Soul Complications  0

God Complicates Things

Guest post by Dan Scott

 

Jackie and I have been reading in Genesis lately. The stories are well known… Abraham, Isaac, Jacob… but the DRAMA is still unbelievable. And on this latest trip though Genesis an inescapable fact comes home to me: God complicates things ON PURPOSE to reveal Himself better!

 

For example – Jacob. God could have just made Jacob the older brother to begin with if He wanted him to be the one who received the blessing and inheritance. That would have been so easy. Everybody expects the older brother to receive the blessing. No need to stress over it…

 

He could have simply put it in Laban’s heart to bless Jacob willingly rather than using Laban to bless Jacob against his will. Laban changed Jacob’s wages 10 times to try NOT to bless Jacob, but God did it anyway. Speckled sheep… stripped sheep… black sheep… it’s unbelievable! (Gen.31:7-9) Etc. etc…

 

But His ways are displayed BETTER in stark contrast to what we’d normally expect. He doesn’t just act on our behalf, He does it in ways that violate the norm… that defy expectations… that overcome the odds (odds of course that He stacked up to begin with!)… that DISPLAY Him as the “God of the impossible”. Our God. God to be feared. God that even our ungodly acquaintances and godless enemies come to recognize and bow to. (Check out Gen. 21:22-23, 26:28)

 

He is not interested in simply blessing us and keeping His promises to us in the easiest, most logical way possible. He intentionally DISRUPTS our lives, out of a loving, merciful desire to make Himself known – not only to us, but to the NATIONS – those among whom He sent us to live as strangers and aliens! (Gen.23:4)

 

Lord, we can’t claim to understand Your ways. They are too wonderful for us. But we choose the only reasonable choice – to humble ourselves under Your mighty hand and worship!

 

 

What complications in your life are you fed up with?

 

Take a new look at it from God’s perspective.

 

Soul Fear  2

“The fear of God is the beginning…”
Proverbs 1:7

Our little family had just moved to a foreign country that had recently experienced devastating loss. My husband was venturing to start a business to help people learn how to do that honorably in a place where it had been considered immoral. We hired services to help us register the business, later to find out they were corrupt.

 

Our first clue was when they came to deliver the registration papers at the cold, leftover Soviet apartment that we used for an office. Oleg brought Tajir along with him. He was a Genghis Khan-looking fellow, the power lifter type with close-cropped hair. Oleg sat down and went through the papers then gargled, “I want you to meet Tajir. He’ll be your guard.” Immediately Dan suspected what was going on and said, “I don’t think we’ll need him.”

“Well,” he threatened “bad things can happen…”

Taken aback and scrambling to fathom this new culture Dan asked,

“If we were to hire him what would we pay?”

“We’ll come to an agreement…a percentage.”

“A percentage of what?! We’re just trying to get off the ground. We’re in the red!” Not given easily to intimidation, Dan continued, “If we need a guard, I’ll let you know and he’ll work for us.”

 

Some days later, the office door squeaked open and there was Tajir. He began to show up unannounced, making a habit of presumptuously walking into the office without knocking. Dan would greet him, tell him business was slow, practice his Russian, offer him tea, and ask him if he wanted to study the Bible. Tajir had a hard time keeping his smile under wraps. He was really a teddy bear caught in this mafia mix. After a few weeks Oleg showed up and asked Dan why he wasn’t paying Tajir. Dan said, “If we want him, we will hire him.”

 

He began to threaten. “Well, you have a wife and children…” he retorted. Of course this took it to another level. Dan showed them to the door scarcely able to disguise his anger. In the post Soviet power vacuum these types found ways of dealing with foreigners that clashed with our ideas of how to do ethical business. Dan asked him to leave.

 

Fear. It came closer to me the day I heard about this! I recognized it, felt its power. I knew I had to make a choice. We had been warned that living here would be difficult and dangerous. As I wrestled, I had to lean on the rock bottom belief that God is over all. I threw this fear like a hot potato to the God who wanted to show himself in this forsaken land. I had been working on taking my fears to Him rather than denying or just bottling them as I had done over the years. I felt its talons wanting to work into my mind and heart and had to deal with it for days. I didn’t want to live in fear and knew the paralysis of it to keep us in ruts. I hated ruts but often found myself in them.

 

Our local business partner began to worry greatly about not accommodating Oleg and the day she brought it up, Dan happened to be wearing a T-shirt that said ‘Fear Not’! But since it was winter and the city heat hadn’t been turned on yet, he had his winter coat on as he huddled over his desk. As he saw fear grasp *Cvyeta’s face, Dan remembered what he was wearing and yanked off his coat to show her the verse written on his shirt, a take-off of the then popular ‘No Fear’ logo.   Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not for I am with you… “     She was given an ear-full about this God who was over all; much greater than this wanna-be mafia thug, and though she strained to listen, she still felt we needed to appease. Being new in the culture, Dan decided to let her call the shots on this one. She called Oleg’s office and made a plan to meet them to see what needed to be done. A meeting date was set.

 

The day came for the meeting and two local tour guides, inquiring about our new company, happened to come in for a consultation. Time got away as they discussed business. The phone rang. Sofia, answering the phone, looked worried and mouthed to Dan, “We’re supposed to be at Oleg’s office!” Dan asked her to reschedule, because we had unexpected clients arrive.

 

After this, Tajir inexplicably stopped showing up and we didn’t hear from Oleg for weeks. Another co-worker came in one day having seen the secretary who worked in Oleg’s office. Remembering that the dreaded meeting hadn’t yet happened, he asked her about Oleg, and she said abruptly, “Oleg’s dead”!

“What?! …what happened?

“He had a heart attack.” She announced. His partner was running a pyramid scheme and fled the country with $25,000 and the police arrested Oleg saying he was responsible for the money. He had a heart attack on the spot and died. Wow.

 

A year or so later Dan ran into Tajir. He asked him how it was going. Dan said, “Business is still slow…” Tajir smiled and waved.

 

God deals strongly with those who mess with his own! Sometimes a lot sooner than we expect!

 

If I grapple with a fear yet realize that there’s something much greater than it, then I can work through small fears that keep me from real life. Sometimes we don’t even know what those fears are, but not identifying them keeps us in ruts and builds walls. So I have to stop and identify the fear that’s grabbing me and admit it and begin taking it to the One we should fear above all.

~

What do you think you are most afraid of? Why? What are the fears behind those fears?

Think it through, if what you fear happens, then what? Can we go with God to our worst fears and talk them through?

 

If so, with time, perhaps we can break the inertia they bring and not give in to them or let them control us.

The eye of the Lord is on those who fear him….”

Psalm 33:18

 

*name changed

Soul Spring  0

 

“…let us grow in every way into Him who is the head–Christ.”

Ephesians 4:15

 

After a full-on week, I sat outside to enjoy the fresh spring air and gaze on the new. The new raspberry bush growth; new, bright colors

taking the place of the grey and worn; new leaves on the chestnut tree that was so barren and begging a few weeks ago. These sturdy leaves will shade, supply and delight us all the way through the heat and storms to next fall.

 

When I took a little time for my soul to catch up with life, I noticed a niggling disdain for a brother trying to hide in my heart. As I let it come to the surface, I realized my contempt, then recognized God’s kindness leading me to repentance. I’m so thankful He does that to clean us out. Spring-cleaning of the soul, like weeding and preparing soil for new growth. How unknowingly the soil of our hearts gets hard!

 

How’s the condition of the soil of your heart? What growth is springing new in you? In your spirit and soul? As I journey with those interested in exploring their inner beings and replacing old with new, I find delight in fresh insights and discoveries as though new worlds are opening up. New growth from places of brokenness and shame, growth that will shade, supply and delight the soul through heat and storms, because of newfound freedom and strength.

 

One fellow journeyer said:

 

“…life is such a paradox: full of joy and pain, laughter and tears, freedom and strain. The mix reminds us that this is not our home… we are just passing through. At the same time we want to reach our full potential as we travel – all for His glory!”

 

New life, ideas, and dreams often come from connection and growth; growth into the unique you he has created; becoming the you that is free to love and give. We’re finding that as we share our journeys.

 

“When a person tells his story and is truly heard and understood, he undergoes actual changes in his brain circuitry that correspond to a greater sense of emotional and relational connection, decreased anxiety, and greater awareness of and compassion for others’ suffering.”

Curt Thompson, M.D., Anatomy of the Soul

 

What are some ways you are cultivating new growth in your life?

Soul Abiding  0

Jesus – right before the horror.

 

Guest post by Rachel P. Scott

 

In “the Passion Week story right after the last supper, Jesus and his disciples are likely on their way to the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus knows he will be betrayed by one friend and abandoned by the rest. Into this heavy context, He speaks final commands, final wisdom to his disciples.

 

What will He say?

 

Our hearts and ears are open, Lord.

“Abide in me… Abide in my love.”

 

That’s the message? He’s about to die!

 

And yet His charge to His disciples, to us, is to abide in His love. To abide; to make one’s home in. He speaks of fruit too, but only to say that we are powerless to produce it without Him. He also speaks of obedience to commands that He knows will result in our fullness of joy.

Both of these things, producing fruit and obeying commands, tend to bring out the part in each of us that wants to earn love.

 

And yet these two are immersed in, surrounded by, the much stronger thrust of the whole passage – to remain in His love.  If we don’t want to be like branches that are  “thrown away and burned”, the answer is NOT working harder to produce more!

 

We hear Him speaking to our hearts, “Let your heart feel at home in my love. Let my love be your security; let my love be your resting place. This is the work you must do. Yes, there will be fruit, much fruit, abiding fruit! But the fruit is my responsibility. You cannot do it. You remain connected to my love; I will produce the fruit.”  As Jesus was the True Servant that Israel could not be, He is the True Vine, producing the fruit that we cannot. And yet He still wants us to be a part! We cannot do it, but He made a way. Connected to Him, branches to the vine, we get to be fruitful participants in His Garden.

 

Incredible love. Jesus is taking steps, passing buildings and trees, each of which brings him closer to the greatest pain a human has ever borne – the full weight of eternity’s suffering, sorrow, ugliness, evil – and all of this faced alone. He could have sought comfort, or rebuked the disciples for their upcoming abandonment, or frantically explained his Messiah-ship again, hoping the disciples would finally get it.

 

He didn’t.

 

Instead, He urged them to remain, abide, not WITH Him as they had been doing for the last 3 years, but IN Him. He urges us to do the same. We have no insecurity in His love – He chose us, we didn’t choose Him! As we walk through this Holy Week, may our hearts be broken and overjoyed by the love of Christ, that His greatest pain and His greatest sacrifice offer a home and a hope for us.”

 

How are you learning to abide in this Love?

 

Soul Feelings  0

I tend to withdraw when I have a feeling I can’t seem to figure out. But I’m learning…

 

Those deep feelings we often sweep under the rug or minimize can be messengers trying to tell us something of what’s happening within. I came across this old song by the children’s TV personality Fred Rogers who said, “Feelings are mentionable and manageable.”

 

I thought it had some good reminders for us adults as well.   🙂

 

 

What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong…
And nothing you do seems very right?

What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?

It’s great to be able to stop
When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,
And be able to do something else instead

And think this song:

I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish.
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there’s something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a woman
And a boy can be someday a man.

 

 

But when our feelings move to anxiety because “We’re a tangled web of hardwiring and history, wounds and praises, thoughts, emotions, gut instincts, perceptions and knowledge, blind spots and brilliance,” (Marilyn Vancil) we may need to unearth what’s underneath those feelings and anxieties. The “stop” then needs to take on a more serious measure.

 

I’m a proponent of meditation which can be a form this stopping mentioned in the song above. As Archibald Hart says of Christian meditation in The Anxiety Cure:

 

“…deep breathing alone would prevent half of the visits to emergency rooms for panic attacks. Slow, deep breathing floods the body with needed oxygen and reduces stress hormones such as cortisol. Imagine a gazelle being chased by a cheetah. Does the gazelle run with long, slow, intentional breaths or does it panic with rapid, shallow, high alert breaths? Meditation and deep breathing is the opposite reaction of stress. Keep in mind that this sort of meditation is a far cry from the type of Eastern meditation in Hinduism and Buddhism. Whereas they have the goal of emptying the mind, the goal of Christian meditation is to fill your mind with all of the riches and wonder of the Saviour and his work in your life.”

 

A place to dissect those feelings and decipher what is underneath them, whether it’s healthy concern that needs to move to prayer, self-protection, defending my old self or pride, we can get some clarity and help in our spirits with a “stop”.

 

A good exercise for this is meditation, slowing yourself down with deep breathing in God’s presence then taking the worry to Him for examining and understanding.

 

When panic or anxiety is on the horizon, what will your plan be?

 

” The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways,

but the folly of fools is deception.”

Proverbs 14:8

Soul Block  0

 

 

How can we rid ourselves of false concepts that keep us from growth and instead make way for truth that sets us free?

 

We subconsciously keep people (and God) out of our hearts and rather focus on the on the outward.

 

Jesus said to the disciples, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8:21) after they floundered to get a spiritual lesson out of a physical truth. Their focus and false ideas blocked them from “getting” truth.

 

As a little girl at Catholic Church for Ash Wednesday, I was given a vivid reminder of my mortality, but didn’t get it. “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust” they said as a cross was inscribed on my forehead. The outward markings didn’t permeate my heart until many years later when I met God and saw my own self-deceit in a whole different place. (Isn’t it interesting how we often meet God in a different place from our origins that seem to get stale and hold little meaning until we’re awakened?)

 

The inner matters of the heart are what God is after. So whether you lent or don’t lent, 🙂 take a good look at your heart and let go of excuses not to.

 

“Lent is a time to let go of excuses for failings and shortcomings; a time to stop hanging on to whatever shreds of goodness we perceive in ourselves; a time to ask God to show us what we really look like.”

Bread and Wine

 

We say things in our hearts that if we would linger and listen we might get some insight into our questions.

King Jereboam in an effort of self-protection and control said in his heart, ‘if this happens, I die so I must take control’ (my paraphrase)…and it didn’t end up very well (1 Kings 12:26- 13). What we say in our hearts drowns out truth and exposes our strategies to make our lives work to our advantage.

 

Lack of recognition of our own brokenness can block us from moving on in truth.  Here’s a difficult prayer:

 

 

 

 

That’s a prayer I’m not sure I want to pray!  Unless I really want growth…

 

“The man who can articulate the movements of his inner…life need no longer be a victim of himself, but is able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that prevent the Spirit from entering.” Henri Nouwen

 

Soul Exercise:

Plan some time to sit before God and ask yourself, “What am I really saying in my heart?”

Write down what you find.

 

God will not be surprised but rather quite inviting.

 

Pursued Soul  0

 

He has blessed us, chosen us, lavished on us…according to the kind intention of His will.

(Ephe. 1)

 

God is after you for your good! Isn’t that an amazing thought?! He affirms you as a valued bearer of His image. You are His workmanship uniquely crafted and shaped by the wonderful and horrible events of your life. His purposes are deep and He knows what you need to be drawn deeply to Himself, so you can be the free, joyful person He is working toward.

“Suffering, like nothing else shows us what we really love. The enemy of joy is not suffering, it is idolatry.” Matt Papa, Look and Live

“Even in the suffering, He is for us. He brings pain in order to bring healing.”

Mitchel Lee

 

(The following thoughts were prompted by a talk by Pastor Mitchel Lee.)

 

Our new self is in process, it is being created, renewed, and transformed. The authentic self I was born with has to be trained, disciplined, formed and instructed with outside help, grace and power. The old self that I crafted to survive and keep myself safe has to be unlearned and put off so the new can be put on. That’s why he pursues us and sometimes it takes hardship.

 

Pride often is what keeps us from growing and from receiving.   We think we have to be at a certain place or mindset in order to have God’s attention. As though we have to make ourselves better first to be worthy. That’s pride. Larry Crabb calls it “deceived by the pride of self-hatred.”

 

What is keeping you from growing?

 

What we often attribute to God is a wrong view of who He really is, because we see him through our brokenness, which distorts truth. Many of our emotions are based on assumptions that come from our wrong view of Him. If I embrace the fact that God is pursuing me for good purposes; if I cooperate rather than refuse or fight him, I will find growth, strength, purpose and the new self shining His glory. God uses every circumstance to father us.

“Most people who are angry with God are angry with him for being God. They’re not angry because he has failed to deliver what he promised. They’re angry because he has failed to deliver what they have craved, expected, or demanded.”

Paul Tripp Awe, p. 73

I know that has been true of me…

 

What may be keeping you from letting God meet you where you are right now?

Soul Faceoff  2

(Faceoff – to be in or come into opposition or competition;

fighting to gain control or possession)

 

My nephew, Scotty Brown, (pictured) junior at Palm Beach Atlantic U is a faceoff specialist and the reigning SELC Specialty Player of the Year for his exemplary faceoff work, earning 1st Team All-American and 1st Team All-SELC honors.

 

I remember visiting when he was heading into high school and learning how to faceoff. He’d be in the back yard figuring out positioning, maneuvering, speed and skill. He took lessons, he worked out, he sought coaching. He went after it. And he is good. He’d be the first one to tell you it takes hard work. Now, given, he has extraordinary genes, muscular physique and good looks, 🙂 but none of that alone would have gotten him where he is. He had to want it, work at it and pursue it.

 

Is it taking it too far to say we have faceoffs in our souls? Where our old ways, our old self wants to dictate and rule, where sin and the enemy taunt us into deceitful allure and how often we’re caught unguarded, without a helmet, with no stick?

 

Could part of soul facing off be:

  • Getting in position (standing in the fact that we are saved & can be freed from earthy pulls though they may be strong)
  • Being ready with strength and a stick (“strengthened with all power”, “the sword of the Word”, “the fullness of the Spirit”, “the shield of faith”)
  • Speedy to recognize the opponent’s moves and bluffs (symptoms of fear, anger, frustration or anxiety can be great indicators we need to turn from our old self, renew our minds and put on our new self. Ephe. 4:22-24)

 

Opposition is a given…it’s granted to us…expected…yet we are surprised when it hits us; surprised at the fiery ordeal among us, within and without. How can we be more ready?

 

How’s your soul training going? Are you ready for your next soul faceoff?

“For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

Col. 1:29

Soul Expectations  0

 

Isn’t it interesting that the church started as a small-beleaguered group of counter-cultural people that were opposed by their authorities, then moved over the centuries into the enjoyment of a Western culture that embraced many of its views?

 

Having lived as a foreigner many years in a culture that silenced any opinion not of the party line, I truly celebrate a culture that allows people to stand and speak. I also respect a person’s right to their own opinions, even if they don’t agree with mine – and hope for the same consideration from them. That seems to me like a self-evident right. But maybe that’s only in recent history…

 

The expectation of first century believers was that their society at large would not agree with them nor let them speak on important matters and would likely scorn them. Millennia later, believers in the Western world came to assume that the biblical worldview was a given. Today that is clearly no longer the case. Many in Western societies ascribe to other world views or philosophies (i.e. God doesn’t care how we live, there’s no God, no absolute truth, I can do what I want…). I’m afraid Western culture has regressed in the name of “progressive ideology”.

 

Pre-Christian ethics in ancient Rome with its accepted paganism had very few sexual boundaries.  What believers in Christ espoused about keeping sex inside marriage, between a man and a woman, was met with disdain.

 

Quotes from Sexual Morality in a Christless World

Matthew W. Rueger

 

“Such a bold confession put Christians at odds with anyone who kept to the older cultural ways. In particular, it earned Christians the deep abiding hatred of the Roman government. Sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, intercourse between adults and adolescents, prostitution and rape were not only legal, they were part and parcel of the cultural norm. What many ‘progressives’ today fail to understand is that the attitudes about sexuality they champion (a.k.a. open hedonism) are in reality the practices and cultural norms of societies like Rome that predate Christ’s birth. Ironically, they, and not Christians, are looking to return to ancient traditional standards.” Kindle location 146

 

“Christian sexual ethics that limited intercourse to the marriage of a man and a woman were not merely different from Roman ethics; they were utterly against Roman ideas of virtue and love. Roman perceptions of Christian sexual ideals would have been marked by hostility. Yet, Christians confessed what they believed to be true. As Christians today engage the world around them, they should not let hostility toward the biblical witness dissuade them. The first Christians were men and women of great courage. Confessing Christian morality always requires that spirit of bravery.” Kindle location 353

 

“Once more, the evidence supports the position that the model of one man and one woman living in a stable monogamous union is the best model for society. No other family structure has proven to be as beneficial to the overall stability of the community. In fact, other models can be shown to create an increased burden on society.” Kindle location 3281

 

“The Church is Christ’s answer to every individual’s struggle. It is the place where those who are guilty can find support from fellow guilty ‘strugglers.’ Within the Church, no one is better than anyone else; no one is less guilty of sin. All are in need of the forgiving love of Christ to reconcile them with God the Father. The Church is the perfect place for conflicted individuals to find peace with God and with other people who likewise need forgiveness.” Kindle location 1988

 

May it be so!

How can I react in a godly way while remaining true to my convictions?

 

“…you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith… But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam…, so that they might … practice sexual immorality.”

Revelation 2: 13, 14

Tell Your Soul!  0

 

logo

 

“Go tell it…!” Just as the Christmas hymn borrows these words from the ancient prophets, so are we to go tell of the victory of our King!

 

Though the enemy tries to convince us otherwise, he is powerless and defeated!

 

The great ancient city of Ninevah in Assyria, held all those around it in utter fear and dread. Then, when

definitively overthrown it was said,

kings

 

“Everyone who hears the news about you claps his hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?”

Nahum 3:19

 

This city that the prophet Nahum predicted would fall, fell in 612 BC and within a few centuries was covered with a windblown sand! (NIV note)

 

 

With great joy this news is received from messengers coming over the mountains: God’s enemies are overthrown! They no longer occupy their country. Judah was now able to resume her feasts and go to the Temple of God without fear, just as we today can live in the Spirit and don’t have to live according to the flesh, the pull of the world or the enemy of our souls anymore! We are given grace to choose otherwise, and freely escorted into His presence without hindrance because of our conquering King! (Hebrews 4:16)

 

Has your desire to live in the presence of your God been interrupted by enemy schemes, where he tries to convince you he still has power over you? Go tell it to your soul that Jesus the great King, the Overcomer and Conqueror has defeated the one who tries to keep you in old patterns, attitudes and mindsets!

 

We celebrate the coming of this great King.

 

The world had no idea what was coming…

  

“Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace!”

Nahum 1:15

 

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7

Go tell it on the mountains that Jesus Christ is born!

 

 

It was the defeat of their looming enemy that was being told of on the mountains, just as the defeat of our looming enemy by Jesus is being told today.

 

Where in your soul is this news needed?

 

Let’s get that news into our souls and out to places in our world it hasn’t gone yet!

pak-mts-douglas

Going and telling in the mountains of Central Asia!