Two, Not One

31 08 2015

The covenant God ‘cut’ with Abram (later Abraham) was a curious affair. We find the event in Genesis 15.

To the question, “How am I to know that I shall possess it (the land)?” Abram was instructed to lay out a 3-year-old heifer, female goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. All but the birds were cut in half, then laid out in such a way that they could be passed between by the parties involved in the covenant.

But then God did something strange. Abram was put into a deep sleep and a great darkness fell upon him.

How could he possibly participate in the agreement while in this state?

At this point, we are told, God alone passed through the carcasses. Yet, verse 18 states, “On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram…”

Oops! I missed a verse:

“When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between the pieces.”

If this was God alone, then why were two representations of Him present?

Unless…

God is never alone. He is a triune Being. The Trinity does not act independent of One Another.

Is it possible that in the ‘smoking fire pot and a flaming torch’ we have Father and Son making this covenant? Could the Son have been present that day to represent man?

Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it…to live it out perfectly, as no other man had ever been able to do!

That three entities did not cut this covenant is not out of keeping with the rest of Scripture. The Holy Spirit draws attention to God and Jesus, never to Himself.

We see this same symbolism in Exodus 14:19: “And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them.”

Get this:

“So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.” (v. 20)

I always thought it was God alone who led the Israelites. In this I see that I was mistaken!

Further, when the tabernacle was erected, the cloud (by which they were led through the wilderness) covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

On Sinai, the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud…” (Exodus 19)

And in Revelation 1, we have John’s record of Jesus: The hairs of His head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire…and His face was like the sun shining in full strength.”

Ooh, and don’t forget the entrance to Eden! “ He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Note that this isn’t cherubim with swords in their hands.

Ephesians 6 tells us that we have the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. What is the sword doing at the entrance? Guarding the way to the tree of life; ensuring that there will always be a way to enter in.

Jesus is the door, the Way, the Truth, the Life!

He is the Word.

“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

All this to say that it would seem that God and (Christ as pre-incarnate) ‘man’ cut covenant in the presence of Abram – on behalf of all mankind. God, it would seem, was the smoking fire pot; and Jesus was the flaming torch!

Jesus, the second Adam, and God present at this most important event…the Abrahamic covenant. Very cool.

Why do we care? One reason is this: Galatians 3:7 states, “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” Galatians 3:29 reads, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” In Romans 11 we’re told that we’ve been grafted into the olive tree (a symbol for Israel).

For those in Christ, this covenant concerns us, for we are also considered sons of Abraham.

Israel’s modern-day fight to keep the land God gave them is ours as well!

*****

Thanks for listening to my ramble. I’m mostly thinking out loud. I find the rich symbolism used in Scripture fascinating.

What does it all mean? Not sure; I just found this intriguing…God doing for man what man could not do for himself.

One thing I know for sure, we should care about Israel. Not only is it ‘their’ land…but, as sons of Abraham, it is ours as well. What concerns them also concerns us.

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Raw and Real

24 08 2015

To know that we’re loved by God with the same love as His love for Jesus is amazing; heartwarming; unless…

…you’ve been abused most of your life…

…and you believe that God punished Jesus in your place;

that all Christ endured was God’s ‘heart’ for you.

He hated you that much.

Aren’t you so thankful that Jesus took the hit for you?

Don’t you want to become one of God’s children too?

Strong words?

Yes. I cringe as I type, for this is completely untrue.

Yet, I see that this is the ‘gospel’ most of us believe; is the reason why some Christians protest abortion clinics and homosexuality and other behaviors to which God is opposed by screaming curses and spewing hateful labels at those who participate.

‘Without Jesus’, they deserve wrath…ours, apparently.

In the loving name of Jesus, amen, of course.

(This is NOT my approval of their ungodly acts – just a comment about our ungodly treatment of them.)

I had many questions for God last year. Ones to which I needed answers if I was to continue in the faith. It was really messy, so I ‘unplugged’ from WordPress to spare you.

Utterly fed up with abuse of any sort, I was ready to ‘dump God’ as the worst abuser of them all.

Hell sounded pretty good: sure, it’s hot, dark, worms never die…but you are alone. At least I wouldn’t be mistreated by others anymore.

Jeremiah 29:13 reads, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

It was the ‘all my heart’ bit that got me into trouble.

Yes, His Spirit was dwelling in me, but it was ‘Standing Room Only.’ There was a crowd of ‘witnesses’ hanging out in there as well. People from my past whose words ‘dwelt richly in me’ – words I believed with all my heart:

Stupid, worthless, fat, ugly, lazy, ridiculous, good-for-nothing, inadequate, unwanted, unlovable, and many that I won’t type so as to not offend you. Their voices were so loud that I could barely hear the Spirit speak.

(Through the process of forgiving, most of them have been evicted this year. I’m doing much better. Hearing the Lord much better, too. 😉 )

If you tell a person who’s been abused that the cross was God taking out His wrath for us – on His beloved Son – they’re not going to want to ‘join your club.’

Just sayin’.

After all, children, believe that parents love. Everyone knows that.

The abused child assumes that this is what love does: Dad’s angry about an infraction of his laws. Mom interferes, deflecting Dad’s anger and receives what was about to be unleashed on him or her.

Which sounds a lot like what God’s love ‘did’ to Jesus…

…the innocent suffering wrath that was meant for us.

(Yes, this is what the mind of an abused person does with the ‘Good News.’)

Is this what we really believe about God?

More importantly, is it even true?

Have I rattled your cage? If this is the god you believe in, I sincerely hope so.

We will seek Him – and find Him – when we search for Him with all our heart.

*****

My next post will be a re-blog by Mel Wilde. It turns out, I’m not the only one on this quest. Being further along on the journey, he is better able to articulate what God has also been revealing to him. It was exciting to discover that what God was showing me, He is also revealing to others, and independent of others. Mel is one of many, I’ve learned!

For a more thorough, scholarly treatment of this subject, I highly recommend Healing the Gospel by Derek Flood.





God Loves Broken Pots

21 08 2015

My life, like many of yours, has been filled with great pain, abuses, unfulfilled dreams, and deep sorrow. It was made doubly hard by my faulty beliefs of what God is like.

Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “I know the plans I have for you, plans for good (shalom – Hebrew) and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

As I surveyed my life, and considered the sovereignty of God, I came to the conclusion that He was a monster. Psalm 135:6 reads, “The Lord does whatever He pleases.” It seemed that He had been ‘pleased’ to curse me with immense misery.

I was once asked, “If you believe that God is so horrible, then why do you love Him?” That was a good question.

I responded with: “He’s all there is, and I have to love Him if I’m going to avoid hell.” I’d had plenty of experience with ‘loving’ hateful, hurtful people.

I assumed that God was like them – I could handle one more.

It was then that God began to reveal His true nature to me through a verse in John. Jesus said, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.”

Wow! I began to pour over the gospels, and to study Jesus. I realized how wrong I was in my beliefs about God the Father. He was tender with the people ‘in the ditch,’ but harsh with the self-righteous, religious people.

I hadn’t expected that.

He showed me His broken heart when I spent days on end in a drunken stupor to anesthetize my pain.

He loved me when I dragged the label “Christian” through the mud in every way imaginable.

He loved me when I slandered Him, and blamed Him for every vile sin committed against me – all while I claimed to be His child.

He loved me when I was bitter, hateful, and vindictive.
For almost five decades, He pursued me, wooed me, and sought to win my heart. His patient persistence finally won out.

Time and again He has shown Himself trustworthy. If I took the entire week it wouldn’t be enough time to enumerate the many ways He’s demonstrated Himself to be His every name as given in the Bible:

Redeemer, Provider, Healer, Defender, the Great I AM, and so much more.

He is everything I need.

He set me free from the bondage of people-pleasing, and has shown me time and again that if I seek to please Him, then others’ opinions are of little consequence.

He loves me – and that is enough.

He has become my best and dearest Friend, Confidante, and Lord. He promised a future that will surpass all my hopes and dreams.

With great expectation, I wonder what I will be doing a million years from today…
…it will be phenomenal!

To know God is to experience Him. To experience Him is to discover a love so vast that it is beyond comprehension. It is a privilege to know with confidence that I can trust His love.

Life may have broken this little pot, but my Father loves me with an indescribable, glorious love! Have you experienced this for yourself? I hope so!





Squeamish Truth

20 08 2015

(By the way, ‘Five’ referred to the fifth step as given in Be Selfish – Forgive.)

Start a discussion on the need to forgive God and people get nervous. Some become outraged on God’s behalf that I would suggest such a thing. Some consider me a heretic.

I’m okay with that.

Please take a moment to hear me out.

When we are hurt by another’s actions or words, the Bible instructs us to forgive. There are no qualifiers such as:

Only if they meant to hurt us.

If they said they were sorry.

Only if you’re willing to trust them again.

It doesn’t give qualifiers as to whom we are to forgive either. If we are hurt, then we are commanded to forgive.

As we saw in Be Selfish – Forgive, forgiveness is primarily something we do for ourselves. The offender usually doesn’t care one way or the other. It’s ‘no skin off their nose’ if we don’t forgive them. They’ve moved on and don’t give us a second thought.

Sometimes the One we need to forgive is God.

God is perfect. He never does anything wrong. Not even a tiny bit. He doesn’t have bad days, or whipping boys. He’s no bully, nor does He take out His frustration on anyone.

To suggest that we forgive Him seems foolish and arrogant. I get that. I’ve held that stance myself.

Until I met people who were genuinely angry at God. Seemingly with good reason:

The mother who prayed for a baby, got pregnant, but gave birth to a still-born.

The boy whose sister suffered for years before she died. He earnestly prayed for her healing, she died anyway.

The woman who prayerfully entered into marriage, confident that he was God’s choice for her…only to discover 15 years later that he was having an affair when they got married, and continued having them throughout their marriage.

I’m sure you could add to this list.

Are these people offended with God?

You bet your sweet bippy.

Did God, in fact, do anything wrong?

Not on your life. He is love, and everything He does is for the greatest benefit to the most people.

Tell any of these three, though, that they have no right to question our perfect God, no right to be angry with Him for He does all things well, and see how that goes.

What are they to do with their hurt, anger, and confusion? What else can they do, if they’re not allowed to express their emotions?

They will stuff them.

As any good counselor will tell you, stuffed emotions take on a life of their own. Shoved into the dark recesses of their hearts, they are fodder for the enemy. He will tell them lie upon lie:

God is not good

God doesn’t care

He doesn’t love {me} or He would never have done this to {me}
(the enemy always speaks to us in our pain in the first person, have you noticed?)

{I} can’t trust God

If God is in charge, and this is how He does things, {I} don’t want anything to do with Him

What began as a question about God’s character or nature becomes our belief system about God. Every new hurt that is perceived as coming from God gets added to the mess. Resentment and bitterness begin to grow.

There comes a day when it all comes boiling out. They become staunch rivals of God, doing everything they can to wipe His name out of existence.

Take time to listen to the story of an atheist, and you will almost always discover a point at which God ‘failed’ them…followed by their treatment by Christians who were offended by their outrage toward God.

How differently might things have turned out for them if they were allowed to voice their anger, their frustration, their confusion about what happened; had they received permission to be honest with God?

If, instead of Rebuke denouncing them for their arrogance against Almighty God, Empathy, or at least Compassion, stepped in and gave a safe place to vent, to hear their heart, none of those lies would have remained in the dark to grow like little dust bunnies under the bed.

Brought to the light, those emotions would have lost their power.

Given the tool of forgiveness, they may have chosen to begin the process. As they forgave a little here, a little there, their confusion would have cleared up. The lies would have been seen for what they were, and replaced with truth.

Force a person to be reverent to a God they don’t understand, especially in light of tragedy, if you must; but don’t be surprised when they later spew hateful invectives and go to great lengths to get God banned from everything.

God owes no one an apology.

His love never fails, and He is just in all He does.

I get that.

But we’re humans, with human emotions that sometimes go wrong. An offense is an offense, it doesn’t matter who that may be. Left unforgiven, pain will become resentment and bitterness. We’ve been commanded to forgive…everyone.

We cannot maintain a close relationship with a person by whom we’ve been hurt – intentional or otherwise. This doesn’t work in marriage, and it won’t work with God, either.

So long as hard feelings exist on our part, we will maintain our distance.

We can’t afford to be ‘peacekeepers’ with God. He wants our all – the good, the bad, and the ugly, as they say.

God is not impressed when we lie to Him about how we feel.

He already knows.

He’s ‘big enough’ to take care of Himself, and then respond with love, truth, grace, and mercy.

Once we’ve emptied our heads of the junk inside, there’s room for truth; space for fresh insight and revelation of the character of God.

We don’t demand answers. We may not get one, and that’s okay. What we will receive is peace ~ the type of peace that comes from clearing the air. Our memories of times with the Lord bring comfort once again.

In no time we will be able to say, “I don’t understand; but I know for sure that You have been good, and You will be good to me.”

And that’s the squeamish truth.





Polka-Dot Love

15 08 2015

As a parent, I came to appreciate the uniqueness of each of my seven children. Their little personalities were varied, their needs different from child to child.

I could not offer a one-size-fits-all kind of love or attention to them. Each one responded to different styles or interactions..the Five Love Languages, and all that. Part of my role as their mother was to figure out what each one needed, then supply that need.

As adults each of us have ways by which we best feel love. We have a heavenly Father who knows how to best meet that need, and He does so. His ways of communicating with us are as varied as the number of people in existence.

He’s a good Father.

When children are adopted, they come with ‘baggage’ from their family of origin. The challenge for the adoptive parents is to overcome what the child ‘knows’ about a father and/or a mother, for his or her concept is often skewed. When the new parents are patient, gentle, and persistent, the child comes to accept that they are loved, and slowly replace what they thought they knew about what a mom or dad is, with the new reality.

This can be a lengthy process, one that tears at the hearts of their new parents until breakthroughs begin to occur.

Right after my second birthday, I was adopted by my new step-dad. Unfortunately, he wasn’t interested in winning my heart – only in winning the imagined competition against my father. Sadly, he didn’t want the ‘trophy’ (me), that came with ‘victory’.

Kids aren’t equipped with the mental ability to understand that a parent is broken, and unable to love…so they call what they receive “love” and believe their experience to be the true definition. The rest of their life most will continue to define love by what they learned from their father.

As most are wont to do, I superimposed the treatment I received from my ‘dads’ over what I expected from God. I wrote about my experiences her: Unlock Your Shackles

When God adopted me, He ‘had His work cut out for Him’, as they say. It’s been a lengthy, slow process, but His love never fails and His patience is enduring.

At first I trusted Him not at all. He persisted, though, and has used methods that are unique to me in order to win my heart. This blog is filled with such stories: pink shoes, heart-shaped rocks, a gold lambskin jacket, provision when we had no food (for six months!), heart-shaped potatoes, and so forth.

While this looks like He panders to my materialism, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

My love language is not shopping!

Being Spirit in nature, He cannot wrap me in His arms, stroke my hair, or hold my hand. (However He did dance with me one day! See: Shall We Dance?) Consequently, He’s been creative in the ways He communicates His love to me. Each of the things listed came with a special lesson for me to learn about what a good Father is like.

Severely put off by what I believed about fathers, this unlearn/re-learn process has taken decades. Because He loves me and wants me to be secure in Him, He’s gone out of His way to demonstrate His goodness.

When others’ experiences with Father differ from ours, we must guard against undoing His work. What offends our senses may be merely because the experience was not meant for us. Unless their ‘take-away’ twists God into a heinous creature, we do well to rejoice with them in their breakthrough.

God knows how to best reach every one of us. He relentlessly pursues us and teaches us just how good He is.

As a kid, I was fond of polka-dots.

As an adult, I am fond of His polka-dot love for me…specially and deliberately designed to melt my heart.

He’s a good Father!

*Oh, the three verses I promised to share will be in my next post. 😉





The Playfulness of Abba

27 05 2015

When I prayed in March of 2014, I had no idea what God would do with my request! It was during Jim Bailey’s Legacy class. The prayer was something like this:

“Father, you came to heal us, to give us sight, deliver us, and set us free. Would you look under every rock, and overturn every stone in our hearts? Leave no place untouched by Your Spirit.”

Okay, we asked God to search our hearts. No big deal, right?

The next month, life was leveled by a series of events that left me in a broken heap, with little faith left in God. I didn’t talk to Him, and certainly didn’t want to hear anything He had to say.

During Legacy, I met Cheryl Stasinowsky, a very gifted counselor. We’d gone to coffee once during the summer. When life fell apart, I realized that our meeting was orchestrated by God. He’d opened a door before I knew I had a need. I had enough sense to step through it.

In September I began to meet with her every week. It’s been a difficult, although fascinating journey.

At the same time, kidney stones made themselves known. Gall stones as well. If you’ve ever had either, you know that they are not fun.

Week after week, Cheryl and I would address another stronghold within me…and I would pass a kidney stone, or two, or three! Not in the usual, painful way, though. I could feel them at the base of my kidney, then feel them drop down the tube into the ‘holding tank’. That was weird!

For the gall stones, I found a homeopathic remedy online – and it really worked!

Each time, after the Lord took down a stronghold, stones were ejected!

Abba was, indeed, looking under every rock and overturning every stone.

However, during this period, I also developed a massive kidney infection. It annoys me to have to go to a doctor to tell me what I already know – just so I can get an antibiotic!!

She did her fancy tests, and confirmed: Kidney infection. I took the written prescription and headed for the pharmacy, then went home to wait until it was ready to be picked up.

By the time I returned for the pills, the infection was gone.

Completely gone!

It seemed silly to take pills for something I no longer had, so I stuck them in my drawer, knowing that I’d probably need them at a later date.

Fast-forward to last weekend.

By Thursday night, the packing was done and ready to be loaded into the car for our long weekend at the coast.

Friday morning I woke up with strep throat and bronchitis.

Great, I thought, I’m going to sleep away our vacation.

I’ve had to go to the doctor while we were out of town (kidney infection!), and it cost almost $600. I didn’t want to do that again.

Our doctor was on vacation, so a quick stop for a prescription was out of the question.

“Oh, Lord. What am I to do?”

The unused medicine came to mind. Where had I put the pills? That was several months ago.

After I found them, I looked up the medication online and discovered that it was also used for respiratory infections and strep throat.

Woohoo! By Saturday I was feeling much better.

On Sunday afternoon, we sat on the gravel beach at Dry Lagoon (just north of Trinidad). The waves were slowly advancing, for high tide was on its way.

Our quest: agates.

I’ve been reading Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge who said that you can tell a great deal about an artist by his work.

Since I was holding a handful of stones, I began to really look at each one. I realized that in my hand were more than 20 different types of rock!

I began to share what I’d been reading with my husband, and said, “This beach is evidence of the extravagance of God. You know, God could have given us one type of rock, one type of grass, of bush, of tree, and even soil. He didn’t have to give us a variety.

“After all, He didn’t spend millennium in the lab trying to figure out an ecosystem that worked. HE decided how it would all work together. He is the originator of the ecosystem…and, therefore, is not limited by it.

“Yet, He chose to give us such a diverse and interesting planet on which to live. By His work, we can see how amazing He really is!”

“WAVE!” my husband yelled, grabbing for his backpack.

I grabbed my flip-flops and scrambled for higher ground. The ‘sneaker’ wave rolled over my pants before I could get clear.

Finally on my feet, I walked up the incline.

“Hey! We were talking about You…and nicely, too,” I said to the Lord with a grin. “You owe us an agate! Oh, all right. I know. You don’t owe us anything.”

Moving to a new spot, I looked down. At my feet was…

…a beautiful smoky agate…

…in the shape of a heart.

AbbaLovesMe

I love the playfulness of my Father!





To Trust Again

12 12 2014

“Why are you angry with God? He didn’t make these choices.”

Out of nowhere, the words hung in the air as I headed to my counselor’s home. It was a good question, I thought. He hadn’t made any of the choices that caused my pain.

We live in a fallen world, with fallen people who make bad choices – often without ever wondering why they’re doing so.

Their actions land on us, and we live out the consequences. That is all. In His sovereignty, God determined to allow free will to every human being on the planet…and didn’t limit it to those whose will was in line with His (which of us would qualify??).

It’s taken me a long time to sort things out and understand why I had turned on God with such fury. It boils down to one word:

Expectation

As God’s children, it is expected that our good behavior will be rewarded with sugar and spice and everything nice. Nothing bad should ever come our way. We are loved, cherished children of an all-powerful God who can protect us from everything.

To be honest, He hadn’t been ‘performing’ in a manner consistent with my expectations for…well, for all of my life. Many horrible things have happened to me. He ‘could’ have stopped them, but He didn’t.

Thus, when He broke into my current situation last spring and began to heal those who’d hurt me, I was more angry than I thought possible.

Angry with God

Freaking ticked!

I’d asked, begged, and pleaded with Him for years to intervene, to set things right. I can’t say how long ago I gave up asking and assumed that this was my lot in life…for the rest of my life. I’d made it thus far, it was obvious that I could hold out until the end.

Which was why my reaction stunned me.

At the same time, my faith was shaken to its very foundation. I was unsure whether I would still be willing to follow the Lord when all was said and done. He had done nothing according to my plan, or my timetable. I was disillusioned and wondered if I could trust Him after all.

Scary!

One of the things I’ve discovered is that there is a difference between faith and trust.

There was no doubt that I had saving faith going into this season. The fruit of the Spirit has been evident in ever-increasing ways. What I lacked was the cling-to-the-Rock-and-you’ll-be-okay trust that I desperately needed. I had faith that He saved me – just didn’t trust that He was going to (finally) do something about my life!!

It became apparent that there were many things I had yet to learn about God.

The first being that He had not caused any of this. Therefore, to blame Him was a lesson in futility.

I rewrote Proverbs 3:4-5 and tried to live by it this year. It goes like this:

Trust in yourself with all of your heart

Don’t ask God to give understanding

In all your ways try to make your plans work…

…and let me know how that turns out for you!

It’s been a rough year, one from which I wasn’t sure I’d ever emerge intact. At long last, I’m able to step back from my life and gain God’s perspective a little. Things look much better from there – certainly not so intense.

His plans for me are for good and not for evil. Like Joseph, I can say, “You meant this for evil, but God meant it for good.” I’m coming back around to the faith – no trust – that “all things work together for those who love God.”

I just had no idea what those “all things” might entail.

The last three months have been well-spent. God provided the most amazing counselor I could have ever received. I’m sure He chose His very best to minister to me. She’s more of a “heart specialist” really. Every week God has used what’s going on around me to stir up deep, deep wounds and heal them. (Hint: Forgiveness looms large in healing!)

I had no idea that there were so many strongholds within my heart. It’s been painful – and yet brings freedom like I’ve never known.

I’m not sure who I’ll be when He’s finished; He’s left no stone unturned. I’ll be different, of that I am certain.

The time is close when I will, finally, make the paradigm shift so needed in my understanding of Who God is and how He works. Very close.

At last, I shall trust Him again.

*****

 I’m embarrassed to admit what this journey has looked like. I wish it wasn’t so. Thanks for “listening!”