Posts Tagged 'Bible Doctrine'

Judging Well

Criticism, as it was first instituted by Aristotle, was meant as a standard of judging well; the chiefest part of which is to observe those excellencies which delight a reasonable reader
   ~ John Dryden (finest,,)

I really like this quote. I think it meshes well with the command that we, as Christians, are to build each other up rather than tear each other down.  As Eph 4:29 instructs: 

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. “

[John Dryden (9 August 1631 – 1 May 1700) was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden. (From Wikipedia article)]


Does God Speak to Us Personally?

In one of the comments on my recent post Is Self Discipline Overrated?, the author objected to my contention that as believers in the church age we can “hear” God’s voice in our heads. His position was that God does not speak to us personally and directly, but communicates solely through our recall of His word as we have learned it from our pastor.

This may be a matter of semantics in describing the same function, because I do think that the Holy Spirit uses the doctrine we have learned to guide us. But I also think that He can communicate with us specifically about matters unique to our day-to-day lives. This is not to say you can ignore the word of God and fly off based on voices in your head, (I’m not even sure I’d call it a voice; more like a timely thought.) but when you have been consistent with Bible class and are faced with a situation where there are two opposing doctrines that can be applied, you have to go to Him for guidance. Which one do I apply? And He brings the appropriate, already learned doctrines and scriptures to mind.

With me, after that has occurred, God often sends someone into my life who unknowingly repeats what God’s just told me. Or he’ll use my timely discovery of some old notes tucked amidst manuscript pages, or a Thieme book falling off the shelf while I’m searching for something else which just “happens” to open to the page I need, where I’d previously highlighted the appropriate passage. Then, to make sure I get the message, that night in Bible class He’ll often have the pastor repeat it.

Other times we may be faced with making a decision about details of life that we don’t have enough information to make. For example awhile back when Quigley was a wild and crazy puppy who couldn’t be left alone for long, I had to go to the DMV to renew my driver’s license. It’s illegal to leave your dog in the car in Arizona, so I’d have to leave him at home. We had him crate trained, but he wasn’t old enough to be left longer than an hour. I’d already stopped by the DMV the afternoon before where I’d learned that the average wait time was three hours and so had come home before I could do anything. I was advised to come in the morning when it might be a little faster, so that night and the next morning I tried to sort through all the options, wondering when the best time to go would be.

It was not good to try to leave Quigley during his active times in those days. What if he took too long to settle down and I missed my window at the DMV? And should I leave him in the crate or the back yard where he might bay as if he’s dying for the entire time I would be gone, dig his way out or chew through the fence? All my attempts to see into the future so as to make a decision met with failure and only produced increasing anxiety. Finally I gave it up, rebounded the anxiety and handed it over to God. “I have no idea when would be the best time to go for the shortest wait,” I told Him, “or whether I should leave Quigley in the yard or in the crate. You told us to cast all our burdens on You, so that’s what I’m doing. You’re just going to have to handle it.”

With that, I let it go. About half an hour later I got the very strong “instruction” (conviction?) to leave Quigley in the yard and “Go now.” So I did. I arrived at the DMV to find no line whatsoever  and was back home within about forty-five minutes. Quigley did not bay or dig or chew his way out of the yard, and all was well. It was a turning point for me in seeing how God could handle things.

In tonight’s class Pastor Bob just “happened” to start a new subject on the indwelling of God the Father, and why He would indwell us. The first reason he gave is that God “wants us to be totally confident and convinced that He’s the creator of our portfolio of invisible assets.” These assets include all that we will ever need to live the Christian life and fulfill His plan for us; they include phenomenal escrow blessings and a specific, unique plan for each one of us — our personal sense of destiny. Part of that plan is that we get to know, personally and intimately, the One who dwells inside us.

When the Bible talks about God abiding in us and dwelling in us, the word refers to being at rest in, making oneself at home in. It’s an intimate relaxed relationship and I believe such relationships require communication. Prayer is communication. We talk to God through prayer, and sometimes He answers, personally. It can be by means of a thought, or a doctrine or some external “coincidence.”

Obviously there is great room for people to think that God has told them something when He hasn’t, especially if they have a zeal for Him but not a lot of knowledge. If what they say He’s told them doesn’t line up with His word, then it’s probably not from Him. Even if it does line up with the word, it still might not be.

But that’s between them and God. My concern is what He says to me, and whether I can believe that it’s really God and not some wishful thinking of my own manufacture. It takes time to gain confidence in this. It’s certainly taken me a long time to trust that this might actually be taking place. Even now, if I think He’s told me to do something but am not absolutely sure it’s from Him, I ask Him to make it clear or shut me down if it’s not what He wants me to do.

And mostly, He hasn’t shut me down. But even if I do blow it in this regard, it’s not going to ruin His day. And usually not even mine. We’re not here to be perfect. Which is a good thing since we aren’t going to be till we reach heaven. I’m thinking more and more that far too much is made of our performance. Did we make the wrong choice? The right one? How much does it really matter?

It’s Christ’s work that matters, that’s won the victory, not ours. We’re perfectly righteous already and can’t be made one bit more so, so why the angst about whether we might do something wrong? If we do, God makes it clear, we rebound, we adjust our thinking and move on. It’s “He must increase, I must decrease.” It’s all about His plan to bring glory to Himself through us, and one of the most brilliant and amazing ways He does that is through His grace toward us. If we were always good, and successful and perfect, where would be the room for grace? It’s a given that we’re going to seek to obey His commands and do what He wishes because we love Him. But we can bring glory to Him even in failure, if we just use the system He’s provided, pick ourselves up, rebound, face forward and move on.

Thoughts on Righteousness

Well, I’ve been sitting here at the computer for half an hour, waiting for God to give me some kind of words. Nothing came so I went and read blogs, and news sites, but I’m finding myself losing interest. So many lies, so much exaggeration, so much… negative and unpleasant stuff. I know my Lord is in control, know He’s allowed all that stuff, know, too, that He’s promised never to leave me nor forsake me, to provide my every need for as long as it’s His purpose that I remain on this earth.

I’m much more interested in the things we’re learning in Bible class about who we are. Particularly the idea that this righteousness we receive at salvation — God’s righteousness, not ours — is a gift. Not something we earn, not something we can improve on, not something we have in any way except as we are in union with Him. I still have it even if I’m sinning. I’m not operating in it, yes, but I still have it. Still in union with Christ even when I’m working myself into a tizzy over some situation I’m trying to control, thinking I have to control it or else…Even when I’m feeling sorry for myself or put upon, or whatever. It’s there. I’m righteous. Because I’m in union with Him and share everything He has.

But that’s my position. I want to be righteous in experience. But just wanting it doesn’t make it happen. Trying to be righteous doesn’t make it happen. In fact, if  one tries to be righteous one will unquestionably fail because… it’s a gift, for one, and two, the world’s idea of what is righteous and God’s idea of it are two different things. While you might succeed in erecting a form of righteousness, you’ll have done it from the wrong power. It’s the word of God, working its way into our souls from daily exposure to the teaching of the pastor that changes our thinking and by that enables us to experience the righteousness we’ve been given.

But what exactly is righteousness? The English word for righteousness I learned tonight, derived from “rightwiseness.” You’re right in the sense of being wise, having wisdom.

The online dictionary defines right as accordance with what is good, proper, or just. conformity with fact, reason, truth, or some standard or principle.

3.correct in judgment, opinion, or action.

4.fitting or appropriate; suitable: to say the right thing at the right time.

All those definitions relate to wisdom. You must have wisdom to ascertain what is good, proper or just. You must be wise in the ways of the Word to be in conformity to it. As a person thinks in his heart, so he is, the Bible says. Thinking is the source of speech and action. Righteousness isn’t being all glowy with power or rigidly adhering to some codex of behavior, whether the Mosaic Law or some modern-day code. It’s first of all thinking like He thinks. At salvation we’re put in union with Christ and given the ability to understand spiritual information and phenomena. But that doesn’t mean we have wisdom. Wisdom must be bought with hours and days and months and years of our lives, submitting to a Pastor’s teaching, learning more and more of what the Bible says, and through that more and more of the Lord who has saved us, and of the righteousness He has given us.

I’m learning more, too, about the importance of the filling of the Spirit. Only what’s done, said, thought in the power of the Spirit is of worth — gold, silver, precious stones. Whatever’s done in the power of the flesh is worthless. Outwardly two people can perform the same act, one from the right power, the other not. One will be rewarded, one will not.

In the same way, two people can study a particular verse, one filled with the Spirit, the other not. They will come to different conclusions. The one not filled with the Spirit cannot understand the divine meaning in the words. He will know the scripture according to the flesh, not according to God’s view.  The soulish man cannot understand the things of God. They are foolishness unto him. There is a way that seems right to a man… God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, His ways are not our ways.

Not filled with the Spirit you can study the Word all you want but you’ll never understand true righteousness. You see that the Word speaks of it, but the world has its idea of what righteousness is, and that’s what you’ll glom onto; that idea will make sense, will be comfortable, will seem right… yet it is nothing but the ways of death.

2 Timothy speaks of those who have a form of the spiritual life but deny its power (the filling of the Spirit and the inculcation of the word). They are those who are ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. And they use the same words as those who know the truth use. Scriptures, concepts, terms from the Word… all the same.

Well. That last thought triggered a mental explosion of sorts, thought threads running out in multiple directions… the deception of our flesh, the deception of the world, the subtlety of it all… I think I’m having a brain cramp. And it’s time for bed, so I can either  save this for tomorrow, or publish this now and hope readers won’t be too confused. Which shall it be… hmm. I seem to be getting, “Take a risk on God”. So I guess I will.

Fruit Ripening

He is the Vine. I am the branch. A branch doesn’t do anything. It just sits there, attached to the vine, a conduit for nutrients and moisture, a support for the leaves and the fruit.

The fruit of the spiritual life is not the fruit of the branch but of the Vine, of the Spirit. Not of me. Considering our lemon tree and how the lemons grow is instructive. Water and nutrients come up the trunk along the branch and at certain points, cell by cell a stem begins to develop. At some point, known only to the stem, the cells begin to change and now it’s no longer a stem but a fruit. First no more than a swelling, then a small green nubbin, then larger and, ever so slowly, larger still. Gradually it takes on its distinctive lemon shape though it is still as green as the leaves around it and hard to spot when you just glance at the tree. As the months pass, it grows larger still, and during all that time if you were to pick it, it would be no good. It would be hard and dry and more bitter than sour, I think.

Finally, though, again with no visible sign or trigger, the ripening process occurs. The fruit goes from green to yellow and suddenly you have the lemon. Compared to the rest of it, the time of ripening is short. And after the fruit has ripened, it is only a month before it begins to fall from the tree and by then if the weather is right, the new blossoms have already come, starting the next batch of fruit.

That’s how it is with writing and I think that’s how it is with the spiritual life, as well. There is a long time of growth when the fruit is barely visible or isn’t ripe yet, isn’t useful. It just sits there on the tree, growing. The brnch just sits there, attached the trunk, delivering the nutrients, keeping the fruit off the ground. Most of all, fruit-bearing isn’t something the branch controls. Nor do we. Our job is to stay connected to the Vine and receiving the nutrients it provides (Filled with the Spirit and taking in doctrine). Those things plus the innate nature of the branch produces the fruit.

The Schizo Christian Life

Yesterday (Wednesday) I spent some time sulking in the morning as I was trying to get to work on Sky. I did a nonstop, whining to God that the reason I didn’t want to work was because with my writing career “sliding into the toilet” what’s the use? Enclave doesn’t seem to be doing very well from my perspective, The Shadow Within and Return of the Guardian King have gone out of print so what’s the point?  Once again I was feeling sorry for myself, feeling like I’d gotten the short end of the stick from God. “All those years of work,” I moaned to Him in the nonstop, “and what was the use? I feel betrayed. I poured out my life for You for decades, and where did it get me?”

Ahem. A still small voice asked me if I was really “pouring my life out” for all those decades writing without publication just for Him, or was it more my desire for approbation (recognition, notice, approval, success) that had driven me?

God always does that. Always knocks the legs of my argument right out from under me.

Yes, He was absolutely right. I was willing to wait and work and wait and work mostly because of the shining goal at the end of the road that would have been glorious success. I was trusting Him to come through, but only as He fulfilled my plan, not His. And my plan was more about having self exalted than Him.


But hey, I’ve got a sick head and a deceitful heart and it ain’t goin’ away until I’m dead. Or raptured. Yesterday I liked the analogy of swimming in the cesspool of my sin nature and its human viewpoint. It seemed especially apt for the grossness of my complaints and the greater grossness of the desires of my flesh that sometimes get the best of me. Pastor would probably say “welcome to the human race.” We all want to elevate ourselves in some way when it comes to the flesh. The best looking, the best writer, the best runner, the best mom, the best home schooler, the best children, the best church, the best, the best, the best. Our society is drunk on best-ness. Numbers. Top Ten. Top Five. Number One. Number two is never good enough. There always has to be improvement…. Rah rah. They make that thinking sound like a good thing.

But it’s Satanic all the way. And full of lies. For one thing, I have had success. The Lord did some wonderful things with Arena, and with the  Guardian King books. He gave me four Christy Awards. And was there any doubt that He was the one who had promoted them ALL to publication in the first place? No. But then weirdly, once He’d clearly done it, I took hold of things and began to think I had to do something to maintain it all, even while realizing on some level that I couldn’t. And with that, the fear machine in my flesh chugged and rumbled to life.

Fear of loss meant the approbation I did receive was never enough. There had to be enough sales so the books would not go out of print. But I also know that even if I’d gotten a level of sales that would have prevented the OP problem, it still wouldn’t have been enough. For my flesh anyway. I know that because the Bible says so, and also because I’ve now experienced it. I used to think if only I could get published that would be enough. I wouldn’t even care how many books sold. But it wasn’t long after I had been placed in the status of published author that, as I said, I did begin to care. I checked Amazon rankings daily. I monitored my fan letters. I agonized if there weren’t enough of them on any given day (though how I arrived at an acceptable number is a mystery) and on and on.

It wasn’t happiness. It wasn’t contentment.

Nassim Taleb, in The Black Swan noted that lack of contentment is one of the pitfalls of working in a field governed by extremistan. Where your payoff comes in large, unexpected chunks. He said that our hormonal system does better with a steady stream of small successes. So a stock trader who receives a little bit every day, feels better and more successful than one who receives a huge hunk ever five years, even if the latter gets ten times as much as the former. “It’s better to not to have won anything,” he said, “than to win ten million and lose nine.”

We are such weird creatures. Because I know that statement is true. Left to ourselves we focus on the lost nine instead of the fact that a million is certainly better than nothing.

Another thing Taleb said is that as bad as we are at predicting stock prices, economic futures, and political/national events (and forget predicting the weather!), we are even worse at predicting how much happiness the acquisition of some goal is going to bring us. We lust for a new car, get it and within six months or less, it’s just a car. How long before the new furniture is just furniture? The new job is not as wonderful as you thought it would be? The undying love in a marriage sours? How long before that old phone is no longer anything and now you need the new Apple I-tablet!

Our culture and economy is based on the fact that we’re never satisfied. We’ll always want more, or better or different or newer… Never content with what we have.

True contentment is independent of circumstances. It springs from one’s values and thoughts. It’s something that, according to the Bible (Phil 4:11), has to be learned, and the word for learned there is manthano, which means “to learn by instruction, to be taught” (there’s submitting oneself to one’s pastor teacher to learn bible doctrine), “to learn from experience, often with the implication of reflection – ‘to learn, to come to realize’” (there’s the attempts at application) “and to come to understand as the result of a process of learning” (the final result after many iterations of the cycle).

In other words, contentment is a result of the tranformation of the mind through daily exposure to the teaching of the Word of God. The Word does the transforming and as one’s values and norms and standards change, one’s desires change. Fleshly values and thoughts can only experience the pseudo-contentment of being in good circumstances and even then it won’t satisfy for long as boredom sets in. And should those good circumstances turn bad, the fleshly, pseudo-contentment flies right out the window.

True contentment is something that can’t be shaken. Something that God does, not that we do. I don’t believe we can make ourselves content. All we do is keep exposing ourselves to His thinking and gradually, tiny step by tiny step, His thinking becomes ours and we are changed. I’m not there yet, but way better than I used to be. There was a time I couldn’t even consider the possibility of not being published. Then when I got to the point of truly not caring, God opened those doors. Now, for the most part, I really don’t care what the career does. It’s only when I fall into that cesspool that I start caring again. Get my eyes off the right things and onto the wrong things and I’m miserable. And I do it all to myself.

Fortunately there’s rebound. And daily Bible class, which reinforces the entire process and gets my eyes trained back on the right things.

Two Days Later

Well, here I am, two days after the conference, finally able to post. Sunday was communion and a fabulous message on how when we truly believe we are reconciled to God and there is absolutely nothing more we have to do, when we are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are holy, blameless, righteous and the work has all been done, only then are we truly able to have a right relationship with others. Being wholly at peace with everything that happens in my life, knowing it comes from the hand of a God who loves me, who is for me, who will never leave me, no matter what I do, or don’t do, knowing there is nothing for me to do really but relax and take advantage of what He’s provided, then I can turn to others with a heart of restoration…

Once you get rid of the unrealistic expectations and the guilt and the demands you put upon yourself and just revel in His love and provision, once you stop judging yourself for never measuring up, then you can stop judging others. Then you will stop, because there is no need. If you have no expectations, for yourself or for others (and why would you, seeing as we all, in the flesh, have sick heads and deceitful hearts. We’re idiots really, especially when we think we’re wise and with it. We’re doofuses, pretty much completely at the mercy of forces outside ourselves which can descend at any moment and we can do nothing about it. Yet, we deceive ourselves into thinking we have control. That we can protect ourselves, do the right thing, avoid the problem, the disaster, the pain.

When in all likelihood the problem, disaster or pain is precisely the portion God has for us today.

Anyway, after the final message we went across town to the after conference party where I talked my throat sore. Great conversations. When my mother asked me today if we had a dinner at the conference, I suddenly realized how different these are from what she must think. From the normal conference someone might go to. These are more like family reunions. With great teaching. And conversations all revolving around that teaching, and the things that are going on in our lives which are always amazingly similar.  Activities develop as the Lord orchestrates. And orchestrate He does. Right down to the specific chair He wants someone to sit in at times.

Mary Hugill and I were looking forward to getting together for a long, face to face visit, but it seemed that every day we were pulled away and brought elsewhere. Finally on that last Sunday, we went into the dining room at the house where the party was held and sat down at the table. Before we could even begin the conversation, people began to join us. Somehow chairs were inserted between us, and soon both of us were engaged in conversation, just not with each other. That’s okay. We knew we were having the conversations God wanted us to have. And then, after all that, after numerous other conversations, I suddenly got hot and had to go outside. As I came around the corner I wanted right into Mary and the next thing you know, we were going outside for a walk. Down to the small lake we went to sit on a stone bench and watch the canvasbacks glide about the water where we talked until the sun went down and we got cold enough we had to go back in.

….Contented sigh….

It was a VERY good conference. But already I can’t wait for the next one, which will be in New England this summer.

Opening Day

A friend emailed me a response to my last post on the 2010 AZ conference:

“…not that I would ever want to put pressure on anyone….but I would love an everyday posting from your perspective of the conference…would help with the blues I get when I miss one…but no pressure. ha lol”

Okay, Rita, did you read Pastor’s notes or something? Haha. Working phrases from the first lesson… “Relax!” “No more saying, ‘I’m sorry'” and “Stop putting pressure on yourselves to live up to unrealistic expectations…”

The first message was awesome. As I was driving over, I was talking to the Lord, asking Him questions about things I was not understanding and in less than an hour, Pastor just answered them. Not only those, but his words re-emphasized some of the things that the Lord has been talking to me about lately.

For example, as I was falling into the hurry phase yesterday before going to pick up my mother to take her to get her “leucine shot” and lamenting how I always get flustered and tense and tight when I do, the Holy Spirit said, “Jesus was never in a hurry.”

That stopped the racing “gotta do this, gotta do that” thoughts tumbling through my head. I still had an objection, though: “Yeah, but He didn’t have people expecting Him to be there at a certain time.”

And the answer: “Jesus was late for the wedding.”

The wedding at Cana. Yes. He was. Hmmm. So what exactly does that mean? Well, for one, I think that it’s more important to stay in fellowship and not get all tense and flustered than it is to “be on time.” And boy but that provokes an interesting responding thought… Because my first inclination is to say, “No, it’s right to be on time. It’s honorable. It’s considerate.” Perhaps, but what good is being considerate if you’re out of fellowship?

Think on that for a few moments. It kind of turns all one’s thoughts (or at least mine) about what’s right and how we’re to be on their heads.

Anyway that was yesterday. Today I got up, my DH and I went to breakfast and I got to the conference about 15 minutes before time to start. Ran into people from Oregon right off. Don’t know them well, but hopefully I’ll remember their names after this time.. Larry, Barbara, Gail.

I went on and there was Mary with a present for me! Ooh. “Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday!” she said. But before I could put my stuff down to open it, I spied Larry and Pat and had to give them a hug and their daughter, Debbie, and… their son who was at our conference for the first time! I think I made him terribly uncomfortable when I hugged him, but too bad. I remember when I used to feel that way too. Anyway, turns out he’s been a new name on paltalk, kctwister, so that was cool to have the face with the name and more important in this case the relationship with the name. I am soo jazzed that he was there.

Then I saw Marc from Florida and said hi to him, and Debbie and her hubbie from Wyoming. I love Debbie but had never met her husband before… And suddenly Pony is swiping me away from them to meet the new people she’d brought, who just happened to have connections with Mary and Patrick Hugill… and a little boy about the same age as Hugill’s… Then finally, just before service I managed to open my package and it was just right — a really pretty journal (Mary knows me well: I can never have too many journals) and a CD of favorite music she made. And while I did that Lorraine and Theresa were there from Northern Arizona and they are so cool. I loved talking to them, too…

And then after all that and more I skipped… it was time for class. And class was amazing.

Opening line: “In this conference we’re going to be noting the importance of learning to live in the rest and peace that comes from understanding you’ve been reconciled to God.”

Snippets and thoughts: We need to relax, to take away the expectations and rules we’ve made for ourselves. Stop caring what others think. Stop thinking about how you have to improve this and that about yourselves. The thing I tend to do in the morning — cycling through all I have to do, adding task by task as I go — STOP it! God’s done all the work and provided everything we need for both the natural and the spiritual life. So I don’t have to worry about any of it. Don’t have to worry about the book or the chores. If I’m filled with the Spirit, God will see that what He wants done is done…

Afterward people swirled around making plans. I was invited to spend the day with one group at the Desert Museum, but that didn’t seem what I was to do. They left and I ended up going out to the hotel patio to sit with various “royal family” and share a burger with Kelli until I got too hot and sun blind and decided it would be nice to come home and reflect on what had been taught.

Can’t wait for the next installment tonight, and if I can remember to bring the camera this time, maybe I’ll even take some pictures.


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