Sunday, October 28, 2007

Discovering That Which Is Most Alive In You

In my previous post I attempted to show that, according to Scripture, God alone is the creator of the very thing that separates you from animals - your soul. No scientist can create a person's soul in a laboratory. No human being can create the human soul by procreation. God alone forms the soul of man.

It is your soul that provides you communion with God. This communion with your Creator gives rise to an inner strength regardless of your temporal circumstances. Soul communion with God is the very source of genuine life. It is what makes us alive - really alive. But many Christians have fallen into the trap of believing that God desires His people to live in comfort, and that He cooperates with those who believe in Him to bring a life of temporal blessing. This "Joel Osteen" type of mentality makes the very dangerous mistake of putting second things first. Rather than communion with God being the center of one's life, blessings from God become the focus of one's life. God created you to enjoy Him. He formed you for communion. Your soul was made by God, for God, and will return to God.

Therefore, God will often allow the loss of blessing in your life to tear down every idol and draw your soul back to the only thing that truly and eternally satisfies - a heartfelt, passionate soul-satisfying relationship with God. And NOTHING and NOBODY can steal that from you. Larry Crabb in his new book SoulTalk tells a heartwarming story that illustrates the importance of knowing the importance of the soul.

We moved my aging parents closer to family when it became apparent that Dad's health was declining and Mother's Alzheimer's was advancing. Shortly after their arrival in Denver, it became necessary for Mother to receive full-time care in a facility designed for people whose minds were ravaged by that terrible disease. For the first time in more than sixty years Mother and Dad lived separately.

They each suffered terribly, though in different ways. Mother was terrified by her confusion. Dad was devastated by the loss. So many times, I would drive home after visiting each of them in their adjoining facilities and break down. At times I screamed at God: "Is this how you treat your children? They have been your faithful servants for more than eighty years. Their last days should be spent together, enjoying each other's company until they go home. I can hardly bear their pain. Do something!"

I watched Dad visit Mother, sit next to her with his arm around her, and say, "The best is yet to come. We'll be together soon." Then Mother would be led by an attendant back to her room, behind locked doors to keep her from wandering off, and Dad would walk unsteadily back to his, with shoulders slumping, looking like the weary, worn-out old man that he was, bewildered by why he was still alive, bearing the sadness of an empty existence with no hope of things improving.

A few weeks beore he died (he preceded Mother by fourteen months), I sat with him at breakfast. By this time, he was in a wheelchair, unable to walk, barely able to lift his coffee cup, unable to get a forkful of scrambled eggs to his mouth without dropping half of what was on the fork to his lap.

As I watched the life drain out of my once lively father, a strange impulse came over me that morning. I asked him a question I had never before asked, never even thought to ask in my fifty-seven years.

"Dad, have you ever had a vision?"

His eyes became instantly alert. My decidedly noncharismatic father sat up straight, filled with excitement. "I wasn't going to tell you unless you asked. Yes, I had a vision last night. It was so strange, different than anything I've ever experienced. But I don't know what it means."

"What was it?" Now, I was sitting up straight.

"Well, you know how weak I've become. I need help to get out of bed and into this wheelchair. Last night, I was lying in my bed, wide awake but thoroughly tired, feeling more alone and helpless than I've ever felt, and more confused than ever by why God was allowin all this to happen, and to go on so long - Mother's Alzheimer's, my weakness. I was really depressed.

"Then I could feel myself gently being carried to a different dimension. I was still in my room, but I was in another world The door opened - Larry, this wasn't a dream; I was wide awake; somehow this really happened - and a man came in. He was huge, muscular, and had a look of sheer evil on his face, absolutely mean. He said, "I'm going to tear you apart. I'm going to break every bone in your body.'"

"I felt terrified. I knew he could do what he said and that I was helpless to stop him. And I somehow knew God wouldn't stop him, though he could. I didn't even pray for protection. Then the man looked puzzled and said, 'I'll be back in a minute to destroy you.'

"He walked out and I just lay there, trembling. I couldn't reach the buzzer to call for help. I couldn't move. All I could do was wait. I thought of Habakkuk when he waited for the destruction he knew was coming.

"But then another thought occurred to me. He said he'd come back to destroy me. But I realized that he couldn't do that. He could break my body, but he couldn't destroy my soul. I'm alive, and he has no power to take that away. It was the strangest thing. Lying there helpless, I felt indestructible. I was indestructible. That guy seemed pathetic.

"He came back in, looking mean as ever. As he walked toward me, I very calmly said, 'Look, you can do what you say. I know that and you know that. You can beat me to a pulp. But what I know and you don't know is that you can't kill or even harm my soul. I'm alive in Christ, and there's nothing you can do about that. I'm going to heaven, maybe with broken bones, but I'm going. And as soon as I get there, I'll get a new body, healthier and stronger than you'll ever be. You're a pathetic enemy. You have no real power at all.'

"The man looked a me with sheer hatred then turned to the door and left. And I lay there, more peaceful than I've felt in months. That's it. That's the vision."

I almost came out of my chair.

"Dad, I know what your vision means." I couldn't believe what I heard myself saying. I've interpreted dreams before, but never had a vision. Yet I knew exactly what this vision meant.

"Dad, this world and Satan have thrown everything at you they can. You can't walk. You have next to no Christian fellowship. You've enjoyed Mom for sixty-three years, and now she doesn't even know who you are. Almost every blessing you've been given has been taken away.

"But what the Spirit has revealed in your vision is that what you want the most, you have - and no one, not even your strongest, meanest enemy, can take it away. You have God, he loves you, you're in his hands, and somehow in the middle of all this, Dad, you really are indestructible!" I was nearly shouting.

Dad listened to every word I said. His eyes danced with a life I hadn't seen for a long time. When I finished, he said, "That's it! I'm more than a conqueror. This is wonderful." And then he added, quietly, "I'm glad I told you my vision."

"Me, too," I replied.

In that moment, my father was more completely on the spiritual journey than anyone I've known. He was delivered from religion filled with "the love of God unto the forgetfulness of self," and yet, by losing his self he had found himself.

The experience of communion with God, of being in Christ and kept safe by the Spirit, meant more to him as we sat at breakfast that morning than any experience of blessing he could imagine. Restoring Mother's mind, enabling him to walk, giving him back the joys of fellowship in a church - nothing compared to what the Spirit revealed to him in that vision. It was all about God. First things were first.

Mother detoriated further. Dad never walked again. He died a month later. But he had been given an experience of wholeness and life and hope and joy that not even a restored marriage could have provided. The best second things, the experience of wholeness and life and hope and joy, were granted, in the midst of ongoing sadness, because my father put first things first.

And that's the Spirit's vision, that we might value his presence above every other blessing, even when the experience of his presence is withdrawn. That's faith. And that's why Jesus died, to give us the reality of the Father's presence that we can believe in and treasure no matter what happens to us or what we feel.

That, my friend, is the value of knowing your soul was created by God and for God.

In His Grace,



Anonymous said...

Do you believe that people can have visions like that? The Friday before my grandmother died she told the weekly nursing staff that she wouldn't see them again b/c she was going home on Sunday. Sunday morning she woke up and walked down the hall to church (in the nursing home). She told everyone she was going home. She sang the hymns. She went back to her room and told my aunt she was going home. She was excited. She said angels had been telling her she was going home that day and she was ready. She then sat in her chair and died.

Steve said...

I Cor 4:1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (ESV)

The granddad & Becca's grandmother seem to have been good stewards, no? Receive it - tell it - see it come true!

Bodies, rocks, and all things visible to us now will fail, but the soul is world-proof.

Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed the last two post and the spiritual "food for thought" they've given me. I've already learned and thing or two that I didn't know before. Thanks. And what a great story!

Charles R said...

I've had several opportunities over the last few years to serve as camp pastor for the Young Musicians camps sponsored by my state convention. The kids are 9, 10, and 11 years old. I remember particularly one year when I was trying to find a way to help them understand what a soul is.

I showed video of astronauts walking on the moon in that stiff, bouncy fashion that we late baby boomers are so familiar with seeing on our black and white TV sets when we were kids their age. Switching to a photo of the spacesuit, I talked briefly about how NASA designed it so the moon walking astronauts could best live and work in the moon's environment. Looking at the face mask of the suit, I asked them to describe what the astronaut inside the suit looked like. Because it is so heavily tinted to protect them from the sun's rays, they could not see the astronaut's
face to describe him well.

I went on to put up a short, video clip, without audio, of some of them going about their activities at camp that day. As that ran, I talked about how God, like the NASA engineers who designed the moon suits, has design our bodies to best live and work in earth's environment and that, like the moon suit has an astronaut living inside of it, our bodies have a soul living inside.

The soul is that part of us made by God to live inside our bodies while we are on earth. It is that part of us that makes us uniquely and especially who we are and who we will always be. Just like when we look at the astronauts in their moon suits it's hard to recognize and separate the astronaut from the suit, we have a hard time thinking about ourselves separate from what we see when we look in the mirror. But the part of us that makes us who we really are in God's eyes is alive inside our "earth suits".

The soul has been inside us from the minute that God chooses to create it inside the new “earth suits” that grow inside of our mothers. The five senses of our “earth suits” are made for the world, and God makes our souls with special senses made for hearing and understanding God for both while we are in our “earth suits” and for eternity, when we won’t be needing our “earth suits” anymore.

When our bodies, our earth suits, stop working, the soul will continue to live on forever and ever...somewhere...and God gives us a choice where that will be.

This teaching opportunity took place a couple of years before my earth suit started to malfunction. The communication devices started to falter. I started having difficulty with the fine manipulation of the vocal cords required for singing. Ability to see with the left eye failed, and when it returned, it returned only partially. RAM chips in the central computer began to malfunction, too. My short term memory and ability to remember names even of people I’ve know for decades was unreliable. Battery packs fail. Fatigue is sometime overwhelming. Gyroscopes are unreliable. Balance when walking is iffy some days. Diagnosis: MS.

The challenge to help children understand the soul those years before has been a stronghold for me when days are bad. Despite the fact that the ability to repair my damaged earth suit and delay its further deterioration is limited, there is no limit to the desire or ability to develop the senses that MS cannot touch...the senses of the soul.

Chad Kaminski said...

Hey Wade,

I doubt the reason for your last two posts was to facilitate this kind of discussion, but I have no one else to talk to about this stuff, so feel free to ignore me if you want to move on.

Anyway, I'm still thinking about this creation of soul and fallen nature stuff. J. Edwards talked about Adam and Eve having a high principle and a low principle. One being a supernatural principle (or a spiritual principle in tune with divine love), and the natural principle (or principle of mere human nature), respectively. He argued that when they allowed their lower principle to rule them, God took away their higher principle, permitting them to be ruled by the lower principle, which then was no longer as it was originally created.

Was Edwards talking about the body and soul, or the soul and spirit? The body being the way man relates to his environment, the soul being the way man relates to other souls, and the spirit being the way man related to God. And when God removed the "higher principle," was he removing man's spirit, eliminated man's ability to relate to God, which in turn is repaired by the indwelling Holy Spirit at conversion?

If he was talking about the soul and spirit, then the soul (along with the body) was no longer in its perfect state. This seems incompatible with the soul being created perfect for each new human, and then being marred by its union with the body.

If Edwards was talking about the body and soul, then the part God removed from them was the soul, leaving only a body, which can't be right (I don't think).

Or was Edwards talking about two principles of the soul, where God took the higher principle from the soul, leaving it with the lower principle? If this is true, then this also causes problems with God creating each new soul perfect. He would only be creating souls with the lower principle, therefore creating something less that perfect.

So if a soul is created newly for each new human, wouldn't it stand to reason that it couldn't be created perfect, (if perfection is being found in a perfect union with its body, and a perfect relationship with it's God as originally designed)?

david b mclaughlin said...

Charles R.,

Earth Suits. I REALLY like that. In fact, that would be a pretty good name for a band.

Anonymous said...

SoulTalk talks to my soul like few books ever have.

Thanks for the reminder.


Dave Miller said...

Charles R,

I get the point of your spacesuit illustration, but I think there might be a couple of serious problems with it. Theological anthropology is a complex study.

1) Many theologians today reject the "soul in a body" duality. We are a unified existence - body, soul and spirit existing as a unified whole. I am body, I am spirit, I am soul. The three are one (or two if you don't distinguish soul and spirit). We are not dualists.

2) The biggest problem is this phrase:

"When our bodies, our earth suits, stop working, the soul will continue to live on forever and ever...somewhere..."

That is actually more of a Buddhist or Hindu view of humanity. Yes, when I die, the essence of my soul will go into the presence of Jesus Christ. But that is only until the resurrection of the body, which will be glorified. Eastern religions believe in the escape of the soul from the body. We believe in the perfection of the body.

Sorry to be picky. I see the point of your illustration, but like many illustrations, it can create more problems than it solves.

Dave Miller said...

And your humorous, positive view of your physical condition is well appreciated. May God strengthen you body and soul.

Charles R said...

You points are well taken, Dave, but 9 - 11 year olds aren’t ready for the dichotomist/trichotomist debate nor have their minds developed enough to wrap around the world religious debate over duality. They are ready, however, for a primer on the idea that we have a soul given us by God.

What I failed to note in my earlier post was the scripture I led to in the lesson: 2 Corinthians 5:1-10. Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands...etc.

Thanks for your words of support and encouragement.

Anonymous said...

Powerful truth and powerful God. Yes, God can speak to us in as many ways as His infinite imagination desires. He is the same God today as He was when Daniel had visions or when Jacob saw the ladder... etc.

ml said...

Wade, you said, "God created you to enjoy him." I might add a clarification that God created you to BE enjoyed BY Him.

Lin said...

"Rather than communion with God being the center of one's life, blessings from God become the focus of one's life. God created you to enjoy Him. He formed you for communion. Your soul was made by God, for God, and will return to God."

Amen! Sanctification can look like death to the worldly. When God 'separates' us for His own, it usually does not look like your best life now.

david b mclaughlin said...

... it usually does not look like your best life now.

Well played.


Anonymous said...

My heart has been so heavy the last two years because I have a neighbor/friend, er, former friend -- she doesn't speak to me anymore -- who has bought into the whole "prosperity gospel" pitch. I've tried to talk to her, and show her that those who are telling her what she wants to hear, that "God wants everybody rich and healthy," aren't her real friends, and aren't selling her the truth. They're just cashing her "seed money" checks every month. She used to attend a Baptist church. I pray for her, but only God can open her eyes, to see that He is about more than mere material blessings.

Bob Cleveland said...

I've heard is said that what's revealed to us is ours to know, but what isn't revealed, isn't. I think there are many things we don't know and never will (except maybe in heaven).

At the moment my dad died, I was 3 miles away making a sales presentation that I'd made hundreds of times, and at that moment my mind went totally blank. I could literally not think of a word to say.

I gave up trying to explain it, and also gave up doubting that such things happen to others, too. It's not mine to judge.

This does point to the wisdom of seeking first His Kingdom, though. Tragically, the mere fact that God said it ought not need confirmation. Apparently He thinks we could use some.

Bennett Willis said...

I keep reading becca's post (#1). It is a shame that our "normal minds" often have to be seriously handicaped before we can hear angels clearly.

Having been through a couple of slow deaths in my family, I urge each of us to let the dying talk with us and to talk with them about it. Sometimes there are things that we need to hear (spiritual and earthly) that don't get said because we are uncomfortable with what is going on.


Anonymous said...


This place isn't our home. I find that more encouraging with every passing day.

Rex Ray said...

I have a bone to pick with you—you being my pastor and all. (I can hear you moan…not again.)

Since you thanked Wade for the reminder of SoulTalk, why didn’t you tell me?

You replaced our pastor who resigned to care for his dying wife.
Sunday night, he preached for the first time in a year as you were flying to the BGCT convention. He poured out his heart of the battle he had with God over his wife’s death to cancer. She never complained but worried about him.

He had worked it out between him and God, but Wade’s post would help him more. I read it just before driving to the convention.

BTW, we agreed on the questions of why we were attending the convention. We were coming to fight, and I put ‘worship’ next to last in the list and you had it farther down than that.
Last year, messengers were denied the right to decide what to do about ‘soft hearts and heads’ being swindled out of a million dollars. They were told leaders would decide that…fox & henhouse.
I’m afraid some have fought SBC leaders so long, they’ve become the same.

Anyway, after the convention, I decided we should have put worship as number one.
I had a chip on my shoulder with Rick Warren, but his sermon melted my heart; not in sorrow, not in Joel Osteen’s feel good, but a joy that each of us can let God lead us.

I never understood why God will wipe away tears in heaven. Why tears? I think our greatest punishment for our sins will be that God will give us one glimpse of hell. They’ll be saying, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Debbie Kaufman said...

That's why I am so thankful that Christ paid the price for my sins on the cross Rex. I won't have to cry over my sins in heaven. I'll be rejoicing that "Jesus Paid IT All"

Rex Ray said...

Amen; I hear what you're saying, but when we get to heaven, why will it be necessary for God to wipe away our tears?

Well, to prove my point, I read Revelation 7:17 and 21:4, and I see I stand corrected. God wipes them away before we get to heaven.


david b mclaughlin said...

Josh in FL,

First, I think this world is our home. Don't we spend eternity here in our New Earth?

Second, I'm so jealous you live in Florida. I cant convince my wife to move there. I did spend a week there at Disney this summer.

Anonymous said...

"And that's the Spirit's vision, that we might value his presence above every other blessing, even when the experience of his presence is withdrawn. That's faith. And that's why Jesus died, to give us the reality of the Father's presence that we can believe in and treasure no matter what happens to us or what we feel."

This was something I needed to see today. I think I used to have this kind of faith--at least until my husband died. Maybe not--I have discovered how easy it was to keep going when there were two of us and how hard it is when there is just one. And, to be honest, there have been days when if I had to chose between God's presence and my husbands presence, my husband would have won. I have found in the 3 years my husband has been dead, that it is so very easy to say that God is all you need, and so very hard to live it. So, I strive for that kind of faith, and thank you for reminding me again.
God bless,