All of us experience change, the most profound being a change from one season of life to another. This kind of change can take on many forms. It may be the simple process of aging and our growing families. It may also be a change of jobs, locations, or in tiers of wealth or increased responsibility. When it comes to matters of beliefs and living by those beliefs (lifestyle) the process of change involves changing the way we think and act on a day to day basis.
Change is never simple or easy. In fact, it can become quite complex and challenging. I’ve come to believe that how well I grow and develop as an individual will always depend on my mindset. From what framework do I approach change? What kind of change am I really after and why? What am I really seeing, experiencing, and learning as I journey through a change? Am I allowing only physical and intellectual changes to take place to give appearance of growth? Or am I embracing a change taking place in the heart of who I am becoming?
I have gone through many significant changes in my 60+ years of life. I won’t go into the details. Suffice it to say that I have learned a great deal about adapting to changing circumstances and lifestyles. Some of this journey has been exciting – a true source of joy and wonder. Some of it has been crushing and incredibly trying. I am sure that every one of us can say much the same.
Yet I still wrestle with what changes in me during both good and bad circumstances. The details of what is happening around or to me have become increasingly insignificant. I’ve realized that the truly significant issues for me in any life change boils down to two things. First is how well I can discern the heart of my Creator Father within the challenge of changing circumstances. The second is how well I respond to His work in attempting to change my heart so that it functions much more like His.
Yeshua our Messiah spoke a great deal about the heart of the Father toward those the Father loves…and the needed response of our hearts to Him that pure and perfect love. Then Yeshua took heart issues a step further in teaching us that how we interact with others, especially those within the Father’s own family and Kingdom, must be love-based and life-giving.
As I think about the changes constantly taking place in my own life, I am reminded that I have been given a tremendous gift for my Father: the ability to choose Life or choose Death. Every word I think or speak, and every action I make or fail to make will result in one or the other. This foundational choice is made every moment of every day of my life. How well I make that choice depends on which perspective I engage in my decision-making process, especially concerning issues revolving around what life in His Kingdom is supposed to look like. I can use the Greek/Roman glasses of Western civilization that I grew up in…or I can look through the lens of the Hebrew eye of my Father. One weighs choices and actions based on law and judgement. The other focuses on education and deliverance. One wants defined rules and regulations. The other strives for creating lasting impressions and life-giving influence. One demands a justice based on lawful obedience. The other focuses on developing Godly character and living by God’s general principles for good living. One creates an oppressive death-grip on my life that passes the same through me into the lives of others. The other creates a beautiful river of Life that flows through me and quenches the thirst of others for the Father’s love and deliverance.
I wish I could say that these are original and astounding concepts from my brilliant mind. But they are not. I am simply not that smart! I learned of them from others in my life who are far wiser than me. Their God-given insights have helped me tremendously. I simply pass this wisdom along to you. By the way – I won’t be able to fit all of this in one short article, so we are starting on a little journey together with this concept.
This tug of war between thinking like a Greek/Roman Westerner and thinking like the Hebrew God that we desire to love and serve wholeheartedly is not easy. I was born and raised in the good ole USA…and our culture is continuously steeped in this very struggle. It is a battle between a Form Mindset and a Function Mindset. I can phrase this battle another way: Religion/Legalism mindset vs. Relationship/Freedom mindset.
I have learned that the choice I make between these two perspectives greatly affects every aspect of my life. Believe me when I say that this battle is about much more than faith and beliefs. The daily choices based in one mindset or the other greatly determines how my life unfolds internally, and in every circumstance and relationship in my life – workmates, family, church folk, and even with Father Yahweh.
In our Western Greek/Roman culture we have grown up with a huge emphasis on FORM. We define and relate to everything to “who, what, when, where and how”. We want the specifics, the clearly defined details. When we read Scripture – especially the Old Testament – we highlight the names, dates, places, and details of what took place. We seek out the how-to for every occasion or command mentioned in the Bible and if we can’t find a defined how-to, we create it. Those how-to creations become traditions, and those traditions become law-like in their stature. Out of our deep-rooted desire for life to be black and white, we turn culture-based idioms into Holy Doctrines and try to copy the forms and procedures of the ancient agricultural culture found in Scripture into every aspect of our modern industrial, technological lives. We judge the characters in the historical accounts and hope that we will never make the same mistakes they did. Then we begin to judge the people in our lives by their failures – often because we have been hurt or negatively impacted by them. We are so quick to judge others by their circumstances – the who, what, when, where, and how of their lives.
We even judge ourselves by FORM. What job do I have? How much does it pay? What part of town do I live in? How much do I give? What political party do I belong to? Do I go to church? If so, which one? Do my children go to public or private school – or do I home school? How does my church conduct its worship services? What clothing is appropriate? Am I wealthy or poor? Is my house perfectly clean or on the messy side? The checklist goes on and on as we form judgments on ourselves and use the same measures on others. We may barely know them, yet we are so often blinded by our selfish need to be right about our judgments that we don’t comprehend the death to hope, dreams, emotions, and life-giving opportunities that we are rendering.
Now, let me be quick to say that there is nothing 100% wrong with Form. Form is a part of our everyday lives and without Form there can be a great deal of chaos. Yahweh gives Form to many aspects of our lives through His Kingdom instructions and principles – called the Word or the Torah. However, a huge problem takes place when we so obsess about the Form that we neglect to see and embrace the Function the Form was designed to accomplish. Father gave us certain forms in order to guide and teach us in understanding how we are to function as His people. However, He is far more concerned that all Forms serve the Functions He is after. A Form – as interesting as it might be – should seldom rigidly define our words and actions. The moment a Form becomes more important that the Function the Form is supposed to serve we have lost the Father’s heart in the whole issue at hand.
Let me tell you something, brothers and sisters. The world is looking for Light, Life, Truth, and Love – and when they look at us they all too often see us fighting over Form: our form of worship, our form of building (even the colors and carpets), pews or chairs, our politics, how we celebrate the Sabbath and the Feast Days, arguing over tithes and offerings, head coverings for men and women, is it ok to wear jeans to church, etc. We refuse to accept the decisions of leadership and the consensus of our church community because we know we are so right about such and such. In fact, we are so sure that we are right that we sink to gossiping, complaining and slandering. We openly argue with the shepherds that Father provided for our care. We begin to cut people out of our lives because they don’t see things the same way we do. We leave a congregation without informing the pastor and leadership of the why. Worse yet we try to persuade others to leave with us. We become guilty of dividing the body, the Bride, of Messiah. We literally kill each other with our words and actions. In our quest to be right, we become just another culture of DEATH among the many others the world has to offer. Worse yet, we somehow think God is okay with this destruction within His Kingdom. I have a feeling we are only fooling ourselves.
Those searching souls on the outside see this wreck of brotherly love, watching us kill each other over who, what, where, when, and how. They scoff and lose interest. Why shouldn’t they? They get that kind of stuff everywhere else in their lives. They are looking for something more than that – something greater than trying to live up to man-made expectations that our Western overemphasis on Form causes people to place upon other people. They are not looking for Forms that bring more death and judgement into their lives. They are looking for LIFE. They are looking for a place to learn the why – the heart that drives the actions – so that they have hope of becoming the human beings that deep down inside they know they should be.
Religion is comprised of man-made structures and traditions – FORMS – that try to dictate to others how we should live. There can be no relationship unless the desired FORM is lived up to. This is the essence of legalism. Frankly, it is a focus on perfectionism; an attempt to create by our own human effort “the perfect world”. If you don’t measure up, you don’t belong. You are judged worthy or unworthy by whether, in the eyes of the religious, you are right – in their eyes.
I know that I can easily place a lot of my own man-made expectations upon myself. I easily get so caught up on the forms I think are so important and make me look so good to others. I start focusing so intensely on circumstances – who, what, where, when and how – that I fail to see what Yahweh is trying to accomplish in me or in the lives of the people that I am attempting to serve and help. I ignore the why. I become a perfectionist trying to create a perfect world that runs like clockwork and according to my interpretation of what that supposedly looks like. Then I judge myself and everyone in my life by my form-based concepts. Seriously – this is a “death trap” that I must make a huge effort to avoid every day of my life.
How about you? How do you view yourself? What dictates how you live day by day? Are you trying to measure up to a religious form that was not instructed by Father – a legalistic man-made form? A religious lifestyle? Sincerely consider why you are doing what you are doing? Who are you trying to please? Yahweh, other people, or perhaps even yourself? I encourage you to give some thought and prayer to this over the next few days.
If a Form Mindset can seriously twist what Father is after in our lives, what then is the Function Mindset? How does it differ from this Greek/Roman trap that we are captive of? What are some of the practical implications you and I can experience in becoming more Function minded? Even more importantly, what does all of this have to do with finding and experiencing the Father’s Heart for us? We’ll consider all of this next week!