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Archive for the ‘Holy Spirit’ Category

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13).”

I was visiting a friend recently whom I had not seen in about 15 years. I was in his town for a business meeting.

As I enjoyed the hospitality he and his wife offered me the evening after the meeting, I related to him my experience. I told him about the condescending treatment I had received from other people attending that meeting.

My friend, who had heard other similar stories from me as we caught up, replied,”And it could only happen to you.” My buddy’s remark was mainly meant to be a humorous statement about how it seems I am a target for such maltreatment.

However, the next morning, as I was having my quiet time, I reflected on his comment. Even at the time he made it, and even more so on this morning, I received a bit of an ephiphany.

The “it could only happen to you” remark could have been a sarcastic utterance which was meant to relay to me that I was being overly sensitive to people’s slights.  As I thought about this, it occurred to me that this was indeed the case.

As I sat in the comfort of the bedroom provided by my hosts, I began to review a list of all the people who had “done me dirt” and their offenses. It was a pretty long list.

I determined that I was indeed a walking grievance. This was confirmed even more when I read that morning’s devotional from “Streams in the Desert” by L.B. Cowman. The section of the piece applicable to my dilemma reads:

 How much grace it requires to bear a misunderstanding rightly, and to receive an unkind judgment in holy sweetness! Nothing tests the Christian character more than to have some evil thing said about him. This is the file that soon proves whether we are electro-plate or solid gold. If we could only know the blessings that lie hidden in our trials we would say like David, when Shimei cursed him, “Let him curse; . . . it may be . . . that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day.” Some people get easily turned aside from the grandeur of their life-work by pursuing their own grievances and enemies, until their life gets turned into one little petty whirl of warfare.

As I felt that God was convicting me of a sinful attitude, I said to Him,”Ok. What do I do about it?”

The answer was a still small voice (not audible) of a kind Elijah experienced in his interactions with the Lord (I Kings 19:11-13. The prompting, which I deemed to be from the Holy Spirit. said, “Forgive.”

At breakfast I told my friend about how his comment had helped discern that I was a “walking grievance.”  I had not told him about God’s response to this insight, but my pal unwittingly confirmed it when he said,”You have a lot of people to forgive.”

Jesus told his disciples,”My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you (John 15:12).” I have been thinking of this verse for a long time because in context Jesus says that if we obey Him, He will confide in us and be our friends.

As I really want to be Jesus’s friend, I have determined that if I was to be really intimate with Him I needed to love others as He has loved me. I have known for a long time that this is a tall order.

If anyone has a reason to be a walking grievance, it is Jesus. Over my life I have snubbed Him, disobeyed Him, yelled at Him, been angry with Him and totally misunderstood Him. I have been a rotten friend.

Yet, Jesus has kept on loving me. He has not given up on me or abandoned me.

Thus, as a result of my illumination at my friend’s house, I have concluded that I need to set aside all the hurts and pain caused by others in my life. To do this, I need to forgive.

I have to rid myself of  my resentments against others in this way. I have to tell my walking grievances to take a hike!

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“As for me, I call to God, and the LORD saves me.  Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.  He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me (Psalm 55:16-18).”

Sometimes you watch a movie which, right after you have finished, you realize you will have to watch again. Either the flick was just plain enjoyable, or it was so complicated you will need another viewing just to understand it.

The hit movie “Inception” is one of those productions which needs to be seen another time. It is fun and full of action.

In addition, the plot is difficult to analyze in one sitting. Fantasy flicks like this one sometimes are. As writer Ben Bova says, in a science fiction or fantasy you are asking someone to believe and comprehend the unknown.

In “Inception”, a team of thieves led by a man named Cobb enter the mind of a  corporate executive’s mind through his dreams to plant an idea which will benefit one of his business opponents.  This planting the seed of an idea is what is termed “inception” in the movie.

It is an additional and seemingly impossible step for the crooks. Usually, they are just asked to extract valuable information for their clients.

What makes “Inception” complex is that there are numerous people entering each others’ dreams. Furthermore, in the attempt to suggest an idea to the businessman, a man named Fischer, the thieves must convince him he is participating in his own dream and not someone else’s.

Where “Inception” really gets sticky is when the wife of the team leader enters the dreams.  She is a projection of Cobb’s mind, and appropriately named Mal.

She seeks to get rid of anyone in dreams in which Cobb participates. This is because she wants him to remain with her in an eternal dream state.

The truth is that Mal is dead. She is a projection of Cobb’s mind.

Mal killed herself when she could not seperate reality from her dream world. She became confused as to which world was which.

When she came out of a long dream with Cobb (one which in dream time lasted a lifetime) to the real world, she still thought she was dreaming. What is worse, it is Cobb who planted the idea during the dream that her world wasn’t real.

He did this so he could get her to wake up from the dream, which was so pleasant. As a result, Cobb is riddled with guilt and carries her around in the dream states he enters.

In “Inception”, the team probes so deeply into the corporate executive’s subconscious that they need to be deeply sedated. In such a case, if one dies in the dream, he or she enters a state called “limbo” and are unable to awake. They stay in the dream and grow old, with their minds becoming increasingly addled.

At the end of the movie, the man that hired the team in the first place ends up in such a conditon. He meets up with Cobb, however, who has come to “limbo” to rescue him, and the thief convinces him of the truth. They both awake and come back to reality.

In the confusing world we live in today, I sometimes have a difficult time seperating truth from untruth. I know others do as well.

Indeed, this week I have been dealing with a person who, when I talk with them, it seems as if they exist in another world. When I say something is black ,they say it is white.

An associate of mine met up with this person as well. My friend told me that the person is either not behaving normally, or is playing some kind of very intelligent game.

I would have never noticed. I tend to be very obtuse when it comes to reading people.

In the Scriptures, there is a story of a relationship similar to the one I have with this either deluded of game-playing person. It is the account of David and his wife Michal.

Michal is the daughter of King Saul. She was given to David as his wife by Saul after one of the young man’s successful military exploits.

However, David and Saul had a falling out and Michal’s father gave her to another man. As the Life Recovery Bible notes, this led to years of separation and pain.

Eventually Saul was killed, David became King of Israel and Michal was returned to him. The Life Recovery Bible mentions that Michal and David never really addressed the problems in their relationship.

This led to a well-known incident recorded in II Samuel 6.  Right before this encounter between David and Michal, David had just brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, a major spiritual achievement and one with profound meaning for Israel.

Michal wasn’t so excited. In fact, the Bible says she looked out and David dancing and celebrating and “was filled with contempt for him (II Samuel 6:16b)”.

It didn’t matter one iota that David was successful outside his home. He was a bust to her as a husband, and that’s all that matters.

Here is the conversation that transpired shortly afterwards:

 When David returned home to bless his own family, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!”

 David retorted to Michal, “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord.  Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes! But those servant girls you mentioned will indeed think I am distinguished!” So Michal, the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her entire life. (II Samuel 6:20-23)

I don’t know whether the failure to produce any children was due to her break in her relationship with David or whether it was a judgment from God over her abuse of David’s pursuit of God’s work. In any case, she had quite a different view of reality than David.

As the Life Recovery Bible indicates, David was at fault as well.  The commentary on this incident says that it was representative of David’s failure in relationships in general.

When I think of this story, I struggle to make a right judgment. It makes me even more uncomfortable when I think of my own life and how difficult it is to unravel some of the complicated messes I have made.

What is true in my case? What is reality?

I understand that Satan can enter into my head just as Cobb and his team moved into people’s dreams in “Inception”. He can plant ideas in my brain and even make me believe they are mine.

It is scary, frankly. How am I to ever fix my relationships if I can’t get at reality in them?

There is something that does give me at least a glimmer of hope, however. It is the Scriptures.

They act similarly to an object used regularly in the movie “Inception”. In the flick, each person entering a dream had what they called a “totem”.

A definition of the object as used in the flick is provided by Inception’s Wiki:

A Totem is an object that is used to test if oneself is in one’s own reality (dream or non-dream) and not in another person’s dream. A Totem has a specially modified weight, balance, or feel in the real world but in a dream of someone who does not know it well, the characteristics of the totem will very likely be off. In order to protect its integrity, only the totem’s owner should ever handle it. That way, the owner is able to tell whether or not they are in someone else’s dream. In the owner’s own dream world, the totem will feel correct. Any ordinary object which has been in some way modified to affect its balance, weight, or feel will work as a totem.

For example, Cobb has a spinning top as a totem. One of it characteristics is that if it acts normally and stops spinning, he is awake. If it continues to spin, he knows he is dreaming.

The Bible is my focal point of reality. It is the truth as written by God, whose Son Jesus is the “way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). When things are too convoluted and tangled for me to grasp truth, I can look to it to establish my sanity.

In “Inception”, a lot of the action comes from Fischer’s dream projections of armed men who seek to protect him. He has been trained to prevent incursions into his mind by such people as Cobb and the projections are part of his defense. Cobb and his teams are constantly under attack from these defenders in Fischer’s mind.

If I want to keep my own mind sound, I need to simultaneously concentrate on God’s truth from His Word, cry out to Him, and listen to His Holy Spirit within me  (John 17:17). And I need to do it all the time.

It’s the only way I can defend against mental invasions from the Evil One or anyone else who wants to warp reality addle my brain.

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 “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them (John 7:38).”[

“In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
From the mountains of faith
To a river so deep
I must be looking for something
Something sacred I lost
But the river is wide
And it’s too hard to cross” (Billy Joel)

I’ve been having dreams about rivers. They trouble my sleep.

In one dream, I am literally being swept down a swollen stream. I know instinctively that this coule mean that I think  my life is out of control.

In another dream, I am trudging up a frozen river covered by a thin layer of snow. I believe some of my family is with me, but I can’t recall.

We actually come to an down escalator, where at the bottom a woman is waiting behind a window. Presumably, this person wants a ticket, a passport, or some other means of entrance to who knows where.

While the first dream is not nice, it is clearer in meaning to me. The second dream is the one that is anguishing.

One interpretation of frozen rivers in dreams I have found involves the idea  that something is stuck in my life, especially with my emotions, or in relationships.  Another meaning comes from Dante’s Divine Comedy, where in the lowest level of Hell it is so cold that the faces of the worst sinners show themselves frozen in the ice.

Both the interpretation of my life being like an out of control flood and the one where I am stuck in hell are horrible to me.  What do these rivers really mean?

I guess I really am trying to find myself these days. Life’s circumstances have currenrly set me adrift from my loved ones, but even when I was among them, I was having the dream where I am carried downriver.

Billy Joel, in his song, “In the Middle of the Night” writes:

And even though I know the river is wide
I walk down every evening and I stand on the shore
And try to cross to the opposite side
So I can finally find out what I’ve been looking for

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the valley of fear
To a river so deep
And I’ve been searching for something
Taken out of my soul
Something I would never lose
Something somebody stole

I don’t know why I go walking at night
But now I’m tired and I don’t want to walk anymore
I hope it doesn’t take the rest of my life
Until I find what it is that I’ve been looking for

At least I am still looking for answers. What land is  on the other side of that booth where the clerk behind the window resides?

One interpreter says that crossing a river means change. I am not crossing one, but I seem to be trying to get out of a personal mud bog to somewhere else.

One seer says that on the other side of a river is our wild conscience, which we need to learn to tame. Thus, my dreams  may mean that there is a need for me to  change  my behavior.

Who knows?

“In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the jungle of doubt
To a river so deep
I know I’m searching for something
Something so undefined
That it can only be seen
By the eyes of the blind
In the middle of the night

I am reading a story right now where the protagonist refuses to regret anything about his life.  Despite having experienced the death of his oldest child and a divorce from his wife, and having had numerous affairs, he is proud that he has “faced down regret”.

In fact, he takes actions to keep himself from regretting.  In the book, “The Sportswriter” by Richard Ford, Frank Bascombe at one point says this about his decision to leaver his job with a magazine nd his family for a time:

“I decided to go teach at Berkshire College–I know now–to deflect the pain of terrible regret–the same reason I quit writing my novel, years ago, and began to write sports; the same reason most of us make our dramatic turns to the right and left about midway, and the same reason some people drive right off the course into a ditch.”

That great yet somewhat unreliable Internet source Wikipedia calls regret  “a negative conscious and emotional reaction to personal past acts and behaviors.”  The term has different shades of meaning. 

Even God regrets His actions. However, when He says he regrets something, He means that He is in a state of mourning over the results of a decision He made, usually involving his so-called followers.

In one instance, He chose Saul to be King of Israel. However, Saul ended up being a disobedient lout. Thus, God told Samuel the prophet that He “regretted” making Saul king (I Samuel 15:10-11).

God didn’t err when He selected Saul. It was Saul who was in  the wrong through his disobedience, causing God great angst.

What God’s regret led to was change. He went another direction in terms of who He decided would be the king of His chosen people Israel.

Samuel mourned over Saul, also, but he procrastinated doing anything about him in his role as God’s prophet. The Lord finally had to give Samuel a nudge:

 The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (I Samuel 16:1).

It would have done Saul some good to engage in one form of regret called remorse. This is a more direct and emotional form of regret which leads to sincere apology. It comes out of facing one’s guilt and shame.

In addition to remorse, Saul could have changed his behavior. Instead, he was usually, when confronted with his sin by Samuel, sorry he got caught instead of truly sorry.  This is evidenced by the Bible reflecting that Saul continued in his evil ways.

Saul could have penned Billy Joel’s final lyrics from “In the Middle of the Night”:

I’m not sure about a life after this
God knows I’ve never been a spiritual man
Baptized by the fire, I wade into the river
That runs to the promised land
In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the desert of truth
To the river so deep
We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We’re all carried along
By the river of dreams
In the middle of the night

Saul prophesied and had the trappings of religiousity, but in his life he was out of control and stayed there. He was enmeshed in raging waters and stuck in place at the same time.

Whatever the interpretation of my personal river of dreams, I think one  thing is clear. Some true facing up to God, my state in life and my loved ones is due.

The dream I want interrupting my sleep is bathing in a river, a form of cleansing, not slogging over a frozen one or getting carried away.  Then perhaps the river in my dreams will eventually become clear and smooth flowing, indicative of a delightful, pleasant life.

This will only happen as I enter God’s life raft and determine to sail down river with Him as the captain of my ship. I  think then I will know what’s on the other side of the stream.   

However, my guess is that, for me, what Billy Joel calls “the sacred lost thing”, the thing taken out of my soul, the something I thought I would never lose, but which  somebody stole is—my faith!

I am at a place in life where I think I know what I believe, but I am not sure I can live by it. I seem to have failed to much.

The only thing I have left is to be something of a riverboat gambler. What I mean is that I have to take the risk and entrust myself to God. 

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“ ‘I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?’ (Jeremiah 32:27)”

It is a military maxim that generals always prepare for the last war (especially if they have won it).  In relation to the the Allied military leaders in World War II, this seems to have been the case.

First, the Belgians put their trust in a huge fortress near their border with the Netherlands and Germany. It was designed to fend off attacks from the east, mainly from the latter country.

Fort Eben-Emael was attacked on May 10, 1940 by the Germans. However, they did not use a  frontal assault of troops.

The Germans sent soldiers from the air by using gliders. They neutralized the fort in short order, paving the way for the German invasion of Belgium and France.

As the Belgian’s put their faith in Fort Eben-Emael to stop the Germans, the French depended greatly on the Maginot Line to do the same. This was a series of forts, tank obstacles, gun positions and other defensive posts along the French Border with Germany.

The French built it after World War I to prevent a repeat performance of the German attack then. However, the line of fortifications was useless.

The Germans simply bypassed the Maginot Line by attacking through the forest to the west. France was quicly defeated by the German blitzkrieg.

The greatest sea power of the time were the British, who trusted heavily in big battleships for the defense of their island and their empire.  They built their pride and joy, the Prince of Wales, which they commissioned in January, 1941.

She was sunk by Japanese torpedo bombers in the Pacific in 1942. Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister and heavily experienced naval minister, was accused of having an exaggerated belief in the power of the battleship.

Land-based and sea-bound fortresses are by definition thought to be impregnable. The Allied leaders of World War II found out the truth.

Through the creative ingenuity of their enemies, their strongholds were defeated. These opponents found innovative and modern ways to beat the heavily fortified citadels.

As a believer in Christ, I know that  I am faced with spiritual strongholds that need to be defeated. The Bible speaks of them outright, and exemplifies them through the stories of real people.

One person in the Bible with a stronghold in her life was Naomi. This woman of Israel had had a tough life.

First, she moved abroad with her husband during a famine. Then her husband died.

After ten years in a foreign land, her two sons also died. They left widows, women of the country to which she had moved.

When  Naomi learned the famine in Israel had finally abated, she moved home, accompanied by Ruth, one her daughter in-laws. The other daughter-in-law, Orpah,  stayed behind.

Naomi convinced Orpah that to follow her was a no-win proposition. She believed Naomi’s statement,”It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD’s hand has turned against me (Ruth 1:13b)!”

Naomi had developed a stronhold of bitterness based on a false concept of God.  This was made clear when she arrived in Israel and caused a stir among the women there:

So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.  I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” Ruth 1:19-21

Naomi had a new name for herself. It meant “bitter”.

The lady’s difficult experiences in life had caused her a lot of hurt and trauma.  As a result, Naomi’s wounded heart began to engage in a pattern of negative thinking and behavior against God. (See the web article “Cross Walk Life: Tearing Down Strongholds” for a detailed explanation of how this happens.)

Some time this summer it occured to me that I had several strongholds in my life. They ranged from anger to pride.

On the many early morning walks I took on a local trail, I began to attack these fortresses in my life. My prayer would take this form:

“Lord, I demolish the citadel of ________ in my life. I take it down in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I crush it and plant your flag over it, Jesus. I ask for you to come in and create a new fortress of ___________ (the opposite of the old stronghold) in my life.”

I realized over time that I had to do this every day. I saw some results, but Satan has kept trying to rebuild the old strongholds brick by brick, so I have to stay with it.

David G. Evans notes in his book “Dare to Be a Man” that when we finally face God, we stand there naked. If we’re honest with him about our lives, we are pretty much what he calls a mound of ruins.

The good news according to Evans is that God can use those old ruins as the foundation for a new life in Christ. We learn from the old previously entrenched garbage and Jesus reconstructs us into what Ronald Reagan called “a shining city on a hill”.

All I know is that in my own experience what I have learned about living the Christian life hasn’t worked very well up to now. I have been fighting the last war in my spiritual life. 

This anachronisitic thinking and behavior has led to defeat for me. Surely, there has to be a better way.

If evil enemies like those who opposed the Allies in World War II can come up with creative ideas for demoloshing fortresses, surely through the all-knowing Spirit of God within me I can develop some imaginative plans of my own to beat my spiritual enemies.  After all, God has demonstrated over time that He is pretty good at tearing down enemy citadels.

 

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“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1,2).”

My hip aches. This is because I have a chronic back problem that causes pain there occasionally.

Thus, on some level I can identify with the character Gregory House from the medical drama that bears his last name. He has chronic pain, also, but on a far worse scale than I do.

He underwent leg surgery to save his life years ago. It is the controlling factor in his life. As blog critic Barbara Barnett wrote recently, ” to House, everything goes back to the leg”.

Barnett tracks the cause and effect of his fateful surgery. His chronic pain has led to addiction to drugs, which led to being committed for a time to a mental health facility.

His inability to deal with the pain in his life has made him self-destructive. House has regularly made oor moral choices.

Where I can really identify with House is not so much in the realm of his phyical pain, but in the emotional hurts both life and he himself have inficted.

The other night I was fed up with the failures in my life, especially related to my living as a Christian, so I drove out to a park and tried to have it out with God. I recalled that the biblical character Jacob once did that, so I figured I might as well give it a try.

While sitting in that car, I did something I rarely do. I complained to Him and told Him what I thought of Him at the time.

I wasn’t very nice, frankly. I told God that He had not come through for me.

While in the midst of my complaining to the Lord, I decided to update myself on Jacob’s story. I recalled that Jacob’s life had been characterized by moral failings.

Specifically, he was a deceiver. A person who he harmed greatly was his brother Esau.

Jacob managed through his moving and shaking to take away his brother’s rights as the firstborn. Furthermore, he tricked his father Isaac in order to gain the oral spiritual blessings that would normally be reserved for his brother.

Partly as a result of Esau’s grudge against him, their  father sent Jacob away to gain a wife from among his relatives.  It was in this place that Jacob begin to encounter some rough circumstances.

Jacob ended up working as a shepherd for his uncle Laban, a job he really wasn’t suited for. His uncle Laban also ripped him off in negotations regarding marriage to one of his daughters, whom he loved, and in messing with his paycheck.

Finally, after many long years, Jacob’s chickens came home to roost. Returning to the land of his father Isaac, he learned that his brother Eaau was coming to meet him, and he didn’t expect a warm hug.

In great fear for the his life and the lives of his loved ones, Jacob got alone with God. It was at this time that Jacob had a wrestling match for the ages.

Here is the story from Genesis:

 22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

   But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

 27The man asked him, “What is your name?”

   “Jacob,” he answered.

 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

 29Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

   But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

While I was out there in my car, I told God the same thing that Jacob did. I told Him I was not going to let Him go unless He blessed me. (I also threatened to flat out quit the Christian life, but I demurred since that didn’t seem to go with the spirit of what Jacob did.)

I asked God what the blessing was that Jacob sought and was granted. To my surprise, I believe God may have answered me on that question. I think God told me that the blessing Jacob received was the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life. 

(Back in the Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit was not routinely present in the life of believers. He was given at special times.)

Since as a believer in Christ I knew I already had God’s Spirit within me, I wondered what this “blessing” would mean for me today. It is then that  I decided to read Romans, chapters 7 and 8.

I read Romans 7  because I knew Paul describes there his own spiritual struggle, one I can identify with. Paul wrote,

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;  but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death (Romans 7:15, 21-24)?”

I knew Romans 8 discusses the Holy Spirit as a solution to this dilemma, which is why I read that chapter, also. It is here I found part of the reason why I have such problems in my spiritual life.

I DO have the Spirit of God, the blessing Jacob asked for, but I do not set my mind on what He desires. Instead, I spend a lot of time on what my human flesh desires (v. 5-8).

If I let the Spirit govern my mind, then I will do what is pleasing to God in my body. If I let  my flesh govern my mind, I will live.

Conversely, if I let my flesh govern my life, I will die and my Christian life will not work. I will be seperated from God (v. 9-11).

Thus, I believe I have found the source of my dysfunctional Christian life and spiritual pain.  More often than not, I have let my flesh rule me instead of God’s Spirit.

As far as my circumstances go, Romans 8 tells me that the frustrations I experience are due to the nature of the Fall. This is why I spend a lot of time groaning (v. 22-23).

However,  all these painful events are in the final analyis arranged by God for my good. None of them can seperate me from His love and I can gain ultimate victory over them (v. 28-39).

Knowing God is present and loves me in my tough times may not make them any less frustrating and intense.  However, it can have an effect in giving me peace and contentment in the midst of them. 

Barbara Barnett wrote this in discussing Gregory House:

“Chronic pain changes you, I’m told. Everything becomes about that one thing that now rules your physical and emotional life.”
 
With House, everything was about the leg, and it has had adverse effects on him. His pain has come close to destroying him.
 
With Jacob, everything became about the hip, but that symbolic injury was a reminder of how God changed his life for the better. It was a remembrance of his wrestling match with God and the blessing given to him as a result.
 
At the end of the most recent episode, his best friend Wilson tells House, who has almost killed himself , “Something has got to change”. House replies,”I know”.
 
During my time struggling with God the other night, I was telling him that something had to change and He told me the same thing.  Unlike House’s friend Wilson, though, God told me how those changes would come.
 
“I know, God. I know.” My hurting hip is a good reminder, as it was with Jacob.
 
Jacob wanted to know God’s name. I believe this was so He could praise Him.
 
God didn’t tell Jacob at that time, but he did give his wrestling match opponent a new name to honor the struggle in the ring.
 
I was given a name at birth. It means “honoring God”.
 
I don’t believe God has to give me a new name as a result of our combat at the  park the other night. I just need to live up to the old one from now on.
 
 

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“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead (Phillipians 3:7,10).”

Today I was watching an episode of one of my favorite TV programs on the Internet and the network hosting it kept replaying the same commercial. It asked the viewer what they have found to be amazing.

Their clips included things like whales jumping through the ocean, and newborn babies. When I tried to answer the question, attempting to come up with images in my own mind, I drew a blank.

 This really concerns me. I am wondering why there is no “Wow” factor for me. I am questioning why my emotions are so dead.

Don’t get me wrong. I occasionally get teary-eyed over some things: an event involving a loved one, or a poignant drama, for example.

But I don’t get “wowed” by much of anything. Am I that much of a cynic?

It has occurred to me that my emotions may be numb because of the poor handling of what the experts call “loss” in my life. I have an article from a long-lost source which gives an expanded definition of “loss”.

Here is the bulk of this piece:

‘Loss’ is the disappearance of something cherished, such as a person, possession or property. The definition of loss also includes “the act or instance of losing; the failure to keep or get something valued; the harm or suffering caused by losing or being lost; losses a.k.a. casualties occurring during wartime; destruction; and a measurable reduction in some substance or process.

 Loss is a common experience common that can be encountered many times during a lifetime; it does not discriminate for age, race, sex, education, economic status, religion, culture or nationality. Most people have experienced some type of personal or professional loss at some point in their life as a byproduct of living.

Losses can be of many different types from the loss of relationship or job, to the loss of breast or limb, to the loss of mental faculties or health, to the loss of control over nature or life events or the ultimate loss through death. There are also many losses that occur as part of medicine. People are diagnosed with life-changing conditions or life-threatening diseases or terminal illnesses. They also may undergo procedures or surgeries that can cause different types of loss such as the loss of a limb or breast, the loss of mobility or the loss of the ability to eat. People may receive sudden bad news from physician, law enforcement, military personnel or clergy about unexpected loss of a loved one.

There are also losses that are never publicly announced or acknowledged such as with a miscarriage or abortion, death of a relative by suicide or various types of physical or emotional abuse. Instead of being able to grieve in a public manner, the person endures very private sorrows that can impact his/her health and well being.

I personally have experienced several types of losses described above. Most recently, I quit my job, tried to get it back, and then was basically told ‘no’.

I wasn’t technically fired. However, emotionally it is the same to me. I may have been anyway had I continued there.

In the last decade, I have quit some other jobs. They began hopefully, yet ended badly.

In a couple of them, I saw the handwriting on the wall. I was either going to get fired or laid off, so I left.

In the last decade I have also had other losses. I have lost a home, lost my father to death, and encountered life-altering health problems personally and with members of my family.

My most recent job loss has me looking in the mirror, since it was inability to control my temper which led to it. I have had a long, hard look and have seen the need to and method for change.

The experience has stirred some emotions in me, mostly shame and guilt. However, the one feeling I need to experience has escaped me, as it has with my other losses.

I am talking about “grief”. According to the same article above, grief is the normal response to “loss”.

Here’s what happens if one doesn’t grieve, according to this forgotten author:

Grief is the normal response to loss. Loss and the resulting grief response frequently affect a person’s mental and behavioral wellness. Repressed, unrecognized or unresolved grief can cause personal anguish, increased anxiety, multiple physical complaints, functional impairment, strained relationships, marital discord, disrupted sleep, impaired childhood, increased substance abuse–tobacco, alcohol, drugs, tranquilizers; clinical depression, and an increased mortality from heart disease and suicide.

I have experienced almost all of these symptoms of unresolved grief, except gratefully, I haven’t resorted to substance abuse. I wouldn’t be surprised if my leukemia, which is a disease that originates in the bone marrow, is the result of being incapable of dealing with my losses.

The wise man of Proverbs wrote, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22).” Indeed, perhaps my repressed grief led to a major surgery a year and a half ago.

It was one of my medical “losses”. I fell down a hill and heard something snap.

It turned out to be the bones in my ankle -three of them in fact. They were probably too weak to handle the impact.  My crushed spirit led to my crushed bones.

A failure to feel is a sad state of affairs. The wise man of Proverbs also wrote,”The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear (Proverbs 18:14)?”

Indeed, my emotional state has been far worse than the broken ankle bones. At least they have healed.

However, I have hope for the healing of my crushed spirit because the apostle Paul found the solution to it. He learned that neither performing, nor shame, nor guilt was  going to get him or anyone else out of his funk.

Writing to the Corinthians, he described the Israelites as having dull hearts. There hearts were veiled from God’s truth.

Paul told the people of Corinth that only Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit can take away this dull spirit, (II Corinthians 3:12-18, II Corinthians 4:6). Paul said that because we have the Spirit of Christ in our hearts, although it may not feel like it, God is “renewing us day by day” (II Corinthians 4:16).

My aforementioned article on loss quotes Elaine Childs-Gowell regarding the necessity of grieving over losses:

Whatever it is that I have lost (or must give up) I must grieve. If I do not do my grieving about the old hurts and insults, then, when I am faced with a here and now grief experience, I will end up having to dredge up all that old energy along with the current experience.

Ms. Childs-Gowell is correct in my view. We have to face our losses and sorrow over them to begin to heal.

We need to do this as we experience them.  The energy needed to deal with  cumulative  losses is too much for anyone to bear without doing this.

However, grieving is only the beginning of the healing process. Paul said he was “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair (II Corinthians 4:8)”; how could he say this?

It is because Paul had a view of life beyond this earthly one. To heal, we have to look at the eternal.

The more Paul experienced loss, the more he died and Jesus lived in Him. That’s my goal, too. I want to taste the life of Jesus in me so I will focus on what’s coming, my resurrection.

If I didn’t have anything to be amazed about before, I do now. What could be more amazing than to be resurrected from the dead, in this life and the next!

 I can’t perform or feel or think my way out of a funk in my emotions to get a sense of wonder.. Only experiencing the resurrection power of Jesus through faith in Him will heal my crushed spirit and give me the ability to say: “Wow!”

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  “How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts  and day after day have sorrow in my heart?  How long will my enemy triumph over me?  Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ and my foes will rejoice when I fall.  But I trust in your unfailing love;  my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me (Psalm 13:1-6).”


I walked out of my job today. I literally went and got my next contract from the boss’s secretary and left.


What I did was either one of the most stupid things I have ever done –or the smartest. Only time will tell.


The truth is, I am exhausted. Thus, when an “incident” was brought to my attention by my new supervisor,


I had no patience to deal with it. When I asked “is there anything else?” and the reply was “no”, I  flew the coop.


The “incident” was just the tip of the iceberg related to an ongoing problem on my job. I have tried to get the attention of people in authority to do something about it for months, but to no avail.


Therefore, when I was being called on the carpet for my handling of an issue directly related to the problem, I just did not have the inner resources to respond with aplomb.


This begs the question,”Why not?”  You might ask,”Why didn’t you just rely on the capacities of Jesus instead of your own?”


These are very good questions for which I do not have a ready answer. The issues are complicated; one might even say “thorny”.


What I mean is what Jesus said when he told a parable concerning different ways a person can respond to the message of his kingdom.  Jesus, using the image of a farmer sowing his seed, said: “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful (Matthew 13:22).”


The situation with my heart is not right these days. It is full of worries and trying to make ends meet. 


I am not doing very well at handling the distresses and agitations produced by my concerns, nor am I producing enough wealth to support my family.


I am in a vicious cycle of bad cause and effect. I am too busy at work to fix the problems in my life and at home. The intended effect of my work i.e., the money needed to support myself and my loved ones, is also not there. As a result of these negatives, I guess you could say my life is a mess. 


 Before I die, I would like to be a fruitful Christian.  I haven’t been very productive since I came to Christ at the age of 17.  My thorns always get in the way.


Jesus had a crown of them at his crucifixion. He carried my problems in those thorns with Him on the cross.


Indeed, the Scriptures say He is a “lily among thorns (Song of Solomon2:2)”. He can take my smelly, ugly issues and make them aromatic and beautiful.


Like any human, I suppose I have developed an “enemy’s list” (a term made famous by Richard Nixon). They are thorns in my way, but they are not a problem to God.


The biggest enemy, my largest thorn in the side, and obstacle to my frutifulness for God, is Satan. He is apt to destroy me if I let him. If I get behind God and let Him fight the Evil One and his cohorts for me, I won’t.


I am tired of The Monster having his way with me and mine. God struck him down in Christ, and I don’t have to succumb to him anymore. The Scriptures say so:


“In that day, the LORD will punish with his sword— his fierce, great and powerful sword— Leviathan the gliding serpent,Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea. In that day—


   ‘Sing about a fruitful vineyard: 
  I, the LORD, watch over it;
   I water it continually.
I guard it day and night
   so that no one may harm it…


 I am not angry.
If only there were briers and thorns confronting me!
   I would march against them in battle;
   I would set them all on fire. 
Or else let them come to me for refuge;
   let them make peace with me,
   yes, let them make peace with me.’


 In days to come Jacob will take root,
   Israel will bud and blossom
   and fill all the world with fruit (Isaiah 27:1-6).”


Instead of God’s Word not hitting paydirt as in days gone by, I can see a future which includes good soil and fruitbearing for me and my own. I dont think I am fantasizing when I write this, even though I just quit my job.


On the surface, I have put myself and my family in financial jeopardy by floating out of my workplace today. However, there are more important things in life than money.


In the next few months there would have been more of the same: constant work. With the issues facing me and my wife and kids, the workplace is not where I need to be, I think. There are things from God which money cannot buy:


1) The ability to listen to Him in peace (Isaiah 55:1-3) AND


2) Time to seek God and His Word, and let Him and it bear fruit in my life (Isaiah 55:6-11).


This is a worthy saying:


 “You will go out in joy
   and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
   will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
   will clap their hands. 
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
   and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
   for an everlasting sign,
   that will endure forever (Isaiah 55:12-13).”


My heart has to date has produced nothing but thorns and thistles, that prickly plant that hurts those it comes into contact with. I am tired of my life, and the pain. Really tired.


I know I am in danger and ruthless action is needed:


“Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned (Hebrews 6:7,8).”


When the writer of Hebrews wrote the words above, he added a positive note to his readers, which I trust will apply to me as well:


“Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation (Hebrews 6:9).”


 Pontius Pilate presented Jesus to the mob. John paints the scene:


 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.’  When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ “.


Jesus is my King and He bore my worries and anguish. I don’t have to deal with them anymore.  For me, here and now, Jesus is “The Man”.


Maybe now I can trust him with my future. I am banking on the truth that He remembers that I am a ball of dust and subject to mistakes, like losing my composure today.


God, come in and fix them, and me, too.





“Man of Sorrows!” what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!


Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!


When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

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