The Blessings of a Long Battle, Part 3

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From Jonathan Coe’s website at http://www.openheavensblog.com/. Thank you gracious brother! (I’m so glad you are my friend.)

As I look over the last two posts on the blessings of a long battle, I’m reminded of what the Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians about the importance of not being ignorant concerning the schemes of Satan (II Corinthians 2:11). After reading those posts, I realized a word of balance was needed in discussing the relationship of formulaic Christianity to spiritual practices lest the devil distort the truth to his advantage.

Both posts encouraged the believer to move beyond canned formulas to a restful trust in and radical dependence on Christ. A common formula for someone who finds themselves in a protracted struggle with sin, weakness, or some thorn in the flesh is “Read the Bible, pray, and attend church and that will solve your problem.”

These are wonderful spiritual practices but the problem is that people begin to trust in the formula more than the Person who can heal their inner leper. The formula can become a religious idol.

The biblical view of spiritual practices (prayer, Scripture study, church attendance, fellowship, fasting, meditation, and the sacraments) is that they are both avenues of renewal and bridges to intimacy with the Living God. They are sacramental; they are a means of grace.

Christ is the Vine; we are the branches. One of the primary ways that the branches stay connected to the Vine is through spiritual practices. That is how we abide in him and apart from abiding in him, we can do nothing.

This next part is crucial, and, if you only get one thing out of this post, this is it: when the believer gets frustrated enough to forsake impotent formulas, the devil’s primary agenda then is to get that person to forsake authentic, life–giving spiritual practices too.

That’s why the Christian should ask for wisdom every day so that he or she can tell the difference between the two. Satan is more than happy to allow us to forsake the false as long as we don’t replace it with the real.

It’s part of the human condition that, in our anger and frustration, we often throw out the wheat with the chaff. And a person who is involved in a long, difficult battle is going to need all the grace–filled spiritual practices they have time for!

I’m convinced that when the devil sees a believer, who is involved in a long battle, leave anemic formulas and begin to become engaged in regular, soul–nourishing spiritual practices, it fills him with uncontrollable rage. He will come to that Christian with many false voices in an effort to separate the branch from the Vine. Here’s a small sampling:

  • “ You tried this religious stuff before and you still have the same addiction/weakness/problem. What makes you think it’s going to work this time?”
  • “If you have your quiet time with God in the morning when you don’t feel like it, you’re being a phony. You should only do it when you feel like it.”
  • “If your quiet time with God becomes a regular thing, it will become a dead religious ritual. You don’t want to become legalistic. Keep things spontaneous. Just do it when your heart moves you to do it.”
  • “Regular spiritual practices aren’t the real you. You can find God in every day life without them in a way that fits your personality.”
  • “You’re a person of action not of contemplation. You get things done without all this navel–gazing and spiritual stuff.”

These are just a few plays out of the devil’s playbook. May God give us the discernment to recognize his voice and the wisdom to reject his counsel.

Reposted from http://www.openheavensblog.com/. Thank you Jonathan for your great teaching.

Healing the Wound of Rejection — by Jonathan Coe

 

When a child is born into the world, often the first face they see is a doctor or nurse followed by their mother and father. Then in their early years and all the years before they leave home, they will see their parents’ faces probably more than anyone else. Single–parent homes will add a different dynamic to this experience.

Over the years their parents’ faces will communicate different emotions to them. In an emotionally healthy family, lots of love, acceptance, sense of belonging, respect, and appreciation will be communicated. In an unhealthy family, just the opposite, or a confusing mixture of false and true messages, will be communicated and will leave the child with the wound of rejection.

The wound of rejection has to be one of the most difficult wounds to heal. It occurs not only in parent–child relationships, but also in husband–wife, sibling, peer, employer–employee, and  priest/pastor–flock relationships. It cuts deep because it communicates to the person not that they are doing something wrong, but that there is something wrong with them.

The face they see in their mind’s eye tells them that they are defective, second-rate, not good enough, and unlovable. For many this face, and its false messages will plague them the rest of their lives.

It would be foolish for me to try to pretend to solve a complex problem like this in one blog post. However, it is not foolish for someone like me, who has also felt the sting of rejection, to try to provide a helpful beginning.

For starters, one thing that helped me was to realize that the person(s) who rejected me didn’t reject me because I was inherently unlovable; they rejected me because they didn’t have the wherewithal, inner resources, or ability to love me like I needed to be loved. It wasn’t about me; it was about them. Embracing this truth, for many people, can be the beginning of healing.

Another thing that helped me was contemplative prayer. Now when many people hear the words “contemplative prayer,” they feel intimidated and think that such a thing must be reserved only for mystics, monks, and very holy people. That’s not true. Contemplative prayer is for everybody.

When St. John Vianney entered his church and found an old farmer praying, he asked him what he was doing and the peasant told him, “I look at him and he looks at me.” That’s contemplative prayer. St. Teresa of Avila said that “Contemplative prayer, in my opinion, is nothing else than a close sharing between friends.”

We see the face of Jesus and he sees us and there is an intimate exchange. Contemplative prayer is helpful for the person who is wounded by rejection because they replace the face of the person(s) who has/have wounded them and  their false messages with the face of Christ and his true messages about you. So the main question for us as we read this is “Whose face are we looking at?” 

I hope that it’s the face that I see in Zephaniah 3:16 and 17. Please remember that what is said in this passage to Israel under the old covenant is even more true to us today under a better covenant and one greater than Moses (Jesus):

“On that day they will say to Jerusalem, ‘Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.'”

God is singing. Why? Because he is rejoicing and delighting over us with an overflowing, super–abundant love. This is the face of Christ that should replace the other faces that we constantly see that have given us the wound of rejection.

Additional to this, it’s also important to have friends and family that become the face of Christ to us or what a psychologist friend of mine called “Jesus with skin on.” With all these things in place we can truly shout from the rooftops, “Let the healing begin!”

ybic, Jonathan

 

If you like this post from Jonathan Coe, you may also like his new book, Letters from Fawn Creek, that now can be purchased at this link:

https://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=9781628542035

Letters from Fawn Creek

cover art/photo: http://www.adventistonline.com

Being Still in a Restless Age–by Jonathan Coe

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

1 John 4:18

As I write this my heart goes out to everyone who is struggling to find serenity in an age filled with restlessness. Been there done that. You feel the pressure on all sides. There’s too much month and not enough money. Your marriage is showing signs of fraying around the edges. You have a sullen teenager who doesn’t relate to the biblical Christianity that you have embraced. You have plenty to do but not enough time to do it. Debt seems to be piling up and the house may soon be underwater. Your job feels unsatisfying and your boss plays a big role in that. New health problems have emerged that you didn’t have in the days of your youth. In short, life hasn’t turned out like you thought it would and inner stillness and peace seem elusive.

In speaking from my heart, I just want to begin by saying that God loves you much, much more than you know. You may want inner stillness but he wants to give you that peace infinitely more than you want it.

Imagine yourself as his anxious child. He will not forbid the children to come to him. You can crawl up onto his lap and tell him all your problems. Do you see his loving eyes as you’re talking to him? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you Christ’s loving eyes, because if you can see those eyes, it will help you with fear and anxiety, because perfect love casts out all fear according to John the apostle (I John 4:18).

If you can’t do this, then think about someone you know who really loves you without any strings attached. Doesn’t God love you at least twice as much as this person? Of course he does and infinitely beyond that. This is the God whose lap you’re sitting on.

Please know that in all your prayers, there’s no guarantee that God will change your circumstances. The struggling business you run may not survive. The unhealthy marriage may not get better and the child with leukemia may not get healed despite your prayers and fasting. God may not change your circumstances, but he will give you the grace to triumph during your time of affliction. He will you give you a supernatural peace that transcends understanding. You will know it didn’t come from you, but, instead, its origin is divine. Guard your heart against offense because many Christians become offended at God when he doesn’t change their circumstances.

If your prayer life is almost non–existent, I don’t write this to condemn you. However, if you want inner stillness and serenity, some kind of quiet time with God is a must. Prayer is the context by which we give God our anxiety and he gives us his peace.

This is where we cast all our cares on him because he cares for us. It’s a salutary exchange that we can’t live without. The Holy Spirit is a gentle teacher and will lead you into a robust prayer life. Start small and don’t despise small beginnings. 5–10 minutes is okay to begin with for awhile and then add to it as God’s grace increases in your life. If you try to pray for an hour right off the bat, you’re liable to burn out. God is patient with you so be patient with yourself.

ybic,

Jonathan

Letters from Fawn CreekIf you liked this post by Jonathan, you may also like his book, Letters from Fawn Creek, that is now out on Amazon and also can be purchased at this link:

https://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=9781628542035

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