Four ship captains set sail to go to sea. One captain let the wind and waves carry him and did not steer, and he ended up crashed on the rocks. Another Captain being nervous about the strong winds, rolled up his sails and made his men row the whole time, but the men grew tired, and the ship quickly turned back for home. Another captain had no compass, but he steered his ship towards any visible or imagined points on the horizon, but he ended up getting lost at sea. Still another captain steered his ship into the winds with sails unfurled, and used his compass to guide him, and he sailed to his destination over the horizon pushing through every wind. He reached his destination and all of his men and his goods made it with him.
A week later, they were all eating dinner together, when a desperate knock came at the door. Zoe’s father went to the door, and spoke to someone out of sight of Zoe sitting at the table. She looked over her spoon as she sipped the vichyssoise her Mom had made. Her dad came back carrying a man in uniform with one arm around his shoulder. The uniformed man looked wan and frail. The mother got up and hurried to clear the table. Zoe backed away as the adults pushed everything off the table to make ready. Her father gave her a knowing glance which they exchanged with previous understanding: Do nothing.
“I barely got away.” said the man in uniform, who up close looked to be clad in the garb of a park ranger, though he reminded Zoe of a soldier from the Revolutionary war. The warm light of the chandelier above gave it that feel. Zoe’s eyes were transfixed on the man. He was middle aged and stared blankly at the light of the chandelier. She could see he was in a state of shock. The father and the mother talked with the man, and found out that this he had been attacked by a bear, and his bowels severely injured by the claws.
“Zoe,” shot out her father, “get some water.” She started for the door to go to the stream, but he said, “No use the water we’ve already boiled!” He said motioning to the refrigerator. She looked inside the opened refrigerator and located their carafe filled only half-way. The mother poured water on her own hands and did what they could to clean up the man. His breathing was shallow.
Zoe ached to help. Her mother was not picking it up, but her dad was. He kept looking from the man he was caring for to Zoe whose eyes remained glued to the poor man.
She got lost in a memory triggered by the sight of her father leaning over the man, but powerless to help. One time, little Zoe played with a little rocking horse her Dad had fashioned from with him of Micas polished. She tipped it over, and the side collision landed on the stone fireplace, and the head split off. It was the first moment when her world shattered, as children’s world’s often do. She didn’t know it, but her father’s outcry was not because it couldn’t be fixed, but because he felt what happened to it in his innermost being as if it were happening to him, because it had come out of him. She saw her dad seize with anguish for a moment that twisted his face, and then he looked at the girl’s face. Huge tears were just starting to gush forth, when he reached out and clasped her close to him in a comforting embrace. She did not mean to do it. He patted her on the back gently and rubbed her little head, and told her not to worry. He took the rocking horse with its shattered head into another room. She waited for him, turning over this new feeling of anguish that was not her own, but it was her dad’s. A short while later he came out of the room, and held wide the rocking horse remade. She ran up and gasped. Her daddy fixed it. He could fix anything.
But not this. She said to herself. I can fix this. Then she saw the man’s head tilt back unconscious. She could feel something was wrong inside him. Hope was waning, though she stood right there.
She begged her dad to do something. He did not look at her. Instead he said, “Be still.”
“Silence!” he cried, still staring at the man.
The urgency of the situation swelled inside her. She had to do it. And so, she stretched out her hand past the adults toward the man.
What happened next was shattering. Suddenly, Zoe’s arm was caught in a flash of flame, and the unconscious man faintly heard the outcry of Zoe in pain. The father’s hand had turned molten pale yellow like lava hot in the mantel, and had grabbed the wrist of his daughter whose hand burned under his touch. She sank to her knees as the burning continued. Her screams startled everyone, except the man on the table who was barely conscious. The mother screamed and yelled, “STOP! Stop it please!!”
The firelight died down, and a thud was heard as a sizzling, darkening orange bracelet and glove of rock thudded to the ground with Zoe’s tender living wrist cuffed inside it. The mother’s face was fixed in fright and amazement. The mother’s face burned with tears and anger at her husband.
Zoe was still on the floor sobbing and holding her arm now with a warm but solid black mitten. Her skin was still tender from the burn. Thus her father found her and stood above her. She looked up with eyes pleading and crushed as she looked through the strands of her hair. “Papa?”
Her dad’s heart softened til it broke, and he sank to his knees beside her. He reached out his hands to her, but she pulled her arm away and started away. He reached further to embrace her, but she pushed him away.
“How could you?”
“I had to protect you.” He said softly.
“What about him?” she cried pointing to the man on the table, “I was given this gift for a reason, and you . . . you punish me for using it?”
“You have to trust me. Sometimes we parents do things that don’t make sense. Please, you have given me your heart.”
“Well, maybe I was wrong.” She fumed, and then she passed briskly to the wall and took her black stone-gloved wrist, and lifted her arm with a back hand thrust and smashed it against the stone wall. It had the desired effect. Her father’s face was torn by that familiar anguish. Tears started down his cheek as he felt the house’s pain and the bracelet’s destruction within him, but more so, his daughter’s repulsion of the very one who brought her into this world.
She saw his reaction and blackly accused, “You care more about your own creations than you do about me.”
“You are the BEST thing that ever came from me!” Roared her father in a sudden burst.
“Well, I’m not you!” She said.
She screamed and stormed out and slammed the door, threw herself onto her bed, punched her pillow for a while, then sobbed. She felt both the shattering truth that she had broken her father’s heart, just as much as he had broken hers.
In the spirit, I presume, of the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, let me share what I think is a glimpse into one of the schemes of the Evil One of which we should not be ignorant:
“Let the nation burn with the fires of sex. As it leaves the fireplace of marriage, that which He meant for light and comfort will destroy their homes, and their shelter will be lost. Then people will consume each other for fuel to keep warm.” laughed the Evil One, “And all the while their hearts grow more unfeeling; and they quickly forget His likeness found in sexual union, and those ‘images of Him’ born from these unions will be brought up in a place where, in His very blessedness that bore them, He is completely unrecognizable.”
My heart is like a flighty bird
Bobbing around from place to place
Fearful at the suddenly heard
Little leaving little trace
I once rescued a flighty bird
Frantic flapping by window pane
Til I gently cupped it’s fragile wings
And brought it safe outside again
The bird stayed in my hand a spell
And searched the meaning in the calm
I treasured it and wished it well
As it flew free from my open palm
Lord, save this flighty bird from the pane
Cup me gently with your hand.
And opening free help me stay
Treasured more than I can understand.
In the half-a-year since my last post, I have continued to walk with Him, and have been spared much self-exaltation by the input of people in my life who keep me grounded in Gospel reality. Getting Covid, being in a time of some “transition” in my life, and also experiencing relational abundance that I have long desired has recently brought me to an all-too-familiar temptation of self-aggrandizement and self-righteousness. I am sure others struggle with this too, but for me it looks like having pretend conversations with people that make me feel good about myself. This bad habit has led me into temptations of more practical natures such as indulging in lusts of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life that leads to treating others carelessly and unlovingly. This most recent time, I recognized I was turning inwards on myself, trying to assuage feelings of sadness and by journaling, I marked the pathway out.
I believe God has given us tools to manage and combat the sin in our internal world that arises from within all us. If you would like to follow me, I will show you the path from self-pleasing thoughts, to God-pleasing thoughts. The person who spends his time pouring over his own private treasures of achievements and accolades, and bases his view of himself upon them is a very poor man who has little experience of the Love of God in his life. And it is the Love of God that our hearts are truly seeking.
Here is the way back to God if you have fallen or some later day fall into this trap.
- Repent, looking to the Lord. The most terrible thing about pride is it gets our eyes off of God and places them onto ourselves or that thing in which we take pride. The first step to any right orientation of the heart is the re-placing of the sight upon the face of Jesus in the Scripture. Seeking His face, His grace, His love, His truth. Without this, one is trying to find his way out of a room blind.
- Confess the fantasies and my pride in them. Let’s say I had a fantasy of someone who I thought didn’t like me very much. This person in the fantasy is in danger, and I save their life. If I was to rehearse this fantasy often so that my heart got used to a feeling of superiority over their appreciation, when I engage with that person in real life, it has happened that I find myself dissatisfied with the reality of the exchange at the heart level. It is a fantasy that my heart has wanted to believe to be true, because my heart wants to accumulate more worth to itself. It becomes a lie when I choose to desire that reality over the reality God has given me to live in the Gospel. In other words, when I indulge my heart in good feelings over a fantasy of people’s praise, I base my heart on my own imagination and I become puffed up and I “lose connection with the head.” (Colossians 2:19) This sets me up for the same failure of any member of the body that is powerlessly disconnected from the brain. I say all of this because it may not be immediately obvious what is wrong with fantisy. To imagine it is not necessarily wrong if it’s not in violation of God’s moral will, but the way the heart takes the fantasy and uses it to ascribe worth to itself: this is the wrong. The only true standard of worth that the heart should take pleasure and delight in, is conformity to the image of Christ Jesus. And so, I lay out the fantasy before God, and acknowledge my pride in that self-created smokescreen. This is because “In all your ways acknowledge God, He’ll make your path straight.” (Proverbs 3:6) God can only straighten us out, if we are willing to be straight with Him.
- Take each fantasy and feeling and self-thought captive to the obedience of Christ. This is where we can use our imagination against our pride. Jesus said, “Take up your cross daily, and follow me.” So, ever Christian has a tool to put to death their old life, and to remind them of their present life, and the promise of their future life. The Cross is this very tool. It is that which a Christian carries with them, until the time God has appointed them to set it up and give their life as a representation of Christ. It is the very thing that separates Christians from non-Christians, and it is a stage of Christian development that not every Christian attains, but this is how the Cross can be the answer to any sin struggle. In this case, what I like to do is use my imagination to picture my Cross. It’s usually laying down on the rocks in a dark-cloudy place. I see my fantasy stretched out on the cross, and take a hammer in my hand and nail the fantasy to the cross for it to die. I usually incorporate a tangible bodily action like swinging my hand with a make believe hammer in it, because fantasy touches reality through our emotion’s impact on our bodies. The reverse is also true. Reality touches fantasy through our bodily actions impact on our emotions. And so, when I take a fantasy, let’s say pictured as my idea about the way a person should feel appreciative toward me, and I nail it, it’s not like I am wishing evil upon that person. It is my acknowledging that this thought of them is unworthy of them, and must be dealt with. Not only this, but it is unworthy of Christ. And the Cross is the Gate by which anything inside us or outside of us can be given to God as a sacrifice. If God wishes our heart, or our imagination about something to be spared, then He can resurrect it for His glory by the leading of the Holy Spirit. Once this step is taken, I find that there is an emotional response like loss or a sadness over the fantasy given up, but this is where the heart must take the next step.
- Thank God for the good things that remain. Whenever I have done this, I have found that God gives me great clarity about the things that are of Him vs the things that are of me. The things that remain still alive after all is nailed to the Cross are things are of God, and therefore worthy of giving Him thanks. The things that are of me are temporary, but the things that are of God are eternal. And when I thank God, I anchor my heart’s sight upon the Lord, by recognizing God’s goodness in the things that are from Him, through Him, and to Him. (Romans 11:36). To Him be the glory forever.
- Worship, delight, and rejoice in Him. O the joy of leaving behind the worthless and vain things of our own heart-idolatry! Our hearts grow so unhappy simply because we are so determined to want anything and everything short of God Himself. But when our eyes are on God, we feel based on His truth, His gospel, His love, then we have an overflowing cup of eternal joy that will spread to every area of our life. This eternality of Joy is the secret on the other side of the Cross a Christian carries. The source of every dissatisfaction in a believer’s life, is anything un-crucified, or un-surrendered to his or her new Master. But in obedience and submission to Him, a human being finds his purpose fulfilled, and all his life is as it should be until he hear those precious words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)
May you and I find our deepest delight in the One whom our hearts were designed to worship.
Dripping cold off the edge of an iron leaf
It twinges quaking with the agony of past defeat
Should not the past be swallowed up with present victory?
No, the story memories tell is too weighty.
I once was swinging through the trees
The wind racing through my long hair
I once grasped for a vine with my toes
And slipping terror split my chest
Until I hit the ground hard and looked up
The branches were now so far away.
I can’t breathe the way I once did
My shallow coughing is hard and pressed together
Crunching down on my now deflated heart
Leaving no room for anything new.
A backhanded lash of cowardice
Steels my heart in indifferent irons
Crying comes whenever the weight shifts
And people do not know the life they disturb
With their well-meaning questions about the past
And now I stare out the portal of a swamped, sinking ship
Can you hear me?
Can you reach me on the other side?
Will I ever be on top of the waves again
Swinging from the tree branches enjoying new fruits?
But what’s the point?
No victory will last beyond the span of time
Except that which God does in time.
These trees grow and roots descend
At the behest of the one who gives birds their nest
The end of it all: will God defend?
So I do what is needed,
The trees tower, but I do not cower.
The irons are weaker than my heart
But He will be the one to break them.
This is a guide for those seeking the Presence of God in their hectic internal world.
So much needs to be cleared from the Workbench of my mind.
So that it can become an Altar where God can meet with me.
- Many cares. They keep me from seeing and knowing Him.
- My self-sufficiency. It keeps me from even looking to Him.
- Distractions–I put them on the Workbench, making no room for Him.
- Many Cares
- My Self-Sufficiency
These three things have been my mindset, and way of being. However, The following three things are what I long for.
4. An Altar–My First ministry
I cannot account for why, but in these moments I have discovered that the eagerness of God has been ready to send the fire of His Holy Presence to blow through, and search out, and scour away my heart with the Glory of His Spirit, His Word, and His presence.
5. The Fire
All of this is one thing: His letting you know Himself. It returns the heart to its original glow, and the problems are cast with a smaller shadow. His light shines from a heart now aglow with his fire. And so long as that fire is kept burning (For our heart is a most unreliable fuel) then it will keep our minds enlightened.
6. Enlightened (In the Christian Sense.)
As Paul prayed, so I pray “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. ~Ephesians 1:17-19
For this to happen, you must clear your workbench and first make it an altar.
As I watched a video on the Bible being historically accurate, I creatively learned this diagram to make sense of these three descriptors, and why they are important.
As a way to show it to people, the explanation of the “Snowman” diagram starts at the bottom with just the word “Narrative” in its spot at the start. Each word is put in quotes, it is filled into the diagram.
The Bible is “Narrative” which means it is “Story.” And what does a story have? It has “characters,” it has a “plot,” and it has “meaning.” That part of the story that really gets us. And a story is crafted by the imagination of a man, yes?
Now a lot of people are content to accept the Bible as a wonderful collection of stories for the most part, but the debate will really start to come into the next level up. Because the Bible isn’t just Narrative. It is
“Historical” Narrative. When I say Historical it means that the things in this story, “Really happened.” And in history we don’t have just any characters or plots, or meaning, we have real “People,” “Events” of history, and as we look at history we start recognizing patterns in history. Case in point: Roman Empire’s rise and Fall. This pattern of rising and falling has prevailed throughout history.
A lot of educated people will debate if the things in the Bible really happened, but evidence supports the Bible’s historical account, just like the Senacherib’s Prism. Some people who don’t accept the Bible as God’s word will say, “It is Man’s recording, and Man’s crafting of the story.” The debate may convince them that there is historical evidence, for the story, but the final part of the Bible’s descriptors, is the part that people who are not Christians will not accept at a heart level. Because the Bible isn’t just Historical Narrative. It is
“Theological” Historical Narrative. That means it reveals things about “What is really going on. The Bible gives voice to the part of us that knows this world is more than the world we can see, taste, smell, and hear. There is an unseen “God” and there are unseen “Spiritual realities” which are moving in the world: Angels, demons, blessings, curses, and at this level we actually get to the “Truth.” Now while The Story is Man Crafted, and History is Man recorded, Theological means it is “God revealed.”
The Bible is all three levels, and in order to understand the Bible, you have to accept it at all three of these levels. It is Theological, Historical Narrative. Because The Historical Level is written at the level of “Earth”: The events that concretely happened in time and space here on this planet. But the Bible also accounts for and describes the real of “Heaven.” And because it is story it also speaks at the level of the “Heart.”
Please get this: God has revealed something to Man about Heaven and Earth which He had Man record and craft so that it could reach your heart. This is why the Bible is the best and most all encompassing book ever written. It is Heaven and Earth, and the Human heart all wrapped into one Volume, and it sets all of them back into right relationship with God.
So yeah! The Bible is Theological, Historical Narrative. Isn’t that awesome?!
If you saw a stick one day lying on the ground that had no fruit on it and walked past it, you would probably not think much of it. But if you walked by the same stick the next day and it was bearing ripe fruit, you would wonder the source of life: Where did it come from? Jesus said in John 12:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone, but if it die it brings forth much fruit.” At this point of the wilderness, we are coming up from the bottom level. The promise of life is coming through the death of the wilderness stage.
Principle: Numbers 17:8~ “Now on the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.” Thus, God proved his choice and validation of Aaron’s ability to represent him. Aaron was far from perfect, he had made plenty of mistakes, but God’s purpose was more important than Aaron’s mistakes. God had chosen him to be a vessel, and the fruit of the wilderness grows on limbs that have been cut off from their worldly supply. Such fruit only God can grow. The principle of the Wilderness is this. Only after a heart is fully set on God does it bear God’s fruit. A tree bears earthly fruit because it is of the earth. But a heart who is planted in God bears heavenly fruit, which is miraculous and is the beginnings of the rewards of the Wilderness.
However, you’re not out yet. The flesh is going to hate this. It will not be satisfactory to your sense of self. When Israel saw what happened, they were fearful for their lives. The Holiness of God had been proven among them in the death of Korah, and the vindication of Aaron. Their sinful hearts were rightly fearful in the presence of a holy God. So will our fleshly nature in light of the holiness living within us.
Application: By now, if you’ve gotten this far, and you have learned the previous lessons of the wilderness, you can expect the fruit of your heart planted in God: righteousness, self-lessness, and power to persevere and do good in the face of many tangible evils and difficulties. Walk according to God’s commands, and keep on rejecting anything that vies for space in your heart. Only the heart that is set on God can be whole. Ways to do this: worshipping God, walking with God, going aside for God, fasting, anything that is done purely for the enjoyment of God. The more fully your heart is set on God, the more fruitful for His Kingdom you will become. This will bring no comfort to your fleshly desires to serve yourself. The sin in you will need to be kept at bay in the members of your body.
In the sci-fi movie Ender’s Game, all of the students in the preliminary training program receive a probe in the back of their head that lets the instructors see through the children’s eyes. Before they let a person go to battle school, they take out the probe and send them home, making them think they have failed. It is wisdom to see the quality of a person after they have failed to see what they will do once their opportunity to succeed is removed. In the movie, Ender is discouraged, but he proves that he is still the right person for the job, and he is allowed to go on to the next stage.
Principle: Korah and the Levites are feeling done with this wilderness journey. Not only have they left their comforts behind, but their promised future is cut off from them by their own failure. They are stand against Moses and Aaron in Numbers 16, and Moses and Aaron, very humbly appeal to them, and rebuke them for their opposition against God. The part of this rebellion that grieves my heart is in verses 8-9
“Hear now, you sons of Levi, is it not enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them.” ~Nu 16:8–9.
We are now at the half-way point of the Wilderness and it is here that the deep test must be faced.
The heart of rebellion is rejection of God. The heart of rebellion is hatred of God. The most holy people in the congregation of Israel had been blessed with the chance to be near to God, and how did they respond? “We don’t care. We want the promised land.” The Wilderness is where you learn for real, “Is God alone really enough?” Because in the wilderness, you will have nothing more. This is a decision of the heart one cannot make half-way. Either God alone is enough, or he is not enough. “Not enough” has looked upon the beauty and blessedness of God Himself and counted it as a small thing compared to something else. It is perhaps the greatest insult to God there is. It is the heart’s equivalent to an affair, cheating on God. God is rightly angry, and he swallows up the rebels with earth and fire.
Application: Is He alone enough? This is the foundation. This is the “real question,” “the real test.” Come to grips with the loss of past and future. Lay everything out that is precious in your heart: acceptance, authority, power, hope, relationships, significance, happiness, possessions, all of it! And then ask “If I have just God, and none of these things at all, would that be okay?” Be honest. So long as you cannot say yes, you can’t make it through the wilderness. Your heart is currently like one of those who needed to wander in it for 40 years until their corpses fell in the wilderness. If this is you, do not despair, God is greater than your heart, and he can give you a new heart with a new spirit to want Him alone. Pray and ask Him for it, and keep asking until He is indeed enough. May God give you the grace to be fully devoted to Him.