Let’s ride

bull riding

At an outdoor fair in Colorado Springs, I rode a mechanical bull – or more accurately, a mechanical buffalo. Regardless, I didn’t just pose atop the beast. In spite of everything that could have kept me from it, I got on that bronco and rode.

For me, that ride illustrates living life, not as a religious Christian, but as a friend of God. It reminds me of the promise in Malachi 4:2, “You will go out and leap like calves [or mechanical-bull riders?] released from the stall.”

It’s alarmingly easy to become a “religious Christian,” imprisoned inside “stalls” Christ died to free us from. But you, be released to ride!

Read more on the page, Come out! Be free!

God who lifts up my head

Funny. But not. You hang your head when your heart is heavy. You express outwardly the heaviness you feel inwardly – whether it results from sorrow, self-reproach, intimidation, discouragement or despair.

King David hung his head the day his son Absalom tried to kill him and to usurp the throne. David had remained blind to the betrayal while his son plotted a coup, manipulated the people and won their hearts. Even close friends whom David trusted were wooed into Absalom’s camp.

As David fled for his life – his heart, broken; his world, shattered – he cried out:

Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, God will not deliver him.”

Ah, but then, in the same breath, David sang:

“You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high” (Ps. 3:3).

“… my wonderful God who gives me courage” (NCV).

“… the one who restores me” (NET).

“… the One who lifts up my head” (NKJV).

Even in his darkest hour, King David knew God’s ways.

It is God’s way to see what our bodies are saying, to know what inner turmoil we’re expressing – and to act. It is his way to give comfort, honor, courage and good hope to those who are his own.

You too be blessed to experience this facet of God’s goodness. Be blessed to declare it, and so to see it: “You are the One who lifts my head high.”

lifts my head

© code1name / stock.xchng

The God Who series

Again and again, the “God who …” phrases in Scripture reveal God’s works. As we respond to our Lord deep within, receiving what he communicates Spirit-to-spirit, those phrases also reveal his ways.

“God Who” article – introducing the series
Posts in the “God Who” series

Throw away the copy key

Adapted from The Elijah Blessing: An Undivided Heart

fiery heartThe moment the courageous prophet Elijah appeared on the scene, standing before wicked king Ahab, announcing drought on the land, God affirmed what Elijah testified: this one stood before the face of the Lord. From that place of holy intimacy, everything else in Elijah’s life flowed.

Time and again, whatever Elijah touched literally burned with holy love: God’s love for a person who stood before him with an undivided heart. Elijah’s love for his incredible God. The love God had, and imparted to Elijah, for people who could not receive it, because they wouldn’t let go of everything else they were trying to embrace.

You, too, be blessed to “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:5). It’s the key to everything else.

Did you ever try to use a key that should work, but didn’t? That often happens with a copy of the original. To the eye, it seems a match. But the copy key is off just enough that it doesn’t open what it should fling wide.

Did you ever try to love the Lord with all your heart – but it didn’t seem to work? Try as you might, you couldn’t make it click.

That often happens when we unwittingly use a copy key. We make an honest effort, but come up empty, because we’ve put our own spin on the words love and heart.

To our thinking, we feel with our heart, and think with our mind – and, together, heart and mind comprise the sum total of the “inner person,” the soul. Scripture paints a different picture, one much more complex. Together, the Word and the Spirit reveal us as three-part beings, not just body and soul.

For example, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says that holiness involves our entire “spirit, soul and body.” Deuteronomy 6:5 commands us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and strength. The two lists seem to correlate. The third item in each list – body, strength – speaks of our physical nature. Soul, in both lists, does seem to encompass the mind and emotions. But what about the first item on each list – spirit and heart?

I’d suggest: They’re parallel too. When God calls us to love him with all our heart, he’s talking about a singleness in yearning toward him that springs from the depths of our innermost being, the part that is one with him. We read those words and think they’re commanding a feeling.

And so, we try to love the Lord from our souls. Mentally, we try to figure out how to do it. Emotionally, we try to summon up an “all our heart” feeling, an over-the-top fireworks kind of love.

But we cannot do it. We cannot conjure up such a feeling. We certainly can’t sustain it. The key will not turn in the lock.

So let’s throw away the copy key.

Instead of trying to conjure up an emotion, ask God to teach you to respond to him from the deepest essence of who you are. Day after day, stand before his face, and open yourself to him, as fully as you know how. Pray to know him and to honor him – and ask for grace to walk whatever path he takes you in order to accomplish both.

As your spirit learns to respond freely to Christ’s Spirit, you’ll find yourself impelled by something stronger than emotion and more certain than intellect. The asking will become yearning – a hunger deep in your spirit to know him, a thirst for his name to be hallowed and his kingdom to come.

Then, to your amazement, your soul will join in. It will echo your spirit-yearnings. Your mind and emotions will participate joyfully in what they could not start. And even when God takes you places that make no sense and where your emotions scream not to go, your spirit will recognize God’s voice, your soul will surrender – and all of you will go with God.

Be blessed to burn as Elijah did with the Lord’s holy love.

Adapted from The Elijah Blessing: An Undivided Heart. © 2012 by Deborah P. Brunt. All rights reserved.

In the place where Ahab and Jezebel ruled, Elijah loved fiercely and lived fully. As you peek into lives lived long ago, learn how spiritual schizophrenia opens the way for Ahab and Jezebel to rule today. Receive the Elijah Blessing – the blessing of an undivided heart.

“My family never owned slaves”

Since writing, We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the Church – and now working on a documentary film based on this book – I’ve heard lots of statements similar to the title of the 2010 post in which blogger Abagond offers a response we whites may not want to hear, but desperately need to know.

For generations, we’ve let our own defensiveness keep us from acknowledging and addressing what we’ve been party to and/or benefited from that deeply hurts whole groups of people and deeply offends God. Yet, much as we may try to do so, we cannot buy ourselves “a pass from American history,” nor from the racist fallout still occurring today.

Many of us don’t even see that we’re clinging to privilege (and fear and pride), but we’re all experiencing the results of it. For privilege built on grave injustice may seem a blessing, but always carries a curse.

Profound denial will keep us in a cycle of hurting ourselves, mistreating others and misrepresenting God. The only way out is to do what Abagond suggests: face up to these things and seek God’s ways to truly set them right.

oakalleyplantation

From Abagond post published 2/24/2014:

“My family never owned slaves” is something you hear White Americans say. Although not racist in itself it has the effect of turning a blind eye towards racism.

The statement by itself is true for most whites: even back in slave days in 1860 fewer than 2% of whites owned slaves! Slaves cost way too much for most people and in half the country it was against the law. On top of that millions of whites came to America long after the slaves were freed, like most Italians and Jews.

The trouble with the statement is not its truth but how it is used: to cut white people off from history. When they say black people live in the past and need to give the slave thing a rest, they are making the very same argument: history does not matter, it somehow magically does not affect anyone alive now. If we are affected at all by history it is only through our families, nothing else.

That is wishful thinking. America’s slave past still profoundly affects its present. Most white people, it seems, refuse to see that: it makes them uncomfortable. By saying “My family never owned slaves” they are trying to buy themselves a pass from American history, both past and present …

Read the entire post.

Confederate Memorial Day and cataclysmic storms

In April 2011 and again in April 2014 – on the date when the most state celebrations of the former Confederacy converged – major storms spawned deadly tornadoes and record-breaking floods across the Deep South.

Coincidence?

Blood-red cloudsApril 2011, states across the Deep South launched a four-year celebration of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.

Every year, eight Southern states still officially observe Confederate Memorial Day.

Yet, the God of covenant love has a different plan for this time – a plan that involves confession and cleansing, not celebration of needless bloodshed. To cooperate with him, we have to let him show us what we haven’t wanted to see: The awakened white church across the South in the early 1800s became deeply double-minded and led the region to secede, to go to war and to vow repeatedly never to yield.

Never means never.

Today, the Southern states that still officially observe a Confederate memorial day don’t all do so on the same date. Indeed, each state has chosen its own date (and some, their own name). Texas commemorates Confederate Heroes Day in January (with a second unofficial observance in April); North and South Carolina, hold their observances in May; and Tennessee commemorates Confederate Decoration Day in June.

Five states observe Confederate Memorial Day in April. The five observances don’t necessarily all fall on the same date. But in 2011 and again in 2014, they did.

April 2011
150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and (unofficially) Texas observed Confederate Memorial Day on April 26.

In We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the Church, I wrote:

It’s May 2011. Last month and this, a series of disasters has plagued the South. In April, devastating droughts sparked wildfires in Texas and Oklahoma. Meanwhile, five severe weather outbreaks lashed the eastern half of the nation, breaking numerous records in terms of severity, destruction, and deaths. In the words of newscasters themselves, the months’ storms took the heaviest toll in “Dixie.” On the heels of the storms came the Great Flood of 2011. The Mississippi River overflowed its banks from Illinois to the Gulf Coast, nearing and topping 100-year flood levels and causing billions of dollars of damage, most of it in the Deep South.

Of these disasters, the tornadoes produced by far the greatest loss of life. A record-breaking 751 tornadoes occurred – 209 tornadoes more than the previous monthly record, set in May 2003. The two storm systems that primarily hit the Midwest caused great destruction, but no fatalities. Conversely, the three storm systems that plowed through the Deep South resulted in escalating numbers of casualties. April 4-5, nine people died; April 14-16, 43 died; April 25-28, about 340 died.

The April deaths from tornadoes or straight-line winds took place in these states (from greatest to least number of fatalities): Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Kentucky.

The month’s last storm system, occurring April 25-28, spawned one of the worst tornado outbreaks in US history. April 27, 2011, became the single deadliest tornado day in the nation since 1925.

Can it be coincidence that April 2011 launched four years of celebrations of Civil War bloodshed? Can it be coincidence that, in the 150th anniversary month, the deadliest tornado day in generations left a staggering death toll across the Deep South, but especially in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia – the day after those three states and two others commemorated Confederate Memorial Day? Can it be coincidence that all the month’s storm-related deaths took place in former slave states or territories and the vast majority of them in states that still officially commemorate the Confederacy?

April 2014
Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and (unofficially) Texas observed Confederate Memorial Day on April 28.

And it happened again. A storm system that launched in Oklahoma and Kansas on Sunday, April 27, quickly turned deadly, taking 15 lives in Arkansas alone. On Monday, April 28, the system careened across Mississippi, Alabama and into Georgia, as well as other Southern states, spewing tornadoes, causing untold destruction and more than doubling the death toll. As the storm pushed eastward on Tuesday, cataclysmic flooding became the greatest devastator, especially on the Alabama and Florida Gulf Coast. Repeatedly, areas hardest hit were said to look like war zones. See more details here.

What if?
We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the ChurchWhat if God has a purpose for this 150th anniversary of the Civil War, that he expresses in Joel 3:21 (CJB)? “I will cleanse them of bloodguilt which I have not yet cleansed.”

Might the devastating weather events during strategic Confederate celebrations suggest how desperately we need this cleansing? Might the reoccurring siren-sound of wind and waves echo the shouts of a loving Father, crying to the evangelical church culture rooted in the Bible Belt? “Stop pointing fingers at everyone else. I am speaking to you.”

“April 2011” section taken from We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the Church, by Deborah P. Brunt (WestBow Press, 2011), 10-11. All rights reserved.

 

Smiling just thinking about it

Smiling at the Future Series – #5.
© nadij / freeimages.com

© nadij / freeimages.com

Whenever you find yourself in a volatile season, remember:

Smile at the future

The Proverbs 31 woman shows us an illogical key to volatile times: “She smiles at the future” (Prov. 31:25 NASU). “She can laugh at the days to come.” “She looks forward to the future with joy” (NCV).

Watching this woman in action, we wonder: Might explosive times be key times to learn to look ahead, get a glimpse of what God sees there – and smile, chuckle, laugh?

See a future hope

In terms of bright futures, we Christians tend to make two mistakes: (1) We look only at eternity. (2) We look only at this life. Yet Jesus’ encounter with Mary and Martha, and his raising of their brother Lazarus from the dead, remind us our Lord has good things in store for us both in time and in eternity.

Don’t assume you know how that will look in any given situation. Rather, ask the Lord what he wants to do. Watch and listen, hoping in him who is the resurrection and the life.

Fight fear with fear

“The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.” “She always faces tomorrow with a smile” (Prov. 31:30, 25 MSG).

What the Proverbs 31 woman shows us, Isaiah and David teach us: Fight fear of the future with the fear of the Lord.

Indeed, Isaiah said, “God spoke strongly to me, grabbed me with both hands and warned me not to go along with this people. He said: ‘Don’t be like this people, always afraid somebody is plotting against them. Don’t fear what they fear. Don’t take on their worries. If you’re going to worry, worry about The Holy. Fear God-of-the-Angel-Armies’” (Isa. 8:11-13 MSG).

Incredibly, our Lord warns us, not about joining those who openly rebel against him, but about joining those who identify themselves as his, yet fear people and things in this world more than they fear him. Such people name his name, but do not see his unseen world coming, ruling, in the here and now.

If we follow that way, we too become volatile. Misunderstanding people and circumstances, we fluctuate between giddy hope and despair, gaiety and dread. In our frenzy, we stumble and fall over the Sanctuary. Astoundingly, Christ himself becomes to us “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense … a trap and a snare” (Isa. 8:14 NKJV).

Ah, but if we let him, our Lord himself will teach us the fear of the Lord – for that fear dispels every other fear. That fear puts both the earth realm and the spirit realm into perspective. That fear steadies and calms. It ushers in wisdom, deliverance, provision, laughter.

Live in two worlds

Our Triune Lord himself gives us eyes to see into the unseen world. Redeeming us, he tells us to “be of good cheer” – and he empowers us to do it.

Hallowing the Father, trusting in the Son, walking by the Spirit, we face the very real stuff that every volatile season brings. Our experiences – and emotions – run the gamut. Often, we don’t know what to think.

And yet, we abide in the Sanctuary, utterly enveloped by the One who fiercely protects his creation, his purposes, his people, his name.

From this holy place where God himself encamps around us, we learn to see what’s happening in the physical realm in light of what’s happening in the Kingdom. We learn to do what God has created us to do, calmly, confidently, with joy.

A prayer

Beloved of the Father, redeemed of the Lamb, intimate of the Spirit: I pray that your heart will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called – his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else – not only in this world but also in the world to come. (See Eph. 1:18-21 NLT.)

Drawn by your confidence and joy, may people hurtling who-knows-where on a runaway roller coaster, ask in awe, “The future – how can you smile just thinking about it?”

_______
Smiling at the Future Series
Can laughter be a strategy for victory in a volatile season?

This series is adapted from the Key Truths e-column, “Smiling Just Thinking About It.” © Deborah P. Brunt 2008, 2014. All rights reserved.

Posts in this series:
Smiling at the Future
Seeing a Future Hope
Fighting Fear with Fear
Living in Two Worlds
Smiling Just Thinking About It