Tuesday, July 31, 2007

P4E.034 Flesh and Blood

"THE MALE BODY Build it, Feed it, Show it off!"
Cover headline of July/August issue of Men's Health Magazine

I know that you have to expect this sort of headline in a men's health magazine. Even still, it is indicative of the overall culture's (I should say of humankind's) emphasis on the "flesh." Our attraction to things of the flesh has always been. We simply have more immediate ways to gratify the attraction at our disposal now. The encouragement to "build it, feed it and show it off" really should be at odds with a Believer's perspective.

I've been told more than a few times recently that I'm being too hard on myself (and vicariously, all husbands) in this Blog. I may have to ask my wife, Gwen, to weigh in on how hard she thinks I'm being on myself in comparison to how hard I have been on her and my sons over the last 30 years. I truly believe that there is an all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere-present, loving, Creator. I would rather be hard on myself now than have Him be hard on me later (know whutta mean?). Yes, I may be hard on my self, but I believe that my pursuit of Christlikeness demands it. Scripture is pretty clear about this.

Matthew reports, "Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.""

And the apostle Paul (whom I greatly admire) says "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me ." It has been pointed out that the word "I" in this passage is translated from the Greek, "Ego." So, my egotism, my conceit, my self-importance must be sacrificed in favor of Christ.

John the Baptist, upon hearing of Christ's work said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." I maintain the same: Christ must increase and I must decrease.

As my physical, fleshly, perspective decreases, my goal is to replace it with a spiritual, Godly paradigm. So, instead of building, feeding and showing off my flesh, the goal is to build, feed and display Christ's spirit within me. Why? Because Scripture is also clear about this: "...flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God..." Only the "imperishable" spirit can enter God's kingdom.

God help me (and you!)

Peace, Kim

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

P4E.033 Dead Men's Bones

"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45

Recently, a husband told me that he feels like every word that comes out of his mouth about his wife is "under a microscope." I told him, "Yes, they are under a microscope!" So many times I find myself being casual, flippant and sloppy with my words. Sometimes I communicate something that I really didn't mean to communicate. And, sometimes I accidentally communicate what is truly on my heart. By my fleshly nature, I can really be critical. Even when I try to mask it, the words that come out of my mouth can (usually do) reveal what is truly in my heart.

As an example, I recently heard a husband describe his wife as a "neat freak." The phrase and the way he said it conveyed that:

a) he struggled to understand why she would have to be that neat
b) he resented how she imposed her neatness standards onto him
c) he did not value her organizational abilities
d) he felt competition between himself and his wife
e) he did not appreciate her

When pressed he would probably change his tune and say "no, no, I do appreciate her!" But, the fact is that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Mt 12:34)

So, you might ask, "what's a fellow to do?" I've come to believe about myself that the answer lies in me changing my heart. I need to get to the place where I truly believe in my heart that my wife is a great planner/organizer who's abilities I am not threatened by, but truly appreciate, value and understand. Then my mouth will not characterize her as a "neat freak," but praise her positive character qualities to her face and in front of other people. When I get to that place I can be truly inspired by those positive character qualities to be better organized myself.

Jesus compared the religious leaders of the time to "whitewashed tombs, which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness." That's why He said we must be "born again" so that our appearance and our heart would be aligned, alive, righteous and pure.

God help us! Kim

Thursday, July 19, 2007

P4E.032 One Vs. Rent

1. being or amounting to a single unit or individual or entire thing, item, or object rather than two or more.
2. of the same or having a single kind, nature, or condition: We belong to one team; We are of one resolve.
3. in a state of agreement; of one opinion.
4. united in thought or feeling; attuned: He felt at one with his Creator.

1. to separate into parts with force or violence.
2. to harrow or distress (the heart) with painful feelings.

In a way, it would be easy to lie to you and tell you that everything's going great. To put on a facade and let you think what a great guy I am. But, you should know that my wife, Gwen, views these posts. So, I would not be able to stand before her or God if I tried to deceive you that way.

The fact is, that I haven't been doing well in my relationship with Gwen. Last week she wanted to sit down and make a list of things that we needed to get done around the house and in our lives. "Brainstorm." We have done this before without any problem. It shouldn't have been a big deal. For reasons I'm still trying to examine, I was balking about the whole process. It got to the place where I accused Gwen of being judgemental about my lack of ability to embrace making the list with enthusiasm.

In our Tuesday evening group we discussed this situation and one of the ladies there spoke some truth to me: "This was not about making the list. This was about Gwen wanting to plan out your lives together, to be one with you, to share her heart with you. Basically, what you did was throw her heart in the trash...." My eyes are welling up even as I type those words. That is NOT what I want to convey to my wife. That is NOT what I truly feel in my heart towards her. And yet, that is what I told her by my attitude.

I have to be careful not to either let myself off too easy or to be so hard on myself that I focus on me and not Gwen. I want to be one with Gwen, as I vowed almost 30 years ago and not rent from her. I want to be strong enough to have some self-control when it comes to my attitudes, actions and words. I'm looking to God for His strength and not my own.

As I've said before, if you can avoid making the same mistakes I do by my relating them to you, so much the better for you. My testing won't be in vain.

God help me and you, Kim

Thursday, July 12, 2007

P4E.031 Just Do It

"Just Do It"
Nike Ad Campaign

After the last post, I know some of you might be asking yourselves, "Well, just what does it mean to "immerse" yourself in the Holy Spirit? It sounds like more Christian mumbo jumbo, lingo, platitudes." "What does that look like?"

For me, it looks like exercising my spirit muscle over my flesh muscle. One is always going to be stronger than the other and will win out in the ongoing battle. Leaders in Life Partners talk about a "shortcut to Christlikeness." The shortcut is doing exactly the opposite of what feels like a natural response in any given challenging situation. This is nearly impossible if I'm "in the flesh." My flesh muscle being so much stronger than my spirit muscle. But, every time I'm able to choose a spiritual response over a fleshly one, my spirit muscle is strengthened. It becomes imprinted with a more Christlike response.

To be more precise I'm making efforts, with God's help, to change the way I think, act and talk. So when I want to get angry and yell, I remain calm and stay quiet. When I want to withdraw and sulk, I must push myself to remain connected and communicative. When I feel tired and overwhelmed, I look to God for strength and stay strong for those around me. When I want to defend myself, I take my share of responsibility. When I want to hoard, I give. When my flesh wants me to look at something I know I shouldn't be looking at, I look the other way. When I want to accuse, I withhold judgement. When I want to procrastinate, I just do it. Get the idea?

Of course, I'm not always successful in these efforts. But having found a way that I know is true...that is denying the flesh...I am better able to gauge my own connectedness to the spirits' of God, my family and those I come in contact with. It's getting easier to recognize when I'm "in the flesh" and my wife, Gwen, is always so much more willing to forgive me when I'm able to acknowledge that I was wrong, ask for forgiveness and "repent" of that wrongdoing. There's always challenging physical circumstances that God uses to teach me spiritual lessons. I feel most like I've passed the test when I respond with my spirit and not with my flesh.

Dave Dufour, a Life Partners Leader, spoke briefly last week about fasting and I was blown away by his words. He was talking about what starts happening in the first, fourth, seventh day and beyond of fasting. Honestly, I've never fasted that long. But, the idea of saying no to my flesh's desire for food for the purpose of focusing on my spirit and what God's Holy Spirit has to teach me is sounding ever better. I know, I know....I need to Just Do It!!

Peace, Kim

Friday, July 6, 2007

P4E.030 Zombie Flesh Redux

When I put my flesh to death, I realize that my flesh is a zombie! It keeps getting back up! I need to put it to death again..."
Ken Nair, Founder Life Partners

In the last post I paraphrased Ken on the flesh being like a zombie. Above is the exact quote.

"You can't put the flesh to death with the flesh."
Dave Dufour, Life Partners

I've heard that you "can't fight fire with fire." This is the same idea. The fact is, that many times I do try to put my flesh to death with fleshly ways, ideas and values. Example: I use my intellect/reason or I exercise my own willpower to try to make myself change an un-Christlike thought, word or action pattern. Most of the time it's worse. Not only does my flesh not put my flesh to death, my flesh actually ends up rationalizing what my flesh wants to do. Arrrrgh!

When I fail, I'm immersed in my thoughts, my comfort , my possessions, my time, my desires, my values...me, my, mine. Inevitably, I become impatient, frustrated and angry when I do this. I do it often. I did it last night.....This way of living and thinking is a useless tool in killing the zombie flesh.

What has started to work for me is actualizing Scripture, "for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

Scripture says "...but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses...to the remotest part of the earth." I think this verse has been misused over time. This Holy Spirit power was meant as a help for us to be in the continuous process of killing our flesh so that we can be a good example for Christ's sake.

So, the idea is that I get my own spirit into the zombie flesh killing action by immersing myself in God's Holy Spirit. "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God...and those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

God help me to be immersed in your Spirit (and my spirit and my wife's spirit and my sons' spirits and my friends' spirits) so that I can be more like you and more prepared for eternity!

Blessings, Kim

PS: I've quoted Scripture, but purposely not given you the references. If you are interested, your quest will involve finding them yourself. Hint: Try Acts and Romans.