2 Feb 2003

Poltergeist of the World

Submitted by theshovel
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This week’s Shoveletter is a response to the questions below:

hey Jim, why work, enter relationships, invest money, buy things, eat or do anything God wants to make fall apart so you wont rely on those things for life? I heard again that God is gonna try to keep things crumbling in your life so you wont ever be enamored with them…is this the truth? What do you think? Are we then supposed to only think about heaven all day long so that we never rely on anything? Is the only way we grow through constant trial? Should we turn into a scared wreck if you think God will take your job from you? Do you ever worry over these things? Taking your family away or some weird thing? Adam

Hello Adam!

I remember quite a few sermons and messages playing off the above-mentioned fears. It was all demanded as part of the motivation to serve the Lord. Hey, I remember using some of these same things to motivate the youth in my own group. It makes perfect sense, though, because the only true Christian motivation has been forsaken, which is the reality of Christ as the life within us. In its place we have crafted a belief structure that takes all applicable Biblical motivations into account, both external and internal, so that we may draw upon the ones we suspect will best produce the desired results. Depending on the current philosophy of the pastor, the organization or splinter-group the preferred motivation may range from guilt and fear … to even love. But separated from the miraculous reality of Christ’s life in us even the best motivations turn sour.

Anyhow, regarding things falling apart and crumbling we have fallen into the same self-centered perspectives that have ailed humanity from the beginning. Now, I have no doubts about God’s control over the smallest matters of life, but I reject that ages-old religious mindset of man that consistently manages to superimpose its own confused network of explanations upon what it thinks it sees. Our Christianized version of that mindset uses the Bible as a handbook of legal precedents reinforcing man’s long-standing fear and uncertainty of God’s whim and/or perverse pleasure in inflicting troubles upon us in this world.

The truth is that things fall apart and crumble on a daily basis all around the world, even among those who seem to have it altogether. Why do we think God has to make our little worlds fall apart when they do so all by themselves? Some things may hold together longer than others, or maybe they just APPEAR so, but the world is falling apart simply because it is in a state of constant flux - there is no permanent substance to it. There is no doubt that many of us have been shaken out of our ill-placed reliance upon temporary things when those things crumbled before our eyes, but they have been crumbling long before we were even born and will continue to do so till the world finally collapses.

We have received permanence in Christ, but because we have been left in this world as aliens we merely bang our heads against the wall when try to make ourselves believe we can establish permanence in something we instinctively KNOW is passing away. We have ALREADY received the witness within ourselves that teaches us there is nothing to rely on in this world. But because we have been listening to a law-based Christianity built upon the principles of this world we buy into the lie that suggests God makes the temporary into something permanent … except when He wants to teach us a lesson. We are taught in Christ that nothing in the world is dependable, and in this sense the whole world is a continual lesson to us as its glory keeps being revealed to us as a vapor.

We have not been left in ignorance for Christ has become our wisdom! The world struggles and gropes in search of some permanence in this world, but we know there is none to be had. Why appeal to the world’s wisdom by making God out to be the poltergeist of the universe? Ignorance - not Christ - taught us to think like this. If we are being fooled by the unfolding of circumstances it is only because we have been listening to the preaching of ignorance.

When troubles come upon us we don’t have to try to make up reasons to justify why. Actually, the religious habit of doing so only establishes a superstitious perspective of trying to figure out why GOD is doing this (or allowing it to happen). As long as the superstition of religion determines our outlook we will use everything, including the Bible, to support this insanity of blindness. I mean, in this mindset, we can’t even recognize our own self-defeating habits without turning it into a guilt-trip of Old Testament proportion, complete with support groups, formulas, rituals and/or principles. No wonder we’re confused, we’ve been given wisdom in Christ and yet we keep looking to the wisdom of this world to help us figure it out.

In his letter, James dealt with this same insanity of religious perception regarding permanence in the temporal world. He’s mostly misread because his words have been forced into a how-to set of formulas and principles instead of being seen as written from the perspective of one who shakes his head in unbelief over the acceptance of self-righteous religious hypocrisy among the ranks of those who are despised by the arrogance of those who claim to be spiritually superior. Consider the passage below:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:13-17

Who ARE those who make such arrogant boasts except those who believe they can find certainty and security in this world. James’ comments were not meant as a deterrent to making plans, nor were they meant to provide the proper Biblical way to say it, they were written to reveal the difference between religion and life. The phrase, “Instead, you ought to say” is rhetorical, meaning that James was rebuking the arrogance of the religious impostors who had placed themselves among the believers as superiors who despised those of lesser importance in the world.

In the wisdom God has given, our plans are not secured but are simply pursued knowing that they may happen or they may not. It is only the ignorance of the world that gives the illusion that our plans are guaranteed. We can ignore the religious demands upon both our successes and our failures. A success in this world does not mean success with God, so that if we fail it does not mean that God was against us, nor does a success mean that God was for us. A failure doesn’t imply that God was teaching us a lesson, it just means that it didn’t work out. If our office had been located in the World Trade Center we would have lost everything along with everyone else there, but to suggest that God was trying to teach us a lesson reeks of the same superstition that keeps fortune tellers in business. Maybe we will discover that we have good business sense and maybe we will find we trip ourselves up, and maybe we will learn from our own mistakes or by following some good business practices, but God is FOR us one way or the other.

But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:16-17

It has been commonly suggested that James promotes the legalistic doing-the-right-thing principle, but I think we need to take another look at that preposterous claim because with these words, James has blown the cover off hypocrisy! Ask yourself, what is the right thing in the context of this whole passage to which James says, “Therefore…”? It is something KNOWN, but NOT DONE that creates an arrogance by which ones boasts anyway. Need a better hint? How about three letters: L-A-W. Those who “know the right thing to do and does not do it” are those who live by the law, for with all their knowledge they are only shown to be sinners by the very thing they use to point the fingers at everyone else. This is exactly what James heard his half-brother, Jesus, demand of the self-righteous religious hypocrites years before.

The message James presented to the believers in making these statements was a blunt assessment of the failure of living by the law. Don’t forget that this is the guy who earlier in the same letter demanded the futility in following the law when breaking one command made you a violator of the whole thing:

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. James 2:10

No, James was saying the same as Paul when he reminded the Galatian believers of the facade of being justified by the law, for those who claimed faith through law only revealed their ignorance of the condemnation of living by it.

However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, ‘HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.’ Galatians 3:12

Now, I may have gone down a rabbit trail in following the James’ passage, but I know you would have written and asked me about it. haha! :) It still ties together, though, because the perspective that promotes the kind of fear you’ve described (which I also was groomed in) is based upon a God who can be formulated and a life that can be explained according to knowledge. You see, the same mindset that arrogantly boasts of things it can’t know about also knows how to adjust its terminology to include the proper Biblical phrases such as, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But instead of being a living expression of those who know in their very hearts that there is no certainty in anything but God it has been turned into a harbinger of doom and disaster making us afraid to live as those freed by Christ!

Paul described the new creation as that which has no confidence in the flesh.

…for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, Philippians 3:3

This is our heritage in Christ, and yet those who fear this confidence will not be happy unless they pull us into the same frame of mind.

What we receive from God on an ongoing basis is a WITNESS to this confidence of the true circumcision that we are in Christ. We do grow in this confidence, but not in the sense we’ve been taught by the religious mind. For though our confidence may appear to vanish from time to time it is merely being misjudged so. In the same vein, we easily confuse a confident feeling for the true confidence that is intricately connected to the new creation that we are. I don’t say this to disregard all sensations of confidence, but what makes us assume that the feelings we describe as a LACK of confidence may not merely be the resultant feelings of the inward rejection of old fleshly confidences? The wisdom of this world is a lousy judge of reality because its determinations are bound to its own temporary substance. Why do we think it can define who we are?

My response to these questions continues with some of the thoughts Peter described about the trials that test our faith, but this is enough for now.

New Testament: 

Comments

Wow it has been more than 7 years since this time. Thank you for this wonderful encouragement for I did not see it through the pain and confusion at the time. It and many other things have become very useful to me today in this time of life!

"When troubles come upon us we don't have to try to make up reasons to justify why. Actually, the religious habit of doing so only establishes a superstitious perspective of trying to figure out why GOD is doing this (or allowing it to happen). As long as the superstition of religion determines our outlook we will use everything, including the Bible, to support this insanity of blindness. I mean, in this mindset, we can't even recognize our own self-defeating habits without turning it into a guilt-trip of Old Testament proportion, complete with support groups, formulas, rituals and/or principles. "

I think any left over confusion I may have opposing this would be the activities of God as they are described like in Romans. He speaks of Pharoahs heart actually being hardened by God. Now I realize the context is different there than here but, it brings up a logical "twist". God is declared to be in control and able to intervene. Yet we in Christ want to live out our lives in the awareness of our freedom. The battle of the seeming CONTROL of God over and in people[to persuade, to change, to internally work out] seems as though it is something connected to the elemental when teased out according to Biblical quotes. If I were to view hard things as just that, hard things, then I might not be able to say "God did it" or didn't do "it". However if I am reading scriptures that say He actually does provide, intervene, change hearts and what have you, then I am obligated to start thinking the opposite of sanity. Unless of course both are true.Hmmm...I will be asking God to show me. In the mean time is it possible that you are saying that the providence of God is always with us, even in the midst of this decaying world full of evil intentions, thoughts, and unfortunate corresponding predicaments dependant of the failures of mankind and his world? You do speak of a reality that is ours in God that seems to reflect a control from Him who is able.

On another note I have been seeing much earthly provision I never noticed before in the NEW Testament oddly enough. From the providing fo the donkey for Christ to ride in on to the kind gestures of the natives to Paul when shipwrecked, I have noticed a "providence" for all of there needs. How about ours? Is this need met because of haphazard comings and goings of a fallen world? Or is it Christ doing this supplying and interveneing? Obvioulsy only He gets to descide. But even that itself can be drawn out elementally. For who is deserving of the needs getting met? Is only certain people worthy of getting there needs met? Only those in "ministry" like Paul?[Jesus] What about us "nothings"? dont we get any bread? lol What about "my God shall supply ALL your needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus".

theshovel's picture

Hello Adam! :)

Confusion is always stirred up by the mental game of trying to determine how freedom could exist in the face of control. It's a an argument of intellectual-based logic, which makes it a dead end. The fact is that our logical concepts of freedom are just as flawed as our logical concepts of control. We can do little more than bang our heads against the wall in the attempt to finally get it understood.

Keep in mind that the one who said, "my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus" is the same one who often went hungry, poorly clothed, and without shelter. If anything, those who did not go out on "ministry" as Paul did were often better off than he was. :) There is something so magnificent about God's riches that gets easily overlooked when wondering when it might come. :)

Jim

Ah..so the "riches"..hmmm..maybe then these riches are something of the love of Christ that compelled him/them? Once again this contentment in view of being in Christ comes to mind. This "I have learned the secret of being content"..coming from Paul. Oddly enough though, despite the trials and sufferings, ship wrecks and beatings..somehow there was always something in front of him to help anyway. Yet I sense that this was NOT his motivation but rather another "compelling"[or motive] altogether...

A

2 Tim 4:18
The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever.-hmmm formerly I might had thought that Paul was saying he would be rescued in the flesh everytime he was put into a pickle for insisting on preaching the gospel to those that would kill him for it. Is this "rescuing" something different Jim?

1Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bare, but when you are tempted He also will provide a way out so you can stand up under it.----hmmm...viewing this formerly I might have thought God wanted to deliver me from bad stuff using fleshly relief? Also I used to see this as God SENDING the trial and then RESCUING me from it? I don't see Him sending anything here other than a way to stand up under it.

2Peter 2:9
Then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temoptation, and to keep the unriteous under punishment for the Day of judgement.-hmmm again..Peter refers to this resue as well...again is this fleshly resue? Or something else? Some other LASTING provision?? Some other supply of NEEDS? Yet God is sovrein.

theshovel's picture

<< Is this "rescuing" something different Jim? >>

Considering that Paul was eventually beheaded, which would have come as no surprise to him, I would think his understanding of being rescued described something beyond the usual physical meanings. It doesn't mean that on some occasions Paul's rescue may have included an outwardly recognized rescue, for God had places to send him before he was done. I believe Paul's rescue went deep down to the reality of his freedom, by which he came to experience in a wide variety of ways.

<< Peter refers to this rescue as well...again is this fleshly rescue? Or something else? Some other LASTING provision?? Some other supply of NEEDS? >>

Consider how Peter had used the situation in Sodom with Abraham's nephew, Lot, to describe the rescue he indicated. Lot was rescued out of the city before it was destroyed. However, we might easily question why he wasn't rescued from what followed. The judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah was upon the unrighteous, and God delivered him from that judgment. Peter used Lot because he made for a good representation of a man who might be easily considered unrighteous. It makes no difference how we are judged according to the world, God knows who belongs to him and he knows how to rescue them out of the world and into his own care - however, that might pan out.

Jim

You know as I think about it, this "rescuing" is actually seemingly a big deal to the House of Israel at that time. For those who were rescued as it were, were looked upon as David was in his sufferings. The riteous were considered to be the ones God "stuck up" for and protected and rescued.[from the hands of the "unriteous" of course]

All that aside do you think then that Paul was most likely looking to the deliverance of the Spirit rather than one of outword rescues from evil men? For at face value that is what it seems to say in the Bible. The reason I am RE asking/addressing that is because of the fact that it seems odd that while Paul shared the revelation of God as did many others including the disciples that we too and many after them and before us are doing the same thing...so why would God NOT deliver us from small and large difficulty? For He is not partial is He? Even as I am saying this I can sense that my perspective is not taking everything into consideration. But hey that is why we get to encourage oneanother to consider these things.

A

theshovel's picture

While true deliverance effects many areas of our lives, at its core, it is a spiritual reality. :)

Jim

theshovel's picture

These comments were all transferred over from the original website


Posted: February 03, 2003 by Anonymous

Thank you for your recent "poltergeist" shoveletter. Out of all of them that I have read, this one meant more to me than any. It answered some questions, and brought me life. It is sometimes too easy to swing back and forth and to believe that bad things happen because I have been "bad". Not that they can't, but it's not from God. He doesn't have to do a thing, there can be consequences. When I get into the mindset that something happened in a cause and effect type situation at the hand of God, it makes my heart not want to have anything to do with him. BUT, when I think of it as a big crumbling mess anyway, I realize my only hope is in him anyway. Thanks for the wonderful insight!!!


Posted: February 03, 2003 by Natalie

« If our office had been located in the World Trade Center we would have lost everything along with everyone else there, but to suggest that God was trying to teach us a "lesson" reeks of the same superstition that keeps fortune tellers in business. Maybe we will discover that we have good business sense and maybe we will find we trip ourselves up, and maybe we will learn from our own mistakes or by following some good business practices, but God is FOR us one way or the other. »

I am like soooooooooooooooo glad you said that!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I agree one hundred percent and am sick of all the people talking about God teaching us a lesson through 9/11.


Posted: February 03, 2003 by Dave C

hey jim

the space shuttle disaster is an example of how things fall apart, with or without planning, huh. Eventually our bodies fall apart too, along with the world and the universe (i think!). At least we know our old brains eventually turn to mush.

What remains (after the trials) is His Life. Eternal Life. Abundant Life. Our confidence is in Him holding us together, like the only surviving building in a tornado. I appreciated your comments about how we might feel unsettled (lacking confidence), as we lose our confidence in the flesh. As we see the principles of the world for what they are: lies. When we come to understand that following the law is death. It's cool how He reminds us (over and over) that our confidence is real. That it is solid and true. That our confidence is in Him. That our confidence is Him!

love dave c.


Posted: February 03, 2003 by Bruce

« Shovelfuls of love to you all, »

Yes...
A wonderful WORD...and a MOST WONDERFUL ending...

LOVE TO YOU ALL!

WITH YOU ALWAYS!!!


Posted: February 03, 2003 by Neil

Jim,
Ah, yes. God the ogre, the One Who is looking for an opportunity to take from us all we have worked for. Some couldn't handle Him, that poltergeist, that wraith and turned Him into a Santa Claus who will give us anything we want, when we want it. In their typical and religious way they will haul out Mr. Paul and quote him, ala Philippians 4:13, "For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need." We are children of God, doncha know, and God don't have no po' chillern. If we would only realize what Paul already knew, that living in thankfulness is all and in all, for we have everything we need for life and godly living through Christ. How much better to live outside of one's self and in thankfulness to those who have been given to us by God as our brothers and sisters. Here is the entire paragraph Paul expressed in his closing thoughts in this letter to the saints at Philippi (v.v. 10-19):

"How grateful I am, and how I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but for a while you didn't have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing--or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need. But even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. I don't say this because I want a gift from you. What I want is for you to receive a well-earned reward because of your kindness. At the moment I have all I need--more than I need! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable to God and pleases Him. And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus."

We as modern American Christians like to read Hebrews 11 concerning the great faith of the Patriarchs and get the warm-fuzzies when we come to verse 32:

"Well, how much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. The became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death."

Many has been the church service I have been in where the reading stopped there and the place would burst out in shouts and praise to God. Seldom, if ever, did we hear the rest and even though most Christians are aware of the rest, they don't want to hear it. It doesn't jibe with their Santa Claus God. I have even heard it said that this second group didn't have to suffer the way they did but hadn't been taught that God is only good all the time.

Here it is: "But others trusted God and were tortured, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free. THEY PLACED THEIR HOPE IN THE RESURRECTION TO A BETTER LIFE [the coming of Christ]. Some were mocked, and their backs were laid open with whips. Others were chained in dungeons Some died by stoning, and some were sawed in half [Whew! This is getting rough.]; others were killed with the sword. Some went about in skins of sheep and goats, hungry and oppressed and mistreated."

What was wrong with these people? Was there a flaw in their faith? Oh, I see. The God who "justifies the wicked" can only punish the righteous, huh? Indeed, we needed to put that God to rest, did we not? Jolly Old Saint Nicholas to the rescue.

But what's this? It goes on to say: "They were TOO GOOD FOR THIS WORLD. They wandered over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All of these people we have mentioned RECEIVED GOD'S APPROVAL because of their faith,..." And so God rewarded them with lotsa neat stuff, nice cars and ritzy houses, right? Read on: "...yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had FAR BETTER THINGS in mind for US that would also benefit THEM, for they CAN'T RECEIVE THE PRIZE AT THE END OF THE RACE UNTIL WE FINISH THE RACE." This is amazing. They paved the way for us in this race but will not receive what they are due until we finish. How much greater than having a few plans go sour, how much more glorious than not getting our "fair share" in this puny little life here on this insignificant bit of turf. We are truly wanderers in a land that is not ours, heading for a great kingdom that already is. He, the God who created it all, will through Christ Jesus see us to it regardless of what happens along the way.


Posted: February 03, 2003 by Michael Daniel

Hey Jimbo,

How are ya my great friend and brother? It's your old pillaging partner in plunder (say the ten times real fast) Michael Daniel here.

Man this newest Shoveletter is terrifically tremendous of titanic proportions, but then all the stuff you write is. How can it not be? It's straight from Jesus Christ Himself.

It so amazes me how arrogant I used to be, and still am at times, when I believe the "Lie of the I".

Jesus Himself says; "I only do what I see the Father do. Apart from the Father I can do NOTHING!" What an incredible example Christ gives us here of denying the illusion of self and acknowleging that God IS "The All in all".

Then He says to each one of us; "And apart from Me YOU can do NOTHING!"

Did Jesus qualify that statement merely to the things of the Spirit? Absolutely not! He said; "NOTHING!" What better example of how He knew that His TRUE and ONLY Self is that of the Father.

"NOTHING!" That means we can't eat, sleep, walk, talk, breath, sneeze, spit...NOTHING! If God ain't doing it, it ain't being done. After all He started all this before the foundation of the world. If He has already purposed it, shall it not come to pass? Kinda blasts the hell out of any guilt trip anyone tries to lay on us huh?

That God Almighty does everything is the most comforting and assuring fact any of us can ever know. Sure makes it a lot easier to rest in Him. The Sovereignty of God assures us the peace that passes all understanding even in the most disasterous times of our lives.

"Apart from the Father I can do nothing. Apart from Me you can do nothing."

It's baffling to me that this simple truth is good enough for the Son of God but very, VERY seldom good enough for the rest of us.

Keep causing hate and discontent throughout the land bro. (har har) I love you!

Just Jesus,

Michael Daniel "The Aardvark Avenger"


Posted: February 03, 2003 by Adam

Hey jim,

Looks like some other hearts needed to know they were ok...i think we done good to talk a bit about this one... love you,


Posted: February 03, 2003 by Mike Nagle

"The wisdom of this world is a lousy judge of reality because its determinations are bound to its own temporary substance. Why do we think it can define who we are?"

Jimmy?.I love that!!!!!! Amen, amen and amen!! Good word brother!

We had a lovely time at Congress. Have a blessed week!

Love


Posted: February 03, 2003 by Phil Gates

Hi Jim

As I have said before-- This is what you do absolutley the best-- Great job!

Thanx

Phil Gates aka: Pinky!

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