Sunday, April 18, 2010

God in Our Image

Sometimes I begin a seminar by having the group close their eyes and answer the question, ‘Have you ever heard the whisper, I am not?’ Without my even asking, hands go up. Sometimes people raise both hands. There is always a gasp or two, and nervous laughter. Then I ask, ‘I am not what...? Instinctively people answer the question with one word. As they answer I write it down on the board. Here is a list from a recent conference.

I am not... welcome, not perfect, not good enough, not loved, not lovable, not understood, not deserving, not the one, not satisfied, not acceptable, not special, not certain, not appreciated, not there yet, not important, not smart enough, not worthy, not fast enough, not safe, not liked, not included, not anything, not fulfilled, not respected, not valuable, not it, not happy, not free, not forgiven, not able, not tall enough, not pretty enough, not strong, not healed, not supported, not saved, not wanted, not special, not adequate.

Whether we are conscious of it or not, we all carry the burden of this whisper, and it is a burden, a ‘yoke grievous to be borne’ to borrow a great phrase my Professor, J. B. Torrance. It debilitates and poisons our lives. It can be scary to look honestly at our own ‘I am nots,’ or the family of them that have taken root in our souls. Two things will happen for sure. First, you will be shocked at how much of your time, energy and life have been dedicated to managing this burdensome yoke, and how it has shaped your perception of yourself and others, and your relationships or lack of them. But, as Paul Fitzgerald of Heartconnexion ministries says, ‘what is not acknowledge cannot be healed.’ And if is not healed, it is influencing.

Second, you will be liberated. When we look at ourselves and face our ‘I am nots’ a wonderful thing happens. We experience the sheer acceptance of the Father, Son and Spirit. It’s almost funny. For we all know that the Lord knows us inside and out anyway, but we have a way of not thinking about his awareness of us, and our lives. But an honest look at ourselves makes us vulnerable to Papa’s love. That is as beautiful as it is ironic. Our ‘I am nots’ make us fear exposure and thus judgment. This is the trick of the father of lies. But what actually happens when we get honest is that we have nowhere to go. And when you have nowhere to go you become keenly aware of where you are—known, loved, accepted and delighted in by Jesus, his Father and the Holy Spirit. You may even hear another whisper, this one laced with divine delight and humor, “Well, duh! And... You didn’t think we knew that?” We have been loved and accepted our whole lives, but not in our minds. And that is the problem.

John Calvin said that our minds are a perpetual factory of idols. The beautiful news of our inclusion in Jesus’ relationship with his Father and in his relationship with the Holy Spirit is too good to believe. How could I be so loved, so embraced, so accepted? It can’t be.

At somewhere around this point in the seminar I have the group close their eyes again and ask another question. ‘What is God like?’ Answers come quickly and usually with considerable passion. Here is a list of the answers.

Holy, Judgmental, Indifferent, Powerful, Mean, Removed, Love, Distant, Legalistic, Uncaring, Impersonal, in Two Minds, Unsafe, Unapproachable, Angry, Gracious, Loving, Harsh, Abusive

With a list like this you would think I was speaking in a prison, but I wasn’t. This list, or one very similar to it has cropped up time and again in my travels around the world. It appears to be universal. Never once has the word Trinity been said, or the word relational—except, of course, by people who had been through the seminar before.

Here is another question. ‘Do you notice a similarity between the two lists?’ At this moment in the seminar there is dead silence, usually followed by something akin to a corporate gasp, and then head shaking and laughter. The way we think of God is the fruit of our ‘I am nots.’ It is called projection. While the Bible tells us that God created us in his own image, the truth is we have created god in ours. We hear the whisper, ‘I am not...’ believe it, project its pain into heaven and create a corresponding god, who then confirms our ‘I am not...’ Without even knowing it we tar the face of Jesus’ Papa with the brush of own wrongly perceived ‘notness.’ It is a hermeneutical nightmare, which ruins life, poisons freedom, and destroys relationships. With a god like this how could anyone face their ‘I am nots,’ or even acknowledge that anything is wrong?

The whole quagmire is rooted in a lie, and knowing the truth is its undoing. Jesus shares his own ‘I Am’ with us. He always has and always will. And he does so in the deep places. It is Jesus’ own I Am—I am the beloved Son of the Father, I am anointed with the Holy Spirit, I am wanted, welcomed, loved, known, cared for, safe, a thrill to my Father’s heart, I am acceptable, important, worthy, good, and full of joy—that he puts within our hearts. And the Holy Spirit works to help us hear it and to take baby steps of faith that it is true, steps against our own judgment or mindset. As we do, we begin to know that we are known, accepted, loved and delighted in, and we have freedom to look honestly at ourselves. We begin to see Jesus’ Papa with Jesus’ eyes. Then comes more freedom to be honest. In time our ‘I am nots’ are erased by Jesus’ great ‘I ams.’ And Jesus’ own life and peace and joy and freedom with his Father and the Holy Spirit begin to express themselves in us, in the way we see ourselves and others, in our relationships, work and play. It is, as Paul Young says, ‘an incremental process.’ And it produces life. Such is the kingdom of the Triune God. Thank you, Holy Spirit. We will have more please.


Anonymous said...

No wonder the folks think those terrible things about who god is. Just a little thought of what is being taught in so many churches says he is some kind of monster.

Wish I had a good list of answers to today's preachers and teachers who I'm having an ongoing discussion with who are saying god loves you if....Seems like if is always there. "Preacher, can I tell that person sleeping in his own vomit behind that dumpster that god forgives him?" The preacher says, "No, he must accept first."

I'm beginning to speak up about it but not getting anywhere with church people, just the unchurched so far.


Anonymous said...

If we are to embrace this truth, we do so at the hand of a lifetime of "I am not..." conditioning. Now, how are we to change this condition, even if it is a plausible premise? Are we to repeat mantra-like affirmations of "I am's..." ad infinitum to change what has indeed been "burnt into" our brains since childhood? If there is one answer to us to stop and "take a deep breath" it is the cross. But...that was one event in history. Now, I hereby ask the Holy Spirit to begin to whisper back at me truths as an answer to the evil one's whispers. I might add, God has not prevented the evil one from acting upon my mind in an attempt to destroy it -- I suggest God bring an "enforcer" into the rink. Please, come, Holy Spirit.

Pastor Paul said...

Allow this analogy if you will. Lead is a base metal and worth very little compared to other metals in the world. Gold is however one of the most valuable metals and us used as the standard of worth by many.

The miracle of God is to take all of the lead that we humans are and by divine process through Jesus' life, death, resurrection and ascension turn all of humanity into GOLD for the Father.

This is a process we accept and believe by faith. It humanly is IMPOSSIPLE but God is not limited by humanity, and He does it by a divine ACT of God.

What a miracle. What a God. What a saviour.

We don't have to understand it, we just are asked to believe it.

I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.

Paul Kurts
Madison, Alabama

Scott said...

Jesus response to my hearts cry "to be somebody" in life is said so well in Jn.14:13 AMP.

And I will do [I Myself will grant] whatever you ask in My Name [as presenting all that I AM], so that the Father may be glorified and extolled in (through) the Son.


Robin said...

One of the most beautiful and affecting posts I have read in a while. Thanks be to God.

Janice said...

Thanks so much for this post, very encouraging! "Please, Lord, rebuke the lies in my mind, for they deny your love and acceptance of me." Baby steps can be frustrating for this impatient little one.

timothya3 said...

i don't know; when we read CBK's posts of late, we seem to be in Christian counselling territory. It is as if we have a sickening psychology and are in need of a pep-talk at the very least. It seems too that God wants to come close to us and give us some good counsel, dispelling some of our contrivances or negativities in the process. If God is like a counsellor, I quite like the idea as I like pep-talks and I am never not in need of them! I know that i can only thrive when i am around positive people who are full of energy as it is infectious, so maybe Jesus is like a special form of this too? If we really are this dumb as enumerated by CBK, then Jesus must love us enormously. Tim P.

Pastor Paul said...

I don't like the tone of Timothy3's blog statement. I also don't trust anyone who does not have a conection to his or her profile for all to see, as you see I have. ( Tim quit hiding behind annonimity an crate a profile.:)

CBK, or Dr. C. Baxtr Kruger, as you call him is in no way positing that people are either stupid or lacking in intelligence to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Quite the opposite. The Gospel of Christ is not Rocket Science, nor is it Dr. Suess.(Sp)

It is the announcement of The Triune God that Eveyone has been adopted, included, and saved in Jesus Christ from the very beginning of the Cosmos. They simply need to hear it and believe it.

And no, Jesus does not love us "enormously" as tim3 says, He loves us unconditionally, totally, without reservation, not accounting all of our sins against us ( you inlcuded tim3) and always has and always will.

Does it take a stupid, ignorant, or uneducated person to understand this? Well, if it does, then Tim3 you are at the head of the line.

But you are included and loved by the Father also, so take heart.

Pastor Paul
Madison, AL

Anonymous said...

Timothy, indeed we do have a 'sickening psychology'. It's called sin, which in essence is believing the lies of Satan who tells us that God is other than He is and that we are other than who we are. As a result, we live in fear and act out of the deepest of wounds to our hearts and souls. The behaviour that results is 'wrong'.
Theology speaks to our cognitive selves to explain this problem to us and to elaborate God's amazing solution. Counselling, when done properly and in service of the Wonderful Counsellor, applies theology to our inner beings, which is where the Psalmist said God desires truth. The two together are life transforming, which is what the apostle Paul declares in Romans 12 is the goal of Christian living.
This is way, way beyond a pep talk. Pep talks are useless - the whole Old Testament shows us that. It's full of pep talks, called 'the law', but the intent is to show how we cannot be saved by following the law. It's not meant to condemn us, but the overarching Satanic lie is that this is what God expects, that His way for us is to try and try and try to obey. When we believe that and feel that God is going to regard us by reference to our level of obedience, then we end up in despair. (Little wonder most of the world hates Christians, because that is a projection of their hatred of themselves, which they try in vain to cover up.)
The gospel is that God does not regard us by our level of obedience. What the law can't do, Christ has done for us. This has profound implications for how we think about God, ourselves and our lives.
We ARE dumb, stupid, mislead, deceived, wrong in our thinking and our feeling about God and about ourselves. The love of Christ is not just a quantity, but a quality and a power of love that opens eyes and reveals truth to us. When we know the truth, we are set free, as Jesus said.

Warren of Sydney

(Sorry Pastor Paul, if you don't trust me, but I don't have a profile to link to. I agree with you that people should sign their posts, and not just remain anonymously anonymous. But full identification isn't required by Baxter's blog site. If it were I'd have to reconsider I suppose, but it's his call not any of ours.)

John Geerlings said...

I am so grateful to Papa for people like Baxter who have been gifted to speak so that by the Spirit humanity may consider these things.

It is the man Jesus who on behalf of all humanity shouted out our rejection so that all may come to experience the death of Satan’s control over all. We no longer need to live in death!
It is because of his resurrection and ascension that all have become aware of rejection, whether overt or covert. How else would we know? Adam and Eve had to hide; we no longer need to do so, we can live in abundant life! It is in the “I am not” that the “I Am” resolutely shouts “you all belong to me” for spiritually I have recreated you in me, so that in your living being (soul) in time today you may consider to live by faith and not by sight or feelings from your flesh. Live from the inside out by my faith and sight and feelings will be restored through my flesh! Wow! The first truly human has given us the capability in him to be truly human, and all because he is not absent from our “I am knots”

I think this is a most positive post! It truly shows the love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit for all humanity, and the reality that is! Thanks again!

timothya3 said...

What I was trying to address in my previous posting was that CBK seems to come over as addressing pscychological issues.He seems to be addressing my feelings more than my head. That is just my interpretation which need offend no-one. I find the tone of Pastor Paul completely off-limits, offensive and unacceptable behaviour and I am surprised that his post has not been removed. It comes over as a personal attack and I find it vile!
As for my personal profile, I am hiding nothing, i simply do not know how to lodge a profile and anyway if i did, I am sure to give ammunition to more brickbats. So can people please ease-up, or else....or else i really will be sickened.

timothya3 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hope this helps now that I am adding a profile, progress.

Anonymous said...

When we understand who Jesus is, man that is pep talk times all we can take in.

I had trouble when I first started reading Tim3's post for some reason, but when I reread, it sounded very good. Dr. Paul may have had the same feelings I had when I read it the first time.

Allowing myself to be so loved by Papa is just such an unusual way of thinking. It is the best anyone can believe, but I keep wanting to throw a mask up instead of being loved by Papa and that is why bumping into each other happens sometimes. Sorry Tim3.


Anonymous said...

When we understand who Jesus is, man that is pep talk times all we can take in.

I had trouble when I first started reading Tim3's post for some reason, but when I reread, it sounded very good. Dr. Paul may have had the same feelings I had when I read it the first time.

Allowing myself to be so loved by Papa is just such an unusual way of thinking. It is the best anyone can believe, but I keep wanting to throw a mask up instead of being loved by Papa and that is why bumping into each other happens sometimes. Sorry Tim3.


Anonymous said...

Hi again Timothy,

I think Baxter is speaking about both theology and psychology, both to the heart and to the head. Maybe you're right and some of the recent posts are focussing a bit more on how the theology gets into our inner beings, but I don't think the line between them is completely clear cut. Good theology doesn't just change our minds and our thinking, it assists in our transformation.
Warren of Sydney

Timothy Parker said...

If I may be permitted to throw in the following comments: in emphasizing the 'feel-good' factors of faith in the way recent posts have present the faith, I am wondering if the feel-good factor has not slipped over into a 'disneyfication' or charicature of the Faith. Let me explain: the Christian faith has suffering and its heart. We suffer loss, our lives. Sometimes the 'glass may be half full' or the 'glass half empty' mentalities, or positivity versus negativity effects. If I understood the CBK approach aright then these mental effects need addressing directly from Christ's words to us. All I am saying is that I do not think we need a direct 'therapeutic approach' like that, and that it may actually be undesirable presentation of the encounter with Christ. To me this is the equivalent of someone who knows all they know about love from the Holywood (romantic) love version of love! I mention this in the spirit of openness, dialogue, and absolutely no, repeat no personal slight.
regards tim

Anonymous said...

Tim3 I have found the feel good gospel to be what is in the christian world of churches. The CBK approach goes deeper than those churches I have attended all my life. Those present a gospel that says all you have to do is make a mental ascent and you have fullfilled what the bible calls for. None, till now in dealing with this trinitarian truth, have looked inside to my dead mens bones except their teaching that stresses behavior change.
This light that CBK is teaching about, the light of God's truth, shines on our brokeness and shows the real us and beckons us come and be healed, come and let me love you deeply as I do.

shawn said...

hey my name is shawn from ontario canada. not sure how to connect with you baxter. 5yrs ago He showed me Love, Acceptance, and Understanding. a month ago i finally put the pieces together. your Great Dance is the same thing He showed me. it's all in the Word. we need the 'veil' lifted in North America. it's gone on too long. feeling like the only one in a sea of legalists. i know i'm not but if there are any others around. love to get together. fully understanding all the Father, Son, Spirit has revealed and loving life for the first time ever. everyone was meant for this. i guess it's living out the Truth now. keep up the great work. John 19:30 was what sold me too. it started with Heb 8:8-12, which led to Jer 31:31-34. after that there is no scripture that doesn't support John 19:30. IT IS FINISHED. loving for the first time the real way. Shawn

John Geerlings said...

My name is John Geerlings. There is a group that meets in the St.Catherines area. jg