Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Seeking God


After reading a blog that Nicole posted on A Journey to Freedom, I began to think about what it means to seek God. I spent many years seeking God. I read books on the subject. I prayed, fasted and memorized scripture all in an attempt to seek God. The result was insecurity and frustration because I never felt like I had succeeded. Looking back, I now realize that I was looking for some sort of physical manifestation or feeling that would prove that I had been successful in my seeking.

The goal of seeking is to find. Jesus has said that if we seek, we shall find. Scripture also states that we should seek God while he may be found. Well, he’s been found so why do we keep on seeking? As believers, he’s in us. He’s not off somewhere hiding.

A number of years ago, there was a very popular book out that said that God hides from us. The author believed that God would hide from us and, if we came close to finding him, he would run and hide again. That always bothered me. I couldn’t comprehend of a father that would hide from his children. It just didn’t make any sense.

At night, I enjoy looking out my bathroom window and gazing at the moon and the stars. Father’s presence just seems so real in those moments. A few years ago, as I looked, I saw the moon. As I continued to watch, clouds moved so that the moon was hidden behind them. Although the moon was still in the same location, I could no longer see it because the clouds obstructed my view. In a short time however, as the clouds continued to move, I could once again see the moon.

The same thing is true with God. He doesn’t hide from us but our fears and doubts as well as our traditions hinder us from “seeing” him. Since Jesus said he would never leave us nor forsake us, he’s in us whether we sense his presence or not.

I had to get to the place where I believed that he is always with me. Now, I don’t have to seek him because I know where he is. He’s in me just as he said he would be.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Not an ending but a beginning . . .

I found this scene from The Matrix on Kent's blog and decided to steal it and post it here. (I hope you don't mind, Kent.) I think this short excerpt gives a beautiful picture of what the church will be like when its been freed from the matrix of religion.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Listening to my heart

I'm reading a really interesting book entitled "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho. It was recommended to me by an English teacher where I work as well as by a Spanish teacher. The description on the flyleaf said, "Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts."

When I read that, I knew that I had to read this book. Written as an allegory, the story is about a young shepherd named Santiago who has a dream about finding a treasure. Following this dream, he leaves his home in Spain and travels to Egypt in pursuit of his dream. Along the way, he faces many hardships and obstacles but determines to continue his quest.

Although I don't normally care for allegories, this book has many spiritual nuggets that are encouraging me on my journey as a free believer. It's a book that I believe may require multiple readings.

In the introduction, the author said, "Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend. However, we don't all have the courage to confront our own dream." That spoke volumes to me about the importance of not letting my dreams die but to pursue them despite the obstacles.

He also said, “There comes a time when our personal calling is so deeply buried in our soul as to be invisible. But it’s still there.”

I can relate to this since dreams that I’ve held in my heart for many years are beginning to re-surface. Although I pushed them down because of fear thinking they were impossible to attain, they’re still there and they’re once again beginning to speak to me. I’m not sure how they will come to pass but I feel that now is the time I must move in order to see their fulfilment.

Another quote is “If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”

This really goes along with my previous blog. There are those people who feel it’s their job to correct others. For many years as a people pleaser, I’ve been the person that others have wanted to fix. Now, I’ve come to believe that it’s okay to be who I am and I’m learning how to be me. That’s been a major transformation and it’s also been very freeing.

The last quote that I’m posting here is one of my favourites. “The boy felt jealous of the freedom of the wind, and saw that he could have the same freedom. There was nothing to hold him back except himself.”

Jesus said that we would be like the wind going wherever we pleased however, I’ve allowed religion and life to hold me back. Understanding that I can still have that freedom is exciting! However, freedom doesn't come automatically. I’ve had to break free from religion’s restraints and the bondages of the past in order to once again connect with those dreams that Father has placed in my heart.

Learning to follow my heart rather than a set of rules or others’ expectations of me has been an adventure and I’m really still in the learning stage. I’m finding that as I take each new step of faith trusting that Father is right there with me that my security in his love grows stronger each day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Religion of Correction

I've noticed behavior on blogs and online discussion groups which disturbs me. It seems that there's a tendency for some to feel that it's their job to correct others.

Although discussion can be good and often is helpful, correction is usually inappropriate. I believe comments, when made respectfully, are very appropriate even when they don't agree with the original post. I've noticed, however, that dissenting comments sometimes have an argumentative, superior sounding tone. Instead of sharing personal beliefs and thoughts, comments often become an attempt to straighten everyone else out. Instead of discussing the differences, the comments become a personal attack against the individual.

Darin Hufford has posted a blog sharing his thoughts regarding this problem. I decided to post his blog here in its entirety rather than posting a link because I believe this is an important topic. If taken seriously, I believe his comments can do much to improve the atmosphere surrounding online discussions.

I do want to say that I don't believe this has been a problem with those who normally post comments on this blog. This is a great community of bloggers who understand the need to allow others the freedom to experience their own unique journey.

Religion of Correction

"The modern-day mentality of bringing correction presents an eerie reflection of where Christianity has sunk in our generation. It makes sense that a religion totally void of true intimacy and relationship would perceive that correction would come from a nameless, faceless, cybernaut-stranger who doesn't know us from Adam. Challenging one another to receive correction from an internet-ghost or a complete stranger whom we don't even know is the epitome of what American Christianity has become.

The problem with the mentality that a person can "bring correction" over the internet is that it's just plain unlikely that ANYONE will receive it. Why should they? There is no way in the world that the person who is bringing the correction could know the heart of the person they're correcting. All they are really correcting is a phrase or group of words to which they have inserted a tone and attitude. The majority of the time, when the Lord brings correction in anyone's life, it comes through a person who is already in a deep relationship with the one being corrected. A family member, a close friend or a brother and sister in the Lord who knows your heart will almost always be the one who brings correction. Just as I would never allow a stranger in the mall to discipline one of my children, God is not in the habit of calling upon someone you have no relationship with to administer discipline to you. God knows each of our hearts and He knows exactly what it would take for each one of us to receive a change of heart. With Him, it's not about pointing out our wrongs. That's not what He does. He celebrates our rights. I think most people's idea of correction comes from an upside-down understanding of the heart of God.

It's particularly difficult for someone who is in the spotlight of ministry. When you have written a handful of books and dozens of articles and you have sermons all over the internet and thousands of audio CDs across the world, it's amazing how many people feel "called of God" to bring correction into your life. The moment you don't submit right away, or get a little upset, you're immediately branded as "un-teachable." The average person may receive a correction from a friend or family member about once every six months, while a person in the spotlight receives it about 40 to 50 times per day from people he's never even laid eyes on. I find myself answering for comments I made in sermons I preached five years ago in Arkansas or ten years ago in California.

Probably most frustrating thing of all is that I spend the majority of my time answering accusations that aren't even related to truth. People are either accusing me of saying something I never said, or they're rebuking me for not saying something I actually did say. This is almost always the case. Sifting through all the allegations in an effort to separate the legitimate from the illegitimate can be a full-time job. Then to add more stress, I have to deal with the fact that pretty much everyone who is "bringing the correction" honestly and sincerely feels that they have been commissioned by God. They've sincerely prayed about it before writing me. They honestly feel that they've heard from Him and they fully see it as though it's God and them confronting me together. When I don't respond as favorably as they had imagined, they're totally disillusioned and let down by my "arrogant and un-teachable spirit." That's usually when they leave and try to write an article or two about me in an effort to warn others against me. I won't lie to you. It's exhausting!

I think what amazes me most is the amount of people who can't hear from God to save their life, but when it comes to someone else, they mysteriously become Moses incarnate. I am blown away by the amount of spiritual arrogance. In my generation, it would be downright disrespectful to confront someone older than yourself for the purpose of bringing correction. At the very least, it comes across as patronizing and belittling when someone who is in their 20s feels it's their right and place to confront a person twice their age and with three times their experience. I am constantly shocked at how many people in this generation actually feel they have the right to do that. This is not something that I was taught.

I may not agree with Billy Graham on everything, but I would never be so arrogant as to take it upon myself to send him a letter of correction. I can't imagine ever thinking that way. It's disrespectful and bigheaded. It's just not my place. I trust that God can either speak to him directly or through those who are close to him. It wouldn't even cross my mind to think that it was my place to do such a thing. Today, however, I watch in amazement at how frequently people feel the right to confront and correct everyone, with no regard for age or experience. This, in my opinion, is evidence of social illiteracy, and sadly, it is justified in the name of religion.

I also feel that the desire to constantly correct others is evidence of a wave of social illiteracy throughout our nation as a whole. I can be friends with someone for ten years and NEVER ONCE bring correction to them, yet amazingly, today's generation feels the need to rebuke, reprimand and correct people at every turn. The results of this mindset are disgustingly apparent in today's friendships. There is rarely a real and authentic closeness shared with anyone, because everyone has learned to hide themselves away. People have become more concerned with what others say and how they say it, than they are with their own words and life. We are a generation of control-freaks, and I believe that our modern Christian mentality of bringing correction has been greatly influenced by this fact.

I have found through experience that when God brings correction to me, I am left feeling amazingly excited about it. There is almost never a feeling of embarrassment, guilt or shame for having been wrong. He has a way of doing it that actually makes me happy I was wrong. In fact, every time He has corrected me, it comes out looking like that. It's always a better thing He shows me. The truth He brings to me in those moments is always so much better than what I thought it was, that I actually look forward to being corrected by Him. It's always an exciting experience. His correction bears no resemblance to what we commonly call correction. I have not once walked away from the Lord after having been corrected by Him with a limp or with my head low. God's correction comes in the form of encouragement, NOT criticism. This is the primary difference between what I see with Christians today and how God generally works in our lives.

A pretty good way to tell whether or not you actually were commissioned by God to bring correction to a person is to assess whether or not it worked. Did they receive it? If they didn't, there is about a 90% chance that it's because you weren't the one to bring it. I have found that when something comes from God, people almost always get it. In Scripture, almost every time a person received correction by God, they got it. God has a way of doing it at just the right time, in just the right tone, with just the right words and in just the right way. If the person to whom you brought correction didn't receive it, BLAME YOURSELF! If your words were divinely-inspired, they most likely would have landed right in the heart of the person you spoke them to. The only accounts that I can remember in Scripture where someone didn't receive correction from God is when they were not in the family of God.

Today, however people think that they are divinely commissioned to safeguard topics from bad people. Correction today is about letting someone know that they're wrong on behalf of the topic at hand. Correction in God's heart is always on behalf of the person.

I think the biggest reason why so many people don't receive modern-day correction is because it almost always comes from someone who doesn't give a rat's ass about them as a person. It rarely comes from someone who truly knows and loves them. Today we are more concerned with right or wrong than we are with loving one another. My advice to people is this: if you don't love the person, keep your mouth shut. If you don't know a person, keep your mouth shut. If you are not standing right in front of the person, eye to eye, face to face, and you don't already have an established relationship with that person, keep your mouth shut!

This is a good rule of thumb that I hope all Free Believers memorize. If anyone, after having spent time with you, walks away feeling worse then they did before spending that time with you, IT'S NOT FROM GOD! The message does not need to be safeguarded. God's heart is for people first and foremost. In about 99% of the cases that any of us feel that we should bring correction to another person; we're wrong ourselves. The majority of the time that someone wants to bring correction to another person, they are correcting something that the other person never said to begin with. I have found that the "corrector" almost always has gotten the wrong idea about what the other person said. It's just easier to keep our mouths shut and trust in God."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy birthday, Matthew


You're an awesome guy and I've enjoyed getting to know you. I look forward to reading more about what you're learning and how you're growing in Father's love.

This is your special day and I hope it's a great one.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sainthood

I read in the news today that the Catholic Church has begun their process of conferring sainthood on several candidates. According to the report, sainthood is conferred in a 5 step process that normally takes years to complete.

I thought how fortunate we are as believers since we become saints the instant we're born again. There's no waiting time and we don't have to wait until we die for someone to recognize our merit. This is not an honor that's reserved for a select few but it's a gift from our Father given to every one of his children. No one has to scrutinize our lives to see if we're worthy of this honor. In Christ, we're ALL worthy.

We're saints not because of what we've done but because of what Christ has done.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

He is my identity

My friend, Mark, likes to send me videos which I always enjoy. I thought this one about our identity in Christ was great so just sit back and let the truth of who we are sink in as you watch and listen.

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:31-32 (King James Version)