Posted in Faith

Like Walking THROUGH Water

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I believe:

  • God will work all things to the good for me.
  • I am never alone because I have accepted Christ as my Savior.
  • The LORD is my shepherd, my rock, my soft place in the Valley of the Shadow.
  • (As writer Charles Martin puts it:) The promise of His Word is truer than my fear.

I believe all of these wonderful things about our God in Heaven, and yet, like the man who proclaimed to Jesus, “I believe; help me with my unbelief,” I struggle daily.

 

When God parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to escape the Egyptians, He created a metaphor for a daily walk in this Fallen world, especially for a person like me who struggles with an anxiety disorder.

For example, living with anxiety is like walking between those two walls of parted water, having to believe that I will not drown, that the only way I will get wet is from the spray that is inevitable when that amount of water is being held back only by the invisible hand of a mighty God.

Just as the Israelites had to step through that muddy surface that must have been the bottom of a sea now exposed, I often feel that every step I try to take forward, I am being held back by the mire.  Besides slowing me down, my anxiety is like constantly looking back to make sure that I haven’t left a shoe in the mud.

When you are constantly anticipating how things in your life can go wrong, it’s also like feeling the breath of the enemies’ chariot horses snorting behind me as I hurry to reach my goal of the other side of a sea I shouldn’t even be able to walk across.

On really bad days, even breathing as I strain to see the other side of the sea proves difficult. Most of the time, I don’t even realize that my breathing has been shallow until the end of the day when my shoulders really scream at me.

And then there are the days when I am not even really able to see my goal.  On these days, only my sense of responsibility and the learned discipline of a lifetime of this anxiety battle help me put one step in front of the other.

But what would it look like if I could go through all of that and really live my belief?  What if I would fully trust that God is holding the water back until I reach the other side of my challenges?   What if I fully embraced the knowledge that God works to the good all things for those who trust in Him, as Paul writes in his letter to the Romans?

Someday, hopefully sooner than later, I will know what a walk across a parted sea looks like on a daily basis instead of the fragmented moments I can claim this day.  Until that day, I will continue to study His word, pray to Him, fellowship with other believers, and consciously seek to be saved from my unbelief.

“To learn strong faith is to endure great trials. I have learned my faith by standing firm amid severe testings.” ~ George Mueller

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Posted in Christian Living, Faith

Get Off the Political Bandwagon

In God We Trust

In these past weeks of Supreme Court rulings and inexcusable church burnings, I have been disappointed but not astounded, disenchanted but not disenfranchised.  Like many, I have purposely refrained from a knee-jerk reaction and have instead taken these days to reflect and pray.

As one who longs to live a life worthy of the me Christ’s grace has already made possible, I am obligated to approach all the craziness of this world with two overriding principles:

  1. To make God the first and greatest priority in my life.  Everything else comes second.
  2. To love everyone else the way I too want to be loved.

If I make God the first priority in my life, that means I spend time in His Word, and that time means that I will be able to test what others say against what the Bible actually proclaims.  I will not agree with whatever the media says is OK or all my “friends” think is right without first testing the correctness of a stance against what God’s Word actually has to say about it.

In order to do that well, I have to be regularly and often in the Word.  I also have to understand that Word in its totality, not just pick and choose the verses that best serve my own interests.  For example, I need to understand that many of the verses that speak out against homosexuality also are against any form of sexual immorality.  That includes sex outside of marriage and people who are married to spouses who were not Biblically divorced.  In other words, the Bible is against a slew of activities no one has been too riled up about for far too long.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul gives a focus for what the Christian church should concentrate on not doing as well as doing:

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:19-23 NLT)

Notice that, to God, any and all of this comprehensive list of “don’ts” are on equal footing.  We humans want to put sin on a sliding scale, but God does not.  In other words, if I really take Christ’s admonition to take care of the moat in my own eye before worrying about the speck in anybody else’s, I have much too much to worry about improving in my own behavior to get into the business of anybody else’s.

This concept doesn’t mean I consider any behavior by someone else OK.  From a truly Christian perspective, there is no “live and let live.”  If I am not acting in alignment with the Word of God, I want my fellow Christians to gently point this out to me.  I want them to go so far as to shut me out of the community for a time if that is necessary in order to potentially bring me back into alignment with God’s Word.  I want them to pray for me unceasingly.

For those who do not walk with Christ, I can disagree without condemning.  I can hold to the Truth without leaving a feeling of hatred in the hearer.  But I can only do these things if I am actively seeking to see the non-believers around me through the eyes of my loving God.  Just as Jesus held those around Him to God’s truth through compassion and a firmness for that truth, I too can seek to do the same.

 

If Christ is our Savior, then we strive to be loving, patient, joyful, kind, good, faithful.  We also strive to stay away from the behaviors that displease God, from lying and being jealous to hating and being sexually immoral.  These times we live in are challenging, which means that now, more than ever, we Christians must live our faith.  And if we are really doing that, we will be much too busy to get caught up in the political machinations of this world that detract us from what is truly important–the potential relationship with the Savior of the world each one of us has the right to claim.

Posted in Christian Living, Faith

Perspective Lessons

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If you haven’t had the blessing of reading Philip Yancey’s “Where is God When It Hurts?,” recent events have made it as good a time as any to grasp the opportunity to discover the open, honest and Bible-based insights Yancey offers about the reality of living in a world where evil exists even as it is being watched over by a loving God.

I am a Christian first, but I am also an academic, which has led me to study at least a little bit about a variety of religions. One of the first things you find in such study is that religions share a pretty solid core of similar beliefs. Sometimes, the ways those religions enact or express those core beliefs are so different from what we know, that we are quick to dismiss them as not only “other,” but often as evil.

But when we dismiss, we take the chance of losing out on what another perspective on life can actually teach us. Here’s my case in point.

My very limited understanding of Buddhism is that through spiritual practices, including meditation, the Buddhist is trying to re-connect with Nirvana, which is the state of Supreme Being from which all souls have sprung. Now, because Buddhist practice does not hold Christ as divine, I obviously am not going to be going to a Buddhist temple any time soon. However, there is a lesson about dedication to spiritual practice that I can learn and apply here.

In yoga workshops, when the instructors want to talk about enlightenment and deciding on your soul’s purpose, I have usually quickly dismissed this by knowing that my soul’s purpose has been reached because I have accepted Christ as my Savior. But in coming to this conclusion, I have actually missed part of the point. Even Christians, especially Christians, have a spiritual journey to take that can offer for us an enlightenment of being more and more Christ-like.

I just finished a book by Iyanla Vanzant in which she explains the process this way: Each of us is born with a soul syllabus, a series of assignments throughout our lifetime that is meant to help us learn the lessons we were born to learn. As we learn these lessons, we are drawn even closer to the peace of truly knowing God.

I believe there is a difference between having direct access to God through Christ’s grace, which we all have the opportunity to grasp, and doing the work that helps us to actually know God and become Christ-like. Anyone can strum the strings on a guitar and make a sound, but it takes practice and dedication to make music.

Spiritual practice includes daily prayer, daily Bible study, a spiritual mentor, a church accountability group and the ability to look inside, be still for long enough to hear God, and be willing to see truths about yourself that aren’t always comfortable. It is a life-long matter of becoming that none of us should do alone. It involves more than I can cover in a blog post or than, frankly, I understand at this point in my journey.

The good news is, I am excited about grasping this perspective on the metaphysical. Why did God put me here? For the same reason He put you here–to be as much like Him as we can be. This process involves growth, and growing involves high and low points, pleasure and pain. Mainly, I am glad to be beginning to understand that my soul syllabus is a day-to-day process, the same process that Christians have been following since Peter denied Christ three times and went on to establish His church, the process that all of us are facing again today in light of another unexplainable tragedy at the hands of man.

Begin your process of becoming today, or continue it, as the case may be. Pray not just with words, but with your whole being. Pray so that you know what your body is feeling at the same time that you are crying out to God. Remember, He understands our hearts even if what you are uttering aren’t exactly words.

Be still and know. May the “peace that transcends understanding” be with all of us in the coming days.

Posted in Christianity, Faith

Are You Too Young For Glue?

I was relishing one of my Dennis the Menace books the other day, when I was particularly struck by one of my favorite cartoons that I had completely forgotten about. In this one drawing snippet into the life of a rascally young boy, Dennis is standing in front of his mother, perfectly cute and cuddly looking as only children and puppy dogs can be, but covered randomly from his head to his toes with pieces of paper. The caption for the picture reads, “You were right, Mama, I’m too young for glue.”
When I finished chuckling and put the book back down, I was struck by the idea that this simple truth might be applied to my own, Christian life. How often, after all, do I plunge head on into situations or plans without first considering what the Bible, and thereby, God, has to say about it? The first example that came to my mind was Christ’s admonition to remove the moat from our own eye before worrying about the speck in someone else’s. How often, in a single day, have I wound up with bits of paper stuck to me without even realizing it through the rush to judgment and gossipy talk in which I have engaged?
I’m too young to play with glue yet when it comes to many aspects of the Christian life, even though I have been trying to live my faith as a way of life for more than 30 years.
How about you? Are you old enough for glue yet? Let’s keep praying and studying the Word, and I am confident God’s grace will get us there.