Care-less and Care-full

God bless your heart, and welcome to the first “On The Edge” column, which will be a regular feature. It is a joy and privilege for me to have this forum to share my heart with you. It’s also good discipline for me to have to produce something remotely coherent every 60 days. And I may even learn more about this little black box (my laptop computer) with the little man inside who periodically taunts me with his cheery “Goodbye” when I am halfway through some obviously inspired document.

As I begin to write this column, I see many faces in my mind, among which yours may very well be included. For nearly 12 years now, God has graciously allowed me to roam the planet as a freelance minister, and put in my path an incredible assortment of priceless saints like you. In this vein, Paul’s words to the Roman church come to my mind: “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” How I thank God for each of the many, many believers with whom I have a personal relationship and consider to be a true friend. Only our Father really knows how much I have been encouraged and edified by the love, prayers and support of such saints. Of course, it hasn’t been only a one-way street—they have grown a lot too by having to go to the Lord for the strength to put up with me!

“On The Edge.” You may be wondering why I chose this title for my column, or you may have already formed an opinion as to why. Whether or not either is the case, I’m going to tell you why, and not just because I have to write something to fill up the column. When the title first popped into my mind, I didn’t realize the apparent incongruity it would present between “carelessness” and “carefulness.” Let me explain.

As per my 1995 audio teaching titled “Stretching For The Lord,” and my No Fear T-shirt that says, “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space,” the phrase “on the edge” connotes the adventure, the excitement, the uncertainty, the discomfort (at times, pain) and the growth involved in stepping out of the proverbial boat onto the stormy sea according to the call of the Lord and finding out whether or not the water is firm under your feet. (For any schoolchildren reading along here, that was the mother of compound sentences, boys and girls). That would be the “care-less” aspect, i.e., casting all your care on Him and abandoning yourself into His care by specific obedience to His Word.

Whoa, did you just hear part of a verse of Scripture in that last sentence? You got it – “Casting all your care upon him…” (in the KJV anyway). I will be quoting the whole verse along with the ones preceding and following it, and this Scripture reference will be printed under the heading of this column in each issue. They have recently become much more real to me, and I want to live by them until the Lord Jesus appears. We will see that the context of casting all your care on him in no way encourages a cavalier attitude about our walk with the Lord, nor leaves any room for spiritual bravado or a misplaced machismo. On the contrary, it vividly points out our need to be “care-full.”

1 Peter 5:6–8
(6) Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, [so] that he may lift you up in due time.
(7) Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
(8) Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

The first thing I notice in the above verses is that YOU are the object of God’s boundless love. Me too. Thus, whatever He asks us to do is for our own benefit, no matter how it may seem to our “flesh”—that old Adamic nature that “dwells” in each Christian and wars against the holy spirit of God that lives at the same address. Please take note that this is perhaps as often a choice between good and best as it is between good and bad, especially for the more mature believer. Uncast-on-Him “anxiety” may cause turmoil in my mind that blurs my perspective of God’s will and blunts my alertness to my personal adversary, thus allowing him to take a bite out of my heart, or that of someone else’s who I love. Oh, that hurts!!!

As the object of the Creator’s passionate love, you are a precious commodity. Think about it. First, you are “saved.” That alone makes you special beyond description, and of inestimable worth to your heavenly Father, whose child you are. I think it is safe to say that God loves you as if you were His only child. In fact, you ARE the only YOU God has. How about that?! Second, allow me to assume that in your journey with the Lord, you have come to quite a knowledge of the truth of God’s Word, and that you have the desire to share it with others. Thus, your life is a BIG DEAL. So steward it carefully.

A precious believer whose love has most deeply touched my life shared with me the following analogy that is very pertinent here: Although our spiritual life is like a path we are called to walk, there are times when our spiritual walk is like being on a ledge. The ledge is plenty wide enough to walk on if we simply pay attention, that is, “walk circumspectly” (KJV) or “Be very careful, then, how you live…” (NIV). But there is not a lot of extra width on the ledge to allow us to stagger and zigzag all over the place without falling off. Obviously, with God’s grace and mercy and His awesome ability to make “lemonade” out of life’s “lemons,” not every misstep is fatal, but each one does cost us, and/or someone else, a consequence.

So, “on the edge” to me also signifies the caution and constant vigilance required on my part if I am to be like Christ and manifest his love to the world. The more I recognize my poverty and his riches, my weakness and his strength, my need and his sufficiency, the more I will humble myself under His mighty hand, that is, choose to deny my own will and obey Him. That gives God the best shot at doing what He longs to do for me, and for you, with His mighty hand—to lift us up, to exalt us, to lavish upon us the riches of His grace, to give us His very best in each situation. Think about those last two sentences.

It was nearly six years ago that I first participated in what might be called a Christian encounter group—at least I’d call it that, because I encountered the Lord Jesus standing right in my path, I encountered a vicious but subtle enemy within me, and I encountered other believers battling the same internal enemy. Anyway, it was right after that when I began to pray for God and the Lord Jesus to search me, to stretch me and to purify my heart, and I have continued to pray for those things. YIKES! Much to my dismay, they are answering my prayers! Now then, if I trust my God and my Lord, and believe what is in the Word, I realize that my great “dismay” is only temporary (at least until the next lesson in God’s personal curriculum for me comes along) and that GREAT JOY AND PEACE lie at the end of my every “tunnel of trial.” I also realize that the only way to get to that joy and peace is to go through the tunnel.

Of late, I have been in such a process to a degree unlike anything I have ever known. Talk about stretching! I think God is asking me to stand up and touch my chin on the floor without bending my legs! Actually, I think He wants to make my character commensurate with the quality of my salvation and with the quality of the Word with which He has so graciously entrusted me. That sounds biblical, as per John 15: Every branch that bears fruit, he purges so that it will bear more fruit. The point I want to make here, in keeping with the theme of this first issue of “On The Edge,” is that in my struggle I have been so glad to know beyond any shadow of a doubt that GOD LOVES ME AND WANTS ONLY THE BEST FOR ME.

At this point I should mention (and encourage you to read, re-read and give away many copies of) our book, Don’t Blame God! in which we spend about 200 pages dealing with what is likely the most fundamental issue in the human heart: Is God good? Considering Jesus’ words that knowing the truth will make one free, and thus the practical relevance of knowing and applying it, the ramifications of both truth and error in regard to this subject are ENORMOUS. How could one trust God for deliverance or blessing if he weren’t certain that such was God’s will for him? How could one respond with faith in God amidst tribulation? Most people know that God is, but not as many know that He really is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). Maybe the following verses would help them understand that God, our Father, is both able and willing to help them:

Psalm 62:11 and 12a
(11) One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong,
(12a) and that you, O Lord, are loving….

One very critical problem caused by the erroneous teaching that God is “sovereign,” that is, in control of everything that happens, and thus allows or sends to us tragedy and suffering, is that it makes it hard to distinguish between Satan attacking us and God disciplining us. I read recently that God is like a surgeon, in that He will hurt us, but He will never harm us. He may have to cut us open, but it will always be for our ultimate benefit. Since I have lately felt as if He were doing open-heart surgery on me, with no anesthetic, I think I can grasp this truth. I hope so, because I’m pretty sure there are more surgeries ahead – IF I really want to be like Jesus. That’s a good question: how much do I want to conform my character to that of my Lord’s? How deep do I want to press into his heart? How deep am I willing to let him into mine?

Remember that the KJV word “chastening” in Hebrews 12 means “discipline,” and discipline is for “disciples,” that is, followers of Jesus Christ. Depending on how closely I want to follow him, the choices I must make become more difficult and require more self-denial, so the Lord must “fine tune” my heart accordingly, and this often involves painful “heart surgery.” But each time I recognize that surgery is in progress and “lie still” on the operating table, I come through it better off, with a healthier heart that is more like his own. Praise God for His infinite love, wisdom and goodness that He will pour out upon us, His kids, if we will but allow Him to do so.

So, until next time, keep your eyes open, your head up and your heart light. Know that you are beloved of God, and that He who spared not His only Son will do whatever it takes to bless your life, a là Ephesians 3:20. I love you very much, and I look forward to seeing you “on the edge.”

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