Any Other Direction

As I was driving to work yesterday I was feeling a little blah. That is not all that unusual, but recently I have been trying to be more aware of my emotions to be alert as to when I might be in increased danger of slipping away from my privilege of living consciously in God's presence with me. I don't want to become obsessive about my emotions, but I think it is healthy to learn to keep a pulse on the condition of my spirit so as to be alert when warning signs develop of potential problems that could be avoided simply by paying more attention to what is going on both inside and outside.

Anyway, enough of that introspection for now. The point I started out wanting to say was that as I intentionally chose to turn my thoughts to paying attention to whatever God might want to share with me, a new awareness came over me of something I had not thought about before. This concept is an emergence of various things I have been contemplating and things I have been studying and learning recently as well as a result of being open to whatever the Spirit might have to piece things together for me. I always love it when the Spirit seems to move in closer to share something that for me in that moment seems absolutely profound, even if to others it may seem rather obvious or obscure.

I tend to think more logical and also in analogies. I have noticed for years that the principles of heaven are illustrated all around us in the principles that govern nature, physics, science and everything else God created. To discover another piece of this giant matrix and see how it highlights some parallel spiritual principle I have been learning always makes me excited and drawn closer to God. This one had to do with both logic and heart, but was reinforced by a strange reality that takes place when one arrives at a central point on a sphere. More on that later.

The original thought that came to me had to do with something that I, along with most of us, struggle with constantly. I have been more about this over many years now but still find myself susceptible to its ability to discourage me. I am talking about my sense of personal value which is closely linked to my sense of identity. Because I was raised in a belief system of conditional love, I never developed much self-worth of the right kind, for it was always assumed that such an attitude would detract from working to develop a perfect character motivated by fear of being lost. Since then I have learned the tragic effects of living primarily from fear, but not before that approach caused a great deal of internal damage in the way I think, feel and relate to others.

So I struggle with feelings of fear and sometimes even despair, wondering how God can love me just as many others struggle to believe. I now know with my head that all of this is part of the matrix of lies developed by the enemy to keep us at as much distance from God as possible so that we will remain cut off from the abundant life He longs to pour into each of us. But knowing all this with my head still does little to release my heart into the kind of believing that is necessary to actually experience personally the things I am learning and teaching others. Just like many others, I grapple with low self-esteem and worthlessness even while assuring others of how loved and cherished they are by God.

While all of this is simply context for what I am trying to describe that actually happened in just a few moments, it is vital for understanding why this was so important for me. What I felt as I sensed the Spirit moving in response to my request to hear from Him largely took place at the heart level, not so much the head level. I felt the Spirit inviting me to not only believe in the love and infinite value God has for me but to actively embrace it with my heart.

Now, I have longed to do that many times, even while urging others to do it. But I have learned that I have little to no control over how or when my heart will actually make moves to change its opinion about things. I can have a great deal of control over my conscious thoughts and opinions and beliefs in my left brain, but when it comes to my heart I have become keenly aware that only the Spirit seems to have access to that part of me, so when I do sense these opportunities for intentional change I need to act on them immediately.

(Why does it take so many words to describe what happens in just a few moments? Writing all this out seems to make it so head-oriented and artificial, when if I could just communicate directly from the heart to other hearts I could express all this without taking up pages and pages of attempting to describe what continually defies condensation into English. Oh well, I will keep trying.)

As I sensed the Spirit opening up my heart to respond and believe in the infinite value that I have been told God has in His opinion about me, I decided to simply embrace that reality without trying to figure it out or analyze it. I know that this is the most important part of coming to Jesus, to simply respond at the heart level to the passionate love He has towards me as a person. As I did there in the car, I felt my heart moving a little closer to knowing this love, at least as my increasing capacity allows me to respond. I know that my heart has so much damage that it is still in great need of much healing from all the lies and abuse and confusion this world has inflicted to keep all of us from trusting this love.

As I basked in this reality for a few vivid moments and as my emotions immediately awakened in response, my left brain curiously watched to analyze what was going on (as usual). And something that seemed to fit well as an analogy of what I was experiencing helped to reinforce what I was feeling and choosing to embrace. (Now for the intellectual side of this.)

The truth struck me that I have long observed that much, if not all of our problems with self-worth stem from attempting to prop up our identity and sense of value from other sources besides (if at all) directly from God. The list is endless and we are all familiar with many of them, but they are tailor fit to our particular personalities and weaknesses. Some rely on their sense of value based on their wealth, some from their good looks or physical prowess, others from their magnetic personality and still others from amassing intellectual education to feel more important than others. But what all of these have in common is how they can draw attention to us from others. We long to feel a sense of personal value and we assume that what others think about us is where most value comes from.

Now I know that what I am about to say here is a very worn out cliché. Yet the truth within it could not be more important to grasp, especially at the heart level where for me at least it has largely had the least impact. Yet I want to believe it in there, so every chance I get I try to move closer to this reality. For the unavoidable truth of reality is that God is the only source of value available anywhere. All other sources are either counterfeit or are second-hand sources (and the later are not necessarily wrong). But when I begin to lean on the 'channels' more than depending on the original Source, I fall into the 'other gods before me' trap and fail to benefit from the personal relationship with Him through which my true value must be experienced and embraced.

This is where the sphere analogy suddenly came to my attention. If I were to travel North long enough, there would come a time when it would be impossible for me to go any further North. Why is that? Because once I arrive at the North Pole, anywhere I go – any direction whatsoever I might turn – will be away from North at that point. And to travel any direction from the North pole is in essence to go South.

Now if I think of this in relation to drawing closer and closer to the only Source of value and life that exists which is the heart of God, to turn in any other direction in hopes of finding value and worth and identity is to 'go South', just as going anywhere from the North Pole is to go away from it. That alerted me to the dangers that God wants me to be aware of when I keep looking for and depending on any other sources to feel good about myself. To depend on any other resource to feel valuable is in reality taking away from my original value. It makes no sense logically, but my heart is tempted to do it all the time. Nothing I do or perform or obey can in any way enhance or diminish the value God has for me.

That reminded me of a phrase I learned when I was in the corporate world of manufacturing many years ago. It is the term 'value-added manufacturing' and refers to when a company takes a partially completed product and does something to it to add more value to it before selling it to someone else. Yet after I learned that the whole system of commerce is an invention of the counterfeit system of Satan in competition with God's government, I now can see why it is so easy to think that I can do something to add to the value that I already have in Christ. Its a lie, but it still feels very true.

To take a partially completed item and add more value to it may be useful in the manufacturing world. But to take a person who is infinitely valued already by God and try to add more value to them by any other methods or means is like slapping God in the face and insisting that His estimate of value is not good enough. It is true that our condition is in dire need of repair and healing and restoration. But in no way do our malfunctions and problems and sins affect our value in the slightest. That is where our warped ideas of where value originates messes with our thinking.

What I am now realizing is that when I rely on other activities or people for my sense of value, I am actually producing the exact opposite effect in my heart from what I desire; I am discrediting and discounting the infinite value that God already has for me and I am diminishing my sense of value instead of increasing it. In reality I am refusing to believe what God feels about me while considering my own feelings as more accurate than what God says about me. To look for value and worth and identity from any source other than directly from God is to have other gods before Him. Not a good idea at all.

Yesterday I picked up an old book and started reading a chapter that a good friend recommended to me recently. What I found there was very relevant to what God is teaching me these days. Let me share a most potent paragraph that parallels what I am learning here.

God desires to bring men into direct relation with Himself. In all His dealings with human beings He recognizes the principle of personal responsibility. He seeks to encourage a sense of personal dependence and to impress the need of personal guidance. He desires to bring the human into association with the divine, that men may be transformed into the divine likeness. Satan works to thwart this purpose. He seeks to encourage dependence upon men. When minds are turned away from God, the tempter can bring them under his rule. He can control humanity. {MH 242}

As I thought about this again last night a progression of steps emerged as to how I move toward believing and living securely in this truth of what God really feels about me. My awareness of the real truth about God's good character has been rapidly changing over the past few years which is making it much easier for my heart to respond positively to His drawing. But there are summary words that help explain what this path looks like I am following into this experience. Some Scriptures have come to mind that help me to highlight significant points along that path.

Taste

O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
(Psalms 34:8)

Believe/Faith/Trust (all the same word in the original)

And Jesus said to him, "'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes." (Mark 9:23)

Embrace intentionally

You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected.
(James 2:22)

I think of this as embracing the truth that my head is learning; intentionally choosing to believe, which is beyond just thinking about what I want to believe. When belief moves beyond intellectual assent and passes into the arena of acting on it, it begins to synchronize the head and the heart and causes them to cooperate with each other in ways that allow both of them to function more effectively. This takes me right into the next step:

Confidence/Assurance

Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God. (1 John 3:18-21)

Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful... Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. (Hebrews 10:22-23, 35)

There may be little difference here, but I see some transition from the last step to this next one.

Boldness

Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 NRSV)

And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus." When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.
(Acts 4:29-31 NRSV)

I see these as progressive steps toward God's heart. However, it is vitally important to keep in mind constantly at each step that all of this is only possible as I choose to embrace the unconditional love in the heart of God for me personally. To attempt any of this outside the atmosphere of His love is to fall into the trap of living a lie.

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (1 John 2:3-6)

As I read today's reading from My Utmost, I came across an affirmation of what God is teaching me here. Let me share that as well.

The weakest saint can experience the power of the Deity of the Son of God if once he is willing to ‘let go.’ Any strand of our own energy in ourselves will blur the life of Jesus. We have to keep letting go, and slowly and surely the great full life of God will invade us in every part, and men will take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus. (My Utmost for His Highest April 12)

One last thing that came to me yesterday as I thought about this progression toward the 'North Pole' of God's passionate heart of love. Not only is it impossible to turn in any other direction to find anything that might add value in any way to me to improve on the value God already holds for me, but to turn in any other direction is always to enter into powerful deceptive danger, distortions, darkness and despair.

A warning that I have seen in several places in Scriptures is one that must not be ignored. Once a person has come to taste the incredible goodness of God in the glory of the real truth about His character of unconditional, agape love for all of us, the only alternative to embracing this transformational truth is what we find so familiar all around us – fear and terror all based on lies about God and ourselves.

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10:26-27 NIV)

Love is the only solution that can heal the heart, correct the confused thinking of the brain, transform and deliver us from the horrific lies about God and bond our hearts with His heart and with all of His children. Love is the antidote for all evil, so it is vital that I keep my own heart open to this love that gives me infinite value which no other option can offer me. I do not want to ever turn 'South' but want to keep moving closer and closer to the Love Pole where all the love in the universe originates. This is a love that heals, that restores, that salvages, that causes me to thrive and become fully alive.

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:16-19)

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