Relaxed Confidence

God requires a protocol to approach Him. The trick is how to follow that protocol without it becoming rote or religious. To maintain a freshness in our relationship with God without becoming flippant and casual is a challenge to the church and gatherings of believers everywhere.

Balance is needed, always balance between Awe of the transcendent God, and Joy of intimate connection with the Father through the resurrected Christ. This is God Almighty, the Creator of all, and the one who went to the utter end to rescue and then live within us. We need to consider frequently His enormity and otherness, and at the same time walk in everlasting gratefulness of His drawing near. This brings us to a place of relaxed confidence and trust.

Relaxed confidence. That is a position unrealized by far too many in the Body of Christ. If we are relaxed, it means we are not up tight about our position in relation to God, worried that we are standing on the edge of a steep sliding board, at risk any moment of plunging down and away. Striving to attain good standing in His sight is past; we have come to know we are securely in His care and keeping.

But how do those who know come to that place of confidence? The knee-jerk answer is they have faith.  For the not-yet-convinced, or unbeliever, that just sounds like religious talk which has no reality in their lives. They respond with human arguments and atheistic beliefs heard in the past. Faith? Isn’t that just believing something you have heard because you want it to be so? A hope so, maybe so thought? A belief drummed up by the weak and needy?

Well, no, it is much more than that, completely different, yet difficult to describe in worldly, earthly terms because it is a spiritual reality which connects earth with heaven, bringing heaven to earth. Believing what you have heard about God’s rescue plan in Christ is the beginning step, but is not faith. Responding by personalizing it for yourself is the reaching out which instantly becomes faith, opening a whole spiritual world to you and giving substance to something that was not real to you just moments before. As the scripture says, “Faith is the substance of things not seen.”

With faith now in operation, you know that God is true, His word is true, and you can rest in confidence of His eternal care for you. 

This then brings a response of awe and gratitude for the unspeakable gift that He is and has given to us. No room for flippancy here, just a natural outflow of praise and thanksgiving.

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The Measure

My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. Psalm 71:15

David did not know the depths of God’s salvation, what it all entailed, nor do we. God’s salvation is so deep and wide it is beyond knowing. What is available to us in that gift? What does it mean that we have salvation? For multiplied many believers, it means one thing: we get to go to heaven when we die. For a smaller number, it means a closeness of God through Holy Spirit in this earthly life through a renewed spirit within. A smaller number still testify to a changed life and ability to rise above former defiling, deadly behaviors. But the gifts of God are far greater in scope and potential than we have grasped. The unplumbable depths will never run dry so that we can reach into that well of salvation (Isaiah 12:3) to meet any need.  Strength? Wisdom? Courage? Healing? Ability to forgive? It is all there, and more.

Like Dr. Seuss’  McElligot’s Pool, there are worlds hidden from the surface view which lead eventually from that shallow pool to the widest ocean.

We may not be able to measure God’s salvation gift, but we surely should “open the box” to explore what has been made available to us. Relying on Him in every situation enables us to see more of His attributes and His character, ultimately giving Him the thanks, praise and glory He deserves.

Top Ten Things re: Manly Men

With the recent flood of revelations about men’s unwanted advances, it is obvious that women are tired of being groped and objectified. So as an add-on to my post on Manly Men, I offer my list of Top Ten Things Women Find Attractive in Men.

Considerate of, but not dependent on parents
Thoughtful of others
Attends to personal hygiene
Aware of and not intrusive of personal boundaries
Interests beyond sex and sports
Understands and uses manners and dress appropriate to the occasion
Has wider emotional expression than angry and not angry
Is true to his word
Good sense of humor – never at other’s expense
Protective, but not controlling.

Gals, if you find such a gem, take him home to meet your parents.

Manly Men

I like men. As my mother used to say, “They are the best opposite sex there is!” Which is why I am disturbed by what I see happening to them in today’s culture. As a woman with a fair number of years behind me, I believe it must be difficult for boys to sort out what it means to be a man today.

What does it mean to be a manly man? Is it the chest thumping “Me, Tarzan, your Jane,” brute? Newspapers stories of wife-beating, baby-abusing, cursing louts are common. Too common. The self-gratifying narcissist, seldom seen years ago, is now warned against in social media. It is only a matter of degrees between the cold-hearted, woman-destroying narcissist and the self-centered man interested in his “woman” only for sexual gratification.  And maybe her cooking.

Another version of the chest-thumper is the idea that being a man means beer drinking, being pot bellied, semi-unkempt, and rough talking. Wearing his cap at the table, burping vigorously, he eschews manners as effeminate. Any sign of gentleness is considered a weakness.

In contrast to the self-absorbed sex machines, or perhaps in response to them, culture has tried in the last 50 years to emasculate men, convincing them that being touchy feely like a girl is the way to go. The idea seems to be to remove men far from their past roles of bringing home the deer kill for the family. The man’s hunting, bread-winning prowess provided food; his strength provided protection. And the woman did everything else needed. People somewhere decided the original plan needed to be changed. Now we have a generation of men who do not know who they are or why they are here.

As part of this trend, fashion designers are bringing out clothing lines which make men look like they are ready to be clowns in a vaudeville show. All of this is attempting to remove the identity of a man as a man.  In the confusion that follows, homosexuality naturally seems to make more sense.

Perhaps all the above is a distortion of what a man is truly designed to be.

But what is a manly man? Does it mean it is a given that their interest in sex means that making passes at women is natural and comes with the territory? That to expect otherwise is foolish? Is it possible to be strong and kind, masculine and safe? Creative, productive, reliable? And have their sexual urges under control? I believe it is possible, and we need such men to step up as role models for the young teen boys who are entering a time of seeking who they are to be.

There should then be more positive news about men and hopefully less daily revelations of male lewd behavior. What the country needs is manly men of strength, honor and integrity. There are some, I know; may their tribe increase.

Stuff

 

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Inventories and taking the census raise mixed emotions.  We are sorters and counters at heart. At the same time we have some more important things to do right now like catching the latest show on TV.  So classifying, enumerating, and sorting just have to wait until… you can’t find that thing you know you have someplace.

Do you know just what you have?  Do you even know where it is?  Do you care?

Being orderly of mind and stuff is for some an inbuilt character trait. Watch for the child who carefully arranges his blocks with all the animals on one side facing outward.  There is a budding accountant, a future enumerator, a bean counter who will drive his spouse crazy with his attention to detail.  The boy who sorts and re-sorts his baseball card collection is an incipient museum curator. For the rest of mankind orderliness is or has to be imposed from without.

Why the reluctance to dig in and make lists of the household contents?  We long to be organized; books are written on how to bring order out of chaos in our lives, beginning with our ‘stuff.’  Most people have a junk drawer; for some, that describes every drawer.   Because of the unwillingness to dig in and inventory, untold hours are spent in archaeological digs in drawer and closet hunting for that elusive, faintly remembered item.

Once we bite the bullet and decide to dig in, itemizing each object and recording its location, we tend to respond in different ways.

Way no.1—Turn and flee to a favorite distraction.  The Procrastinator Route.

Way no.2—Immediately find a treasured item which side tracks the project while you go down memory lane.  The Historical Route.

Way no.3—Get note pads.  Sharpen pencils.  Draw straight lines (where’s the ruler?) to make orderly columns.  Puzzle over how many columns of information you need.  Redraw the columns.  Find that it is too late now to start since you spent so much time getting everything ready.  Start dinner, instead.   The Well Charted Route.

Way no. 4–Dig in and begin.  Stay with the project even if it takes days, weeks.  Read those books on organization.    Spend a little money on notebooks, or files, or boxes or drawers that will be needed to get the job done.  The Efficient, Orderly Route.

There are only a few, unique individuals who ever find their way to Way no. 4.  They recognize that ordering their affairs is essential to save countless hours in the future.  Three years hence when the dishwasher breaks they will be able to answer the questions of warranty, place purchased and cost without turning the household on its ear.  Knowing where the files are kept, and when the kids had their DPT shots, and the number for that good plumber they had a few years back can save much aggravation.   But there is an investment to be made in order to reap the desired state of unruffled tempers and time saved in that future day.  It is giving a NOW time to the sorting, tossing, recording.  Sacrificing the present day pleasure of fun and games, loafing and lounging, for the unknown that lies ahead is seldom appealing, but that is the required investment to assure a good return.

Just consider: what would the universe be like if it were as orderly as your junk drawer?

There is More

-jvCyUZ3lky5XALq7VqfWgThere is more!

It is the norm to develop ideas and interpretations of life as we grow. This includes politics and purpose, relationships and religion, as well as spiritual realities.

For many, we picture a solid wall between us and the heavenly realms which are out there somewhere, unreachable and certainly not understandable.

Then we learn about Jesus and hear that because he died to pay for and forgive our sins, we can now have a relationship with Father and will go to heaven when we die.

This is where most people stay. Picture a solid wall, with a wall phone attached. There was no phone there until we accepted Jesus. Now we can go to the phone and call Father whenever we have a need. How cool is that! Some of us call frequently, others only when in trouble. This works for us as we drudge through life. When we die, we somehow are able to walk through that wall as Jesus did after the resurrection and enter heaven.  Good.

But our view never changes. We see our life, its problems, and the wall with its phone hanging there. That is all.

Jesus’ enormous suffering and dying only provided us a phone line? And possible streets of gold at the end of life?

The testimony of millions is a new life, somehow energized within when transformed by God, a new life which alters our priorities and definitely reduces the drudgery of life. But still, the wall exists in our mind to keep that new life confined. Being born again installs the direct connection phone line which is a great improvement to the old way, but it does not have FaceTime installed. We are left unable to see what the Father is doing, the way Jesus could. We read the promise that we will do more than Jesus did, but feel challenged to pray for someone to be healed of a head cold.

It seems that Jesus tore down the wall so that we can be fully restored to heavenly realities and we have resolutely rebuilt it. Any experience beyond the norm of earthly life is deemed scary, abnormal, and shunned as weird. Fear constrains us from entering into all that was made available by the complete work of the Cross. Any time we sense a nearness, or presence of Holy Spirit, or alteration of the atmosphere, we pull back and flee rather than staying in the moment, pressing into it to see, hear and learn more of the Father, of Jesus, of that other reality we call heaven.

It is a huge loss to us. We have been invited to a fancy dress ball with a fabulous feast, and we choose to stay home with a pack of snack crackers. And the phone.

There is more, much more, for those who pursue him. Press in; don’t pull back. Real life awaits.

My God, My God

Increasingly I have come to understand that there is nothing random or incidental about anything concerning Jesus. Every action, every word has meaning and purpose. Some are obvious; others take a while to discover, but all lead to healing in some way. The things we don’t understand tend to slide right by; we dismiss them as incidental or fillers to the real story. But they are not.

So it was with his cry from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mt. 27:46, which is an echo from Psalm 22.

Many sermons have been preached, interpreting this passage to try to make sense of it – and yet none satisfied. If God is totally good and behind the whole cross event, why is He so cruel to His own son during the height of his agony? So without a satisfactory answer we relegate this to a shelf in the closet to be ignored or explained away.

If it is true that Jesus took all sin to the cross, we need to rethink about what was included. Physical healing, certainly. “By his stripes we are healed.” “This is my body, broken for you.” My blood…poured out for the forgiveness of sin.” There is nothing that is excluded. Ailments of body and soul are covered. In the totality of His work on the cross, Jesus took all evil upon himself in order to die – to kill it, as it were.

And that included that dreadful moment in the Garden when separation from God occurred. Forced into exile, man was alone, terrifyingly alone. Naked. Abandoned.

Mankind has the ability to endure much hardship – wars, famine, floods and menacing beasts – but abandonment and aloneness, separation from the loving parent is the worst of all. It creates a pain and impress on spirit and soul which does not heal. A broken bone will mend; a broken spirit not. “The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” Pr. 18:14

Jesus’ cry from the cross, his intentional cry, was showing that everything, including the separation and abandonment was included in his dying. Therefore he could declare following his resurrection, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He wont because he cannot. The old separation and its penalty have died; we live now anew in Him, never again alone and abandoned.

He not only suffered the deep forlorn-ness of God-separation, but there was more. “I thirst.” Here His cry reveals an essential body need, and the far greater longing of spirit and soul for the river of life. Man in his fallen state thirsts for that connection with his creator, for the refreshing found only in God. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Mt. 5:6

Jesus had throughout his ministry proclaimed that He was the source of living water. “He who comes to me shall never thirst.” “Come, all you who are thirsty, “ God says in Isaiah 55:1. “The water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” John 4:13,14; 7:37,38.

Yet on the Cross, Jesus who is the God-source of unending life-giving water, cries out “I thirst.”

As intentional as all His other words, this declares that every misery sourced in the dryness of life without God is also hanging on the cross to be killed. Eternally. The new life planned by God will be one free of lack, and full of refreshment, catching man up in its flow.

It is this creation of a new reality, free forever from the former distortions, misery, sin and evil of life, that drove Jesus to the utter horror and pain of the cross where the “former things” were taken away. Killed dead. The new reality is indeed a new creation, one which required the elimination of the first state in order to establish the final and better one. It could only happen through the action of the God Man, Jesus. He, the sinless One, took all men into himself when He was lifted up, nailed to the cross. He also took not only sin, but every fruit of sin which brings woe and suffering in its wake.

The work of the Cross included restoration of mankind’s other senses. In Ezekiel 12:2 God declares, “Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people.” Rebellion causes blindness and deafness, God says. The only way to deal with that is to remove the root cause, Rebellion, the first sin. From it spring the separation and then all other evils leading to death. Since rebellion is part of man’s fallen nature, it is hard to recognize in ourselves. But it permeates our thinking and self interest so that we cannot hear, cannot see God, and often don’t want to, anyway. We instead worship at the shrine of self (the Me, Myself and I trinity) wondering why our lives are not going well.

We hear about living a life without rebellion and wonder if such a thing is possible. Every thought and act in line with God’s will? That sounds like Utopia, unachievable in this life. And in truth, it is unachievable in the life we started with. It is only possible through the new life He created for us. Hence the need for the Cross. It is the door into an entirely new experience, a new reality, a restored relationship with God the Father.

His work was total. Complete. When He uttered, “it is finished,” He was ready to die, taking the whole load of ugliness with Him to the grave. No one else could carry such a burden; no one else has the capacity of love to do it.

It is finished. The new reality is now available. To you.
Praise Him forever.