Monday, July 30, 2012

Adventures in Wonderland, #10: Slaying the Jabberwocky

I never once considered, as I began reflecting on Proverbs 14:26-27, where it might lead, or of the “rabbit” I might chase.  It’s been a journey, and one, which I think we complete this morning, as we contemplate slaying The Jabberwocky.

In the more recent movie, Alice in Wonderland, the Jabberwocky, is a flying dragon (of sorts), which Alice must slay in order to return Wonderland to its place of vibrant glory.  She is the destined one…and it has been written from the beginning that one named Alice would do the deed on “Frabjous Day” (a fabulous, joyous day!).

Symbolically, we each have our own Jabberwocky, which must be slain.  Where do we find this creature in our own personal lives?  Certainly, we could venture down a number of roads seeking the Jabberwocky – an oppressive demonic force, perhaps?  - some persecuting human enemy?  - a terrorizing fear?  No, I think we need travel no further than our own minds to find that creature!

Nothing jabbers at me, and sends my soul spiraling, quite like my own mind.  I imagine yours, too!  We tend to live in our thoughts and rest there much too long, much too often.  Words spoken to us; perceptions we imagine; what if’s we envision; fears we fancy – all have the capability of cycling around and around and around our brains, leaving us breathless, weak, and incapacitated.  Our worlds turn dark, black and gray, colorless.  Yes, the Jabberwocky lives in our mind, and that fierce dragon breathes his fiery worst over and over, especially in the middle of the night.  We are called to victory; it is written that there is a “Frabjous Day” for all of us: 

…but thanks be to God, who give us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:57)

…for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.  We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor 10:4-5).

…put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil…for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the powers, the world forces of this darkness, and against spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to resist…and having done everything, to stand firm… (Ephesians 6:10-13)

Good news:  the victory is sure.
Bad news: it is not easy!  To slay the dragon we must wear the armor of God (go in His strength and the power of His might), and thrust the sword (the Word of God) over and over and over and over, until finally the Jabberwock is dead, and we can slice off his head (just as David did Goliath).

What do I do in the dark, or at other times, when the Jabberwocky goes crazy attacking me?  I’ve found several things helpful (but let me assure you, I don’t have it down, not yet).  I find it doesn’t do any good to sit still.  At the times when the “Jabber” is most “wocky,” praying is almost out of the question (he tends to drown out my prayers with distraction).  So, I move…usually I go to a place where the Lord seems to speak regularly (my “spot” on the couch, where I meet with the Lord each morning, or if possible, I go for a walk outside).  Since silent prayers are drowned out by the beast, I pray aloud; or if it’s middle of the night, I write out my prayer).  Like King David in the Psalms, I am very honest with the Lord.  I line out my thoughts, specifically, in messy detail.  I talk; then, I listen. 

Listening involves the Word, the Truth*.  Sometimes I know the truth I need to hear, and it comes easily to mind…  Other times, I draw a blank, and I have to read reflectively for a while, until my mind receives the truth the Lord has for me for that moment.  Either way, I listen for that still small voice that holds the key to victory – the sword of the Spirit, which is able to thrust deep into the dragon…  Sadly, sometimes I just wound him, and he flies off to recuperate, returning other nights.  Yet, over time, I learn how to defeat him more quickly, and ultimately, I can eliminate him all together.  What I am looking for most of all is God’s perspective on my messiness.  Once I have his perspective, I often find His peace.  They seem to go hand in hand. 

A word of warning, some Jabberwockies are bigger than others.  Some take a little more time to wear down, and kill.  Others require a little something more – like fasting, or further digging into the truth, or some accountability, even a little more “faith power” (achieved by including friends who pray and counsel).  The hope of it all is that there is a “Frabjous Day” coming…and you are destined to discover it!  It is written!

*Side note:  One thing that really helps me is to keep a stack of 3 X 5 cards handy, on which I write key passages of Scripture.  I can keep those with me for those random moments when I need them (and, I, also use the cards as memory packets, so I can also hide that truth in my heart for "at moment's notice").  I keep these cards in my purse, so no matter where I am, they are available for "such a time as this."  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Adventures in Wonderland, #9

It seems like we always end with some kind of “problem” that keeps us coming back for further introspection into the world of Wonderland (AKA: Kingdom Life).  Once Alice unlocks the door and enters in, she quickly discovers there’s a battle to be won for the sake of the Kingdom: a battle over evil that seeks to rule hearts.  It’s a battle over one whose head is “bulbous” from pride, who lives the lie that evil can rule by force and intimidation.  Frankly, the Queen of Hearts has had her day, the story has been written, and a champion is on the horizon. 

This is in such similarity to our spiritual enemy, who desires to rule our souls, our hearts.  He, too, uses lies and intimidation as his greatest tools, and somehow we believe them, and for some reason we keep giving him the authority to render us shaking in our boots.  YET THE GOOD NEWS.  The story has been written.  There is a “Frabjous Day” ahead, when the champion will defeat the enemy. 

Ultimately, our champion is Jesus.  In the meantime, we don’t have to live under the rule and defeat of the enemy on this journey in Wonderland.  We, too, have armor, and a sword, to pick up and slay the beast.  Even so, Alice! 

Oh, there’s no question, Alice falls prey to the intimidation.  She loses some of her strong confidence, courage, and conviction in the presence of her enemy.  She loses some of her “muchness,” as the quirky Hatter proclaims.  Even wise Absalom tells her, “You’re almost Alice.”

Even in Wonderland, we can lose part of ourselves as we stand in the intimidation of the enemy.  However, a visit to the White Queen gives Alice another key to victory.  “You can not live your life to please others,” she says. “The choice must be yours alone.”  With that, and the realization that she has all she needs in armor and sword, Alice makes the choice.  Her return to confidence, courage, and conviction comes forth and she comes out The Champion.

I’m reminded of Paul’s words to me, to this Alice in Wonderland.  “For am I now seeking the favor of men or of God.  Or am I striving to please men?  If I were striving to please men, I would not be a bond-slave of Christ (Ro 1:10).”

The choice is ours.  Who do I wish to please?  Only one choice leads to victory.  I’m either slave to the insatiable appetites of this world, or the one sufficient to lead me to freedom.  One keeps me in a dreary world, even in Wonderland, and the other springs my world forth in splashes of rainbow color. 

The armor and the sword stand at the ready.  I simply need to apply them.

And…how? There’s still more, it seems.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Adventures in Wonderland, #8

Hopefully, you read through 1 Samuel 15, as suggested last week, if not do a quick read through to get the gist of the storyline.  Saul has just disobeyed God in a big way, and as a result God has torn the kingdom from Saul’s line.  This whole story ties in so well with everything we’ve pondered, thus far.  The theme of obedience (or disobedience, as the case may be) is the whole focal point of chapter 15. 

There are a few key verses to compare and contrast.  Read carefully and see if you can pick out those things that relate to what we’ve discussed.

Samuel said (to Saul), “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made head of the tribes of Israel.  Your God anointed you king… (1 Sam. 15:17).

And God said to Samuel, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument to himself (15:12).”

Saul said (to Samuel), “I have sinned, but please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the Lord your God (15:30).

Here are a few of my own thoughts:
  1. There was a time when the Lord God was very personal to Saul.  Something happened that this personal God became impersonal and distant.
  2. When God was still personal, Saul saw himself with humility (he was little in his own eyes).  He recognized he wasn’t king material, BUT GOD saw something Saul didn’t.
  3. Because God was huge in Saul’s life, and Saul was humble, the Lord raised him up to King.  God + me = amazing possibility.
  4. It appears, reading between the lines, that Saul “forgot” how he got where he was (this is crucial to humility:  may we never, ever forget how we got where we are).  Saul forgot from where his victory, even his very breath and every heartbeat, came.
  5. As a result, Saul’s dependence shifted, his “greatness” was magnified and he built a “monument to himself” to celebrate, not an altar on which to worship the Lord his God.
  6. Consequently, Saul's desire shifted from pleasing God to pleasing people.  God is now small, and Saul and others are HUGE.
  7. With this dynamic in play, Saul’s mindset and reversal of roles set him up for disobedience.

Here are God’s words to Saul through Samuel (vs. 23):  Rebellion (disobedience) is as the sin of witchcraft.  Insubordination (a lack of submission) is as vanity and idolatry.

There it is:  Pride leads to a lack of submission, a lack of submission results in disobedience.

At the end of the day, the heart of the man, or woman, of God is the issue:  the blackness of the sin of pride and idolatry.  There is a cure – ownership, confession, repentance (turning about-face) and placing God in his rightful place.  There it is in black and white:

Humbly yielding in reverence before the Lord Almighty the giver of every gift; this then, is the drink that turns the key that opens the door.

What a great adventure awaits the one who walks through!

Just one more problem...

Monday, July 9, 2012

Adventures in Wonderland, #7

Review with me a minute – where are we going with all this?

Theme passage: 
In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and His children will have refuge.  The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death.
Proverbs 14:26, 27

The Goal:  To walk through door into a land of Wonder (AKA: the Abundant Christian Life).  A door that invites us through to strong confidence, security, freedom from fear, joy, satisfaction, contentment, merriment, wisdom to escape the traps the enemy sets out for me, and, best of all, sweet intimacy with my Savior.

The Bad News:  The door is locked.

The Good News:  There’s a key:  Fear of the Lord.

The Bad News:  Everything’s in opposite order.  To be able to use the key, God must be HUGE in my mind.  Instead, I am HUGE in my mind.  When I am big (or, other people or things are) and God is small, pride, idolatry, and unbelief get in the way.

The Good News:  There’s a bottle on the table that instructs, “Drink Me.”  If I drink, everything reverses in right order.  God is the right SIZE, and I can properly fear Him. 

Well, what am I waiting for, Alice?  Take a swig!  But remember, I’m the one who needs to know what’s in that drink… I’m not going to take too big of a risk.  That’s where Alice and I differ, and this is exactly what I’m exploring right now.  Exactly what is in that bottle?
Humility.  Check.
Submission.  Check.Check.
There’s one more ingredient…and, this one causes almost all of us to hesitate at one time, or another.  It’s the bittersweet taste of obedience.

The three ingredients form a chain.  You can’t have one without the other.  Humility (seeing/knowing God and seeing/knowing myself as He sees me) draws me to submission.  Submission sets me in the proper frame of mind for obedience.  Obedience is easy once the other two have been wrestled to the ground.  With confidence, I can say humility and submission lead directly to obedience without hesitation.  When my kids were little, I was famous for saying, “If it’s not quick obedience, it’s not obedience.”  Sometimes, I wonder if God thinks that way about us.  However, without an attitude of humility and submission, our obedience will be anything but quick.

There’s a great story in the Scriptures that illustrate this point.  The story is found in 1 Samuel 15.  It’s well worth the read, and pondering over.  How about spending the week reading this narrative, taking some notes, and next week we’ll compare thoughts?  I guarantee one thing: there’s a former king, named Saul, who sure wishes he’d taken heed to the principle being presented:  Fully drinking the cup of God’s Will surely opens the a door to a grand adventure in a Kingdom called Wonderland.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Adventures in Wonderland, #6

Second ingredient found in the bottle on the table of which we must drink:  Submission.

If the word submission were a person, I think I’d feel a great deal of pity.  Submission is very misunderstood.  When I think of submission, something inside of me stands up with fists clenched.  I tend to think of submission in the negative – a doormat variety of weakness. 

Truth be told, a submissive individual is one of great courage.  Jesus, showed great courage in the Garden of Gethsemane, when minutes before his arrest, he uttered the five most powerful words ever spoken, “Not my will but thine.”  Five words that changed history.  Abraham showed great courage, when he demonstrated those words, and bound his only son, Isaac, to the altar.  Isaac made evident the same expression when he placed himself on the altar, and allowed his father to bind him there.  Paul said it with these words, “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” 

Recently, I watched the movie We Bought a Zoo.  The take away quote from the movie is this:  “All you need is twenty seconds of insane courage and I promise you something good will come of it.”  Exactly.  Twenty seconds of insane courage leads to submission.

Twenty seconds to say, “Not my will but thine.” 
Twenty seconds to climb up on the altar (I urge you brothers, in view of God’s tender mercy, to make yourself a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1). 
Twenty seconds to surrender. 
Twenty seconds to die to self.
Twenty seconds of insane courage…
The liquid goes down the hatch…
The drink is swallowed…

And something good is sure to follow!  We’re almost through the door to Wonderland!