Archive for the 'New Life in Christ' Category



Love is Patient

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Last week while writing in my journal, it occurred to me — what with all hearts and red ink I was using to decorate its pages and with Valentine’s Day imminent —  that it might be a good time to focus on “love” for a few days.

I started out asking, “What is love, really?” And was nudged to start with the traditional “love passage” in 1 Corinthians 13.

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant.”  1 Corinthians 13:4

Only one verse and already five characteristics.

My first thought about them was that since God is love, all these characteristics  describe Him. He is patient, kind, never jealous (what a concept!), and is not arrogant. On the bragging… well, maybe… but then He’s God, so it’s not really bragging, just a statement of fact.

Moreover, “we love because He first loved us.” 1 Jn 4:19

The first and most obvious interpretation of “first loved us” is that He set aside the privileges and independent use of His deity to take on the form of a man and live among us entirely without sin, ultimately going to the cross as a substitute for us all, the perfect sacrificial lamb on our behalf so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jn 3:16b

But how about looking at it another way? How about considering the fact that these qualities of love are being directed toward us byGod Himself?

He is patient toward us who have believed in Him. He knows my frame, knows how very weak I am, knows my circumstances in every detail. He knows how stupid I am, how headstrong, how very often I blow it. And yet… every day, He’s still here, still with me, still loving me, still providing for me, blessing me, gracing me out, ever day. The same is true for you, as well, if you have believed in His son.

I have always approached this love chapter in terms of me finding out how to love other people, and trying to be patient, kind, etc. with them as a way of doing that.  But that makes it mostly about me, trying to be loving.

What if, instead, we start with God again? We love Him, because He first loved us, yes, but we have to know that He loved us. Key to loving Him then, is knowing Him.

Knowing He is always right, and never lies, that He is all powerful and loves me beyond my ability to comprehend, that He has a perfect plan for me, that He always does what is best and gave His son for me when I was still His enemy, and that my times, my days, are in His hands, and knowing all that… well, how can I not love Him?

Knowing that He has promised never to forsake me, to work all things in my life for good, that nothing in it is an accident, nor out of His control, nor even out of His mind. Out of His mind in that He wasn’t paying attention or didn’t realize that  would happen; no, He not only realized it would happen, but also everything else that could have happened and chose that particular event as the best possible thing to happen at that time in my life). And provided for that happening in every regard as would be consistent with His overall plan

So knowing all that, how can I be impatient with things that happen in my life? His timing in all things is perfect. That traffic light that delays me might be there to keep me out of an accident at the next intersection. Or it might just be training me to relax over the small things in life, because He’s got the big ones covered so why do I have to hurry and rush about all the time?

Jesus was never in a hurry.  Why should I be?

Knowing that He loves all men and gave His son to die for them, and that He especially loves His children, those who have believed in Christ, those who have been declared perfectly righteous in His sight forever at the moment of salvation… that knowledge changes one’s perspective, too. He knows exactly what’s going on in their lives, just as he does in mine — all their failings and faults and faux pas… just as he knows mine. And he’s allowed theirs just as He allows mine. Yes, it grieves Him when they go off on their own, “following a plan but not His.” It grieves Him when I do the same.

And for me to say of another, “Oh that’s AWFUL! How could they do such a thing?!” is certainly NOT love. We think the part of us that says/thinks those things is good. It’s not. In fact, it’s the part of us that Jesus went to the cross for.

He’s patient with them and with me. How can I not also be? Patient with God as He opens and closes doors in my life, even when He holds them closed for what I consider to be a long time. Patient with others when they do not act as I think they ought. Patient with loved ones, friends, neighbors, patient with Quigley, with people in traffic… I am not the queen in charge of all, to whom everyone must defer, after all.

I think one way of looking at patience is of being at rest. Not having to make snap judgments or give quick, off the cuff responses, but taking a breath and giving a slow, considered answer (or maybe none at all), willing to wait in whatever circumstance without agitation or expectation, knowing God is there and has His hand on it all.

It’s interesting how the five qualities mentioned above go together, interlock with one another. In loving God because of who He is, you slow down, you stop demanding, enter His rest and are “patient.” When you are patient with people or self, you are also kinder to both. When you are patient with God’s timing in providing blessing, knowing that timing is the best, you are less inclined to jealousy. When you are patient with people, knowing none of us is perfect, all of us are fallen and struggling because of it, and the only good thing in any of us is courtesy of the grace of God, then you are not so likely to brag, or be arrogant…

And the more you have your eyes on God, the more, you will manifest His love because… how can you not?  We love Him because He first loved us, but we also love Him because we have come to know Him through His word.

Take My Yoke Upon You

A yoke of Oxen
Photo by Yann from Wikimedia Commons

“Come unto Me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my load is light.”  ~ Mt 11:29

The theme of last week’s Oregon conference was slavery — our enslavement to the flesh and the world; our Lord’s becoming a slave to die for our sins so we may be reconciled to God; and our slavery to Him once we believe in Him and receive Eternal Life.  He’s bought us by paying a very dear price. He owns us; He is our new master (and a far better one that our former master, the flesh)

In the course of the teachings Pastor Farley brought up the yoke and this verse and pointed out that a yoke involves two oxen. When we take our Lord’s yoke upon ourselves, we are then yoked to Him.

I’d never thought of this verse in that way. I always thought of Him giving me a yoke and me pulling alone, while He held the plow or sat on the wagon with the reins.

But a yoke has two slots and is for two pullers.

So when we’re yoked to Him, we get to walk alongside Him, protected, guided, comforted, and most important, He does all the work, because He is strong and we are weak. That’s why it says his yoke is easy and his load light.

If only we would just believe that and live in it.

Just Ask For What You Need

One of the prevailing messages the Lord seems to be giving me of late is, again, to come to Him and ask, to let Him do the things He’s called me to do.  In everything, but particularly the writing.

A week or so ago I listened to a message Pastor John taught last year, wherein his words so closely echoed what I’ve been dealing with this year, that I stopped the tape and wrote it all down.

He said,

“I still get in these situations where I’m a little intimidated (Me: YES!!!! intimidated by the book I’m attempting to write.”  “I know there’s something I need to be doing with these people (the characters in my book!) but I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what I should say.  (EXACTLY what I had been moaning about and experiencing regarding the book) 

He went on to describe himself as someone who when there’s too many people around, tends to get overwhelmed, thinking he has to deal with everyone.  In my case, there’s too many characters, too many possible threads, motivations, scenes, conflicts… too many possibilities. It’s a good thing to have a lot of possibilities — it makes your work richer. But it can be completely overwhelming and intimidating.  Thus I could relate completely to what he was saying.

It happens to Pastor John all the time. And then he realizes:

“You know what? I don’t have to come up with a great creative solution here! All I gotta do is go to my Lord, my Father and say, “Hey. You know what I want and you know what you want. Now you just gotta put the light bulb on. And He does!”

Well, I was completely blown away when he said that. It was so targeted to my situation, so completely apropos and yet… I hadn’t been doing that.  I thought I had to figure it out.

So what was the next thing he said?

“I can’t tell you how long it was where I thought it was up to me, ultimately. Me figuring it out, putting all the energy into it and … fail, fail, fail. And I was miserable, walking around with a guilt complex, feeling inadequate, horrible.

“But the fact is, God the Holy Spirit is the one who’s behind this. This variety of gifts, this idea that this is something where you can relax and understand that Ephesians 2:10 says He’s already ordained the things for you to walk in. All you gotta do is show up with a heart that’s wanting to serve with the bible doctrine that’s already in your soul and walk. And walking isn’t hard. No one gets a prize because today I walked…

“No, it’s God who’s doing the heavy lifting here. Just say, “Yes!” and put one foot in front of the other. Be positive, go in the right direction, show up and have a desire and God will take care of the rest.”

And in today’s message, he brought all that around again. We’re to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, to abide in Him as He abides in us. We — I — can do nothing apart from Him. If I abide in Him and His words abide in me, I am told to ask whatever I wish and it will be done for me. And by this is My Father glorified.

Me abiding in the Vine and His words — His truth — abiding in me and then I ASK Him for what I need. This is pretty much the whole point, the whole deal.  That I come to understand more and more about grace — which is God’s unlimited capacity and desire to bless me — and the truth of who He is and then ask Him for whatever I need.

Like what do I do in the next scene? How am I going to get out of this corner I just wrote myself into? All the details that so intimidate, me, ask Him to show me. And I’m thinking that it’s important to be specific, rather than general…

So that’s what I’m hoping to do tomorrow. And I think I’ll just ask Him now to help me to remember that.

God’s Power Appears out of Our Weakness

In light of yesterday’s post about driving myself crazy with all the things I’ve found to do in my recent junket around Internet Marketing Land, I’d like to note some of the things that have been said by my pastor in Bible Class during the same time period. He’s in Florida. I’m in Arizona, and he doesn’t know about any of this.

So it’s been clear to me Who exactly is talking. God the Holy Spirit.

Here are some quotes from Pastor Farley’s messages:

“The thinking that originates from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is an attack to get us away from the life of God and into a system where we turn from Him and it’s all up to us to discern between good and evil and make ourselves good.

“We want do’s and don’ts so we can just follow the rules. That IS the knowledge of good and evil.

I saw at once he was right.  In the six days of the restoration of the Earth, God looked at everything and kept saying it was good, good, very good. Adam was in the middle of this place of goodness. So what would he need the Knowledge of Good for? It was all around him. God walked with him in the garden daily and he knew God. Clearly this Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not what I always thought it was.

Just looking at the title and actually thinking about it also helped to clarify things:   it’s that function or capacity of creature tos think we have the capacity to figure out what’s good and what’s evil, when really we’re incapable of that. Incapable even before Adam fell, much more incapable now.

Even so we think we can do it. Just give me some rules and I’ll do the rest.  I like that idea. It’s comfortable and safe to have rules. You know what you’re going to do (you think) and how it’s going to go, you’ve got everything figured out so it’ll fit into the time and you’ll do good, whatever the category of “good” is. Could be a good job, a good party, a good word, or a good deed. The world says this is a good thing. Your flesh says it’s good, too.

I’ve found it’s very hard to really turn your back on this idea and live by faith. Until God starts making a point with you and it seems no matter what you do or plan, it almost never goes “right.” Worst is when you make the plan and then, for one reason or another,  fail yourself  to carry out your own plan, after which you beat yourself up because you didn’t do “right.”

Pastor Farley continued:

“The idea of this and trying to live a life this way is impossible. Realize you are a sinner, hopeless and helpless and call on Him.  Life isn’t about me trying to work things out according to good and evil.

In the past I’ve always taken this good and evil thing to mean moral issues or spiritual issues (like demon type spiritual issues) but suddenly I realized it had application to every day issues.

Like all these things I’ve been told I have to do if I want to succeed in the writing world. Things that make sense to do, but that I haven’t had time to do.  How can I figure out which of them is good and which is not? Which I should do and which I shouldn’t. How I can make my schedule work (good) so that it can fit everything in that seems good to do? I don’t want to make a mistake (evil)  and do the wrong thing so that I fail to fit everything in…

“Understand that God gives us one day at a time to live and we should live it for all it’s worth. Rather than focus on what I think we too much do focus on — that old tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil — we should focus on the fact that the Holy Spirit living inside us wants us to live a mystery form of the Tree of Life.

“And yet sometimes we live our lives like we’re still the old man — all caught up in what’s good and what’s evil [about the people and situations in our lives — who’s right and who’s wrong] when in reality the Lord’s calling us through the Holy Spirit to a life of freedom. We should get up every day and orient to His resurrection and live that life He’s called us to.

“And YOU CANT DO BOTH!!

That is, you can’t live the life of freedom at the same time as you’re always trying to figure out what’s the right thing and the wrong thing, and having all these rules you think you have to follow to be happy.

That statement hit me hard. Talk about double-minded! I’d been experiencing it. Should I do all these things… start the Facebook page, work on my website, improve my titling?  Maybe if I set up a schedule and this time really stick to it, maybe I could get it all done… If I just had more discipline… if I just…

“Wake up!  These situations where you complain and murmur, feel bad about yourself, and are frustrated… That is ALWAYS where God’s power goes to work. You gotta stop fussing and fuming and thinking how you’re gonna do this better, get a better plan, a better planner, one that will finally get all my things together so you’ll be very efficient and able to call more people and do more things and finally your life will be good… No!

STOP THAT!

Stop it and just say, “Okay. Paul says, ‘I will rather boast in my weakness so the glory of Christ might be revealed…’ so the next time one of those things hits like, ‘Ah, I should’ve done this, I should’ve done that…’ STOP! And say, “Pfft. I’m frail. And this is a great opportunity to say, “Watch the power of God at work!”

And all the foibles of the old man getting the better of us — God doesn’t condemn us in that, He just wants us to start to see it. I’m supposed to get to these places where I don’t have what it takes. Supposed to. Because God’s power is made manifest in my weakness.

So. I’ve returned to the conclusion that I am not going to drive myself crazy trying to figure everything out and all that. I’m using the Pomodoro technique generally. But if the words start to flow and the timer goes off — too bad. Word flow always takes precedence over a timer. I can go take a break when the flow stops.

Which is what I intend to do right now, seeing as that is exactly what’s happened. 🙂

An Acorn Becomes an Oak

Photo by by MunstiSue

Pastor Farley has been using the metaphor of an acorn becoming an oak as an illustration of our spiritual growth in many of our recent lessons… particularly to show that it’s painful and confusing. The acorn has to be buried in the ground, and then it swells until its hard shell cracks and splits, and pretty soon roots are coming out. And the acorn’s going, “Roots? What are these? I’ve never done roots before.”

And after a while maybe it says “Okay, I get it, I’m gonna be here underground with my roots and this dirt and I’m okay with that, I’m getting the hang of it, here.” And then suddenly there’s a stalk and its pushing upward and there’s pressure and leaves flying about and just one thing after another, and pressure here, and no pressure there and wind and light and rain… If all you are is a little acorn, it’s pretty dramatic. All of it is something it never had or was before.

And so it is with us as we grow into the new life Christ has given us. It’s really not at all like the old life and the old ways of thinking… particularly this Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil thing — The more I think about it, the more profound this teaching seems to be become. The Tree of Life, which is the thinking that goes with New Life in Christ is really absolutely foreign to anything we ever thought before, anything the world thinks, and even to the parts that feel so good and right… but aren’t.

Anyway, I love the acorn metaphor , so when Pastor Farley mentioned that CBS has a photographer that did a video of time-lapse photographs showing this very process I had to go and find it.

Pretty cool!  Here it is:

Focus on the Promises

I’ve been writing about my attempts to get my head around the notion that the problems I’m having with writing Sky — ie, actually getting myself to go into the office and attend to the book as opposed to any number of other things that are available to do — do not call for me to seek to discipline myself better, but to turn the problem over to the Lord who lives in me and has promised to do the work. Both the work of my calling to write this book, and also the work of conforming me to His image.

The past two posts have been an exploration of thoughts leading up to the ideas in this one, which is an excerpt from a journal entry from last week (this blog is subtitled as my “writing diary,” after all, so I can’t feel too out-of-bounds when I insert sections of my actual diary… 🙂  )

These first two are quotes I selected from Pastor John’s message from Sunday Feb 19, 2012:

“Abraham teaches us there’ll be many tests of our faith. He continued to get up after every defeat (and there were many) and have faith in the Lord who called him….

“There’ll be many times when our faith will come under evaluation. When that happens, it’s really the doctrine we already learned/believed that gets tested.”

So when he says turn it over to Christ and trust Him to do what He says, that means the word and the promises and principles I’m to be believing. Do I really believe He is at work in me? Do I really believe He’ll get the book done through me without my help?

I think that’s the issue for me. Can I believe He will do it — is able to do it — without my schemes and self-condemnation and ‘How can I do it better?’ and ‘I will do better…’ No. See, I do believe He can handle situations over which I have no control. But making myself get down to work — isn’t that my responsibility? Well, how can it be if I’m dead (crucified in Christ) and Christ lives in me? That makes it His responsiblity. So then instead of focusing on me, and what I’m doing or not doing, or hope to be doing, I should be focusing on Him. His character, His work, His purpose, His promises.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all-sufficiency in everything you may have an abundance for every good deed,.” ~2 Co 9:8

“Faithful is He who calls you and HE will bring it to pass.” ~ I Th 5:24

Even in just writing these two verses I realize if I concentrated on them (rather than self or distractions) why would I want to avoid going to work on the book and seeing Him work?

“For the Lord GOD helps me, therefore I am not disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint. And I know that I will not be ashamed.” ~ Is 50:7

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance, and he went out NOT KNOWING WHERE HE WAS GOING [!!!]” ~Heb 11:8

Abraham had to get up and go out. But the focus wasn’t to be on what he was going to do, where he was going, but just one step at a time, trusting God to guide his steps.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” ~Ps 119:105

When that last verse was written, they didn’t have very good lamps: candles, torches, oil lamps. And if you’re carrying any of those as you stand in the darkness, you wouldn’t be able to see very far. But as you walk forward, more is revealed. If you stand still you will never see beyond the present circle of light. No matter how you strain, you must MOVE to see more. So you take a step… into the office, up to the desk. The focus is not to be on the book, or on my lack of ability, or the blankness I have about it but on what I know and believe about HIM. That he’s given me a gift and a calling and a contract for a specific book and promised not just to help but to do it. Why am I afraid? That makes no sense.

Am I more occupied with the Giver or the Gift? The book or the Lord who is giving me the book? Myself and my lack of ability or the Lord who has given and will continue to give me the ability?

Faith is hearing the word and keeping it. Then realizing that we turn more and more of our lives over to Jesus Christ. “I live by faith in the Son of God” (who is the Word of God) and that will be tested. And when it is, and you keep on believing, God reveals Himself to you.

Like how He comes through, no matter what the difficulty every time.

So now in writing this book, He’s right inside me, probably trapping His foot waiting for me to believe Him when He says those things — ie, He will do it, I will NOT be ashamed. I have to go into that office, get in fellowship, trust Him to guide me and show me and get to work. If that is only a nonstop or go over stuff I did before or the notes, let Him guide me.

And that will be tested. Sometimes I’ll have to wait. But wait believing. Wait expecting.

“Unbelief looks at the thing in God’s hand and says, “I wish I had that.”  Belief looks and says, “God has promised me that — I WILL have it.”  ~ Pastor John Farley, paraphrasing Dwight L. Moody,

The Long Slow Learning Curve

If it seems I’ve been doing a number of posts lately that are somewhat repetitive… it’s true. I have. When the realization first began to dawn on me, I started to fret, especially when I would ask myself what I was going to post on in a given day and here came the same subject AGAIN. So I stopped asking myself, and asked the Lord. And still, my mind returned to the same subject.

Okay. Hard to get away from that. He reminded me that repetition is essential for learning. We do it in Bible class all the time. Some people don’t like that. Maybe a lot of people, since humans as a group tend to always want something new and exciting. When the same old thing shows up, sometimes — often times? — we shut down and pay no attention unless we have to. As in military exercises, for example, where if you don’t pay attention you mis-assemble your weapon, drop the pieces on the floor,  or walk the wrong way in marching drills and snarl up everything. With pride is on the line, the flesh is always eager to do what’s needed to protect it. Even pay attention to something it considers old and dull.

I think that may be one reason God sends various trials, frustrations, difficulties and conundrums into our lives — to keep us paying attention to things we can only learn through repetition. More than that, difficulties may keep us paying attention to things we think we understand until we finally realize we don’t.

Many of the posts I’m talking about have been drawn from my recent journal entries, and I have continued to press on with posting them because I believe they record this process of cycling back over something repeatedly, and in so doing, gaining a clearer understanding of things. Indeed, each time I cycle back it seems I get something new.

So I’m hoping that these entries illustrate this most common way we learn… and the most common way God changes us. Not usually through sudden black and white epiphanies that turn us dramatically in a new direction (though occasionally those do happen), but incrementally, the changes happening so slowly we may not even notice.

I’ve had that feeling about this whole subject of what it means to trust the Lord in everything, to turn more and more areas of my life over to Him. I think in the past I’ve thought that I had already turned my life over to Him. But now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. In the past I tended to turn only the big things over — like a health issue, or concern for someone’s safety, or whether the book would be published, and after that whether it would sell, and after that whether readers would buy it and after that whether enough people would buy it to keep it alive enough in the market so that publishers would want my next book…

I turned over the matters of quality of story and meeting the deadline — and He came through, though on my last book, The Enclave, perhaps not in the way I had expected — ie, on my and the publisher’s timeline — nor in other areas either. Still, I know I was supposed to have written it and despite its having been pushed back into the shadows, it’s a book I like and am happy with.

But somehow what’s happening with Sky is different. All the fire and hunger and drive I had while writing previous books seems to have faded. I feel like I’m a different person. I feel like God has taken away all my former means of motivation: the desperate drive for success and approval, the fear of not achieving what I desire, or of losing what I’ve been given, guilt for not getting the work done in the time and manner I’ve decided it should be, for not fulfilling my duty to do what the world says I should when it comes to writing.

At the moment, I’ve been so mired in the early chapters, for so long, with so many life events disrupting concentration and draining energy, I’ve lost touch with the scenes that would normally pull me through the book. I have only the broadest of outlines as to what’s going to happen, and a plethora of possibilities.

All of which leaves me with nothing to rely on but Him to move me through it. And hence I’ve come back to the matter of self-discipline, and if it’s not to be that, then how do I really, practically, detail by detail turn this all over to Him, without falling into the “let go and let God” approach where I more or less drift along?  If I just relax and decide to give it to Him, how so I know He’s leading me, rather than my own lusts and desires? Shouldn’t I at least be trying to exercise self-discipline? Isn’t that only reasonable?

I think the answer’s in the middle, but I still haven’t really figured out how it looks in my particular life. Which is the essence of this long cycle of learning that I’ve been going through and setting down in various posts here on my blog.

Because more and more I’m thinking that maybe all I need to do is just stop thinking about me and my self-discipline and focus on the fact that He’s promised to do it, promised to make all grace abound to me so I’ve have sufficiency in everything and an abundance for every good work… and then just trust Him to do it.

Yes, I’m pretty sure I’ve said that already. But I’m a stupid sheep. I need to hear it again. Write it again. Focus on it again… Daily. Maybe hourly.

Update: I wrote and titled this post this morning, and did most of my editing on it then. This evening, when I turned on Bible Class, live from Deerfield Beach, Florida, Pastor John announced that tonight’s class was titled, Abraham Teaches us the Importance of Time for Personal Growth.”  How cool is that?


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