In an earlier post on Spiritual Authority, I leapt over a huge amount of narrative and explanation because I wanted to avoid a convoluted discussion into which I am easily sidetracked and swallowed up. But I knew, even as I posted that, that I would need to follow up with some more concrete discussion. A few of the comments reinforced that.
So I’d like to sit back a moment and, without letting this get too tangled up, just look at one way of considering the whole matter of “Authority” as a whole. I want to consider our general, human, normal, relational experiences of authority… and then, from that perspective, look at the divine. I’m not trying to limit God to a human template, but I feel confident that especially in matters such as this, our social nature made in His image, and frequent scriptural referents and instructions on the conduct of such fundamental relationships as parenthood and marriage, along with the profound use Jesus Himself made of these two relationships, validates this discussion. As ever, though, if these words do not ring true as the Spirit guides your heart or conscience, cast them aside.
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First of all, what is “Authority” anyway? Well, we can look it up in the dictionary of course, but in general I teach that it is the “ability and right to impose one’s will onto and over the will of another.” The idea of “authority” has no meaning without the idea of “will”. Authority is only an issue where there is choice, or the possibility of a contrary action or thought.
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OK, so let’s consider our human experience on Jesus’ illustrations for a moment. How do we see “Authority” as relating to these two critical human relationships — parenthood, and to marriage?
I propose that we can see human development, relational development, the development of relationships in four distinct stages:
First: Childhood Stage. In the first seven or so years of life, children cannot provide for themselves, protect themselves from danger, or make considered judgments of prudent action based on experience, reasoning or wisdom. Even the legal system does not yet consider them responsible for their own actions or consequences. The parent(s) hold responsibility for all that.
Parent(s) exercise authority over their children, being responsible for them and their actions, and for their well-being and upbringing. When the will of a child differs from the will of their parent(s), the child is expected (scripturally, morally, and legally) to honor their parent(s) and obey. That is their will is to yield to the parent, and penalty or punishment is a reasonable expectation for defiance of that authority.
Children’s initial experience of “authority”, then… (and thus, the experience all of us share)… is based in “Fear”. Children (all of us), initially learn to yield to authority by being programmed with a fear of punishment.
Four scriptural verses address the “beginning of wisdom”, and all of those associate it with knowledge or understanding. Three of those four, associate “fear” or “fear of the Lord” as well. That is, “fear” may be seen as a legitimate BEGINNING point, but that’s all it is… the beginnings of an infant or child, whose knowledge and understanding is only beginning, not yet matured. (Cf Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 4:7; Proverbs 9:10.
Second: Transactional Stage. When a youngster is “too big” for physical pain or superior size to generate fear to enforce authority in a conflict of will, and (on a more positive note) when communication and reasoning skills have improved, resolution is more likely to come from “bargaining” or “transaction” rather than “threat”.
While this is easy to relate to when we think of dealing with adolescence (or remember being one), it is important to note that this same approach to authority persists well into early vocational and professional maturity as well.
A parent or a boss CAN enforce their will in a conflict by using authority to threaten or generate costly punishment, generating fear. But it is more likely, before reaching such a pass, that a system of incentives and “earned privileges” is in place That is, there is reasoned dialogue and negotiation, setting up a mutually beneficial transaction.
“If you yield and submit to my will, then these benefits will ensue. If you do not, then those benefits will not result, or these detriments will ensue.”
Like… Parent to Teen: “If you do your chores and keep your grades up, you may access our computers, game systems, and drive the car on Friday night. But if you defy me(us) or you fail in school, you will lose your privilege of playing in sports, or your curfew will be lowered.”
Or… Boss to Subordinate: “If you perform your duties well, dress appropriately, report to work on time, and follow my instructions, you will get good job performance evaluation reviews, a steady progress of pay increase and promotion. But if you do not follow instructions, perform according to my expectations, or execute company policy and procedure, you will receive a verbal warning, a written warning, and then be terminated from our employment.”
Both of these expressions and exercise of authority are “Transactional”, a “trade” based on the child (or subordinate) wanting to acquire something of value (whether liberty and privileges, or professional earnings and prestige)… in exchange for their compliance with the will of the superior.
We see this type of authority expressed a number of times in scripture, but perhaps the clearest of such expressions as God trains His children is
If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. [2 Chronicles 7:13-15]
Here we see this very clear “carrot-and-stick” transaction of authority and obedience, very much as we (as parents) could imagine ourselves dealing with our developing teen, or an employer dealing with a new employee.
Three: Exploration and Honeymoon Stage. Let’s change gears, change generations here for a moment. Let’s move from the “Parental” paradigm to the “Sweetheart” stage of intimate relationships. (Bear in mind, this really has no gender significance, particularly. There are no erotic overtones here. Jesus used a marriage and wedding illustration often as He considered growing intimacy and commitment between Himself and us.)
Authority, as the imposition or subordination of will, becomes very interesting when “opposition” is no longer an issue. If you have ever been married (as I suspect most of Jesus’ listeners had been), it is not hard to remember or relate to a time when a committed relationship had been formed, but partners were yet coming to know and understand one another.
Here again, “fear” becomes a factor… but it is not a matter of “fear of punishment”. When one is committed to the happiness and well-being of the other, but does not yet KNOW them through and through completely, then there is effort made not to do something that causes the other (the beloved) discomfort or displeasure.
Early years of a marriage of partners in love, or early years of a professional who loves and is deeply committed to his/her company or employer, doesn’t see a lot of overt “exercise of authority” between the superior and the subordinate. Rather, one seeks to consciously align the will of the self with the will of the other in order not to displease him/her. When there is anxiety over a decision, it is based on “not doing the wrong thing”, “not making a mistake”… but not out of fear of consequence in punishment, rather out of “fear of displeasing the valued other” (whether the partner or work colleague).
This is a “functional” stage. Many long term marriages never progress beyond this stage. Many career employees stay in this perspective all the way to retirement. And it has been my observation that a vast number of Believers attain this degree of intimacy with the Lord, and never ever get past it. Such people are adult enough to get beyond a fear of childish punishment, loving enough to get beyond bargaining and negotiation for advantage, and are deeply committed to the happiness of the significant other. But what “constrains them”, what exerts “authority over them”, is the fear of causing the significant other displeasure… of “hurting their feelings”.
I remember, when I was young, being told that “every time I sin, I add to the scourging of Jesus”. The thought horrified me. I vehemently sought to reject sin in all forms… “not to hurt His feelings”, and despised myself and my own frailty when I failed in my efforts. Only VERY recently, did I finally come to understand the Truth… that He has always known, and embraced me WITH all my frailties. I finally could embrace an instruction, a correction, I must have been given 100 times when I was an intern under a very wise mentor/boss/pastor who repeated over and over… “Little Monk! God is not NEARLY so concerned with your getting it all RIGHT! As He is concerned that you learn to relax, and simply enjoy His love!” (That made no sense to me… I could not grasp that… couldn’t embrace it. Decades it took, before Jesus Himself finally helped me see the truth of it.)
I present Stage Three to you with NO disrespect whatever! I lingered there for more years than I will admit. It is often marked with a tremendous sense of “rules and regulations”, of “do’s and don’ts” lest we displease Him. It is not BAD. But it is not yet complete. It contains fear, it contains shame, it contains a degree of mistrust for our total safety in Him. It is adult, yes… but not yet fully matured.
We want to unify our wills with God’s, but we haven’t yet learned and practiced the relaxed surrender of conscience to the Holy Spirit, so we cling fearfully to our “religious report cards” and “Do/Don’t” Lists. Paul seems to address this…
If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? [Colossians 2:20-22]
Four: Unitive Stage. Harmony. Here is a fascinating stage of “Authority” where the word itself seems to disappear. Why? Because the exercise of authority only emerges when there is a conflict of will between two parties, and when relationship is close enough, intimate enough that one party knows exactly what is pleasing to the other… and when the love and commitment is so strong that the desire of each is to create, to generate, pleasure on the part of the other… there is only harmony.
I described this to a friend the other day as, “remember the early stages of marriage, where we worked so hard to learn, to realize, what pleased and displeased our partner? We were more concerned not to inadvertently hurt their feelings, than anything else. And that was good. BUT, let a few decades of ongoing love, commitment and intimacy go by, and we learn them… we know their will… we know what pleases or displeases. And when you look at one of those incredible, grace-filled, beautiful marriages of half a century or so… when the partners are still as in love (or more so) than when they first met… there is no more fear. Each partner lives with the simple goal of pleasing the other, of making him/her smile. They look for little ways to surprise or delight the other. THAT’s the mature state of love… no more fear, simply the enterprise of walking pleasing to the other, because that is what is most pleasing to the self.”
I have seen this in this life. Haven’t you? Here is the living out of the intimacy of Jesus and the Father… all through John 13-17. Jesus only does His will, does His works, speaks His words. Why? Because the Father has “Authority”, and requires this of Jesus? NO! Because this is the JOY of Jesus, He is so intimately One with the Father that to see Him, He says, IS to SEE the Father!
“Well!” one might respond… “That’s all well and good for GOD! But what about US! This can’t possibly be something WE can aspire to, or live in! Where’s your humility!?” But see… Jesus disagrees.
Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” [John 17:1-3]
That’s US He’s talking about, Gentle Reader. You, and me, and him, and her… right here, right now, just as we are… “that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” And that word “know” there… is “intimate know”… as in biblically knowing… all the way through.
So many shy away from this thought. “Too intimate”, “too close”, “not reverent enough”, “need more distance”, “He’s too holy”, “He’s too scary”… so strange. Some paint this incredible revelation of grace and available relationship as some sort of cheap grace or feel-good message. Well, grace it assuredly is, but not the least bit cheap… It cost Jesus’ life to provide. Is it “feel good”? Well, I certainly hope so! The JOY of the Lord is to be our strength, not some sort of “no pain, no gain” hubris. The Gospel is GOOD News, and the churchy-folk leaders of His time killed Him for preaching it.
Here is the challenge God issues to my own life, and I pass it along for whatever use you choose to make of it. Embrace it, or cast it aside as the Holy Spirit leads you in your life and conscience.
“Do you want to love God with all your heart, mind and strength? Do you want to love others as Jesus loves?
“Then you have to mature beyond fear. We cannot…. CAN NOT… fully love what we do not fully trust. We can never feel truly and utterly “safe” with what we cannot trust without condition or flinching. And we cannot utterly trust, anything or anyone, we fear.”
Simple truth that. Obvious and self-apparent. The Apostle John got this utterly. He wrote the Gospels that most clearly documented the Lord’s teachings on all this. Ultimately, he left these words in legacy to the generations of his churches as he sensed the end of his own earthly life drawing near….
Consider this, and see if it does not summarize all I am saying here of “authority”, “harmony of will”, and our loving relationship with God…
By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. [1 John 4:17-19]
Bottom Line: “Authority” only has meaning when there is a conflict of wills. As to Spiritual Warfare, there is always a conflict of wills between unclean spirits and the will of Our Loving Father, Our Lord, and His Spirit. God has invested the fullness of His authority in and to us, by virtue of our Love of Christ and belief that the Father sent Him forth. That authority can and does flow through us unimpeded when our will aligns in faith with His.
But BEYOND that is the richer truth of “authority” and OUR relationship with God. Union, the union of will, love, knowledge of Him… complete with His words, works, and will… is not only our EVENTUAL destiny “up there, out there, somewhere…. in heaven… after we’re dead”…. but rather it is the living, here and now, process we are going through and intended to fulfill in all its richness, as we learn simply to trust Him to do what only He can do in and through us. How?
Paulfg says it the most directly of anyone I know…
“The answer is love. Now, what is the question?”
I hope this is some help on the whole issue of “Authority” and God.
Grace to thee, Gentle Reader.
The Little Monk
June 9, 2015 at 7:59 PM
Yes, yes, yes! I loved this post. It puts to beautiful words what I’ve been thinking about. As I was reading I thought how the fear of God is only the BEGINNING of wisdom. Jesus totally reveals the wisdom of God, which is full of grace and truth. Slowly the Spirit is working his perfect love in me to cast out fear.
Thanks Little Monk. Grateful for these words.
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June 10, 2015 at 11:59 AM
Thank you, Trish.
I really struggle not to sound “academic” or “preachy” in discussions like these. God’s heart, His agenda, is so easily misunderstood when we deal with such a Parent/Lover/Live-er as He. So I struggle for “clarity” as I try to express something so fundamental to our being and visceral in our experience.
Is “fear of God” a BAD thing? No! It is “attention getting”. It is “basic”. It is a “reality check” of common sense and good judgment. “Fear” in general is a useful tool and necessary survival skill. One does not carelessly walk outdoors at night with a 10 foot copper pole held high across a golf course in a Texas thunder storm…. at least not twice. “Fear” of doing such a thing is GOOD. But does that mean we are to cower beneath our beds, or wrap up in bubble wrap and tremble in our closets at the first rumbles of a coming storm? Heck, no!
Or, like “Fire”. We teach babies to “fear” fire. (At least I do.) I have a beautiful raised hearth fireplace. When my grandkids were toddlers, in the winter, this would FASCINATE them! They wanted to sit there, then turn and stare at it, then reach out to the screen, then reach through the screen, then touch the flames. Like any parent (or former parent) when it got to reaching out to the screen, I would say, “No!” or “No, no!” and, over time, trials and Skinnerian Stimulus-Response conditioning, they learned if they continued on, grabbed the screen to open it or reach through it, their hand would smart for about 3 seconds because I would Spat it. They could sit there, I didn’t want them afraid of that. They could look at it, I didn’t want them afraid of that. But… at THAT time… at THAT age… I wanted them to “fear” reaching so close to the flame that they could feel its intense heat or remove the screen that protected them from sparks and embers. NOW… years later… I have taught them even to “control” it (gas fed)…. or “start it” (the older one) for me from time to time. (She’s very proud in those moments.)
Now, I could have allowed “fire itself” to teach them “fear”. But I’ve come to the conclusion that God grants us “parental authority” and the duty to “raise up a child in the way they should go” (yes, at times even using the “tool” of limited but aversive pain)… precisely for the purpose of using our “Authority” as a proxy for “Natural Law”. Nature, natural law, in burning a child… teaches fear of mishandling fire. But caretakers, using authority, can do the same… without injuring or maiming the child. And this “proxy effect” diminishes on a fixed curve from the day they are born until they are adults standing for themselves before God and Nature. (About 18 years, give or take.) I tell parents of newborns, “you have a 18 year-long Temporary Permit as God in the Life of Your Child… and it diminishes in power every day. Use it wisely to transition him/her from You to Him over that time, because that’s what it’s for.”
We so mess up this “fear”, “trust”, “authority”, “love” thing with Him, in our minds! Remember that story about Adam & Eve in this blog a while back? Remember the sequence? FIRST we failed to recognize and trust to His love, THEN we rejected His authority, THEN we knew “fear” for the first time, THEN to protect us, He removed us from the Garden and access to the Tree of Life lest we freeze ourselves in our terror forever.
I feel as if, for me at least, “getting back to the Love”… “getting back to that childlike trust of Him and to His love”… I’ve had to reverse that sequence specifically. First I’ve had to move back through the angel with his sword, and submit to the death it causes in trust to His process. Then I’ve had to move back through the fear and conquer it. Then recognize and submit to His “authority”, not just out of fear or the fact that “He’s biggern’ me”… but because He only says and requires that which protects and nurtures me, and I can trust Him more than myself. And in that TRUST… I discover the fullness of Loving Him.
Anyway, sorry Trish… this sorta went places I never intended. But this is why it’s so hard to write on this stuff for me. It’s all ONE… authority, trust, love, fear… parenting, intimacy, two become one. etc. It’s really hard for me to discuss or focus intently on any One aspect of this, without “shattering” the lattice structure of its matrix binding to all the others.
Thanks for the kind words. I look forward to more comments!
Grace — LM
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June 10, 2015 at 1:01 AM
Wow! One to absorb like oxygen from the mountain air! Thank you.
And I found myself ending this piece with a lot of nodding – and one question: so how does this relate to Spiritual Warfare? And went back and forth a bit without an answer.
I hope I am not pre-empting your next piece, because what came to me was “relationship” again.
That no matter how far along the four stages I am with God, I am also “??” along these four stages with demons.
And re-reading your words with that starting point- I found myself back to square one. A very clear “Daddy Daddy keep me safe”
So I wonder – is there a development of “authority” with demons and the devil – as well as development with God and Love?
And just where are the demons on the journey? For if this holds truth, then truth in all directions it must.
A pause – because I am writing half formed thoughts.
(and am still wowed by such a treasure on my screen!)
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June 10, 2015 at 1:03 AM
ticking the “email box” again!!
June 11, 2015 at 10:36 AM
“I hope I am not pre-empting your next piece, because what came to me was “relationship” again. That no matter how far along the four stages I am with God, I am also “??” along these four stages with demons.”
What a cool thought and question, Paul! I really had to let that sit for a bit, and let a response emerge. The idea certainly wasn’t my thought for a next piece. To be honest, I’ve never considered the question at all… but I should have.
“Relationship with demons”… the phrase just feels “acid” to articulate, doesn’t it? And yet, it is a critical concept. The “authority” interchange becomes even more critical. I am going to say only this in this “comment” response here:
There are very specific reasons that such care is first being spent focusing almost exclusively on the relationship between the Believer and God, regarding authority… even though the overall context is spiritual warfare and demonology. No mystery to it… I am determined to foster neither a casual underestimation through “DIY Exorcism”, nor a sense of inappropriate fear or hypervigilance. I’ve seen both result in the past, even from solid experienced teaching… when the primary interest and focus became the darkness, rather than the light.
But to answer in short… yes. Just as there are degrees of trust and intimacy recognized in our relationship with God… characteristics of motivation, fear, or trusting union of will in our response to discerning the will of God, that can be thought of in terms of “maturity” of love and relationship of intimacy…
So too, there are different sets of response to the presence or discernment of the presence of shadow creatures. Responses can range on the one hand from oblivious ignorance, fascination or panic at one extreme, to the quiet confidence and authoritative command of Jesus Himself. I don’t know so much about “stages” between, but there most certainly is a “spectrum”.
I shall give this question more prayer, consideration, and time… and we’ll see if a picture emerges.
Thanks again for the comment and kind words, and an absolutely FASCINATING question.
Cheers, and grace to thee! — LM
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June 11, 2015 at 10:44 PM
I am learning the concept of patience in this discussion. 🙂
June 10, 2015 at 7:25 AM
Little Monk, this is quite possibly the finest essay on the authority of God that I have ever had the pleasure of reading; it is nothing short of brilliant! It is obvious that you have put a great deal of thought, reflection and work into its production and I am so thankful that you have seen fit to serve God in this way, for it is truly a blessing to read.
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June 11, 2015 at 10:20 AM
Wow, Don. Thank you so much, both for the comments and for the reblog.
It’s really gratifying to hear your “Amen!” to this post. So often, God’s “Authority” is seen as intimidating, arbitrary, perhaps even just a little bit “petty”… When nothing, nothing at all, could be farther from the Truth.
It is so very difficult to look at a delicate lattice crystal crystal composed of “love, trust, reliance, authority, protection, care, nurturance”… knowing that each element is a facet of the Whole that is Him… and not “break something” in trying to extract and highlight one element.
I’ll not nag, but let me just underscore my sincerity when I invite you to weigh in on any and all of this discussion. I can (and do) present one viewpoint. (I hope a balanced one). But this area of ministry is so significant, I don’t feel as if the single view of any teacher is adequate.
Anyway, thanks again, and grace to you!
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Susan Irene Fox
June 10, 2015 at 2:45 PM
LM, after reading this over slowly and letting sink in, it really makes so much sense. I drift back and forth between the stages, praying continually for wisdom and maturity, and to know Him and love more deeply each day.
So then (and let me see if I can collect my thoughts), if we embrace His love, invite it in, abide in the fullness and unity of His grace-filled love, do we become less susceptible to spiritual attack? My thinking here is demonic attack must be based on fear. Since God’s love – perfect love – casts out fear, if I surround myself, abide in, sink myself into the ocean of God’s love, and know with absolute certainty I am His beloved, how can fear-based spiritual warfare overcome?
If so, it becomes imperative, then to see ourselves as John did: the disciple Jesus loved.
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June 10, 2015 at 4:08 PM
Wonderful comments, Susan! Thank you!
You were very much on my heart as I typed this post!
Two things you’ve said that so richly ring. The first actually needs its own post, and I’m working on that. A friend here who read this over for me pointed out… we often shift between stages depending on context and events of the day. So True!
You said… “I drift back and forth between the stages, praying continually for wisdom and maturity, and to know Him and love more deeply each day.”
That is absolutely so! As do I. As do the finest, most grace-filled and wise teachers I know and have ever known! Yes! To all of that. Nonetheless, like anything and everything about our love-based, faith-filled relationship with God… as we experience more and more, as we “realize” (make “real” to ourselves) more and more experiences, that they become “concrete history” and “memories” rather than abstract theoreticals, hypotheticals, aspirations, and hopes… We tend to “anchor ourselves” in “reality as we know it”. We can still experience temptation, entertain doubts, find our faith shaken… we can succumb to a mood of darkness, bitterness, discouragement…. I for one (and all my rowdy friends) experience all these same things.
BUT, sometimes it feels like I’m attached to an elastic band… like a horizontal bungee cord. I can “go off on a mood” with the best of them. (I’m particularly prone to pride, and an odd sort of arrogant anger… judgmentalism. When the enemy can get just the right dart into my heart from just the right angle, and push just the right button… BOOM! Off I’ll go, ranting like a sailor!) Now, do I KNOW better? Yup. Does the Holy Spirit not tap me on the shoulder, clear His throat, and speak perfectly clearly… “Little Monk? Before you launch, does ANY of this speak ‘Jesus’ style’ to you? Or are you just rocking on your hobby horse again?” Yup. But if I am enraptured enough by my little moment of adrenalin-intoxication, glassy eyed… then I’m likely to hold up one finger, say, “One second, Lord, I’m busy in the middle of a tantrum here… be right with You!” and move right along my merry way.
I sprint against the tension of my bungee cord, plunging headlong from the center of my “God’s Will Road”… and wind up off somewhere in the scrub. I’ll be all scratched up and scruffy looking, and when the chemical euphoria wears off, it’s like I shake my head and say, “How’d I get here?” Then I remember and it’s like.. “Oh yeah. That.”
But here’s the really cool part for me and “most of my rowdy friends”. Having figured out a while back that we were nothing more (or less) than “His kids”… that we are and were utterly incapable of “managing our own spiritual lives”, but that when we relax utterly and let Him do what He does, He manages them (us) perfectly… we quit trying. Rather than trying to focus on “what do we do next”, we focus(ed) just on HEARING HIM tell us what to do next. It changes from our eyes constantly scanning the horizon and choosing among a million options, to our eyes focused on Him, His feet, His hands, and where He points us. (Much narrower focus.. MUCH easier to handle).
So, finding ourselves out in the scrub, tore up… we don’t “trudge back to the center line”… or even “turn around and repent”… or even “run don’t walk”… or “walk”. None of that. We just “stop… and relax”. The Bungee Cord brings us home Himself. We (and by this I mean ALL… you, me, my rowdy friends, everyone) are ALREADY anchored at the center line. Jesus did that at the Cross, He fastened and sealed these cords with Indwelling. The Holy Spirit IS the Bungee Cord. When we just quit pulling AGAINST it, whether by intention or ignorance… then HE HIMSELF restores everything to “right”.
The Bungee Cord pulls us back home to safety and light. Jesus washes the grunge off us. He re-robes us in His own clothes… and we take one another’s hands and move on down the road, often discussing what we’d learned from our little foray into the wilderness scrub. Now, Jesus, walking alongside us, had remained alongside us the whole time, you understand. Even when we run off in an adrenalin-drunk He never leaves us or forsakes us… (He promised that in writing, so you can count on its being true….) so when we tear off into awful places we just drag Him along. We’re just so focused on the wrong things, the distractions, that we don’t see or pay attention to His presence. But He’s ALWAYS present!
We can always trust the Bungee Cord. We can always trust Jesus alongside us. And we can always trust to the Center Line. But lots of folks, even wondrous sincere believer folks… have grown up thinking they’re all on their own to traverse this terrain (life, life in the world, life through the darkness to a blessed redeemed heavenly condition after they die). It’s all hack and slash, sweaty machete work, or dangerous dozer work to pave the way, brave the elements and the dangers, all to “atone” for past follies, or “show themselves worthy”, or “pass the test of their faith”, or simply because…. “Well, a Just and Holy God couldn’t just make it EASY, could He? After all, He’s Righteous and all that! Ridiculous! We must prevail! We must suffer! We must endure! We must show ourselves worthy of His love and win the race!” And it breaks my heart as they work so HARD to “get it all right”! (As I used to.)
Nonsense! NOTHING we do, endure, suffer or prevail against “makes us worthy”! Let that go! That’s pride! It “looks” like humility, but it’s arrogance… the exact opposite. It’s the lie that says, “If I work hard enough, I won’t NEED Jesus alone to merit God and His presence… I won’t NEED grace, if I can accomplish by work!” Nonsense!
And once THIS one is put away, the rest falls into place as you look and listen to what Jesus truly said and taught. He’s THERE. The Spirit is here and seals. We have inheritance, position, power, authority, place. We actually have to affirmatively work AGAINST grace… which we do easily, once our pride or passions are pricked properly… to pull ourselves OUT of His management and its benefits. He is, ever, inside of us. (In fact, as a little aside of “Wow” to how the Father manages things… even when we rebelliously run out into the scrub (where we don’t belong)… we nonetheless bring Jesus WITH us… thus bringing Light into dark places. Now, we’re likely to get a bit battered and bruised in the process, which Daddy never wanted… but still, we’ll be “vessel for Light”, even in our wrongness. Isn’t that something?)
Now, when we “relax” and let the Bungee bring us home from wrong places… we’ll often see the intervening terrain flying by, review in our minds/hearts/memories the decisions and moods we were in as we plunged through here, and feel embarrassed and regretful of that. True. We learn from such moments, and that’s a good thing. But THAT… those moments of “Gosh, what was I thinking?! THAT was pretty dumb of me!” THOSE realizations, are “light entering the dark corners” of our soul and the discomfort of blinking in the unaccustomed brightness. THAT is the essence of true “repentance” or “metanoia” (to “see in a new/beyond way” truthfully), and those moments of epiphany and insight change us permanently. Those are moments in which we grow, we mature, because we learn to “trust” just a little more completely, to “yield” a little more readily.
But yes, Susan… we are ALL but children in, to, and of God. And I, for one, certainly have my “bratty” days, just as well as anyone.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The second critically important truth you typed was…
“if I surround myself, abide in, sink myself into the ocean of God’s love, and know with absolute certainty I am His beloved, how can fear-based spiritual warfare overcome?”
You have touched on an absolute truth, and I can illustrate with a very simple parallel. We call “spirits of darkness” that for a very good reason. Let me sum up a very long discussion and presentation simply saying… “Imagine, if you will, that such entities are actually composed of ‘shadow’.” Stop just one moment and get a firm grip on those words in your mind’s eye.
Now… when one such entity steps into a “spotlight”, what HAS to happen?
Not just “what happens?”, but what logically, necessarily, HAS to happen?…… *POOF!*… Right?
Well, theologically, we talk about all these different descriptive systems for dealing with God and spiritual things… one of which is called the “Light Metaphysic”. John, the Apostle, really made use of this trying to describe various aspects of Jesus, of God, and of relationship with Him. (“God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” or “The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness knew it not.” etc.)
But it’s a terrific imagery, way of trying to describe reality, with regard to spiritual warfare. Demons and unclean spirits were distinctly “uncomfortable” in Jesus’ presence. He is/was Light Himself. His very presence and nature threatened their ability to cloak themselves in any form at all. When He encountered a person who needed healing or deliverance, dark spirits wanted to be separated from Him… either that He would go away, or that He would send them away (e.g. into swine). For Him to be present with them, too close, was for them to experience “torment” (are You here to torment us before our time?).
Well, one reason I posted “How much Holy Spirit do you have?” before getting into the current discussion, is that that reality has never changed. Dark spirits are “uncomfortable” (lol, what a wimpy word… but I’ll stay with it)… in the Immediate Presence of Christ. And EVERY Indwelt believer carries in him/her the Immediate Presence of Christ.
Well then, does that mean we cannot be approached, assailed, or even inhabited by any spirit of darkness? No, not exactly. Our free will gives us the option of allowing ingress into what I call “our shadowy corners”… our own wrong attitudes, our own areas for future growth, our own habitual weaknesses, biases, judgmentalisms, unkindnesses… all those areas where from time to time the Lord grows us through rebuke, conviction, repentance and transformation… sort of like “damp spots” in the foundation, walls, floors or crawlspaces of our house where mold can grow undisturbed. We can “host” shadow-infection, just as our bodies can host illnesses… without being consciously aware of it. And the impact of such infection can be more or less serious depending on extent, duration, and how central is the function to our lives.
A Christian need not be “shadow free” to be Christian, but the extent to which he/she consciously embraces and allows transformation of light affects both the “opportunities” for shadows lurking, along with quality of life… Peace, Joy, Humor, Love, Generosity, Satisfaction, etc. Just as a human being need not be “infection free” to be Alive, but the extent of robust health, immune system function, nutrition and wellness certainly affects both the extent of compromise to infection, and the overall quality of life.
Very solid parallel that.
So it’s hard for me to discuss such things without seeming to foster an attitude of “nonchalant indifference”… “Oh well, everybody deals with this all the time, so… no big deal… forget about it.” Or, alternatively, an attitude of hypervigilant terror… “Omigosh, you mean… they’re… they’re… EVERYWHERE? *I* deal with them? My church, my pastor, my spouse, my kids??? What do I do? What do I DO??” And prompt a rapid shopping trip for unguents, candles, incense, oil, tracts, and Christian Books… oh, and miles of bubble wrap with duct tape.
For years I’ve lived quietly, yielding to my caution not to prompt either response.
But the balanced position is simply this…
Just as physically we live in a world populated with myriads of creatures we cannot see or detect, some of which we interact with, and can harm us… Just as we deal with that reality through simple hygiene, care of our constitutions and health of lifestyle (food, clothing, shelter, hydration, nutrition)… Just as we help one another keep healthy, and offer an aspirin to a friend with a headache… Just as we seek professional expert health care interventions when an illness interferes too profoundly with our activities of daily life, or when infection places others at risk… All that, without panic or arrogance…
So I hope we can look at Spiritual Warfare. We live in a world inhabited by others as well, some of whom mean us harm. There’s fundamental spiritual health, there’s hygiene, there’s mutual support, and there’s acute care. None of that should generate either panic or arrogance.
All I seek to do here is offer “wellness education” for Christendom at large, and issue invitation to those with a call to providing acute care for those in need, to seek out and pursue further education as caregivers.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Fabulous comments! Thanks SO much!
Grace – LM
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Susan Irene Fox
June 10, 2015 at 4:26 PM
yes, Yes and YES! Thank you for this in-depth response. I appreciate more than I can express here. First, the bungee cord image will now forever be with me. Second, I’ll be blowing my spiritual nose with a lot more conviction now. 😉
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June 11, 2015 at 9:03 AM
“I’ll be blowing my spiritual nose with a lot more conviction now. ;-)”
Rofl! Thank you for that sentence. In the midst of all this, you made me actually laugh out loud, and I absolutely LOVE the image! That’s great! You’ve got the point perfectly! Hallelujah!
Thank you so much! — LM
June 10, 2015 at 7:08 PM
Very excellent points! It all boils down to loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. When we do that there will be no conflict with His authority. Thanks for sharing.
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June 14, 2015 at 1:07 PM
Dear Little Monk,
I read the post and then re-read it and read it again.
I don’t often disagree with you. Today I do.
I am not sure how much we disagree. I have not as yet read all the comments and subsequent posts.
The only basis I have for disagreement is my own experience and learning of God’s love and use of His authority with me.
It may be merely a different turn of phrase;coming at the subject from a different perspective; God needing to discipline me in a different way from you because we are different people with different characters and different needs.
Perhaps if I enter dialogue with you; write what I am inspired to write; discuss this from a different angle, you will understand how we differ and how we are the same.
Childhood Stage (fear of punishment)
I don’t see fear of authority (fear of punishment) as being part of my wholesome learning as a child. The best teaching of my parents was not done through fear.
I was fearful of things beyond my relationship with my parents and with God. Fear of the dark; fear of the bogey man under the bed; fear of being alone in my bed at night. I ran to my parents when frightened with trust and for security. My prayers to God too were full of trust.
Fear only entered when I was unjustly treated: Grabbed by my hair due to bad temper in the adult, when I was ill and could not express it and I was keeping everyone awake. Slapped by a teacher, when I had politely answered a question from a fellow pupil when we were all supposed to be quiet.
I think fear of punishment, fear of authority, only creeps in with the other fellow, Satan. In my view, it is not part of God’s use of authority even as a child. It is not part of our relationship with God. I think when the Bible talks about“Fear” of the Lord, it is not fear as such. It is awe in God’s presence or in the midst of the vastness or the most minute detail in His Creation. It is admiration and respect. It is not fear. As the youngest of four siblings I looked up to them, admired them, followed them, when older argued with them. Even with immature love, when it is love, there is no fear.
Transactional stage (carrot and stick)
I am not sure I can remember this carrot and stick stage when growing up. Perhaps my parents did not use the type of authority on me. Or maybe I just don’t relate to it.
I can relate to the exploration/ honeymoon stage. This is when you no longer take things completely on trust. You question the authority. You test the boundaries and see how far you can go and still be safe. You try to work out for yourself if God’s way is true and whether what He says can be tested. Yes, I might try to please Him. I might also try to run from Him and try out different ways of doing things.God is there, patient and waiting. In this stage we hurt ourselves rather than God hurting us.
Or, the other fellow, Satan introduces pain and punishment because the authority exerted over us is not God’s authority. We are bullied in work or sexually harassed in an intimate relationship. Then we are wounded and become fearful and sometimes blame God.
Unitive stage (harmony/intimacy)
Sometimes it worries me when people say they are in true harmony with God’s will. How do you know? There is no-one more self righteous than the religious person who says they are doing something because it is God’s will. God told them to do it and they are criticising you in a loving way.
This has been done to me on more than one occasion and it was more about them than about God.
I once heard a sermon about Leadership.Thinking about it, it was also about authority. It was based on Daniel 5. I was so impressed I took a few notes. It was while ago so I may not remember it completely.
The question the preacher posed was as a leader do we use love or try to exert control over life or other people?
In Daniel 5 when Daniel was called to interpret the writing for the king, he was motivated by God’s truth and not self preservation. Daniel was a man of honesty and integrity whereas the king was a man with a low self image and self loathing. The king bullied and used fear to control his people. He was a frightened man himself.
When God is our refuge and strength, we can choose love over power; we can choose to follow the cross instead of trying to control.
The preacher warned us to be wise when in a position of leadership. Abraham Lincoln: “It is a test of character when we are given power”. There is another quote: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” . The Minister warned: “power sneaks up on us and is intoxicating”. Perhaps this too is true of authority. Which is easier, to have power or love? How do we act justly and with integrity and not through our own ambition?
And now I am adding my own questions: How do we know we are being loving? And not just trying to exert our will over somebody-else and justifying to ourselves that it is God’s will? How do we know we are acting in harmony with God and not just with our own ego and created selves?
I learnt at the funeral of my sister, that she talked and wrote to her Minister about spiritual light and dark. She asserted that there is light and dark within each one of us; within our institutions, including our schools, our churches, our governments. There is a constant spiritual battle going on within each one of us. Let each of us be wary when we think we have won the battle.
Again I ask the question: How do we know we are acting lovingly and in harmony with God?
Where is my favourite quote from Micah ?
“Act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with your God”
Remember that each time I assert something, I may be wrong. Let others, like you, test it out, and see if it rings true. And that is why with humility I bring this discussion to you. Have I got a point? Am I talking wishful thinking and a load of rot? I would like you and your readers to test this out and see what you think.
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June 14, 2015 at 2:23 PM
What a great contribution to this discussion! Thanks so much for your well thought through response. I think you and I agree on nearly every point. Rather than try to answer this in a “discursive”, or “debating” style… let me do something quite different. And then, perhaps address one or two concrete questions you pose towards the end of the note.
Please understand, I am NOT a proponent of “fear” as a necessary component of “authority” or a healthy element of one’s relationship with God. The entire gist of my post is that while “fear of the Lord” is scripturally praised as “the beginning of wisdom”, it is precisely that… only a beginning point regarding authority. As we grow, we should outgrow fear as any motivation, and mature into love alone constraining us.
You said, “The best teaching of my parents was not done through fear.”
I could not agree more. The BEST teaching of your parents, hopefully, is love, trust, nurturance, comfort, faithfulness, wisdom, guidance, embrace, tenderness, healing… all these things and characteristics of God that He places us with parents to experience. But, for one thing, I addressed a very specific age… birth through 7… traditionally adopted as the period before “reason”, wherein the child/organism is intensely self-centered and focused on meeting their own needs and wants. It takes time, experience, and training to learn “social living”, and the guidance and discipline of loving parents to “train up a child in the way they should go.”
Even for that age, “fear” should never play a predominant role in relationship. (I realize lots of parents don’t get this… and Christian parents are often among the most notorious.) Fear should not be a frequent experience… but it is (at least at the very beginning)… a “requisite” experience for a child to learn to subordinate his/her individual “want”… to a parent’s authority. Simple example… when a child is three years old, is angry beyond words, and “wants” to throw a dish of food at someone or something… what constrains them? What emotional force will overcome the adrenalin of their rage, helping them learn self-restraint and self-control?
Again, bear in mind… and here I think is the point that meets most of your (quite correct) critiques…
“Authority” has meaning ONLY within a context of “difference of will”. When there is harmony of will, or communion, union of will, it’s not that “authority” may not be “present”… but that it is simply not “relevant”.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Let me sum up my four points as one-liners, and see if this clarifies at all… It all comes down to the motivations by which we yield to authority (of God, or anyone else, for that matter).
Motivation One: “If I don’t yield, something bad is likely to happen to/for me.”
Motivation Two: “If I do yield, something good is likely to happen to/for me.”
Motivation Three: “If I mistake the will of my beloved other, I will displease him/her.”
Motivation Four: “I constantly seek ways to be pleasing to my beloved other.”
And, has been noted in comments and further posts, we shift from time to time among these motivations.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
As to your question… 🙂 “How do we know we are acting lovingly and in harmony with God?”
Well, the “Rules of Discernment of Spirit” or “Testing the Spirits” applies here, perhaps.
As we consider an action, consider the following questions…
(1) Does the act glorify God, or the self?
(2) Does the act reflect the words, actions, or heart of Jesus as revealed in the Gospels? (To put this more concretely, are these words we can see Him saying, or an action we can see Him taking, in the Gospels? Is it consistent with woman at the well, or woman caught in adultery, or His healings, His teachings. Lots of stuff I see “Christians” doing frequently, are utterly contrary to His walk.)
(3) Does the act reflect the consistent revelation of God’s love, care, and commitment to His children, that we see throughout the Bible as a whole? Or is it just “proof texted”, as an act appropriate to one context… say a war… that we choose to apply to the workplace or community?
(4) Is there indifference of personal passion, and peace of spirit regarding the act? Does the spirit bear witness to the love of this act, or is it just ego fulfilling for the self, and we can “justify” it with a verse or two. (I find that even very young children have vibrant sensitivity to the Spirit’s illumination that something they ponder doing is “right” or “wrong”. That it feels like something good/right, or something bad/wrong.)
(5) If one has trusted “accountability others”, then does humble submission of the possibility of the act being considered, rouse their spirits in either affirmation or lack of it? This is not a matter of relieving oneself or accountability, responsibility, or authority… but it is an act humbly acknowledging that in my own mind, subject to mixed agenda, personal concerns, anxieties or adrenalin… I may not be “hearing” clearly… and there can be wisdom found in godly counsel.
The single most valuable means I know for knowing when one is loving another in harmony with God is the overwhelming sense of the “sacredness” of that other. Were Jesus Himself standing here in our shoes in relation to that person… what is He feeling, doing, saying? (Because, *cough*… He IS. He stands here, in the middle of our hearts as His Own Spirit… and prompts our “right responses” to one another.)
I too, enjoy your “favorite verse”, but bear in mind… in its fullness, that verse expresses a “minimum requirement”. Don’t forget the beginning of the sentence. 🙂
My own favorite verses… “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”… or “I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”… or “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I wish I had a “simpler answer” to your questions. I FEEL it, as simple, but words get complicated.
Bottom Line: I guess it keys on the “Presence of Christ”. Focus on Jesus as right here, right now, just as we are… and THEN consider an act or words. If doing this, saying this, fills the heart with a sense of disquiet in His presence, then refrain. If you can see and hear these words or this act as an act of His, right here right now, carry on.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Most of the stuff you discuss in your Unitive Stage paragraph… well, all of it, really… has nothing to do with what I discussed as “Union”. Union is to be utterly focused on pleasing the other, such that “authority” has no more meaning at all… for there is no more conflict of will.
“Sometimes it worries me when people say they are in true harmony with God’s will. How do you know? There is no-one more self righteous than the religious person who says they are doing something because it is God’s will. God told them to do it and they are criticising you in a loving way.
This has been done to me on more than one occasion and it was more about them than about God.”
This is nothing more nor less than “Judeizing”. This is the Romans 14 problem. God tells people how to run THEIR OWN lives… not others’. “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.Each man will stand or fall ”
It is very attractive and ego-fulfilling to take one’s own vibrant prayer life, the rebukes, convictions, guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit in nurturing and raising the child of God that is the SELF… and mistake that with some missionary or evangelical zeal the for whatever reason, everyone ELSE’s Life is to conform to this same set of requirements. Simply not so.
God is very sensitive to privacy. I don’t know your life, your needs, your leanings or where and what type of guidance and support is the most edifying for you. God respects your privacy, and that is just simply not my business. Now, should we join together in some mutual covenant of teaching and learning, coaching, whatever… then God rearranges things accordingly.
But to use Jesus’ analogy in a new way… it is astonishing to me how often an excellent “hand of the body” will go to a “foot” or “liver”… and try to impose upon him or her all the terrific instructions he/she’s gotten about “being a good hand”. Interesting perhaps. If it were shared as simple praise of how good God is in “teaching me to be a good hand”, that would be great. But for me to take that, watch you being a foot, a heart, an ear, or a liver… and say “you’re doing it all wrong… first, you have to grow this opposable thumb thing, and then grasp.. like this”… At best you’ll fail, at worst you’d injure yourself. Ridiculous!
Yet lovely churchy folk do it all the time!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Anyway, thank you again for the terrific comment. If we disagree, that’s fine… but I don’t think we really do, at least not substantially. And I’m sure this discussion provides blessing for all who read it.
Feel free to carry on dialogue, as you feel led!
Blessings and grace to thee, Julia…
The Little Monk
June 14, 2015 at 4:52 PM
Hi Little Monk
Thanks for your full reply. Initially I only want to talk about one aspect. “Fear” of punishment in the childhood stage. It is important to me that you understand my position and not just defend your own.
When I was under 7 and my will clashed with my parents, it was trust not fear that taught me. A three year old toddler can be distracted and coaxed from doing something naughty because often they do not realise they are being naughty, they are just curious. I became frightened of my father because he was impatient and bad tempered. It did not help my relationship. In my early years my Mum brought me up and it was she I trusted and related to. I do not think God uses fear in His relationship with us. In adulthood I forgave my father. I knew he loved me and I loved him. He was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder by a psychiatrist. Some of my family do not accept this diagnosis. It makes sense to me.
Even though I feared my father even as a teenager, I respected his advice and found it invaluable. However because I was timid of him, I did not ask him directly. It was my Mum who told me what he had said and related it back to me. Perhaps I am being contradictory. I think God’s love in each of us saved our relationship. I think it was the Devil’s work that tried to destroy it through fear. Please understand what I am saying. It is important to me. Julia
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June 14, 2015 at 5:06 PM
Gosh! I sound harsh in my reply above. I don’t want to sound harsh. I hope you understand better than I understand myself. I think it was because it was a parent’s bad use of authority that caused me to be frightened of punishment. I need you to understand where I am coming from.
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June 16, 2015 at 10:07 AM
Julia, I have read, paused and re-read your comments and this conversation. And then hesitated about joining in. There are two things that prompt to override that hesitancy: “Please understand …” and “I need you to understand …”. With a longstanding respect and affection for your living and loving – my fingertips tingle to connect with those pleas.
I have had a couple of conversations over this word “authority” – my own “relationship with that word” veers towards the law enforcement definition. That “rules and the breaking and the consequences”.
As both father and a granddad I have seen toddlers – encouraged every step (and trip) of the way as they grow from “gurgling bundle” to “small bundle” – expecting their every whim will be satisfied.
Is that “self-centred” or “not yet reasoning” or any other description? My reality was – and is – that it is simply a transition between total support and encouragement of “the one”, and a growing context and awareness of “others”. At no time have I seen a natural instinct for “one” to embrace “others” all the time. What I have seen is a reluctance “to allow”.
Distraction and teaching and encouragement and support all seem to eventually end in a dead-end called “NO!” – after the umpteenth time. And “No” requires a consequence. And can result in tears and tantrums. What I have never seen is the devil. What I do see is a natural progression of “one” to “others” – and like all a child growth – also tripping over and getting up (as we do when learning to walk).
Enter the dynamics of parent, child, family, siblings, family lifestyle and a zillion other factors. None of which are constant, and most of which are sourced from necessity – unlike God. And I was never that! 🙂
Is that period of living “Fear” – with a universal definition we all agree – the same combination of dynamics and factors?
I do not think so. I was a dad, soft and firm. Mum was soft and softer. Dad saw three other children, mum saw one child mostly. Dad saw things as dad, mum saw things as mum – and each of our children saw life as only they could and do. As a dad I messed up over and again. Mum thinks she got it right much more often. Maybe she did and maybe she didn’t. 🙂
Was there “fear”?
I can say I was scared at times. Scared of getting this “love stuff” – this “parent stuff” – wrong. I guess our children sensed that from time to time. I guess our children “feared” a grumpy, tired, multi-tasking, what about me dad (as I was from time to time). But … even on the best days – when there was a divergence of wills … if that divergence was of love there was a lot of freedom, and where that divergence was of “one” rather than love, where “other” was being squashed – where “one” was at the expense of “other”, then “no” (with a sanction if necessary) was necessary.
Our small children learned to “read us” with great skill. They learned when “no meant no” and they learned when “no meant not yet”. And they learned that “other” mattered” – some more enthusiastically than others – and some more lovingly than others. Some embraced “other” as fun. And some the reverse!
I think this is where my understanding (as a dad) of sacred was really birthed. Each creation as precious as each. “Other” not a natural element of a growing “one” creation. Where is fear in that? For each of us in a different way, to a different degree, and to a different scale.
+ — + — + —
You have allowed me to explore what I had simply read and accepted as “made sense”. The words above are the result of many factors. Yet the essence is “love” – a love of sacred. And a sense that “authority” is another relationship with words.
(and if this muddies the waters of your conversation – please pass by with a hug of affection from me)
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June 17, 2015 at 1:44 PM
Just in case you haven’t spotted it, I have put a reply below for you and Little Monk.
May I ask you a question? Were you a lover of our Three-in-One God when you were a child? As you put it, did you love GSHJ?
There is something that bothers me when Little Monk says “Fear of punishment” is a childhood stage. I think fear of punishment happened to me later.
I loved God as a child. I followed Jesus. I had a strong faith. My faith was full of trust, and excitement. mystery, awe, hope and expectancy. I remember it. And I remember it was then because my maternal grandmother died when I was seven. And I remember seeing her in the Chapel of Rest and being sure that she was at peace and in Heaven. Maybe my faith wasn’t fully reasoned. Much I didn’t understand. Yet what I did understand I loved. I loved the stories of Jesus; the mystery of his birth; his healing stories; some of his parables and the Lord’s prayer. I even remember making an Easter garden with the empty tomb with little stones and flowers and being happy with the mystery of that.
I cannot reduce my Love of God and His use of Authority with me as “fear of punishment” to explain me and Him at that time. Our relationship was so much richer than that.
i am on holiday on Friday so may not have much time to write more. However I hope we can continue the discussion when I come back. I am not unhappy, merely perplexed and trying to figure it out.
June 17, 2015 at 3:36 PM
“There is something that bothers me …” I always say thank you whenever I remember (and often don’t). I love being bothered. When it comes to God stuff – to perfect Love stuff – I love being bothered.
As a child? No. It was “a go to school” mentality. It was what I did because it was what mum and dad did, and told us all to do. And because they were mum and dad, because they did it, because we all did it – I did it as well. Is that relationship, love, faith, trust? There was no GSHJ – there was just “it” – “God” – “Jesus” – “The Holy Spirit” – prayers – bible reading – church – lots of praying and lots of bible reading. Not much love really. And no GSHJ.
Your questions “bother me” and I love it!! Like discovering new muscles I never knew were there!
“I am not unhappy, merely perplexed and trying to figure it out.” Amen and amen again!!
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June 16, 2015 at 8:35 AM
Reblogged this on Ai Kant Spal Kwit and commented:
June 16, 2015 at 3:18 PM
Dear Little Monk, Dear Paulfg,
I read something this morning that cheered me up and made me think perhaps we might be all correct in what we are saying. if you don’t mind, I would like you to read it too and then perhaps we could return to this discussion, perhaps on another post.
I used google as my encyclopaedia (as you do) and typed in: “What does fear of the Lord mean?”
The article I read was: Fear of the Lord: Further thoughts on Parashot Eikev by John J Parsons at http://www.hebrew4christians.com
You are right and yet I am not completely wrong. I have other thoughts to add to this discussion.
Much love, Julia
June 17, 2015 at 3:22 PM
Hiya Julia, read and pondered. Left with one thought: “What do you want the answer to be?” And then God makes every answer the right answer. All we have to do is allow. Allow each to be right. Allow God to be God.
One word: fear. Take that away from me, rip it from my very being. Place it in an essay. Someone else’s essay. See that word – see me and my relationship with that word – clothed differently. Clothes that do not fit. That look odd. That require me to be different when I take back that part of me, that word. When I nest it back inside who I am. Am I changed, do I want to be changed?
And here are God and I. One word: fear. We caress that word. Nurture it. Grow it and morph it into who we are – He and I. Change is “sanctioned” – is agreed – is welcomed.
When we share an essay we share “God and I”. And then God makes every answer the right answer. I may squirm. Or I may applaud. Or I may do both.
And then we come to “authority”. In this “essay” – the “authority of God” – the dynamic of “spiritual warfare” – the reality of “dark forces” – the interactions – the violence – the love – the “real”.
Where “God and I” meet not an essay of another “God and I” – but a real dark force. A dark force also with a “God and I” dynamic. A dark force diametrically opposed to my “God and I” dynamic. A deadly dark force we may inadvertently (or consciously) invite and allow.
What I know thus far is fear invites inadvertently. What I know is that word changes. That change is of me. That change inadvertently invites darkness. That inadvertent invitation of fear invites darkness.
So I wish less to understand fear. I wish more to understand authority with “God and I”. For within my “God and I” I wish to know darkness when it knocks, threatens, cajoles, insinuates. I wish to know “authority” when I meet darkness.
(And I feel like this conversation is a lot of “God and I”s all swinging on different ropes – all coming close and then veering away.. Yet in the swinging I feel my “God and I” growing. I hope yours is too)
June 18, 2015 at 4:31 PM
Perhaps instead of the word “fear” we might insert “awe”; instead of the word “fear” we might insert “admiration; Instead of the word “fear” we might insert “tingling excitement”. Fear might not always mean “to be frightened’, especially when used about God. It might mean proper respect for a God who is not in our pocket, for a God who is wild and free and, dare I say it, for a God who is dangerous! Just a thought!
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