Monday, June 23

Realized reality

Acts 12:6-10 (GWT) "The night before Herod was going to bring Peter to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers. His hands were bound with two chains, and guards were in front of the door. They were watching the prison. Suddenly, an angel from the Lord stood near Peter, and his cell was filled with light. The angel nudged Peter's side, woke him up, and said, "Hurry! Get up!" At that moment the chains fell from Peter's hands. The angel told him, "Put your shoes on, and get ready to go!" Peter did this. Then the angel told him, "Put your coat on, and follow me." Peter followed the angel out of the cell. He didn't realize that what the angel was doing was actually happening. He thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guardposts and came to the iron gate that led into the city. This gate opened by itself for them, so they went outside and up the street. The angel suddenly left Peter."

Dr. Larry Crabb, in Finding God, the follow-up or addition to his original book INSIDE OUT, speaks of 'the sinful nature' of man that was embedded in ourselves through the doubt of Eve and Adam. One who believed that God wasn't being 'good' by withholding the Tree of Good and Evil and the other, not believing God was 'good enough' to handle the introduction of sin through grace. We have spent the rest of human history doubting God could be good enough to do what He said, what He promises. So we turn to ourselves to deal with the reliance upon an unreliable world.

"The foundation of the fallen structure is our doubt in God's goodness, which creates the terror of aloneness in an unreliable world," Crabb states in Chapter Seven of Finding God, "which leads to rage against God for doing so little to protect us from suffering."

We don't believe perfectly in the love of the Father God to be 'good enough' for our struggles and therefore, seek to rely on our own abilities to see us through. Look at our 'recovery' and 'improvement' books that line the shelves of any bookstore in the American landscape; "Self" is the key word. Even in our recovery ministries at Church, we seek an understanding of our tendencies and motivations so that we can construct tripwires and flares to warn us when we are straying towards those destructive things. Recovery has become less about believing in the 'goodness' of God and more about our ability to deal with the addictions.

Pastor Dave, of Soul Quest Ministries, my new home church expressed this over and over in his sermon on Sunday (which you can hear, I believe, on the website He pointed to the verse found in 1 John 4:17-18 (NIV) "In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

We worry about our ability to take care of ourselves in a world that we feel should take care of us, should validate us, and should make life livable for us. It often takes one situation, one loss, or one trial in which the world opposes such notions and we are terrified, fearful of what the future is going to be like. I know, I face it each day.

The separation from my wife, a decision that was harder than she'll ever believe, has set me into turmoil regarding my ability to take care of myself and my children. Mounting bills, limited income, car repairs, and just the situational aspects of single parenting have caused sleepless nights, worry, and doubt to cascade into every other aspect of my life. Regarding the ministerial call, regarding my ability to be a good, CHRISTIAN father, and where the future of my participation in the Awakened Hearts Ministry, which is going 'full-time' (not my participation, but the ministry leadership). Financial stress, complicated by the rising fuel prices and the failing automotive industry (which my job is in), doesn't lend support to the vision that God is good, or at least good ENOUGH, to deal in these things for me. So I try myself, and I am failing.

Fray Juan de la Cruz, Friar John of the Cross, believed that struggle and suffering were necessary for spiritual growth. "Turn not to the easiest, but to the most difficult… not to the more, but to the less; not towards what is high and precious, but to what is low and despised; not towards desiring anything, but to desiring nothing." His life was a struggle, sometimes deliberately brought upon himself and other times by others. His two famous writings, "Cantico Espiritual" (Spiritual Canticle) and "Noche Oscura del Alma" (Dark Night of the Soul), were written in jail by the very Church he served as a friar in.

It is what we do in the situations we face that cause us to grow. We either turn towards God, believing and moving as Peter did when the angel appeared before him, entering the reality of God's goodness and provision as it happens, or we question the ability of God to even hear our cries for help and develop a spirit of fear and anger towards our own Creator.

"There are many believers who know they SHOULD be free in Jesus. They have a head knowledge of freedom ---but somehow they haven't grasped the reality of the freedom that is promised! They walk with the vision without living the reality!" George, author and minister of Worthy New Ministry, writes in his devotional regarding Peter's belief ( What would it be like for us to believe that God is good enough to be good to us? How many prescriptions for the things that ail us would go unfilled if that knowledge of freedom from fear, terror, and sin would implant itself within our hearts instead of being only residing in our minds?

Watchman Nee, in The Spiritual Man, gives us a glimpse of what that could look like, if we had the faith to believe in our hearts of the goodness that is inherently God. "We should inquire once again as to what the life of faith is. It is one lived by believing in God under any circumstance: "If He slay me," says Job, "yet would I trust in Him." That is faith. Because I once believed, loved and trusted God I shall believe, love and trust Him wherever He may put me and however my heart and body may suffer…..Emotion begins to doubt when it senses blackness, whereas faith holds on to God even in the face of death."

Do you have that kind of faith? Realizing that the key to overcoming our innate deception in believing in the goodness of God and collapsing what Dr. Crabb calls the 'fallen structure' that hampers our ability to find God.

"I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see."

What is the present you see? One with God in the details, or one with Him sitting on the throne impatient to finish you off?

If we are to know Him in the way He wants us to know Him; with joy, purpose, and self-control, then we must face the sin we carry from our birth and realize we are not worthy of His love, but given His grace.

We must turn from self-valued principles and rely on principles of God's value. Perfect fear.

That seems to be the theme of my many devotionals today, that God wants me to not fear the coming of the dawn, but face it with an eagerness of a child.

Carolyn Baker of All about, chose this for her devotional today and I think it is fitting to close with it for mine:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall. God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; He lifts His voice, the earth melts. - Psalm 46:1–6

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