Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Useless Weapons

I've been thinking a lot lately about the value people put on appearances. More to my point, I've been thinking a lot about the things people are willing to do to get what they want. Identity is important. Status...not so much. It's especially upsetting to me when it comes to believers. We're all sinners and every one of us has a sinful heart that wants to be selfish. But it seems that there are some who are more intentional about their disobedience. When it's not just a bad habit, but a strategy. 
Human beings have always used little tricks and gimmicks to get what they want. How about intimidation? Temper and abuse are effective tools for sending others scurrying out of one's way. On the other side of the spectrum is charm. It may be bogus, duplicitous, conditional, and totally insincere, but it achieves a dual payoff: getting one's way and stroking one's ego. The manipulations are probably endless. Whining, bribing, guilt-tripping, snubbing, flattering, and belittling. We humans have found ways of avoiding discomfort and accountability.
Like I said, there are payoffs to these acts of selfishness and dishonesty. But there is a huge downside. While it feels good in the moment, ill-gotten victories are cheap and temporary. But much, much graver, these tricks do not work on God.
A prominent atheist was once asked what he would do if he found himself face-to-face with the Creator he so vehemently denied. He said that he would ask Him, "Why did you take such pains to hide yourself?"
I  promise you that when he passed away in 1970, he met God and yet did not ask that question. All of our favorite little weapons that have been so effective in manipulating our brothers and sisters? We won't even think of trying them on God. Though I honestly believe that there are people who have this plan. 
God will not be intimidated by your anger. He will not cower at your temper. He will not wink at your sin because you're just so gosh-darn cute. He will not rush to soothe your whining or be abashed at your scolding. You will not out-think, out-talk, interrupt, or confuse Him. Neither will I. We won't even consider it when we stand before Him and His indescribable holiness and glory. Remember when Moses questioned God? Job? To put it mildly, they did not come out the victors of those conversations. Frankly, I think I would faint with terror if God said to me "Brace yourself like a man;I will question you, and you shall answer me." 
Remember that part near the middle of "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" when the four children are making plans with The Beavers? Edmond, having already been deceived and poisoned by the White Witch, asked a question. 

   "She won't turn him into stone, too?" said Edmond.
   "Lord love you, Son of Adam, what a simple thing to say!" answered Mr. Beaver with a great laugh. "Turn him into stone? If she can stand on her own two feet and look him in the face it'll be the most she can do and more than I expect of her."

Yes, Jadis had power. She was a witch who made it winter for over 100 years. "Always winter and never Christmas". She turned the beloved Mr. Tumnus, and many others, to stone. She had gained fear, respect, and in some cases even devotion from the Narnians. These temporary victories caused her to greatly overestimate her power. The White Witch (though she knew she was no match for Aslan, that Aslan had no match) still dared to challenge him. She lost. 

We, too, will lose if we dare to think that our ludicrous, petty, human weapons will silence God. We may feel we are a powerful, victorious Queen Jadis, turning people to stone if they get in our way, but don't be deceived. Standing on our own two feet and looking Him in the face is the most we will do and more than I expect of us. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Who Told You That You Were Naked?

Conviction and Condemnation

Last month I was listening to an interview on the radio. James Merritt was talking about his book "52 Weeks With Jesus". The interviewer, Lynne Ford, read an excerpt from his book and I've been thinking about it ever since. You can follow the link to hear the whole interview, but I'll paraphrase the excerpt here.

There was a group of tourists watching a flock of sheep. A man was chasing them where he wanted them to go and one of the people watching asked their guide why the shepherd was chasing the sheep from behind. Don't sheep follow their shepherd?
Yes they do, the guide told them. The person chasing the sheep wasn't the shepherd.
It was the butcher. Jesus leads. It's the devil who chases.

Notice that both motivate. Jesus asks us to go along with Him where He's already gone ahead of us, protecting, preparing, promising. The 23rd Psalm is crammed with practical allegory about the trusting relationship. Sheep trust their shepherd.

Then there's the enemy. He chases us from behind with fear, accusation, and discouragement. We don't move because we trust the devil we move because we fail to trust The Shepherd. We believe the lie just like Adam and Eve did.

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” [see the subtle cynicism here? The ever-so-slight criticism of God? The devil knew what God really said. He wasn't asking a question, he was planting one in Eve's mind]

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

4“You will not certainly die,”[big, fat, filthy, LIE] the serpent said to the woman. 5“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, [very true] and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” [he knows they don't understand the implications of "knowing". He knows that he's implied that God is holding out on them, that He's offered something less than His best. Not directly spoken, but another HUGE lie, nonetheless.]

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. [doesn't it just make your heart sick every time you read it?] She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. [Adam sitting silent is a topic for another day] 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. [They let the enemy chase them to their shame]

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

Okay, so if you've hung in here with me though my little commentary, here's my point:
God is not the one who shames. He is not the one who scorns, or condemns.
The enemy does that.
Though he has nothing anywhere like Our Father's power* he is sneaky and efficient. He mixes up lies and the truth to trip you up. Your enemy will chase you toward sin and then try to make you feel like scum for failing.
If the voice whispering to your spirit is sneering at you in disgust you can bet your favorite hoodie that it's not Your Father, but your enemy.

So here's a practical example for you: You lost your temper and spoke harshly to a friend or family member. You know you hurt them and now you regret your words and your tone.

The enemy: You really messed up. They hate you now and you've done irreparable damage. Things like that are the reason [fill in the blank with an insecurity he's choosing to pick at, adding discouragement to guilt and shame]

The Father: Your words were spoken in anger. You know from My Word that it is not My hope for you to sin in your anger. I want better for my children. You must ask forgiveness of Me and your loved one. In the future, call on Me when you are frustrated. I will use these trials to make you more like Me.

So there's some really good news. You have total access to The One who loves you as if there's no one else to love. James 4;7 says "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
Because of Him you have authority over the enemy of your soul. At the Name of Jesus, he, the accuser,will be the one chased away.

*read: the devil is not God's opposite; God has no opposite. the devil is not God's nemesis, though he's love for us to think it. He's under no such delusion himself, but knows he is defeated and has no power other than what God allows him. Again, that's a topic for another day.