Random Blog Clay Feet: 2010-12
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Accept His Presents

Christmas is possibly most associated with the idea of giving and receiving presents. Yes, there are many other traditions connected to this time of year, but presents usually play a very central role in our relationships with others during this holiday season more than at any other time. This tradition has also enabled commercialism to exploit our fears and desires and has produces a whole different twist to the holiday season that is far from what God has in mind for our lives.

As I sat watching a program on television relating some of the fascinating things to be learned from the earthly sanctuary given to the Israelites through Moses by God, some thoughts came to my attention that relate directly to our relationship with God. Some may be more open to thinking about these things this time of year more than at any other.

One of the hardest things we have to discover is how to maintain a healthy relationship with God in the area of presents, gifts and the appreciation that these are supposed to produce in our hearts. Some have a very difficult time admitting that they ever need gifts from heaven while others take God's blessings for granted so easily that they fail to experience any significant appreciation for the many things God provides for them all the time. Unfortunately too often I fall into both of these categories.

As I jotted down notes of ideas as they were coming to me, the very first thing I wrote down was, Accepting His Presents. Several times I have written about this topic and I am still fascinated with the way that God sometimes puts interesting things into the language that I grew up using in ways that convey subtle but important lessons about my relationship with Him. To my amazement, the more I looked into the idea of presents and how it is directly linked to the word presence, the more in awe I am of how these two synonyms tell me what God really wants most to do in my life.

God wants me, more than anything else, to come to know the joy of His presence. And the greatest, most valuable and life-changing gift He can ever offer me is His presence – which is His present to me.
As I have pondered my own desires relating to the traditions of gift-giving, I have come to realize that what I usually long for far more than presents someone might try to offer me is the presence of their heart and person. If someone I care about would offer me themselves in ways that were vulnerable, meaningful and heart-connecting, it would be far more exciting and bonding for me than anything else they might try to purchase to give me instead.

Now, I have heard people talk about these kinds of things for years, but most of that talk seemed like so many religious platitudes to me and had little effect on how my heart felt about God. I suspect these words may have the same ring to some who may come to read this as well. But when a person begins to experience the deepening of these principles more at the heart level and the words begin to come more from a taste of the actual experience rather than just an intellectual theory, the experience begins to really come alive and so many other things begin to fall into place that it is impossible to convert many of them into words adequately.

I have sought to really sense the presence of God in my personal journey to know Him for many years. I have deliberately practiced making myself more aware of His presence, have visited places where I might better encounter His presence. Sometimes I have been disappointed when I discovered that where many people insisted they could feel God's presence readily that in fact they were more likely pursuing an emotional high from intense music rather than really meeting with the true God described in the Bible. Elijah had that problem at times and God had a few words to say to him about it.

Something I learned today that is very important for me to remember in my desire to experience much more of His presence/presents in my life more consistently is my own need to stop agreeing with Satan. It is so easy to think along negative lines, to allow discouraging assumptions, and let the insinuations of the enemy act as dark filters to block me from enjoying the presence of God who might be very close but not affecting me as I want to be affected. Someone has reminded me tonight that along with my need to stop agreeing with Satan's insinuations about God that only reinforce his lies in my life, but I also need to start affirming the truth about how God feels about me and about my true identity.

Instead of verbalizing discouraging thoughts, I need to take charge of my expressions and begin to vocalize the truth as it is in Jesus and about how much God really loves me. I can express faith, sing faith, become bold in faith by simply choosing to dwell on those truths in my thoughts and speech instead of falling into my default rut of gravitating toward viewing the faults in others or amplifying problems and difficulties. I can focus on God's goodness, His faithfulness, His everlasting forgiving attitude and His incredible grace.

Speaking of forgiveness, I also felt impressed in my spirit that the issue of offense that I have been learning more about recently is one of the main stumbling blocks that can prevent me from embracing the presents of God. When I allow offenses to remain in my heart, I will be quickly sucked into the trap of Satan and there soon will follow darkness, deception, anger, bitterness and all sorts of other problems. With these heavy cloud covers over my life it then becomes next to impossible to embrace the joy of God's presence with me as I can only see the problems in and around me.

If I want to live in the presence of God and celebrate the presents that He provides for me so lavishly all the time, I must be willing to become aware of any offenses I may be holding onto against anyone or against God. I must take ownership of the pain caused by those offenses in my heart, releasing the other person from responsibility for resolving them. Then I can in turn give them over to Jesus for release and healing and freedom in my own heart.

When I let go of offenses (which is the real definition of forgiveness) I become less and less encumbered and have increasing capacity to embrace joyfully God's presence/presents in my life. In effect, when I lay down the offenses I have been holding onto so tightly thinking they will somehow give me protection or advantage over someone else, I free up my hands to then be able to take hold of God's glorious presents for me and can enjoy the pleasure of His presence.

Do you think the Scriptures mean nothing? The Scriptures say,
"The Spirit God made to live in us wants us only for himself."
But the kindness God shows is greater. As the Scripture says,
"God is against the proud, but he is kind to the humble."
So give yourselves to God.
Stand against the devil, and he will run away from you.
Come near to God and he will come near to you.
You are sinners, so clean sin (resistance) out of your lives.
You are trying to follow God and the world at the same time.
Make your thinking pure. Be sad, be sorry, and cry!
Change your laughter into crying. Change your joy into sadness.
Be humble before the Lord, and he will make you great.
(James 4:5-10 ERV)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Where the Terrorists?

I had a lingering dream some time before I completely woke up this morning that later grabbed my attention. As dreams often go, the logic of the plot makes little sense to an awake mind, but the underlying concepts that are revealed sometimes are very enlightening.

I was dreaming about security lines that people are forced to pass through at airports. Now, I'm not going to comment on my intense feelings about such matters, but to dream about such a thing for so long is rather unusual for me as I don't even remember dreaming about such a thing before.

Most of the time in my dream, the lines of passengers were unusually sparse and the activity wasn't exactly as intense as in real life. After a time I actually found myself interacting with the security personal (when they were there) on a more friendly basis than is customary.

For whatever reasons I kept having to go back around and around through the various stations as some of the other people sometimes had to do. At times it seemed that the whole area was almost devoid of any people which I found a bit strange. Even the surrounding rails and walls were not all that secure. It seemed like these were more temporary setups, like they were portable or something. It was more like they expected you to honor the system more than forcing you to do so. But that was not the point that really got my attention later on.

After some time I became aware of a man who seemed to have been designated to pass through all the security processes in a very thorough way for a most unusual reason. It seems now a bit vague and even illogical, but in the dream it seemed like a bright idea. At this point in my dream it was even starting to take on religious connotations as this man was supposed to somehow function as a stand-in for a number of children that he would be responsible for in such a way so as to eliminate the need for them to pass through all that security themselves. It was assumed that if he could pass security well enough that he could then vouch for those under his care and they could pass on their way with less hassle.

Again, in the dream it seemed rather logical, even a great idea. But as I watched him try to implement this unusual idea my dream seemed to bog down. I found myself beginning to sink into a deeper sleep where dreams don't function very well, but then suddenly I woke up to a lighter sleep with a jolt. The following thought then struck me with force and I sensed that there was something very important to learn from this illustration. These thoughts came clearly to my mind about the dream:

Man can develop all kinds of strategies and equipment and techniques to try to detect weapons or figure out who might be a danger to others, while the real problem is in the motives of the heart. But there is no way for humans to create equipment or develop programs to scan that part of a person. In fact, as I pondered it after waking all the way up, I realized that the very people who most avidly seek to expose those they label as terrorists, in the very process of looking for them begin to cultivate the very same attitudes and attributes in their own hearts. It is a principle of reality that the very act of looking for faults in others unavoidably begins to develop those same character traits in ourselves.

Only God has the 'equipment' to be able to discern the motives and thoughts of the heart. And only those who are willing to come into close fellowship and humble submission to Him will have the privilege of Him sharing with them at the right times what they need to know about what is going on inside others. Only God can see the heart while the rest of us obsess about the outward appearances.

A terrorist is not someone who is discovered carrying weapons around but is someone who harbors hate and bitterness inside and seeks for revenge. Given that definition I suspect that most of us could easily be found to be terrorists, especially those who spend much of their time trying to detect them.

The real danger in our lives does not come from bombs or guns or any other physical weapons, but it comes in the attitudes that we harbor against others that we think to have less value than ourselves. The whole system of society that we have grown up in has become a mold for inducing terrorists. And the more we try to use force, fear and violence to eliminate or incarcerate those we consider dangerous, the more we create resentment causing others to join in seeking to oppose us and use violence against us.

Like attracts like. When we resort to force we activate this universal principle that always operates. When we rely on violence thinking to suppress violence, we only end up producing more violence that will react back upon us. Jesus told Peter that those who take up the sword will die by the sword. The methods that we are subscribing to as a nation now becomes the very thing that produces and proliferates our enemies. And trying to stay ahead of others in the ability to use ever greater force only intensifies and hardens the resolve of those who resist us.

By choosing to follow this path in the name of promoting freedom we are actually destroying both the freedom of others and undermining and disassembling our own freedoms. Our government has chosen to reject the principles of freedom that we claim were the foundations of our nation originally. We have been deceived into thinking that we can rely on a different set of principles, weapons and logic of the kingdom of darkness, and still enjoy the benefits of living in freedom. But just like love, when freedom violates others and abuses those who disagree with us, it quickly disintegrates and morphs into nothing more than an empty claim, a thin shell of pretense that covers up the presence of the very same motives as in those who now attack us. All the time we reject responsibility for our own horrific actions against our enemies by blaming anyone and everyone else while we are becoming the true terrorists.

I believe it was Winston Churchill that once made a famous statement with so much insight. “We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.”

Only by following the methods and principles of heaven will we be led to living in true safety and freedom. The more we obsess over security for ourselves the more we are destroying the freedom of our own people. The claim that it is necessary to sometimes exchange freedom for security is one of the most successful lies of Satan to enslave free people and throw away all that has been won for them at such a costly price by their forefathers along with the death of Jesus Christ. Security cannot be achieved by denying it to everyone but ourselves while abusing anyone we don't like. That is not real security, it is just plain abuse of power and only serves to corrupt and destroy our souls.

It could well be said of us if we were willing to admit the truth that Churchill discovered, “When we meet the terrorists we discover to our horror that the greatest terrorists are in the mirror.”