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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Wait

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14

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There are three commands here – indicating things we are capable of doing.
The first is “Be strong.” This implies that we can make ourselves overcome our self-doubts. There is no room for the escape clause “This is too hard for me!” or “Let someone else go – do – fight the battle.” It also implies that the capability of strength is built in as part of our packaging. Whether we believe it or not does not change our inherent potential to exhibit strength. Often the accumulation of life experiences has occluded this truth; God’s Word indicates we must deal with them to uncover the strength within.

The second command is “Take Heart.” This speaks of values to center our lives on — courage, joy, belief in God’s goodness, letting hope for the future rise within. All of these and more will push back depression and fear which sap our very beings of the strength needed for living, destroying our effectiveness in the Kingdom in the process.

Finally, we are told to “Wait” for the LORD. This is where the real battle is for many, for once He has appeared or acted in a situation the battle is over, the problem resolved. It is the “Wait” that reveals our hearts most clearly. Do we really trust Him? Our fears begin to leak out. Is He really going to do something? Should I not step in here and solve the problem myself? We get into the helping God out mindset – and it is clear from the Isaac-Ishmael story that is not a good idea.

Waiting on the LORD is in truest sense, a leaning on Him in full expectation of his fulfilled promise — and that is Faith!

Fretting vs. Trust

When we are fretful our behavior seldom exhibits peace. We do not act as if we are formed to the image of Christ. Think about it: does Jesus ever fret?

To fret is to be anxious about the outcome. It is low-grade worry. Things won’t happen according to my timetable, my plan, my program.  MY.  MY way. This is a hidden way to say I want to be god.  In charge.  Doesn’t this smell sulfurous?  Genesis 3, again.

Jesus does not fret because he knows the beginning from the end. There are no surprises coming his way. He knows his father’s plans and designs will come to pass. There is no doubt in him  because he knows his father. Therefore, when we fret we are saying that in one particular area of our lives we do not know the Father. We are not confident in him to handle the situation aright.

Jesus does not fret because he is God, Lord of time and Lord of circumstances. He is at peace with the outcome.

The antidote to fretting is TRUST. Not in ourselves, but in God who is our ground, our source, our goal. That only comes from knowing Him. We are to know him as Jesus knows him. Since the veil has been torn, we can know him. Then our plans become yielded to his plans and His plans always succeed.

As we know the Father and are known, there is a continuing process of being formed in Jesus’ image. And that is nothing to fret about.

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Godless?

“The godless in heart harbor resentment; even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help.” Job 36:13

“The godless in heart harbor resentment.” This says those who have not had their hearts converted to and by the Lord harbor or hold on to resentment. It would appear from this statement that it is a given: godless = heart full of resentment. The question then is this true when turned around? Is it accurate to say that those who harbor resentment and bitterness are godless? Does resentment shut the door to God’s presence?

Resentment and its companion bitterness, two ugly attitudes of heart, are the seedbed for others as well. Left to flourish like weeds, they grow into hatred, desire for revenge, and murder. Self pity grows up like thorns in the flower garden, causing pain to those who come near. Bitterness poisons the soul soil so that joy cannot take root and its fragrance is lost to mankind. Resentment is the seed of division; true love and friendship wither in the presence of judgment and condemnation.

Is it possible for someone to love God, and proclaim to be a follower of Jesus, and at the same time have a deep root of bitterness within? Or are these proclamations hollow, without reality, because the two cannot coexist?

Coming close to faith in Christ, we learn about the reality of His Kingdom and our inclusion in it. He assures the would-be believer that accepting His offer of himself means that He, Father and Spirit all will come and make their home within. John 14:23; 17:23. Thus “en-godded,” people take on a new identity, new world view, a new way of living and loving.

But there is no space in the Spirit-filled life for the weeds. The reverse is true; the weeds choke out the life Jesus wants to live in each individual. We become godless to the degree we harbor, hang on to, nourish and dwell upon our resentment and bitterness. These attitudes have no place in heaven or earth.

Therefore, it is wise to get rid of them.

Resentment and bitterness can only be eradicated by the willingness to forgive and release the offender and situation. Hanging on to unforgiveness “because they deserve it,” destroys you, your flower garden, your future, making you become godless.

Jesus has a better idea. Let it go, and let Him in.

The River or the Canal?

God said He wants to do a new thing, a new way of showing himself, or expressing Christianity in the world. He showed me a river which was freely moving, forming bends and twists as it went. There was life everywhere the river flowed.

In contrast was the canal – straight, with concrete walls and with no life along its edges. Life forms could not access the water because of the impenetrable concrete walls which were man made. There was some water in the canal, but it was rather murky and moving very slowly, if at all.

As I thought about this, it became clear He wants to take each of us, as a unique drop of water, where He wills. In so doing He can flow through each, bringing freshness and life wherever the water touches. Spontaneity, effectiveness and at the same time, freedom from stress are the hallmarks of this move.

Many expressions of Christianity have become canals, man made structures, unaware the water in them has become stagnant.

One thing that keeps people in the canal rather than in the river flow is fear. The unpredictability of going where He moves us on any given day is unsettling to most. We rather like the comfort of the familiar. Therefore we trade freedom and adventure with the Lord for the safety of the known, picking up boredom as part of the package. This keeps the people of the world away from the little bit of water we do have.

It is our choice: living in abandonment to God, bringing freshness and life everywhere we go, or staying in the security of the canal, colorlessly inching our way through life. The Lord has made it clear that His way of expressing himself on the earth is superior to ours, and He will have His way. Only then will the world be attracted to his life-giving water.

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What’s in The Box 2

So, what is in the box that makes you you?

Human kind has been philosophizing on this topic from dim ages past. Are we simply animal machines of a slightly higher order, with not much more value than a lemming? There are people who believe this, which helps to explain their attitude about everything from abortion, to infanticide to euthanasia. With no moral code, with man having no value greater than a mouse, it makes no difference whether we keep or throw away our offspring. Or Grandma. There is in their mind, therefore, nothing to declare right vs. wrong… except of course if you should rape or threaten their children. Suddenly they are finding they do believe some things are inherently right, with other things totally wrong. However, their commitment to the idea that there is no moral code outside of themselves, and that we are evolved animals only, is so strong that they develop split brain thinking when faced with harm that touches them. This becomes necessary when you believe two opposing views; unless the beliefs are compartmentalized, the brain cannot process or hold both at the same time.

Many people believe that man is made up of body and soul. The soul is a rather vague concept of the life force which departs at death as the body returns to the earth. There is a general belief that there is a God somewhere, that he started the whole thing, and if we behave right and do good our soul will find eternal bliss somewhere when we die. If anyone brings up the word ‘spirit’ it is assumed to be a synonym for soul.

There is general agreement that there is a standard, or absolute, outside of ourselves which declares that some things are good, and to be pursued, and other things are bad or off limits. Some care enough about eternal bliss to try to behave themselves; others find the effort too great and decide early on the whole thing is a farce, or that they are doomed anyway, so let’s eat, drink and be merry. Devil take the hindmost. Regardless of their response to life, most in this group truly know there is a standard which they fail to meet on a regular basis. There is often much striving to appease the somewhere God to earn points which will admit them to the eternal beyond. Their prayers are directed to the God Out There, hoping that somehow they will be heard and helped.

A third group is of people who have seen and believed the words of the Bible in 1 Thessalonians “May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What? There’s a difference between the spirit and the soul? The 
Bible declares it to be so, in fact using different words in the Greek and Hebrew for each. They are not interchangeable words for the same reality, but describe distinctly different parts of our being.

On the basis of Biblical truth I understand that in each of our packaging there is a spirit and a soul as well as our body. Each has an important part to play in developing who we are and who we are destined to become. Someone has well said: “We are a spirit, we have a soul and we live in a body.” Since each is important, it behooves us to unpack the topic more fully. Our (successful) lives depend on it.

Revelation

Don’t you love those moments of revelation, those times when the lightbulb over your head is switched on? In an instant you KNOW something you hadn’t known before; you see a side to an issue that had never crossed your mind; you recognize a veil has been removed which you didn’t even realize was there.

To have a deeper understanding suddenly flood in is not the work of agonizing study, research and sitting under hours of brilliant teaching, all of which are worthy endeavors. Some ‘revelations’ can come from letting bits of knowledge percolate and simmer on the back burner, as it were, until the mind manages to connect the dots. This is actually advanced problem solving rather than true revelation.

Revelation means simply something revealed, something that could not be known by human reasoning, something that had to come from outside oneself. Those are treasures not easily dislodged once received, especially when the new insight is contrary to previously held beliefs. Then you know you could not have made it up to self-delude, a favorite practice for most of us. Jesus says in John 14:26 “But the Counselor, Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Revelation comes through and from Holy Spirit of God, and is therefore Truth, as He is Truth.

All of this is to introduce a revelation I received in my living room a few years ago. Simple at first look, it is profound. “No one knows all there is to know about anything. That includes the Bible, themselves, others, God.”

Since this is so, there is absolutely no right or place for anyone to make a judgment about others. No place for self-righteous declarations of what and who God is – other than what He has self-revealed, of course. No place for huffy, stuffy attitudes about “My translation of the Bible is the only true one!” Certainly there can be no certainty about the motivations and inner heart of the people around us.

If we all put down our swords of accusations wouldn’t the world, at least our personal world, be a better place? Just remember, when you think you know it all, you don’t. When you realize how little you know, you are on the road to wisdom. Selah.