Peace & Planning God’s Way

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photo credit: robdonnelly Evening at Milarrochy bay via photopin (license)

Planning gets a bad wrap in some corners of Christendom, with some inferring it’s ungodly and antithetical to having the peace of God and following the Way.

This can be true, if our plans are fleshy, rigid rules. Our plans do need to be of God, faith-filled, spirit-filled, prayed-over, etc. But God is not a God of chaos but a God of order. The Bible contains many plans and scheduled events, such as the Jewish feast days that are optional for us to keep. Now, God may lead us down roads that don’t make logical sense from our vantage point, and I have NEVER known the Lord to lay out the entire plan all at once, but he totally will give us nice, orderly, planned-by-him steps to take if we commit our planning to him.

That said, plans are best made to be revised and adjusted as needed. However, Christians in my experience, are too passive, too sleepy, just sitting around waiting for God to instantly hand us what he’s promised–and I was the most guilty of all on that. God’s teaching me that we are to stand up by faith and move out by faith to claim what God has promised us by faith and with a prayed-over, spirit-led plan of action of how to carry out what God has called us to.

It’s when we make plans apart from God, in the flesh, and act in the flesh–rather than by faith, and in spirit and in truth–and when we put *fleshy* plans before God that there’s often trouble. That, plus, the fact of life is, plans change, sometimes suddenly. Learning to accept that everything is tentative with “Lord willing” attached and roll with it is as important to having peace as having a vision for moving forward through life’s storms toward obtaining what God has for us.

photo credit: God’s Motivations v17 via photopin (license)

[tweetthis]Peace & Planning God’s Way: “God is not a God of Chaos but a God of Order.”[/tweetthis]

Hope for Lock Box Hearts

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lockbox heart

In my mid-teens, I wrote the following poem:

The Box

I locked my heart in a tin box
And threw away the key.
I ran from all like the fox,
But someday it will return to me.

 

Though I lost my tin box in my flight,
It returned to me to my surprise.
But alas, where is the key?
Without it, there is no hope for me.

 

So I must ask: Who has my key?
Would you please return it to me?

Guess who had the key?

When I look through the poetry I wrote in my teens, the ones not dedicated to Jesus, or not overtly about difficulties at school or home, were all about my imaginary boyfriend—or rather my hoped-for future husband–or crying after my imaginary ex-boyfriend had imaginarily beat me or otherwise broken my heart.

Yep, I was that kind of teenage girl once. This one was straight up a poetic confession about my defense mechanisms, hyper vigilance, on guard, emotionally withdrawn—in short, I was often too busy protecting myself from pain to let anyone in to love me, either. I had a lot of issues with going numb, shutting down, just going through the motions of life, only remembering what I needed to remember to function and survive at the time. It left most of my childhood a huge blank today with few memories retained. I fled into books and story worlds, both those others wrote and stuff I wrote—and I can remember the paracosms I created fairly well with a little effort.

As implied by the second stanza, to my surprise, God managed to reach me, to connect with a locked-up heart, teach me to trust the Lord and let in my Father God’s spirit, and submit to the long, slow, painful healing process. It began with an awareness of the dangers of my state and a desire for healing and freedom.

As a young, emotionally abused teenager, I imagined what I needed for my heart to heal and for me to come out of my shell was the love of the right boy. I also wanted my first serious boyfriend to be the man I married and to marry the one God meant for me to marry. God only gave me the second. When I met my husband, Adam, in college, I was no longer hoping God would send me a mortal man to rescue me as the Church’s Bridegroom was the great love of my life healing, teaching, and spiritually growing me, and helping me connect with others. I still have issues but I’m far better than I used to be.

you had mineI’d forgotten all about this poem when, for our anniversary one year, Adam got me a cutesy card with a heart on it and an attached key meant to go on a charm bracelet. The words inside read, “you’ve had mine from the start.”

Nonetheless, my heart seized, though consciously I was more thinking “aw” at the intended meaning that I had the key to Adam’s heart in a romantic way.

Yet a young woman with a heart on fire for Jesus tore that key off the card and placed it on the cross necklace I’ve worn regularly ever since I received it as a gift from Adam back when we were engaged. In fact, I pried apart the loop that connects the cross to the chain (shoelace really) and added the key to the cross charm.

The jewelry that I wear around my neck, personally, has powerful symbolic meaning to me; what I wear over my heart is a testimony to—and a personal reminder—of what is supreme in my heart. God’s even convicted me for having added to the chain an angel charm that I’d dedicated to the children I’ve lost before they ever got to be more than a dream in my heart. (Note: my ‘angel babies’ aren’t literally angels.) God let that go for years; only when I was ready to surrender them to God was I asked to put that one away.

God had previously talked to me about idolizing my husband and dealt with that heart issue without the key charm ever being mentioned. When I got on a roll and went to remove everything I’d hung beside the cross, and saw how I’d even chained the key physically to the cross, I actually felt convicted to leave it and God began showing me what it really was meant to represent.

The answer to the prayer of the young girl I’d been. God owns my heart, so the key to my heart was God’s from the start. God thus had the key, and God had returned it to me as I’d so earnestly prayed. The symbolic one coming to me via my husband is gently humorous as when I wrote that I’d still been foolishly imaging a husband could ever do more than hand me powerful symbols that remind me of inward, unseen realities and be a vessel of God’s grace.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]God remembers what we’ve forgotten. He will restore the years the locusts have eaten. (See Joel 2:25-27)[/tweetthis]

I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.
“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
–Joel 2:25-27

Judging Righteous Judgment

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purpleheart
“If you feel someone is judging you, feel free to judge them back and punish them until your wrath has been fully satisfied.” These words do not appear anywhere in the Bible. Yet how often do we, God’s people, behave like God said that? Who among us has never responded tit for perceived tat? We may do this based on assumptions founded on past experience or based on how we felt in response to something someone said.

To begin with, the past isn’t a reliable predictor of the present and future, and the hurt we feel in response to someone’s words isn’t an innately reliable indicator of whether the person intended any judgment. Our flesh’s pain and fear responses are ways of warning us of danger, but let’s remember our flesh’s warning system is broken. Galatians 5:17 (ESV) puts it, “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” So let’s practice resisting our flesh in how we respond.

Especially if we’ve been abused, there’s a risk our negative feelings reflect our own self-condemnation. If we stew, thinking how dare they judge us, we are vulnerable to the trap of transferring onto someone else our heart’s self-condemnation. When that happens, we commit the hypocritical kind of judgment that Christ forbid. What I mean by that is, we’re judging them as judging us, judging them for it, and we feel entitled to judge them because we’ve judged them as judging.

Such circular reasoning is illogical and dangerous for our soul. However, I’ve known people who quote Mathew 7:1 out of the biblical context. Sometimes I wonder if some folks consciously think Mathew 7:1-5 justifies them in going off on anyone who admits to trusting God’s judgment when the Bible says God has judged X behavior that they admit to doing to be a sin.

Why would God say “don’t judge” the way the world says “don’t judge”? God does reserve for God alone the right to judge what is right and what is wrong. However, in the dominant culture today, people “don’t judge” because people have assumed God’s right: “You judge what’s right for you, and I’ll judge what’s right for me, and we’d better leave each other alone ‘cuz it’s Mutually Assured Destruction if we don’t.” That is the world’s way, brothers and sisters, not Christ’s.

If we’re still not sure the Bible doesn’t sanction us for judging someone if you feel judged by them, such behavior also violates the law of love, turn the other cheek, forsake wrath, answer softly, forgive one another, be respectful to one another, etc, etc.

To make the irony of the world’s abuse of Mathew 7:1 complete, the Lord was not saying to ignore God’s judgment of behavior that someone admits to. 1 Cor. 5: 12 does say, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” Let’s leave unbelievers alone unless they ask, a situation arises where we feel a need to explain why we can’t join them in sin, or we feel a strong urging to warn them that we are certain is from God.

However, most of 1 Cor:5 consists of Apostle Paul rebuking a “non-judgmental, loving” church for boasting about not disciplining a brother for unrepentantly engaging in sexual sin. The citizens of the Kingdom of God don’t get to follow God when we feel like it and do things the world’s way when we don’t feel like it. We need to choose. Are we going to follow Christ or not?

Don’t get me wrong. Making that decision doesn’t mean we won’t ever be weak, loose our footing, and stumble into the ways of our flesh. It doesn’t mean we won’t have blind spots or that we will always win our battles with sin. We are saved by grace, through faith in Christ’s full atonement on the cross, not by works, not by our obedience. God wants us to obey God out of sheer gratitude, trust, and love, not out of the fear of Hell. We all fail; We all give in to sin, we all fail to see the true nature of what we’re doing and how it breaks God’s heart. Thank God for grace.

All I’m saying it is dangerous to walk in sin because we’ve flat out ignored God’s judgement. That is self-idolatry. We set ourselves up as our own god when we judge what God’s word says is wrong as right for us. That robs us of a close relationship with God, it hinders us from operating in our spiritual gifts, and it stifles our spiritual fruits. It makes us vulnerable to the enemy influencing us by phone: getting us thinking down is up and that up is down, provoking us to hate Christians who haven’t also been taken captive by the enemy, and using us against the God we love and against God’s people.

I am not writing to this to condemn anyone. The goal is to open our blind eyes so we’ll seek deliverance from bondage. While I hope I never fall as far into self-idolatry as I’ve just described, I’ve struggled to some extent with such tendencies as we all do.

When we see others in the grip of what I’ve warned us about, let’s remember we too struggle with self-idolatry and deal with us first, then we may see clearly to offer our brother help.

Lord, help us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Give us supernatural power to react to verbal abuse not in the flesh’s wrath but to respond in a loving, kind respectful tone as we explain calmly how their words hurt and why they offended. When our hearts condemn us, help us to remember the words of 1 John 3:19-24

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

[tweetthis]#Jesusneversaid “If you feel someone is judging you, feel free to judge them back.”[/tweetthis]

“Haters Gonna Hate” or “Seek First the Kingdom”

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Dear Andrea,

Some fellow Christians I know and love have said critical things about Christians having their own “Christianese” language, their own books and movies,  their own methods for finding a spouse, etc. They accuse fellow believers who try to live according to the Word and defy the ways of our secular culture of living in a bubble and can be so harsh and condemning. It is hurtful and confusing when Christians say such things. What should I do?

Yours,

Gentle Reader

Dear Gentle Reader,

Christians having their own Christian culture isn’t wrong. In fact, the Bible says we are a holy nation, citizens of spiritual Israel, and we should live like it. We are called to forsake the culture of the Children of Darkness and walk as Children of the Light. The Word warns us also that the Children of Darkness sometimes falsely claim to be Christians. You can spot such wolves in sheep’s clothing and their disciples by the fact they call themselves  our brothers but openly hate us, lack the fruits of the Spirit, and walk in darkness, that is, they wallow in indisputable, textbook sins without any twinge of conscience.

Wolves in sheep’s clothing have blasphemed the Holy Ghost in their hearts and put themselves beyond redemption.  Don’t regard your friends as that sort unless you’ve heard them blaspheme the Holy Spirit with their own lips  and/or have discerned Holy Spirit confirming it as such souls are beyond help and are abusive to the citizens of Heaven. Once God exposes a wolf, maintain minimum safety clearances unless God personally directs you otherwise.

The Bible tells us to remove known wolves from the local church so they don’t poison the whole body, but we must leave them alone otherwise. Our brothers who’ve been taken captive by the enemy may look a lot like them, and we don’t want to mistakenly shoot our own brainwashed POWs.

So assume they’re POWs being brainwashed into attacking their own country and pray for them to have their eyes opened and their hearts convicted that they should be Citizens of Heaven first and allow the Holy Spirit to both reveal to them and assimilate them into the culture of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Now, there are three basic problems with Christians and Culture:

1) We remain so separate from the mainstream cultures of the various nations our people have dual citizenship in, we have no contact with outsiders.

This is the problem the enemy gets the above POWs focused on. He distorts it in an attempt to keep them from allowing God to fully assimilate them into the Kingdom of Heaven, a tactic that renders the victim ineffective at best.

2) We’re so assimilated into the mainstream cultures of the nations of our earthly citizenship, those who don’t have dual citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven can’t tell that we do.

All Christians who weren’t raised by parents already fairly assimilated in the Kingdom of Heaven suffer this problem at their rebirth. Even Christians raised in the Kingdom from their physical birth who remain in it have their blind spots where they’re not really in line with Kingdom ways, but think they are. None of us are off the hook here, in terms of the lesser degrees of this extreme. If we’re prone to problem 1), Satan attempts to distract us by tempting us to focus on this one. I’m afraid I have direct personal experience with that.

3) We treat outsiders like they should of course be in the know on Christians’ language, traditions, values, beliefs, and expect them to know and adhere to the rules of a Kingdom they haven’t been born into.

This is another problem Satan wants us to focus on, but he doesn’t mind if we’re guilty of it in our own way, so long as we only take issue with others’ ways of messing up here. His end goal is to get us to accept the deceitful “solutions” he offers us that again at best will neutralize us as a threat to him.

The truth is, when a non-Christian steps into a Christian’s space, they should feel like they’ve crossed over an international border and entered a foreign country, as they sort of have. The Kingdom of Heaven is wherever its citizens abide. However, we should always be kind and respectful to strangers and help them navigate our peculiar, foreign land as best as we know how.  To convince them to become citizens of Heaven and embrace life in our culture, they need to feel welcomed, but they also need to see a clear difference between our way and the way they’ve already got and be shown, through our testimonies of what God has done for us, proof that God’s way works where theirs doesn’t.

Our concepts of love and right and wrong are extremely different from our enemies’ concepts,  though, and some Children of Darkness are hardened past the point of redemption. No matter what we do, “Haters  gonna hate ” if we’re seeking first the Kingdom of God that we’re naturalized citizens of. So let us learn to rejoice and be glad when we suffer for the Kingdom’s sake, for God will reward us  greatly, and restore to us in full everything we lost for Christ’s sake.

Have We Downsized God?

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“[The Son] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” — Hebrews 1:3

The son is the light that radiates from God, but God With Us is as identical to the Father as the impression left by a footprint matches the foot or as the finger print matches the finger and its unique grooves. We can trust Jesus to represent the Father perfectly.

So often this world may seem chaotic and broken, spinning out of control. Yet scripture tells us that Christ, the word made flesh himself, is the one supporting the universe, holding it up with the power in his words, a tireless, ceaseless effort if ever there was one.

Yet the God who is with us via the Holy Spirit and the God who is holding the whole universe together on High is also outside of creation, both Father and Son, and seated beside Himself as his own “right hand man”  and served as his own High Priest, making the sacrificial atonement and interceding with himself for his people.

Such wonders of the omnipresent one! What limited mind can fully fathom the infinite God? Any god small enough for us to fully understand within the limits of human reason is too small to be truly God at all. Today, scripture provides us the only valid, trustworthy window into the character and nature of God, but we still see through its glass darkly.

We often become focused on the problem we least are inclined to, my brothers and sisters. If you’re reading this and nodding, you may have more problems with an emotion-based, unreasoning, unthinking faith than with one that applies logic and reason to the scriptures in a way that defines an infinite God according to what is logical and rational in his finite creation, which inevitably will box him in and make your image of God too small to be truly the Lord.

However, you should prayerfully examine yourself if you feel threatened by this and want to object either with a direct attack or by pointing fingers back at the warm-fuzzy, feelings-only church goers who don’t know the Bible well enough to discern whether a popular sound byte is actually sound doctrine.  That error doesn’t excuse the opposite error of being so puffed up with “knowledge,” we unwittingly fall into idolatry ourselves.

Those of us subject to that weakness  typically feel a need to define logically anything and everything so that we fully understand it and it makes rational sense to us. This gives us a sense of security that is really rooted in a desire for control, hence why it can become dangerous when we turn loose on God our particular pet means of analysis. Trusting the Lord and leaning on our own understanding are ages-old sworn enemies.

Lord, am I serving the infinite God and trusting you even if I don’t always understand all your apparent paradoxes, from my finite vantage point, or have I made a smaller idol in your image and likeness, that I can fully comprehend and honestly think is “drawn to scale”? Give me grace to embrace the truly mysterious, courage to intelligently and scripturally seek the answers that can be known from our finite vantage point, and wisdom to discern which is which. Strengthen me to today to cast down any such idols I have erected. Remove the blinders and my need to control, and enable me to trust you when I hear your voice, even if I do not understand your Word. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.