HONEST TO GOD?

When I was a child, my father said that the mission board did not want the folks back home to be told the truth about the struggles of spiritual warfare. “Make it all sound good or the supporters back home will stop giving.”

Question, is God ever served by making things sound better than they are?

During the Vietnam war, the commanders inflated their success. The numbers would have added up to more than the total population!

Can we “fake it till you make it?” Or should we “Act in the fact?” The fact is that 1.God is in charge and we have great reason for joy and hope. 2. Things in the church and family can look pretty bad.

I think that pastors feel that they can’t be real about the battle facts or we will go to a different church or drop out of the fight. But then, how can we pray or build our faith or give God glory when he pulls victory out of an impossible mess?

Examine yourself, do you find it thrilling to be pulled into a battle that is going poorly. Do you even recognize that we are in a great lifelong battle.

Lois and I just returned from a mission trip to Montreal to join in the battle there. The church has grown to where it doesn’t fit the building but the people are immigrants and were trained by missionaries to take handouts and not to give a hand. They don’t pay tithes while driving expensive cars and sending their tithe home. They go out calling,as a group on Wednesday but visitors don’t feel welcome. Half are Haitian,half are African and don’t mix at gatherings.

OK how many of you are thrilled to join with me in praying for God’s power to be shown?

We must join in with enthusiasm when things look bleak if we want to grow. I personally grew in my learning to rest in the Lord and enjoy my small part in this battle.

Next blog l’ll share what God taught me about listening to his still small voice.

2 Timothy 2:3 Therefore endur hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

 

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LIFT UP THE HANDS THAT HANG

As I observe people in psychiatric help locations or even in the supermarket, I see a lot of “hands that hang down”. It may be OK for the world to walk around with bodies screaming, “poor me!” but I don’t feel that it pleases the Lord. I also think that it feeds the misery. Now I don’t think that the Lord expects us to “just snap out of our misery” He knows that no chastening is pleasant: but keep your eye on the benifit it will produce. When we lose a special person, we do grieve: but not like the heathen for we have HOPE.

Look with me at Hebrews 12: 1

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected [us], and we gave [them] reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
For they verily for a few days chastened [us] after their own pleasure; but he for [our] profit, that [we] might be partakers of his holiness.
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
Wherefore LIFT UP THE HANDS WHICH HANG DOWN AND THE FEEBLE KNEES;
And MAKE STRAIGHT PATHS FOR YOUR FEET, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
Follow peace with all [men], and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble [you], and thereby many be defiled;

What do we expect to gain from droopy faces, shuffled feet, deep sighs, mumbled responses? Do we want to be let out of current responsibility, get others to do our part, cause God to owe us one? Seems the only reasonable result will be to say to the dominant “habit” part of our brain; “lets wallow see how miserable we are” You can’t tell your “habit” brain to fight back against life’s problems if your arms and legs “hang down”

I’ve read that 80% of speech is done with our body parts and not with our mouth. “See”, we say with our posture, ” I am a christian and what a miserable thing that is!”

The antidote? Look to the passage above and 1.remember the friends and family that are already with the Lord. Remember that their warfare is over and ours will be soon. Remember that being a fellow sufferer with the Lord is a great privilege. Imagine you’d been asked to carry his cross, would you have whined about how heavy it was and how it scraped your shoulders? Well, he does ask you to take up the cross daily but when you give this sacrifice, wash the face and put on clean clothes and don’t let everyone know how hard it is by work or by sagging body. If you suffer for righteousness sake, how happy is that? If you deserve chastening and get it then you are a legitimate child and not a bastard. Focus on SIN and not on comfort, affirmation, power, function etc. If there is no sin then how light our spirits should be for it is sin that weighs us down, not suffering. Either the sin that brought on the chastening or the sin of moaning and groaning about the cost of discipleship.

I wish us all erect backs, lifted feet, look others in the eye, put on clean clothes, smile,while we appreciate what we DO have, what we CAN do, and who IS in our lives.

 

BLATHERED

When I was a teenager, I went on a trip with a group of classmates in a bus. The trip was long and it was hot and the adult group leader was wise and warned us that we would find ourselves in a CONDITION which would “excuse” irritability and complaining. She suggested that, instead, we might catch ourselves and choose a kinder response, In Spite Of our condition.

In the twelve steps they talk about a tool called HALT, which stands for Hungry Angry Lonely and Tired.

These are conditions, or states of being, that can either be an excuse for falling into sin, (in AA that would be thinking “I just can’t help it I have to drink” or “This is just too much I didn’t count on this , if this hadn’t happened I could have made it but now I just have to have a drink”)

It is our responsibility not to wander the battlefield bumping into buried mines and ambushes but to watch for the places, people, triggers and conditions that we have used to excused sin in the past. Are you feeling bored, lonely, angry, tired, happy, excited, rejected, depressed etc.. Are you BLATHERED? (I like that better than just HALT). You can always spot an ambush, it’s when you are experiencing a temptation or stress and start thinking that you weren’t expecting this, this is too much!

Then run to Jesus.

Prov 27 12 A prudent man foreseeth evil and hideth himself but the simple pass on and are punished.    Maybe Peter would have taken a different path if he had heeded the Lord’s warning that he would betray him and ask Jesus how to find grace to not do so rather than proudly protest that he never would.

Most of us would “prefer” to do things God’s way but it is a preference not a conviction. In Romans 6 Paul says, “why do I do what I don’t want to and don’t get around to doing what I do want to? The frontal lobe can give lectures on what healthy responses would look like. It can give wise advice to others. Still, the habit part of our brain tends to win and we wind up doing it the same old way. Then our brain starts searching for an “excuse” such as: “I was tired, bored, lonely etc.” We need to ask God to help us be people of principle and conviction, to be No Matter What! If a man grows up thinking that he usually shouldn’t hit women, then the time will come when he does. If he grows up thinking that a man just never hits a woman no matter what, then he won’t. The difference is between a preference and a principle. If you think that one usually should remain calm, kind, joyful, loving, patient, gentle, and  godly :then you will often be tense, unkind, miserable, impatient, rough, and ungodly. If you commit to relying on the Holy Spirit to be these things through you NO MATTER WHAT and NO MATTER WHEN with NO MATTER WHO at NO MATTER WHERE  so help me God even if I have to die in the process. Then you will stand firm.

Dear Lord help me to stop finding exceptions in my weak moments because You say that when I am weak they You are strong for your strength is made perfect in my weakness. Continue reading

FEEDBACK a blessing in disguise!!

The Lord suggested that having eyes and not seeing was not a good thing, however SEEING is not as simple as you might think and has very little to do with your eyes and much more to do with your heart. It stands to reason that the closer our perception of reality is to the real thing, then the more likely that the responses we pick might actually work. If you think you see a pedal bicycle coming at you going slowly and in fact it is a semi trailer truck, you could be tempted to step out in front of it and would get squashed.

When information comes into your eyes it must be interpreted. We don’t actually see ANYTHING. We compare the incoming data with past experiences, conclude what is probably happening and pick a response from what seemed to work in the past. The back part of our cortex decides what is happening and how we feel about it and what we will do about it BEFORE the frontal lobe even begins to be aware. Now God did not design a faulty system. No, LIFE HAPPENS FASTER THAN THE SPEED OF ANALYSIS. By the time you could analyze the situation and pick a response you would either be dead or have missed an important opportunity. God also designed our brains to automatically see the problems and failures and concerns and to have to work at seeing and remembering and valuing the positives. This is a sin stained world and it is trying to kill you. First you stay alive, then you appreciate and enjoy the good.

Next God did not create your brain to hold infinite knowledge, as he does. For now we see in part. To see the big picture and pick a response that fits, we need to be humble and admit that we only see part. We must ask others how they see things , we must go to the word and memorize and study so that the Holy Spirit has vocabulary in our heads to talk to us and give us a “heads up” alert in our hearts as to what is happening.

Next, we do not SEE we interpret. It is useful to check out a book of illusions from the library and convince yourself that you SEE based on PRINCIPLES and often these principles are just not right. Only when we are humble enough to ask God to “Open my eyes that I might see” ( Psalms 119:18, Isaiah 42:7, Acts 26:18, 2 Kings 6:17,20) Can we actually see what is real. When we are brilliant ignorant children we form interpretations of the world that just aren’t quite the way things are and we need to sing with that old Irish saint, “Be thou my vision”

I do not believe that God will answer the prayer of anyone asking to SEE unless they are first examining themselves, then asking for feedback from others and rewarding the feedback by applying it and being grateful and then asking God for further insight. God will say, “why should I show you anything if you aren’t looking and listening to his servants and his word.

Lord, be thou my vision open my eyes let me see glimpses of the greatness of your marvelous whole.

KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE REWARD: JOY UNSPEAKABLE AND FULL OF GLORY

At every point in life, we can find grace from God to do the right thing or go our own way and do the wrong.

If we do the right, we often feel worse for a while before we get the REWARD. If you exercise,the next day you feel  pain, if you diet you feel hungry, if you confront a troubled situation you feel tense and wonder if you have done the right thing. It is right to examine yourself ,to ask for feedback, and convince the other person that you really want feedback, to reward any  feedback others give; but then, you will be pained by seeing how messed up you really are.

BUT THEN COMES THE REWARD.

How do we hang in there till we get the REWARD?

Take something simple such as exercise, the preprogrammed part of our brain  is saying: ” You’ve tried before and quit, wasted time and money on gym membership or bought a treadmill, exercised a bit and quit,  looking foolish and undisciplined to yourself and your friends. You’ll just try for a while and then give up, so why even start?”

Now, you can get all pollyanish and say to yourself,”this time I’ll be fine” but the preprogrammed part of you brain will trump the good intentions unless you answer it’s objections.
What will be different this time? How will you make it more enjoyable and fit it into your schedule and get enough support so that it will work.

I remember a family where the husband had abandoned his wife to shack up with another woman then had felt guilty enough to return to his wife who took him back without evidence of change. Their pastor was thrilled and became irritated with me at the prayer breakfast where I asked, “but what has changed? Won’t they just go back to their old ways, remind themselves of why the marriage fell apart and then blast apart permanently?” He decided that I was not trusting in the power of God enough. Still I had not heard of any point at which God was being allowed to work, except for the Genie Magic of abra cadabra there you are fixed without any humility or confession or accountability. Sure enough, three months later they came into my office to see the “Christian shrink” so that when they got the divorce they had decided on they could pretend that they had done all they could.

The “negative” part of your brain,objecting to your easy fix, is not trying to keep you from exercising etc. but to force you to be practical and do things God’s way: the only way that could work.

The pre-programmed part of you also points out that “you really like your sin and see the promised reward as not desirable enough to be worth the pain and effort.”

We need to ask ourselves, “what fruit had you then in our sinful ways?” We need to beg God to teach us to HATE THE SIN (take inventory of past damages and the consequences of continuing on the same path). We need to ask him to help us HUNGER FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS (picturing all his promises that he WILL deliver). Let us so run the race keeping our eye fixed on the prize. God says that, far from his rewards being not worth the effort, no one out-gives him! His rewards are pressed down heaped up shaken together and running over. Rewards such as: The very character and likeness of Christ, the chance to bring glory to God, blessing to those around you and inner peace. My pastor was sharing how he has learned to SAVOR the peaceful knowledge that he is right with God, that lets him lay himself down to sleep in peace. Then when tempted to compromise for brief relief or pleasure he keeps his eye on being able to SAVOR the peace that night, thus finding grace to resist.

Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith who FOR THE HOPE THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM endured so much.

There are short term rewards we need to SAVOR NOW and also long term ones such as seeing our savior with joy and hearing those amazing words, “WELL DONE THOU GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT!”

To resist current temptation KEEP YOUR EYE and heart focused on and thrilling in the REWARD.

ALMOST BUT NOT ENOUGH

I recently had the privilege of showing a young mother the practicality of God’s ways and wisdom. I had about an hour to help her look at what she was doing in her response to life that was burning her out. She went back to some of my coworkers and was reported to say, “Another hour with Dr. Bell and I MIGHT HAVE become a Christian.

Paul was witnessing to king Agrippa who said, “Almost thou hast persuaded me to be a Christian”

Paul saw that ALMOST was not enough and said “I would that you were not only ALMOST but ALTOGETHER a Christian.

When we were homeschooling our children, I noticed that they would often seek to get by with the least possible. People raise their hands saying that they want abundant life, joy, peace, love, happiness. They want to serve God and minister to others. They brag about the ministries their church is doing, then they are ALMOST on fire, ALMOST committed, but don’t show up to help or pray.

How is it they they SEE the needs in themselves and others, they care about them, they INTEND to do something but they

Put starting off till later

Start but their effort is minimal

Start and work hard but then wear out.

They look at FULL obedience and say “That sure is hard, it can’t possibly work, I’m not worthy or skilled enough, no one will respond, I could look foolish, what will friends family and coworkers think of me?

I might lose my friends, God always gets his way and doesn’t need my participation to get it done so “God use someone else, why don’t you?” SO THEY DON’T GO FOR IT!

If you recall FAITH is obeying God when you have all of the above feelings but are grateful and understand that His ways have to be better than your alternative ways.

So let’s not be ALMOST people but be TOTAL SURRENDER and I’M ALL IN “Here am I send me” people.

Remember: the impossible with GRACE is no sweat and God gives GRACE to the humble. If we are focused on “What’s the least that I can get by with?” then the whole thing is without GRACE and even easy things will overwhelm.

PARRY AND THRUST

Thanks for all the responses to my last blog with a bit of a whiny plea for evidence that there are people out there. The concensus seemed to be that it would be fine for me to do a aural post but that it would be good to keep up the blogs. In fact I intend to basically take my blog and also put it on the post for busy people who have little time to read.

When tempted to do wrong, we often make the mistake of just trying not to do the wrong thing. Sin gains its power from promising to meet a genuine God given need in a quick, easy, no-cost way. If you don’t meet the need in a sinful way, the need still exists and will create and ever growing vacuum. You must push out the negative with an opposite.

Can you imagine a good outcome to a sword fight in which the enemy gets to jab and slice and the defendant is not allowed to thrust back; is just limited to defending himself? When we feel burdened, or accused, or afraid, or inferior etc. it is important to realize this is never of the Lord. First look at the situation that is the basis for the enemies attack. Are you being led to take on God’s part of the task? Are you attaching your worth or security to the outcome or the perfection of your response? Then cast your cares back on him; he really does care for you. When the devil says you are worthless, hopeless and powerless; reply with a resounding YES YES I can see your point BUT GOD seems to think I am infinitely valuable, secure and powerful, able to do all thing through him. SO DEVIL TAKE IT UP WITH GOD he doesn’t agree with you.

Then MAKE HIM PAY. Having parried with truth it is time to thrust back. “Just for that devil, I will pray for my pastor, for my family one by one out loud and by name, (the devil can’t tell what you are thinking so to make him wish he hadn’t attacked, pray out loud) I will praise the Lord for the following things———-, I will write a letter (or text) of encouragement to someone who needs it and pray for them, I will memorize a verse and repeat it out loud. I will write a song or pick up a hymnbook and sing out loud.

Martin Luther suffered bouts of depression and would write hymns such as A might Fortress is Our God then sing it at the devil and obtain relief. When depressed, Charles Spurgeon would read the psalms and write out the things God gave him out of them and share the writings with others.

Be creative and look for ways to take a glass of cold water to thirsty people.

When sin abounds grace even more abounds. When tempted God will not let me be tested to the point of sin but will pour out even more grace to attack the enemy. The picture to keep in mind is of someone holed up in an attacked city and their gates will crumble and the attackers will invade. It is the gates of hell that will not be able to withstand our attack. He is the on cowering in the city and God and his people are on the attack. Remind the devil that you belong to Jesus and are paid for by Jesus’ blood and you are not afraid of death because you only fear the one who GETS THE LAST WORD on you and the devil.

If you find that the devil backs off and you have less doubt and fear and self contempt. Then press the advantage and keep up the attack.