Saturday, March 21, 2020

Really Following Jesus


The whole point of these blog postings is to share my journey of recovery from co-dependence to interdependence on Christ.  What is "interdependence"?

·         the state of being dependent upon one another : mutual dependence
·         a mutually dependent relationship (Merriam-Webster)

What does “dependence” mean? 

·         the quality or state of being dependent; especially the quality or state of being influenced or determined by or subject to another
·         2RELIANCETRUST
·         3one that is relied on (Merriam-Webster)

I see Jesus interwoven into these definitions.  I want to be in a “mutually dependent” relationship with Him.  I rely on Him and He uses me to accomplish His Father’s will on this planet.  I want to be “influenced” by Him alone, not always reading off a script from my past.  I want what I do “determined” by Jesus and “subject” to Him—He alone is who I answer to and not to that voice that says I must help everyone with everything. 

Let’s move, sweet CoDeWo’s, from being “grasshoppers” to a “giant.”  We need a quick review here.   The spies scope out the Promised Land, per Moses’ order.  Despite returning with a beautiful bunch of grapes, and telling the people how the land flows with milk and honey, the spies undermine it all by bewailing how enormous the inhabitants are:  

We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants…and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:31-33)

As CoDeWo’s, how are we G.R.A.S.S.H.O.P.P.E.R.S.?

·         Geared up: We are always ready to go when someone needs help
·         Ready to drop everything:  Day or night, rain or sun, we aim to fix the problem right now
·         Asking no questions:  We avoid conflict by avoiding what may be really going on
·         Speaking no Biblical truth:  Are you kidding?
·         Solo effort: Others may have left, often wisely, but we soldier on
·         Helping gives us our… 
·         Only purpose: We draw our identity and worth from helping others
·         Perplexed:  Why isn’t this person getting better? This person’s problems seem…
·         Perennial:  No matter what this person does, problems follow problems
·         Endlessly eager: If we hear, “No!” in our heart, we don’t listen and go anyway
·         Residing in The Resentful Land:  The Promised Land is for others; we live here
·         Sidelined from His Service:  Serving?  Yes.  Him?  Don’t know—we gotta go!  

How about being a G.I.A.N.T.? 

·         Grace:  People have a sin nature; only God can transform their hearts
·         Interdependence:  We do only what God calls us to do; Jesus only followed His Father; us, too
·        Acceptance:  I must accept I may not be the one to help this person; God may use many people to    
          reach this person; that person may need to be in the desert a long time
·         Needful:  This means “necessary,” or “requisite”--Mary knew Jesus Himself is the only “necessary”; 
          Martha was lost in doing for Jesus, not listening to Jesus
·         Truth:  As God reveals in His Word, wise counsel and prayer; then act on it

What a difference, huh?  Being a grasshopper is being focus on us:  our efforts, our perspective, our action.  Being a giant recognizes limitations on what we can do for others; it is truly only the Holy Spirit that can go deep into a person’s spirit and make a real difference.  He may take way longer to do His work than we would, but His work is long-lasting.  Our work is a temporary fix in a person's life.  

How can we go from grasshoppers to giants?  Simple:  Follow Jesus.  

Hang on!   What do you think I am doing? I try to serve Him every day by serving others. While the pastor sleeps, I am at a needy person’s house at 3 a.m. when the parole officer shows up and there's a bottle of alcohol on the table. He calls me, and here I go. 

I love to serve, and people always come to me with their problems. Turning them down would be cruel.  

When you talk tough, it seems un-Christian to me. Saying “No” to a needy person seems selfish and mean. 

I hate conflict, and if I speak truth to my mother-in-law whose constant involvement in my marriage is slowly destroying it, I will get slammed by the family. 

How can I cut off ties with my brother? Yes, he lies and continues to abuse drugs, but I am the only family member who sticks by him. 

I turn the other cheek when my father condemns me; I hope to show him Christ’s love. 

“Following Jesus” sounds too much like a Hallmark card, with little touch with reality. You don’t know my life.   

You are right. I don’t. But I know Someone who does. Let’s look carefully at His words regarding how and when He served the Father. Jesus shows us how to move from co-dependence to interdependence on Him by walking each moment in fellowship with Him.  Jesus showed us the way and we can do so as well, His power is in us. 

·         But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” (John 5:17)
·         Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. (John 5:19-20) 
·         I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:30) 
·         How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? (John 5:44)

In these verses, Jesus is addressing the Pharisees, who are seeking to kill Him, for He upstages them and is popular with the masses.  But do you see an application for you and me?  If we follow Jesus, look how reliant He is on His Father for everything He says and does.

Wait a minute.  Of course He does that—He’s the Son of God.

Yes, but while He is here on earth, and having wrapped Himself in human flesh, He had limitations:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped [or a thing to be held onto for advantage] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:5-10) (Bible Gateway NIV Footnotes)

Did you catch that?  Jesus’ divinity could have protected Him from our humanity’s slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, but He did not come here to experience a diluted form of our suffering.  He felt our humanity in full force:

Seeing that we have a great High Priest who has entered the inmost Heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to our faith. For we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible—he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned. (Heb. 4:15 Phillips)

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. (Heb. 4:15 NLT)

Wow.  He knows you very deeply, having walked in your humanity’s shoes.  So, how did He navigate this life, with all of its complexities and temptations? 

“I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me.” (John 8:28 b)

 “I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it.”  (John 12:49)

“For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.” (John 6:38)

“Then Jesus explained: ‘My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.’” (John 4:34)

Let’s look at each of these verses and how we CoDeWo’s can follow Jesus. How was Jesus taught?  From a young boy on, He listened to the word of God, taught at home and at synagogue.   The Word of God was sufficient for Jesus to the point of when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, He responded to each temptation with a verse.  He not only knew the Word, He could apply it when He needed to—right then and there. He didn’t look to Himself for wisdom; He looked to His Father. He learned it all throughout His life.  It was such a part of Him that when He was dying on the cross, He quoted a verse from Psalm 22. 

I am saying that His Word needs to be our daily bread—as important as eating a good breakfast.  For the Word nourishes us and gives us strength to face the day with confidence.  When you hear the Word once a week from the pulpit, do not consider that enough nourishment.  You don’t eat once a week, nor should you be in the Word once a week.  Reading books about the Bible are not the same as reading it.  Watching someone eat is not the same as taking a bite yourself. 

So, if we follow Jesus—I mean, really follow Jesus, then we must listen to His Father for guidance, direction and any course of action we should take when someone calls us in a flurry and wants us to jump in and act.  Our CoDeMo is going from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds.  But may I suggest a way to put a foot on the brake?

I find these words effective:  “I will get back to you.”  Or, "How can I pray for you?" Or, both. 

Now you have a chance to breathe.  Now you have a chance to speak to your heavenly Father.
Go to the back of your Bible, to the concordance, and look up Scriptures that pertain to the situation:  “fear,” “anger,” “anxious” or whatever word captures the moment.  Read. Think. Breathe. Pray. Repeat.  Even if it’s an emergency, you still need the Lord’s guidance and wisdom.  The whole time I was driving down to the hospital to see my husband I was praying to the Lord for guidance and strength not to panic.  He answered me on all counts.

Rebuke Satan as he chirps in your ear about how mean/selfish/un-Christian you are.  You are following Jesus.  He took the time to breathe, pray and seek His Father.  You should do no less.
He chirped at Jesus.  Satan will chirp at you. Pray for strength to stand.  Armor up:

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Remember who you are in Christ: 

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Eph. 1:18-23)

Even Paul, whose relationship with Christ, turned the world upside down, knew where his power to preach came:

And we have such trust through Christ toward God.  Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor. 3:4-6)

So, are you seeing a pattern here?  Interdependency on Christ is the key to your recovery. 
You may be saying in your heart, You don’t know what I face.  Many, many people depend on me to help them.  Without me, their lives would crumble.  They always tell me how much I help them, but at times, I wonder.  All my friendships and relationships with family are based on what I can do for them.  If I were to speak the truth, they would punish me in one way or another.  I don’t want that.  I am lost in their lives; I don’t know what I would do if all of them were not around me.

Fair enough.  One day at a time, sweet sister.  Give the “crisis” a little time, so you can pray and not just react. Ultimately our goal, as followers of Jesus, is to do His Father’s will for our lives.  At the greatest moment of testing Jesus faced—a horrible death on a cross--look what He said,

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Matthew 26:39 NLT)

Jesus knew that once He took on the sin of the world, He would be out of fellowship with His beloved Father.  He would, like us all without Jesus, be alone.  Until the price was paid, sin alienates us from the Father—we, too, are alone, until we are washed clean in the blood Jesus shed on the cross. The Word puts it like this:

Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8 NLT)

Philippians expands on this:

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
     he humbled himself in obedience to God

    and died a criminal’s death on a cross. (Phil. 2:7-8)

He suffered to set us free.  He suffered to know our pain.  He suffered to show that suffering is a teacher.  He suffered to show that to obey and pray is how we stay on His Father’s path.  Psalm 143:10 is how Jesus walked and we are to as well:

Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God.
May your gracious Spirit lead me forward
    on a firm footing.

So, if we are to be giants, and no longer grasshoppers, let us rely on Jesus, baby step by baby step, to set us free of the need to rescue everyone.  Our suffering has taught us that He is the better way to help people.  We help by praying for people, by offering some words from the Word, and then trusting the Holy Spirit to guide them.

Will people get angry at us for focusing just on Him and not talking for hours about the problem and how it victimizes them?  Yes.  At their core, they want the focus to be on them, not on God and His provisions.  They are like the children of Israel in that desert.  We can be like Joshua and Caleb, and focus on our God, His strength and His power to get us through or we can focus on our fears and need for approval.  Once again, even Paul, that mighty man of God, knew what his attitude and goal in life should be: 

Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. (Gal. 1:10 NLT)

He will empower you.  Call on His name, trust that He will come and give you what you really long for:  a sense of worth.  You are His child.  He does have things for you to do; He wants them to be done in His power and wisdom alone.  Be a giant/G.I.A.N.T. in His name.  

·         


Saturday, March 14, 2020

A Job or a Job?


Job or Job?  

Kinda confusing, huh?  It all depends on that silly little “o” in the word—either you pronounce it, “ohhh” or “ah.” 

That equally applies to how we see the people before us—are they like Job in the Bible, who have met with some devastating circumstances and really need some encouragement and help, or are they triggering us, quickly putting us into CoDeMo, and now we have another rescue job before us?

The reason for this chapter is simple:  not everyone who is in dire straits is because of their choices and their sin.  There are times, when out of nowhere, a bomb drops on people, and they are devastated.  They reel in the suddenness of it, and the depth of it.

We live in a war zone.  Ever since Satan became the "prince of this world" (John 14:30) due to Adam wanting his way and not God's way, we have been under siege. The siege is conducted by our fallen and sinful flesh.  Our planet still bears the mark of its Creator, but groans under the weight of sin (Romans 8:19).  Jesus is still King, but His domain is not at peace.  Revelation shows us just how much evil is entrenched on this planet, and how Satan and his army will not go down (which they  will) without a fight. 

Sometimes, bad happens, like a missile hitting a hospital in a country at war.  Let me share with you a personal example.  Believe me, before I launch into this, I can tell you that most of the adverse circumstances I have found myself in had some element of my flesh involved—spiritual pride; not consulting the Lord but acting in haste;  not willing to listen to wise counsel; thinking that I had all the answers. 

But this circumstance just came at me.  I was not adding any fuel to some fire.  I was just living life.  My husband and I were watching a John Wayne movie when he complained of pain in his chest.  I thought he had worked out too hard earlier that day on the treadmill, and that he should take a Tylenol.  (That is the joke in my family.  If you have any pain, pop a Tylenol.)

He said this felt too painful for Tylenol, and said he thought he was having a heart attack.  I was skeptical, for my husband has a very low threshold for pain. But we flew down the highway to the local urgent care center.  Sure enough, he was having a heart attack.  Next thing I know, I am standing in the urgent care parking lot, while medical personnel are loading him into an ambulance and driving off quickly.  I followed to the hospital in a dream-like state.  It all seemed so weird.

The year before my husband had had an aortic valve replacement, and had bounced back quickly.  He was in better health than he had been in a long time, for his heart was moving and a-groovin’.  So, this was just strange. I arrived at the hospital and he had already been checked in and was in surgery.
His cardiologist came out later and said that while on the table, my husband had suffered a stroke.

WHAT?  Time just stopped.

Is he OK?

No.  He is paralyzed on the right side.

WHAT?  I would later tell people that our lives changed in a New York minute.

My husband would go into rehab for eight weeks, learning to walk without assistance, move his arms and function again.  I was with him every step of the way, sometimes even falling asleep on a couch or finding a chair in the hospital where I could crash. 

My husband finally came home and seem to be recovering quite well.  He worked hard to get back to his old self and we had lots of support, love and prayers.
It had been five and a half years, and my husband has for about the last two years, been in a slow but steady decline.  These have been the hardest five and a half years of my life.  My husband has a brilliant mind, and to watch him struggling cognitively is draining on both of us. 

Could sin enter in to such a picture?  Even though we never saw the stroke and its aftermath coming, I have struggling endlessly with anger, pride, impatience, judgment, isolation, and wanting to run away to Montana or somewhere, and just live with my two dogs.

Now, I can hear you sweet CoDeWo’s saying, “But those are all normal caretaker emotions—no sin there.”  It’s not that the emotions are sinful; it’s where they lead me—deep into my head, and wanting to have nothing to do with anyone.  Spiritually, it’s been a struggle as well—I love Jesus deeply, but at times, I act petulantly towards Him and do things that I find comfort in (although only temporary) without Him. 

I am not too dissimilar from those folks in the desert with Moses, constantly forgetting all that God has done, and grumbling and mumbling on how it used to be, and I wish I could go back there.  I so easily forget the mighty ways God intervened into my and my husband’s life:
  • The doctor on call that night in the ER was my husband’s regular cardiologist
  • When the doctor came to the waiting room and told me, a former student of mine was visiting her husband and she was there with me, and put her arm around me as he spoke
  • The Scripture above the hospital doors that I walked through every day was Matthew 11:28: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
  • He could have died with this kind of heart attack
  • He did not lose his ability to speak, due to the location of the stroke
  • I was able to visit him every day because it was summer, and I was not working
  • Our kids got really involved and our grandbabies were amazing, bringing pictures they drew to hang on his hospital walls
  • A friend of Clay’s came often to play chess with him
  • He was able to eat lots of pizza
  • The staff were extraordinarily kind, and he said he really saw Jesus in them
  • He started quoting Romans 8:28 a lot: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Wow. Just as the children of Israel were delivered from slavery through miraculous displays of God’s power and love, we too, were blessed with the same love and power.  I was able to speak to some of the patients’ families and even ministered to a mother and father whose son had been in a terrible car accident; God put me right into these verses:

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. (2 Cor. 1:3-5)

Sometimes we read the Word, and sometimes we are in the Word, moving it from the printed page into the world around us by having it in us.  

How easily I forget how much He was with both Clay and I in those hard days.  Why do we forget the days of wonder when we are in the days of woe?  Because the immediate overwhelms the past, and can easily take us into sin.  We didn’t ask for this medical crisis, no more than the children of Israel asked to be enslaved in Egypt.  We were not suffering the consequences of poor choices or sinful ways; neither were the children of Israel as they worked under the whip of taskmasters.
But, when we are truly in a Job situation, where the unexpected becomes the new normal, we still have a job to do:  focus on God, His provision and His wisdom to guide us through our circumstances. 

Even the midst of Job having literally lost everything, he would not, even though his wife taunted him to do so, “curse God and die.”  Remember, Mrs. Job had lost everything, too.  What I have learned about Job is not just in the book itself, but that book’s larger context in what is called “Wisdom Literature.”  That should tell you something right there:  The three books, Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes, are interesting in their relationship to one another, and give us insight to how we view the calamities that befall us, and what is our responsibility in all of it.

Proverbs is basically a Do Right, Follow God’s Wisdom, Avoid Evil and Life Will Go Well With You.  There is truth in that statement.  The Word is full of sound advice that will enable us to avoid many pitfalls in life.  My favorite verses come from there:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)  

I have seen this time and time again in my life, and usually if I am deep in CoDeMo, it’s because I have not leaned on Him for wisdom and guidance on what to do, and my paths end up crooked, full of pain and resentment.

Ecclesiastes is the other end of the How To Live Life Spectrum.  Solomon tries all that the world promises will give him satisfaction and peace—wine, women and song, to name a few.  He is Hollywood, Wall Street and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous all rolled into one.  Guess what?  After sampling all the world’s finest offering, he concludes that all is “vanity.”  John sums it up ever so nicely many centuries later:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)


Yup.  Solomon would have agreed heartily.  But he also laid down with dogs.  He was covered in fleas by the end, and wouldn’t we all like to say, “I told you, so, King.  For one who sought wisdom from God then got lost in the world’s way of living, you get what you deserve.”

True.  When we watch others plunge into sin, and then they start drowning, although we may be a wonderful CoDeWo Lifeguard, don’t we have niggling doubts that this person we are rescuing seems to jump back into the deep end far too often?  As a CoDeWo in recovery, deep in my heart I wanted to shout, “Stop jumping in that pool!  It’s way too deep and dog-paddling will not keep your nose above the surface!”  But I still jumped in and rescued them, year after year after year.

So, in our Wisdom Literature, we have two views of life:  Stay way from crazy and your life won’t be; don’t lie down with dogs if you hate fleas.  Makes sense. 

Then comes Job.  He’s a Proverbs kind of guy:

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. (Job 1:1)

He was wealthy, with many children.  We would look at such a man and say he was blessed, because he avoided evil.  True.  But something deeper was going on here than a simple equation of Be Good and Life Will Be Good:

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

"Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. (Job 1:8-12)

Satan’s name means “adversary”  and that is what he is doing—wandering around the earth, looking to accuse God’s children, because Satan is against everything and everyone that has to do with God.  Satan argues that the only reason Job loves God is because of all the bounty he has.  So, in order to silence the accusation that Job only loves God for what he has, God allows it to be taken away.
Everything and everyone is Job’s life is removed quickly. Job’s reaction to this overwhelming catastrophe?

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.”
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:20-22)

The rest of the book looks hard and long at why bad things happen to good people.  It’s not another Proverbs, where if you act good, life is good and it is not another Ecclesiastes where life is empty when you pursue the world and leave God behind.  Job is addressing a real problem of why, even if someone lives a Proverbs kind of life, bad things still happen.  It is not always a moral failure on the part of the person.

So, sweet CoDeWo, I am not implying that every catastrophe that befalls someone is due to a sin or a worldly choice.  There are times where, like Job, a person is pursuing God wholeheartedly, and is living a life that reflects God’s influence, wisdom and love.

In looking back over all the people I became co-dependent with and enmeshed with, not one of them was a Job.  They thought they were, of course. Because they were unwilling to connect their behaviors, actions and choices with the negative outcomes. Or they didn’t see it, because of all the chaos in their lives. Or because they thought a life with constant chaos was normal, and if things were calm, they felt uncomfortable, and went out looking for new chaos.

The Jobs that I have encountered never came to me looking for me to rescue them, carry their burden, or be responsible for cleaning up their lives.  Or, perhaps those people weren’t looking for me to step in, but something triggered me to do so, and in I went.
I believe the Jobs know that no one person can save them.  The predicament they were in are way beyond any human solution, help or guidance:
  • A mother who finally lost a daughter to the fifth attempt at suicide
  • The father who lost his son to suicide after years of battling with severe mental health
  • A woman whose second husband beat her and she knew this time she had to leave
  • A girl serving at church in the children’s ministry who binged and purged, and it finally landed her in the hospital

 These are only a few I can recall.  They reached out, only for prayer, because they knew this was a God-sized journey of healing, recovery and grief.  They didn’t trigger in me a need to rescue them; how could I?  I am not that powerful. 

What I found was these people leaned hard on Jesus; they knew that only Jesus could stand by them at the level they needed; I saw no pity party, no woe is me…only a resolve, like Job, not to curse God.
God was the only Hope they had; He was the only Lifeboat that showed up to their Titanic.

The people who came to me were hurting, yes, but were unwilling to fully surrender to God.  They wanted me to step in and carry their burden, while they continue on their merry way. So, sometimes there are Jobs out there, for whom love and prayer is the greatest gift you can give them.  Job’s friends grilled him on why his life had gone so south; they failed to see that sometimes suffering is from a larger cause and effect, not because the person has sinned in some way.

What I love about the book of Job is how it ends:  God gives Job a whirlwind tour of His creation, in all its majesty and complexity.  God shows job that He is intimately involved in the universe and its operation.  Job’s life would be a testimony to God’s presence, and how evil will never extinguish the good that God gives.  At the end, all of Job’s life is restored.

Evil may prevail for a time and we watch in utter horror as calamity befalls someone whose life radiates Jesus.  That person become a walking testimony of how it is God and God alone who can carry His children in this world where evil lurks and strikes. 

Those who sin and feel its sting are no less part of God’s love.  But they want us to fix it now.  They  refuse to learn the lessons that God longs to teach us about Himself in adversity.  As a recovering CoDeWo, I now want nothing more to get out of the way and do only what God would have me do.  Just as Jesus did.

That’s next.


 







Monday, March 9, 2020

Stern Words for Those Who Sin


In our previous verses in the Book of Numbers, we hear Joshua warning the people not to rebel against God.  In the verses from Hebrew, we learn that a “hardening of the heart” is a very serious matter and that obedience to God is essential if we call ourselves Christians. 

Let’s summarize Joshua’s argument to the people: 

·         The land is good
·         If God is pleased with us, He will lead us into it and it will be ours
·         Don’t rebel against the Lord
·         Don’t fear the people living in the land
·         We will conquer them
·         The Lord is with us, not them
·         Have no fear

After all God did for them, in one of the most powerful countries on earth—Egypt—they should view entering the Promised Land as a walk in the park.  But no.  They want to stone Joshua and Company.
That’s what fearful, desperate, sinful people do:  they excuse themselves, accuse others and demand some sort of quick fix to their problems. 

If Joshua had any co-dependent leanings, he would have kicked into high gear and sought to downplay what he said (even though it is all truth) and then create his own fix to help them.  But he didn’t.  He stood his ground, along with the other leaders.  But the people, instead of repenting, hardened their hearts even further and resolve to kill the leaders by stoning them. That’s when God shows up.  The people grumbling progressing to threatening murder has brought Him to the Tent of Meeting and a face to face with Moses.  The people have stepped over the line and God is angry:

Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.” (Numbers 14:10-12)

I picture Moses, Aaron, Caleb and Joshua all standing together, facing what is quickly becoming a mob with a mob mentality.  Moses sees God’s glory descending upon where Moses directly meets with God and he rushes over there, to hear God’s words.  Moses is now doubly appalled: He hears God’s anguished and angry words regarding the treason spoken by the people, and how He will select Moses to be the new ancestor of the Jewish people.  The descendants of the original patriarchs—Abraham, Issac and Jacob and the covenant God made with them—will be wiped from the face of the earth.  But Moses knows that the covenant God made is irrevocable, and so he gently reminds God of His reputation:

Moses said to the Lord, ‘Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, Lord, are with these people and that you, Lord, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. If you put all these people to death, leaving none alive, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, “The Lord was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath, so he slaughtered them in the wilderness.”

Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: "The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now." (Numbers 14:13-19)

God hasn’t forgot His covenant with the fathers of the Jewish nation.  He wants to see if Moses really understands Who God is.  God’s reputation as a mighty Wonder is heard throughout the surrounding lands; Moses wants God to know that He is respected and feared by others, even if His own children fail Him.  Moses praises God’s fairness, and asks Him to forgive even a rebellious, ungrateful people.  Moses has truly learned Who God is, even if those he leads have hardened hearts and think only of themselves.

How often do we forget God's goodness in our lives and succumb to the thinking of others?  We listen to others' complaint and start to find ourselves thinking:

·         My life sucks
·         God is unpredictable
·         God has abandoned me
·         I have to do everything for myself
·         No one loves me
·         God doesn’t love me
·         You are the only one who understands me
·         My life is so hard
·         It’s not my fault; it’s these people’s fault: ___________________
·         God is testing me
·         I am the victim here, so don’t talk about sin to me!
·         I don’t have a hardened heart; I have the right to be angry, unforgiving and mean—other people deserve it!

If we really spend time with God, praying, reading His Word, desiring to go deeper and wanting more and more of Him, we will be tested by others who deny the truth we bring them, and who want us to believe that how they see the world is truly correct; we are simply ignorant and misinformed. Moses is being tested by the people’s rejection of all they have seen and experienced in this journey with God.  Moses reaffirms what is true about God.  He also intervenes, and asks God to remember that although the people deserve punishment, God should forgive them, as He has all along, because of His great love. 

Wow. Don’t you hear Jesus in all of this?  Although we deserve punishment, He advocates for us, and intercedes with His Father to show us His great love.  Jesus knows our weakness and wants only the best for us.  But sin has consequences.  God’s love is a fierce love, but it is a love that knows if He ignores sin and its consequences, His people will never seek to live righteous lives.  God is not willing to give His people a “Get Out of Jail Free” card every time they sin.  He will forgive them, yes, but He wants the sin to be a teacher.

When we are taught by the consequences of sin, it molds our character like nothing else can.  We become more aware of just how serious sin really is, how deceptive it is and how we are destroyed by it over time if we do not turn away and seek God and Him alone.  We come to learn that no sin is worth the absence of God’s presence; God wants Him to be our all and all.  

God goes ahead and forgives His people, one more time, and He does not destroy them.  But, He will use their disobedience to teach them to revere Him:

The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. Since the Amalekites and the Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.”  (Number 14:20-25)
  
God honors His covenant He made to the people’s ancestors—that the Promised Land will be possessed by the people of God; but contempt for God is something He cannot ignore.  He bars those people from going into the land.  He also warns Moses that the local people living in the valleys will be a danger to them; God directs them to another route.  Is God being excessively harsh?  What are some possible ways He could have punished them more harshly?

·         He could have destroyed the people then and there for their contemptuous behavior
·         He could have no longer provided water and food in this barren desert
·         He could have the inhabitants of the land attack and massacre them (they are slaves, remember, not warriors)
·         He could have separated the disobedient people like goats away from the others, and led just their children and the leaders into the Promised Land, allowing the people to perish from lack of water and food

So, God even in His wrath, extends mercy.  He now tells Moses:

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.  As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. But as for you, your bodies will fall in this wilderness.  Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’ I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die.” (Numbers 14:26-35)

God is allowing the natural aging process to take the people out.  They will fall one by one over time, and then their children will go into the land.  Why has God taken this course of action?  Because the parents may now instruct their children every day about the seriousness of sin.  God is using the consequences of the people’s contempt for Him and their ungrateful and hardened hearts to teach their children how to appreciate and praise God.  Nothing "unhardens" our hearts quicker than realizing how our sin got us here.  It may take a awhile to come to this realization; at first, I am sure the people were unwilling to admit their fault.  But day after day, walking in the hot sun, thinking about the bounty in the Promised Land, made them realize the only reason they are not there now is because of them and them alone. Every year, for forty years, as these people celebrate the feasts laid out in Leviticus, they will be reminded of how God vanquished the Egyptians; how He provides for them daily; how sin bars the way to God and how the blood of an innocent animal washes that sin away; how Moses intervenes for his people and how God loves them, despite them showing contempt for His provision.

OK, CoDeWo’s, how does this apply to us?  We may be unintentionally helping people avoid the seriousness of their behavior’s consequences.  They may be actively sinning, or have a sinful attitude, and we step in, trying to take away the pain.  But those forty years in the desert for God’s people was one big schoolhouse, where parents could teach their children and humble themselves before God. 
When we intervene into people’s lives who have been careless and sinful, we take them out of the schoolhouse that God would have used to remold their character into insightful and mature people. 
Take away the consequences and you take away the possibility of learning from those consequences. 

Let me give you an example.  I had a friend many years ago that I consider a good friend.  Our daughters played together and I babysat her kids and vice versa. We went to church together.  We were both stay-at-home moms.  When I first met her, she lived in a nice mobile home, in a nice mobile home park.  She and her husband had had marital problems, and as part of their reconciliation, he had bought this mobile home in this town, and she relocated, where they restarted their life together.

He was an amazingly talented musician.  He harbored some animosity against me, for the pastor had selected me, not him, to be the worship leader.  His maturity level and his humility were both not conforming to taking on a leadership role.  But we all still got along, and I helped him get gigs, so he could share his music.  One day, she and I were sitting in her living room, and I heard a noise outside.  Someone was repossessing their car.  She seemed undisturbed by it.

She became pregnant with their third child and was very ill.  Instead of her husband taking over the running of the house, he stood passively by and sometime later, their mobile home was repossessed. 
They relied heavily on her parents to support them financially, and the husband was always buying equipment for his in-house studio, so he could make CD’s.  (This was the ‘80’s.)

They then had to rent a house one street over from mine; we had bought ours.  I always felt guilty about how financially set we were; I ignored that all of it came from my husband’s hard work, good financial planning and God’s blessing.  Their explanation for their misfortunes was always, “God is testing us.”  The husband would immediately spend any extra money they had, saying that it may never come around again.  The wife finally went to school, to gain a skill, to bring in extra income.  The husband complained that he could go to school, but she was taking all the money.  He did spend many hours designing album covers for his next project, however. 

She managed her at-home business quite well, and yet her husband had her doing everything:  kids, managing the house, shopping, cooking, etc.  He would sit there while she was making dinner with a screaming baby, and made no effort to help.  Guess who stepped in?  

I helped her take care of the house and yard, watched her kids, and became a surrogate husband.  He had time for all of his friends’ problems, but seemed blissfully uninterested in his own family, unless there was a crisis. There were several, and he would go to counseling with her to do crisis management, and she would calm down, and all would go back to normal—me in the husband role of helping and emotionally supporting her, and he focused on himself.  But still they would say, “God is testing us.”

I felt trapped.  I wanted out but felt a loyalty to her.  One day, when I called her and asked her to send my daughter home for dinner, she flat out refused.  I was stunned.  My daughter needed to come home and she would not send her home.  To this day I do not know what happened, only that I had to go over to their house and with my daughter screaming at me, my friend standing at the door and her husband disappearing down the hall, I had to finally threaten her with calling the police.  She relented. 

The friendship was over.  What happened?  I do not know. Within six months of our friendship ending, they were divorced.  Why am I telling you this?  At every turn, this couple exhibited pride and a total lack of personal responsibility for anything that went on.  He had been molested by a scout leader at the age of 7, and was unwilling to ever go to a counselor about this.  He hated homosexuals and defined his suitability as a father because he didn’t sleep around, as had his own mother.  His brokenness led to my friend leaning on and manipulating me for survival, pure and simple.  The red flags were numerous; I refused to see them because I felt so sorry for her.

But that night, with her stony gaze and her refusal to send my daughter home brought into clear view her somewhat hardened heart.  She had met someone online a few days earlier and I did not support it at all.  Was she taking revenge on me?  Was he?  Were they finally united over something—let’s stick it to Rhonda?  Don’t know, and I don’t think I ever will.  I only know I was so co-dependent it was beyond description.  Trapped, resentful, making up excuses, spending so much time rescuing her that I neglected my own family and then being betrayed in such a painful way shocked me but sadly didn’t cure me of co-dependence.  That was years up the road.

Brokenness can lead to sin.  Sin leads to deception and being deceived about what you believe and do can lead you into more sin. My stepping out of lessening the consequences for them meant she felt the full brunt of his neglect and emotional abuse.  The marriage was over because no one was there to take care of her or him.  I was deeply saddened when I heard the news.  I was even more deeply saddened when I heard she has recently passed; my hope is we will laugh and drink tea in heaven.
God wanted to teach them, raise them onto higher ground and show them both the true freedom that is in Christ.  But with me always involved, I blunted God’s process.  They were responsible for what happened, but I am sorry that I never spoke truth into their lives. 

God is always seeking to grow us, to make us mature and show us how His ways are best.  Our co-dependence and their dependence makes both sides growing in Christ a problem:

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:9-13)

What is God’s goal for His children? 

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:26-7)

If we constantly rescue people and they continue to dwell in the realm of the flesh, then God’s purposes for their lives may be thwarted.  Just like the people under Moses long ago in that desert, God wants us to move closer to Him and allow Him to remake our character.  He wants us “conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8) Our co-dependent ways do not enable Him to do that, either in us or in others.  One final point we must take from the people in the desert.  If God is not in what people are doing or in what we are doing, the consequences of that will be grim as well.  Let’s revisit them one more time:

So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it—these men who were responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the Lord. Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived. 
When Moses reported this to all the Israelites, they mourned bitterly. Early the next morning they set out for the highest point in the hill country, saying, “Now we are ready to go up to the land the Lord promised. Surely we have sinned!”

But Moses said, “Why are you disobeying the Lord’s command? This will not succeed! Do not go up, because the Lord is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies, for the Amalekites and the Canaanites will face you there. Because you have turned away from the Lord, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword.”

Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the highest point in the hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the Lord’s covenant moved from the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah. (Numbers 14:36-45)

The men who started this whole terrible business by lying about what they saw in the Promised Land are taken out quickly.  No forty years of wandering for them; their lies were poisonous to the people and their presence among the people might continue to be a source of contention.  The people were saddened by what happened; but instead of seeking God for what they need to do, they assume they are ready to enter the Land.  They were told by Moses that only their children will go in; they were not allowed to go in.  They acknowledge their sin but do not repent; they decide that they are “ready.”  By whose standard?  Surely not God’s.

We, as CoDeWo’s, are way too willing to assume that everything we are told by those seeking our rescuing hand are being truthful.  That every thing that has happened to them is because of someone else; they are the victims time and time again.  We hear only their side of things, and never question the truth of it, for that would involve conflict.  We just go along and act only on what they have said. 
We then step out without consulting God, for we assume we are doing His work by helping these poor souls. They seem to be ready to accept our help, advice and directions.  Ready, but by whose standard?

They may even admit they have done wrong, but they have not truly repented—they have not confessed their sin and changed directions, moving towards God and not away from Him.   They want to take on the Promised Land—change in their lives—on their own terms, with them in the lead.  But just like their counterparts in the desert, they will be defeated by their “enemies”—pride, deception, unhealed brokenness, anger, unforgiveness and blame.  They move into this phase of their lives without the Lord yet expect Him to rubber-stamp what they are doing.  When it doesn’t work out, they blame the Lord, or you, for failing. 

“In their presumption” is a powerful statement.  As CoDeWo’s, are we willing to be like Moses and point out how their plan will not work, or do we stay silent, and hope that somehow, some way, all will work out? 

But if God is relegated to being a spectator, or not even invited, then it won’t work out, no matter how hard you try to help them. Their "enemies" will disrupt and destroy any attempts you and they make towards wellness.  Because it's all being done not in the Spirit (despite our good intentions) but in the flesh--yours and theirs. 

If this time in the desert teaches us only one thing, let it be that God must be in everything we do, no matter what.  How do we do this?  That's next!


Love you guys!  Thanks for reading and being patient with my blogs that seem to arrive at weird intervals! 












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