Post by Category : Soul Searching

Soul Bent  0

 

 

Our souls bend toward a negative downward pull;

 

that feeling when you get up in the morning that you’re not quite cutting it, you’re missing important pieces, you’re just not what you should be.  If we don’t shake ourselves and wake ourselves, we will continue bending

and descending into that way of thinking and welcoming “a thousand other shards of the curse…” as Russell Moore put it.

When the enemy of our souls catches us in those moments of self-disdain, we often, like Adam & Eve, submit to his taunts and give in to his rule when we are supposed to be ruling him; listening to

truth, stepping away from the accuser and toward the Creator.

 

The accuser convinces us we don’t deserve the gift of life, or love or joy.  We refuse God’s grace, thinking we need to feel worthy or earn it. We fall prey to the accuser’s schemes when he doesn’t have a leg to stand on (that’s why he’s a serpent).

There are at least 2 ditches we can fall into here with regard to this incredible grace:

2 ways our soul likes to bend.  (Ideas from Tim Keller’s book Prayer)

 

Ditch 1 = “Forgiveness can’t be free.”  ->I have to earn God’s grace and mercy through how bad I feel about my sin or how good I can make myself.  He can’t love me because of my sin.  I have to change myself. (Wallowing in self, Unbelief, No heart change)

 

Ditch 2 = “O it doesn’t matter if I sin, God will forgive me.” ->Flippancy toward the infinite payment for my sin, prayers are trivial and not life changing, repentance is really self-pity. I justify, minimize my sin or blame. (No change of false beliefs or inordinate desires).

 

Think of a father giving a disobedient child that has been forgiven, a beautiful coveted gift, but the child refuses because he feels so bad about what he’d done.  He doesn’t accept or believe his father’s forgiveness. (ditch 1)

 

Or think of the disobedient child knowing his father won’t disown him, acts entitled and does nothing of what the father asks, is self-serving and feels justified. (ditch 2)

 

How distressful for the father.

 

For those of us who lean toward ditch 1 – like Peter when he said to Jesus, “No, you won’t wash my feet” (I can’t let You see or touch my dirt) and Jesus says back “Then you have no part with Me…” John 13:8.  Then Peter begs him to wash the rest of him too.

 

For those of us who lean toward ditch 2 – like the Corinthians who were still living only for this world and didn’t see the point of living a different life. 1 Cor. 3:1

 

Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4

 

He leads us there to the place of being able to face ourself and let go of the thing that’s holding us back so we can receive from Him and be free.  That’s cause for joy!

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“…we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain…but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships…”   2 Cor. 6:1,4

 

So, we receive His grace not because we tidied ourselves up nor so that we can just live however we want.  It’s a gift so we can walk in newness of life.  Free to love and give and go through difficulties with purpose.

 

What have we not yet received or opened that the Father so painstakingly paid a high price for, because we don’t feel we deserve it? (ditch 1) or because we really want something else, like our own way? (ditch 2)

 

What do you need to do to get out of the ditch?

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 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

Soul Sacrifice  0

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“He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me…”  Ps. 50:23

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Dan & I spent some time in mouth-dropping gaze at the wonders of the largest cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia – it’s intricate design and mind-boggling construction encompassing decades of sacrifice, sweat, lives and seeming inordinate amounts of marble; enormous columns of smooth, colorful, majestic marble.

 

And I have to wonder. Was…is it pleasing to the Most High? It certainly inspires awe, deepens mystery, pointing to the holy transcendence of God.

 

 

 

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Whether it pleases him, I cannot know. But this I know, there are other sacrifices he asks of us today. In studying the Israelite king Hezekiah’s life, I noticed that his first order of business upon ascending to the throne was to clean out the mess that the temple had become with his father’s rule. With no tone of bitterness or exasperation of dealing with someone else’s bad decisions, it’s as though he says,

 

 

Come on guys, let’s clean this up. (2 Chron. 29:5)

 

 

After a lot of work and convincing others of the need, he says (my paraphrase),

 

Now that we’ve cleaned the mess of the temple and ourselves, let’s bring God sacrifices and thank offerings. (2 Chron. 29:31)

 

Well, what was so important about that? Why would a king who has enemies prowling on his borders ready to pounce, make his first order to re-instate worship that had been long lost? Shouldn’t he focus on the imminent danger to the very existence of his nation? Shouldn’t we focus on our circumstances, the threats that are ever before us to take away our way of life, our identity or the things we love?

 

Well…

Not without putting things in order! I think King Hez had the right order. Preparing the temple (i.e. myself, His temple today – where He dwells! 1 Cor. 6:19) SO THAT I can bring sacrifices of thanksgiving and then have a right perspective on the other things.

 

This is a good week to do that for us Americans. Thanksgiving! It’s a holy privilege that we take too lightly. How’s your temple? Have things made their way in that pull your allegiance, take away from undivided worship or clutter the altars?

 

How can you prepare your temple to bring thank offerings?

 

This may give a few hints into your soul:

 

  • What clutters your time and dulls your motivation to know God?
  • What has your heart’s allegiance above all else? (safety, comfort, significance, approval?)
  • What do you work hard to avoid?

 

 

What do I give up when I offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving?

(I.e., Thanking him for things that I’m not naturally thankful for)

 

  • Perceived control (Ex., if I thank God for a health situation I’d rather have him change, it could feel like I’m giving up.)

 

  • Entitlement. I’ve worked hard to get here and be this…so I should have _______________. (God owes me.)

 

  • Putting hope in a changed situation rather than in Him.

 

  • My dream. (Which often leads to better more lasting dreams.)

 

  • Other?

 

 

What do I gain with a sacrifice of thanksgiving?

 

  • Freedom to walk in joy into my messy reality without demanding that it be different.

 

  • Anticipation of his surprising work in me, in the situation, and maybe in others.

 

  • Ability to let him set the agenda and let go of mine.

 

  • Humility – the realization, acceptance of who he’s made me and how I can pour that out for others.

 

  • New dreams, holy curiosity and hunger for more.

 

  • Freedom to bring my complaints to him and wrestle, but to leave with joy.

 

  • Other?

 

 

Come on guys, let’s clean up so we can make some sacrifices!!

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise…” Heb. 13:15