Monday, February 18, 2008

Positive Confession - What I Learned

The other day I was experiencing some rather frustrating emotions concerning one of our children. I sighed as I sat back down on the couch and exclaimed, (I thought just to myself), that I had no idea what to do about this particular situation. My 12 year old son overheard me say this and piped up from behind his book, “Mom, why don’t you ask your blog friends? They might know what you should do.”

I laughed because it is becoming evident that either 1) I am spending way too much time reading and writing and commenting or 2) There is actually a community out there that even my 12 year old understands is important and beneficial to me.

Either way, I want to thank those who took the time to answer my questions about Positive Confessions. If you have not read the comments, please do. I think they nailed it head on.

As I researched it in Scripture there are just some things that you cannot pull away from. There are many times that Paul reminds the churches to remember where they came from, what Jesus did for them and to renew their minds in truth. I had at least 10 scriptures pulled out to reference and then I stupidly closed out the window and didn’t save it. I don’t have the time to research it all again nor do I really need to.

What I did find out was this. There is truth in Scripture. It is good to remind our hearts – especially as they are prone to doubt – what is true. But the minute that this gets reduced to a formula it becomes no more than witchcraft. Formulas are there to control the outcome of something. We use the formula of a recipe for chocolate chip cookies to control the outcome of said cookies so that our family will eat them and look forward to them. But when control is used in any relationship and especially in place of a relationship it becomes manipulative and abusive.

As many of you said, when our formulas start trying to control God and our world – they become twisted and perverted. One of the commenters said it was like expecting God to be a slot machine. We plug in a verse and out pops the right circumstance.

Why do we run to religion to make ourselves feel better?......... Because we are fearful of just the relationship. With no rules that demand and secure a certain outcome, we have to then trust in the relationship. But we know that relationship is so iffy. We understand that true relationship has the power to hurt us. So we come up with a way to relate to a formula instead to try and avoid the pain of the true relationship. Sounds safe huh?

It is not safe though. The problem is that formulas only leave us with Shame and Guilt. Both of these tag at our hearts because the formulas never work. And because they are formulas, we think that somehow we have done it wrong. It is our fault. Thus, Shame and Guilt are our constant companions. And we have enough of their company that it is soooo easy to also foist them off on anyone who will listen and act like we do.

Jesus came to set us free of ANY formula. He hated it. He called it religion. He said that people who practiced it were graveyards. Filthy and stinky while trying to look so good on the outside. It broke his heart.

Why oh why do we continue to try and feed our souls from that well?


Tracy Simmons said...

Seems like it will take a lifetime to rid ourselves of the need to avoid formulas. I wonder if that's something that was grilled into us when we became Christians (by well-meaning folks, no doubt), or if it is just the fallen condition of man, only made worse by churchianity? I quoted this from Capon today: "The life of grace is not an effort on our part to achieve a goal we set ourselves. It is a continually renewed attempt simply to believe that someone else has done all the achieving that is needed and to live in relationship with that person, whether we achieve or not."

You wouldn't think it would be so hard to just believe that Jesus has done it all and we only need to be in relationship with him, but hard it is! On some days, least!


Fred Shope said...

I think we sometimes resort to formulas because we want to be able to tell other people how to follow Jesus, sort of like the "Four Spiritual Laws" for Christians. When others want to know how to live as Christians, we don't want to say, "Well, read Scripture and let the Holy Spirit guide you and show you what to do." We, especially those in leadership, want to be able to point to steps to take or a program to follow.
Relationship can be messy and letting God work in the lives of others, especially those we love, means letting go of our control

Programs and methods can be neat and clean, until something happens and they don't work. Relationship can be scary, until we realize that we can completely trust the One we are in relationship with.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Barb.
I came to the same conclusions, albeit a different route...that relationship is messy, but SO worth it.
Giving up the formulas seems to be a long process though..we are so ingrained, or indoctrinated with it.

I love that quote, Elle.
It's beautiful.

Ruth said...

Thank you Barb for digging into this topic. I think you have put the formula thing into perspective. We are all so prone to falling into religious rituals that are void of any real heart connection. They really are just superstitions.

The more I get to know the Lord the more I understand how He looks at our heart.

I believe that words reveal what is in our heart so it is the heart we need to look at, not just controlling what we say.

HOwever, I do believe that words have power in the spiritual realm. For instance words loaded with hate or criticism can be energized by Satan. But then again so can thoughts of hate and criticism. We might be filled with hate but never say so - I think that Satan still picks up on that.

Also, we as Priests can pronounce blessing on others and our words carry spiritual power.

I would like to know what you and anyone else thinks or has experienced about the spiritual power of words. Whether or not you think there is real spiritual power or just emotional consequences. (I hope I am making sense)

I have the book by Derek Prince "Blessing or Curse - You Choose", which describes how words have spiritual power. Has anyone else read it?

I have been pouring over your blog Barb and I love your honesty and integrity. You are articulating things that I have been pondering for years. You make me laugh and cry! I just love the church lady posts.

May the Lord bless you and shine His face upon you!

Barb said...

Yep. I think it is just human nature. I know in my own life I get rid of one formula and I turn around just to find that I use another one in an entirely different place. This time away from any formal meeting of the Body has been so good in this respect. I had no idea how much I depended on the formulas to work for me.


In our CLB is was BECAUSE of discipleship that we were encouraged to follow so many formulas. You see we were taught that there was to be a ‘great harvest’ of souls at the end of the age. We needed a method of discipling all these new converts. So things had to get really simple and easy to pass on. Formulas don’t take relationship or time. Therefore it fit into the plan. Funny thing but we didn’t ask why Jesus didn’t resort to clear formulas when he saw the fields white ready to harvest.


Thanks. I love the fact that you are upfront about messy relationships and do not hide from them. So when you say that they are worth it, I tend to believe you.

Ruth and others,

I’m still not sure on this specific topic. Do words actually have the ability to have either the Holy Spirit or the Enemy give them added power than what they just naturally carry? Many in the Charismatic and Word of Faith camps believe as you are saying. I am hesitant not to endue each other with power only reserved for God. People like Derik Prince don’t make us into “little Gods” but some of the people which began this teaching did. They said that we are created in the image of God and so our words can be just as powerful. They quote the passages of Jesus saying that a mountain will be removed if we speak to it as proof. I’m just not so sure and to be frankly honest, I’m not quite sure what Jesus was getting at here either. At least my prayer life doesn’t work like this. Nor have I seen many mountains move.

Again, if we totally believe this, then when it does not work the fault lies with our faith or ability to speak the right words over the situation.

What do you all think?

Erin said...

Hi Barb - thanks for addressing this. I, too, always used the formulas given to me, but somewhere in the back of my mind it always bothered me. I like what you said about how some of this stuff is little different than witchcraft, I can agree with that.

Like you said, it's plugging certain words and actions into a prayer to God, expecting to get a certain result...and if it fails, it's because we "did it wrong" or "didn't have enough faith. There is so much guilt with that.

Thanks for bringing it up. I LOVE your last two paragraphs.

Deb Ermter said...

hey...I've been thinking about this for a while now and there's an excellent teaching on this I'd like to share. This is an excerpt from a teaching given by Jason Upton...2003;

Jason Upton One Thing Conference 2003-
Reading a passage from a book, author not mentioned.

"The minds preoccupation with things of space affects to this day all activities of men. Even religions are frequently dominated by the notion that the deity resides in space within particular localities like mountains or forests, trees or stones which are therefore singled out as holy places. The deity is bound to a particular land, holiness a quality associated with things of space, and the primary question is; where is God?
There is much enthusiasm for the idea that God is present in the universe but that idea is taken to mean His presence in space rather than in time, in nature rather than in history; as if He were a thing and not a spirit."

This writer goes on to say that the reason that we love to make God a thing or a form or even worship or experiences or church ,religious activities a form, is because

"things of space are at the mercy of man, though too sacred to be polluted, they are not too sacred to be exploited. To retain the holy, to perpetuate the presence of God His image is fashioned, yet a god who can be fashioned. A god, who can be confined, is but a shadow of man.”

full teaching (video) can be downloaded here;

Excellent stuff:)

Paul K said...

Hey Barb,

I've been wanting to comment on the whole Positive Confession dealy, but haven't had time. Your comment speaks so much truth, "There is truth in Scripture. It is good to remind our hearts – especially as they are prone to doubt – what is true. But the minute that this gets reduced to a formula it becomes no more than witchcraft. Formulas are there to control the outcome of something. We use the formula of a recipe for chocolate chip cookies to control the outcome of said cookies so that our family will eat them and look forward to them. But when control is used in any relationship and especially in place of a relationship it becomes manipulative and abusive."

My original thought was that it sounded like witchcraft to me too. Presumption is a very dangerous thing. Apart from the inherit denial such thinking fosters, from my understanding of psychological and spiritual sickness, this kind of reasoning is at the core of all mental/spiritual illness. It is idolatry; trusting in things other than God for salvation. The root of what I believe defines the fleshly nature that cannot please God, and wars against the Spiritual nature. You all nailed it right on the head!

As for the power of words heck yes they have power! We are all familiar with the verse in proverbs about the power of life and death being in the tongue. As far as "supernatural" power I think I would have to qualify what one meant by that before I would agree. Certainly God's word is supernatural. Living, breathing, and all that. But common words I don't believe have some magical quality as if by vibrating the air they are contolling the cosmos.
Even Gods word spoken has power, not because a magic combination of influctualtion and syllabic meter, it has power because it is backed by God. God has power that is channeled through His words. All power is His power, and He will do as He pleases always and will always be right in doing so! His words have power comming from gifted thologians and even brute aninmals (Balaam's Ass), not because of the speaker but because of Him.

As for us I do believe that our words have spiritual power. They carry wieght and can lead to life and death. Certainly words can cripple and words can heal. But even in this case I would say it is spiritaul powers larger than us that often are at work in these, sometimes careless, words people utter. Words are like seeds. And what grows rests upon the soverinty of God. Too believe anything else is to fall right back into the "witchraft" senerio.

Just my two cents. Thanks for a thought provoking post!