Saturday, March 28, 2015

Time for an Adjustment

Photo by Dematt 2006

I dreamed I was at a chiropractor’s office to have an adjustment. I check in at a desk on the first floor and realize it is a multilevel office space with rooms above surrounding a central area. Oddly, each of the three-story glass sides could be closed off by a very tall oak door extending from the top floor ceiling to the ground level floor, giving the effect of a full-sized dollhouse.

The lady checking in before me says she knows me from dancing, and asks “Are you OK? You look unwell since the last time I saw you.”

Taken aback, I reply curtly, “Maybe it’s because we’re both so much older. I don’t even recognize you.”

The woman turns away from my rude remark, and the blonde receptionist explains that my insurance will cover the full course of treatment, except for a copay of 50 cents. I don’t have two quarters with me, and she says I can bring it next time.

I spot the chiropractor scurrying around, a tall, thin, middle-aged man with mousy brown hair and thick glasses. He hands me a pile of forms and tells me to go upstairs, fill out the forms, and change in one of the rooms. Many people are there entering and leaving the rooms, but I finally find one that is unoccupied.

I remove my windbreaker and am surprised to find that I am wearing a very ornate necklace, composed of brass medallions welded together and enameled in bright blues and iridescent greens to give the effect of a peacock’s tail. I remove that and am confused and embarrassed to see that my neck and shoulders are wrapped in tin foil, and even worse, there is no trash can in the room where I could discreetly discard it. So I crumple it up and set the necklace and jacket on top of it on a counter, hoping the chiropractor won’t notice.

After a very long time, the chiropractor comes in and says he won’t need to examine or treat me, but that I’ll be put on a traction device. I get very angry that after this endless wait I will not even be treated by human hands but instead will be put on a machine, without any personal attention to my problem or symptoms I intend to leave, and I look for my jacket and necklace, but they have disappeared. I start yelling loudly that I’m going to expose the chiropractor and his practice for fraud.

As I awaken and come to my senses, I realize that it is indeed time for an adjustment – an attitude adjustment, that is, and not a chiropractic adjustment. Throughout the dream I had become increasingly annoyed and ultimately ballistic with those around me, when in fact I had no one to blame but myself.

As a born-again Christian who has placed her faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), I am blessed to have His Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30) and the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) within me. I have no business turning to the world to solve my problems when the Spirit within gives me access to all of His wisdom, power, and love. True, I often fail to trust Him because I still must deal with my sin nature (Romans 7:5-25), but that is no excuse for expecting help from the world system instead, which can only disappoint (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Jesus Christ is not only our Healer and Great Physician (Jeremiah 8:22; Mark 2:17; Matthew 9:12; Luke 4:23), but He is our Compass Who aligns us with His perfect will, if we allow it (Luke 22:42). That is not to say that God cannot work through doctors and modern medicine, for He does, yet we need to seek His guidance for our physical as well as our spiritual health (James 5:15).

The chiropractic office in the dream may symbolize man’s vain attempts to manipulate the truth of God’s Word, just as an inept chiropractor may attempt to heal by spinal manipulation, only to cause more harm than good. False churches spreading false doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3-4; Matthew 7:15; 21-23) are packed out with seekers looking for an easy fix for their heartache, but the solutions offered are no more real than a doll’s house or a set for The Twilight Zone.

Often these churches are not even led by in-person preaching, relying instead on a mechanical projection of a preacher delivering a message somewhere else. The traction apparatus offered in the dream, instead of a specific treatment plan based on a careful in-person evaluation, suggests the harm of a “church” where the sheep have no shepherd (Matthew 9:36; Mark 6:34). Just as I was given many forms to fill out in the dream, some cults have their members complete “personality inventories” or other questionnaires dealing with sensitive information that can be used to manipulate rather than to help.

The absurdly low copay of 50 cents in the dream suggests to me the philosophy of cults and works-based religions. These insist that Jesus’ finished work on the cross (John 19:30; Hebrews 10:10-14) is not enough to ensure our salvation, and that we have to bring our own good deeds to the table if we hope to earn our way to Heaven.

Yet the Bible says that we are saved by grace through faith, and not by our own works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Fifty cents is not even a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of a complete course of treatment, and any works we could add to the perfect sacrifice Jesus made becomes not only insignificant but actually insulting to Him. Jesus paid our sin debt in full, and all our own righteousness is no better than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

Jesus told His followers to be in the world, to be salt and light for the world (Matthew 5:13-16), yet not to be of the world (John 15:19; 17:11-18). In the dream I failed this command, for I allowed my pride to be hurt and resorted to snide comments when I should have offered Christian love (John 15:17).. Rather than being a good testimony to my Savior’s love, I lashed out in anger, not only at the other patient, but at the chiropractor and staff.

When I took off my coat, I was surprised and uncomfortable about what was underneath. The ornate necklace was clearly inappropriate to wear to a doctor’s appointment, with its many metallic plates like a shield of armor decorated in a peacock design. This suggests that I was insulating my heart with pride that kept me from God (Psalm 10:4; 1 John 2:16) instead of relying on the shield of faith that is a crucial part of the armor of God (Ephesians 6:16).

Instead of the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness (Ephesians 6:14), I was wearing tin foil on my neck and shoulders! What a poor imitation of His holiness, for my own self-righteousness and works can neither protect nor justify me. God knows the heart, which is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). The heart will betray and condemn us unless it is covered in Christ’s perfect goodness and purity.

May we beware of false doctrine, cults, and churches that do not honor Jesus Christ, His example and His Word. May we be careful to put on the whole armor of God each day to resist the devil and his strategies (Ephesians 6:11-13), relying on Christ’s completed work on the cross, His perfect holiness, and His resurrection (Galatians 6:14). May we have an attitude adjustment, our mind becoming aligned with God’s perfect will for our life instead of being conformed to the world (Romans 12:2).

May we stand straight for what we believe, allowing the two-edged sword of His Word (Hebrews 4:12) to penetrate between the joints and marrow, the soul and spirit, and to discern the thoughts and intents of our heart!  May He create a clean heart (Psalm 51:10) and renew a right spirit within us!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Take the Plunge!

Photo by Hubert Stoffels 2009

Many years ago I went to a swimming hole in a pristine wooded area with a waterfall plunging into a refreshing stream. Some young people had a Labrador retriever puppy with them, and they took great delight in carrying him to the top of the falls, releasing him into the current, and letting him plunge to the bottom of the falls into the stream, where one of them waited with open arms to catch him.

Labradors love water, and he seemed to enjoy the experience. But even though he could see his master waiting below with open arms, he paddled all four limbs frantically the whole way down and even after he was safely in his master’s embrace.

I was by far the worst swimmer at school and at summer camp, and I know I tried the patience of many instructors who attempted, to no avail, to teach me to dive head first. Even though I could see where I was going and had my body aligned properly as I stood on the diving board, my head inevitably lifted the moment before I entered the water, resulting in a painful “belly flop.” 

One day the swimming instructor had me repeat this so many times that my chest turned beet red, and as a last resort, he picked me up and hurled me into the water head first. But in my stubborn refusal to submerge my head under the water, I belly-flopped yet again.

A popular beverage commercial urged us to “Take the Nestea plunge!” It showed a parched cowboy in the arid desert reaching for a can of tea and experiencing refreshment so profound that it was like falling backward into a cool blue swimming pool.

It was fear that kept me from diving head first even though I could see where I was going, and a survival instinct in the puppy that kept him paddling even though he didn’t need to. I can only imagine what it would be like to abandon all fear and plunge backward into a refreshing spring, not seeing where I would land and surrendering all control.

Yet that is exactly what we should do in our Christian walk. Trusting Christ means total surrender, with His perfect love casting out all fear (1 John 4:18), and His Living Water refreshing us so deeply that we will never thirst (John 4:10-14). Once we are born again by trusting in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we are a new creature in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Once we are saved, baptism is a picture of “taking the plunge,” falling back into the water as a symbol of dying to our sin nature, then rising again to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). Christians should no longer be governed by the desires of our flesh and sin nature, but instead we should yield control of our life to His Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25) Who enters us at the moment of salvation (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5.

But so often I am like the puppy, paddling frantically against the current of my Lord’s will instead of trusting His everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27) to shelter, protect and lead me. In my own flesh, I can do nothing (John 15:5), but with Him, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26; Philippians 4:13). Peter even walked on water when Jesus willed that he do so, but the instant he looked at the turbulent storm instead of his Lord’s steady gaze, he began to flounder and sink (Matthew 14:28-31).

We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), so ideally our journey in Christ should be more like the Nestea plunge rather than my painful experience of diving only when I can see where I’m headed. Only if we trust His infinite love (1 John 4:8-10), absolute power (Genesis 17:1, etc.), and complete wisdom (Psalm 139:1-18) can we fully experience the fountain of His blessings (Song of Solomon 4:15; Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13), being in His perfect will.

But if we try to do it ourselves, whether “it” is being saved, serving God, or loving others as He loves us, we are doomed to failure. How many people want to put off trusting Christ until they “clean up their act” or “get it all together”? How many new Christians put off witnessing to others until they learn “enough” about the Bible? Yet all that reasoning is futile because none of us is capable of doing anything in our own strength (2 Corinthians 12:9).

As Bible-believing Christians, we know that we are saved by God’s freely given gift of grace through our faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). There is nothing we can do to earn our way to Heaven, and any attempt to do that is an insult to God, Who gave His only Son as the perfect Sacrifice to pay for all our sins (John 3:16; Romans 3:23-25; 1 John 2:2). On the cross, He said “it is finished,” (John 19:30) because he paid our debt in full, once and for all, to reconcile sinful man to Holy God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

The tremendous relief many feel at the moment of salvation, far more refreshing than any earthly equivalent of the Nestea plunge, comes from leaving our burdens of sin and guilt behind and releasing them to Him, freeing us to receive His great blessings. In our gratitude, relief, and worship, it is natural to want to serve God by good works (James 2:17-26; Philippians 2:12). But there lurks the trap of feeling we need to work to please God or to figure out on our own how to serve Him.

Praise God that His love is infinite, so He can’t love us any less even when we fail Him, and He can’t love us any more when we work hard to please Him. As a loving Father, He places no pressure on us, yet sometimes we collapse under the self-imposed pressure to try in the flesh to work “for” Him. But paradoxically, the harder we work, the less we trust in Him. Only complete surrender to His will (James 4:7) and faith in His power to accomplish His good work through us (1 Corinthians 15:58; Philippians 1:6) allows His perfect plan to flow through our life (Ephesians 2:10; Jeremiah 29:11).

Saul of Tarsus learned that the hard way. As a religious zealot, he thought he was pleasing God by persecuting and killing Christians, for he did not accept Jesus as the Son of God. Finally, when Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus, he recognized that He was God and surrendered completely to Jesus Christ as Lord of his life. The glorious light of Christ blinded him, perhaps in part so that he would have to rely on faith and not on his own vision (Acts 9:1-18).

Jesus gave Saul the new name of Paul, and more importantly, He gave Him new life, just as He does to everyone who asks Him (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). Except for Jesus Himself, Paul is the best Biblical example of what God can do through a fully surrendered life. Yet even Paul had the daily battle with his own desires and his own flesh (Romans 7:12-25) and had to put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) to die daily to self (1 Corinthians 15:31).

May He empty us of self, leaving us as a conduit through which His Living Water can flow to others. May we remember that it’s not about what we can do, but about Who He is and what He does through us! May we not be afraid to take the plunge headlong into the rushing current of His will, for the reward of a surrendered life is blissfully exhilarating!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
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