I was undone by a simple interaction. On a walk with a friend through beautiful, flowering trees in a local park, he reached up and plucked a blossom. We looked at it together, chatting about various types of cherry trees, and then he handed it to me.
This was not a romantic interaction. However, in that moment the history of mankind crystallized and merged into this one image; a man and a woman walking in a garden and he hands her a blossom from a beautiful, fully radiant tree and she accepts it.
What is this? Why have I been in tears ever since? I believe because the simple beauty of companionship between a man and a woman has undone me. It has unleashed the flood gates of loss and sadness and sorrow, it has broken down the chiseled stone, block walls of protection and defense and solitude that I have been encased in for years.
Yeshua, Jesus, I completely and without shame abandon myself before your Holy and Majestic person – I need your truth in helping me to understand this. I know myself. I am not to be trusted. I am not to be trusted for my own good. For the good of others. For your Kingdom.
I, I, I. I am nothing without you. Nothing. Dust in the wind. Unremarkable, forgotten as a dried, brown leaf, fluttering, fluttering to the rich, earthy soil of autumn.
It seems reasonable that my weeping is in response to fear of deception. I am keenly aware of the insidious trap of deception; in my personal life, and in the church.
I’ve been observing and studying it for quite some time. It is the big one on my radar, right now.
“Watch out that no one deceives you”. Jesus – Mathew 24:4 NIV
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows”. Paul – Gal 6:7 NIV
“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters”. James – James 1:16 NIV
I’m watching this; this handling of the Word, this compromising of the Word which (in my opinion*) comes by being finessed off the path by opinions*, by interpretations, by following various teachers; teachers that are currently popular, teachers particular to our bent, teachers that may be regurgitating others, teachers that may be false.
God alone knows what reason we search and search from others and then find ourselves nodding in agreement and/or spewing, proclaiming, exhorting what they believe/teach/preach without ever, or rarely ever, checking with the two priceless treasures that we have been given:
- The Word of God: holy, active, perfect and alive.
- The Holy Spirit: our personal, indwelling interpreter, teacher; He who confirms, convicts and warns us.
I could not speak to this if I had never done it. I’m grateful he pulled hard enough and spoke loud enough to redirect me to the narrow path and open my eyes and prick my ears to the ease in which we wander from the truth.
So I am in vigilant watch mode right now. In my own life and by way of this, comes observation of the church, the body.
I’m presently observing, praying and digging in the Word for the Truth in two areas where I have concerns or ‘checks’ in my spirit, for sisters and brothers in the flock, who are fully immersed in one or the other:
- Tongues and add-on spirit behavior
- Gentile Torah followers
Their demeanor, body language, and resistance to any question or discussion is immediate heavy-duty verbal justification, strong verbal accusation, tough-chic/tough-guy verbal condemnation and closed ears, a closed face, a closed mind, a closed heart and a closed spirit.
‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, my strength and my redeemer’. (Linda Ronstadt singing) Psalm 19:14 KJV
Is it up to the ‘Bible police’ or the ‘deception squad’ aka pastors, elders, ‘others’ to confront & convict our stumbling family?
It is certainly up to each and every one of us to examine ourselves and root out deception. And once we recognize it, we are to repent and return to the narrow road, which, right now, I envision as the eternal vertical post of the old, rugged cross, lying before us for our contemplative journey. We get hypnotized by glitter in the pavement, or a different looking trail and off we go! Off of the narrow path, the firm foundation old as time; traveled by many a tired traveler, stained with the blood of Christ, the blood of the martyrs, the tears of the saints, the sweat of the disciples, pheromones of fear in some, song and rejoicing by others and the unbroken chain of love connecting each one of us for our beaten, battered, crucified Messiah, the eternal King of Kings, who stands in unimaginable glory ‘in the wings’ as it were, awaiting his second coming; watching, weeping, encouraging, and noting all those who jump off, walk or wander off, and those who return to this narrow, narrow path that leads to eternal freedom, blessing, life.
Additionally, Scripture is clear about warning our brothers and sisters in the body. So I study and when I am certain that He has shown me truth, if I am not rebuffed, I stand on that and I warn. Quietly, carefully, face to face, with prayer. This is not easy to do, in this age of ‘political correctness’, of ‘anything goes’, of ‘to each his own’. It’s not easy, but it is required of us, or the body gets trampled under lies and deception while we stand by, ‘not interfering’, not ‘correcting’, ‘not suggesting’, not saying or doing anything. I believe, from what scripture commands us to do, we will be held accountable for being weak in this area:
‘He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.’ Hebrews 5:2 NIV
‘Brothers, if someone is caught in a trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him with a spirit of gentleness. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.’ Galatians 6:1 NIV
‘Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.’ James 1:16 ISV
Do not be deceived. Let me state it this way: Every illusion, every trick, every silver-tongued beguiler is after you dear reader, not ‘them’ – YOU.
This means me, myself and I – as well as you, are in danger. And seeing so many that I love traipsing along this road, or that highway, wandering along, exploring, killing time, meeting others on converging paths and changing directions – all of this I recognize because my life story is riddled with episodes of this, that and the other. Oh, you Jesus, have been with me, to be sure, but you were not out in front leading, you were observing my choices, my motives, my feelings, my desires, my supposed needs, my hungers and thirsts and lusts. Yes, you were there so it seemed to me that I was OK – but what I know now, from looking back at the memorial stones along my travels is this: I was not thoughtful, or prayerful, or thoughtful or prayerful enough in the decisions I made in my growing faith, because I chose to believe I was free under my salvation and free to move along as I chose. Justifying choices.
What I learned is that He was teaching me, not unlike the way we taught our girls to ride a bike. Stand back, hold your breath, be patient, kiss scraped knees and applaud the victory.
I share this because it is deception in all its miserable trickery. I look back and am appalled at some of the decisions and choices I’ve made – as a believer in You.
The only good that will come of this, will come if I share my experience; now knowing how vulnerable I was, how capable I am of being tricked, being swayed, being encouraged to take the smallest detour; the comfort of the grassy running trail versus the hard packed asphalt and off I go, looking up, racing along, praising You and miles later I stumble and fall and realize that I’m alone, I’m in an unsafe neighborhood, and I’ve lost my way. This is when the tears come, the woe comes, the shame comes, the repentance comes and I look up and thank God – thank You – and there before me is my beloved path, my old familiar trail, whether its heather-lined in Scotland or on the needle covered under-story in the Pacific Northwest forests. There, before the trodden narrow path, I take Your hand and I step back on, and away I go, safe again, for now.
My goal? My goal now, as far as walking in truth and not in deception is to shorten the rabbit trails – detours for sure – when they jump out at me. I am not foolish enough to think I’ll never, ever wander again; I’m wiser now and aware when an enticement appears; when someone speaks something that is intriguing and I want to chase it down, or I feel a great big ‘wait a minute’. I’ve learned to stop; to stop right where I am and to survey the Map, (your Word) and use the Compass (your Holy Spirit) to line myself up with your word and your instruction. If I’m three steps off instead of three miles or thirty miles, hallelujah! That is good progress.
Another illustration. I have friends, whom I’ve walked with, who are now miles away on their journey, and I’m not with them because when the Spirit cautions my heart, it stops me in my tracks. If they choose to go on, warned, I’m to follow guidelines in the Word and love my friends, shout ‘hello’ across the forest and pray for them, but I am not to follow them. I am to follow You.
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.’ NIV
So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.’ Luke 17:3 NIV
Conversely, when a brother or sister comes to me with a concern about me, I should listen quietly and come before you prayerfully for confirmation, conviction, correction. Is this ever easy? No, but it is beneficial.
Years ago, in a very personal and intense season of prayer I asked Christ to make me his slave. I offered my life to Jesus as a bond servant, a slave. A slave in the Greek is doulos, and it means exactly what it says. To me, it means I am to be and to do what he requires of me, with the tools he has given me, for life. No regrets.
Something else that has cleared up for me is that following You is not hanging onto your belt or backpack, but walking with thoughtful prayer the steps you walked, so that I arrive where you are. By following you Jesus, of my own volition. By reaching you Yeshua, because I want you more than I want my friends.
And sometimes, while getting to you is the object of our desire, suffering is our walking partner, and I have to remind myself that the end does justify the means – meaning if I lose my friends, my husband, my children, my house, the city or country I love, the comfort of my income, the accolades of my peers – if I forfeit all of these because you are worth more to me than anyone, anything or anywhere – the end even blesses the means.
I need to say this. It’s been quite a journey. The last thing I want is anyone to think I’m good at this thing called ‘Follower of Christ’ – I know how much easier this walk would be now, had I been obedient earlier; consequences for choices do show up, sometimes later in our lives or sometimes later in our children, friends and families lives. We do reap what we sow, each one of us.
“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy” (Psalm 126:5)
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8).
“A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward” (Proverbs 11:18).
Also, there is no benefit in bitterness of heart or blame. We all should and in my maturity, I now willingly take full responsibility for my decisions and I must live with the consequences. I think of Moses being denied entering the Promised Land. That doesn’t speak to me personally, but it must have been bitter for him, sorrowful and convicting at the same time.
It concerns me and makes me wonder whom I have influenced along this path to the Kings throne. Some for good, some not, assuredly. I cannot sort through my own history without self-deception, so how can I presume to sort through another’s?
Only Jesus has this authority, at the judgement seat with what I imagine is a colossal, supernatural video screen projecting virtually, through his mind. This is not about being saved. This is about rewards and punishments. There will be no escaping Him showing us our accomplishments and our gross failures.
‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done.’ 2 Corinthians 5:10
I am deeply and somewhat abjectly humbled just thinking about this particular moment to come. But he is just, and I rest in that.
I hope and pray that my sharing is of some benefit to some. It’s all about and all because of Jesus.
How does this tie into my introduction where I’m happily wandering around a lovely park full of beautiful, blossoming cherry trees? I’m aware of my predilection for self-deception – and as I rarely meet someone who is a sold-out believer, single, interesting, joyful and great company; I find myself a bit like the story of longing in the children’s book “Are you my Mother”? (PD Eastman), thinking the refrain “Are you my soulmate? Are you my soulmate?” So, considering I’m waging war on deception, its no wonder this simple kindness shattered through to my heart. It seems wise to be exceedingly cautious when I’m feeling lonely from the beautiful reminder that God, in his wisdom, created woman for man. Just sayin’.