Refuge

Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Inherent Goodness!


Are people born good?  Or bad? Or some of each?  Are some people born with more good or bad than others?  Truthful answers to these questions are extremely important for healthy living.
I’ve read many books by Brene Brown and one recently brought up the subject of inherent goodness which I wish to address here.  Brene Brown describes herself as a researcher and story teller, and has become a popular TED Talks speaker on topics of shame and vulnerability.  I have benefited from her discoveries and have been recommending her books and material to clients I see in my counseling and speaking.  Shame is a huge problem in stealing our self-worth and robbing our ability to experience love and belonging in relationships.  Dr. Brown does a great job in helping people identify sources of shame and encouraging vulnerability to expose secrets so that shame no longer has a place to hide (and destroy our relationships).
However, in her recent audio book called Rising Strong as Spiritual Practice, Brene Brown expresses  views on spirituality that conflict with the Truth of the Bible.   
In order to talk about inherent goodness we must be clear on some basic assumptions.  The term “good” used in describing self-worth and value as a human being, must be distinguished from “good” in a sense of a person’s moral character (as compared to bad/ evil character).   Another element of defining “good” is how we see God in relation to mankind, and whether we are comparing man to God or man to man.  Man’s inherent goodness lies with man’s inherent value as a creation of God.  Everything God creates is good.  Mankind was created good (see the story in Genesis).  But after the creation, the “inherent” part of goodness changed dramatically because of some very bad choices on man’s part.  
In the book Brene says people possess 3 inherent (inborn) qualities: lovability, creativity, and divinity.  She makes a good point that our beliefs about who we are as people, directly affect our relationships with other people. Beliefs rooted in shame will damage our relationships.   If we believe we are unlovable, we will treat either ourselves or others without proper love and respect.  If we believe we are not creative, we hold that belief as a result of either others not affirming and valuing our work, or our self-perceived standards of perfection (perfectionism) are way too high.  But divinity does not fit in the same category as lovability and creativity.  Divinity is not part of human nature.  In fact a belief that people are inherent “holy,” (as Brene states)  is about as far from the truth and as unholy as it gets.   People are human beings.  God is a divine being.  God’s divinity sets him apart as “holy.”  From the beginning, God created man with lovability and creativity, but divinity is reserved for God himself.  In fact, the origin of shame is rooted in man trying to make himself divine, and man rebelling against God’s supreme authority.  Evil entered the world through this shameful rebellion.  But worse yet, the problem of shame became a legacy  inherent evil passed down to every generation of human beings (see the story in Genesis 3).  
God created a world in which only He is the Judge of good and evil (tree of “life” as it is called in Genesis).   At mankind’s creation, God forbade man from partaking in judgment between good and evil.  Part of what made God holy (set apart from man) is this ability to judge between good and evil.  As the “all good” Creator, God can judge between good and evil without being touched by evil.  But man does not have this ability.  When man demanded to have this ability (eating from the tree of the “knowledge of good and evil” as it is called in Genesis), man committed the first sin.  Our attempt to be Judge (instead of allowing God to be Judge), made us forever contemptable to God’s holy and righteous supreme authority. Jesus Christ offers our only hope of escape from this mess WE created of HIS good creation.  
  It is evil to demand to take God’s rightful place as supreme Judge, whether in thoughts, attitudes, words, or deeds.  Mankind brought shame into the world with the original selfish act of defying God’s command (not to take part in demanding to be the Judge).   When Adam and Eve claimed to have the right to decide for themselves good from evil, this challenge of God’s supreme authority (holiness), created the original sin.  This rebellion against the goodness of God’s nature, created the inherent evil born into the nature of all persons born into the human race.  Every human since that time is born into the slavery of shame.  Our only hope of redemption from this evil is to believe in what Jesus Christ has done to save us from our wretched condition (see John 3; Romans 3;  Isaiah 53:1-6; 61:1-3).  
Mankind was created inherently good, but the corruption of sin now extends to every person making us inherently evil.  Because we are created in the “image of God,” and since God is all good, we still bear resemblences of good.  But sin killed our spirit. A dead spirit can’t be good.  That’s why we need Jesus who makes our spirit alive.  If  we know Jesus, the Jesus in us makes us good, but  without Jesus, our best efforts will never be enough to make us a “good” person (by God’s definition).  Even if we seem good enough by man’s definition, in reality, we’re no better or worse off than any other person (as far as our right standing with God).  Again, only Jesus makes that difference.  So, we ARE good enough to be a human, but being the best human we can be, doesn’t make us divine.  All humans are born equal in this regard.  
If we believe we are holy, we not only devalue the holiness of God, but we deny our need for the salvation of Jesus Christ.  A belief that man is inherently good, is in direct conflict with a Christian world-view.  Because of man’s sin and shame, Father God sent Jesus,  his one and only son,  to die, resurrect, and ascend back to the Father to save all who believe (from their sin and shame).  Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).   The Bible clearly teaches, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved”  (Acts 4:12).  Jesus is our exclusive redeemer from the sin and shame problem introduced by the first humans on earth.  
That may not be a politically correct assertion, but it is the Truth.  A person who lives their life by this Truth finds the best (and only eternally lasting) freedom from shame that exists.  What one believes DOES matter.  Truth matters.  If what one believes does not line up with the truth, there are eternal consequences. The danger with believing in the inherent goodness of people is that it prevents people from believing the truth that they need a Savior for shame-free living.  Relying only on  people is not the complete answer.  Vulnerability with people may be a significant step, but vulnerability with God (and relying on what Jesus has already accomplished) is the ultimate solution.  
What I have discovered in my own life is that being honest with God is often a first step to being completely honest with other people.  God is way more trustworthy than any human being.  Coming to Father God with my fears, unloving thoughts, lonely feelings, and whatever else shame trys to trap me in, is heard and already acted on in my favor by what Jesus has done.  May I encourage the reader to read the gospel of John to deepen your understanding of the relationship Jesus had with Father God, and how Jesus brings us into that same relationship as sons and daughters of God.  Whether a person is a new follower of Jesus or a seasoned Christian, there is always more of the burden of shame Jesus can carry for us  (see Matthew 11:28,29).
Brene Brown’s insights on shame may empower us to be more honest (vulnerable) about our shame condition.  However, her views about how spirituality enters into the mix (at least the views expressed in the above mentioned book) need to be sorted out as misguiding.  I am not writing to shame Brene Brown as a person.  However, I believe she is guilty of misrepresenting true spirituality (from the world-view of a Jesus-follower).  My aim is to alert people (especially Jesus-followers) to the extreme dangers of falsely believing that people are born good (without a need for Jesus to clean out the inherent bad/ evil).   I encourage the reader to read some of my other articles that share more detail on allowing God to transform your life from the inside out. 

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Psalm 103 Healing


The Psalm quoted below was written by an ancient Israeli leader  known as King David in the Bible.  I add some thoughts interspersed throughout.  

“1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-
3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.”
God is a restorer of hope.  Connection with God can only be experienced when we are surrendered to him in our “inner most being.”  Relationship with God brings all the benefits of healing---physically, mentallly, emotionally, and spiritually.  God supplies for legitimate needs, and even satisfies desires for good things that honor him.  

“6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.”
There is not enough room here to unpack all the good news that this one verse reveals for mankind.  For years I read over verses like this in the Bible thinking of people In comparison to myself who are  worse off, more needy (physically, mentally, or spiritually), and perhaps in a condition more persecuted by people around them.  The English word “opressed” may include people we think of as “less fortunate,” but I think the meaning of this text goes far beyond social perceptions.
            A deeper meaning of this verse involves God’s eternal purposes for mankind.  Over 1,000 years before Jesus came to earth, this prophetic declaration describes how the Messiah would free mankind from the slavery of unrighteousness and injustice.  Whether we like to admit it or not, we are all born into an oppressed condition.  We need a Savior to free our soul from the powers of the evil enemy of God’s entire creation (including the human race).  It’s not about us working our way to God, but salvation comes by each individual receiving (and believing in) the work God did in sending His Son Jesus Christ to redeem our lost (oppressed) status.  As followers of Jesus, we are to cooperate with God’s work of changing us from the inside out, until the day we die.  In this process, our oppression lifts more and more each day.  This process (sanctification) is the real path to healing.
I came to realize that it’s not about me thinking I’m opressed or privileged (more or less needy than another person).  It’s about how I relate to God, and whether I’m accepting more or less of him in my life every day.   

“7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
The past is extremely important is making sense of the present, and future.  People in the Bible have thousands of years history in relatiing to God.  When Jesus the Messiah came to earth, it completely changed the way God relates to mankind.  God’s son Jesus does not treat us as our sins deserve.  If we believe Christ’s message and respond by surrendering our hearts to his teachings, all the guilt and shame of our short-comings is done away with.  We are not condemned to living in our past, but have genuine hope for the future.    

“13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children..
18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”
             The God of the Bible is worthy of respect.  In fact, he commands it.  He doesn’t force himself on people, but he enforces the laws he has set into motion.  Respecting God’s ways is guaranteed to see compassion flow from his heart.   Covenant is a word we don’t hear much about, but it has to do with God’s promises with his people.  All his promises are true and loving toward his creation, and he doesn’t even know how to break a promise.  Honoring his covenant is always to our benefit.  Father God’s heart is to lavish love and compassion on his people.  The only thing necessary to receive Father God’s full blessing is to remain faithful in keeping our end of the deal.  Since he knows we cannot remain faithful in our own strength alone, he provides the Holy Spirit to guide us and nudge our hearts to greater degrees of surrender.  

“19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.”
God is a supremely benevelant King.  His kingdom is not an earthly kingdom, but divinely powerful for the destruction of evil.  Jesus came to enforce the heavenly kingdom and provide a way for mankind to rule and reign as God’s sons and daughters.  There is nothing outside of God’s domain.  Our task is to bring God’s rule to our surroundings.  God reigns in the most general terms of the affairs of the universe down to the smallest details of  our personal lives.  He wants to be on His throne in our thoughts, attitudes, and actions at all times.  

“20 Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.
21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, O my soul.”
“Praise the Lord” is David’s heartcry to end this Psalm as it began.  All creation is designed to give glory to God.  God wants the glory, not in some egotistical way, but because he knows our tendency to grab glory for ourselves.  Our self-effort only produces self-glorification.  A surrendered heart gives glory to God.  Self-effort produces self-righteousness.  A surrendered heart gives credit to Jesus for his accomplished work in saving our souls.  Healing is evidenced by gratitude.  Gratitude begins with giving honor and praise to the Lord.  Give him the glory due his name today.  Praise the Lord!

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Counter Revolution in Politics


The events of last month surrounding the confirmation by the US Senate of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, revealed a new low for the respect of America’s government, of the people, by the people, and for the people.  
The two major political parties seem to be as far apart as they have ever been.  The written document called the party platform shows the difference of key issues facing the present health and future of our country.  But the dangerous divisions lie even deeper.  We seem to have lost respect and dignity for the process that keeps people on track in assuring virtue and honor are attached to the ideas most valuable for the good of families and communities who make up America.  The biggest problem of all is our distance from respect for God’s ways, and  importance in keeping us on track.  So political power seems more imprtant than it really should be.
This power hungry trend showed up strongly in the confirmation hearings for Judge Kavanaugh. Judge Kavanaugh had gone through the vetting process already a number of times (for the lower court positions he served in), had a proven record for fairness and responsible decision making, and his qualifications were impeccable.  A group of people driven by the ideology of one of the political parties mounted a coordinated effort of falsehoods, character assassination attempts, physical violence, and other tactics demonstrating the lowest level of moral character ever in the history of our political system.
Perhaps most troubling is that this trend downward is encouraged by the top party leadership. Published reports of Hillary Clinton’s comments on 9th of October quote her as saying there should be civil unrest until their party gets it way. This party’s  Congressional Representatives have made public statements wishing physical harm on political opponents. Other party leaders have made statements that are code words for things like, “lying is okay,” “hurting people is okay if they don’t agree with you,” “whatever it takes to win is justifiable.”  Followers and the sources donating to these political figures are encouraging and  financing mobs to stir up division and unrest, taking forms of racism, sexism, and the like.   
Civil societies must rely on rules of engagement.  Playing a sport is a good illustration of how this works.  Imagine the fans response to a referee who seems to make up the rules as he goes.  From the players perspective, knowing the rules and how they will be interpreted by the referees, is vital to success on the field.  Competent execution of teamwork can only be possible if all the team members are familiar with the rules, and interpreting them as one unit.  Declaring a winner in a game is predicated by both teams playing by the exact same rules.  The referees job is to ensure that happens.   
If our elected officials are the players, then we the voters are the referees.  We are endowed with the task of insisting that these players play by the rules.  Each individuals vote counts toward keeping the elected officials honest in governing so the best interests of the people are served, and not the elected officials themselves.  To vote intelligently, we must make judgment calls regarding actions performed by the players.  In this process truth becomes a vital concern.  
Truth is the foundation for all moral judgment, but truth does not always line up with public opinion.  Public opinion is largely formed by the traditional journalism media. This has become a problem because about 93% of the media endorse one particular political party. This is a serious conflict of interest.   For decades, the media have shown more and more favoritism towards so-called liberal ideology.   The so-called fake news of recent years proves to us that media cannot be trusted for unbiased information upon which to base judgments regarding the best candidates in elections.  Moreover, the party they choose to favor is the party trying to create the most division in our social structure.  
            Several years ago I quit watching network television news for many reasons. It shapes public opinion, one mind at a time.  I realized I could not stay clear of their bias without totally abstaining from their influence on my mind.  I don’t want the negative narratives of the media to influence how I think and respond to life events.  Much of their spin on the truth is designed to create a negative emotional response based on fear.  At best this amounts to manipulation, but at worst this amounts to propaganda and the rapid spread of evil.  Mixing this dynamic into the political arena (for example the way Mr. Kavanaugh was treated), is one of the most dangerous threats to the well-being of our nation.  
I am not saying all this to be alarmist, or to attack specific individuals.  I wish I had more space to share more thoughts and evidence.  Here are some books I’ve read recently, or have on my reading list to reveal the truth.  I encourage the reader to check them out.  A great short book is Andy Andrew’s book called,  “How Do You Kill 11 Million People:  Why the Truth Matters More Than You Think.”  Another book is Eric Bolling’s “Wake Up America: The Nine Virtues That Made Our Nation Great--and Why We Need Them More Than Ever.”   Another is Tucker Carlson’s “Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution.”   Another is Howard Kurtz’s “Media Madness: Donald Trump, the Press, and the War Over the Truth.”  Former White House spokesman Sean Spicer wrote, “The Briefing: Politics, the Press, and the President.”  Writing from a faith perspective, the well known journalist Joe Bartaglia has written, “The Politically Incorrect Jesus: Living Boldly in a Culture of Unbelief.” Another is Erwin Lutzer’s “The Church in Babylon.”  Authors Eric Metaxas, George Barna, Josh McDowell, and many others are warning of trends that need to be reversed for our nation to survive.  Of course the Bible is the greatest source of truth and books like Proverbs share wisdom that transcends all peoples, places, and times.   
God is the source of all truth.  Respecting God is the beginning of all wisdom (Proverbs).  There was a time in our nation when our leaders showed much more honor for God (and his guidelines for living) than we see presently.  In our system of government, each individual has the responsibility of helping referee our leaders’ commitment to truth.  Our voice (whistle) is a vote in an election.  God followers must pray, engage, and vote for candidates who are demonstrating actions which honor God and honor his created people.  Speech doesn’t cut it. Many candidates say the right words without  actions consistent with a true meaning of their words.  We are called to pray and seek God’s guidance.  
Sometimes it is difficult to discern who is telling the truth.  Seeking out voter guides from reputable organizations who monitor positions valued by people of faith is helpful.  It has become necessary to drastically limit exposure to media with negative narratives to deceive and divide.  We hear a lot of talk about how divided we are, but I think we are more deceived than divided.  We are seeing more and more good-willed people being decieved and believing things that simply are not true.  Don’t allow yourself to be one of them.  
Regardless of political party affiliation (or non-affiliation), we must take seriously our responsiblity to engage our system of government.  We must hold those in office and seeking office to standards of truth.  A quote by Edmond Burke I heard many years ago still rings true, “The only thing necessary for the evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.  History has proven this over and over again.  In the Germany of the 1930’s and 40’s, Deitrich Bonhoeffer also had it right when saying, “Not to speak, is to speak.  Not to act, is to act.”  Hitler’s lies deceived multitutdes because truth was treated casually. Speaking up and taking action are essential.  A person can only be a friend of truth by applying the truth in his or her own life, AND in everything touching their life.   Truth requires participation, or the foes of truth may win.  There is no middle ground. Truth and passivity cannot co-exist.
Prayer is important.  Uniting in prayer with others is also important (see PrayinUnity.org).  But prayer is not a substitute for action.  Becoming informed takes action,   A great source Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), has just launched a 24 hour news channel (see CBNNews.com).  Voting is a necessary action. I heard prayer warrior Cindy Jacobs say, Voting is a spiritual act because, we are called to steward our nation.  Some may be called to further action through service in elected or non-elected government offices.  
When I hearChristians say, “politics is not the answer, but Jesus is the answer,” I am in agreement.  However, politics is part of an answer that cannot be avoided.  Living out the Truth in all areas of life is commanded by Christ himself, in order to be called a follower of Christ.  Christ did not come to this earth to bring political revolution, but he did come to bring a counter revolution to political systems.  Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).  The political arena is yet another sphere where the glory of God is meant to shine on the earth.  Let’s do our part in making it happen.  Pray, seek the truth, and take action!

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry