Today, I want to build on an idea I’ve previously journaled on but not shared publicly: reputation is the essence of the flesh.

I’m referring to the “flesh” talked about in the New Testament. In most places where Paul talks about the flesh versus the spirit, you can understand him to be referring to one’s reputation, not the physical body.

In Galatians 5, Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit: 9 positive characteristics that demonstrate together the manifestation of the Spirit in your life. Since we know that the Spirit is opposed to the flesh, it is a given that the fruit of the flesh, of reputation, is a negative contrast to these qualities.

As I was thinking about this idea one day, my mind jumped to the book of Ecclesiastes. That whole book is a great example of the reasoning of the natural mind, whose origins of thought are based in the land of reputation.

The portion in chapter 3 about there being a time for everything is often interpreted as a balanced view of life, pairing things that have positive associations with things that have negative associations. I think that this section is an example of allowing disappointment to convince you that the mindset of the spirit is imbalanced by itself (big lie!).

Look at how easily you can divide the list in verses 1-8 into competing perspectives between the spirit and the flesh (positive versus negative).

The Spirit:

  1. A time to be born
  2. A time to plant
  3. A time to heal
  4. A time to build up
  5. A time to laugh
  6. A time to gather stones
  7. A time to embrace
  8. A time to search
  9. A time to keep
  10. A time to sew together
  11. A time to speak
  12. A time to love
  13. A time for peace

The Flesh:

  1. A time to die
  2. A time to uproot what’s planted
  3. A time to kill
  4. A time to tear down
  5. A time to weep
  6. A time to throw stones
  7. A time to shun embracing
  8. A time to give up as lost
  9. A time to throw away
  10. A time to tear apart
  11. A time to be silent
  12. A time to hate
  13. A time for war

I’m convinced that the Spirit doesn’t ignore any parts of life or try to sweep them under the rug. However, I think that we often lack knowledge and understanding of God’s intentions about the circumstances we encounter and allow our desire for meaning to give the flesh permission to tutor us on how to interpret the things we don’t understand so that we don’t have to wrestle with mystery.

I believe that this list in Ecclesiastes is excellent raw material for us to reframe the reasoning of the flesh into ideas that give insight and hope into the work of the Spirit based on the knowledge that His intentions are good and are for us rather than against us. Here is my reframing of the negative ideas in verses 1-8:

Mystery reframed:

  1. A time to be born again
  2. A time to make room for more planting
  3. A time to destroy what keeps you from healing
  4. A time to clear the way for stronger foundations or improvements
  5. A time to release what keeps you from the laughter of joy
  6. A time to help others gather
  7. A time to embrace your independence
  8. A time to discover new meaning or value
  9. A time to prioritize freshness
  10. A time to repurpose and recycle
  11. A time to speak in a different medium
  12. A time to focus your love (deep love of one thing is often perceived as hate of another)
  13. A time to defend healthy boundaries which are the pillars of peace

All negatives in life are really misunderstood positives. The flesh seeks to clarify what we don’t understand according to the assumption that anything hurtful or extreme is probably intended to hurt us. However, the spirit affords us the opportunity to rework our assumptions about these circumstances from the intimate knowledge that God is love and intends to bless us by working all things together for good. Negatives develop from ignorance and short-sightedness; but positives emerge from long-term vision and intimacy with God.

Bitterness

Supplant the plant of bitterness,
Secured in all its stubbornness,
The rally cry: “Uproot! Uproot!”
Incinerate the bitter fruit.

This mighty root we now assail,
Against the dust we will prevail,
The battle cry: “Return! Return!”
Drink water from your own cistern.

Direct your introspective gaze,
Reflect upon your numbered days,
The primal cry: “Renew! Renew!”
No longer do I bow to you!

Let now the victory unfold,
We all, as jars of clay, do hold
The Spirit cry: “Fulfill! Fulfill!”
Be present with us ever still!

© 2012 David Andrew

It all started with waking up. The threads of consciousness, woven and spun into the glory fall, worked their way into me, seeping into the dreams lingering in my mind yet being steadily dispelled by the constancy of activity in the physical domain. Stillness.

I had a thought upon waking up, profound and personally meaningful. Yet the wording and phrasing of the thought escaped the frail grasp of my groggy brain leaving nothing but the impression of a feeling—one of longing and hope but forever more ineffably gone. What’s worse: I was at my laptop with a blank page ready to scribe these musings, yet the words had left.

So here I am, writing what remains of the experience: can I piece together the thoughts leading up to the particular idea? Can I trace my feelings back to their origin?

No; it’s hopeless.

Why does the subconscious taunt me so? Is there a greater good to be realized from the loss of this thought?

Perhaps. The feeling of hope that lingered: this is worth treasuring. This feeling is worth storing up in my heart. The more hope I store in my heart, the more I will speak and act out of hope. The more I speak and act out of hope, the more others around me will be encouraged to do the same. So then, if I change my approach to life based on this positive feeling, then I have been affected by the original idea, even though I cannot understand it, nor express it to another person. I have felt the idea and that’s all I need in order for me to act on it. Maybe soon I will find again the words to phrase it to another, but for now, it remains alive and un-cheapened by the confines of verbal expression. I recall the substance of my idea, unfettered in my spirit. Though I cannot explain the thing that gives me hope, I know that I have it. I hold this hope as in a jar of clay, and the darkness of my mind has not understood it. Thank God that I am being renewed inwardly day by day.

Perhaps my encounter this morning was not with an idea at all, but with the very Spirit of God. Perhaps I awoke not to my own thought, but to the Hope of Glory living in me, strengthening my spirit. Praise the LORD, O my soul!

clouds
The clouds are symbols of hope to me. One day, they will be parted as a scroll to reveal Jesus coming again.

“To conclude this series on prayer, I have asked fellow Jessup student Sara Lewis to share her insights on prayer and experience of God through it. Please give thought to what she has to say about the power and authority given to believers!”
— David Andrew

Walking in the Spirit

Only in the last couple of years have I experienced just a taste of what it means to sit in His presence, and every time only leaves me wanting more and wishing I had started sooner! It is never what I expect, always breaks me at my core, makes me aware of my smallness and desperate need for Him, yet always leaves me with what every soul has sought after since the beginning of time: peace and fulfillment.

That said, you’d think we’d all be tapping into this resource like free drugs, right?  (Maybe that’s a bad analogy).  I’d be ashamed to admit to the trivial, even dumb things I let get in the way of time spent in prayer.  The enemy doesn’t care what else I fill my time with, as long as the time is spent.  (If you haven’t already, please read C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. I can’t stress its eye-opening importance enough!)

Why would the enemy spend so much effort in keeping us distracted?  Spinning our wheels?  What about us spending time in the presence of God is so detrimental to his cause?

Time spent in the presence of the Almighty God cannot leave a person unchanged.  The Spirit of that God dwells within us, and the more time spent communing with it, the stronger and more dominant it becomes, and the smaller we become.  I see people walking in the power of that relationship like Heidi Baker, Kim Walker, Brooke Fraser- people who can enter a room and darkness flees, simply by the power of the Spirit dwelling in them – and I don’t know about you, but that is something that stirs a hunger in me deeper than I can describe.  It is a power so beyond ourselves that we must be empty of ourselves and filled with Him.

This doesn’t happen by osmosis!  It’s available to us, but God waits because we must ask.  It takes time and effort. Even sacrifice.  (i.e., time spent online, watching a movie, hanging with friends… instead of finding a quiet place to invite God’s presence and ask Him to speak and change our hearts).

Here. A story to sum up my heart in this:  I was in Amsterdam 2 years ago on New Years Eve on a mission trip.  (if you understand the utter insanity New Years Eve in Amsterdam involves, and you know me, that would shock you)!  It was just after midnight in Daam Square, I was bundled in 293 layers and just trying not to get vodka, urine, or vomit splashed on me, and was filtering smoke-filled air through my scarf.  Thousands of people had flown in from all over the world just to be part of that massive party, and I was smack in the middle of it with my friends.

If Europe is one of the spiritually darkest places of the world, Amsterdam is the epicenter.  It felt heavy, oppressive, and “lost”. Not something I’m used to, having been raised in church!  It was as if my spirit was resisting the oppression with everything it had, and it left me feeling sick.  After midnight, we were watching fireworks from a rooftop and I couldn’t take it anymore; I was exhausted in every possible way. A guy friend on my team said he would take me to our hostel, and a hostel employee guided us.  What followed was an experience I will never forget, and as bad as it was, I hope I never do.

The streets were so crazy that fireworks were being lit into crowds, drugs and alcohol were flowing freely, (I got several offers…which I turned down), and the street was carpeted in firework wrappers and who knows what else. Safety was a concern, so my friend offered me his arm, and I held it with a death grip as we walked on around more corners, through more alleys, among more jostling crowds that never seemed to end.  I closed my eyes because I felt a strange, overwhelming heaviness, as if I was being suffocated.  I hit me that this was an environment so absent from God that it was as if I had entered enemy territory and I was a target.

Then, as if it could get worse, we entered the most famous red light district in the world.  (Later I found out our guide got a talking to, because he wasn’t supposed to take us that way).  A totally foreign thought entered my mind: “You’re going to die.  You won’t make it out of here.”  From a physical standpoint, that thought made no logical sense. Yet I understood it perfectly, and believed it.  I felt my lungs collapsing like something was pushing on them, and I couldn’t breathe.  I looked up in desperation and only saw those dark, A-line rooftops that lean in toward the street, tall and ugly in the glowing red lights and flickering of fireworks.  I remember thinking, “God!  Where are you?! What the heck is this?”  I heard clearly, “I never left You.”  I thought back, scared and wanting to cry, “But it’s so BIG!” (The world around me and whatever was suffocating me). I’d never felt so small and easily squashed in my life, nor had I realized how big evil could be in comparison.  But the verse we all know was suddenly spoken in my mind’s ear as clearly as any spoken phrase I’ve ever heard: “Greater is He that is in You than he that is in this world.”

There are those times when people quote familiar, well-loved Scriptures to us, and that’s nice.  This wasn’t that. It was said with authority, took me by surprise, and held everything in it that I needed to understand at that time:

  1. Yes, the “thing” around me was bigger than me.  But it’s not about me.
  2. The Spirit living inside me, the Spirit I am ushering into this place simply by setting foot there, is BIGGER, and it is a threat.
  3. I must realize the authority I am walking in or I’ll be useless.  All the enemy has is fear, and if He can keep me too afraid to fight back, he will win.

It took me a couple of years to unpack everything God showed me in that experience, and realize the lasting impact it would have on my perspective of the spiritual realm and the reality of our position in it!  Imagine something simple for a second: every believer in the world walking in the divine authority given to us through Jesus.  Realizing we carry His power within us.

No fear.

Holy. Stinkin. Cow.

To say our world would not be the same is a pathetic understatement.  Seeking after the face of God through listening prayer on a practical, daily level is easier said than done- I’m realistic- but come on.  Both present and eternal rewards far outweigh anything else that could take its place!  He loves when we seek Him- the results will not disappoint!

Sara Lewis is a marvelous pianist and a woman of great depth in and love for Christ. She also shares her thoughts and experiences on Tumblr!