Complicated and Convoluted

Prepare to be frustrated.

In this blog, I am going to peel the scab off a wound, without knowing what to do to correct the root issue.

The problem has to do with principles vs. the word of the Lord.  Both are absolutely valid.

Each of us can tell stories of times when we stood on the Book, invested in the principles and saw measurable, verifiable, sustained results because of the dependability of principles.

And most of us can share times when God told us to do something unusual, that was not based on principles, and we got — you guessed it — measurable, verifiable, sustained results because we obeyed the word of the Lord, even when it did not make sense, or went against the principles.

The problem lies when you are an outsider and you have no way of knowing whether the other person reeeeeally did hear from the Lord.

I get these calls all the time.

“Hello, my life is a mess. Can you help me?”

“Tell me about it.”

“Yadda, yadda, yadda . . . ”

“OK, I see some areas where there might be a problem.  Why don’t you change A, B and C and watch to see if things change in a month or so.”

“Oh, no!  You don’t understand.  GOD told me to do A, B and C the way I am doing them.  That CAN’T be the problem.”

“Ah, I see.  Well, I can’t see anything more to suggest so I guess you need to walk it out to the end until God comes through with whatever His last minute strategy is.”

Now you know and I know that God pulls off some pretty radical last minute things, and a whole lot of faith is walking out what absolutely does not make sense, especially in the face of the consistent advice of all the wise people around you.

I have my doubts that Abraham tried to explain to Sarah about his expedition up the mountain with Isaac and the firewood.  I think he just did it.  I am glad Noah didn’t listen to the advice of the local wise men.  In both cases, they heard right, and God came through supernaturally, superbly and history was forever changed.

But where it gets messy is when your friend is steadily going backward and won’t budge on his position.

I have one person who has been calling me for ten years now.  There are two things which I think he needs to change.  And he is adamant that God doesn’t want him to change either of those, but he keeps coming to me because his pain is going through the roof.  His life is unraveling and from my point of view, it is because of principle violations.  From his point of view he is walking out a life of extreme faith.

Who is right?  I dunno, but I kind of wish he would quit calling me, because I can’t make his faith walk work for him.

Yet even though he (and so many others like him) bother me, I have to face the fact that I do exactly the same thing.

I cannot tell you how many times concerned people have sat down and tried to straighten me out on my business model.  “This is how it is done.”

And, just like my friend who bugs me, I respond, “Yes, but . . . ”  And I do the opposite because I think God has told me to.

I can see the logic of their wisdom — in the natural.  South Africa, Australia, Canada, Ohio, New York and other places are active markets for us.  I have been told every which way that I ought to go there and minister to the people who are hungry and eager and willing to implement these principles.

To which I answer, “Yes, but, God has told me to . . . ”  So I walk away from a lot of income, to work in areas which are not income producing.  We spent a big block of time this week looking at our new product, trying to find a way to make it profitable. So far, it eludes us, and I am probably going to do it anyway.

So what is the difference between me and the guy who has been obdurate for the last ten years?  Nothing (except that I don’t go fussing to him when things are tough here).

So how do we walk this out?

Christianity is all about principles, and about the God who overrides principles consistently and asks us to walk out those counter-intuitive directions by faith.

And you don’t know whether I REEEALLY heard from God or not.

Further more, if you are walking a cutting edge walk of faith, the last thing you need is someone faithless like me walking alongside you empowering the enemy against your victory.

On the other hand, over the years I have seen far more failures than successes from those who were vociferous in claiming the voice of the Lord in their ears.  I mean measurable, verifiable, sustained failures.  People died.  Businesses went under.  Kids went south.  Churches were destroyed.

So it isn’t always lack of faith on my part.  Sometimes I was right about the violation of principles which I saw. Sometime they were standing on the promises God had not made.

But as often as I am justified in my bias toward walking by principles, there is still that large “irrational” piece of my life which does not conform to principles, and there is still the phone call tomorrow with someone new who says, “Yes, but . . . ”

So how do we walk this out?  And why is Christianity so messy?

Copyright February 2011 by Arthur Burk

Written from home

This entry was posted in Perspectives, The Kingdom of God. Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Complicated and Convoluted

  1. Janel says:

    Goodness. I don’t know how to gain authority in this area. But I would certainly say that most of the pain I have endured in life has been rooted from “loving” people trying to “help”, which looks more like criticism and control. And I still don’t know if I’m “right”. But I’m in love, and it’s worth risking everything to pursue Him.

    Ultimately, (as cliche as it sounds), I have to fall back on God. Not even on His word or MY word that He gave me, but just lean into His heart & WHO He is… and remember that this isn’t a test – that we’re not left alone with just “the word” for us to prove ourselves by performing endurance by carrying it out on our own.

    I quite simply don’t think Love is a trick; I DO think it’s messy, doesn’t fit neatly within the lines, and is more multidimensional than we can narrow down. Keeping it beyond our grasp isn’t a game, it’s just the nature of His complexity, for which I profoundly love loving Him.

    Reminding people to find Him again (with no mention of right or wrong), past their pain or isolation, their “word”, OR principles, is all I know to do. While this generally isn’t received well because normally people ask to get an answer or a solution, those who can hear it are normally just happy to have someone who didn’t further discourage them. 🙂

  2. Ruthie Young says:

    Thanks for the honesty!

  3. Kate Mazur says:

    I concur. I’ll be thinking over the next hours and days.

    Sometimes we just get it wrong, don’t we? Sometimes we think it’s the Lord and it isn’t. Sometimes we do what we want and call it the Lord, while other times it was the Lord.

    I continue to proclaim over myself that as His sheep I know His voice. I plead Psalm 25: 4 & 5 and know that like in John 15 I can do nothing without Him. I tell Him and myself that without His help I’ll hear wrong and do wrong and think wrong and I put it back on Him to reveal Himself and the way.

    I think it’s important to remember that the Lord is interested in us knowing Him – believing as in trusting, obeying, relying and clinging. I have to regularly be willing to let go of what I think I’m right about. It’s SO easy to cling to what I think know. If He wants to show me I’ve been wrong all along I’m willing to see that.

    Setting our will to seek Him is so important. We can seek answers but He wants us to seek Him. Adore Him. Not just “get” principles. I reaaaaaally like principles but more than that I ask Him to help me worship and adore the One who came up with those principles.

    Being right isn’t as important as knowing the Lord.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this:

    “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom,

    and let not the mighty man boast of his might;

    let not a rich man boast of his riches;

    but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me…”

    Jeremiah 9: 23 & 24 a

    Sometimes we care too much about being right. Sometimes we care too much about our work, and our assignments and our reputation and our time and our blah, blah, blah. We really need to understand and know Him, and we can caught up following principles without engaging at all with Him. I think there are lots of dire warnings about that sort of thing, but now’s not the time to go into all that. 🙂

    Sometimes we try to produce fruit without intimacy. I think the Lord calls it spiritual masterbation. I think He cares more about our abiding in Him (and all that that entails) than all that we can do. But He also says obedience is better than sacrifice…sooooooooo.

    Keep your thoughts coming, Mr. Burk. I’m tracking with you.


  4. Mary-Anne Simpson says:

    I completely agree with everything you have written and I am not trying to answer the question, Christianity is a multi-level, multi-faceted relationship and relationships are often messy and complicated and do not work according to formulae.
    Neither can we presume to put the Almighty Creator of the universe into a box and expect Him whose ways and thoughts are higher than ours to to function within our limited perspective. I loved the example of Abraham, Isaac and the firewood, it sums it up perfectly!
    We need to be as flexible as He requires us to be, even if it means that we have to humble ourselves and admit that the route we so adamantly and vociferously defending was wrong.
    With the benefit of hindsight I realise I have endured many hardships that I was not meant to endure either because I was being parochial and defending my stand simply because it is hard to admit that you “heard” wrong as there seems to be such a stigma attached to this kind of failure. Or because people in leadership put pressure on me not to follow what I believed to be the correct course of action.
    Sadly Christians are not very tolerant of one another’s failures and are uncomfortable when they do not have all the answers and so often people are shunned just when they need the body of Christ desperately.
    One of the precious gifts I have from Arthur’s teaching is that it is OK not to have all the answers.

  5. Rose Boon says:

    Over the years, God has placed some wonderfully wisdom filled people who have walked with me through similar situations like referred to here.

    First one, “Sally” was told by another participant in the group that she needed deliverance. No Way she said. We could all see it but she denied it. Ten years later, she comes to me and says, “I need deliverance.” So from this my response is don’t pick green fruit. I can offer suggestions, solutions, whatever, but if the person doesn’t respond, it’s not my problem.

    Another time (three times over the years I have told people not to come back), after several sessions I told “Fred” not to come back, I could clearly see that several sessions of the same issues was getting us nowhere and I couldn’t help him. About six months later, I ran into Fred who said, my telling him not to come back really made him think and he took the action suggested; now walking in freedom. “Women come for help when they hurt, men come when they’ve lost.”

    Another, Sally made appointments with everyone around the circle of officies and everyone else that suggested her problem stemmed from whatever they happened to think. She chased them all. She was a black hole. Eventually, when she was taking all of our time, we limited her to one or none. (Some are called, some are sent.)

    Lots of calls and urgent appointments needed just when a deadline for another activity was due. Kept happening over and over. A good friend said to me, “You must know your protion.” Decide what you will and will not do, if you are doing it all, perhaps you are doing someone else’ work.

    I don’t know if this helps anyone, but it has kept me from burn out at times when I needed help.

  6. Carla says:

    Ugh. Ouch. You’re right, this is messy. For me, I’ve tried to learn how to walk this out from when I’ve been on the receiving end of the crazy looks. There was a long season when I had to stand on what God was telling me to do, though it was painful for me and for others who loved me and had to watch. Many spoke to me out of their pain, because of their love for me, advising me STRONGLY to do something different. Each time I went back into the Lord with doubts and questions to make sure I heard right. It was a very important season for me. It was when I learned to trust God, His voice and His work over the voice and work of greatly admired spiritual leaders. I learned to stay teachable, weigh the words of wisdom from these leaders, but always, always allow God’s voice trump all others. It was hard.

    Now, if I’m on the other side of this, same type of scenario, I am aware of my influence on the other person. I hold my tongue a lot, I pray a lot and trust God with them a lot. And every once in a while I do speak, but it’s always with a reminder that it’s God’s voice they need to heed more than mine. Maybe this sounds overly cautious, even timid. Sometimes I think this about myself as well. But I have a strong ability to persuade and influence. My desire is to steward that influence well. And the best fruit that comes of this “timidity” is that people who previously limited their ability to hear from God, opened up in their ability to hear from God. We talk about different ways He speaks – so many ways – and the need to know his character, so that we can actually recognize his voice.

    So that’s how I TRY to walk this out.

    • Irina Rivera says:

      This really spoke to me. I’m in the process of realizing how often I think I know all the answers. So I hear your humility. To me, it’s beautiful because I have swung from thinking I had nothing to add, to speaking too quickly. You are really looking at this question from different angles.
      “My desire is to steward that influence well” – this is a wonderful guideline.

  7. RuthAnn777 says:

    Lord told me not too long ago that wisdom comes in asking the right questions. We can ask questions that help clarify things. Sometimes we are called to do something, but only for a season…and we might misinterpret that and think long term. Perhaps God said turn left only to have you take a step and then turn right….I like the idea of asking Him questions of the what, where, when, how long, and should I still kind.
    I think we can also ask Him for confirmation to back up that a decision is right on target. Lastly, we need to be open to others speaking into our lives, and use it as a springboard to ask God more questions. I like prayer journaling to God to hear Him.

  8. sharon says:

    Your questions further challenge me – lol.

    We are right not to confront or challenge someone in an area that we struggle with. Once I asked for prayer for a overeating problem. She would not pray for me saying she struggled with the same issue & did not have victory yet. She directed me to someone who did have victory in that area. I highly respected her for doing that & it taught me a valuable lesson.

    Isn’t that what the speck/log scripture really means, that when we deal with our own log only then do we have the right to speak another re the same issue?

  9. Jacq Wallace says:

    I know this doesn’t answer your question and perhaps a few ppl ‘downunder’ are going to say why did she do that? but,
    I’m really glad you have listened to God and not come here yet because it gives me a chance to implement the many teachings and hopefully when you arrive according the Fathers immaculate timing we will have a smorgasbord of glory stories for SLG to enjoy! Also, because while you’ve been listening and applying the revelation God gives you many are getting blessed and lifes and land transformed. My mum in New Zealand is about to complete praying all of the Balmoral landprayers you’ve written ‘because God told you to’ and she’s blown away by the results.
    I’ve felt curses on that land since I was a child and knew it had to be broken off and because of your land prayers my mother is able to do that now very easily and I feel the burden lifting off me daily. I’ve also just discovered I’m a RG Servant and not Prophet after all and when I broke the curse off that gift I really, really, really felt the changes and it was an answer to a 10 yr prayer for me and I want to ask you to keep doing what you’re doing as God directs because of the Social Transformation, you are impacting lives bringing positive change to the earth and joy to all generations and I admire that TY SLG Team

  10. Mike Corbin says:

    In thinking back to a confrontation He had me do in the not so distant past I can track a significant trajectory in my relationship with God. Many things He has revealed to me as a result of that confrontation.

    Many of the pieces He moved into my life have resulted in a lot of cleansing of my past and lead me to many of your teachings on a variety of subjects. Your Time and Land teachings are part of the mix and He has used that to re-examine that past timeframe to discover the many clever disguises of the enemy that were present then and can now be cleaned up.

    It hasn’t been a fun and enjoyable journey but I do enjoy looking back to where I was and where He has brought me as a result of that confrontation.


    Sometimes its not always about me.

    There has also been situations created as a result of that confrontation that have caused me to run home get in front of God to say things like “what is this all about”. Only to hear Him say “it’s not about you and the reasons and why I’m using you in that person’s life are none of your business”. In other words He used me, now get out of the way and let God be God. So what?

    Its kind of nice to know that even though situations present themselves that are weird and curious God has wired me to be able to put up with it. Sometimes its not about me and it’s none of my business He just wants to use me sometimes and then get out of the way afterwards


  11. Bill Welch says:

    This sounds familiar! Sometimes, I ask who is your God? The God of Abraham, Issac, & Jacob or another. Are you listening to The Holy Spirit or a familiar spirit? Sometimes I’m a not too popular teacher gift!

  12. mary roberts says:

    My husband and I have seen this over and over again, and I have from time to time fervently believed God has spoken and then the opposite has happened! But we feel concerned by faithful believers who won’t budge from what they believe God has said. May be, when what we think God says doesn’t seem to tally with what seems to be happening, its worth checking with trusted friends/ mentors/ leaders to ask them to help test it! We have always valued ‘confirmation’.

  13. December says:

    Each of us must dig our own wells in learning to hear and know the Lord’s voice. No one else can do it for us, though brothers and sisters can encourage and admonish us along the way and God is always guiding. It is not an easy labor at times as every new layer and level presents it’s own challenges. No one said growing up is easy, and while some challenges are long and arduous, real mistakes also happen and have real consequences. I love that you put up this topic Arthur. It’s good to struggle with it.

  14. sharon says:

    Arthur, I so value you, your ministry, business, teaching & hard hitting truth. Most of all, I appreciate your transparency. You are one of the few men in the public domain of ministry that I regularly follow. My comments here are for life-flow conversation & not to give you answers. But, perhaps my questions will challenge some. They certainly challenge me when I get stuck.

    I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “the definition of insanity is when you do the same thing over & over again & expect different results.”

    Sometimes one just has to let go.

    Don’t you think that when we release the “plan” we are carrying God can take and do what He wants with it once we are out of the way? Is it the principle of timing or trust? Are we willing to take risks in areas we’re unsure of when our way isn’t working, even though we’re standing in faith? Are we paralysed because “how could we have possibly not heard God right?” Do we really believe that God will correct our mistake if we take the risk & do something different or against what we believe He originally told us? Where or what was our relationship with Him when we set our course of action?

    Thank you so much for your insightful blogs.

    • I agree with you Sharon. I absolutely believe there are a lot of deceived people out there who are making bad choices, based on not having really heard God, and over the long term, the fruit in their life shows they are deceived.

      My point is, where do we develop the moral authority to confront that? What gives me the right to tell you that you don’t want to face your pain, fear, shame, or whatever the game is, and therefore you are hiding behind “Yes, but God said…?” I believe it needs to be said to some people, but because I buck the conventional wisdom and at times seem to go against principles, what right do I have to tell someone else that the “evidence” is that they are flat self-deceived?

      That is my rub. I am very sensitive to having the moral right to confront people. There are many people who I think are wrong in various areas, but I don’t feel I have the moral right to speak because of my own life. But this one is in a different category. I can’t wrap my arms around what would give someone the moral right to confront someone else on this issue.

      Is it having been right all the time in their life? Count me out. I have messed up. Is it walking in the gift of prophecy? Not a chance. No prophet I know of sees everything that needs to be said. What is it that gives us the moral right to confront (as opposed to gently suggesting that they might reconsider the evidence)?

      I have no clue.

      So I don’t.

      • paula says:

        Got humility? I think perhaps the moral authority comes when we have been walking in a “God told me to” moment and been willing to listen to counsel. The humility to listen with spirit, soul and body gives us a place of safety in walking out the absurd. We all need checks and balances….counsel, not advice . If we are willing to listen, put it before the Lord again and then either make a shift or continue on the course ,we are walking in humility…and I think it is that humility that allows us to confront others who are walking out those wild “Noah” directives.

      • Mary-Anne Simpson says:

        Perhaps Arthur, you have the moral right simply because you have NOT always been right but you are prepared to admit that publicly and you also give people the freedom to fail and move on without loosing every last scrap of their dignity AND you teach by you words and your life that it is OK not to have all the answers.
        In my book that would give you the moral right to confront this issue in my life.

        • paula says:

          I absolutely agree with that , Mary Anne. That is the humility issue…being able to admit to walking in a learning curve without all the answers. Plumbline has given us all some permission to not have all the answers before we move out…and then to be able to also make corrections to our path as the Lord reveals more of the picture. I think when we walk this out it does give some moral authority to speaking into others …not an entitlement to speak but an obligation to speak, especially if the Lord just won’t let us “not” speak!

        • Roslyn says:

          I think Arthur has it ~ no one has the moral right to confront another ~ ‘gently suggest a reconsideration’ is appropriate ~ because there is no hint of judgement, finger-pointing, devaluation, accusation or ‘godupmanship’ in that approach.

          I agree, Mary-Ann, that if I invite opinion or input, that invitation adds a different color to the picture.

          I once set out on a mighty heady course that ended up in near complete disaster on several levels; yet as I examined the ruins our Faithful One was careful to show me that ‘Yes, I sent you this way it’s just that you just stopped seeking Me along the way” It was a costly lesson that I learned well. And yet no one but the Holy Spirit and I will really understand ~ most just look at it and say :”you should never have done that” . It’s not always the results or circumstance that prove the ‘godness’ of a thing ~ afterall, Jesus hanging on that tree coud seem as though He somehow ‘missed it’.

      • Bobbie says:

        Maybe it’s not so much confronting as facilitating healing in a person’s connection to God. So often what we hear is filtered through our own wounds or perceptions. At my church, we’ve just launched an “inner healing” ministry where the entire focus is on strengthening people’s connection to God – removing any lies or barriers. With that done, the realization may come that “what God actually said was that, but I thought it meant this.”
        On the flip side I’m nearing the end of phase two in following what God told me despite the ferocious opposition of family and friends. My path challenged everything they believed to be right. But, with phase one successfully completed, they’ve come bashfully back to say they were wrong. I’m glad I pressed on, but some support along the way would have made it an easier journey – without me second guessing myself every step of the way. Despite my brave front, I was doubtful inside.

        What if being wrong didn’t carry such a stigma? Being in the field of childcare, so often I hear from parents who say “At first we really believed this was the right way, but then we realized it wasn’t.” They’ve made adjustments to their course of action. And it’s all chalked up to the learning curve of first time parents. If we could afford ourselves that same learning curve as children of the King, maybe it would be easier to redirect when we find ourselves down the wrong path.

        • Bobbie, I absolutely agree with you on two points. First, it is noble and honoring to God when we can buck the pressure from all our Christian friends and leaders and do what is right anyway. But I just don’t believe that God designed the Body of Christ to be our biggest source of pain. I so agree with you that having someone say, “This is strange to me but I believe in you” sure would oil the path a long way. Sometimes just having one supportive voice in the chorus of nay-sayers is like plasma to our battered soul.

          And I think that the greatest strength we have in our company is permission to fail. We try a lot of things, get a lot of things wrong, and we have a culture that does not shoot their wounded. When one of our team messes up, the whole team owns the mess and helps clean up and ramp up. I sure with the Body of Christ were not so horribly risk adverse.

          Spot on, Bobbie.

          • paula says:

            Love the term “facilitating healing with a connection with God”.

            Also agree that the body of Christ is # 1 on pulling the trigger on family…should not be so. Hoping that perhaps in all the press that we are in, we are allowing the Lord to move us into a more compassionate state. I for one, have felt His correction in my snap judgments of others and now give more room for error even in the “religious” sector! Love covers a multitude of sin.

  15. Anthony Tanjoco says:

    Hello Arthur,

    I remember the first time hearing you speak…in the midst of your message, you touched on Faith vs. Presumption . This is when the light bulb went on for me that I didn’t have to play “Holy Spirit” for someone else. If there was an issue where they were not seeing results -yet had “God told them to do…” I could just take the approach of being a caring friend to help them double-check if they were moving in Faith or just being Indiana Jones stepping out on the invisible bridge!

    When I stopped playing “Holy Spirit”, I was released from the responsibility of having to make sure my friend changed his ways to line up with what was “Right”. I could release them to the Lord, then either celebrate the victory or mourn at the loss/failure. Either way, I could continue the relationship without feeling offended that they didn’t listen to me.

    At any rate, I remember a few points you mentioned on faith -followed by the point of presumption…hope you can spend some time regurgitating that again, because it was good stuff!




    For those who missed the word-smith at work…

    Adjective: Stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or course of action.

  16. Sandy Beach says:

    It is the same for me Arthur, I just can’t help wondering if I am crazy sometimes. Even my prayer partners think I am in outer space sometimes but when I think it is “God” you can not deter me. It has caused some pain for sure but it has also been amazing and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Bless you Arthur.

  17. Julia A says:

    Yeah, this is a tough one… My husband and I do both- principles and listening to God. When God tells us something, He also gives us confirmation in various ways and we have experienced quite dramatic results when listening to Him- such as changing jobs in a two week window, just because He told us it was time and later finding out everyone was laid off a week after we left and our new employer put a global freeze on all new hires after we accepted their offer- if we were not to listen to God we would have had to go back to our home country after a layoff and start all over there. Now if that were God’s plan for us we would have done it- we are not intimidated by challenges like that, but it was not.

    Hearing from God is so personal that I would not dare say- everyone do like me or this is how you hear from God, it comes with experience and you have to have intimacy with Him.
    I did find that with every “on the edge” experience God had brought us through we get to know Him in a new way and we grow in intimacy with Him. Both my husband and I like to sit down and take apart our stories and see parts that we have not noticed while we were walking them out.

  18. karen ford says:

    Thank you for your honesty and transparency. It is a comfort to hear that you also are puzzled at times about your life.

  19. Carol Brown says:

    If God never asked us to do things that were contrary to, or outside of principles we could reduce our relationship with God to a formula–sort of like a computer program of “if ___, then’s” and it would always work. That’s not much of a relationship, which is what we and He want.

  20. Emily Redman says:

    Perhaps this is a situation of how redemptive gifts interact with one another; perhaps this friend, by design, cannot [does not have the ability] to hear from a prophet, at least on these issues, and oh how painful for the prophet that is! I have often wondered why some very mature, very gifted people seem to be able to impart knowledge/truth/teaching/ministry/whatever to *some* others, but not to *all* others. Perhaps just as some redemptive gifts tend to gravitate toward one another in marriages, they too make natural pairings in ministry. This friend may by design be able to hear the truth from a servant for example, but not from a prophet. Why? I have no idea, but I bet there’s a reason for it.

  21. Bobbie Maybee says:

    Thank you, Arthur! I am a counselor who also often hears,”The Lord told me…” I is hard to watch someone travel a path that is painful and appears contrary to “principle.”

Comments are closed.