Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you are participating in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
1 Pete 4:12 & 13
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2 & 3
I am in such a great mood. I really am. And I am not %100 certain as to why this would be the case. It could be because that the sun is incredibly beautiful today. I am highly affected by the weather. It could also be that my mildly manic-depressive brain is in one of it's manic phases. I'm certain that these things could all be playing a roll in why I feel so good.
But I also feel that something else is at work, and it has little to do with me, per say.
If Paul is correct in Ephesians 6, where he states that a Believer doesn't fight against the "Flesh" so much, but really it is a battle with the dark & evil forces of the spirit world, then I have been in one for about two weeks now. I realized something yesterday, and gained an even fuller understanding of it today. I believe that this is what is affecting my mood.
Allow me to introduce you to Fred.
Fred is the name of whatever it is that can come over me and tempt me. Fred likes to remind me of what a loser I am. Fred likes to pile on the guilt and shame for every single stupid thing I have ever done...even going back to early childhood. Fred is also very adept at finding my weak spots and providing me with new temptations. Fred will try to feed me with negative thoughts, temptations, distractions, etc., etc. If it is true that Satan can send one of his little buddies down to attack those who follow Jesus, then Fred is the one who has been assigned to me. I know when Fred is around, yet he is amazingly fast and can ambush me in a split second. (My sister and I gave Fred his name a while ago over lunch. It seemed like an appropriate name at the time.)
Fred has been very busy these past two weeks.
As a dog returns to it's vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.
<--- That would be me after Fred has done another con job on me and I have taken the bait.
The problem is that I don't really like the taste of vomit all that much. I can't say that it goes well with any other flavor combination. Try as I might, it just doesn't taste good. And yet there are times where I will go right back to it after I brush my teeth.
Temptation is not sin. Giving in to temptation is sin. And what is fascinating to me is that the various temptations out there are as unique as the individuals they come over. There are things that tempt me that have no impact on other people. In the same way, there are areas that other people struggle with that simply do not show up on my radar. Weird, huh?
The thing is, I know how Fred can keep a grip on me. There are areas of my life that I simply refuse to turn fully over to Jesus. And it is because I hold on to some of these things that Fred can use them against me. It's his little foot in the door.
Well, I think the reason I am in such a great mood is because YHWH has been pointing that out to me in no uncertain terms. There are things in my life, some quite obvious, others not so, that he wants me to hand over to him. He hasn't been mean or grumpy about it in the least. It's more of him standing next to me with a grin on his face asking me, "So, how's the barf tasting? I got some Listerine if you're interested."
I have an enormous guilt complex to begin with. When Fred has one of his victories, even the littlest, I end up doing most of his work for him. Even if Fred were not there to rub my face in it, I would make a very thorough job of beating up on myself.
Guilt presupposes that you, me, we could have done something to get rid of our sin. We can't. Jesus is not into guilt. He understands full well that there is nothing that we can do about our own sin. Hence the whole becoming sin for us, dying on the cross to atone for them, and then being resurrected and conquering sin & death thingy. So guilt has no place in Christ. In Christ we are something new.
Even though I will certainly struggle with various items & issues until the day that I am worm food, now that I have been hidden in Jesus I really and truly am something new. Even when I do not see it, the Father does. He doesn't see me the way I often do when Fred reminds me of my very juicy failures, limits and imperfections.
So I find myself being reminded of this simple fact over the past few days, even though Fred has been busy. And I'll let Jason Gray explain it is a song...
Take THAT, Fred!
So yesterday I met up with a friend that I hadn't seen in ages. It was great to catch up over coffee. I felt I owed him an apology because I hogged the conversation (As usual) and talked until his ears were going to fall off. (Of course, that could have been the coffee doing it's thing on my empty stomach.) At any rate, it was most excellent to see him again.
After our coffee, I drove over to a hospital to visit a friend who is in to get a tumor yanked out. I have to confess that the bandage on her head looked really cool. (Seriously!) Kind of like one of those turbans that you see a magician wearing. All it needed was a big eyeball in the center and it would have been perfect. I'm thinking I might have to purchase one for formal dinners and such.
My friend in the hospital has a terrible habit of smiling ALL the time. (Shameful!) She also has the disgusting tendency to be genuinely nice to everyone so as to try and make their day. Even when in pain, she seems to take a genuine interest in the staff, regardless of their station. (Honestly, I am certain that a hospital staffer has much better things to worry about than suffering through wounded people being genuinely kind, considerate and friendly to them. We all know that their joy is made complete in the emptying of numerous bedpans. So stop treating them like people!) All of this has the rotten side affect of the entire staff enjoying her company. My friend really needs to work on this area of her life.
Talking with my friend was interesting. Morphine can have some rather amusing impacts on both your mind and speech. I was informed that her son found it to be rather delightful to observe. Other than having a strong desire to see that put on YouTube, I will just let it be.
I should also add that I began my day with my sister. We had an early lunch together. I am surprised again and again how much God has used my sister in ways that would never have occurred to me. I am not certain if she even realizes it. In the process, the Father certainly ministers to me through her. What is it about Ikea's Swedish meatballs that is so good for the soul?
In all of this I saw something. With my sister, my friend at coffee, and my friend in the hospital and her husband, I saw something. In my struggle with Fred over these past two weeks, I also have been seeing something. I saw & see the faithfulness of Jesus.
No, not perfection on my part. Not attaining some sinless, zero-temptation, trouble free existence. No. I have been seeing that despite whatever difficulties I have, even just the frustration of having to be tempted at all, Jesus is still faithful.
I don't think it is the case that he does not care if & when I fall on my face. I'm sure that it hurts him to see me do that. But what his faithfulness does cause me to believe is that, ultimately, he is not the least bit surprised by it. Nor does it ever stop him from doing what he desires to do. If anything, it only seems to draw him nearer to me, grab me by the shoulders and pull me forward.
"...being confident of this,
that he who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus." Phil 1:6
I have slowly, but surely, begun a new project in my life. I am never absolutely certain as to what God's will is at any given time. But I am inclined to believe that he has me moving into something new that will open up a whole new chapter for me in my walk with him. What I find
absolutely fascinating is that the moment that I embraced this project, Fred came. Literally the moment that I said "Yes" to this new challenge I felt the full force of the enemy come at me in every direction. He is trying to hurt me through external means that I have almost no control over. He is also using the same old weak spots that I leave open because I stubbornly refuse to turn them over to Christ.
So what do I gather from all of this?
I must be moving in the right direction!!!!!!!
If I were not, then Fred would not waste his time with me.
There is little I can do about the external attacks. Satan can pit even the best of friends against each other at times. There really isn't much I can do other than to turn that over to Jesus. But the same can be said with the internal stuff. I can't complain about my lack of progress on this new project if I am the one who keeps allowing nasty footholds in my life.
So I have made up my mind today that I will turn over everything that God has been revealing to me to him. I fully admit that I do not have the strength to tackle them. Only he has the power to defeat all the various frustrations that come my way. And this is exactly what he has been pointing out to me recently.
I understood most of this in my gut well before the last few weeks. But I wouldn't act on them. Today is different. I have finally decided to act. I am guessing that this will be very difficult for me over the next week or so. I am assuming that Fred will be looking for every opportunity. But in an odd way, I am looking forward to this challenge.
I drove down to Mill's Fleet Farm this morning to buy some seeds. I was listening to the radio and some songs came on that had me smiling from ear to ear, and yet crying at the same time. One of the songs was that one by Jason Gray. The others I will post at the end of this bit.
Suffice it to say that if my mood is better, it is due to God's faithfulness. He can be incredibly gentle when he wishes to be. He can also be incredibly funny, which tends to work well with me. In my heart, I know all that I am not. But I also know that in HIM, I am all that I could ever hope to be and more.
So Fred, I know what you are up to. If I have to face frustrations, then so be it. It should cause me to lean even farther into the Father. Which is where I should be all along.
His faithfulness is amazing, and it is also beautiful. And I am having a very good day.
Thank you, Father, for the good and the bad. Thank you for EVERYTHING!
P.S. And now for the other songs I heard while driving...
P.S.S. If it is true that Believers will be the ones who judge Angels, and I am assuming both the good and rotten ones. (1 Cor. 6:3) Then when it is Fred's turn, I will ask YHWH to give me 30 minutes alone in a room with Fred and a tire iron & brass knuckles. I think that my smile shall not dissipate for a long, long time.
I'm just sayin'.