again as I have seen in every other issue of importance, the fundamental feelings and beliefs that we hold deep in our hearts about how we think God treats us and feels about us always determines the way that we relate to and treat each other. So if we want to deal effectively with emerging problems in our relationships with others, it will be much quicker and easier to implement those changes into our lives if we will first expose and challenge our false notions about how God relates to us.

The way that we treat our children may likely be the most clear indicator of our true beliefs about how we think God relates to us. Whether it be permissive, abusive or dismissive, if we have confused, faulty views of what God is like they are always going to emerge in the way that we treat our children. So in addition to being willing to change the way we treat our children we must also address effectively the false notions that we have about how God relates to us. And to our amazement and delight we will discover that the clearer our picture becomes of God's true nature and His characteristics that we never really appreciated before, the easier it will become to treat our children and everyone else in new ways.

Our lives will then begin to reflect our growing appreciation of God's goodness, kindness and love and true justice. And as our own lives begin to reflect the growing truths that we see in the face of Jesus, our mentoring will begin to have its own transformative effect on the next generation and we will begin to fulfill more effectively our role as “temporary gods” in the lives of our children. We will show them in human flesh what God is really like whom they cannot yet see with their eyes. As a result we can have the privilege of translating the truth about God into human language for our children – language that involves our body language, our heart language through our spirit as well as our verbal language.