My present experiences of reading Romans and now I Corinthians are leaving me with a deeper reality of man and flesh. In Romans Paul writes a great deal about the struggles of man with human/flesh desires and turning them over to Jesus so we can be fully committed to Him. Paul then begins to write in Corinthians about living out the christian life. He points out so many actions of the Christians which are selfish or ungodly. He leads into what I’ve written about in the last two days regarding gifts and the use of the gifts in love. I write this because in reading it this time I sense God wanting me to see these as real guidelines. Yesterday I wrote how God’s Word is Light and Life. I am seeing these books this way. I’m also seeing how mixed up I have been with human flesh and defects of thinking blocking so much of what God has wanted me to know about living for Him and relying on Him rather than on my own understanding.
One other thing is becoming clearer to me–I’m likely to not ever complete this assignment of living for Jesus as perfectly as I’d wish. I’ve always wanted to be free of flesh and its disgusting desires. I always saw these desires through the lens of abuse. Now I see the ways of man as a genuine flaw in our nature–it’s called selfishness. Selfishness coupled with choice will always bring about a struggle when God wants us to choose to live by His Spirit’s leading. Seeing this more fully today clarifies for me that I can’t be perfect, but I can be committed. So, committed I will stay!
Yesterday I wrote about I Corinthians 12 and it being the gifts chapter. I said I was going to expound on it today as I reread it. Well, this was Earnie’s thinking. God had a different plan in mind which I understand much more as of this morning. Most of us know that I Corinthians 13 is the love chapter. It explains so beautifully why it trumps all other gifts defined well in chapter 12. Man, left to his own selfishness will take these gifts and attempt to use them for his own “glory”. Love is the intended motivation God has for each of us to use whatever gift/s He gives each of us. I wanted to go deeper into the gifts God provided me when He wanted me to understand His deeper purpose for any gift–love Him and His creation, those around me who need love.
In John 6:63 it says, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” As a boy I was beat up verbally by dad because I was very different from him in my “gifts”. I longed to have the abilities he had so I could be like him and my brothers who seemed to be skilled like he was. My eyes were on my earthly father and what I wasn’t in comparison to him. His words made me think I was a failure. This was the life I had to overcome. What I’m seeing so much more clearly today is what John 6:63 says. God’s Word is spirit and life. He gave me the gifts I possess as life and my spirit is motivated to complete these gifts. Chapter 13 of I Corinthians goes on to say that when I use my gifts in love I am doing so to complete God’s purposes which are life. These are the words of God.
I listened to the words of my dad all through my childhood years thinking I had to be something I wasn’t. Thus I had to use what I did possess to prove to man I was worthwhile. This never worked because I was looking only at the gifts from man’s lens and from man’s words. God’s Words said He gave me gifts to use to complete His work and let His Words define me. This is His Love and He wants this love passed on to others through the gifts He’s given me and to each of us. Boy, I don’t want to lose sight of this again.
I wrote yesterday about all the planting I was to do in my garden. I was going to start just as soon as I had the blog written. Well, it started raining right at that time which lasted about 45 minutes. We needed it, but it also kept me from an early start. Instead I sat down and finished reading a book I was wanting to complete. It was the 7th book I’d read by the author, David Johnson during this stay at home order. His books all seem to center around victims of abuse. He has an uncanny way of knowing abuse and its effect on the psyche of the victim. So much so that I spend hours regrouping my own emotions after having read each book. Each one ends up with God helping the victims find Him and His place in the abuse. In times past I’d put these books down and never touch them again. I’d say they were stupid or dumb reading. I was so out of touch with the emotional me. Today I find myself being grateful someone knows how to write a book such as these and be so accurate with the descriptive patterns used. By the way, I got the planting done–in the afternoon.
Today I read the 12th chapter of I Corinthians which is the gifts chapter. I’m going to need to reread it again tomorrow. God has gifted each one of us and I want to know much more about this. In times past these have been hopes, wishes for me. Today I want to see the truth in them and believe they are real for each one of us. I’ve never doubted their truth for others, but I’ve sure doubted their truth for me. I’m asking God to show me His truth in them. Tomorrow I want to read this chapter again believing rather than hoping.
I don’t know if you’re interested in this little note, but it is important for me so I’m putting it here today. The note is: if you’re planting vegetables in your garden which produce their crop above ground, today through Wednesday are the best planting days. This is from the Farmer’s Almanac. Footnote: This is true if you are in zone 5. So, I’m planting all the rest of my garden today now that the danger of frost is likely over. OK, enough on that note!
There are a number of things which can start happening later this week. Idaho is going to start coming out of “stay at home” order on the 30th. It could mean that some of our ministries can start planning to re-meet again if the numbers are small enough and we meet certain other criteria which will be outlined later this week. I would think I would be excited for this and in some regards I am very glad. However, I have these clouds that hover over me as this time arrives. The clouds are ones called the “what if’s”. What if no one wants to return? What if the motivation is gone to address the issues being faced several weeks ago? What if they decided they don’t like the class or the leader–me?
It’s sad to have to admit these things, but they have been hovering over me the past few days. Today I face them and give them over to God. I am not the one who prompts men to come out of their darkness. The same Holy Spirit who has prompted me is the One prompting all others. I give this to God and His TEAM. I want to be a good servant to them.
The entry I wrote yesterday is not complete as it is. There was a portion I left out that hit me much of the day and still lingers this morning. The message is what is written by Oswald Chambers. It comes from the scripture in Corinthians 5:21: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” In the teaching of Oswald’s lesson he writes, “…through identification with His death I can be freed from sin and have His very righteousness imparted as a gift to me.”
One of my greatest battles in addressing my abuse was the belief about my own identity. Yes, I saw myself gay as my brother was, but more than that, I saw myself less than a man. I was used by a man. Men don’t use men who are their equal. This was all compounded by dad’s continued criticism of my inability to be good in his skill set of mechanics and carpentry. I lived much of my life trying to compensate for these deficits within me. Trying to be good, do good were helpful but they never completed the void within me. The righteousness imparted to me as a gift didn’t work–it didn’t take with me–I believed.
In my recovery years–primarily the last decade, I’ve had to face this belief I had of my identity. I cannot pinpoint a particular time and day when all of this came to a head. What I can describe in words is that God has abundantly made it clear to me that in spite of what man did, it had no effect on what HE DID! He has spent a decade convincing me of this as a truth. I liken this to my kids and grandkids. When one of them does something wrong I never see them as less than a child or grandchild. I see them as beautiful kids of mine who made a mistake. I know they can change that mistake and live better because of it.
God not only paved a way of escape for us as promised in I Corinthians 10:13, but He also sees us able to do this because He has made us righteous as His Son Jesus. What a gift this is and how humbling it is to realize it is a beautiful gift for each one of us who accept His Son as our Savior and Lord!
Today’s scripture reading takes me to a verse that has been a promise given to me 50+ years ago while I was in early high school. It is I Corinthians 10:13. It says: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
When I was first introduced to this scripture I remember thinking that this is the promise God is giving me that all of my brother’s sexual abuse could be endured. God would provide a way out and that would be when I left home to go to college. I’d endure it until then. At this point it was about sin done to me. But, then as I was physically/sexually developing I started having sexual thoughts which would sometimes go down a path of homosexuality as well as heterosexuality. The scripture said “common to man”. Well, this certainly didn’t seem common to anyone except my brother and now me. Instead of addressing this, I pushed it aside and lived with the part of the scripture I could draw strength from.
Most of my life I found this scripture mysterious rather than helpful. Things like, “I wouldn’t be tempted beyond what I could bear just didn’t seem true or finding a way out never happened. Once I got to college, yes, the physical & sexual abuse had ended but I was trapped in a world of secrets, confusion and beliefs about myself that scared me to death. All I could think to do was: do good, be good and hope for the best.
What I’ve come to understand about God’s promise in this scripture is where the promise resides. The strength to do all the scripture tells is in the spiritual realm. That is where sin was conquered. I wanted God to give me physical/mental strength to fight this battle and then I’d plead with Him to remove the temptation since the temptations wouldn’t go away. In order for me to access the strength of the promise I had to surrender my efforts of fighting to things like: confess the temptation, call my accountability, walk away from the setting where the temptation is taking place. This thing didn’t need physical/mental strength, the temptation needed me to surrender my pride and confess the truth of it to someone I trust. In so doing, God’s promise comes true. The temptation flees as Satan can’t stand in the presence of God’s Light. This step of obedience allowed God’s Light to penetrate the darkness of the temptation. I’ve also learned that this action on my part isn’t a one time thing. It needs to happen each time the temptations arise.
Is this common to man? Good grief, I don’t know of a single man who doesn’t fight sinful battles. Each one of us has to learn to surrender and give up our pride so we can see the miraculous work of God’s promises come true.!
By the time I finish my devotional time each morning my goal is to have found my grounding for the day in Christ Jesus. I’m ready to go into the day remembering I’m a new creation and everything is surrendered. This way I don’t take care of whatever I do in my own thinking/actions. Instead, my actions reflect what God is intending.
Well, this morning, what I find at this point in my day is my humanness. I awoke irritated and trying to focus my mind on the devotional reading and bible reading was a real chore. I asked God in my journaling what was wrong with me? It is amazing when His response is immediate and clear. He said, “it is physical in that your day yesterday triggered all your allergies to dust, and it was emotional in that your day challenged the orderliness in which you like to do any work you do.” Boy, did He nail it!
My humanness has been screaming at me this morning which is exactly what happens to me internally when my allergies are out of control. My body seems as though everything is on edge. Now that I recognize it, I can address it and surrender it.
God’s purpose for our lives is steadfast. I want my commitment to Him to also be steadfast even though a morning like today hits me. Now that I recognize what this is, I can work through it and be a better person doing so.
As our world has been brought to almost a halt in so many ways from this pandemic, I’ve pondered at times what message God has in this? Regardless of the consequences, I find myself quickly being pulled into the needs of the day or just things which may or may not be needs. Nonetheless, I almost forget momentarily that the world is in crisis. Then, I go out into it and see masks, distancing, no touching, closed signs on so many places, etc. I’m quickly reminded of the crisis.
In my devotions/journaling I asked God for insights on His purposes for this time? It seemed as though He was reminding me of Elijah. During the time of Elijah the prophet on this earth, he encountered many threatening events. A very dramatic one was when he’d told King Ahab there would be a drought. After 3 years the country was in crisis. Elijah challenged the gods of Israel with his own sacrifice. The outcome was rain and the killing of all the priests of the false gods. Jezebel told Elijah she would have his head for this. Elijah fled and finally ended at Mt. Horeb. It is there Elijah hears from God. There were several crises which took place: wind, earth shaking, fire–none of which were the voice of God. Afterwards, Elijah heard the “still small voice of God”. In my journaling it was as though God were telling me that the crises of today are not His Voice. His Voice is heard when we quit listening to the crisis and turn our ears to Him.
In Oswald Chamber’s writings he says that God doesn’t send us to save the world, that is His Work. He sends us to “make disciples of the nations….” Matthew 28:19. All of this reminded me that this is one of those times when the events of the world are bringing man to his knees. I want to listen well to God’s still small voice to know when I need to respond and how to do so. It seems disciples are ready to be made.
I awoke today before morning did! It’s a couple weeks early for planting my deck pots, but the weather outlook doesn’t predict any freezing nights and I have all the plants purchased. So, today is the day!
In the chapters of I Corinthians 4-6 Paul is telling the people of Corinth to stay out of trouble and he gives explicit definitions of what the trouble is. He also says to stay away from these folks. He tells them to not judge them, but to act according to their actions. Don’t turn a blind eye to sinful actions, but at the same time they are told to not judge them. Leave judging to God. Lastly, they are told to pray for the lost ones and the ones who have turned their back onto the message of Christ. Welcome them when they return.
I love this message because it fits perfectly with our Celebrate Recovery work. I went back into some of my journals from 10 years ago and was reading my entries. I was so troubled at that time and fearful of judgment as I little by little faced the demons of my past. During this time I was not given judgment. I truly was given support and always felt welcomed. Today, I want to do the same just as Paul is outlining so well. The message of scripture doesn’t lose its power. The Word of God is always accurate, relevant and true.
I keep saying that my bible reading is so much more meaningful these past few weeks. Instead of reading it to learn, it is as though I’m there in the setting each day and I experience what I read. I’m sure there are rational reasons I could delve into to describe why this is so. However, I don’t really want to go there. It is far more important to me to love each morning’s time with this magnificent Savior and Lord allowing His Gift–The Holy Spirit to speak to my own spirit.
This morning’s reading in the 2nd & 3rd chapters of I Corinthians talks about this surrendering to the phenomena of The Holy Spirit’s presence in our life once we ask Christ into our hearts. It truly is a growth process–a growth awakening. For me right now it is recognizing just how much my spirit wants to protect its voice rather than be surrendered fully to this Gift. Yet, each and every time I surrender I am always rewarded with a sense of peace and thankfulness.
The book of I Corinthians talks a great deal about living by The Holy Spirit’s promptings. I think one of the hardest things to grasp about God’s Spirit is that He never yells. That “still small voice” is what I will hear and it is so easy to set aside. Yet, this is what God is wanting me to be much more aware of and give heed to. This is my focus for today and each day. As I was journaling about it I was reminded what the Serenity Prayer says: “one day at a time and one moment at a time accepting (even) hardship as a pathway to peace.” The pathway to peace is never found following our own spirit (selfishness). It will always lead to our demise where God’s Spirit leads us to the “peace that passeth all understanding”.