Saturday, January 30, 2010

Here we go (cont)

I've now posted my blog information on Facebook and LinkedIn. I'm not sure if that's wise or foolish, but I guess time will tell. I'd like to pick up where I left off yesterday in talking about God's character; why it is vital to start with His character before ever looking at the circumstances in which I find myself. Furthermore, I want to discuss the difficulty my emotions present for me when I try to have a rational conversation with myself about Him.
When Anna and I lived in Nashville I met a man named Larry who gave me the best description of where my emotions are to reside. He described a train with one engine and two cars. Those three are made up of "truth", "actions", and "emotions." In my mind there are only two candidates for the engine, truth and emotions, and here's why. I've never blindly taken any action without a reason behind it. Either I felt like doing it, or because I knew that the result of the action (a truth) would give me some kind of satisfaction. It may be different for you, but for me its either truth or emotion that is the engine of my train.
So which "should" it be? I usually hesitate to use the word "should" as it describes something that I may not necessarily want to do and can spend time telling myself the reason my life isn't where I want it to be is because I "should" do something else. That's not the way I use "should" here. I use "should" here as a kind of logical statement, much like, "if this is true then this results." So here's how my logic works: my experience with my emotions is such that I've often experienced an emotional reaction to a situation where the emotion has little to do with the reality in which I find myself. Example: Anna says to me, "We haven't gone out to dinner in a while." My emotional reaction is anger.
Huh? Why in the world would I respond with anger to that comment? Here's how funky my brain is. What I heard was, "You never take me to dinner anymore and I hate you. You don't make enough to provide money for a babysitter and a nice evening out with me. I don't know why we're even married." You laugh at me, but that's how my brain does its translation. So my anger response says, "You're not going to work and providing for this house and the money for groceries. Get off my back and take yourself out to eat." Again you laugh, but I'm not claiming to have a less than screwy brain and emotion filter.
Remember, we have emotions, actions, and truth that can drive this train. Let's assume that I allow my emotions to dictate what is true. Based on my psychotic emotional response it stands to reason that Anna hates me, doesn't appreciate a thing I do for her, and is basically in mourning over the fact that she's married to me. I'm angry (emotion), she hates me (truth), so I yell at her about appreciating everything I do for her (action). Again, you laugh, and rightly so. Am I being a bit extreme to make a point? Maybe, but lets bring this same response closer to home and see how it applies to the reason I started blogging in the first place.
Situation: your father and grandfather both flew for the US Navy. You've spent the first 8 years of your life on or near naval bases, seen pictures of your dad and his T-34 Mentor, his T-2 Buckeye, and his A-7 Corsair (Not VA-72, but it will do!). You've been out to Cecil field with your dad's friends, stood next to the runway and watch as your dad flies his plane across the airfield, goes into the break, lowers the gear, and practices touch-and-goes right in front of you. The roar of the engines, the pride that swells within as your hero performs the maneuver to perfection; your hero who will one day turn down the opportunity to be a Blue Angel so that he can spend time at home with his family. You know from elementary school that you want to be a pilot, better yet, a naval aviator. Move forward to college and you choose to go to the Naval Academy. The 2nd class mids (juniors) who's job it is to make your life a living hell are screaming at you sun-up to sun-down, yet when they try to stump you on an aviation question they have to move on to someone else because you already know every plane in our arsenal and that of the Russians too. You will fly, its your dream. You've spent 3 1/2 years studying physics, engineering, leadership, seamanship, maritime law and history and its time for your qualifying physical so that you can choose aviation on service selection night. Years and years only to find out that you have a platelet deficiency which medically disqualifies you for aviation. 21 years and an "act of God" keeps you from your dream. Prayers offered up for healing, for mercy on the part of the medical examiners, for a miracle to keep the dream alive. The answer from my loving, heavenly Father? A resounding "No."
The reaction to this is obvious isn't it? He hates me and is in the business of crushing dreams. His will for my life does not include joy, contentment, or anything that I will remotely want for myself. I'm just a puppet at the end of His marionette strings. Anger, hatred, fury, despondency, sorrow; you name it, I felt it.
Bringing this home: my emotions dictated my truth. He doesn't just not love me, He's in the business of taking away my dream. He will pursue His glory at my expense, period. What then are the actions of a person who's allowed their emotions to dictate truth? It's not hard to imagine. I'll leave that up to you in your spare time to reflect on your life and your response to His "no's" to your prayers.
Do you see where I'm going with this? If my "emotion maker" is broken and I allow my emotional responses to dictate what is true I will take action based on a lie. Remember Genesis 3? Why did Eve eat the apple? Satan said, "God's holding out on you and trying to keep you down." I wonder what her emotional response was to that? Betrayal, doubt, anger even? The action she took based on her emotionally dictated truth was to eat and share with Adam. Remember the straw? She saw the bent straw of her emotional perception, not the straight straw of God's truth!
You cannot allow emotion to dictate truth, period. Truth is by definition constant. God's character not only does not change, He is perfect. (Can you feel that right now? Your hackles are coming up, the hair on the back of your neck is starting to rise, your blood pressure is up, and you're already getting angry at this idea of a loving, perfect, holy God. Why? Why do you struggle against this so? I'll tell you why; you, my friend, have a broken "emotion maker" too. It was broken the moment the skin of the apple was penetrated. You can't help but be offended because you are a sinner. Based on the devastating impact of the fall there is no way, save the loving grace of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for you to react in any other manner. Stick with it. I want you to feel the full weight of how your flesh responds. You don't feel it? Okay, then you remember the family member who was not healed when you begged Him for a miracle. Remember the parent who did not confess Him as Lord before they died and you can't get past where they will spend eternity. How about now?)
And now that you're either mourning, raging, or confused, I tell you this: the TRUTH is that His character has no malice within it, no hatred for you, and as He pursues His glory you receive the most benefit. Period. It is His character that does not change. Our emotions, our failing spiritual eyesight, our design to be God ourselves are in constant flux and view the straw through the water of a fallen, sinful nature. It's you, it's me, not Him who is in need of changing. And so the conclusion: truth must drive our actions and allow emotions to be a "feedback loop" which tell us how much in line we are with Him and His will. May we look to Jesus as our example (Matt 26:39) for letting truth drive our actions and allow for emotions to be an indicator of whether we are yet at peace with His will. As we go forward in this exploration of who He is please remember His love for you and the security within which you can ask Him questions. Read John 10:28,29 when you get a moment and you'll see that He's not going to let you go anywhere. Dear Lord, forgive me if there's anything I've written this morning that does not line up with the truth of Your revealed word. Thank you for loving me, for loving us, in spite of ourselves. May we see You for who You are, not how our failing eyesight sees You. I love You, Father. In Jesus' name, amen.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Here we go

I am consistently amazed by the variety of people's experience with the Lord. One will pray for healing and He heals. One will ask for deliverance from an abusive relationship and He says, "No." I look at Haiti, 9/11, the Holocaust, and by experience I must ask the question, "Who is this God that I follow and love? What do these events say about His character?" I've been asking these same type of questions for a long time. I remember sitting on the back deck of my parent's house in Chattanooga while home from college. Mom and I were discussing His character. I was asking the old standards like, "If He's sovereign couldn't He make it so we don't hurt?" and "Why in the world would any father knowingly send his son someplace where he knew he would die a horrible death?" Mom did everything she could to share her assurance of faith with me yet I was in no place to hear any of it.
I believe Paul speaks to this towards the end of 1st Corinthians 13 he says, "
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." So I take it that I can only see in part which certainly makes sense as I look backwards at my life and see the straight path along which He's led me. That said, there's not much comfort to me in saying, "You just don't see what I'm doing, it will be okay." Why not? I only trust someone whose character is such that I believe they have my best interests at heart. The question for me then becomes, can I judge God by what I see or must I judge what I see by who God is? On the surface this comes across, at least to me in the circular arguments of my brain, as a mind game I use to make sense of everything. I have a preconceived notion of a holy, loving God and since my world does not seem to match up with that notion I must "spin" what I see to make sense of Him. There are few things I hate as much as, "Well, I don't understand, but I have faith." So if I can't go to an irrational faith based on nothing but emotion, and I have circumstances that don't appear, on the surface at least, to match up with what I know to be true of His character, I must focus then on the one constant in all of this...Him.
I love this analogy as I believe it makes sense of what I'm trying to say. Have you ever looked at a straw in a clear glass of water? What happens to how you see the straw once its penetrates the surface of the water? Does it not look to you as if the straw is no longer straight? Seriously, try it. Am I to judge the truth of the straw's "straightness" by what I see in the water or by what I know to be true about the character of the straw? You can take the analogy even further; what happens to the apparent size of the straw once it penetrates the water? Is it not different from that portion of the straw still above the surface? Let's call the water "circumstances" and the straw our proxy for God. To get an accurate picture of the straw, its length, breadth, "straightness", we must take it out of the water or at a minimum study it before entering the water. The Lord has been gracious enough to tell me "Stop judging me by circumstances and judge the circumstances by who I am!"
I was asking my dad about how to put a study together that would talk about difference in experience, how we each see the Lord, and how do we see past the physical and live faith (I Corinthians 5:7). He made a great point, any systematic theology starts with God. It doesn't start with faith, means of grace, sanctification, any of our great big "I know about God" words. It starts with Him, who He is, His attributes, His character. I want to explore for just a little longer why my view of Him is skewed then hammer away at who He is as only through an accurate view of my Father will anything make any sense.
I've spent a lot of time lately in Genesis 3, the fall of man. I'm am always amazed that each and every time I read it the Lord shows me something else out of the passage. If there was ever a couple that had it made it was Adam and Eve. They walked with Lord in the garden, talking with Him, spending time in perfect communion. If there was ever a couple that had no reason to be tempted they were the two. You all know the story, the serpent tempts Eve to eat. (By the way, what in the world is Eve doing talking to a snake? No, seriously. Was the garden the first Narnia with talking animals? I bet you that whole "Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe" was totally taken from Genesis!!) What did Satan ask her? "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"- Gen 3:1b. Notice he didn't walk up with a sales pitch and a "look at that great apple!" He focuses her on what the Lord said.
Again you'll remember her answer, they could eat of any tree except for the one in the middle of the garden for if they did they would die. Did Satan then say, "Yeah, but wouldn't it be worth it? Look how nice and ripe and juicy and tasty the apple is! Don't you want some?" NO! He attacks the Lord's character and calls Him into question!! " 'You will not surely die,' the serpent said to the woman. 'For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'" - Gen 3:4,5. Do you see it? According to Satan, the Lord is holding out on you! That's why He lets pain and suffering enter your life because He's not interested in you, He's only interested in playing God in your life; pulling strings and watching you dangle at the end. He only heals some and saves others to keep you interested enough in asking Him for help inevitably giving Him the opportunity to pull the rug out from under your feet when He tells you, "No!" It only took three chapters into the Bible for us to question God and His character and you sit there wondering why you don't get it? The "water" Satan had Eve look through and by extension Adam skewed their view of Him. They judged God by what they saw in the glass and not by what they knew to be true of the straw before it was placed in the water.
And so that's what I want to help us see. We're going to pull God out of the water and learn about His character as He truly is, not as we see Him. (That last line is a blatant paraphrase of C.S. Lewis. I can't remember the book in which I read it, so my citing of his work is woefully inadequate, but just know I can't claim ownership of "see You as You are, not as I think You are.") I will never see God as He is until I see Him in glory. I am finite and spend my days meditating on the infinite. As such there will be things that even when pulled out of the water I'm not going to fully understand. My dad told me about Francis Schaffer saying, "God has not revealed Himself completely, but He has revealed Himself sufficiently." Father, please come, visit us, reveal Yourself to us and help us to more clearly see who You are and not what our flesh would tell us about You. Thank you, Father. In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


This is the inaugural post for my blog. I'm having a tough time getting my thoughts together for our Wednesday night Bible study so I'm hoping that typing it out will help streamline my efforts. Why am I doing this online? I'd love it if people were to stumble upon my musings and possibly reply with their thoughts on what I'm saying. I find that "iron sharpens iron" and that "Bereans" are usually pretty good about letting you know when you've strayed from what the Bible says and into the realm of pure pontification or absurd interpretation. So I invite anyone who happens to find this to please give me feedback on what you think. I can tell you that its my heart's desire to stay doctrinally sound, to offer what I believe the Spirit has revealed to me, and to come to a place of better knowing the character of God; who He is; and how I may relate to Him. Thanks to anyone that takes the time to read.