Phases #10 Deliverance…again

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Peter Paul Rubens, between circa 1614 and circa 1616

   By now you must be wondering if the Christian life is like going ‘round in circles— deliverance, delight, discipleship, discouragement, decisions, & now, deliverance, again. In many ways, you would be right. For a life of faith is not a straight line to the future, with no kinks, knots, bunny trails, or temporary suspensions. It has all of that and then some. Maybe even a lion’s den for some of us.

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     No Christian is perfect. We are always in process. [Although, I must admit to being PERFECT in 2004, for about 5 ½ minutes, in April. Most of the time, I am not even close.Our faith journeys are not set in stone, even though our salvation is. We all doubt, wander, reject, reaffirm, and celebrate over and over again. Our faith is set in the context of who we are designed to be as individual Christians, in the context of the whole Body of Christ.

     So in times when we need yet another deliverance from our anguish, our pain, our sin, it is good to have fellow journeymen around you who can attest to the power of God to free you from yet another mess you’ve made of your life. Christian community…, remember?!? I’ve often wondered if we go through these cycles so God can remind us we are fickle beings and must constantly rely on Him. Deliverance has a definite recurring role in our journey of faith.

     There is another side effect of deliverance. It is the reminder that we are also forgiven for our sins (READ— no condemnation!) Many of us never lay hold of this reality; instead, we wallow in the Dark Night of the Soul believing we will never get it right, never be good enough for Christ, never be worthy of heaven. Seriously!?! Can we be so stupid to believe that Christ’s work of the Cross was not sufficient to cover the price for all of our sins? Even the ones we have not come up with yet?

     You ARE in a state of grace. You have been declared holy. Get used to it. Get on with it in your journey and believe that you are truly forgiven— past, present and future. No defeatist wallowing allowed.

     AND, when you mess up again, again, and again…, and need the deliverance of the Father, know it is already there; and the forgiveness to go along with it as well. Seek forgiveness wherever you need it; then get back on track. Our Lord has all your bases covered.

You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah

~Psalm 32:7 [NIV]

 SMILE, Gary

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Phases #9 Dedication

how-to-be-successful-with-weight-loss_1-1024x682There is a section in the Judeo-Christian scripture that asks a question—

“O Lord, who may abide in your tent?

Who may dwell on your holy hill?”

In other words, who would live long in Your presence? The Psalmist offers a number of criteria. For our consideration, I will choose only one—

“He swears to his own hurt and does not change.”

~ Psalm 15: 1, 4. NASB

     Dedication is our internal, decisive will power to stick to the matters at hand. It is commitment, determination, stick to-it-tiveness, perspicuity— call it what you will; it is a critical obstinacy that we use to fulfill a decision we’ve made, no matter how hard the road.

     When it comes to the Christian faith, this is the one characteristic that must be exercised the most…, after prayer, and worship, and probably a few more. But for me, it has been the one thing that has pushed my faith to the limit. Remember Never give up!? Well, never give in, either.

     In marriage vows we swear to be faithful and committed to one another. Loving, too. The primary reason marriages shatter is our lack of dedication to make it work, no matter what. The same is true of our faith in Christ.

     Too often in our life of faith, things go wrong, or we sin, rebel against God, or just find the journey too tedious and binding. So we jump ship. Or sex grabs us; and I don’t mean the kind within our marriage. Our entire faith gets dumped for some handsome guy or cute little thing. Just brilliant!

     G.K. Chesterton once said that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried. As long as WE continue to set the perimeters of our faith, it will remain just that— our faith. But if we are serious about our decision to truly follow the claims of Christ, no matter what, that’s when the required dedication needs to kick in.

     Setting our minds to the task of being a Christian is not a simple matter. The most probable reason Christ sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us is that He understood that. He knows our weaknesses, our whimsical nature when things get tough. He knew our dedication to Him would be challenged. Therefore…, God within us: establishing our commitment to Him: forging a faith within that is unshakable.

 Dedicated, determined, and heading in the right direction,

  Gary

Phases #8 Decisions

Gary Davis, decisions, despair, depression, life, journey

     Rising above despair, or crawling your way out of it, is not easy. It might take more time than you initially thought. And you may never fully find yourself completely clear of it. Some pains leave deep scars.

     If there is one tool in the fight against deep, enduring despair it is this— make decisions. It will require every ounce of strength and determination you can muster, and then some. And you will get it wrong sometime. Fine! Try again. Don’t let failure defeat you; learn from it; grow from it. Get mad at your situation. What did Sir Winston Churchill say during World War II? “We will never give up! Never, never, never give up.”

     So also it must be with you.

     At some points you will not even have a hint of what those decisions are. That’s OK. But there will come a day, a moment, a tipping point when a decision, a resolution will become clear. You must make it. Right or wrong…, MAKE IT. It’s better to be engaged in doing something than to lie there sullen, mired in your own solidifying concrete.

     First, a disclaimer. I am prone to depression; to deep spirals; to feeling empty and useless. So, these thoughts do not originate from a book on counseling or self-help. They are real, just like the anguish you are now enduring.

  1. One, I’ve already mentioned— get mad at yourself. This will at least awaken your ire and challenge you to start fighting.
  2. Don’t over-analyze. Mulling the same think over ad infinitum has a way of breeding reptiles of the mind that gnaw at your soul and cramp your emotional/mental capacities.
  3. Pray. If you do not have faith in a God who created you and has your best interests at heart, then this idea doesn’t apply to you: but it should anyway. Call it external processing if you must. Unburden your heart to someone who can help. I vote for God.
  4. Seek medical help. Whether to get through your pain, or, to gain a sense of stability once again. God’s healing is both natural and supernatural; it’s hard to tell which is which sometimes.
  5. Eat the right stuff. Even though chocolate and coffee are essential food groups you still need a source of meat (cow, fish, protein), vegetables (fiber & vitamins), grains (bread, oatmeal, fiber), dairy (yogurt, cheese, hit fudge sundaes).
  6. Exercise. Brooding bloats the brain. Get out there and burn off some endorphins, stress, and calories.
  7. Again, talk to a wise friend. Or, pay a counselor. You need an external perspective.
  8. Make decisions that give you hope and a clear path of resolution and restoration.

Never give up! Never, never, never give up!

  Gary

Phases #7, Despair

people-who-dont-get-discouraged[Note: This EMPulse was initially intended to focus of discouragement. But the more I wrote, the more I realized it was about Despair. Thus, the shift to despair, which is far more lethal than being discouraged.]

     I didn’t think it would ever end— this despair, this gut wrenching emptiness. The anguish had taken over my body, my soul…, my very reason for living. Will this ever end? How can God let this happen to me?

In the loss of a wife, a parent, a daughter, the grief is understandable. But betrayal? That’s a whole ‘nother kind of anguish. It hits us like a 10 lb. sledge hammer; how can this be happening? Stunned, we try to make sense of it all; but nothing is clear.

Discouragement is something that hits each of us at some time or another in our life. Things just don’t work out the way we had hoped. But despair leaves us with nothing, emptiness, totally alone within ourselves. A child dies, a promotion denied, expectations & hopes—  smashed upon the rocks. We’ve all been there. But what to do about it? Some suggestions—

1.      Give in to the grief. You can never recover from your grief unless you let it have full sway over your heart. Reel in its devastation. Feel the depths of it grip.

2.      Talk to a safe-person. Not necessarily your lover or spouse. NEVER your child. Find someone who holds your confidence and open your heart to them. Cry. Sob. Weep. NOT to someone who will try to “fix it,” but to one who will simply let you be you in this moment.

3.      Cry out to/at God. You can blame Him. But you know it’s not His fault. Cornelius VanTil once said “The only way we can slap God in the face is if He picks us up and holds us in His arms.” ‘Nough said.

4.      Give it Time. Sometimes… lots of time. Whoever said Time heals all wounds, was right. And, truly, some pain never leaves us.

5.      Hope.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; [2 Corinthians 4:8-9] The hardest thing I have ever done is to hope in the midst of the darkness & despair— truly The Dark Night of the Soul[c. 1577-1579. Saint John of the Cross], takes on new meaning once we’ve been dashed upon the rocks.

6.      Make Decisions. Like what? No, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. This topic is so important that it will be the focal point of my next installment.

For now, if you are just entering your despair, feel it deeply. If you are in the midst of your grief, grieve. If you are just recovering, somewhat, don’t beat up on yourself for not handling your pain better. The Psalmist David once wrote—

[Note2: These suggestions are in no way sequential, complete, or final. Facing despair is far more intricate than this article infers.]

 Why art thou cast down, O my soul?
and why art thou disquieted in me?
hope thou in God:
for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

  ~ Psalm 42:5. (AKJV)

Hope!
Gary

PHASES #6, Disillusion

    Remember the first time someone told you there wasn’t a Santa Clause? No, wait. Maybe I shouldn’t have put it that way. Do you remember the time someone mentioned in passing that there just may be a possibility that Santa Clause might not be “real,” in some sense of the word?

Doesn’t matter, does it. The thought was implanted in your brain. It left the Santa Clause Question open to further pondering.

How about the first time someone challenged you about your faith in Jesus. Told you that it was all just a made-up story; from Creation on…, just a story. Your feelings of elation and freedom were simply a product of your up-bringing or social religious input. Or maybe it was when you couldn’t answer someone’s question? Did that start to make it all untrue for you?

How about the time you prayed that someone you loved would be healed by God…, and they died. Or was it you studied other religions or philosophies and found them just as intriguing? Or maybe a broken relationship?

For many of us, things come up in our walk of faith that disillusion us. We doubt. We question whether it is all true; that is, if the stories in the Scripture we revere are all factual accounts of history, of redemption?

Often, instead of leading to sincere, serious inquiry, this disillusionment leads to cynicism; a cynicism of the worst kind. We try to drag others into the abyss of our despair to wallow in doubt along side us. O joy!

Some even leave the faith because of their disillusion. This saddens me. I am sure some gave Christianity a try, and it didn’t work for them. But most who leave do so because being a Christian did not live up to their standards of peace and/or perfectionism. If you think Christians should be, or are, perfect, don’t join us. We are a people in process who do not have all the answers and often get lost along the way.

In a rich relationship with Christ, as in any love relationship, there will be ups & downs; times of disappointment, and even despair; times of joy and sorrow. And if I tell you that in the end it will all make sense, that really doesn’t help much, does it.

What I can attest to is a God who is full of surprises. When your faith is low…, surprise! He does something to totally wreck your world and turn it right-side up again. If you constantly doubt your faith, or whether you are truly saved…, let me assure you, if you are hungry to be with Christ, long to learn more about Him, and even enjoy spending time with other Christ Followers, you are still on the right path. Accept the freedom and forgiveness Christ has granted you and GET ON WITH IT! (… more on this later.) 

Disillusioned? Sometimes, sorta…, but mostly—  not anymore,

  Gary

Phases #5 Distractions

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Welcome to the Christian life!

Throughout history we have tried to label each period of time to help us gain perspective on here we are today. [~from an American point of view.]

 

 

·         Classic and Postclassic eras, Central America (200–1519
·         Early Intermediate, Mid-Horizon, Late Intermediate, Late Horizon
·         Baroque (New World, 1600–1750)
·         Spanish hegemony (Americas, 16th century – 1820s)
·         Reconstruction era (United States, 1865–1877)
·         Gilded Age (United States, 1875–1900)
·         Progressive Era (United States, 1890s–1920s)
·         Information Age (United States, 1970–present)
·         Modern age
·         Postmodern age

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Americas ]

To this auspicious (capricious?) list allow me to add a descriptor for our present era— the DISTRACTION AGE. From the magnitude of assaults throughout our INFORMATION AGE Western cultures have learned to tune out yet one more piece of data, one more set of facts or figures, one more piece of evidence, pro or con, about something, anything. ERGO…, the DISTRACTION AGE.

Pick a movie, a TV show, a paperback novel, they are all examples of our desire for the trivial, the fantasy. Not ALL such leisure activities are mere distraction: some actually enhance our life’s goals; that is, if you even think in life-goal terms. Most of us simply get up, get ready for work, work, eat dinner, watch anything on TV and go to bed. REPEAT. It’s no wonder we seek something to distract us. Did you see that bear?!?   What bear?

Similarly, there are periods in our Christian walk of faith where we get distracted. Sometimes, they are the guileless distractions that most of us need just to stay sane. But some of us make the Christian journey extremely intense. There is something to be said for those who understand that their sins are truly forgiven. There is also something to be said for those who devote their lives to prayer & fasting.

But for many of us, certain distractions are cleverly woven into our lives by our Lord’s adversary. Call it what you will, evil, the devil, Satan, Belzebub…, it all stems from the same source.

Remember what our Lord said in Scripture? “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  [John 10:10-29, NASB] To kill, steal, and destroy. That bastard! [Seems more appropriate a descriptor than simply the devil.]

It is a misreading of Scripture to believe that we are to concentrate on the things of God 24/7. We have to eat, sleep, work, care for our own and for others. The point is that we delight in Christ and his work on the Cross…, and not to be distracted by marginal activities. Major assualts, however, must be confronted with ferocity.

Simple suggestion: try reading the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds with the date every morning. That should recommend some wise perspectives for living throughout your day. Then read the chapter of the Psalms that corresponds with the date each evening. In this way you can reflect on your day, morning and evening through God’s eyes. [And, yes, I know there are 150 Psalms. You work it out.]

 Delighting, less distracted,

Gary

Phases #4 Discipleship

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PHASES— #4, Discipleship

    Welcome to the Christian life!

The word DISCIPLE is from “Old English, from Latin  discipulus ‘a learner,’ from discere ‘to learn’; reinforced by Old French deciple; to follow. Same root to DISCIPLINE ones self.

To be a disciple is to be a learner; it means to sit at the feet of one more learned than yourself and to listen to them, to learn from them.

Following deliverence and delight, the next thing you will experience in your Christian journey is discipleship. That is, a deep desire to know more about Jesus and the context for His leadership in your life. You will hunger to follow His precepts for living, His teachings, His admonistions to live a righteous life within a society that has rejected most, if not everything, of what He represents. Some of the things you will learn are—

1.      Christian faith is much larger than you may have first surmised. It holds a grandeur that exceeds the simple recognitions of trust and forgiveness. It is a way of viewing and living life that extends well beyond the limitations of human intellect and the vastness of the universe itself.

2.      It is learning your place, your role, in the grand scheme of things. The Lord has designed you to make a difference on this planet. How will you discover what that is?

3.      It is taking on the role of a Servant; not when you feel like it, but even when you don’t. We who claim the name of Jesus grow through serving others and in worship of God. How are you doing with that?!?

4.      Righteousness comes more readily as you accept the Father’s design for your life. The more you allow God to sculpture your life the more your desires will coincide with His. We are declared righteous, and so we will grow into it…, one way or another.

5.      You will be able to bear more suffering in your walk of faith. Yes, suffering. Whether from those who reject and ridicule Jesus Christ, or from those who claim His Name and find your faith warrants some correction. Consider first the extent to which they might be right in their judgment; Then turn to the Lord for either admonishment or vindication.

    To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is first and foremost to sit at His feet…, and to learn. Never confuse this with anything else.

 

Growing in grace and forgiveness,

  Gary