February 14, 2016

Leaving Our Egypt

Posted in Faithfulness of God, Teaching tagged , , , , , , , , , at 1:27 pm by tclickenger

As I am sure most posts start, this has been on my mind for a few weeks now.  Percolating I guess.  The topic of this post is the Hebrew word “mitzraim.”  This is a very obscure topic among us non-Jewish people and without intentionally searching out the topic the chances of encountering it are fairly remote.  So it has been surprising to me that information about “mitzraim” has been coming to me from sources consistently all this week.

One of the insights came to me through a video a friend of mine shared on Facebook.  The video was of a Jewish rabbi, Dr. Abraham Twerski (who is also a practicing psychologist specializing in addictions), describing how lobsters grow.  It is a great clip and a fantastic introduction to this blog.  I invite you to take a look then come back and continue reading.

http://www.jinsider.com/videos/vid/393-rabbi-dr-abraham-twerski/7895-responding-to-stress.html#7895

That thing that the lobster feels is “mitzraim.”  What mitzraim means is constriction or tightness.  The root of the word means constriction but it can also mean distress as it is translated in most of our English translations in this verse,

Psalm 118:5, “From the distress (or constriction: hametzar – singular version of mitzraim) I called to God, He answered me in divine spaciousness.”

When we feel severe distress we often feel as though our own chest is constricting our heart. I believe this is the feeling that David is describing in this psalm. I believe David understood the spiritual condition of constrictions in our soul. I believe he also understood the contrasting condition brought by God’s abiding presence in our life, divine spaciousness.

The interesting thing about “mitzraim” is that it also means Egypt.  This adds a whole new dimension to the Exodus story. With this new dimension the story is no longer just about the children of Israel, but is now also a story about you and me.  Since we live in a free and democratic society it is hard to identify ourselves with slavery, even harder to believe that, apart from God’s intervention, we are in fact a slave.  Just as Jesus told us.

John 8:34 NIV — Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

A slave to the demands of our flesh, the twisted desires of our soul and the influences of dark spiritual forces.  They straight-jacket us while we are in complete oblivion to the confinement our captors have put us in.  It sounds illogical, we become slaves by doing what we feel like doing when we feel like doing it with whoever we feel like doing it with.  That sound like freedom doesn’t it?  Then contrast that with what the Bible says, that we should obey, do this, don’t do that, it sounds very restrictive. Sound absurd doesn’t it. 

In fact, this thinking is captured well in a song from my youth. Let me share some of the lines from it. 

Living easy, living free

Season ticket on a one-way ride

Asking nothing, leave me be

Taking everything in my stride

Don’t need reason, don’t need rhyme

Ain’t nothing I would rather do

Going down, party time

My friends are gonna be there too

In case you didn’t recognize those lyrics, they’re from the song titled “Highway to hell” by the band AC/DC. 

But even as the song tells you, following your own whim and way is not the road to freedom. Not physical freedom or spiritual freedom. Those who have addictions are slaves to those addictions and it constricts the enjoyment of their life. Anyone who indulges in being lazy become enslaved by laziness and it limits their opportunities in life. Anyone who indulges in gossip become addicted to listening to and spreading gossip. It then restricts their relationships because they become know to be untrustworthy and disloyal. I could go on but ultimately, living life doing what you want when you want is the road to a torturous confinement. 

True freedom requires discipline and boundaries. That’s why God gives us His word, his instruction, to instruct us in how to live our life  in freedom. To show us where the boundaries are. That’s where I’ll continue on my next post in this series. 

December 27, 2014

…but there are times when pride is a good thing.

Posted in Humility tagged , , , , at 10:29 pm by tclickenger

“…but there are times when pride is a good thing.”  I have been having conversations with people on the topic of pride for about the past four years and I hear this remark (usually early in the conversation) in roughly 1 in every 5 discussions.  Yes, it is true that pride has a good connotation and I want to address this before moving on to the benefits of humility.

When the words for pride are used in the bible in a favorable sense it is with reference to a sense of delight that arises from an action.

David, the psalmist used this kind of sense when he referred to Israel as,

“the pride of Jacob, whom the Lord has loved.”  Psalm 47:4

In a restoration prophecy made by Isaiah, he wrote that the fruitfulness of the land would be,

“something to be proud of.”  Isaiah 4:2

Then, the apostle Paul told the Thessalonian congregation that, because of their faith, love, and endurance,

“we ourselves take pride in you among the congregations of God.”  2 Thessalonians 1:3-4

Honestly, this type of use of the words for pride occurs much less than the negative use.  In fact, I would personally consider the occurrence of this type of pride as rare in both the bible and in the world.  Please remember that.  I think that as believers we should emphasize the things that God emphasizes and if God does not emphasize it, then maybe we shouldn’t either.  In fact we are directly instructed to,

“Let the one bragging about himself brag about himself because of this very thing, that they possess insight and knowledge of Me, that I am the Lord, the One exercising loving-kindness, justice and righteousness in the earth.  For in these I delight,” says the Lord.”  Jeremiah 9:24-25

God is masterful and brilliant in the use of language and making a play on words.  I mentioned earlier that the favorable sense of pride is to have a sense of delight that arises from an action.  Here God is making a direct connection to having a healthy sense of pride with the sense of delight He experiences.  See, we are not being instructed to feel superior because we possess insight and knowledge of God but to only feel delight.

I think one of the best examples of a healthy sense of pride is given in the creation account recorded in Genesis.  When God had completed a task, He looked at the results of the task and said that it was good.  That was it.  He recognized the quality of His work but wasn’t arrogant about it.

So, I say this again, this type of pride is rare in both the bible and in the world.  This is a type of pride that we rarely posses.  If you are quick to mention “…but there are times when pride is a good thing,” please do some inventory, reflect on your feelings.  It is my perspective that someone who is quick to point this out is possibly doing so defensively.  They have a need to protect a feeling that they do not want to let go of.  Healthy or unhealthy, they like it so they will call it good.  If you recall, on my listing of the dangers of pride I said that pride is deceptive.  So, I am not saying that everyone who reminds us that there is a good connotation to pride is guilty of harboring an unfavorable sense.  I am not the judge.  I am just saying be cautious.  I would hate for someone to hold on to and embrace something that in the end is going to be destructive to their life and soul.  I simply want to warn you of the dangers, encourage you to examine the deep and hidden parts of yourself.

I pray God brings His light to your heart, your intentions, motives and desires to help you each to see any pride in your life that you may be blind to.  Amen

Additional posts in this series: In the wake of humility…The Dangers of PrideIt’s Time to Hurt Your Pride, the Advantages of Humility and the follow up post to this one, Humility Fosters Peace and Unity.

March 14, 2010

Desires of the Sinful Nature…continued

Posted in Desires of the Sinful Nature tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 12:28 am by tclickenger

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The desires of the sinful nature is many times called the flesh. I am currently studying material for recovery and addiction and I find it fascinating how science has discovered how the biochemical processes of the brain influence our behavior. Most of the behaviors that these processes reinforce are ultimately destructive. These biochemical processes could be called the flesh. Scans show that acting in behaviors that are “addictive” lights up the brain pretty much the same way, whether it is sexual addiction, substance abuse, gambling or workaholic, approval seeking, success addiction.

The bible describes it in this way, “He that sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption.” Galatians 6:8

While we are alienated from the life of God through Jesus Christ, the effects of satisfying our natural desires, personal needs and lusts, draw us further into alienation by becoming one with the condition itself. We are not only corrupted but we are the very agent of corruption. Our character and activity persuades and encourages corruption in the life of others.
All these behaviors are acted out to get some satisfaction or peace. The flesh is seeking out peace in worldly activities. Initially these activities deliver a sense of satisfaction or peace but ultimately they lead to despair and destruction. But Jesus said that He gives us peace, not as the world gives us peace.

Galatians 6:8 continued, “But he that sows to the Spirit, will of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

The mind sowing its will into activities that are of the Spirit’s power and purpose, produce true peace and joy. This is because through obedience to the Spirits desires we receive a relationship by personal experience of the Father through the Son, which is life everlasting.

John 17:3 “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only True God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

When I made the post earlier this month about the desires of the sinful nature, I had not yet started the training in addictions. In that post I wrote that the sinful nature is self-gratifying, pleasure-seeking, entertainment loving, rebellious of authority, desiring social attraction (popularity), and public applause. This class confirms each and every one of these qualities. I am not saying that I was right but that God was. He always is. It is just so awesome to see science confirm what God has always said.

Holy and gracious Father God, I pray that Your good news is received far and wide. That all may see that You love us and desire to save us from this body of sin, despair and destruction. I thank You, Lord, for illuminating my understanding of Your love, my brokenness and Your will. I plead for your strength for all by brothers and sisters to grow in accomplishing your will through the peace you have given us. I could never express the gratitude I have for the gift you have given, an eternal peace for my soul. What soothing water it is. It is in the name that has provided my peace and salvation, Jesus Christ, that I pray right now. Amen