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!

The ‘adulthood’ dilemma

The ‘Adulthood’ Dilemma series – #3.
Adapted from What About Women? A Spirit-to-spirit Exposé.

Eye-to-eye equality

Here I am, learning eye-to-eye equality.

Recently, I found myself in an incredibly frustrating and exhausting place: I was truly growing – learning to hear God clearly, stepping out to follow him fully, seeking the whole time to honor others, including and especially those who objected to my chosen path. More than ever before, I was thinking and acting like an adult. Yet certain people didn’t see me as an adult or treat me as an adult … because all of us have been caught up in a system that does not count me qualified for ‘adulthood.’

Even when I appealed to those people, even when I looked in their eyes and tried to explain the truth, they could not hear me. From their one-up/one-down perspective, my appeal sounded as foolish as if I were a six-year-old, pleading to take the car out for a spin. So they rejected my plea and continued trying to beat down the boundary I had set. If I responded by getting angry and throwing a fit, they were even more convinced that I’m no older than six.

Spirit-to-spirit process

How, then, do I attain full adulthood? How do any of us get counted as adults?

We cooperate with God, Spirit-to-spirit, in the maturing process he’s tailor-made for each of us.

I had missed a key step in that process, a step Henry Cloud describes this way in his book, Changes That Heal: “coming out from under the one-down relationship that a child has to parents and other adults and coming into an equal standing as an adult on his or her own.”

Until God showed me the truth, I had not realized how much I still remained under this system of thinking – how much I was struggling to find my place somewhere in the world of one-up/one-down.

Eye-to-eye equality

As I sat before the Lord, undone by what he was revealing, he began to instruct me what to do in response. Here’s what he said:

Keep cooperating with ME in the maturing process. That process is ongoing as long as you live. Yet, you can reach a place of adulthood in this process. In fact, something’s wrong if you don’t. I designed you to grow up spiritually, as surely as I designed you to grow up physically.

Stop agreeing to act as if other adults are your parents and you are still a child. Listening to wise counsel is vastly different from seeking parental approval. Honoring your leaders does not mean looking to them for permission to think, feel or act. Repent for agreeing with a sinful, hierarchical system that categorizes adults as one-up/one-down.

Do not agree that you must live your life one-down. Renounce the lie that says a seminary degree qualifies you for adulthood. Renounce the lie that women are too emotional and too easily deceived to be able to hear the Lord for themselves. Know in the depths of your being: Womanhood does not disqualify a person from adulthood. Refuse to live as if it does.

But also, do not agree to the lie that you’re to be one-up. Repent for every attempt you’ve made to live toward other adults as parent-toward-perennial-child. Beware of relying on a title or position to make you feel grown up. Beware of counting either gender “less than” the other. Refuse the lie that your adulthood hinges on other adults being one-down to you.

Instead, actively affirm the adulthood of others. Ask ME to teach you moment-by-moment, from your heart, to see other people eye-to-eye.

As I’ve begun to walk out what God has showed me, I’ve seen a remarkable thing. Wherever people treat one another with eye-to-eye equality, we’re all affirmed in our adulthood. We all become more adult.

People caught in a one-up/one-down system may still rebuke me for walking in maturity. They may still pressure me to stop. But I’ve renounced agreement with that system. Now I see: The perceptions it creates are illusions. The people to whom I had looked for approval aren’t one-up at all.

As I relinquish all need for permission from anyone other than God, I no longer feel battered by others’ attempts to pressure me. When nothing in me is pleading for their approval, nothing in them has anything to push against.

What About Women?Adapted from chapter 12, What About Women? A Spirit-to-spirit Exposé, © 2013 Deborah P. Brunt. All rights reserved.

Changes That Heal by Henry Cloud (Zondervan, 1990, 1992), Mobipocket Edition March 2009.

Other posts in The ‘Adulthood’ Dilemma series:
#1 – Case of the battered boundaries
#2 – Prolonged infancies

Look inside What About Women? A Spirit-to-spirit Exposé
What About Women? webpage

Prolonged infancies

The ‘Adulthood’ Dilemma series – #2.
Adapted from What About Women? A Spirit-to-spirit Exposé.

Children in a Church, by Gwen John. Scan by Mark Harden

Children in a Church, by Gwen John. Scan by Mark Harden

God created us to grow to adulthood – spirit, soul and body. Scripture calls us to do just that. The role of leaders, like the role of parents, is to encourage and affirm this process, not to ensure that everyone except the leaders remains perpetually one-down. Paul modeled the type of fathering that raises up adults – and releases people into adulthood.

He wrote to the believers in Corinth, still young in the Lord:

I’m writing as a father to you, my children. I love you and want you to grow up well, not spoiled. There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up (1 Cor. 4:14–15 MSG).

Paul instructed the Ephesian leaders:

Train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all … fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up (Eph. 4:12–15 MSG).

Paul told the Colossian church:

We teach … so that we can bring each person to maturity (Col. 1:28 MSG).

Sadly, our church culture does just the opposite of what Paul modeled – while convincing ourselves we’re doing it the biblical way. We may point to all the sermons, programs and conferences whereby the wise train the immature to grow up – to own their responsibility to hear God and to act on what he says. Yet the system we’ve created perpetuates spiritual infancy indefinitely, and often severely punishes those who try to mature.

In a nutshell, our system enforces one-up/one-down relationships as the norm among Christian adults. “Clergy” are one-up to “laity.” Men are one-up to women. Whites are one-up to everyone else. The one-down are taught that they must always seek wisdom and permission from the one-up. Only the one-up are adult enough to hear God clearly on the truly important stuff.

Thus, in the name of biblical submission, whole groups of adults agree to being treated like perennial babes.

What About Women?Adapted from chapter 12, What About Women? A Spirit-to-spirit Exposé, © 2013 Deborah P. Brunt. All rights reserved.

Posts in The ‘Adulthood’ Dilemma series

Look inside What About Women?A Spirit-to-spirit Exposé
What About Women? webpage

Case of the battered boundaries

The ‘Adulthood’ Dilemma series – #1.
Adapted from What About Women? A Spirit-to-spirit Exposé.

© Tammy McGary

© Tammy McGary

I could write a book about boundaries. Oh wait! Someone already did. I read the book several years ago, desperate for help.

If you missed it, Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, teaches that people have boundaries, just as surely as property does. Property boundaries mark where one parcel ends and another begins. Personal boundaries mark where one person ends and another begins.

People dispute property boundaries all the time. People challenge personal boundaries too. Typically, the biggest disputes over personal boundaries involve two types of people:

  • Those who run roughshod over the boundaries of others;
  • Those who let others run roughshod over them – ignoring any boundary they set.

When I read Boundaries, I finished the book still perplexed. According to everything Cloud and Townsend described, I should have been in a good place, boundary-wise. It was my heart’s desire and my practice to honor other people’s boundaries. I also sought to establish healthy limits and was not easily guilted or coerced to let others mow them down.

Yet, something alarming had begun to happen: I would set a healthy boundary. I would identify it clearly and with kindness: “This is what I can do, and will do gladly. This, in good conscience, I cannot.” When tested, I maintained the boundary consistently. Yet in crucial situations, my boundaries were not being honored. Rather, I was pressured without ceasing to take them down.

In every case, the boundary involved a major issue – and a spiritual one. The line drawn marked a place I could not go beyond and still remain obedient to God. But people who should have been loudly encouraging the choice to follow God fully never stopped pushing against it. I faced instant and unrelenting pressure to recant – not just to move my boundary an inch or two, but to renounce it entirely. To stand where God had told me to stand, I had to exert an enormous amount of effort for a very long time.

According to the Boundaries book, that should not have happened. People tend to honor the boundaries of those who maintain them consistently. The boundaries may be tested immediately. But when they hold firm, the testers typically move on to people whose boundaries they can shift at will.

“Why is this happening?” I asked the Lord. At last, I began to see: The refusal to honor my boundaries hinged on the view of adulthood, in general, and womanhood, in particular, in the culture in which I live.

 

Adulthood described

In his book, Changes That Heal, Henry Cloud describes adulthood as a place of freedom, authority and “eye-to-eye equality” with other adults. Adults have freedom:

  • To make their own decisions without permission from others,
  • To evaluate and judge their own performance,
  • To choose their own values and opinions,
  • To disagree with others freely, and
  • To enjoy sexual relations with an equal spouse.

Adults also have freedom to give up rights and serve others in submission. Cloud writes, “When we submit in love, we are displaying our freedom; if we submit in compliance, it is not true submission. It’s slavery.”

Does that statement grab you like it did me? Reread it. Let it sink in.

Having substantial freedoms gives adults great authority. With freedom and authority comes a weighty responsibility. As adults, we’re accountable to God for every choice we make. Certainly, we’re not to live as islands. We’re to give and receive wise counsel, to exhort and confront one another in love. But “adults don’t need ‘permission’ from some other person to think, feel, or act.” Rather, adults answer directly to God.

Children, by contrast, relate to adults in a one-down/one-up relationship. Children need permission to make important decisions. If a child makes a choice the parents think unwise, they have the authority to intervene. In fact, if they see their child doing something harmful and don’t take action, they’re accountable. If parents say “no” to a child but the child persists in doing what the parents said to stop, the parents have a responsibility to stand firm and not to let the disobedient child have his or her way.

“Becoming an adult is the process of moving out of ‘one-up/one-down’ relationship and into a peer relationship to other adults.” Remaining “one-down” in relationships means “looking up to other adults for parental functions,” such as thinking for us, telling us how to live and what to believe.

We miss the important passage into full adulthood if we grow up physically, yet remain “one-down” in key relationships.

 

Adulthood denied

In every case where people have pushed relentlessly against my boundaries, they denied my adulthood. They saw themselves in a parental, one-up role in my life. If they had counted me an adult, they might have railed against my boundary temporarily, but when I said, “Thank you for your input. This is my choice,” they would have backed away and left me to sort it out with God. They did not do that. Instead, they determined, “One way or another, we will force you to comply.” In their minds, they are ones to whom I must listen and from whom I must get permission – and I’m nothing more than a rebellious child.

Adapted from chapter 12, What About Women? A Spirit-to-spirit Exposé, © 2013 Deborah P. Brunt. All rights reserved.

What About Women?Quotations are from Changes That Heal, by Henry Cloud (Zondervan, 1990, 1992), Mobipocket Edition March 2009.

Posts in The ‘Adulthood’ Dilemma series

Look inside What About Women?
What About Women? webpage

Forgive us

Forgive Us

Twenty-first century evangelicals spend an extraordinary amount of time pointing out the sins evident in the culture. But instead of doing that, couldn’t the church make the confession of its own sins a higher priority?

Great insight. Great question, penned by the four authors of Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith. In the introduction to this new release, Mae Elise Cannon, Lisa Sharon Harper, Troy Jackson and Soong-Chan Rah acknowledge:

Many people have grown angry and frustrated with organized religion – and with evangelical Christianity in particular. Too often the church has proven a source of pain rather than a place of hope … Forgive Us acknowledges the legitimacy of much of that anger and recognizes that the church through the ages has experienced significant brokenness, a brokenness that demands to be acknowledged and repented of.

The authors add:

Many Christians today are unaware of the events that mark the American church’s greatest tragedies. In Forgive Us, we seek to provide brief, accurate, and compelling histories of some of the church’s greatest shortcomings … When the church has a holistic understanding of its failings, repentance is the appropriate response.

I’m personally acquainted with three of the four authors of Forgive Us. They know I’ve written a book with a similar theme and are aware how profoundly I agree with the statements above. When they asked me to read a preview copy of their book and, if I chose, to write an endorsement, I said yes to both.

In Forgive Us, the authors courageously explore a variety of ways that we in the US church have treated shabbily both the land with which we’ve been entrusted and people made in the image of God. Further, they offer heartfelt confessions, inviting others to join in, and they highlight signs of hope for change.

In a similar way (compelling history, genuine confession, reasons for hope), I explore the more specific subject of the church’s sins surrounding the bloodiest division and war to date in US history. My book is called, We Confess! The Civil War, The South, and The Church. Interestingly, whether you’re looking at the broader picture of Forgive Us or the deeper one of We Confess, some strikingly parallel themes emerge.

First, we in the US church culture tend to have an “us vs. them” mentality, and we do not treat “them” as we ourselves would want to be treated.

Second, we have a propensity for both denial and pride. As the authors of Forgive Us have written:

The American church often chooses to ignore its own tainted history and move too quickly toward offering solutions for everyone else’s problems.

Third, the pathway that we’ve believed too hard – the way of confession and repentance – is the only way out. It’s the path to healing, reconciliation, life.

Consider these reflections from Forgive Us:

Godly grief does not paralyze with a pervasive sense of guilt. Rather, it identifies specific ways we have turned from God and offers a holy opportunity for the restoration of relationship with God, others, and the land by reconnecting our hearts to God’s heart and then to the hearts of those we have made to suffer. Godly grief leads to cleansing confession and repentance.

Godly confession tells the truth about God, about us, and about our actions. It tells the truth about the repercussions our actions have for us, our relationship with God, our families, others, the rest of creation, the systems that govern us, and life itself …

Godly lament and confession should lead to repentance, and repentance requires an about-face in our actions and a deep change in our way of life.

Thank you, Mae, Lisa, Troy and Soong-Chan, for choosing the path of confession and repentance, and opening the way for others to come too.

Quotations are from Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), pp. 29, 31, 32, 27, 24, 25.

. . . . . . .

Look inside Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith

Look inside We Confess! The Civil War, The South, and The Church

Jesus, white men and me

Three months ago, I came across a post by blogger Christena Cleveland that has triggered something stunning deep in my spirit. In a way, Christena said the obvious. At the same time, she exposed what I’d been blinded to, and desperately needed to see.

Every time I read the piece, I think, at once, “Of course!” – and “Ah ha!”

(FYI: The post came to my attention via the Twitter feed of another blog, By Their Strange Fruit, which I found via the Between Worlds post, “101 Culturally Diverse Christian Voices.” Thanks, everyone!)

Christena launches her post with an in-your-face title: “Dismantling the white male industrial complex.” Then she writes with a draw-you-in tone. Her article affirms:

WHITE MEN ARE NOT THE SECRET WEAPON (to dismantling racial injustice in the church and beyond) … BUT JESUS IS

Of course! I knew that. Long before seeing Christena’s post, I would have told you I knew that. But reading her words, I had a profoundly “Ah ha!” moment. Suddenly, I realized: I had looked to white men for what Jesus alone can give.

Running into brick walls

Brick wall

© Brenda Clark

In late 2011, I published We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the Church, an in-your-face, yet draw-you-in, exploration of white-church complicity in injustice – pursuing the reasons behind it, the fruits of it, the way out. I wrote in the first-person, acknowledging: I confess for what I and my ancestors have done.

For more than two years, I earnestly, persistently, sought:

All those months, I continually asked Jesus what to do and how to do it. Yet, again and again, I ran hard into solid brick walls. What stunned and perplexed me most was that, each time I tried to move forward, I did so thinking, “This time, the way will be open before me.” Thus, I was moving full-speed-ahead when I hit the wall.

Now I realize: Every time I believed the way forward was finally opening, it was because I had connected with a white male leader whom I thought would rally the troops, burst through the gates and lead the charge. Surely, this man would see the importance of this confession. This man would humble himself to acknowledge the truth. This man would courageously involve others in doing the same.

Time and again, I was wrong. Indeed, when presented with the message of We Confess!, most of the men vanished – just as I charged ahead, believing they were charging too.

We Confess probes deep. It offers detailed, heartfelt confessions. While these confessions might be offered by other peoples in a variety of situations, the primary call to confess is to whites in the US church, both men and women. So it’s certainly not wrong for me to invite white leaders of both genders to participate. Yet, I confess my sin of pinning my hopes on white men, instead of Jesus, even when I believed I was trusting Jesus alone.

The light-bulb moment

By July of this year, I was battered and depleted from slamming into so many walls. My resources had dwindled. I had lost hope. Then, I read what Christena had written:

The truth is that the battle for justice won’t be won when white men finally join the fight. The battle was already won on the cross. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is at hand. It’s here. It’s happening. It’s already been set in motion. We’re inevitably moving toward a world that reflects the prophetic reality of the resurrection. Justice will be done. All things will be made new. And Jesus graciously invites all of us to partner with him in that movement. We all can play a crucial role. But let’s never forget that Jesus is the secret weapon. Jesus has already determined the outcome of this battle and he will use whoever is willing to accomplish his plan. The Kingdom of God is at hand, whether white men participate or not.

Christena described “a different strategy” for seeking racial reconciliation and justice:

  • Turn toward the Holy Spirit – wait for, listen to and follow him.
  • Turn toward the oppressed – listen to, learn from and follow them.

“Of course!” I thought. “Ah ha!” Oh how much I have to learn.

A new way forward

Ever since We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the Church was published, people from the white church culture rooted in the Bible Belt have told me, “The church just isn’t ready for this message.” They mean, “Even now, 150 years out, we still aren’t ready to face our stuff.” If so, what a dangerous place for us to be. Because God is ready. God is sounding the call for a confession and repentance that deal with injustice at its roots.

In spite of everyone and everything that says otherwise, I believe the Lord led me to write a book named We Confess because fellow confessors are out there, white people who know how desperately we need to make this confession, and who are ready to make it. I’ve already met a few of them.

What’s more, I’ve met people who have suffered grave injustice at the hands of the white church culture and who have delighted in hearing this confession, as long as they see the accompanying changes that true repentance brings.

Eagerly seeking to see genuine confession and repentance happen on a larger scale, I’ve learned, up close and personally, just how high and thick are the walls that stand in the way.

Now recognizing how I’ve missed the mark, I’m deeply grateful the Lord is both correcting me and redeeming my sins and mistakes. Now regaining my breath, I want to get up and go forward again, but this time, by the Holy Spirit, to discern between the illusion of an open door and the truth.

Lord Jesus, you alone hold the keys to defeating injustice at its root. You alone open hearts that are closed to self-examination, out of pride or fear. You open, and no one can shut. With all my heart, I want to partner with you, and with others who are following you, in the forward movement you initiated through dying and rising again. By the Spirit, for the honor of the Father, show me where you are turning the key and throwing open the way.

. . . . . . .

We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the ChurchRead the full article, “Destroying the white male industrial complex.”

Learn more about We Confess! The Civil War, the South and the Church

Look Inside We Confess!

Learn more about the “We Confess …” film.

Give to the “We Confess …” film.

God who has wronged me

The “God Who” series

Lightning storm

Sometimes, intimate conversations with God are passionate and fierce.

When someone mentions the man Job, you may think, patient in suffering. That’s certainly the description James 5:8-11 gives. But it may encourage and relieve you to know: Job’s patience in suffering did not look as you might expect.

Bombarded with huge, inexplicable losses, Job persevered in that he did not repudiate the Lord. He didn’t give up on his relationship with the Almighty. Ah, but he did question God. He did express deep anger with God. Indeed, Job cried,

It is God who has wronged me, capturing me in his net. (Job 19:6 NLT)

God … who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made my life bitter. (Job 27:2)

If ever you’ve experienced hardships that seem anything but fair, you may have believed the same thing Job did. What’s more, you may have felt guilty for believing it. You may have even confessed it as wrong. However, if any part of you still feels God has wronged you, you may think your only options are:

  • Go with that belief, and walk away from God.
  • Deny that belief. Bury it as deeply as possible – and forever carry confusion, a sense of betrayal and a feeling of guilt for thinking it.

So what in the world did Job do?

Sorry comforters

In the first chapters of the book of Job, all kinds of calamity struck Job. In the big middle of his deep loss, three of his friends arrived. At first, the three sat silently before Job. When he spoke up to describe the depth of his pain, they began telling him what they knew of God.

If they intended to bring comfort, they failed. Indeed, Job said bluntly,

Sorry comforters are you all. (Job 16:2 NAS)

Can you identify? You’re suffering great loss. Well-meaning people show up and start saying things about God that may be true but just make you feel worse – about the situation and about yourself.

It’s important to know: Everything the three said about God is true in principle. Yet Job wasn’t the only one who found his friends’ counsel “sorry.” God himself later said to the leader of the three:

I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me. (Job 42:7)

How had Job’s friends spoken the truth, yet not spoken the truth? When they misapplied true principles, they misrepresented God.

The three saw the terrible things that had happened to Job. They knew for certain: God is just. Since it didn’t seem right for a just God to allow so much bad to happen to a righteous person, they decided: Job must have done something to bring all that adversity on himself. They told Job, “Just confess and turn from whatever terrible things you’ve done.”

Suffering compounded

We can and often do bring suffering on ourselves by persisting in wrong choices. Our sins do find us out. But Job’s sufferings had not happened because he had sinned. The Lord himself had said of Job:

There’s no one quite like him – honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil. (Job 1:8 MSG)

Job wasn’t perfect – not even close – but he sought to follow God with his whole heart. When all three of his friends said otherwise, Job did not decide: “They must be right. This is all my fault.” Job knew he had no undealt-with iniquity between him and his God. He steadfastly declared as much.

His friends did not believe him. The more he protested his innocence, the more the three assailed him for not admitting his guilt. In the process, Job cried out:

How long will you torment me and crush me with words? Ten times now you have reproached me; shamelessly you attack me. (Job 19:2-3)

Like I said, not how you might have expected Job’s patience to look. The man was nothing, if not frank.

Beleaguered and angry, Job agreed with his accusers in this: Surely, a just God would not allow so much bad to happen to a righteous person. Devastated by grief and now pummeled by his friends, Job proposed the only other solution that seemed possible: God had wronged him. God had denied him justice!

Even as he accused God of injustice, Job testified:

I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! (Job 19:25-26 NLT)

Sadly, Job’s friends did not notice or affirm his profound statement of persevering faith. The argument continued through chapter 31. When the four fell silent, deadlocked, a young man named Elihu spoke up to say (at length), “Whatever the answer is, it is not that God is unjust.”

Intimate conversation

Why did God allow that whole excruciating confrontation? We can’t begin to know all the reasons. But we do know: Job could not examine beliefs that remained hidden. He needed to hear himself say what he was thinking deep within. He needed to acknowledge what he had come to feel, but would never admit without strong provocation: “There is no other explanation here except that God has done the unthinkable. The Redeemer in whom I still believe has done me great wrong.”

Did the younger Elihu and the three older men leave before God spoke? It seems so. This we know: A tempest formed, and God spoke to Job from the midst of it (Job 38:1).

Imagine the scene. Stop for a moment, and put yourself there. Imagine how it looked, felt, sounded. Imagine what you might think and feel, after everything else that had happened, as a storm suddenly rages and God speaks aloud.

Enigmatically, God “answered” Job by asking him questions. For four chapters, the Lord queried Job – about daylight and darkness, the sea and the stars, stormy weather conditions and assorted animals. If the Lord’s tactics seem random, his tone was stern:

Who is this that makes my purpose unclear by saying things that are not true? (Job 38:2 NCV).

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? (Job 38:4)

Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? (Job 38:35)

You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers? (Job 40:2 NLT)

Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? (Job 40:8)

Reading the conversation between Job and God – in which God does most of the speaking and Job, most of the listening – we may see only a scolding. We may think such a conversation something to avoid. But no, the opposite is true.

Intimacy isn’t always warm and fuzzy. Sometimes it’s passionate and fierce. And honest, intimate conversation with the Lord of all the earth is always something to embrace.

Here, we see:

God heard Job. While Job and his friends talked, God remained silent. Yet he was present, and he heard every word. When Job accused him of wrongdoing, God did not leave in a huff. At the right time, he made his Presence known.

God spoke to Job, directly and at length. Job heard the Lord – he heard God himself – knew it was God and understood what God said.

God rebuked and corrected Job, but he didn’t “make Job pay” for calling him unjust. He didn’t threaten or punish Job for verbalizing what he felt. If Job had had other issues – unrepented sins that had contributed to his sufferings – the Lord would have brought those to Job’s attention, as well.

God did not explain himself. He did not tell Job why a just God could allow a wholehearted follower to suffer so deeply. Rather, God asked questions designed to show Job that his frame of reference was way too small. To Job and friends in their finite wisdom, it appeared an either-or proposition: Either Job had messed up bigtime, or God had acted unjustly. God said, in essence: “Neither of the above is correct. You cannot begin to fathom why all this has happened or what it’s accomplishing. So quit trying to place blame and let me lead from here.”

Job received what God said. Standing in the Presence, Job listened as God asked question after question as to who, in fact, created, nurtured and ruled all the earth. The encounter changed Job’s heart and mind. He did not knuckle under a God who said, “How dare you not believe me!” Rather, Spirit-to-spirit, Job saw himself and his Lord in a new light. In his inmost being, he realized: Deeply hurting, desperate for answers, he had misjudged his God.

Humbly, he confessed and repented:

Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. (Job 42:3)

Seeing God

whirlwind

© Sonja Braas theredlist.com

When God began to speak from a windstorm, everything in Job might have wanted to turn and run away. Yet Job stayed, and the encounter set his life on a new trajectory. It initiated a new level of relationship that Job had thought would only happen well after his death. Remember Job’s powerful statement of faith?

I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God!

Encountering the Lord in the whirlwind, Job said in awe:

My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. (Job 42:5)

A suffering man, misjudged by his friends, Job did not agree with their false allegations. He didn’t con himself either, thinking all was well between him and God when, indeed, it was not. Rather, Job recognized God’s assessment of him and clung to that.

Job did not disown his Lord. However, he did blurt out what he had come to believe about God’s ways: “It is God who has wronged me.” It is “God … who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made my life bitter.”

When God spoke from a windstorm to challenge Job’s beliefs, Job did not exit out of anger or fear. He stayed. He listened. He faced his Lord.

Ah, then, in his body, Job saw God. He saw his Redeemer come.

. . . . . . .

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

Living by the Spirit

Living by the Spirit equals moving in intimate oneness with God. 

You can be a Christian, yet not live by the Spirit. You might even think it preferable that way. But saying yes to Jesus Christ – and then saying no to the Holy Spirit – is as tragic as being born but never maturing past infancy.

The New Testament says:

“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly – mere infants in Christ” (1 Cor 3:1).

“Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit” (Gal. 5:16 MSG).

“Live by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16 NET).

If you want to live by the Spirit – or you’re at least interested in considering it – you may wonder how it works and how it looks. Some of you want to write from the Spirit, and you wonder how that works, too. And you who have already experienced living by the Spirit know: There’s always more to learn.

So let’s explore a wonderful passage in 1 Corinthians 2 that often gets lost in translation, but is crucial to see.

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

writing from the Spirit

© Bowie15 | Dreamstime.com

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one (vv. 9-15 ESV).

What do you see in Paul’s contrast of the “natural person” and the “spiritual person”? Our minds, guided by English translations, typically see a contrast between the Christian and the non-Christian. Unlike them, we (spiritual persons) freely accept and readily understand the things of God.

Those who have received Jesus Christ as Lord do have a spiritual capacity others do not. But we do not have any room for pride. Indeed, far too often we do not act on the access we have. We do not accept and understand what the Spirit says. So let’s look again.

In the original language, this passage not only distinguishes between the “natural person” and the “spiritual person.” It also distinguishes between the soul and spirit within each of us.

Spirit-to-spirit communing

One phrase in verse 14 is translated “natural person” (ESV); “natural man” (NASU); and “the man [or person] without the Spirit” (other translations). Ah, but the Greek, psuchikós ánthroopos, can be literally translated the “soul person” or “human soul.”

The human soul does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they seem foolish, and the soul is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The human spirit judges all things …

The Message rendering of verses 14-16 amplifies the term “human soul” this way: “the unspiritual self, just as it is by nature.”

The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can’t receive the gifts of God’s Spirit. There’s no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness. Spirit can be known only by spirit — God’s Spirit and our spirits in open communion. Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God’s Spirit is doing, and can’t be judged by unspiritual critics. Isaiah’s question, “Is there anyone around who knows God’s Spirit, anyone who knows what he is doing?” has been answered: Christ knows, and we have Christ’s Spirit.

Ah, yes. A second picture is emerging. Christ’s Spirit within us communes with our human spirit. Spirit-to-spirit, we access stunning things we haven’t seen, heard or dreamed, things our Lord wants to show those he loves. To receive what the Lord is releasing, we have to humble our souls. Otherwise, we quench and grieve the Spirit. We shut the communion down.

Sometimes when the soul mutinies against the spirit, we recognize the disconnect, but don’t know what’s wrong or why. That’s a good thing if it propels us to the Lord, to seek the answer.

All too often, though, we don’t recognize soul mutiny at all. We seek spiritual truth via the “unspiritual self,” latch onto what sounds religious but does not breathe with God’s life – and believe, because we’re Christians, that we have spiritually discerned.

The tragedy multiplies when we write or teach this soul logic to others seeking spiritual truth.

Spirit-to-spirit imparting

Living by the Spirit equals living Spirit-to-spirit: God’s Spirit and your spirit in open communion, you breathe out what he breathes in. You move in intimate oneness with God.

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

Living by the Spirit, you speak from your human spirit by the Holy Spirit into the spirits of others – and they into yours. Similarly, when we write from the Spirit, we write to the spirits of others. They receive in their inmost being what God has poured out and we have passed along.

Ah, but even when revelation or understanding comes through a person, no one is settling for a second-hand word. Rather, as each of us relates to God Spirit-to-spirit, the breath of God in the words of the one speaking or writing sparks direct communion between the hearer and the Lord.

Spirit-to-spirit blessings

You who love the Lord, who want to live by the Spirit (and perhaps to write from the Spirit):

Be blessed to receive the Spirit of God, fully, continually, in the same way you receive breath.

Be blessed to recognize when your “unspiritual self” is usurping the place of your spirit and trying to figure out the truth. Renounce such a foolish and self-defeating mutiny. Cooperate with your Lord in humbling your soul, so Spirit-to-spirit communion can thrive.

Be blessed to see the extent to which you have been taught to believe and act on, to speak and write, what did not come from the Spirit, but from the soul. Refuse the deception that insists, “Not you! You’ve avoided this error, and so has your branch of the Body of Christ.”

We all live with the soul-spirit struggle. All of us, at times, speak or write from our own imaginations, and mistakenly believe it has come from God. Sadly, our US church culture – evangelical and charismatic – has colluded in reinforcing this pattern, instead of helping us recognize and reject it.

In the name of the living Spirit, called in Hebrew Ruach HaKodesh, I bless you with eyes to see:

  • how thoroughly we’re trained to believe and impart religious stuff based on human wisdom;
  • how loudly we’re applauded and how highly rewarded for suppressing the spirit and speaking from the unspiritual soul.

As you see the true picture emerging:

I bless you with courage to stop, turn around and go a different way.

I bless you with unhindered Spirit-to-spirit communion – wide-open access to the incredible things God freely gives you because he loves you; grace to move in intimate oneness with him.

I bless you with breath to impart what he reveals, in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit of God.

. . . . . . .

psuchikós ánthroopos, 1 Corinthians 2:14, Interlinear Transliterated Bible.

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