God Teaches Life Like A Physics Class

Being a math guy, I was rather upset about this. Most subjects are similar to mathematics. The teacher gives a lecture, and then you go practice what you were just taught in the homework. Safe. Predictable. Totally not how God works. God teaches life like a physics class.

In physics, you go into the lab first, blow something up, and then get the lecture explaining why it blew up. The lecture is very similar to the mathematics lecture (although in unrecognizably different notation). But because you’ve had the experience, the lecture makes a lot more sense and you learn the material at a deeper level.

I wish God would prep me each day for what I’m going to face that day. Give me the lecture. Then, when the thing happens, I’ll handle the situation right. The problem with that, from God’s point of view, is I could handle it without him. And out of his great love for us, he just won’t have that. He wants to do it with us.

So every day life is a lab. Something unexpected happens, things don’t work out. We don’t “get it right.” We mess up. Then he gives us the instruction. And we have to walk through it with him to keep from totally burning down the lab. He teaches us as we go along because he wants to live it with us as we go along.

So what happens? I “get it right” a lot less than if God would just do it my way. And I care about “getting it right.” He is me healing me from Performance Orientation, the (often unconscious) belief that we have to earn love by performing. This is epidemic in the church today. We struggle and strive to earn by hard work what we already have by inheritance.

But fortunately for me, God is less concerned about my “getting it right” than I am. He’s more about the process, less about the goal. Being God, he can snap his fingers and accomplish the goal anytime he wants. But he knows we need the process.

This isn’t very efficient. But God’s not into efficiency. Being an engineer, that first time I heard that, I was convinced it was heresy! I am all about efficiency. But it’s true – God’s not. God’s about the process. He doesn’t care if it takes longer to get us where he wants us; he’s got all the time in the world.

Now if not “getting it right” means falling into sin, God cares a lot more about it. And he has given us a textbook that, if we read and follow it, will spare us a lot of smoke alarms going off in the lab. But if we’re determined not to, God will let us blow up the lab, and then come back and show us why that was a really bad idea.

However, a lot of “getting it right” isn’t outright rebellious sin. Making a mistake is not sin. Here’s a free hint: If you’re afraid of making a mistake, or get angry when others do, you have Performance Orientation. God wants to heal you. God would much rather have us try, fail, and learn, than never try. See the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.

Does this resonate? Please share it on social media (click the buttons below). And tell us your story in the comments, or shoot us an email. What “failed labs” in your life has God used most powerfully? Your story is very encouraging to others. Tell it here.

Mountaintops and Valleys

I’m trying a new blog format today. Let me know how you like it (or not) in the comments. I may do this every 6 weeks or so if it blesses the community. This post is longer than normal, but it’s a story I wrote that I think will bless you and make you think.

 

Mountaintops and valleys. The terrain of life, he mused.

Sometimes you were on a mountaintop, where the air was clear and cold, and just breathing was exhilarating. Everything was crisp; everything seemed fresh and new and exciting. And you could see for miles.  For miles. You could see your whole life mapped out before you. God’s Divine Plan, and it all seemed so obvious and so simple. From the mountaintop.

But most of life was spent in the valleys. In the humid, dense, sweltering air, where just breathing seemed like so much work. You couldn’t see very far at all from down there, barely to the next mountain, and sometimes the daily haze blotted that out. The confusion and the noise drowned out the Divine Plan, and you had to follow it from memory and by faith because you sure couldn’t see it.

These were his musings, as he sat in a prison cell in Rome waiting to die. Today he was going to be crucified upside down. He didn’t feel worthy to die the way his Savior died, so he asked them to put the cross in the ground upside down. This definitely counted as a valley. But Peter smiled wide and laughed to himself as he remembered a mountaintop experience with Jesus decades before that only two others shared…

 

It was almost the end of Jesus’ ministry, but the disciples didn’t know that. He had just begun to teach them about his upcoming death and resurrection, but as usual they didn’t get it at the time. He was talking to them through a time-warp; he knew they wouldn’t understand at the time, but the Holy Spirit would bring his words back to them in the future when they needed them. Much the same way parents talk to children.

So, knowing he would die in Jerusalem at Passover, Jesus began an informal farewell tour, visiting everywhere he’d been one last time, although the disciples didn’t know it. Caesarea Philippi. Capernaum. Galilee. Samaria. Judea. Bethany. And finally Jerusalem. It was early in this Final Farewell Tour, in a remote place between Caesarea Philippi and Caperaum.

About a week earlier, Peter had just been highly praised and then severely rebuked by Jesus. Highly praised when he confessed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, when Jesus had asked his disciples who they thought he was. Jesus said the Father had revealed this to Peter, and changed his name on the spot from Simon to Peter, The Rock, and said that on this rock he would built his church. Peter was flying high.

For about 10 minutes. Then Peter was severely rebuked when he tried to convince Jesus he really didn’t have to do this whole suffer and die thing. Didn’t fit with the Savior persona. Jesus actually yelled at him, “Get behind me, Satan! You’re a stumbling block to me! You don’t have in mind the things of God, but the things of men!”

So Peter’s his head was still reeling trying to reconcile these two seemingly contradictory experiences, when Jesus called him, and James and John, to take a walk with him up a mountain. Just the four of them.

When they reached the top, Jesus got all white and shiny. He and his clothes and face and all became white as light. And suddenly, Moses and Elijah, just as shiny, were standing there talking with Jesus about the salvation he was about to accomplish when he got back to Jerusalem.

Score! They had arrived! Experiencing Jesus in all his glory. Oh. My. Word. This was it. No need to go any further. Just stay right here. In this experience. Forever.

So Peter, recovering quicker than the others and his own brain, walked right up and said to Jesus, “Lord, it’s great to be here! Let’s put up three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah, and we’ll all just stay right here. Yes!”

But while he was still speaking, a cloud suddenly covered them all, and the voice of Father God said, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Needless to say, Peter, James, and John hit the deck in terror. Nobody got in a cloud with God that close and lived to tell about it.

But Jesus tapped them on the shoulder. “It’s alright, don’t be afraid. Get up, let’s head back down.” When they looked up, they saw only Jesus, looking normal again. No Moses, no Elijah, no cloud, no voice. And then, on the way down, Jesus told them not to tell anybody.

“Ah, man,” thought Peter. “We can’t tell anybody! I was so looking forward to rubbing this is in Andrew’s face. What is the deal, anyway? Why couldn’t we stay on the mountaintop? We had it made up there – Jesus in his glory! What’s better than that? Everything else will seem rather dull now in comparison.”

When they got back down to the valley, they discovered the other 9 disciples had got themselves into a bit of a pickle. They were trying to cast a particularly stubborn demon out of a little boy, and they just couldn’t get it. Jesus, of course, did it easily.

That night, Peter couldn’t sleep. He was chewing on all this. He still wished they hadn’t come down the mountain. I mean, my gosh, after what we just saw, how could Jesus possibly expect us to return to the ordinary? But on the other hand, if they hadn’t, that precious little boy would still be tortured by that nasty demon.

Then a thought occurred to him that he’d never thought before. What if it wasn’t about him? I mean, what about Jesus? If that’s the glory he had with his Father before he came here, how could he ever lay that all down to come to live with us—the poorest of the poor, in an oppressed, occupied little country? But Jesus did leave it all, all the glory, the ultimate mountaintop, and here he is with us. So what if the purpose of the mountaintop experience wasn’t to stay on the mountaintop? What if the purpose of the mountaintop experience was to enable mountaintop living in the valley, and to pass it on to other valley-dwellers? After all, isn’t that what Jesus spent the last two and half years doing?

 

That day so many years ago had rocked his world. Hanging out with Jesus had a way of doing that, but That Day more than usual.

Peter remembered everything he’d seen and been part of since that day. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Starting the church in Jerusalem. Seeing it spread like wildfire, through persecution of all things, across the whole Roman world. Led out of prison by an angel. Turning the leadership of the Jerusalem church over to James. Miracles beyond count. Decades of leading precious little ones, young and old, out of the darkness and into the light.

Peter wasn’t sad or afraid about dying today. He was actually kind of excited. And awed at his Lord all over again, that Jesus had considered him, this little fisherman from Galilee, worthy of the privilege of participating in his sufferings.

He’d never understood why Jesus loved him so much, but each day he was floored more and more by how much He did. And even now, on the last day of his life, he knew he still didn’t understand the breadth of how much and how intensely Jesus loved him. That knowledge floored him all over again.

He’d finished the race, like Paul used to say. He knew the darkest valleys led to the highest mountaintops. Like King David sang, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me…” He hummed the melody; it was one of Jesus’ favorites. Today, the deepest valley would lead to the highest mountaintop, the one that you never had to leave. He would see Jesus again like He looked on that one special day so long ago. And Peter would be shiny, too.

– Based on Matthew 16:15 – 17:18.

 

So what about us? Do we get stuck on the mountaintop? Or try to? Do we hoard it? Are we stuck in the valley? Has the valley swamp made us forget our citizenship on the mountaintop? Let’s pledge today, in the middle of the sweltering valley humidity, as mountaintop citizens, to point other valley-dwellers the way up the hill, where our precious Savior awaits them.

Did this story bless you? Tell us what you think in the comments.

When the Hurt Rules the Heart

We are three part beings – body, soul, and spirit. And our soul is composed of our mind, will, and emotions. So often, because of the hurts we’ve received in this life from other wounded people, our hurt and our wounding take over and we live from our soul instead of from our spirit.

When we live from our soul, either our mind or our emotions are in charge. If our mind is in charge, we think we’ll be safe if we have it all figured out. We are in control – nothing happens without a plan, without our pre-approval.  We deceive ourselves into thinking we can push down the pain if we’re in control. We can become a sterile shell of a person. We look great on the outside and fool everyone else, but inside we’re empty.

If our emotions are in charge, we’re focused on what will make us happy in this moment, ignoring the long term consequences. We can lose our grasp on cause ‘n’ effect completely, and get into addictions – food, drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, TV – whatever makes us feel like we feel good at the moment. We know the pain is crouching ready to pounce any moment, but we delay it for just one more.

Too many Christians live out one of these two tragedies. That’s not life, that’s just existence. But Jesus died and lives so we can have abundant life (John 10:10).

In contrast, when we live from our spirit, our will is in charge. Our spirit is connected to Jesus, who sets the direction for our life. From our will, we choose to believe His promises instead of believing our own fear and pain.  Our emotions, like pain sensors in our body, are there to tell us when we’re hurting, but they should never set our direction. Our mind is there to devise a good, solid plan for going where our will has chosen to go, but it should never set our direction.

So how about it? Will you ask God to help you live out of your will? Will you choose to believe what God says about you and blow off your fear and the other lies our hurt and the enemy so realistically impress upon us?

I’ve got close experience, either myself or with family members, with both of these two deceptions. How about you? Do you identify with either? Have you learned to live out of your will and from your spirit? Do you still struggle? Tell us your story in the comments.

What Fast-Tracks Inner Healing?

Our inner healing often takes a season, just like physical healing. God, in his great mercy, only goes as fast as we can handle. Certainly our unwillingness or wrong motivations can slow it down, but if we’re willing and our motivations are right, is there anything we can do to speed it up? Is there something we can do to fast-track our inner healing as much as possible?

It turns out there is, and it’s illustrated best by buffalo and cattle. This analogy may seem way off-topic, but hang with me and I’ll bring it home.

When a herd of cattle on the plain see a thunderstorm coming, they run away from it. They are naturally afraid of it, and they quite logically run the other way.

Buffalo, on the other way, run toward the storm. They don’t fear the thunderstorm any less cattle do, but they’re just smarter about how to deal with it. They run directly through it. Since they are running the opposite direction the storm is moving, they minimize their time in the storm. Pretty smart, huh? They exit the storm as quickly as possible and get to the freshly watered, tender grass and clear weather on the other side.

The cattle, meanwhile, can’t outrun the storm. And by running away from it (that is, the same direction it’s moving), they actually maximize their time in the storm. The storm passes them by very slowly. They spend a lot more time it in, and get a lot more wet, cold, and uncomfortable than the buffalo.

What about us? John Sandford, the founder of Elijah House, which is one of the key ministries that taught the Church how to do inner healing, said, “We must embrace the fireball of pain.”

What?!? Sounds pretty crazy, doesn’t it? But it’s a buffalo strategy. God doesn’t need us to re-live the pain and re-traumatize us all over again, but we need to get in touch with it so God can open it up enough to heal it. He’s the great physician, and any surgeon has to open the wound in order to heal it.

When we embrace the pain, when we trust him enough to go there, we fast-track our healing. Be a buffalo.

I can testify that embracing the pain, letting God open me up like a Christmas turkey, really hurt. But it was over really fast, and I made progress in one or two sessions that could’ve otherwise taken years. And this was for big-deal stuff, life-wrenching stuff, like a marriage falling apart. I feel so much better now than before being healed. The freedom I gained was so worth it!

Does this resonate? Can you think of a time where you either embraced the pain or in vain ran from it? Which worked better for you? Are you still running? Share your story in the comments or shoot us an email. And please give this a share if you think it would help someone else. You can click on the Facebook button below (or the other social media buttons) to share really easy and fast.