Tuesday, August 19, 2008

He hasn't changed

There is a fun song that some of my friends and I used to sing to remind us of God's faithfulness and continuous presence in our lives. Sadly I really can't remember any of the verses, or even the tune, but the simple chorus remains with me, and it goes something like, "He's Still Here, He's Still Here..."

It reminds me of Psalm 46:1-7.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Of course, the advantage we have over the people who would speak or sing the words of that Psalm is that God actually indwells us! He is truly ever-present in a deeper and more meaningful way - in fact He has become our very LIFE and He has joined Himself together with us forever in our spirits.

In my life, I've been shaken at times because of various people, circumstances, problems, thoughts, doctrines, etc. I'm essentially talking not about a physical shaking, but a shaking of the heart and mind (which, of course, often manifests itself in the physical realm). Sometimes the "shaking" has turned out to be a good thing, and at other times not. (I know I've also been the source of the shaking of other people during my lifetime, again, sometimes for the good and sometimes not). But no matter what, there has always been one constant. God remains the same! He remains a refuge and strength, an ever-present help. He hasn't changed.

At the age of 23, several months after I had begun a deeper walk with the Lord in 1992, I got a knock at my door that some of you may be familiar with. A man in his 40's and a boy, perhaps 12 or 13, stood there and asked if I was interested in talking about God. I let these two Jehovah's Witnesses in and we had a chat that, well, shook me up a little - or a LOT! They (mostly just the man) shared some things with me, right out of the Bible, and the way it was spun was pretty darn convincing! Well, I shared a few things that I knew from the scriptures, and they responded to every single thing I said with their own 'version' of the truth, again pretty convincingly. All I know is, if this was a debate, I certainly hadn't "won."

Probably perceiving that some of what he was saying might have a chance of getting through to me, the man asked if I minded if they came back again the next week. At the time I thought to myself what a great opportunity it would be for me to look up some scriptures to counteract what they were saying. So I did my homework - I mean I really dug into the scriptures with my Strong's Concordance coming heavily into play - and I prayed a lot, and in the end I was satisfied that I was "prepared," although nervous, for the next visit.

This time around the twelve year old boy was absent, and in his place was another man. This man was actually someone I already knew. He had once been a member at my dad's church, but had converted to the Jehovah's Witness religion. Again we chatted about the scriptures, and I brought out all my "research," thinking I had all my bases covered. But again, everything I said was immediately counteracted with their well-prepared, time-tested false doctrines, and again as they left I was shaken, and not just a little scared as well.

But you see, here I am today, 16 years later, and as you can tell I'm not under the influence of any of that junk. During that time I prayed a lot! I searched the scriptures. I asked God for wisdom and truth, and for understanding. I did not get my answers right away, but over time I grew and I learned more and more of the truth. In fact, as I look back, I see how my understanding and perception of God and of who I am in Him has changed over the years. As I look back to just a year ago, or five years ago, or fifteen years ago, and even to 30+ years ago in my boyhood, I see how my understanding and perception has changed.

I'm saying all of this for a couple of reasons. First off, to point out how God is faithful and true, and will not leave us hanging but will lead and guide us, and teach us, even if we don't "get" it all. But secondly, and really what I was intending to lead up to here: Although my understanding and perceptions have changed, GOD hasn't changed. I've been through tugs-of-war in my heart and mind because of issues of doctrine, circumstances, problems, etc, but I can rest assured that in all of this God hasn't flinched, and His TRUTH hasn't changed a bit! People, including me, have all kinds of things to say about what is truth and what isn't truth, and I think it's true that He speaks His truth to us through each other, and it's natural for us to keep sharing the things we've learned with each other. I think it's also true that we can be totally wrong about things! But in the end, I know that HE knows the truth, because He IS the truth, and even when foreign doctrines come my way, or circumstances look way out of my control, or I'm uncertain about things, I can still rest in Him, and be at peace.

God is eternal, and a strong tower. We, in and of ourselves, are clay jars. My hope is not in being able to get everyone to accept my doctrines and my hope is not in dissuading others from believing falsehoods. Yes, I'll continue to share what I believe and I'll spend time trying to dissuade others from believing false doctrines! But my hope is the unchanging Christ in me, not the doctrines that I believe.

Heb 13:8-9
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace..."

Any thoughts?

16 comments:

  1. thanks for sharing this; very encouraging! I've been shaken a lot in things I've believed, too. Once when staying at a hotel (I was a new christian) i decided to pick up and start reading the readily available book of mormon.. I remember how easily convinced/confused I became (only for maybe an hour...:) Something in me made me put it down. That was only a very minor shake up of course. I've had BIG ones...
    I just think of how we can't outwit our enemy by any means. We don't need to, we have the sword of the Spirit...
    Love that psalm. It makes me think of another verse that says, when the foundations are shaken, what can the righteous, do?(from psalm 11) Matthew Perriman Jones has a song about that called Refuge. It's at my space http://www.myspace.com/mpjmusic
    it's called REFUGE. You might like him? ( not 80's though!)

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  2. Thanks for sharing your wonderful thoughts. May the Lord receive all the glory.

    Indeed, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-presentM help in trouble.

    Shalom,
    http://cyberanger.blogspot.com

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  3. Joel,

    The promise of the New Covenant is true, isn't it? He will CAUSE His children to walk in His ways.

    It's so easy to be swayed by "every wind of doctrine" sometimes, but it's amazing how He brings us back to the true truth about the true Christ and His true Gospel, if we are His.

    Thanks,
    Terry

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  4. "How high, how wide...is this Love that burns inside
    How long, how deep...is this Love that's holding me
    My soul is free-
    To know the One who gave Himself for me
    To give my heart to be a dwelling place for the King
    To deeply drink from the Well of Life and never thirst again
    To be perfectly loved, to abandon myself to Him..."~ Kelanie Gloeckler
    Thank God, Grace held me when I didn't even realize it and He still does.

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  5. Manuela,

    I also had an experience with a couple of young Mormon women shortly after my experience with the Jehovah's Witnesses. They had been visiting some friends of mine (a mother and her late teens daughter), and these friends asked me if I could help them out with some of the things that were being told to them. Again, it was an opportunity for me to get into the scriptures, and while I was confused for a short time, the experience really helped me in the long run. Indeed, as you say, we have the sword of the Spirit.

    I've never heard of Matthew Perriman Jones but I'll look him up via the myspace link you provided. Sounds like a great song!

    Cyberanger and Nancy,

    Thank you sooo much for your encouragement!

    Terry,

    Yes, that's one of the wonderful things about the New Covenant. Our trust is not in how well we're able to keep ourselves lined up, but rather the Spirit causing us to walk in His ways. What you're saying here really is one thing that has helped me to "rest" and to not be anxious about various things that come up in life.

    RJW,

    GREAT quote. Grace is grace is grace is grace even when we don't "get" it or realize how it's constantly working in us.

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  6. Joel....It's too bad you didn't go with your first inclination when you said that the JWs were convincing. They were telling you the truth. They do not spread false doctrines. The doctrines I was exposed to when I was a member of the Methodists, then the Southern Baptists, then a non-denominational fundamentalist born-again church (plus I knew people in the Mormon church and I married 2 Catholics) were the false doctrines. The best thing I ever did was listen to the JWs. I finally really know God and His Son.

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  7. Joel,
    Along with what Terry pointed out, I would say the sheep knows the Shepherd.

    "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father"

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  8. Pam,

    First off, I agree with you that you can find some bad doctrine with the southern baptists, methodists, fundamentalists, mormons, catholics... you name it. :) No one's above the ability to believe and teach things that aren't true (including you and me).

    Since I'm not looking for any type of debate about what JW's believe, I'll just say that one of the things I was getting at in this post - a subtle subplot, if you will - is that over the years I've had a lot of people sharing a lot of different "biblical" doctrines with me, but when I pray for wisdom and understanding, and seek the Lord and look into what the Scriptures actually say, then I am built up in the truth and I stand on the solid truth of the gospel.

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  9. Bino,

    Excellent addition to Terry's words!

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  10. i think though, that sometimes the very doctrines we believe point us away from the unchanging Christ within....since i have come to understand this doctrine of grace (if one CAN call it that), i am way more aware of Him within (and without) me, than i ever have been...Whatdyathink?..;-)

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  11. Craig,

    I agree - the doctrines we believe can also lead us away from the truth of the unchanging Christ within. That's one reason why I said that I've been shaken at times, and that I know that I can easily be wrong about things (and others obviously can too). I'd even say that the "doctrine of grace" itself can keep us from Jesus, if it remains only that, doctrine.

    And this is why I think it's so very important to search the scriptures, but not only that, but to seek God's very heart and to ask for wisdom and understanding, which I believe He freely gives.

    As for the term "doctrine of grace," I don't see anything wrong with it. Other similar terms are used in the New Testament such as "the message of His grace" (Acts 4:13), "the gospel of God's grace (Acts 20:24) and "the word of His grace" (Acts 20:32).

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  12. Hey Joel...

    i agree fully...when i said doctrine i meant "doctrine", grace isnt just another doctrine, its the way God deals with man...the "law and the prophets" pointed to grace and then He came, "full of grace and truth"...to set us free....you right re the gospel of grace...its all grace...as i said its the ONLY way He deals with/relates to us...i think the church (leaders?) has given the world a wrong impression of Gods character...that Hes wrathfull, full of vengence wanting to destroy everything that disobeys...no, its grace grace grace...love your radio program BTW

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  13. Craig,

    Yup, grace is not just another doctrine. The other day in the comments on another post I linked to this article that I had written two years ago for the church I was attending at the time, and in the beginning of the article I play around with the silly notion that grace is just another subject, and then I go on to more fully explain myself.

    I think you are correct about the church misrepresenting the way God deals with mankind. In short, we can see what He thinks about mankind and how He deals with them as we look at the cross of Jesus Christ. Some will perish, but it's not because He's willing that any should perish or that He's hellbent (ahem) on destruction. ;) He has given everyone the opportunity to experience His grace and I believe that's His "message" to mankind, shown through His creation (including us) and through His deeds.

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  14. Joel,
    Thank you for sharing this story about yourself the Jehovah Witnesses. Wow. What particularly resonated with me was what you said here:
    "I asked God for wisdom and truth, and for understanding. I did not get my answers right away, but over time I grew and I learned more and more of the truth. In fact, as I look back, I see how my understanding and perception of God and of who I am in Him has changed over the years."
    Ah...I'm honestly convinced that because God gives only good things, good growth, good maturity, He does not haphazardly rush something into happening. He knows that good things come over time. Although our human brains have a difficult time with patience, walking along with Him as progress is made is all the more rewarding. It is good that we CHANGE by embracing and living out more and more Truth.
    What you said here:
    " but I can rest assured that in all of this God hasn't flinched, and His TRUTH hasn't changed a bit!"
    God is a solid Rock, which has brought me such security.
    "People, including me, have all kinds of things to say about what is truth and what isn't truth, and I think it's true that He speaks His truth to us through each other, and it's natural for us to keep sharing the things we've learned with each other. I think it's also true that we can be totally wrong about things! But in the end, I know that HE knows the truth, because He IS the truth."
    Amen!

    Blessings,
    ~Amy :)
    http://amyiswalkinginthespirit.blogspot.com

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  15. Amy,

    Yep, I agree. For a long time I've been promoting the idea of "slow growth." Our relationship with God and with each other is "organic" (living) and real. In Christ we've become sanctified, holy, righteous, justified, etc, all as a gift, but the living out of it all is something we grow in over a long period of time. I'm convinced it can't be rushed.

    Since it's relational, it's a heart thing and not just a "paper" thing. Too many times I've seen what our life in Christ looks like "on paper," and it's all good, but when I've tried to live it out I've found that emotions are involved, trust is involved, meditation is involved, communication is involved... and so many other things are involved that we don't simply "get" it all at once, or grow into maturity instantly. We grow over a period of time.

    The good thing, as I think I was trying to point out in this post (I'd have to read it again myself to be certain) :) and that you pointed out as well, is that God is rock solid, and even when I'm dealing with all of this stuff, and changed perceptions and understanding, etc, The Living Being that is working in and through all of that stuff, never changes.

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