Self-Image Reformation Part 1: Introduction

Image by Drigo Diniz at Pexels

It is amazing how easy it is for a person to create a false image of themselves and believe in that image.

What goes into this image?

From our early childhood onward, we develop an idea of who we are and who we should be.

Our parents and other family members influence who we think we are and who we think we should be.

Friends and acquaintances influence who we think we are and who we think we should be.

The media influences who we think we are and who we think we should be.

Religion influences who we think we are and who we think we should be.

Politics influence who we think we are and who we think we should be.

Social pressures influence who we think we are and who we think we should be.

What would happen if we stripped all of that away?

What would happen if we got to the roots of who we really are? What would happen if we got to the roots of who we really should be?

What if we could look at the unique person God created and really see that person, flaws and all? What if we could lay aside all of the world’s ideas of who we should be and looked to who God says we should be through Jesus?

Growing up, I was told that I was unlovable, unattractive, unlikable, selfish, cold-hearted, lazy, stupid, a liar, boring, weird, and so on. I could do one thing and it was wrong, then I could do the opposite and that was wrong too. Nothing was ever good enough. I caught the blame and punishment for the actions of others, I was singled out and compared to everyone else as lesser-than, I was falsely accused constantly, and I was made to question my reality and severely attacked any time I spoke up against the lies I was being told or that were being told about me.

When paired with all the unrealistic ideals about body image and relationships perpetuated in movies, television, and other forms of media, I was very confused. Pair this with a superficial Christianity that was mingled with other faiths and I was totally lost. I was dead inside. I did not even exist. I knew it, and I wanted death to be my reality. Jesus saved me from this and drew me to Him.

I carried this false image of myself for most of my life. I had no idea who I really was, other than a terrible person who was not worth any amount of kind treatment. I had little sense of self-accountability and no confidence in my ability to make good choices, causing me to question every move I made and over-rely on the opinions and feelings of others. Jesus taught me to rely on Him.

I felt like I had to fix the problems of others, even if it meant enduring abuse because that was normal. I was used to believing words including professions of love, even if actions did not match up, so I had no idea what real love looked like and I constantly questioned my better judgment. Jesus showed me what real love looked like and taught me His judgment.

I tried to gain ground and stability by over-planning and controlling every aspect of my life, yet my plans always changed according to what someone else thought. Eventually that transitioned into controlling others. Eventually my critical eye was not only inward, but outward as I saw the worst in everyone around me, fully expecting every single person to hurt me, betray me, or otherwise let me down. Eventually I became overly distant and overly self-reliant, unable to let people get close to me—or a very, very, select few. I was hyper critical, cynical, and cold. Jesus softened my heart.

After doing a few months of research regarding the cycles of what the world of psychology calls “narcissistic relationships” and after a lot of prayer, something snapped in me. I began sorting through all the things I had always been told about myself—the same things that I eventually began to see in everyone else—and I realized something. Most of these things are lies—or at least they were. Overtime, I became most of those things to one degree or another. I believed the lies and I became the lies.

When I look back over the course of my life, I can see a pattern. Every good thing about me was hated and destroyed, only to be replaced with an equal and opposite lie. I then believed the lie. I then became the lie. I then projected that lie onto others and they became the lie.

This had to stop.

I knew that Jesus would help and that He would use all this hardship for my good and the good of others. Jesus had been at work in my life but certain sins clung so tightly to the core of my character.

For me, a lot of the sin struggles I had were given to me through living in a world of lies. As I looked back and considered these things prayerfully, I found relief. There is still much work to do, because very often the lies we live have lasting effects on us—even changing our brain chemistry and affecting our physical health. However, in Jesus we have the truth—and the truth will make us free.

About the same time that I began to see who I really am—who God created me to be instead of the lies that the world told me and therewith corrupted me—I felt a strange conviction. This might seem like vanity, but there is a lesson in it and I feel compelled to share. I started caring for my hair.

My hair has always been a fluffy and unruly mess that was easily tangled and hard to deal with. I had awful cowlicks and I was never happy with it. I went through cycles of cutting it short then letting it grow, just to wear it in a ponytail or bun. I have always hated fixing hair.

In May of this year, I got the conviction to cut part of my hair, to start wearing my hair down, and to let it grow, which I though strange because Christianity is not about outer observances. Even so, I obeyed and wondered at the meaning. I later realized that this was a kind of symbol to me for an inner work that He was doing. We were getting to the root of who I really was (pun intended).

Shortly after I started paying attention to my hair, I realized something about my hair that I kind of knew, but not fully. My straight yet frizzy hair is actually curly. I saw this somewhat when my hair was short, but I always let it grow out because I hated spending money on haircuts, then it was soon tied back because my hair grows fast. So, I never really knew what my hair was like. My whole life I thought it was something it was not.

When cared for properly, I had totally new hair. I had my real hair that God created me to have, and now I actually enjoy wearing it down—except on those very hot days! There is a lot of symbolism in this, and I’m still learning what it means.

Yes, this is strange. I get that and I understand false accusations that might result, and it feels weird to do this. However, I want to—and think I should—share this with others and encourage others to get to the roots of who they really are, lay it all bare before Jesus, and throw out false self-images in favor of who Jesus says you are.

Idolatry takes many forms, but few are as harmful as a false self-image.

Let’s lay aside our false images. Let’s approach Jesus truthfully and repentantly. In so doing, we will learn who we really are.

Of course, none of us are perfect. We are all sinners. We all have flaws. Yet, how much of who we have become is the result of living a lie?

As children of God, though we sin and struggle against sin, we are created in His image and we all have a place and purpose for good. Who did God create you to be? What lies are getting in the way of that? Tear that image down because what God has in store for you is so much better.

In this series, I want to further explore the problem of false self-image. Some of this might be difficult to hear. We have to let go of self-affirming culture of “you’re enough” and the like. We have to let go of racial pride and national pride. We have to let go of gender pride.

We have to let go of all of the parts of our self-image that are contrary to the ways of Jesus and the person God uniquely created us to be. I have a lot of work yet to do, but Jesus is my way. He can be your way too, and I’m excited to share this journey of finding our true selves together.

With love, Amanda

This is me (and my hair) taken 7/11/2020

Chastisement and Suffering Part 2: Should Christians Expect Chastisement?

Photo by Suleyman Sahan from Pexels

Should Christians expect chastisement from God? This can be a confusing topic. As Christians, we are counted as righteous before God through the blood of Jesus. Our sins are paid in full and we are forgiven. There is also a scripture in Isaiah 53 stating that Jesus bore our chastisement. Here is an excerpt:

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Jesus endured the chastisement of God on our behalf. What about scripture that indicates a reasonable expectation of chastisement for a Christian, such as that in Hebrews 12? Here is an excerpt:

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

There is also this scripture in Revelation 3 addressing the church of the Laodiceans:

15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

We might also think about this teaching of Jesus in Luke 12 regarding faithful and unfaithful servants:

45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;

46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

First, what does it mean to be a Christian? Of course, we believe in Jesus. We believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins, rose from the dead, and is sat down on the right hand of God. We believe that through faith in Jesus, we are passed from judgment into life eternal.

We are also given this understanding: through Jesus, we are joint heirs and adopted sons of God. If we are to be sons, should we not expect some chastisement? It would seem so. However, God is a good Father. As sons through faith in Jesus, we are not His enemies. He loves us, and so He will correct us. His correction can be difficult, but it is not unjust or unbearable.

Jesus bore that which was unbearable, and He helps us bear all things including the chastisement we endure as sons of God.

What sort of chastisement should a Christian expect?

Consider how a just man would chastise his children. We should have some idea of what good parenting looks like. If we who are faulty can correct our children in a just and effective manner, how much more can God?

When we are new babes in Christ, we learn of His undying love. We are forgiven, we approach God in awe, and we want to learn what faith in Jesus means. As we learn to move about, we stumble and fall. God picks us up, time and time again in love. We also experience some corrections.

As we continue to learn and grow, God expects more from us, therefore the chastening can increase if we were to go astray, but He also knows our hearts and He knows what we need. If we are trying sincerely and trust in Him, then our correction could be minimal. However, the further our hearts turn away from Him, the more severe the correction may need to be.

There is much we could think about. In any case, I believe that chastening is part of the Christian life; however, we know that the Lord does not chastise us as enemies but as sons. He is loving, merciful, and wise. He knows us individually and He knows precisely what we need.

Sometimes we feel a soft conviction in our heart. Sometimes we feel great shame and sorrow. Sometimes we have an ongoing struggle, but we admit our fault and trust in Jesus to forgive and help us overcome, therefore we have faith instead of shame and sorrow. Sometimes the Lord removes things from us, and this can include small comforts or a large-scale overturn of our world.

How do we receive the chastisement of God?

Sometimes God sends a brother to rebuke us and help us along and sometimes He speaks to us directly in spirit. Sometimes God sends an enemy.

It all depends on what we need according to our spiritual maturity, the time we are living in, and the purposes of God for each individual and for the world at large.

For those who are given much and have much required of them: Do not lay your burdens on others.

Though we all inherit eternal life, we do not inherit equal portions. God expects more from some, so He will correct some more thoroughly than He would another. This is one of many reasons why we are instructed to correct each other in the spirit of meekness.

We should protect those who are frail in the faith and encourage growth as much as is possible while remembering that Jesus is merciful, and we all bring forth differing amounts of fruit. We do not always know what state of growth another is in or how far God intends to take them.

A little good fruit is pleasing to the Lord, and we should not squash it. “A bruised reed shall he not break, and a smoking flax shall he not quench.” We should dare not offend the little ones who believe in Him. We should dare not beat out fellow servants. We should live in peace and patience, lest that which we were entrusted with is given to another.

The variables pertaining to chastisement for a Christian are vast because we are individuals and Jesus is not a judicial system but our personal Lord and Savior.

In any case, we know this: God is just and merciful. Those whom He loves as sons receive what is good for them. Sometimes what we need is difficult and painful emotionally or physically, but all things work for our ultimate good: resurrection from the dead and an everlasting inheritance.

Chastisement can feel like a form of suffering, but sometimes we suffer for other reasons. Sometimes we suffer for the name sake of Jesus, not because of some wrong we have done. Such suffering helps us to grow, brings glory to God, and is an honor given to us rather than a form of correction or punishment. In the next article, I want to talk more about suffering apart from that which we endure through chastisement.

Considering Proverbs 3:31-32

31 Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.

32 For the froward is abomination to the Lord: but his secret is with the righteous.

If you are concerned about corrupt leaders and abuse of power commonly seen in the world of business, government, and religion, then this writing is for you. If you are concerned about those who gain power and prosper from following corrupt leaders and movements within business, government, and religion, then this writing is for you too.

The world is full of people who devise evil against other human beings. The world is full of people who are power hungry. The world is full of people who think that they know best, therefore anyone who opposes them and becomes a threat is considered fodder for their fire. The world is full of fearful people who take the path of least resistance in order to save their skins, even if it means going along with the plans of the oppressors.

Your view of this will vary depending on who you see as the oppressor. Your view of this will vary depending on who your God is.

Here is my take on this currently, for what it’s worth:

Mankind oppresses. We have all been oppressors. We all think that our ways are right, and we are willing to abuse anyone who stands in our way. Maybe we think that we would never kill anyone, but we might support those who do, either directly or indirectly. We might say demeaning things that tear a person apart and feel a sense of gratification and power, especially when others agree with us. We might think up ways to tear others down should they oppose us, and we justify ourselves because our cause is right and theirs is not.

Any cause that is not the cause of Jesus is going to be corrupt. Any business doing, any government agenda, and religious way that is not aligned with what Jesus teaches is going down the path of an oppressor who devises evil against others. Any way that is not His way leads to ruin and is therefore abominable in His eyes.

We have all been abominable to one degree or another. We all need forgiveness. We all need guidance. We all need Jesus so that we can approach God and learn His ways—the ways of true wisdom that bring peace and goodness to this world. His ways also hate iniquity. Jesus and those who “sit with Him on His throne” will “rule all nations with a rod of iron.”

What do we suppose that entails? What is the iron rule of Jesus like? Most likely, it will not be what we naturally expect. For one, Jesus is no respecter of persons. He does not choose sides according to the way of man. He chooses His side—and His side is going to be in opposition to ALL the ways of man including ALL the ways of corruption in business, government, and religion.

Stop choosing sides according to man and stand with Jesus instead.

This will put you on the outskirts of most everything. That is not easy, I know. Doing so is uncomfortable and can put you at odds with most everyone—but it can also bring peace because you can find common ground with most if you’re willing to lay aside your own biases in favor of what Jesus deems best.

You can gain an outside perspective of understanding and reconciliation of yourself and others to God through Jesus as your become privy to His council instead of the councils of man, or at least grow in this regard. You will also partake of His iron rule, and He will give you words to speak that stop your enemies in their tracks. I know I need more of this, and such wisdom is far more valuable than anything this world has to offer. We must be willing to lay it all down, take up our cross, and follow Jesus.

The ways of man are perishing whether we follow Jesus or not, and in Him alone will we find security.

I do not want our country to fall. I enjoy living in a land of plenty. I like having a variety of food to eat, comfortable and affordable clothing, electricity and running water, and the conveniences of modern technology. I love that the name of Jesus is preached, even if it is preached by those who corrupt His name. Haven’t we all corrupted His name in some way? Jesus forgive us and show us a better way.

No man knows when the day of the Lord will come. Maybe our time is not yet. Maybe we have many more years of life and blessing in this world. I don’t know. I don’t know when His patience runs out, but I know that it does run out eventually and we only have this life, so in this life I want to follow Him and not this world.

I also submit to the fact that modern conveniences come at a great cost to our soul, so if they must be destroyed then this is God’s will for us and this is good.

Jesus paid the price for our soul, but do we wear His blood disrespectfully? Are we wearing His blood as a wedding garment or are we draped in shame because we take His sacrifice for granted and use His blood as an excuse to wallow in corruption? Do wear His blood in shame because we choose to stand with things that are perishing instead of His ways?

Do we envy the ways of the unjust? Do we stand in the ways of the unjust who devise murder, or do we stand in the ways of the Prince of Peace?

The Prince of the World has power and He will take power in greater measure one day. Those who follow him are more than willing to kill and destroy any who oppose. We need to get out of this mindset now. We need to find the ways of our King and follow Him now. Though the wicked seem to have control and prosperity, we know that all ways that are not the ways of Jesus are perishing.

I am pleading with you. Choose the ways of Jesus. If you are not a Christian, now is a good time to learn what Christianity is really about. Many are among us who are not of us, and many make the name of Jesus into something it is not. Do not reject Jesus because of the evil done to you by others. He is the only real way to find peace on this earth.

If you are a Christian, let go of this world—not just in a judicial sense through the blood of Jesus, but in a real and meaningful way lest you wear His blood in shame. It is hard to let go. It can be frightening and confusing, but Jesus will show you the way and there are people out there who are happy to help.

Each man and woman according to their conscience has something they must leave behind, so leave it behind. I cannot say what you must leave behind because we each have our own walk in Jesus, but I can say that we should be careful to make sure that the ground we stand on is the rock of Jesus and not the shifting sands of this world.

Considering Proverbs 3:29-30

29 Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee.

30 Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.

I don’t know if I’m reading this correctly, but that first verse seems to say that we should not plan evil against our neighbor who is living securely. This makes me think of envy and resentment towards those who are better off than we are. They have done no harm to us, but we plan to do them harm because it creates a sense of equity or justice in our mind (I speak from the perspective of a person who is envious or resentful of the success or security of others).

We could tie this idea into the previous scripture about doing good to others when we have the power to do so. This turns my mind towards current events within politics and economics—of which I am no expert—but I will write of these things from a standpoint of Christian ideas.

It is better for a Christian country if those who have abundance learn to willingly and happily give to those in need than it is for the government to force that generosity upon them. When giving becomes robbery, then those who have abundance become resentful towards the poor.

A Christian in poverty is instructed to trust in the Lord and learn to be content with what they are given. Afterall, God provides for the birds and He provides for us also. We will have what we need, and being greedy, covetous, and envious of the wealth of others is not the Christian way. Seeking the Kingdom of God and growing rich in Him is better than the wealth of this world, which often fuels sin and distracts a person from what’s most important for a Christian.

However, in Christ we are working together for the good of all. Having wealth is a blessing if we take care of others and are strong enough in the faith that wealth does not distract us from the Kingdom of Heaven. Having poverty is a blessing for those who need to trust in the Lord or who would become ensnared by the riches of the world.

In a land of plenty in which Christians who do well distribute of their own free will, there will be no poverty. In a land of plenty in which the poor are willing to work and make things better for themselves instead of robbing the rich because of greed, envy, and resentment, there will be no poverty. In a land in which the truly destitute—the widows, the orphans, the handicap—are cared for by those who have abundance, there will be no poverty.

As with all things, problems inevitably result when man attempts to regulate righteousness by law. It does not matter whether you have Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, or Marxism. Man corrupts all. In Jesus, regulation is of the heart. Regulation is of the individual who is turned to the true and righteous ways of God instead of the greed, envies, murders, and strife of man.

Are we still a Christian society? Do the people still rule this government? Of course, if we were to resist taxation of robbery, then many people would starve. There would be an uproar. So, it is no easy thing to fix and I expect it will not be solved until Jesus returns and enforces righteous giving and willingness to give, work and find contentment on an individual level (at least, that’s what I think He would do).

 In any case, those who have abundance should thank the Lord and give when they can.

Those who do not have abundance should thank the Lord that we live in a prosperous land in which each person has the right to pursue more if they are able and willing to work. Those who do not have abundance should not be envious and resentful of those who have more. They should not devise evil plans against them.

We see evil plans devised against the prosperous today from those who want more, more, more without contentment and self-responsibility, who blame others and rob those who worked hard to achieve wealth in this world.

All this does is breed resentment on both sides. All this does is lead to more robbery, more unwillingness to work, more unwillingness to become self-accountable and self-reliable, less willingness to give freely, and more poverty for everyone—both poverty in this world and poverty in spirit—of a sort that does not seek to be filled by God but instead hates their fellow man for their poverty.

We are heading down a deadly path in which unjust rulers will come with their “solutions” of murder, unjust scales, poverty, and death.

Do not think for a moment that we as Christians are not to blame. Our Christian nation did foolishly. Very foolishly. If we do not fix this mess somehow, the Lord will. He will tear it all down.

Even so, God does not leave us nor forsake us. He will, however, tear down our futile attempts at doing what is right by law and according to the foolishness of man. He will tear down our systems of robbery, greed, envy, murder, and strife.

Many will suffer as a result, but those who trust in Jesus will find everything they need. It is worth noting that what we need is often not what we want. We might need to die and be raised from the dead. In any case, the judgement of God is just, and it is coming.

I believe this to be true, but I am growing aware of how God created my mind to work. I think in large, abstract ideas so sometimes I overlook important details. You’ve heard of people who miss the forest for the trees. I miss the trees for the forest. I also think a lot and pray about things, which can lead to assumptions of being right when I could be mistaken. So, consider for yourself.

Am I prone to envy towards those who have more than I do? I have felt that. Am I prone to a sense of entitlement when I see someone who has more than me? I have thought those things. Do I resist giving to those in need when I have abundance? I don’t think so, but I’ve not been tempted with great wealth. Do I trust in Jesus to provide for my needs? I am learning. What might His Kingdom be like? How might He handle this? What goodness might we have to look forward to when our ways come crashing down and His are established? I will be thinking on these things today.

As an aside, whenever I mention the coming of the Lord and the throwing down of unrighteous rulers, I want to call certain Christian ideas and scripture into remembrance lest we welcome the false Christ as our God and Savior:

Jesus will not come at just any time. The wicked one—the abomination of desolation—must be revealed first (2 Thessalonians 2). The false Christ will come before Jesus does, and great tribulation such has never been seen on this earth will come before Jesus does (Mark 13). Our ways are making hearts ready to receive such a person, system, and false Christianity. If it were possible, even the chosen would be deceived (Matthew 24). The Lord will keep us from being taken, but we need to keep seeking Him now (Matthew 25).

Considering Proverbs 3:27-28

27 Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.

28 Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.

This seems like a simple enough thing to do. If we know that someone is in need and we are able to help, then we should. This is one way that we show love to our neighbor, as Jesus commands.

What about those we do not always want to help? Who is our neighbor?

This makes me think of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Luke 10:25-37

25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

In the day of the Jews, the Samaritans were not well-regarded in any measure. In-fact, there was a lot of hatred between the two groups. Even so, when a man from Jerusalem was beaten and wounded, people from his own country ignored him. It was a Samaritan—his enemy—who stopped and cared for the wounded man. The Samaritan treated the wounded stranger as a neighbor while the others did not.

What can we learn from this?

We should do good to anyone who is in need when it is in our power to do so, even if we don’t always like the person or what they stand for. Sometimes this means loving our enemy.

We do not have to agree with people in order to do good to them. Some of us need to re-learn this, especially in this time of divisive issues.

It is not always easy to do good to enemies. We must humble ourselves. We must stop and think about how we would want to be treated. Sometimes we have to trust in the Lord. What if that man from Jerusalem—who was an enemy—recovered then did harm to the Samaritan? The Samaritan did what was right without fear. That is not always easy to do.

Some situations are dangerous, and we do not want to put ourselves or others in harm’s way. For example, a young woman probably should not pick up a hitchhiker. We have to use wisdom in all situations, because it is not always in our power to do good. However, we should not use fear as an excuse when we do in-fact have the power to do good, we just don’t want to.  

If someone is without necessities or in harm’s way and we do nothing, then we are not keeping the commandments of Jesus. This is true for an enemy or those we are otherwise at odds with. How much more is this true for our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Jesus teaches that what we do to the least of our brethren we do also to Him, and what we withhold from the least of our brethren we also withhold from Him. Jesus also teaches that He will divide the sheep from the goats, and this has to do with those who care for the brethren and those who do not (Matthew 25). This should strike some fear of the Lord into our hearts, especially if we are neglecting our brethren.

I think of this in a metaphorical way when considering my brothers and sisters in Christ. Many are wondering around, searching for that promised land. As Jesus said, they are like sheep without a shepherd. Why? Because they are under the care of a “hireling” who is not truly working for the Good Shepherd. On their way to the promised land, they are ambushed, beaten, and robbed.

There are many who come in the name of Jesus falsely and blatantly so. They do not believe in God, but they see ministry as an easy money-making endeavor, and they thrive off of the power and control religious positions provide. Others want to do good, but they can do a lot of harm through blind loyalty to systemic Christian ideas.  

In any case, knowing what I know (my understanding is not full, and I do not claim it to be) how could I just pass by and say nothing? There are many false Christian teachings, some of which are less harmful than others. Some are potentially deadly. So, if I love my neighbor—and more than that—love my brethren, then I must speak out. So. I will, and I will keep learning how to put a finer point on my writings so that the words are more loving and effective. As new dangers arise, I will speak out against those too—Lord willing.

I would love for Christians to love me as I love them. I would love for them to have discussions with me if they believe me to be in error. I would love for those who agree with me to stand with me instead of shying away. Instead, they just pass on by, willing to let me be beaten and robbed. It is a small thing. We should not fear what man can do, because if God is with us no one can be against us.

How can we love our neighbor better, especially those we do not agree with or consider to be an enemy? How can we love our brethren better? What excuses do we make for ourselves? These are good questions to think about today. I try to love my neighbor and I always strive to do better, so this is not just a thought for today, but an on-going theme for me. Still, it is always good to consider again, so I will.

Considering Proverbs 3:21-26

21 My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion:

22 So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck.

23 Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.

24 When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.

25 Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh.

26 For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.

When we seek Jesus often and strive to order our lives according to His ways and purpose for our lives, our soul (the unique being that is ourselves) finds life. The favor of God will keep us, steering our perceptions of the world so that we can see what is ahead of us.

We will walk safely because He will make all hazards known to us so that we can avoid them—large and small. From sinful thoughts to large-scale schemes and movements of wickedness wrapped in a guise of goodness, the Lord will not allow us to be deceived. We might go through periods of darkness so that we can gain experience and perspective, but our ultimate destination is not one of confusion and destruction, but light and life.

Few things can keep a person awake at night like worry, guilt, and resentments. If our heart is set on the things of God, then our rest will be sweet. Most importantly, in Jesus Christ we have the sabbath of the new covenant which is a spiritual rest given to those who trust in the Lord and do His will. Even if all the churches close and Christianity is considered to be criminal, our rest and gathering together is not forsaken because our Lord lives.

Our livelihood is not bound to physical structures or the permissions of mankind. In-fact, our livelihood flourishes in tribulations and persecutions for many reasons.

Although we do not want to suffer such things, we can find much hope should Christian persecution come full force. The corruptions of Christian culture will fall because Christianity is no longer convenient and profitable. Jesus—the Good Shepard who will not abandon His flock—is made King. We find unity among the brethren where there was once division. Our trust in God is strengthened, and He is glorified by a people who are devoted to His ways and not the ways of this world. The Kingdom is at hand, and our Lord is on His way to avenge and establish His just rule.

I do not rush the Day of the Lord, because it is a terrible and frightening day. However, if that day should come, we can find peace in knowing the good purposes of God.

As the world around us crumbles and gives into delusion, Jesus shows us the way. That does not mean that we do not experience fear and sorrow, but the promises and strength of Jesus underpins everything, thereby keeping us from being consumed by even the grandest of deceptions and social pressures—even that of the false prophet and Mystery Babylon should we live to see that day.

I do not believe that we are in the final “end times,” but there are many “end times” and there are many antichrists. I do believe that we are in a type of “end time” and sufficient to the day is the evil thereof. We should use this time to our advantage so that we can gain insight and grow strong. If the final “end times” should come, we are ready by the grace of God and His wise methods of ordering the world and allowing history to repeat and teach us.

The best way to prepare for the “end times” is to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness now. In so doing, we are practiced in every skill that we need in order to withstand that day by the grace of God. These are skills in maintaining ourselves within a corrupt world, trusting the Lord, and patiently serving the Lord as we wait for His return.   

How can we grow in these things now? What issues are consuming me and taking my focus off the Lord? How can I find greater peace and rest in Jesus? How can I attach to the world less and trust in the Lord more? I will be thinking on these things today.

Considering Proverbs 3:19-20

19 The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.

20 By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.

The purpose of the creation is to “bring many sons of God to glory.” When God created the heavens and the earth, He had us in mind. That is an amazing thought when we look at the wonders of the creation. We are so small within the vastness of the universe, yet the God who made everything set it all in motion for those who He loves.

In His wisdom, God created the world in a particular way, and there is so much that we can think about.

We can look at the mind-blowing detail that goes into something as small as a particle of sand to the grandiosity of the largest mountains and know that God is more powerful than anything that rises against us, yet He is gentle, patient, and mindful of every detail. We can look at fresh springs of life-giving water that God provided for us and consider the life-giving Spirit. We can look at the resourceful land that we inhabit and consider the wonderful provisions of the Lord. We can consider the depths of the salty and deadly sea, who as sin, has encompassed us round-about.

We can view the sanctity of marriage and the wholesomeness of good family life and gain understanding about the relationship between God and man. We can look at the fruitfulness of a tree and consider our spiritual growth. We can consider the vastness of space and marvel at the riches of God’s everlasting Kingdom that go beyond any comprehension.

The list goes on and on. Take some time to really think about how God is reflected in creation. It is an astounding thing and a powerful testimony.

The earth is a womb for His saints, created with the perfect balance of good and evil so that we can learn to love righteousness and hate iniquity. The earth is a womb for His saints that teaches us to love as He loves, to hate as He hates, and to wield the powers of the divine with self-control, uprightness, and due reverence for the God who made all. We were made from the dust of the earth, but through Jesus we will rise in glory to rule this earth—and a new heavens and new earth— with Him for all eternity.  

Absolutely amazing.

All things were created for us and for our good. How God must truly love those who love Him and are called for His purposes—His purposes of raising up many sons and bringing them into glory. Though we are but brute beasts, we can put on the divine nature through a life lived in Jesus Christ who lived on this earth to teach us, died for our sins to redeem us, and sent us His Holy Spirit to change us.

Man looks at the world and our sciences, compares that to a legalistic and fleshly-eyed view bible, and they mock any idea of God. They mock the bible because they do not understand that divine inspiration of spiritual knowledge is not the same as fleshly knowledge.

They are blind to the wonders of creation and He who made it—He who made them and provides for them any good thing they experience on this earth. His sun shines on all. He sends rain on the just and the unjust, and He teaches His children to love those who hate Him. Yet they hate Him and they hate us. Even this is for our good.

We should leap for joy and shout praises to the Lord! Thinking on these things brings so much hope. Thinking on these things casts aside doubt of God’s love for us. Thinking on these things causes us to marvel at the wonders of His majesty and power. Thinking on these things brings glory to God and His incredible wisdom and understanding—who can know it?

Yet He gives it. He gives us everything. He gave us His Son, His flesh, His blood, His Spirit. He gives us wisdom and understanding of what it means to put on the divine nature amidst the wickedness of this world—a darkness that was created to shroud God away from the world but to draw us closer to Him and to make us strong. All things were created for Him and by Him; all things serve Him; all will bow before Him and confess that Jesus is Lord!

We do not need to despair. We do not need to be afraid. We have much to be thankful for and hopeful for!

Considering Proverbs 3:13-18

13 Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.

14 For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.

15 She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.

16 Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour.

17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.

18 She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.

Why is wisdom and understanding so valuable? When we view this in terms of keeping the commandments of God and the teachings of Jesus, then a Christian should be able to consider this rather easily. At least intellectually. We all have room to grow in living these things.

We know that the ways of Jesus bring us out of sinful living, and this often provides us with a longer and more fulfilled life. We know that there are many treasures in heaven that we can seek presently including the blessedness of a righteous life and service to the Lord and our brethren. These treasures are spiritual and godly, not of earthly greed and gain according to the fantasies of mans’ hearts.

In the Kingdom to come there is everlasting life and godly riches prepared that go beyond anything we can imagine. There is more service to be done, and we will live with Jesus Himself in a world that is ruled by the King of Kings. Can you even begin to imagine what that will be like? To be fully free from the unjust and confused rule of man? Incredible!

We know that if we follow the ways of Jesus, we are going to experience more peace in this life. We will learn to rest in the promises of Jesus during hard times. We will have greater confidence in the choices we make, and when we don’t know the way we will learn to trust in the Lord.

We learn to live day by day with a mindset of, “sufficient to the day is the evil thereof” yet we do so wisely so that we are not “throwing ourselves off the pinnacle of the temple” and tempting God.

We have peace that comes from His forgiveness and mercy, and we know that He is faithful to us even when we go astray. He will not leave us nor forsake us.

We can learn to be at peace with all men as much as it is possible through dealing with people kindly, patiently, and lovingly in general. We can learn to find amicable resolutions to life’s challenges, as much as is possible without sacrificing the ways of Jesus. If resolution is not possible then we have peace in knowing that God will handle the situation and avenge, and He will give us sharp words to speak in a timely and righteous fashion when necessary.

The ways of Jesus bring truth and life. As we grow up into Him, we will learn how to apply His ways wisely, and we will experience more of His goodness, more peace, and we will receive honor from God as we honor Him and the Son.

As temples for the Holy Spirit, we will bring truth and life to the world around us. Some hate us for it, others turn to Jesus. In either instance, we are blessed. We cannot lose.

All of this makes me think of the blessings given during Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:3-11

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

As we learn fear of the Lord, the ways of Jesus, and grow in wisdom so that we can apply His ways to our life effectively, we gain great wealth that no one can take away from us, and no earthly wealth can compare to a life lived in Jesus Christ or to the riches of His Kingdom now and to come.

I think it is safe to assume that we can all grow in these things.

If we consider ourselves to be poor in spirit, then we know that there is much yet that we need from the Lord, and He will provide it. There is always more of the Kingdom for us to experience within our hearts during this present life.

It is good to mourn for our sin and to seek forgiveness and healing from it. It is good to mourn the evils of this world and to desire the Lord’s Kingdom. “There is greater wisdom in the house of mourning than the house of mirth.” Mourning of a godly sort keeps us humble, sober-minded, and prepares our heart to receive more from Jesus. Through proper reverence for God and sobriety of heart we are comforted, and we have happiness and contentedness.

We can grow in meekness as we harness truth and us it wisely, we can seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness more actively so that we better represent His name and the truth He brings, we can show mercy as we cultivate understanding for the struggles people face so that we might lead them away from sin instead of hardening them to it, we can seek the Lord to purify our heart so that we can know God better and serve Him more effectively.

In so doing, we can bring more peace to others and experience greater inner peace ourselves; we can learn to endure all suffering for the glory of Jesus while resting in the hope of His coming and all that entails.

Chastisement and Suffering Part 1: Introduction

Photo by Suleyman Sahan from Pexels

Do Christians experience chastisement from God? What about suffering? There are different ideas about these topics, and I expect these ideas to come up in the future, so I think it is worth looking into.

There are multiple perspectives and teachings about the chastisement of God and suffering in the life of a Christian. I would like to find reconciliation if possible or at least increase my own understanding.

For example, should a Christian feel shame? Is this chastisement? Some say that when we feel shame for sin, Satan is tempting us to lose faith or to doubt our salvation while accusing us before God, therefore we should ignore those feelings of shame and instead trust in the blood of Jesus that covers our sin and forgives us. Some say that we should ignore any idea of God’s chastisement because Jesus took our chastisement upon Himself on the cross.

Some say that when we feel ashamed for sin this is the Spirit convicting our hearts and we should listen so that we are not as a fool who despises correction. Some say that God chastises those He loves, and though chastening does not feel good, we should try to be thankful for it and after it is done, we will see the good result.

Sometimes chastisement is a form of suffering, but not all suffering is God’s chastisement. What about suffering in general? Jesus teaches that we should expect suffering, but He also provides many blessings in this life.

Some say that God is love, therefore any bad thing that happens to us comes from Satan and not God. Some say that God only wants good things for us (with an understanding of “good” in terms of a pleasant life).

Some say bad things happen to us when we anger God and good things in life indicate God’s blessing and approval (again “good” in terms of a pleasant life).

Some say that bad things happen regardless of our sin because we live in a fallen world, and these things happen independently of our sin or God’s will.

Some say that God is in control of all things, and He allows bad things to happen to us for our good.

Some say that bad things happen to us so that the glory of God is revealed, and this has nothing to do with the sin we have committed.

Some say that suffering is part of living a Christian life, and we should consider it a blessing to suffer for the name of Jesus.

Some say that we should not suffer in this world because God has not appointed us to wrath.

I think there is truth to all these ideas, but we must consider some things if we want a more well-rounded view.

I want to spend some time considering chastisement and suffering by looking to scripture and personal experience in comparison to the various ideas I have heard taught.

Do you have teachings, thoughts, scripture, or experience that you’d like to share before I begin this series?

Considering Proverbs 3:11-12

11 My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction:

12 For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

The blood of Jesus forgives our sins when we put our faith in Him. Why then should we need correcting?  

There is an aspect of Christian culture that does not want to fight against sin, but instead wants to use the blood of Jesus as a cover for their sin and an excuse. They believe that a one-time verbal commitment to Jesus is sufficient. They do not expect—and even despise—the chastening of the Lord.

As we read earlier in Proverbs, fools despise wisdom and correction. The Lord does not delight in a fool. However, we have all been foolish and we all need the blood of Jesus. Those who are covered with His blood respectfully are not seen as fools. We have the righteousness of Jesus covering us so that we can approach God for forgiveness. We also have power through the Holy Spirit to learn righteousness and to overcome sin throughout the course of our lives.

Sometimes we are chastised in heart by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, so if we have the Spirit and we listen, we will hear conviction against our unrighteous thoughts and actions. Sometimes the Lord sends difficulties that will strengthen us or change our course. Sometimes the Lord takes things away from us that are harmful or so that we can learn to trust Him better.

We can experience chastisement in many ways, large and small. If we become better at hearing the small corrections and obeying, then we will need fewer large corrections. In any case, Jesus will do what He must to get our attention if we truly belong to Him.

As Christians, we are not appointed to wrath, but we do experience the chastisement of the Lord and we might feel tempted to confuse the two. We might feel as if God is against us or as if He has forsaken us, especially if the chastening is difficult to handle.

When we feel this way, we should call out to Jesus all the more. He hears and He will make a way for us. We can find consolation in the crucifixion of Jesus. He felt forsaken, but He rose from the dead. Even if we meet an unpleasant end, we are not forsaken. We will have a glorious resurrection through Jesus.

It is also worth noting that some unpleasant things are not chastisement, but opportunity to honor the Lord. Some blessings come in the form of suffering for the name sake of Jesus.

All things are working together for our good if we love Jesus and are called according to His purposes. This includes chastisement. We should expect it and do our best to embrace it. The chastening of the Lord makes us stronger, wiser, and more upright.

How can a Christian understand the difference between God’s correction and Satan’s accusations so that they can embrace correction instead of using the blood of Jesus to hide from correction in vain? How can I help Christians come out of soft Christian culture and see suffering for Jesus as a good thing? I will be thinking about this today. I think a detailed discussion about the chastisement of God and suffering for Jesus might be necessary.