Tag Archives: roots

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Over the years since I began conversing with God, I have had many doubts.  Are these conversations real?  Is God really talking with me?  Am I crazy?  One thought which could not take hold was that I was talking with evil spirits.  The voice I was hearing was a voice of love, and my heart responded to that love.  My love language is communication.  A God who both listens and talks with me won my heart.

This past summer, I stopped hearing God.  I do not say God stopped speaking, but I stopped hearing.  It was devastating.  Just as a tree grows in response to light, I had grown amazingly in response to God's love and His giving of Himself to me in communication.  Though I wasn't hearing His voice, I had the understanding that God was allowing my fears to grow so I could see them for the lies they were and reject them.  I knew I had been holding onto both faith and doubt.  I had to make a decision.  The picture I had was of a garden with small weeds continuing to steal nutrition from the true vegetables.  With God's help, I was plucking up the weeds before they could grow big, but they always snapped off and left the roots behind.  God wanted to remove the roots.

A few years back, God asked me what doubt is.  I didn't know.  Was doubt the same as unbelief?  With the help of my husband and BibleWorks software, I hunted for the answer.  I learned something interesting.  The Greek word for doubt basically means to sit in judgment listening to the evidence on both sides of an argument.  It means you haven't decided yet which is true.  You're considering.  The writer George MacDonald considered doubt an important part of our Spiritual development.  Without the process of doubt, we could never reach the truth.  Jesus brought doubt with Him.  Can the law really save you?  You say you keep the law, but if you break it in your heart, you are breaking the law.  If you break just one bit of the law you are breaking the whole of the law.  Can the law really save you?  If no one had doubted and considered Jesus' questions, no one could have come to faith in Him.

Doubt is important to our Spiritual development, but the purpose of doubt must be accomplished.  We must make a decision.  What do we believe?  We cannot keep endlessly listening to arguments.  We must make a decision, a firm decision.  God told me, we have to shut the door behind us and begin to walk down the path we've chosen.  He assured me, even if I made the wrong decision, He could lead me to a turn around place.  I thought about how often when driving we have to go the wrong direction for a time in order to get to the right place.  God told me to start walking, and He would go with me.  So I decided to walk down the path with God and talk with Him.  While we walked, He invited me to ask Him any questions and tell Him why I continued to doubt.

We walked and talked together for two years.  God more than answered every objection I had for Him.  Then He rested His case.  It was time for me to make a decision.  I had to choose whether I would believe what He said or what I had always understood in the past.  I knew what I wanted to chose.  God's words and His presence are beautiful.  What I couldn't figure out was what to do with the doubt I still had.  I tried to wrestle with it and make it go away.  It wouldn't go.  I agonized.  I waited.  I accused God of not helping me.

Finally I asked God one more question.  What do I do with the doubt?  Instantly, I was standing in front of my Grandfather's barn.  A vision like this was a new experience for me, but I knew it was God.  Um, why am I here?  "Climb up into the hayloft."  I climbed into the hayloft.  It was filled with golden light and hay and haydust.  I waited a minute; then um, what do I do here?  "Lay down and rest."  I lay down.  I waited a minute; then um, why am I in the hayloft?  I don't get it.  Instantly, I was in front of the barn again.  I saw the barn -- hayloft above, barn floor below.  The hayloft was dusty, but clean.  The barn floor was nasty.  You really want galoshes/gum boots to walk there.  As I looked, I heard, "You stay in the hayloft.  I will deal with the barn floor."  I realized that I had been mucking about on the barn floor of my doubts.  I was trying to rid myself of the filth of my doubts and was only getting more mired.  My place is to dwell on my faith and to nurture it by resting in God's light, in His life-giving presence.  The only decision I need to make is to continue to listen to and to respond to His voice, to continue to walk in His presence, to focus on what is true rather than on all the doubts the world would throw at me.

Over the years as I have conversed with God, I have many times had others say they longed for that kind of communication with God.  I have said that God loves to communicate with His children including them.  Several times, I have been asked, But what if you don't believe He communicates with you?  I haven't known what to answer.  These are people whom I love.  I want them to have what I have.  I'm a woman.  I love community gab sessions.  My conversations tend to be heavily spiked with God talk rather than gossip, but that's because gossip is boring and old hand.  It may be a new person, but the news is old.  The things I'm hearing are NEWS.  I love talking them over with others.  I have longed to answer their question but haven't known how.  The answer is that the question is wrong.  Instead of looking at ourselves and at the sin and unbelief at work within us, we need to look at God, the Good Father, who is love.  Love communicates.  All we can do is think on these things.  If we long to communicate with God, then that longing is something we inherited from Him.  He promised that His sheep hear His voice.  Our longing for Him tells us we are His sheep.  Don't be afraid to listen to the voice of love that is already speaking to you.

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About five or six years ago, I began praying daily for unity in the church.  I longed for unity.  Disunity is incredibly painful.  I also saw that divisions in the church made the work of the church range between tremendously inefficient and completely ineffective.

As I prayed, I searched the Scriptures to discern what God promised regarding unity and whether unity was something we should expect now, or only in Heaven.   There were so many Scriptures which made my heart ache with longing.  Psalm 86:11 and Ezekiel 11:19 expressed my longing for a united heart.  How I wanted to stop fighting myself to make myself do what was right!  How I wished to have one heart with the people of God!  Jeremiah 3:22 expressed my longing to be cured from backsliding.  How often had I thought I had conquered sin only to find it back again!  Jeremiah 31:31-34 filled me with longing for the new covenant we won't break.  I longed for Isaiah 59:21 with God promising that His word and His Spirit would not depart even from my children and my children's children.

In the New Testament, I searched Jesus' last prayer, from John 17.  Jesus prays twice that we would be one so that the world may know.  As I read this, I wondered, does this mean that unity is something Christ expects to happen here on earth while we are still in the world?  If unity is not going to happen until after the world can no longer repent, what would be God's purpose in having unity be a demonstration of truth to the world?  Would He do it only to prove the world wrong before its condemnation, or does God intended this to be a final witness calling the world to truth before judgment?

As I read Ephesians 4, I saw that Paul says that the church was given apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers until.  I had never before noticed the word until in that verse.  That means that something different will come afterward.  After the until comes the whole body attaining the unity of the faith and maturing into adulthood.  As I meditated on this verse, I realized that every prayer for the church focused on good leadership.  I wondered what would change if we focused our prayers upon the maturation of the whole body.

However, as I searched the Scriptures, I also found many passages that talked about people falling away from the faith, about people not maturing as they should, about fighting in the Church.  I wanted to believe the Scriptures of hope, but what was I to do with the other Scriptures?  I know our tendency is to consider the verses of hope as only figurative or for after our death, but is that right?  We can't throw out any passages.  If the Bible is literal, both must be literal.  If the Bible is figurative, why are only the messages of hope figurative?  How would physical death change our character?

As I meditated these questions, I saw that repeatedly through Scripture, God had placed a mountain of blessing and a mountain of curses before His people.  The Old Testament reminds me of a "choose your own adventure" book.  If you go this way, this will happen.  If you go that way, that will happen.  I wondered whether there was a circumstance where a prophecy could still be true even if it didn't happen.  Certainly Jonah and Nineveh showed that.  Could prophecies that seemed contradictory be equally true, but only one be fulfilled?  I wanted to hope so, but I wasn't sure I did.

As I was reading Scripture, I was struck by Moses' prayer for the Israelites in Exodus 33-34.  God tells Moses that He will not go with the Israelites anymore because He might kill them on the way.  Moses begins to pray, Who will go with us? remember that we are your people.  God answers, My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.  Moses then says, If your presence doesn't go with us, don't let us go.   (I thought, Didn't God just say yes?)  God promises again to go with them.  Moses asks, show me your glory.  God passes His glory before Moses declaring His name.  Afterward, Moses asks God one more time to go with them, though God has already said yes twice.  This time, having heard God declare His name, His character, Moses believes God's promise to go with Israel.  The promise is consistent with who God is.

As I meditated on this passage, I felt God was asking me, 'You keep praying for unity.  You have searched the Scriptures and seen my promises of unity, yet you still keep asking.  Why don't you believe me?'  This wasn't a time when I heard words, but rather a nagging idea.  Jesus often told the Israelites, If you don't believe Moses and the prophets, you won't believe me, even though I do great signs and wonders.

I felt as though God were saying to me, "Stop praying for unity in the church, and tell me why you think it is impossible.  What is the tree?  Why don't you think I am a Father who will lead you to obey me through love, rather than drive you to obey me through fear?  Who do you say I am?"  We can't believe God's promises unless we know they fit His character, so both questions, "Why don't you believe these Scripture promises?" and "Who do you say I am?" were really a single question.

As I said at the beginning, I am not writing this blog chronologically.  All these questions which were one question came Spring/Summer 2011.  I spent the next two years dialoging with God about my reasons for unbelief.  My hope is that the God who is faithful and just has received this dialog as confession and will forgive and cleanse.

Psalms 86:11 (ESV)
Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.

Ezekiel 11:19  (ESV)
And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,

Jeremiah 3:22  (NIV)
“Return, faithless people;
I will cure you of backsliding.”
“Yes, we will come to you,
for you are the Lord our God.”

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (ESV)
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord, ’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Isaiah 59:21  (ESV)
“And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord:  “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children's offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.”

John 17:20-23  (ESV)
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

Ephesians 4:1-16 (ESV)
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Exodus 34:5-9 (ESV)
The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff- necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

The flood gates of God's speech opened up that day I prayed that God would show me His justice.  His response, "I am faithful and just to forgive your sins and to cleanse you of all unrighteousness," was beautiful and freeing, but how could I receive that promise?  That same day, as I went downstairs to work on supper, I began to contemplate the whole verse.  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

If we confess.  That seemed to be the way to receive the promise, but it filled my heart with ache and longing.  You see, I confessed my sins all the time.  Father, I yelled at the children.  Father, I yelled at my husband.  Father, I shouldn't have bought that.  Father, I should have been fixing dinner instead of checking email.  It sure didn't seem very effective for cleansing.  I did the same thing again another day.  So as I opened the refrigerator, I asked God plaintively, "Is that all we do, confess our sins?  That doesn't seem like enough.  Don't we have to do more?"  God's response was simply to repeat the whole verse, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all righteousness."  In other words, He said, "What did I say?"

God said it, so it must be true, but my heart still ached to see it.  As I continued to contemplate the verse over the next few months, God gave me two comforts.  One was another word in response to another query from me.  The other was another parable building on the parable about roots.

First, as I was sitting one day teaching one of my daughters to write an A, I told God, "You must be so angry with me, because I know I shouldn't get angry and yell, but I still do it."  I don't know the context.  Had I just yelled at someone?  All I know was the beautiful answer, "Do you get angry with your daughter for not getting her A perfect?  She knows what it should look like."  No, I don't.  I know that knowing what an A should look like is different from being able to form one.  I knew also that God was saying He wasn't angry with me, but that He has grace to teach me how to form righteousness.  As I thought on that message, I watched myself teaching my daughter.  I had my hand over hers, helping her form the letter.  I began to pray that God would take my heart and help me to form right responses until my heart learned the form.

Second, I continued to contemplate what it means to confess our sins.  As I said, I confessed all the time.  It seemed I was always having to confess something.  It left me feeling like a horrible person.  All I could see was the things I was doing wrong.  I began to think about what God had said about me trying to mow while He was trying to remove the roots.  I began to picture a tree.  I saw that I was trying to pluck off leaf buds (temptations) before they could unfold.  When leaves (sinful action) did open before I could get to them, I would confess and apologize.  I began to feel God asking me, "Why confess the leaves?  Let's deal with the tree."  I saw that as long as the tree was there, there were going to be times when I couldn't keep up with leaf production. Spring always comes with a burst of buds.  I could get people to help me, to hold me accountable, and I might get further than I would have on my own, but inexorably, spring arrives with a burst of leaves.

I began to wonder, "What is the tree?"  I looked at specific leaves I've dealt with repeatedly.  Yelling at the children.  I saw that when I yell at the kids, it's usually from fear of what injury might happen or what people will think of their behavior.  Yelling at my husband.  That's often a preemptive strike because I think I'm wrong for having a difference of opinion from him.  Worrying.  Did I mention that I worry?  Here is where it got interesting.  I saw that I worry about money because I am afraid I won't have enough.  That was shocking, because I thought I believed God would provide; after all, Jesus said God would.

As I pondered this, I remembered God showing me both carrots and weeds in my garden.  Believing that God will provide does not necessarily preclude believing that God won't provide.  But weeds steal nourishment from the good plants.  My faith that God will provide cannot grow strong and healthy as long as my thought that God doesn't provide grows alongside it.  So I was back to the question, "What is the tree?"

Why do I believe God won't provide?  I saw two thoughts with it.  One, I am afraid that God has provided, but if I don't get everything exactly right, the enough won't be enough.  Every spending purchase becomes agony, because I feel God has an exact formula that is just short of impossible to discern and follow, and if I were good enough, I could figure it out.  Two, I am afraid that God has planned it out for me to have enough, but other people aren't cooperating.  There are lots of people connected with my money who might get in the way of what God tried to provide – bosses, co-workers and those I serve, store owners, politicians and IRS agents, doctors and insurance agents, thieves.

As I considered these things, I saw that I still hadn't identified the tree.  I had identified branches.  So what is the tree?  I felt as though God were asking me, "Is that really me?  Will I really say, 'I provided and protected, but you messed it up?' or 'I provided and protected, but others prevented me?'"  To be honest, I wasn't sure, but here God was asking me again, "Who do you say I am?"  When I told Him I longed for a Father who would lead me to obey Him by loving Him, not drive me to obey Him by fearing Him, He had asked, "What makes you think I'm not like that?"  Now He was asking, "Is that really me?"  As long as I think that's who God is, my thoughts are going to produce lots of leaves, but how can I stop thinking of God that way?  Isn't it true?

There are times when we are out in the middle of the sea in the midst of a storm.  There are times when we despair of life itself.  There are times when the storm is so strong that all the faith and trust we think we have grown seems to disappear entirely.  There are times when our hearts and our lives resonate the chaos of the storm rather than the peace of Christ.  During those times, we despair of righteousness itself as we watch all the worst comes out of us, just when we thought we were doing better.  During those times, we despair of love itself, "Don't you love us?"  During those times, we remember that it was Christ, himself, who put us on this boat without him, and our hearts cry out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"  During those times, as we look at our lives, resonating to the chaos rather than the peace, despair would tell us that He has forsaken us because we aren't good enough.  How thin our single strand of faith seems in the midst of that furious storm!

It was during one of these times that I asked the Father a question.  Paul tells us to continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  Well, I was filled with fear and trembling as I asked God the question I couldn't restrain any longer.  "Oh, God, if I hated sin, ... I know you hate sin.  Please don't be angry with me.  I'm not arguing with you.  I just want to understand. ...  If I hated sin (and I know you do), and I knew certain situations brought out the worst in my children, I wouldn't put them in those situations!  But you do.  You are wise.  You must have a reason.  Why, Father?"

Immediately, I heard a thought, "You are trying to mow.  I want to remove the roots."  But over the next month or so, a parable grew in my mind.  In this story, a gardener had a visitor.  Of course, he did what anyone who loves gardening wants to do – he took his visitor to see the garden.  The visitor looked at the garden, and then he asked the gardener, "Why are there so many weeds?"  The gardener explained, "It's been raining for two weeks, so I haven't been able to get out and weed.  Now the sun has come out, but the ground is still too wet to weed.  The rain and sun have caused the weeds to grow."  At that point, I felt as though God leaned over and asked me a thought,  "Didn't the carrots need the rain and the sun?  The weeds did not grow because of the rain and sun.  They grew because they are planted in the ground."

I do not believe God was saying the gardener planted the weeds.  The Bible tells us that an enemy planted them.  Still, if there weren't weed seeds and weed roots in the ground, weeds would not grow.  The rain only showed us what was already in the ground.  We couldn't see it before because it was hidden underground, but it was there nonetheless, and God wants to remove those hidden roots of sin.  This still isn't a full answer.  This still leaves us asking, "What does it mean?  How do we get rid of the weeds?"  However, as I think about this story, three comforts come from it.

First, the God who sees our hearts saw our sin before it grew out of our hearts into our actions and thus became visible to us and everyone around us.  God saw it, because it was already there.  He saw it, and He loved us.  He loved us when we had this sin hiding in our hearts, and He does not forget that love when the sin grows into action.  He isn't even surprised.

Second, there were carrots in the garden, not only weeds.  Two things are at work in us.  Sin is at work, yes, but the Spirit is at work, as well.  The sin that is at work in us is not us.  It is working against us.  It is only distortion.  It is not creation.  The Spirit who is at work in us is us.  The Spirit is working on our behalf.  We are born of the Spirit.  We are a new creation.  We are being made one with God.  We are of God's kind!  Our us-ness is with God.

Third, God said, "I am trying to remove the roots."  He is at work.  He will accomplish His work.  Someday, we will stand before Him spotless, without any hidden blemish.  He has already credited righteousness to us.  That righteousness will be ours, inside and outside!  The sin which is at work will be completely removed, and what will remain is the righteousness born of the Spirit within us.