Tag Archives: Musings

To Get and Acquire

I woke up this morning reflecting on Sunday’s post, specifically Genesis 4:1 where it says, “Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the Lord.””

Two things struck me. The first was that “Cain” means “to get or acquire”  or “gotten one”.  Eve had gotten this manchild with the help of the Lord. Why would she say such a thing if she’d “gotten” children before? And why would the Holy Spirit have Moses record it? 

Secondly, the significance of the idea of getting or acquiring. It occurred to me that the very first act Adam and the woman performed after the fall was one of human good: seeing they were naked, they tried to make things right between themselves by covering themselves with fig leaves. By this act they sought to get or acquire reconciliation. Peace. Normality.

Then, after the fall and leaving the garden, the action first noted by the Holy Spirit as being displeasing to God is also an act of  human good performed by the one whose name means “to get or acquire”.  Cain offered the work of his hands, the fruits and vegetables, products of the earth instead of the blood of the slain lamb he was supposed to have offered.

 (This is indicated by God’s rebuke in vs 6,7; and by the precedent set by God’s provision of the animal skins for Adam and the woman in Gen 3:21 — skins mean an animal had to die for them to be covered, a perfect metaphor for the work of Christ on the cross).

Trying to substitute his own works and efforts for what God had already provided not only showed Cain’s unbelieving state, but also something that I think is the underpinning of human depravity: human good. The desire to get or acquire God’s favor by one’s own effort or merits or righteousness.

Cain’s sins of jealousy, anger and murder came afterward in reaction to the failure of his plan and the thwarting of his desire. (Though technically I suppose that the arrogance underpinning the very idea of human good is the real depravity. It just doesn’t look depraved.)

So many make such a big deal out of sin, but it’s really human good and independence from God that’s the problem. Jesus already paid for everyone’s sins and no one will be judged for them in the end. Instead, they’ll be judged by their deeds. Were they righteous deeds, performed in the power of the Spirit by a perfect individual, or where they human good?

That tree of the knowledge of good and evil… that wasn’t  the knowledge of divine good. They already knew about divine good, because they’d been walking with God every day in the cool of the evening. No, that good was human good, which is a part of evil.

And yet, it looks so good. It feels so good. It feels so right. It is so darned hard to see someone who is sweet and nice and “loving” and doing all these nice things as being a wicked sinner. Human good does not seem gross to us, but in God’s eyes it is as filthy menstrual rags. (Is 64:6 )

I think human good is one of the biggest obstacles not just to admitting you need a savior and believing in Christ, but to really living the Christian way of life.

“Woe to those who call evil good…who substitute darkness for light…” Is 5:20

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Pro 14:12; 16:25

“Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts.” Pro 21:2

“For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.”  I Cor 3:11-13 

The problem of human good doesn’t get near enough the attention that it should. And that suits the enemy just fine…

Storms and Pressure Cookers

I was in the process of replying to Gayle’s comment on my last post Flestered, when I realized not only was I going on a bit too long in a comment, but that what I was saying would make a good regular post. So I decided to put it here.

Gayle had made mention of God’s plan not being for us to be diving into a pressure cooker of our own making. At least I think that’s what she meant.  If not, oh well, at the least my misunderstanding has prompted a new post…

I am well aware of the phenomenon of creating pressure cookers for ourselves and then diving into them… Martha, all worried and bothered about so many things comes to mind. And I’ve certainly dived into my share of pressure cookers of my own making.

However, I don’t feel like I’ve done that this time, but rather the pressure cooker has just come up around me. Rather like that storm that came up around the disciples in John 6 in our Basics Class lesson Tuesday night. I LOVED that lesson. It was so perfect for where I am.

I’m just looking at it all whirling about, all these things, all these people and animals and voices telling me to do this and that, asking for this and that… demanding I make up scenarios regarding the future, which I am not able to see, lacking omniscience, and then, having made them, put everything into place to deal with them, only to have others come in and change it all, or demand somethiing different…

The storm imagery from John 6: 15-21 was fantastic, and I loved that Jesus knew exactly what He was sending the disciples into when He told them to get into the boats without Him and cross to the other side, that He knew exactly how much they could handle and that He came to them at just the right time. I loved that they were struggling with the oars, rowing and rowing and not really getting anywhere and as soon as they welcomed Him into the boat… poof. The boat was at their destination.

They’d just heard the great dissertation on how He was God in chapter 5, just seen Him feed the five thousand in the beginning of Ch 6, probably still had those twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish… It was all a test and even though it was dark and cold and scary and probably VERY uncomfortable, they had only to look into those baskets and recall what they knew… Who He was, what He could do and the fact that He’d sent them out there Himself. The storm was no accident and nothing of their making…

So, this lesson has just affirmed more and more what God seems to be showing me lately and that’s that my situation is exactly the way He wants it to be and that He will guide me on a moment by moment basis through it. He will show me, at the moment needed, which, if any, of the many activities facing me is the one I’m to do next. If the other things don’t get done. Oh well. It may not be time yet. It may be I won’t have to do them at all.

Because there’s always time to do the Will of God, but it’s not always the will of God to do all the things we have opportunity or pressure to do!

Flestered

We started watching the first season of NCIS last Saturday and in the first episode, Gibbs is in the corridor of Air Force One with his gun aimed at the back of a terrorist whom he has told to freeze. Instead, the terrorist turns slowly toward him maintaining his pretense that he’s here to help as he asks what is going on and didn’t someone call for a doctor?  Except that as he comes around he raises the automatic weapon he’s just pilfered from the plane’s armory and begins to fire, spraying bullets up the corridor Gibbs’ way. Gibbs doesn’t blink, doesn’t falter, doesn’t waver. He fires two quick rounds and the guy drops. He never loses his focus.

I loved that scene so much I had to watch it again.  What a wonderful illustration of poise in time of pressure.

Today it has become especially useful. My life has devolved once more into chaos. There are all these things I “should” do, and all these things I want to do, as well, but seemingly have no time for.

The things I “should” do?  Finish getting the new website set up, get the blog address corrected on the old one, contribute to the Amazon Author site that’s been set up… I was advised by the BHP marketing department to make a video trailer. I have a blog post to do, since I missed doing one yesterday. My office is a cluttered mess and I want to get a special picture I bought for my birthday hung up before the rapture comes. I need to start the next book, declutter my files, and do some research reading. I have miscellaneous requests from friends, to talk, go to lunch, etc. I have doctor appointments to set up for myself and to take my mother to.

Then there’s the regular stuff around the house, which I’ve not been doing, because events have impacted my sleep – late hours combined with sunrise at 5am… Yesterday after driving half an hour across town to see the rheumatologist about my hand, and back again, I was exhausted. Without motivation. Yet those “should,” and “need to” and “must” voices in my head continued to hammer me.

Plus it turns out I have an ailment – a “syndrome” – once known by the acronym CREST, now just referred to as “limited cutaneous scleroderma.” They don’t understand the cause, except that it seems to be auto-immune generated, and they don’t have treatments. This is an annoyance but nothing life threatening. You have it if you have three of the five symptoms laid out in the acronym. I have Raynaud’s syndrome, which is the R: when it’s cold, your extremities turn white or blue and get very cold. My left big toe turns white and gets numb. And in the winter, as I work at the computer, my left hand has oddly become very cold whereas my right remains normal. Now I realize it’s part of Raynaud’s.

E is esophageal dysfunction.  “Do you have trouble swallowing?” he asked. I laughed because my husband and I joke that I’m probably going to die from choking on my food. Yes, I have trouble swallowing. A few years ago I could no longer swallow the calcium caplets I was taking and had to go to chewables. I cannot choke down a Nyquil to save my life. I thought it was just getting old, but no. Part of the syndrome.

The last symptom I have is Sclerodactyly, which means the skin on my fingers has tightened and stiffened. How weird is that? It’s worse on my right hand than on my left and I’m not sure how the trigger finger is related, if it is. It might be something that began on its own, or something caused by this other thing. Anyway, there’s nothing I can do but live with it. And since there can be other more serious elements to this condition (pulmonary hypertension) I will have to go get a couple of tests. Which means more doctor’s appointments.

So there’s all that.  And the rheumatologist thinks my toe is broken because of how swollen it still is two weeks after injuring it. Not that there’s anything I can do about that, either, but it does make wearing shoes painful and walking Quigley a new challenge.

So when I take Quigley and he pulls and jerks and I have to resist or deal with it, my toe is not happy. Nor is my back. So I think, what I really need to do is just commit to several hours a day for the next five weeks and work with him… He’s never officially been trained to heel… 

In addition to all that, which is nowhere near my complete list, when I do start tackling things, they always seem to snarl into complications. I try to answer reader mail, but run out of labels to autograph and can’t print new ones until I go to the store for ink…

I go out to Office Max to buy ink and a new fluorescent bulb for my desk light and they don’t sell the bulbs (even though that’s where I bought the desk and the light). So I have to go online and the bulb only costs $6. The postage would be more. What to do? Get two bulbs? Will it still work by the time I need a new one? Will I even remember where I put it?

I start to work at the computer, but my carpal tunnel flares up.  Or I bang my poor swollen toe into a chair and have to go sit down with the ice bag again. These are small things, but when you have entire days of them, it gets old. And frustrating.

Then of course there is the next book that I had – ahem — planned to start yesterday, except I lay around and dozed instead.

What does all this have to do with that NCIS scene I mentioned earlier? All these things are like bullets spraying around me. They demand my attention and if I try to give it to them I just get flestered (yes, flestered. It was a typo, but I like it.  It not only melds flesh and flustered, it looks like festered… the perfect word for the state I’m trying to describe!) These are little things, but it’s a constant stream. You can’t deal with them in any kind of logical way, because there’s too many of them and they’re coming too fast and each is hitting on an almost subconscious level. Or at least, a peripheral level, where you’re aware of them, but not how they’re fragementing your thinking and emotions.

Instead, my thoughts should be focused on only one thing: the target. The goal:

“The self-motivated believer has identified his primary objective in life: spiritual maturity, which glorifies Christ. This objective becomes the criterion for interpreting any situation that may arise. Every decision and every course of action supports this chosen objective. [The application of] Bible doctrine takes first priority… you build your life on [it].” ~ From Christian Integrity by Col R. B. Thieme, Jr.

Living in a state of being flestered is not part of spiritual maturity, nor will it lead to that. Neither are guilt, condemnation and anxiety. Moreover, if I write down all the things I “have” to do or want to do in an attempt to sort through them all (focusing on the problem, trying to take control and figure out the solution for myself) I only increase my flestered state and move into paralysis. So I have to step back and recall: there’s a reason things are the way they are. God’s ordained every detail in my life for my highest and best and most of them, I’m learning, are forms of affliction. Light affliction – maybe even VERY light affliction – but affliction nonetheless. Here for my blessing. To root out false thinking and make me stronger.

Okay, Lord, I’m letting go of my lists and my flestered state. Again. What do you want me to do?

 Hmm. Well, for one, it appears He wanted me to write this blog post because… ta da! … Here it is. When I had no intention of writing it. When I only sat down to work through my flestered state.

God Makes the Switch

Yesterday my friend Mary Hugill (whose blog I neglected to link to is here .  Be sure to read her “About” page —  she’s done a great job explaining what a “doctrinal ministry” is) allowed me to post some thoughts she’d shared with me about the importance of positive volition and God’s provision in a time of confusion regarding one’s right pastor teacher.

I loved every word of it, but of course I have some thoughts, as well, these more along the lines of my personal experience which backs up and illustrates some of Mary’s conclusions. (I, unlike Mary, have been involved in doctrinal ministries for over 35 years). Here’s my response:
 
You’re right, Mary, about the Pastor Teacher being a gift, not something you have to “figure out.” As for having a list of pastor/voices to choose from, I don’t think at the moment that there is such a list, even though there have been several pastors teaching from Pastor Bob’s pulpit. But that’s the key. When each of them is teaching from PB’s pulpit, I love their messages. I am rivetted. God speaks to me. But awhile back one of them taught down here at someone’s house, totally outside of Pastor’s Bob’s authority, and I could hardly pay attention. My mind wandered constantly, I kept disagreeing with things, having to rebound, asking God what was wrong with me… When I got home I felt like I hadn’t been fed and had to put on a lesson from PB.  I felt no leading whatsoever to attend the second session they had scheduled and did not.
 
For awhile I felt guilty, even though I was pretty sure I was being shown that he is not, at the moment, my right PT. As an affirmation, at a conference last summer, that same pastor shared in a Q&A that when he first heard Pastor Bob, he couldn’t listen to him.  Col Thieme was still his pastor. I believe it wasn’t until the Colonel retired that this pastor switched to Pastor Bob. So that affirmed for me my own situation.
 
All the men trained by Pastor Bob and speaking behind his pulpit at his behest and from his notes are pretty much extensions of Pastor Bob in my mind. They provide embellishment, a new angle of view, elaboration, etc., so I value their voices for the context they provide for the general messages that God the HS is pouring out through PB. But eventually they’ll have to leave. Keeping them at GBC is like keeping your 30-year old son at home answering to Mommy. They were given their gifts to go out and really use them, not to teach from another man’s pulpit but to be pastors fully in their own rights with all the pressures that go with the job. Would God then move me to their ministry? Maybe. My inclination would be to say no, but I know that my inclination is not a reliable source of information.

Which brings me to my second experience, wherein God moved me from Col Thieme to Pastor Bob. At the time, I had no interest whatsoever in leaving the Colonel, who I’d studied under for close to 25 years. I didn’t even want to listen to the tapes of Pastor Bob’s lessons that my friend had brought and did so only at her strong insistence and with the intention of only listening to a little bit (which is usually all I can do with someone not my pastor anyway).  But of course, everything came alive when I heard him, and I couldn’t stop listening.

Starting the day I heard Pastor Bob, I never listened to Col Thieme again. It had nothing to do with not liking Col Thieme– he was a fabulous Bible teacher; he trained Pastor Bob and ordained him — but everything to do with the fact that I HAD to hear the next message in Pastor Bob’s series. I hung on his every word, took copious notes, my mind never wandering even once.  It was very much like what had happened when I first heard doctrine — so compelling I couldn’t NOT listen.
 
Pastor Bob is still my pastor. Whoever he assigns to teach behind his pulpit I will listen to and learn from. I love those younger guys and get distressed to think of any of them leaving, but as I said, it has to happen. Maybe then I would be switched to one of those men. Maybe eventually I’ll be moved on to the man I couldn’t listen to in that home Bible study, which would be funny, and fit with the pattern God’s worked in my life of unexpected turns. Or it might be Pastor Bob til the rapture, which at this point is fine with me. I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. It’s part of God’s provision and I know that when He switches you, He does it and you don’t have to worry about it.

Endnote:  Mary’s and my exchange occurred last week right before Pastor Bob returned to his pulpit. Since then, I have to say, his lessons have been rich, exhilarating and convicting. As always. Today’s though, as God the Holy Spirit answered one of my questions of the day through Pastor Bob’s words, was particularly sobering. Maybe I’ll talk about that tomorrow…

Why Not Be Obvious?

Yesterday I wrote about why I believe the Bible teaches that the spiritual life is about submitting oneself to one’s assigned pastor-teacher and learning the word of God on a daily basis under the filling of the Spirit, thus transforming the mind as per the command in Romans 12. As I was pulling the verses together, however, I couldn’t help wondering why God hadn’t been clearer about it, like He was with salvation (Acts 16:31 “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved.“). Why didn’t He just say somewhere, “Sit down and listen to your assigned pastor teacher every day and let the word of God transform you.” Then there wouldn’t be any arguing against it. No room for excuses. It’d be right there. Why isn’t it?

Because, for one thing, I think God wanted there to be room for excuses. He wants people to have an out, so they can decline to do what He asks without looking completely foolish and wrong in front of everyone else. Take the several recounted instances where Jesus has just done some miracles and a crowd has gathered and He suddenly “gave orders to depart to the other side” of the Sea of Galilee. (Like in Matt 8:18) 

All those people there get to make a choice — will they get in the boat and go “to the other side” (I love that choice of words) with Him or will they just go back to their homes, chattering excitedly about the day’s entertainment and how they actually saw the famous Jesus.

The idea of dropping everything in your life to get into a boat and go off with this guy is just… weird. Who would really expect anyone to do such a thing, let alone condemn them if they didn’t? In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ones they condemned were the disciples who did go. After all, leaving your family behind? Your job? Wandering about with no direction, no place to lay your head? Isn’t that flaky and irresponsible? Even outright fanatical?

 I think, too, that God’s not made the protocol of the Christian life as bluntly crystal clear as salvation because right away we humans would make it a law. It wouldn’t have to spring out of genuine love, but could come from duty. From a desire to look right before people, etc. Or to look good to God. To “obey,” be a good little girl (or boy), in which case the situation becomes about you. Your performance.

But if you love something, if it’s the most important thing in your life, if it’s a Body, a living, breathing, real-time thing, an interaction between pastor and pupil, and pupil and pupil, God the Holy Spirit flowing through all, talking through all, then you’ll want to do it all on your own. It’s not about obeying a law and doing “the right thing.” It’s about loving someone. Someone who IS truth. And when you hear the truth, you’ll know it for what it is. And it won’t have to be so plainly stated that anyone coming down the road can see it.

Godliness

Lately I’ve had cause to reflect on what I believe the Bible teaches about what the plan of God is for us as Christians after salvation, a reflection from the point of view of making a defense. If you’ve read my old blog for any length of time, you probably know that I believe scripture teaches  we are, in fact, called to a very specific plan and mode of operation: we are to submit ourselves to the prepared pastor teacher God has assigned to us and sit, filled with the Spirit, under his teaching, which, according to scripture should be done on a near daily basis. In this way the water of the word and the work of the Spirit transforms our thinking into our Lord’s, as per Ro 12.

It is a long, gradual process. In between classes, we are attacked by our flesh, the world system in which we live and sometimes agents of the kingdom of darkness, though that happens most frequently when one first becomes interested in following this mode of operation and then later when one has begun to move into spiritual maturity. The scripture terms this eusebeia, often translated “godliness,” the latter a word that’s frankly never really meant anything to me. Being good? Being like God? Being pious — and what is pious, for that matter?

A study of the word itself helps. Eusebeia comes from eu (well) and sebomai (to be devout) Thayer defines it has having reverence and respect for God, and characterized by being devoted to the fulfillment of religious obligations or mandates. Thus, perhaps a better, more meaningful translation and one my pastor uses is “the spiritual life” or  “the spiritual lifestyle.”

Vine’s Expository Dictionary notes that the releated word eusebes (also from euand sebomai)

“directs us [not toward piety of the inner being but] rather to the energy which, directed by holy awe of God, finds expression in devoted activity.”

It’s a manner of living where everything is directed toward God. Since you are what you think as Proverbs 23:7 says, this direction begins with thinking. What you think directs everything else. And if your thinking has been transformed into His thinking, and you spend much of your day filled with the Spirit and thinking His thoughts, obeying His commands, then you are living the spiritual life. So the primary objective is to take in the instruction that will cause one’s thinking to be changed — i.e., daily. It is a slow, incremental process since it’s estimated that in any given lesson, people are actually able to recall only about 5% and able to apply a mere 1%.

I don’t think this is the usual meaning people ascribe to the word “godliness,” nor is this the usual lifestyle most Christians pursue or even believe they should be pursuing. In fact my experience is that many argue against it as being fanatical, not supported by the word, weird, excessive, etc. Besides, the argument goes, what about 1 John 2:27, which says,

“As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”

 Yes, there it is… you have no need for anyone to teach you. That does seem to contradict the view that says you must be taught on a daily basis.

But what about Eph 4:11 – 15?

“And He gave some as apostles…and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

The and between “pastors” and “teachers” is not accompanied by a definite article before teachers and so, according the Granville-Sharpe Rule, should rendered with a hyphen to indicate that both nouns refer to the same person. Hence, “pastor-teacher.”

2 Ti 4:1,2 makes it clear that pastor-teachers are supposed to be teaching. (“Preach in season and out of season.”)

I Thess 5:12, 13 instructs us to “appreciate those who have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction.”

 I Pe 5:1-3 instructs pastors to feed the flock…”not lording it over those allotted to you.”

Okay, but where does it say it has to be daily?

Well, that is not quite as obvious, but still clear I think, if you pause to consider. First we have the example of Jesus, who taught daily (Lk 9:14;22:53), as did Paul (Acts 17:11; 19:9), the early church met daily (Acts 2:46) and even in the OT the devout were advised to wait daily at the gates where doctrine was taught (Pro 8:34)

Job considered doctrine or the teachings of the word of God to be more needful than his daily food (Job 23:12). We are told to live one day at a time. God gives us our daily bread, referring  not just to the physical food we need each day but also the spiritual. The manna given to the Israelites in the desert is a picture of the provision of daily spiritual food. Jeremiah wrote of the metaphor specifically: “Your words were found and I ate them…” (15:16)

It’s interesting to me that people consider the gathering together to listen to God’s word on a daily basis as fanatical, but no one has a problem with people gathering daily to eat food. They don’t even have any problem with a daily walking or running group gathering together to exercise. In fact, daily exercise is preached everywhere these days as needed for good health.   And if you should want to be a first class athlete (or artist or doctor or pianist or anything) it’s expected that you will put in daily practice time in that field . Of all things to be world class in in life, shouldn’t it be so with our Christian walk?

Okay…but what about that verse about not needing a teacher? Well, I believe that’s refering to the fact that as Church age believers we each have the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who, if we are under His control, makes whatever the pastor-teacher is teaching understandable. The Holy Spirit is the one who guides you to your pastor teacher, and it is His message you are receiving through the man. It’s not the man, it’s the message. In fact, I’ve been in correspondence with a pastor-teacher recently who told me that sometimes his experience of presenting a message is very much like my experience of writing The Enclave — you feel as if you have little idea what you’re doing, and yet the hearers are hit right between the eyes with information precisely targeted to issues they are dealing with.

As a message recipient, I have to say this happens to me constantly. Something I tusseled with earlier in the day, some question that arose in reflection, an argument, a difficulty, a discussion… hardly a day doesn’t go by that I don’t put on class live at the appointed time and somewhere in the message the exact issue is addressed. In such specificity it is truly like God is talking right to me.

And if you consider that the pastor-teacher, being filled with the Spirit himself, and having spent hours and days and weeks and years studying the Word and preparing his messages, then Spirit-filled when he delivers them to, ideally, an audience of Spirit-filled believers ready to receive them… you begin to see that the whole operation is the Spirit’s and not the man’s at all… Hence it’s not the man you need to teach you but the Spirit.

~~