Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Enjoy Your New Digs

Those who obey His commands live in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us; we know it by the Spirit He gives us.
1 John 3:24

At first glance this looks like another set up for a performance trap. If I don’t do things perfectly all the time, I’m not in Christ. If I’m not in Christ, I’m not saved. If I’m not saved I am up an unsanitary tributary without a means of propulsion (you know that place). This is going downhill fast, time to apply the brakes.

“Therefore, is anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Paul describes a new species of being that comes into existence when one enters into a relationship with God. Perhaps your experience was like mine. When I got up the next morning and looked in the mirror, I saw the same old same old. I didn’t look new and improved on the outside, but inside my spirit was alive and well for the first time. When I didn’t see any radical difference I doubted my experience was real. My problem was I used the wrong yardstick.

1 John reveals the measure to employ to assess your relationship, or lack of one, with God. It isn’t determined with an appraisal of your outward actions or appearances; it is spiritually discerned. To understand and evaluate from a spiritual perspective takes a new skill set every believer must develop. Before we came into fellowship with Christ we depended on logic that was influenced and driven by our flesh. The spirit-we didn’t even know we had one, let alone have a clue how to be directed by it. Our souls (minds, wills and emotions) and our bodies controlled our decision making processes. Neither voluntarily relinquishes that control. The war is on! What is disconcerting about our spirit is, it knows our true motives. It won’t hesitate to reveal our real intentions which aren’t always pretty or selfless. We can do all the right things for the wrong reasons and fool everyone, except God. How do we get off the treadmill that gets us nowhere fast?

Here’s an exercise to do. Imagine for a few minutes that you are literally in Christ and that He is in you. What does that look and feel like to you? When you’re in Christ, are you concerned about sinning? If not, why not? Christ doesn’t do anything that violates God’s laws. You may protest, “This is just my imagination, it’s not reality.” Not according to the apostles John and Peter. They taught that this is our position right now. Use your imagination to develop a picture of your new environment. Ask Holy Spirit to literally help you see this truth. I’m not an expert in quantum physics, but according to those who are, we are only here in this realm about fifty percent of the time. We move between dimensions so fast our natural senses cannot discern the difference. The more highly developed our sensitivity to the spiritual realm is, the easier it will be to see our new environment. Old behaviors and thought patterns will fade away. They don’t fit our new lifestyle any longer.

This is a process. Our souls and our flesh won’t take the back seat without a fight. Knowing this, we can extend grace to others in the developmental process. Don’t expect perfection from them or even from yourself. I’m not saying that “anything goes.” What I am saying is cut others and even yourselves some slack. When we recognize the reality of where we are in Christ it changes the dynamics of our thoughts and actions. In Him the struggle is over because He has already overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. Enjoy your new digs!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Chocolate Cake For My Brain Please

For we walk by faith, not by
2 Corinthians 5:7

I recently read Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, professor emeritus in Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. He also won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics. The book described how our brains process information and draw conclusions. Kahneman defined two different modes of thinking used to analyze data and circumstances in order to formulate reasonable expectations. System One, the intuitive side, thinks quickly and develops opinions with minimal facts and information. System Two involves cognitive thought to help us dig past the surface and get to the heart of the matter. This is hard work and System Two tends toward laziness. Prone to shift as much of our thought processing back on to System One, System Two also has a bit of a sweet tooth. When overworked it prefers chocolate cake over a healthy fruit snack almost every time. I can relate to this.

Our world gets chaotic and unpredictable; an atmosphere our brains abhor. They dislike uncertainty and will search for answers even when none exist. Quick to form solid opinions on shreds of evidence the brain, when confronted with the fallacy of its rationale, will soldier on in error. Media, advertisers and politicians all know it's easy to fool most of the people most of the time.

Our proclivity to think fast with System One underscores our need for a sure foundation of truth. When we study, meditate and establish God’s Word as the final authority, our brains have clear boundaries to operate within. Faith positions us in places of uncertainty, the scenario our brains struggle to avoid. While the brain works to understand our situation, God’s Word provides answers and comfort. There won’t always be solutions and understanding this side of eternity. Armed with this truth we’re free from attempts to draw conclusions that may make us feel better but are based on fallacies.

Scriptures teaches us that our brains need to be trained to use God’s Word to screen our thoughts. System Two needs to get up off the couch and get to work. If it feels like a struggle at times, it is. This part of our brain needs to be prodded along. To be mentally fit is as taxing as being physically fit, and a good reason to maintain a supply of chocolate cake. If you’ll excuse me, after this work out I need a piece of cake.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Can You Lose What You Never Had?

Therefore, consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; who ever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him” 
Luke 8:18 (emphasis mine)

How can you lose what you never had? Luke states this happens when you only think you’ve got some thing. Sounds confusing, but it’s quite simple. The context of this verse deals with what occurs when people hear God’s Word. Like seeds, God’s Word is scattered about. At any given time, in many places, His Word goes out over the air waves, through spoken words and printed materials. Many of us are bombarded with opportunities to hear about God from a wide variety of sources.

Have you learned something new only to realize that almost instantly, you forgot it? You thought you had it, but you lost it. When it comes to God’s Word the devil works hard to make sure this happens. We’ll hear something, agree, implement it and have a measure of success. Things get tough, our belief gets challenged and we tell ourselves, “This doesn’t work.” We give up and quit. We thought we had it but we lost it.

Circumstances toy with our thought processes. Worries about life, money or a lack thereof, pleasures and so forth side track us and divert our attention. We lose what we thought we had because we never really possessed it.  Things aren’t hopeless however. Luke 8:15 shows the power of God’s Word when heard and retained. Adversity came, but with perseverance it was overcome and the bumper crop arrived. Success!  

How do we really “get it?” Verse eighteen gives us the answer. “Consider carefully how you listen.” Our subconscious minds pick up things our conscious minds miss. We need to monitor the surroundings and situations that can negatively influence us. We can’t avoid everything and everyone but we can be vigilant and wise. What we listen to is as important as how well we listen. There are many voices opposed to God competing for our attention. Their persuasive, forceful arguments can easily move us off God Word if we let them influence our thinking. Faced with ongoing challenges we must go past mental assent into unshakable faith. With God’s Word as final authority and the benchmark we measure all things against, we progress from head knowledge to heart faith.

         It would be nice if life was always smooth sailing, but reality includes storms and rough seas. God’s Word contains the truths we need to navigate our ship through the tempest and not sink. When opportunity to partake of His Word arises from the wide variety of sources available, let’s be diligent to really listen. We can go from just thinking we've got it to grasping and implementing what we’ve heard. We won’t lose it because we really have it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Getting It Straight

If you had responded to my rebuke; I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you.   Proverbs 1:23

I’ve come to the place where I ask God for correction and appreciate when He responds. It hasn’t always been like this. For years I confused my own self talk with God’s words of reproof. I knew He was supposed to be a loving Father but He struck me more as a stern taskmaster. I expected His discipline to be administered with a heavy hand and cruel, angry words. I got enough of that from myself so I didn’t need any additional helpings from the Creator of the Universe.

I can’t exactly pinpoint when my ideas about God’s nature began to change and I allowed myself to entertain the notion that He wasn’t an ogre after all. Maybe the lack of lightning bolt strikes finally registered. I discovered that God doesn’t use sickness, disease, disasters or calamities to teach me lessons. God’s words of correction smart sometimes and I so dislike being wrong. However, I don’t suffer wounds from words spoken with unconditional love.

According to Proverbs, God’s method of correction differs from what many of us have experienced in life. “Because I say so,” isn’t His standard response to our question “Why?” Although He is the ultimate authority with the final say, that’s not His style. The verse in Proverbs assures us that when we respond to His rebuke, He’ll “splain” things to us. We’ll get the correct perspective to our situation. He’ll share His heart with us through words of encouragement laced with correction not condemnation and sarcasm. He likes to help us get it straight and He does this with words that build up, and not with a smack down.
          Now I voluntarily ask God to straighten me out. I don’t do such a good job when left to my own devices so I consult with the Ultimate Expert. There are things He’ll reveal that aren’t pretty; they’re outright ugly. Truth hurts, but it’s still the truth. Living a lie is too expensive a proposition. The older I’ve become the more I’ve realized there may not be time to wait for a more opportune occasion. It may never come.