READ THIS FIRST

I am told that the truths that I share sometimes come across a bit too curt. Not that the truths shouldn’t be firmly held, but when I share them verbally my tone and expression and responses to the listener allow me to share the truth and the balance of grace at the same time (please listen to some of my audios for examples).

Whatever today’s topic, the full balance always involves the the following sweet coatings on the sometimes distasteful pill of truth of:

For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

1. You are not alone, Dr. Verle Bell joins you as the chief of sinners and in no position to judge your worth, dignity, security, future, or God’s ability to help you.

2. There is Hope!

3. If you are a saved child of God, you have worth, strength, and hope just because. You can’t lose it or increase it, you have them just because Jesus died for you and loves you.

4. There are no have to‘s for us but there are a lot of sure-would-be-nice‘s. These blogs are to help you grab ahold of all the sure-would-be-nice’s God has for you in the present.

5. If you never change, grow, fight the good fight, etc, You are still a winner, for we are more than conquerors- we forever remain in his love!

Stop to think, how many people have passed through this world without confessing with God that they are a sinner in need of salvation, asking for that salvation based on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Since we have, as a result we are now immortals. The rest is just icing on the cake.

Now read on to get your share of the icing!

If you ask Him nicely, He might even let you lick out of the icing bowl, just as my Mom did when I helped her in the kitchen as a boy.

WHY NOT MORE?

WHY NOT MORE OF JESUS AND ALL HE HAS TO GIVE?

WHY NOT NOW INSTEAD OF LATER, WHY NOT HERE INSTEAD OF ELSEWHERE.

“LORD GIVE ME ALL OF YOU HERE AND NOW THAT YOU LONG TO GIVE ME. YOU DELIGHT IN GIVING GOOD GIFTS TO YOUR CHILDREN. GIVE ME YOURSELF. YOU HAVE PROMISED TO GIVE ME THE DESIRE OF MY HEART, AS LONG AS THAT DESIRE IS YOU AND YOUR GOALS,  YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. LORD I BELIEVE, LORD I DO DESIRE YOU. HELP MY UNBELIEF, HELP MY LIMITED DESIRE AND TEACH ME TO PANT AFTER YOU AS A RUNNING DEER PANTS FOR THE COOL RUNNING WATERS.

I remember when we were homeschooling our 5 children, they all went through struggles with seeing how little they could learn and how much trouble they could give us as we struggled to teach them. Yet, learning is a glorious privilege. What was wrong with them? They had fallen victim to the lie that labor is an irritant and if others want you to do something then you are controlled  if you do.

I believe that struggling labor is God’s gift to us to help us in our struggle with temptation and sin. There was labor before sin entered the world. God labored to create. Adam was given labor. Then God added thorns to the equation to teach us to hate sin, and if we rejoice in the consequences of our iniquity and the iniquity of our ancestors, He will enter our circumstances and walk them with us. We never labor alone. We are fellow soldiers, fellow laborers with God and our brethren.

Perhaps the greatest freedom is the freedom to do what is good for us even when we feel pushed into doing it and even when the other person will take credit for pushing us. Children try to establish the illusion of independence by resisting wise and godly advice and by fighting to do the minimum.

Research suggests that our brains have almost an infinite storage and learning capacity!  However it take time and effort to store the information or imprint the skill. I believe we also have an infinite capacity to  long for and delight in THE INFINITE ONE. Don’t forget grace and become overwhelmed but do rest in the here and now and look for God’s mind, and heart and character in what is happening. Then pause and worship and delight. Does He lead you into persecution and labor beyond your capacity (remember everything is beyond your capacity) REJOICE and be EXCEEDING glad. You are priveleged to be in good company, the Lord’s and the saints who have gone before you. Your labor is not useless no matter the immediate outcome. You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses even if no one notices the struggle, the Lord and they do!

In ALL your ways, seek to know Him better, give thanks ALWAYS for EVERYTHING. Let Him be in ALL  your thoughts. Lord help me to have so much of you that you are in ALL my thought words and deeds. Be my ALL in ALL. Let those around me not think of me a fanatical but as not being present at all and instead may they see you and marvel at your beauty and wisdom!

 

 

GOOD GUYS BAD GUYS

Radical Moslems attack us and they are the bad guys which justifies us filling their countries with soldiers and bombs which makes them feel justified in blowing up innocent civilians in crowded shopping places. After a while no one can remember the original reasoning that starts feuds. Remember american  history and the Hatfields and McCoys? Do you remember what started it. I doubt that they do themselves. Now it’s the police who shoot unarmed civilians which makes others feel they can shoot the police. So now the police are heroes. All I know is that, in this sin damaged world, I’d rather live in a society with police and army to protect us that trust in the basic goodness of mankind to behave itself without them. Yes  I know the George Washington said that there can not be enough police or soldiers or guns to control a society where the majority is not following Christ.Apart from Him, the truth is, THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS NO NOT ONE!. We read that in the end time lawlessness will run wild and AGAPE love will vanish.

So what can one do?  Fight lawlessness and the lack of Agape love in YOUR OWN life and reach out to the people around you. Work with the police to support them and hold them accountable. Reach out to victims of abuse or racism and love on them while calling them to a higher standard.  Hold up God’s Agape standard that all people are His marvelous creations and equally loved and equally paid for by his blood. He is no respecter or persons. Greek or barbarian, rich or  poor, wise or foolish.

Go ahead take sides! Just always take BOTH sides. I remember when I was able to do a lot of couple counseling. Each one felt that I was picking on them and taking the others, side. By   God’s grace I tried to point out to each one what they needed grace to change. Be for the police and for the victims of prejudice. Both sides will be mad at you then but God won’t.

What have you done or not done recently to follow and support the rule of law in our country? What have you done or not done recently to minister to others regardless of the cost to you?

 

 

 

 

GETTING THINGS IN FOCUS

I have been pondering Ecclesiastes 9 for a while, and, as expected, it keeps opening up new truths.

When we notice ourselves reviewing the details of life’s problems and injustices, we need to do what God asks us to do about them but soon there is no more to be done. Then we need to REFOCUS. But HOW and ON WHAT?

FIRST: see the big picture. Every person, deed, organization and object will vanish so completely that they will be forgotten, EXCEPT BY GOD.

Passions like love , hatred, envy will seem pretty pointless unless we love God and what He loves, unless we hate evil, unless we are jealous to maintain godly relationships. All other passions will fade. Verse 6 . So why the vexation of spirit?

SECOND:  REFOCUS. From what you don’t have– to “what DO I have?” Verse 7, 8 This is your “portion” from God.

From who isn’t in your life or the imperfect people that are in your life– to who IS in your life. Verse 9

From what you can’t do– to what your hand CAN find to do Verse 9, 10

THIRD:Remember that to displace a negative we need to yield our body members equal and opposite to our natural inclination and with equal creativity and passion.

So it isn’t enough to focus on what we do have but to eat with joy, drink with a merry heart, delight in the fine clothes he has provided and put on the sweet smelling oils he has made available.

It isn’t enough to focus on who you do have:but to live with them joyfully all the days of your life.

It isn’t enough to focus on what you can do:but to do it with thy might.

These are all gifts from God and enjoying them is an act of appreciation and worship. Paul says that he learned how to be content with having much as well as having little.

FOURTH:We focus on PEOPLE> PROJECTS>THINGS.

Remember to love people not things, to savor things and use them to help people, never turn people into projects. If they want to grow–help them but don’t try to fix them. If they are messed up and don’t want to change, enjoy what you can and live your own life to the full and set limits when needed but don’t try to fix them.

Pour all your energy into the projects at hand remembering that you are God’s marvelous handiwork created to be just right for the tasks you find. \

This intense FOCUS will effectively pull your mind from the destructive negative round and rounds and  not deplete your brain of its’ energy.

 

LORD HELP MY BRAIN THINK LIKE YOU, SEE WHAT YOU SEE

WOOPS, FORGOT A TITLE SO RESENDING WITH TITLE.

What do you call someone who reads and responds to a blog? A blogee perhaps? That sounds too plain. A participant?

Well ,one commented that he found the thoughts on my blog interesting and “basically” agreed.

The truth is that the Lord has helped me not to want anyone to agree with me. As Paul says “Who is Paul?who is Appollos? For that matter who is Verle? It is the Lord that counts.

I have had the interesting experience of debating with someone and apparently “winning” the debate. Still I don’t want to win, I want to get closer to the truth. So I kept pondering the issue and a week later went to the other person and I explained to them why they were right and I was wrong and how to stand their ground and apply the truth more effectively. In fact, I always get excited when something does not make easy sense to me but seems to be where God is coming from, because as I struggle to see why He is right and I am wrong, I am blessed with a larger understanding of His wisdom. I used to attend a Bible study with a group of Univ of Mich students. It struck me that they were trying to see if they agreed with God’s Word or not. What? It is not our job to agree or disagree but to try to let the Holy Spirit stretch our understanding to comprehend His ways.

So dear one, whatever I am supposed to address you as, if you could bless me with the part of what I have shared that you “basically” agree with, but not fully, I promise to pray and search the scriptures and be open to stretching.

I am currently running into attitudes in the Psychiatric leadership at my hospital. Attitudes that ares closed and can not consider that their way of practice might benifit from some creative adjustment. They are terrified lest there be, in truth, a better way and they might not be able to master it. That what they have learned might not be the best.

The Lord allowed Lois and me to start a community teaching and mutual support program in Wheaton Illinois. I was so excited with what the Lord showed us and how He was blessing that I invited a Christian psychiatrist to come and see and consider doing something similar herself. Instead she was bothered by the Lord’s creativity and by being confronted that she had no ability to use the scriptures in a practical way herself. So she went to the administration of our clinic and badmouthed the whole program and eventually had it shut down.

Beloved, always remember that your thinking is full of firmly believed delusions that get in the way of God expressing his creativity. Yes, I know that He never changes, He is the same yesterday today and forever, yet he is often unpredictable and creative in his approach to building the church and reaching the lost. Paul said that he would be all things to all people if by any means he might win some. Even a pagan Incan king saw that because the sun was too predictable it could not be a god. The real God would have to be even more creative and unpredictable than he.

Abba, thanks for being so wise and for loving me and, as I age turning 67 in a couple weeks, keep me flexible and creative that you might use me to bless others. Love, your little boy, Verle.

 

BE FAITHFUL IN LITTLE

Like all scripture this idea, being faithful in small things and then God will entrust to you the great riches, has one meaning but many applications.

The Lord has been talking to me about noticing and appreciating and benefiting from the “little things” he does for me, being faithful to appreciate the little evidences of his love. He often talks in a still small voice and not in the rushing wind or earthquakes.

He counts the hairs on our heads and cares when the sparrow falls. When we were young that would amount to 150,000 for blonds, 110,000 for brunettes, and 90,000 for redheads. Of course the number has fallen over the years.

I believe that, in order to encourage us with the fact of his existence and that he is watching and caring, God loves to do little things to bless us.

That way free will and faith are not messed with because what is encouraging proof to me might seem like pure coincidence to those who have no relationship with Him.

He works out the timing of things to allow ministry and sometimes just to show us how much he is thinking about us

. One time I had a flight back from vacation cancelled and could not get out till the next day and would arrive exhausted. I was on a waiting list for another earlier flight but was given no reason to hope. I remember whining to the Lord that if I were God and my bride was needing a flight, that I might pull some strings. Then I thought that that was rather petty and told him that it was OK and just give me the strength to get through. Five min later my name was called and so many people had given up and gone home that there was room for me.

One time I had driven the grandchildren all the was from Grand Rapids to Warren dunes on lake Michigan to see a partial eclipse of the sun. There was a storm on the lake and the eclipse could only be seen for 10 min as the sun set into the lake. There was no chance to see it so we climbed the dunes, swam in the lake and drove home early.  I was a few miles north of South Haven when I looked to the left across an open field and there was the partially eclipsed sun! I got off at the next exit, raced over to the lake and there “just happened” to be two empty lots for sale with no houses or trees and a perfect view of the lake. (Someone) had taken his finger and lifted the cloud for about 5 miles so that I could see the eclipsed sun hanging there under the black cloud with lightning coming down into the lake.

My wife Lois gave up the regular purchase of Bigby coffee in order to donate more to church. Then “by coincidence” we found an Italian device for 30 dollars that makes espresso coffee at home that tastes just as good.

We love it when God does big things. I remember as a freshman in college that the Holy Spirit interrupted my hectic workload to urge me to write a grateful letter to a missionary I had known as a child. Later I found out that he had become severely depressed and my letter came just in time to remind him that his life did count and God was keeping track. He came out of his depression and the end of his life was victorious.

However He has a special reason that He wants us to see and appreciate the little things that He does for us. He want you and me to remember that He loves us as individuals and not just as tools to accomplish his will.

OH IF THERE’S ONLY ONE SONG I MAY SING WHEN IN HIS BEAUTY I SEE THE GREAT KING. THIS WILL MY SONG THROUGH ETERNITY BE “OH WHAT A WONDER THAT JESUS LOVES ME!

CROSSING THE LINE

How can I know that I am crossing the line from my responsibility in the current situation to taking ownership of God’s responsibility?

Think with me, how much grace will God give you to take his job from him? How much help do I really think that he needs to handle his part?

Obviously, He wants me to stick to my part so when I do I will experience plenty of grace and there will be no tension, but without him I can do nothing and when I try to do his part I will immediately become stressed.

I knew a man who knew that he was a bad driver. He would stop and accelerate and turn much too fast. So he purchased a sensitive farm bell and set it on the front seat and it was always clanging. When he learned to drive without clanging, he had become a much smoother and safer driver and did not wear out his car so rapidly.

I find it to be an invariable rule that when I feel any uncomfortable emotion I AM CROSSING THE LINE. I should immediately go to God, to obedience and then to rest. In fact I am so bad at the proper experience  and use of depression, anxiety, overwhelmedness, self contempt, guilt, loneliness, or anger that, when these well up, I can be confident that I am grabbing God’s part again. So I stop and ask, “What part of my current focus does not belong to me? Am I focused on the past, on the future, on elsewhere, on controlling others insides, on doing things perfectly?”

My brain comes with a manufacturers manual. “If I use it according to the rules and I will have plenty of neurotransmitters to stay calm focused and motivated.” Break the rules and there is not point in complaining to the manufacturer that my car won’t run on water or my brain function when abused. He says that I must cast ALL my cares on him or accuse him of not caring. He says to take no thought for the morrow or accuse him of not knowing what the morrow will bring. He says that it is vain to do anything that He has not asked me to do and if he has asked me then I should get up at a reasonable time, enjoy my work and get a good night’s sleep. Psalms 127. By getting up too early being miserable in my work staying up too late I am accusing Him of being unable to handle it without me and of taking advantage of me.

MY PART: To move my body members according to a growing sense of God’s principles in action.

HIS PART: Everything else. Restoring the years that the locust has eaten. Making my feeble efforts produce fruit in the present. Building His church. Securing the future. Taking care of loved ones far away. In short, of all the RESULTS.

So this week learn to love the clanging bell (no not me, although you may learn to love me too) the clanging bell of your tension. Then learn to “drive smoothly safely and with less wear and tear, first by doing your part and then by casting all your care on him.

THE GREATEST HUMILITY

QUESTION: Do you ever notice how we as (extremely, yet equally, imperfect beings) tend to have MUCH higher expectations of ourselves than we do others? We “excuse” others because we know that “nobody’s perfect”, yet the same behavior in ourselves is absolutely inexcusable. Why is that? Why do we do that? Why are we so much harder on ourselves than we ever would be on others?A blog partner writes”Is this    (list of ways I throw grace out the window and insist on wearing out)    going all the way up to Z????? I HAVE to keep reading cause I know GOOD NEWS is coming!”

(Maybe some day I’ll list J though Z but the blog would be too long)

Are you sure the list of how crazy we are in our natural self is BAD NEWS? The only thing that our personal craziness can do is reveal God’s wisdom, our weakness-his strength, our impulsivity-his steadfastness. Lists like this are only bad news if we try to fix them ourselves.

The question as to why we do the crazy things we do has been answered somewhat but the better question is how can we stop using SHAME BASED MOTIVATION? (Technique C from the last blog.)  Remember that your “heart” is the inner chatter others can’t hear and which we often hide even from ourselves. However, “as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” The heart is deceitful above all things and we can’t know it. “I THE LORD search the heart I try the reins” so search me oh Lord and try my heart and find the deceived thoughts and lead me in new ways.

When my heart believes irrational things such as, I should be perfect, I can’t believe I did that, what’s wrong with me, come on you can do better, you must, you have to, etc. , it thinks that it is doing me a favor and this irrational expectation for myself will spur me on to greater deeds.

My heart fears that I must be perfect because I can’t trust God to come through, I have to compensate for his weakness or possibly just his disinterest; because I trusted him before and he didn’t come through.

It fears that, if I take a close look at my reality,  I will discover the scary truth that I am not only imperfect, not only messed up , but actually the CHIEF OF SINNERS! Which, in my opinion, would surely spell my doom.

MY HEART IS WRONG, yelling at myself and expecting too much, trying to do better; leads nowhere. Like a dog chasing it’s tail, I’ll endlessly strive to be better, which I can’t, for, in fact “Without Him I can do nothing.” Any negative focus that does not lead to DO AND DROP IT will cause endless circling. Since I am powerless I can’t do my part and because I am proud I can’t admit this or quit struggling.

As usual, the way to deal with the quicksand of works is to stop wrestling and lay down in it and float till rescued. Don’t even try to not yell at yourself for imperfections, just notice yourself doing it and laugh at your silliness a bit.

In counseling we would define some response to life that was wearing out the person and robbing them of joy. They would be trying not to do it, they would be aware that I was observing for the  pattern, and in the very effort to quit they would repeat the pattern. (How powerless is that?)

Now it was time to cry or laugh or both. We turn grace into works,”I should do better at resting in grace”Then say “Lord I can’t even rest in grace when I am concentrating on resting, I need your grace to remember grace, picture grace and act in the grace.” This condition is good! When you cause me to rest, all the credit will be yours.”

I’m not sure any of this answers the question so please comment on what makes sense or needs elaboration.