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A friend and I had an exchange about sickness via email… Here is my response:
Honestly… I believe the root to all sickness is condemnation. Condemnation is having more faith in Adam than in Jesus (nice tie into the video I sent you, huh?) (here is the video I reference https://youtu.be/kxM85YyQGVE )… Condemnation is not believing Jesus’ gift of Righteousness is enough. If I allow condemnation to linger, I am saying I was depending on myself to be obedient to the law, but obviously failed, so now I start (consciously or subconsciously) believing I deserve punishment (our bodies are designed to respond to what we believe and will act accordingly)… The devil loves when we feel condemnation and will do all he can to encourage it (especially with the thoughts he puts in our heads)… When we entertain condemnation, we’re essentially removing ourselves from the shelter of grace and putting ourselves into his domain, where he can just hammer us with the law and our failure to follow it… We can get into a bad cycle and spiral down in a hurry (as I know you know)… It is only by seeking first His righteousness, making ourselves continually conscience of His obedience, reminding ourselves often that it is only by faith that I am as Righteous as God Himself (otherwise I could never come “boldly” into His presence) that we keep condemnation at bay (it is a persistent foe)… Often times when I get sick I can trace it back to specific periods of condemnation…
Let me say this too, while I’m at it… Fear (stress, anxiety, worry) is the fruit of condemnation… Feeling anxious about something? The truth is, you feel as though you have done something wrong and are therefore not worthy enough for God to meet whatever need the anxiety is producing. I encourage you to pray and meditate on this truth… Once you get this established in your heart, faith becomes a lot simpler and therefore much more restful… Healthy faith/ believing will always point back to His faithfulness and His goodness; all you have to do is believe it and stop focusing on yourself. Once you’re eyes are fixed on Him, good fruit becomes an easy and natural byproduct of beholding Him… Also remember, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God… Stay close to the Word and speak it over yourself and into your circumstances often!
I feel like I should say one last thing.. Sorry… I used to read the word and often times feel condemned by it. Not sure if that ever happens to you or not, but what a shi*%y thing for the devil to do! If you read the Word and you are not established in grace, he will use it to crush you… So now, when I read parts where a demand is made and I become aware of my failure, I hold Jesus’ obedience against it and remind myself, with gratitude, Jesus has already perfectly met that demand… Remember… The law is all about demand, but grace is all about supply. Whenever the law demands, grace super abounds (supplies an abundance beyond the demand)…
A couple weeks ago I was looking in my Bible and opened to a page where the bookmark a friend had given me was. That was Ezekiel 22 and I had a nudge that I was supposed to read the whole chapter. Turns out it discusses Babylon (which means “mixture” in Hebrew) and goes on to explain how Israel allowed their sins to be laid bare by the attacking Babylonians. In other words “mixture” caused them to remember their sins (made them feel guilty for already forgiven transgressions). The Isrealites, in depending on their own merits (if you feel guilt you are basically saying I could have earned something God gives freely through faith), displeased the Lord so much that he allowed them to be judged by Babylon. Obviously what sticks out to me is that mixture in the Bible usually refers to law and Grace being mixed together. Rather than allowing the sanctity of the law to stand by itself and the goodness of God’s heart to stand by itself (through faith) they pervert both by remembering their transgressions and forgetting God’s gracious provision of health, prosperity, and protection…. This was a much needed reminder!
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I was reading that Ezekiel chapter again. This time however the word “signpost” stuck out at me. Ezekiel was telling the Israelites that they were at a crossroads and that they needed to clearly mark the crossroad with a sign. That didn’t mean too much to me, but then I was led to Luke Chapter 11 and immediately noticed a segment in that chapter titled “The Sign of Jonah.” The segment goes on to complain about the generation that, unlike Nineveh, ignored it’s messenger from God. It even goes on to say their messenger, Jesus, is obviously so much greater than Jonah was.
I had a strong sense these scriptures were the Lord speaking to me. After discussing these passages with Michelle and praying I’ve come to some conclusions… the first conclusion relates to how I have been feeling as if something is missing in terms of where we’re headed as a family and where we’re at now. I believe strongly that the Lord has big purposes for our future in business and Ministry (He’s told me so many times- through many sources) and the reality is I could never achieve these purposes without being very near to him. I sensed this was just an encouragement from him for me to draw nearer. To spend more time in the word and in worship. And in doing so I will gain what I need to do the things that need to be done (not through striving and struggling to figure things out but through transformation) . This isn’t me learning anything as much as it is having opportunities for him to transform my heart into what it needs to be by just being in contact with the power of his Word and through worship. When approached correctly this assignment is not a heavy burden, but thankfully an easy and light one.
The second conclusion I’ve come to is I have been really bad about writing down my story and the amazing journey that the Lord has had me on the last couple of years. I have not done a good job of sharing in writing the Miracles that have happened; there have been many! I’ve been reading in Genesis about Abraham Isaac and Jacob. Those men often left Alters to remind themselves (and future generations) of the goodness of God and I feel that that is what my writing is to be. My writing is to be a “sign” in the crossroads for myself and, who knows, maybe future generations (my son Simon included) too…
In the interest of doing this with a little more discipline and to make it a little easier on myself, most of the time, I’m going to be dictating to whatever device I’m using. My grammar and punctuation may not always be 100%, but this is the best way for me to be able to do this with any sort of discipline and regularity.
Time to talk about reading rote the Bible (mechanically or out of habitual repetition)… The question I have to ask myself is would I rather eat steak that has no flavor or eat sewage that tastes like steak, but is slowly poisoning me? … I have been convinced by certain tells in my attitude that I have been consisting on to much of the wrong diet in my free time.
(Oh Lord, here he goes) Please hear me out, because this is not about “right or wrong” or about “do this or don’t do this.” This is more about the choices I make and the peace/ success these choices bring.
I love movies and TV shows. In fact, thanks to Netflix, lately I can be found spending much of my idle time in front of the tube. I know I am free to do so without guilt or condemnation and I am not against enjoying these forms of entertainment, but the reality is the more I consume the world, the more I bare the fruit of it… And lately, the fruit ain’t been so hot.
In my youth, when I struggled with difficult problems life threw my way I’d escape in entertainment (I’d use it like a drug), while the Lord has drawn me away from this pattern, I still occasionally fall into it. Inevitably my attitude sours, I begin to lose hope, my perspective narrows, my desire to resist sin weakens, and so on… Regardless what entertainment source I’ve leaned towards (movies, the news, sitcoms, literature, music, whatever…) my experience tells me that in large quantities it can profoundly affect my behavior; I think particularly when I use it as medication to numb the hurt of life… If numb to the pain, I lose sensitivity and the ability to recognize the areas within that need God’s healing.
Above I compared reading rote the Bible to eating steak that has no flavor. The truth is that Jesus is the Word and the only thing that can separate Him from the Word is our approach when reading it. (John 5:39) If I come to it with the intent to earn salvation or earn blessing or to gather ammunition for our next theological debate, then He will not be revealed within. However, if I come to feed because I know I’m malnourished, whether I can taste it’s goodness or not, over time His living Word will satisfy me and meet me “spot on” in the place of my need.
All of this to say, I am once again at the place where I know I need more time in the Word. At first it is a bit tasteless (boring) and I find myself just going through the motions, but my past experience tells me something will soon shift in my spirit and I will begin to crave it… Its taste returns and brings with it my hope in Him and a positive outlook on life (regardless of the circumstances I find myself in).
I don’t want this to sound formulaic or cliche, because honestly there are ebbs and flows even within this process… One step forward, two steps back, but having repeated this cycle a few times (more than I care to), the overall gist of this post, in my humble opinion, is accurate.
It is my experience that God does not operate in nothing. Nature/ creation abhors a vacuum simply because God does. An example: Jesus didn’t just take your sins, He replaced them with His Righteousness… I say all of this because of my struggle with condemnation… The question I have been asking myself lately— If there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus then what is there? I did a search for its opposite and discovered the following words. I hope you are as blessed as I was…
com·men·da·tion [kom-uhn-dey-shuhn] noun
1. the act of commending; recommendation; praise: commendation for a job well done.
2. something that commends, as a formal recommendation or an official citation or award: a commendation for bravery.
3. Feudal Law. the placing of oneself or one’s land under the protection of a lord so as to become his vassal. (PARTICULARLY FOND OF THIS ONE)
ab·so·lu·tion [ab-suh-loo-shuhn] noun
1. act of absolving; a freeing from blame or guilt; release from consequences, obligations, or penalties.
I am learning something different from what many people would have me believe. I have always bought into the saying that the absence of God’s voice during my hardships is like that of a teacher who doesn’t speak when giving a test… Or worse, that it is due to some “undealt” with sin in my life that I have to try and figure out. What I am beginning to experience is all together different.
God promises to never leave me nor forsake me;
(forsake: to renounce or turn away from entirely; to abandoned)
He promises that He is a very present and well-proven help in times of trouble… I know- even Jesus was forsaken on the cross… But I believe (as He continues to prove to me) that He was forsaken (Mt. 27:46), so I would never have to be. He paid the price for my depravity; the full price, so that I could have unhindered and complete access to the throne of Heaven. He even encourages me to approach this throne with the boldness of a much beloved son.
Walls have been important in helping me understand all of this… They have come to represent the lies I have bought which diminish in any capacity the truth of who I am in Christ and who Christ is in me. My belief in these lies (wrong believing) is what builds these imaginary walls that “separate” me from my “very present” help. He is always ready to step in, but because love isn’t forceful and because God is a gentleman, He will not often inject Himself into my circumstances without invitation. In the past I would cry out to him for help in my mind, but with the rest of my body be manipulating and forcing and fixing and squirming my way out of my “tests” … Never trusting Him enough to let go of the problem; not believing He is able to move in the hearts of those involved or that He could miraculously fix whatever was broken (just because He loves me). The truth is He allowed His son to be tortured to death in my place while I was still His enemy. How much more proof do I need that the “walls” that separate me from Him are of my own making? About a year ago I began to understand that resting in Jesus’ finished work is my open door through the walls of wrong believing. (John 10:9)
In my mind, the above teacher metaphor and ones like it are what we use to soothe the wounds created by our unbelief in how good and kind and present our Papa really is. Our flesh partners with a legalistic spirit to demand justice, even if it means we ourselves are the ones to be punished. We become our own worst enemy as we ignore the open and welcoming arms of our Father. Outside of these arms words like unconditional love, forgiveness, restoration, and communion are foreign… In our unbelief mindset it becomes unfathomable that He, a Holy and Just God, can stay near us when we sin or fail to meet His standard. … But honestly, if this were true, then why send Jesus to suffer and die? Our failure to keep the Law had already separated us from Him. No, the truth is He wants us intimate and close. That is why He made a way for us knowing we could never make a way for ourselves… Remember the Law has been satisfied in Christ (Rom 10:4) —so, “where there is no Law, there is no transgression” (Rom 5:13)— and “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1)
(condemnation: to declare to be reprehensible, wrong, or evil usually after weighing evidence; to pronounce guilty <condemn a prisoner to die>; to adjudge unfit for use)…
Because of my relationship with Jesus, nothing can separate me from the love of my Father, not even my sin (Rom 8:38-39). So, when I am struggling these days the challenge is to listen for His voice encouraging me, His beloved son. It can be difficult to hear over the barrage of accusation that usually accompanies struggles. “This is happening because I deserve it.” “Why, if God loves me, does He allow this to happen?” “I’m a failure.” “I’m a fake.” “I’m a…(fill in the blank)”. If I am having a hard time hearing Him I simply turn to His word. I speak out loud reminders like “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.” (2Cor 5:21) or I speak Psalms 23 or I read out loud in 1John 4 how His perfect love for me casts out fear or I read out loud in Matt 7 how “much more” my Father in Heaven will give to me good things or I read out loud how Christ is the author and perfecter of my faith or I speak out loud that Jesus came to “give life and give it more abundantly.” (John 10:10).
As a result of speaking the Truth, I am experiencing a new dynamic- The more I trust in how irrelevant Jesus has made my sin, the more I know I am loved. The more I know I am loved, the more I am aware of His presence (the larger His reality becomes in me). The more aware I am of His presence, The more at peace my whole being becomes. The more at peace I become, the less my flesh needs to be satisfied. The less my flesh needs to be satisfied, the less I sin…… It’s all so very neat and tidy- to the point of being unbelievable, but simplicity is at the very heart of righteousness through faith. I thank God that this is so and pray that this testimony witnesses to those who may believe differently.
Never Abandoned… Never Forsaken…
I was a smart kid. I knew whoever had the feather pillow won the pillow fight. How can something so soft and cozy deliver such a crushing blow? The same way the message of grace can when it is swung like a hammer. — Christians who have more freedom than another need to study Romans 14 with diligence! It is your field manual on how to change hearts through love.
I have begun to realize that a Christian who believes it is their calling to watchdog or police their “faith” by tearing down others beliefs are not worth listening to. Criticism on this scale can rarely be done without standing in direct opposition to Christ… Truth is its own defense. “…no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” – 1Cor 12 — “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”“Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” Luke 9 —Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-31
I remember my anguish as I listened in stunned silence to my truck radio unpack all that was happening… I grieve over the lives lost on 9/11/01. It was a tragedy… But the tragedy continues as the culture of fear created by this event has found fertile hosts in an American people not rooted in faith to something greater than themselves. — fear: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; — We continue to give up liberties to drug the pain caused by an unknown future. We call this drug “security,” but like all drugs, the more you use the more you need… Ultimately you become so “secure” you wake to find yourself in a bubble of captivity. True liberty and freedom are only found in the person of Grace that is Jesus Christ… “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” -C.T. Boom
It is difficult to see the kingdom of God unless you become as a little child. Some will argue that this mentality is the milk Paul refers to when encouraging believers to move on to meat, but for me the meat IS resting in the simplicity of grace. It is much easier for us humans to complicate our faith than it is to simply rest- not in inactivity, but in the ebb and flow of His Kingdom without the fear of failure.
“Religion will complicate things and make them difficult to understand, but things with God are simple. We need to step out of our religious mindsets and theologies and step back into the simplicity of relationship, with God and others. God shows up when we ask Him to and believe He will, no matter what the situation looks like. We don’t need a formula to get to Him or figure life out. As we trust Him as children, He will work the rest out. Today, whatever is going on in your life, trust God with it. Just hand it to Him and enjoy the rest of your day. Let’s practice letting God be God and releasing ourselves to not have it all figured out!” H. Wright
Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. – Proverbs 3:5
One of my great desires in life is for there to be no walls between the Lord and myself. I see walls as self made barriers I have placed to defend the little kingdoms of my faith, my justifications, my world views, my pride, etc… The Holy Spirit is helping me become more sensitive to the existence of these walls as He points to the signs of offence I experience when these little kingdoms are under attack. These ‘attacks’ are well placed stumbling blocks meant to trip up the ‘sure’ footing of self righteousness I have labored to establish. All this to say, I am well aware, even sensitive to the fact my walk is less than perfect, but my heart is to know the Lord and to know (really believe) that I am loved by Him. I post the things I share (usually after asking permission) knowing that they may not be exactly right, but believing that God can move in the hearts of men and convey His love through “the foolishness of (my) preaching” (1Cor 1:21). If you are offended or bothered by anything I share, please try to see me through the lens of Romans 14 and/or perhaps pause to ask why you are offended (I think the Holy Spirit LOVES when we ask this question). I am on a journey that is fraught with difficult choices, just like you are… Sharing as I do requires vulnerability and is not always an easy thing to do, but I do enjoy expressing, through writing, the magnificence of His loving kindness… He is Good and His Hesed (love, mercy, devotion, kindness) endures forever. That is all.