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Behind the Mirror

It is a blindness to the beauty, with a clarity on the flaws 

It is the impulse to manipulate for what’s already been freely given

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It is the urge to compete with those who are dearest to us

It is the voice that taunts us from behind the mirror

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It is the compulsion to tear people down to what we unconsciously perceive to be our level

It is the willingness to trade our values for the approval of others

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It is the frequency that muffles every compliment, while amplifying the slightest criticism

It is the apprehension to speak for fear of sounding stupid

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It is the drive to control what was never ours to govern

It is the tendency to exaggerate our accomplishments, while denying our weaknesses

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It is the fear that if they really knew us, they wouldn’t love us

It is the unspoken sense that it would be better if we were someone else

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It is ultimately an identity thief

and

Its name is insecurity

 

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Don’t mistake obsession for love.  Obsession will drive a person to destroy the thing they claim to love rather than seeing it belong to someone else, while real love would rather set that thing free than see it destroyed.

Two Trees

Growing up in mainstream Christianity, the story of Adam and Eve seemed pretty basic. God created a paradise, gave mankind one simple rule (i.e. don’t eat of the forbidden tree), and then we didn’t follow it.  Boom!  Sin enters the picture, and we’re thrown out of the garden.  Of course, there was the snake and the fig leaves, but it’s not rocket science.  Eat the good fruit, not the bad fruit; don’t listen to the guy telling you otherwise; do what God tells you, or lose paradise.

 

It’s not exhaustive, but you get the idea. It all comes down to this battle between good and evil, and you’d better end up on the good side if you hope to get to heaven.  Sure, later on you’ll hear that we’re all saved by grace, but from the beginning it’s pretty clear that what God is really after is obedience.

 

Years later, when I finally revisited this story on my own, I was surprised at how different it seemed. Most important, was the realization that the choice Adam and Eve faced in the garden wasn’t between the fruit of what is good, and of what is evil, it was fruit from the Tree of Life, or fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I remembered what the trees were called, I just never attached any importance to it. Clearly the Tree of Life was the “good” fruit and the other was the “evil” fruit.  What else do you really need to know?  But upon further review, I realized God was saying something more here.

 

The tree of life is pretty easy, it’s really just a picture of Jesus. It offers us provision from the Giver of life, and like any fruit tree, we’ll need to come back daily to sustain ourselves.  He became our daily bread.  He is the vine and we are the branches.  The fruit is good because He is good.

 

Less obvious is the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”. I mean, doesn’t God want us to know the difference between good and evil.  After all, if it’s really about a battle between the light and darkness, isn’t this essential information?  Why should God forbid that we eat of this tree?

 

It’s the snake that answers this question. He tells Eve that if they eat of the fruit, they’ll become like God.  In other words, they won’t have to rely on Him for this knowledge, they’ll be able to decide for themselves what is good and what is evil.  It was the choice between being completely dependent upon God or living life on their own terms.  Sin entered in when mankind chose the latter.  The punishment wasn’t because God was mad at them, He was actually giving them the life they chose; a life lived by their own wits, and sweat, and sense of what was right.

 

Repeatedly in scripture, God sets before us life and death, and encourages us to choose life. That’s what He was doing in the garden as well.  Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life”, and the Tree of Life is the way to life.  Conversely, the scriptures tell us that there is a way that seems right to a man, and that it ultimately leads to death.  That’s where the fruit of the forbidden tree takes us.

 

This whole discussion is important because, whether we recognize it or not, He sets this same choice before us every day. If it was really just a question of good versus evil, and of being obedient to the commandments, then the Rich Young Ruler shouldn’t have gone away disappointed. Jesus didn’t dispute this man’s claim of obedience, He simply required something more of him.

 

He said that people would know us by our fruit, and that the only way to produce that fruit was to abide in the vine. He warned us that simply calling Him Lord, and doing good things in His name wasn’t what He was after.  He told us that we should live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  Today, just as He did in the garden, He sets before us life and death.  Let us choose life.

One of the more positive effects of the technology revolution has been the flexibility it affords us in handling information; but this free flow of data hasn’t been without it’s perils. Accessible from so many different sources, stored in countless locations, and available in such diverse formats, we’re seeing that information is highly susceptible to corruption and manipulation.  Indeed, the emerging generation has grown up in an era where those who don’t like the history of something, can easily edit it, or simply delete the file altogether.  You see this tendency in personal interactions, where “Friends” are unfriended, conversation chains are deleted, and any photographic evidence is scrubbed from the memory card.  On a larger scale, there is a growing trend toward expunging the names and memories of those historical figures that don’t measure up to current sensibilities in regard to what is acceptable.

 

To be sure, I can understand the desire to avoid the uglier aspects of our history, both personally, and as a culture. Yet, I’m concerned that the unwitting consequence of so effectively erasing these unpleasant chapters is the likelihood that we will fail to learn the lessons taught by them, thus dooming us to repeat them some time in the future.

I awoke to the sound of the prophet’s voice calling out to God’s people, “How long shall you waver between two opinions?” 

If He is for us, who can be against us?

If He gave us a sound mind, and a spirit that is without fear, how are we paralyzed with depression and anxiety?

If He works all things to our good, and is faithful to complete the good work He’s begun in us, how can we be without hope?

There is no doubt that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.

“If the Lord be God, follow Him.”

 

The Apostle Paul said, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”  Throughout the epistles he exhorts us to do the same.  Recently, I’ve sensed the Lord highlighting some of the childish things that need to be put away.

 

First and foremost, a child is self-centered.  A baby has no capacity to concern itself with whether its parents are tired or busy or sick, it just knows that it’s not comfortable (e.g. hungry, wet, gassy, tired) and it demands immediate attention.  Presumably, as we get older, our awareness of other people and their struggles grows, but in times of trouble we can easily return to our infancy, becoming blind and numb to anything other than our own wants, needs, or pain.

 

As a baby grows into a child it becomes increasingly responsive to external stimuli, like light, color, noise, music, touch… and through this it learns to interact with the world around it.  Eventually, these external forces begin to shape the child’s concept of life and identity.  But as we grow in spiritual maturity, we’re called to become less responsive to what is seen (which is perishing), and more sensitive to what is unseen (which is eternal).

 

Young children tend to easily fall into covetousness when they see something they want, jealousy when someone else has what they want, and to have tantrums, when they don’t get what they want.  It is not a given that age and experience will cause us to grow past these things.  Often, we simply become more subtle in the ways we express them.

 

Children are also famous for their impatience and fertile imaginations, both of which can become powerful tools in the hands of the adversary.

 

Indeed, the scripture admonishes us to humbly esteem others above ourselves, to bless and serve those around us, and to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”.   It commands us not to covet, warns us against the “acts of the flesh” (including jealousy, selfish ambition, fits of rage) and reminds us that “self-control” is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It tells us that we must cast down our imaginations, to learn to “wait on the Lord”, and to embrace patience as a reflection of Christ’s character.  Throughout the New Testament it speaks of the transformation that God desires to work in each of us, and He assures us that He is faithful to complete this good work that He’s begun in us.

 

It’s likely that none of us want to think of ourselves as being childish, but I sense the Lord challenging us to allow Him to reveal the “childish things” that we still need to put away.  To uncover those instances where we’ve become callous and numb to other people’s pain, or those circumstances that we’ve unwittingly become slaves to, or those things that we’re coveting and maybe even making into idols.  To show us those places within our heart where self-pity, jealousy, and bitterness dwell; and to expose the imaginings that have replaced the genuine prophetic vision He means to give us.

 

Like David did in the Psalms, we need to invite Him to examine our hearts.  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”.  Amen.

The proverbial “We” or “Us” (i.e. people who share our values/worldview) have a tendency to put our hate in a different category than the hate spread by the proverbial “Them” (i.e. people who don’t share our values/worldview). We see “Them” as haters, and view their hate as toxic. While we consider our brand of hate as being justified, and maybe even virtuous. Whether it is a hatred of Donald Trump, or Nancy Pelosi, of religion, or godlessness, of Socialism, or Capitalism, of Conservatives or Liberals or any one of the million other things we choose to hate, it all mixes together to create the same poisonous atmosphere. Martin Luther King Jr. observed that, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”. We won’t get better as a society by continuing to berate, mock, taunt, protest, boycott, slander, threaten and attack each other. As Dr. King rightly concluded, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”