Posts Tagged 'promises of God'

The Stern and Shocking Way God Told Me to Discontinue the Comments

Yesterday I said the reason that I turned off the comments when I was back on Blogger, was because God had told me to do so in a “stern and shocking way.” In fact, He did more than tell me to turn off the comments, He pretty much told me to stop with all the accepted and prevalent ways Christians today are seeking to “market” their work: joining all the groups to cross promote, the blog writing, the cultivation of friendships for the purpose (if we’re honest) of selling our work as we help to sell theirs — all of it human systems, human effort, human personality and human strength.

This was, as I said, back in 2007, and the main event actually predated the moment I chose to stop the comments by several months. Even before then I’d been wrestling with it all, and He kept telling me what I was to do, but I kept ignoring Him. But finally He got a little more dramatic and that got my attention.

No, I didn’t “hear” His voice speaking to me in my office. Nor did a stranger email or show up on my doorstep with “a word from the Lord” for me. Rather it was one of those times when the Bible falls open and your eyes are drawn to a relevant passage.

Until then, I thought that sort of thing was only one step above asking God for help, then opening the Bible with closed eyes and pointing to something on the page, then looking to see what He has “told” you.

No, He wants us in Bible Class learning His word from a man with the gift of pastor-teacher, day in and day out so we can build a reservoir of doctrinal principles, concepts and verses in our souls. It is from this reservoir that the Holy Spirit draws His counsel. He can’t counsel us with doctrine or concepts we haven’t learned. (Unless we happen to be in Bible class learning the material and He very forcefully says, “PAY ATTENTION! THIS IS FOR YOU!!!”)

But this just goes to show you can’t put God in a box, though for the record, I was not using the Open-and-Point method. Instead as I said, I’d been wrestling with the problems that come from trying to join groups of Christians with diverse views on what exactly is the Gospel, or the Christian life, or the Christian’s purpose, or the manner in which that purpose is to be carried out. You’re supposed to be encouraging them, helping to sell their books and yet, you might just think some — even much — of what they have to say is heresy. Then what?

And as much as you take exception to their books, they are just as unimpressed with yours. So… what is this all about? Much is made of tolerating all views, but that doesn’t really line up with the Word of God, which often warns us to avoid people with views that do not line up with Scripture. (David’s example as stated in Psalm 101:3 is perhaps the most forceful on this matter — “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes. I HATE the work of those who fall away” — though the Apostles John and Paul both warn about men coming with false teaching.   2Jn 1:10, 2 Ti 3 and 6)

But even as I was conflicted in this area, I guess I just kept thinking… no, wanting to do it myself — even though He’d been trying to tell me otherwise for a long time. After all, wasn’t that the lesson from the purchase and subsequent publication of the Legends of the Guardian King?

But, as I said, the world is relentless, and so is my sin nature and everyone was doing it, so I continued to suffer and struggle and ask for guidance. Even as He continued to give me all sorts of verses and principles showing me what I was to do.

So one day in March I was sitting on the couch, fretting about all this, my Bible on the coffee table. It’s old, falling apart and has a tendency to slide around. Seeking  the passage in Isaiah about not going down to Egypt for help, I picked it up and started to open it, but somehow it slid out of my hands onto the table, opening itself to Joshua 8 — which is the section on the conquest of Ai.

That was just after the Israelites were entering the Promised land. Having already taken Jericho, they had moved on to Ai, which seemed a far easier conquest than their first city. Yet they failed on their first attempt, all because, it turned out, one man in the camp of about 2 million had disobeyed God’s command not to take anything from that which He had banned in Jericho.

I know that the OT stories are also illustrations of New Testament truths, and that all those Amalekite cities represented the world and its ways, so when I saw where I was, a chill ran up my spine.

The story starts in Joshua 2:24, 25: “Now Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel; no one went out and no one came in. And the LORD said to Joshua, “see, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its kings and the valiant warriors.”

It goes on to detail the Israelites marching around the city once a day for six days. Then, on the seventh day…

(vs 15) …they rose early at the dawning of the day and marched around the city in the same manner seven times; only on that day they marched around the city seven times.

And it came about that at the seventh time, when the priests blew the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city.

And the city shall be under the ban (cherem – not redeemable, deserving of utter destruction: all must die); and all that is in it belongs to the LORD; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.

But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, lest you covet them and take some of the things under the ban, so you would make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it.”

… (vs 21) And they utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.

As I said, like Egypt, Jericho represents the World — its treasures, its ways its power… God’s people were not to take anything from the world to enhance their lives or build their fortunes.

They followed His commands to the letter in the conquest of Jericho  — except for one man, Achan, who secretly stole a Babylonian robe, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold from the city and hid them in his tent. This is brought out in chapter 7 as they set out to take the next city, Ai.

Since Ai was sparsely defended, the men who spied it out recommended Joshua send only a couple thousand Israelites to take it. To everyone’s dismay, this group was soundly driven back, routed even, 36 of their number slain. When Joshua went to the Lord about it, he was told what had happened (Josh 7:10 – 15):

So the LORD said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face?

“Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things.

“Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst.

“Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the LORD, the God of Israel, has said, “There are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst.”

‘In the morning then you shall come near by your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the LORD takes by lot shall come near by families, and the family which the LORD takes shall come near by households, and the household which the LORD takes shall come near man by man.

‘It shall be that the one who is taken with the things under the ban shall be burned with fire, he and all that belongs to him, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has committed a disgraceful thing in Israel.'”

So Joshua did as he commanded and Achan was found out. He confessed his sin, and revealed where he had hidden the stolen goods as recorded in Josh 7:24,25

Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the mantle, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him; and they brought them up to the valley of Achor.

Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day.” And all Israel stoned them with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.

This is pretty severe, even offensive to today’s sensibilities… But it illustrates the displeasure God has with His people when they disobey His specific instructions, and especially when they seek to use the ‘things of the world,’ to gain what He has promised to give them.

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I Know the Plans That I Have for You

Well, I’m not sure why I haven’t been posting. Off the top of my head I’m not sure what all I’ve been doing. Working some on Sky, doing Morning Routines, making cards (I have a lot of friends and family with events in March), walking Quigley, going to the Y, doing Bible Class, thinking about Bible Class and writing in my journal…

I got my surgery date two days after I saw the GYN oncologist (see last blog post). It was for three weeks off (a little less than two weeks now as I write this), the only spot the doctor had open at my hospital of choice and with my regular gynecologist to assist. Even if I took the latter two out of the picture, the most I could have gained was four days earlier. So I was looking at much longer wait than I was anticipating.

During this time, Pastor John has been teaching about patience. About how patience is part of our calling, and part of our bringing glory to God — when we trust Him and wait patiently, without anxiety, tension or frustration, and then He comes through for us… that brings Him glory.

So it was pretty clear to me the moment the surgery scheduler told me it was going to be three weeks, that this was part of God’s training in developing patience. 

 The next day, after all the carrying on about cancer and talk of how this was going to be resolved quickly, I was a bit unnerved at the prospect that now I was going to have to wait three weeks. But I assured myself that the oncologist had my best interests in mind, and is an expert in this area. He’d looked at my charts and the tests and the ultrasound, and surely if he thought three weeks would lead to a major downturn in my status,  he’d not allow this to go that long. In fact, it’s likely he knew his schedule was full when we met, because when I suggested the possibility of surgery  “next week” he did NOT say it would be then. He said nothing. I started to take comfort in that…

And then realized how ridiculous I was being. Putting my trust in a mere man? What was I thinking? Yes, the doc probably does have my best interests in mind, more or less, but God absolutely and positively does, far more than any man ever could.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love him, to those who are called according to His purpose.”   ~ Romans 8:28

“I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not for evil to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jeremiah 33:3

He sent His Son to die for me. Of course He has my best interests in mind.

“If God is for us, who against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”  ~ Romans 8:31b-32

What’s more, the doc might be able to make a good guess as to what’s going on in my uterus from the tests… but that’s all it is right now: a guess. He even said as much, adding we won’t really know what’s there until he does the surgery.

God, on the other hand, knows exactly what’s going on in there — now and in three weeks. God’s expertise — Omniscience — buries any paltry insights the doc may have gained over his years in the field.

Moreover, God could have provided a spot in the schedule far earlier, if that was the best thing; He could provide a cancellation, could have popped up a red flag, if there was trouble and we needed to get to the surgery sooner. He did not.

Because this is not about my physical condition. This is about teaching me to trust Him, to know Him, to wait in Him. To be at peace in Him.

Oh! But what if His will for me is to go through (fill in the most horrible outcome possible for the situation)?!

That morning as I had this thought… as this wretched thought wormed its way into my consciousness to torment me… I realized it was an old enemy. One that’s been a peace-killer for me my entire Christian life.

So I decided not to go down the path it was suggesting I take. Instead I told myself, “Why not wait until the event happens and then you can say, ‘This is horrible, but I know God wants me to go through it for my highest and best.’ That way I’d at least gain peace from it instead of giving myself the heebie-jeebies with something that is purely speculative.

It’s an evil arrogant thought, really. I presume to guess God’s will for me and I always malign Him when I do so, because it’s always something horrible. For example, I hear a noise when I’m home alone. And I think, Oh, no! Is that a burglar? And then, being a novelist and well versed in such things, I concoct an entire story wherein the burglar/rapist breaks in, attempts to assault me, I shoot him dead and then have to go to jail for murder where I am tormented by my fellow inmates so I can show the power of God in my strength and peace and joy.

Wow, it looks even more stupid and arrogant when I set it down like that than when I just think it. And how ironic that I’m scaring myself silly with a potential scenario I’m conjuring up as an avenue for me to bring God glory with my great strength and trust in Him. Something is not computing here.

And furthermore,  look how mean I’m making God out to be. Here we’ve been studying the fruit of the Spirit as a manifestation of who God is — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control — yet when I get in these situations the God I conjure up is stern, cruel, tight-lipped, legalistic.

“This is for your own good,” my imaginary God says. “All this stuff you don’t want to do, that’s what I have for you to do. And the things you love, and like to do — none of that. It’s only going to be hardness and sorrow and suffering for you.”

No room in that thinking for God wanting me to have an abundant life full of blessing. Or wanting to fill me with power and joy and peace.

So instead of trying to guess what awful thing this phony God I’ve created may have planned for me, I decided to concentrate instead on His goodness,  His grace and His kindness. On His faithfulness, and gentleness and love.

I’ll concentrate on the fact that He’s my loving Father who has everything under control. He knows exactly what’s going on in my body right now. He could speed it up or slow it down. He could take it all away in an instant. His timing is perfect.

In 2 Timothy 3:10, 11 Paul is talking to Timothy about all the trials and persecutions he’s gone through, and ends with, “and out of them all the Lord delivered me.”

Pastor John has recently spent a number of lessons on this verse. It’s one, says he, that applies to all of us as believers. And that’s to be the focus of my thinking, not my lame what-ifs.

Fear is a Thief

My Bible Class lessons of late have been on the subject of fear. How it punishes and torments us — even though we do it to ourselves. It is also a thief, stealing the peace that passes all understanding which is ours through our Lord Jesus Christ. A peace that is not as the world gives — through things we can see — but through the things that are invisible. That is, the promises of God and the essence and character of God.

Moreover, not only does fear steal our peace, it steals opportunities for us to glorify God through trusting Him.

These are all familiar concepts, which I learned years ago, and had reinforced countless times since. And still fear gets the best of me far too often. Fear is the province of the sin nature, the weapon of the kingdom of darkness in its quest to pull us out of God’s plan for our lives, and in so doing, to discredit Him and insult Him. Because fear basically says God’s a liar, and impotent.

Fear paralyzes us, cripples us and stifles creativity.  Yes, he said creativity. And yes, I am very much aware of the fact that it chokes off creativity. But… sigh…I tend to forget… (Which is why I need Bible class every day.)

I love the story of the Israelites as they left Egypt in the Exodus, led by the pillar of cloud right up to the waters of the Red Sea, mountains to the right, mountains to the left, nowhere to go and Pharaoh’s army churning up a huge dust cloud as it rumbled toward them. None of the Israelites knew how to fight, none of them had any weapons, there was nowhere for them to go except back the way they’d come and that’s where the soldiers were.

But of course, this is the group of people who had just seen 10 amazing miracles performed by their God in His plan to persuade Pharoah to let them go. They’d just seen the deaths of all the first-born in Egypt, people and cattle, except in the land of Goshen where the Jews lived, where those who believed had marked the sign of the cross in blood on the lintels and door posts of their homes so that when the Lord came to smite the Egyptians he passed over them.

They’d gone out with a high hand after that, and now only a few days later … here was Pharoah’s army. So what did they do?  Forgetting all about the things they’d just learned, they focused on the Egyptians who were marching after them, stared hard at them, maybe trying to figure out how many they were, maybe seeing the glint of armor or spear or chariot wheel through the dust. They thought about them, and all their prowess on the battlefield. Thought about how fast the chariots could go, and imagined how they would plow into the company of Israelites, men, women and children, most of them afoot. They struggled to think of a way of escape and as they looped through all these thoughts, became completely terrified. Soon the sons of Israel were screaming in panic and terror to the Lord.  Then they blamed Moses for having brought them out there just to die, and bitterly longed to have been left alone as slaves in Egypt.

Did I mention that fear also makes us completely stupid?

Moses commanded the people to get a grip.  He told them to stop freaking out and,

“…stand still and see the deliverance of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you, while you keep silent.”

And I think keep silent not only means stop screaming and whining and blaming and moaning, but stop all the frantic thinking as well. Instead of focusing on the problem and trying fifty ways from seven to come up with a solution, STOP. Quiet your brain and relax. Step back and watch Him solve it. Think about who He is, what He’s done, what He’s promised.

“And God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with him freely give us all things.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? … For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created things shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  ~ Romans 8:28 – 31

“For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you,” so that we may confidently say, “The Lord is my Helper, I will not be afraid. What shall mere man do to me?”  ~ Heb 13:5-6

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for good and not for evil to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jer 29:11

“Call upon me and I will show you great and mighty things which you do not know.”  ~ Jer 33:3

“The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” ~ Ps 84:11

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” ~ Ps 27:1

“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.” ~Ps 62:5

“So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” ~Ro 9:16

I realized, in the midst of Friday’s lesson that I was letting fear stop me on Sky, letting it paralyze me three pages in because I didn’t know where I was going. What if I chose the wrong sequence? What if it led me off on a goose chase? I could spend months writing useless words. I don’t have months to waste like that!

Fear.

Recognizing it was immensely freeing. It’s a first draft, after all. It’s supposed to be provisional, and I was assuming that God was unable to guide me. Further, one of my guiding verses has long been this passage from Hebrews 11:8:

“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.”

To “go out” he had to take steps — had to get up and leave his tent and walk in a direction. And he did so, not knowing where he was going. If he didn’t know where he was going, how did he know which way to go? He didn’t. And yet he went.

The parallel to my situation is almost exact. To go out, I have to write a certain line of action and conflict. How do I know which one to choose? I don’t. I just have to choose one and go forward. Write it out, don’t look back and just keep on keeping on, trusting that God can lead me. Even if it doesn’t look like He is.

After that I returned to Sky and worked through to page 12, but since I cut 2 pages in the process, I’m actually on page 10. That’s 9 pages from where I started out, the biggest jump in pages I’m made in a long, long time. I’m quite pleased. 🙂

 


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