Lost Beloved

This morn­ing, as I prayed ask­ing God to bless Raina, ful­fill her, give her hap­pi­ness, heal if heal­ing is need­ed, and seek her if seek­ing is need­ed, I real­ized that I referred to to her as my Lost Beloved. It got me think­ing and I real­ized that I have been using this epi­thet for a cou­ple of months now as God has grant­ed much heal­ing of heart.

I real­ized that I haven’t giv­en up on God’s abil­i­ty to restore my mar­riage, I’ve just turned the whole thing over to Him, and what­ev­er He decides to do will be the best and most ful­fill­ing out­come, whether that means a restored mar­riage, a new mar­riage, or liv­ing out a remain­ing life­time of sin­gle­ness.

I believe I’ve final­ly decid­ed to stop being crip­pled and bro­ken. I’ve come to the point of cast­ing off the crush­ing bur­den I’ve car­ried for so long.

Three years ago, near­ly to the day, I com­posed a poem as part of the heal­ing and deal­ing process:

Boxed it All Up and Put it Away for Good
BoxOnTheShelf-CleanedUp-130x130

No longer strewn across my life, men­tal dross to trip and fall.
Reminders of the long ago, hang not upon each wall.

Gath­ered in a card­board box, packed and ordered well.
Flaps fold­ed in and inter­locked, form cor­ru­gat­ed shell.

Place upon a stor­age shelf, away from thought and mind.
Dis­card­ed not, dis­turb­ing not, from now till end of time.

That was a nec­es­sary step then to cope and func­tion because I -was- crip­pled and bro­ken and I was trip­ping and falling and injur­ing myself over and over.

I’ve had the box open once since then and I think that too was nec­es­sary to bring me to the point where I am now, at Peace. The re-open­ing was recent and I didn’t beat myself up because I gave myself the grace to grieve again as part of the heal­ing process. Now I real­ize that I wasn’t griev­ing as I had in the past, and I wasn’t trip­ping; I was say­ing farewell.

Farewell not just to my Lost Beloved, but to all of my hopes, bro­ken promis­es (the ones I broke as well), lost hap­pi­ness and bro­ken dreams, all tied to her in con­nec­tion, and around my neck as a mill­stone.

I’ve said farewell and I’ve found des­per­ate­ly sought after peace which I had nev­er hoped to find. I didn’t believe it pos­si­ble. I think I’m ready to close that box and this time, seal it shut with tape. I may one day throw the box away, but I don’t by any means wish to for­get what had been up until 7+ years ago the best and most reward­ing por­tion of my life.

I’m open now to new best and most reward­ing por­tions.

My fin­ger is now unadorned.

She is lost, to me. I have found myself, and only by God’s lov­ing grace. I don’t know what’s next, if any­thing, and for now, I’m not fussed. I like it here. It’s so much bet­ter than where I have been pre­vi­ous­ly.

Ugly Moral Portrait

Charles Spurgeon
Broth­er, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you false­ly on some point, yet be sat­is­fied, for if he knew you bet­ter he might change the accu­sa­tion, and you would be no gain­er by the cor­rec­tion. If you have your moral por­trait paint­ed, and it is ugly, be sat­is­fied; for it only needs a few black­er touch­es, and it would be still near­er the truth.
— Charles Had­don Spur­geon, ser­mon, “David Danc­ing before the Ark because of His Elec­tion” in The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Taber­na­cle Pul­pit Ser­mons, vol. 35.

Courage and Kindness | writingmymelody

Source: Courage and Kind­ness | writ­ingmymelody

My own jour­ney has been a lit­tle dif­fer­ent and Nice has been a nec­es­sary step, but only because my start­ing place was Mean. My father*, manip­u­la­tive, mean-heart­ed, con­trol­ling, and crit­i­cal, raised me to be a car­bon copy of him­self in my think­ing and atti­tudes. Until I was res­cued from his con­trol, my basic oper­at­ing sys­tem was Mean, Con­de­scend­ing, and Hurt­ful.

Res­cued at some­thing like 10 years old, it took many years away from his influ­ence before I began to have an inkling that things were wrong. I was Mean, even towards my res­cuers. My inkling was no stronger than know­ing that there were some peo­ple in my life that I real­ly liked and admired who were dif­fer­ent from all I knew and I knew that they were dif­fer­ent some­how in ways I could not com­pre­hend.

It was not until I was in res­i­den­tial treat­ment at Char­ter Hos­pi­tal my fresh­man year in high school that a group-ther­a­py leader named Dar­rel final­ly got through to me. He was one of those dif­fer­ent peo­ple and I think it took my first admir­ing him, for the cri­sis event that soon fol­lowed to have an impact on my arro­gant, legal­is­tic, self­ish, con­de­scend­ing, and mean heart. Indeed it took that admi­ra­tion for there to be a Cri­sis Event at all.

In a group ther­a­py ses­sion, I was being my usu­al charm­ing argu­men­ta­tive com­bat­ive con­de­scend­ing-self when Dar­rel braked hard and brought the con­ver­sa­tion to a screech­ing halt and said, “You know some­thing Chris­t­ian? I just real­ized. You real­ly ARE an A**hole.” When I got back to my room after the expect­ed tantrum of “You can’t say that to me!” had run its course, the cri­sis began and it left me bro­ken and floored.

I thank God for putting Dar­rel, and anoth­er per­son who’s kind heart and love for God has saved my life over and over the past cou­ple of decades, Bart Lar­son, Chap­lain, Pho­tog­ra­ph­er and Artist and at the time Chap­lain for the ado­les­cent unit at Char­ter Hos­pi­tal. (This next to the author of the blog post I reblogged) [You’ve like­ly seen his name on the pic­tures that used to line the walls at Life Spring and still do at Val­ley View.] He coun­seled me then. He res­cued me from demon­ic spir­i­tu­al attack. He coun­selled me after. He did our pre­mar­i­tal coun­sel­ing. He tag-teamed our wed­ding with Pas­tor John Drage of The Rock. He helped us through mis­car­riage and pain and 6+ years of fail­ing to re-con­ceive and my lost beloved’s health issues with PCOS, autoim­mune night­mares and celi­ac dis­ease. He helped us as our mar­riage fell apart and helped me after she left and kept me from end­ing my life many times as I griev­ed and griev­ed. He even helped me fix things and pro­fes­sion­al­ly paint our mar­riage home to get it ready for forced sale from the divorce. All qui­et­ly and kind­ly and unas­sum­ing. He has nev­er stopped help­ing me and pour­ing out to me God’s kind­ness (mod­el­ing it to me).

Along the long road from Mean to where I am now, which on good days, is leagues and leagues down the path towards Kind­ness, there was a nec­es­sary inter­me­di­ary step, or rather whole long sec­tion of the path. Nice­ness. It start­ed clum­si­ly and inept­ly and most espe­cial­ly, delib­er­ate­ly. I didn’t under­stand Kind­ness, I only knew the effects of kind­ness, upon me, from oth­ers. I had to make very con­scious delib­er­ate deci­sions to ‘Be Nice’ where all my life my BIOS, my Firmware, my autopi­lot had been ‘Be Mean’.

Good days. Bad days. Good encoun­ters. Bad encoun­ters. Start­ing with far more bad than good until final­ly the bad became ‘the old man’ who stayed buried most of the time. He’s still not dead, but he’s not enjoy­ing the sun­shine and fresh air any longer and the guard I’ve set on his prison is usu­al­ly very dili­gent.

Being Nice opened me up to being able to learn and come to a deep and intu­itive under­stand­ing of the kind­ness of these peo­ple in my life, and through them, the kind­ness of Christ who ruled their lives. It gave me feel­ings of suc­cess (and self-for­give­ness/­grace/ac­cep­tance) instead of self-loathing, and encour­aged me to keep fight­ing to move from Nice to Kind. It taught me to move my life­long rela­tion­ship with Christ from see­ing Him from a legal­is­tic and truth per­spec­tive to a rela­tion­ship of rec­og­niz­ing His kind­ness and lov­ing Him for it and learn­ing to tem­per Truth with Grace (as is best exem­pli­fied in Randy Alcorn’s “The Grace & Truth Para­dox”).

I’m not Kind yet. I am kind-of Kind. I am Kind-er. I have times where kind­ness is my auto-pilot and love is the lift that keeps my plane aloft. Much of my ROM BIOS/Firmware has been flashed with new base instruc­tions.

Going from Mean, through Nice, to Kind, has been every bit a “Fake it ‘till you make It.” jour­ney.

Much of the dif­fer­ence between Kind and Nice has been the jour­ney from delib­er­ate and forced to nat­ur­al, heart­felt, and sin­cere.

* none of this can be sep­a­rat­ed from the lessons of Total For­give­ness as taught by R.T. Kendall. Total For­give­ness par­al­lels this idea ‘nice until kind’ in a strong way in that the process of Total For­give­ness is a dai­ly deci­sion to for­give. That prac­tice will con­tin­ue dai­ly for a life­time unless God even­tu­al­ly heals you to the point where you no longer need to decide each day because you have total­ly for­giv­en them.

One of the steps towards Total For­give­ness has been to real­ize that he would prob­a­bly be com­plete­ly bewil­dered and pos­si­bly very hurt that I see things this way. Real­iz­ing that has been one of the first steps towards extend­ing him true grace. He’s no more and no less a sin­ful fall­en lump than I am. We’re both raga­muffins, but only I’ve been giv­en the bless­ing of real­iz­ing it.

Peace

The Jor­dan is wait­ing for me to cross through
My heart is aging I can tell
So Lord, I’m beg­ging
For one last favor from You
Here’s my heart take it where You will
— Rich Mullins, Eli­jah

I’ve been work­ing hard since before Faith­walk­ers, dur­ing and after, to turn my desire for a beloved (specif­i­cal­ly my lost beloved) over to God and be able to know I’m not just speak­ing emp­ty words when I pray, “Lord, please build in me a desire to sin­cere­ly say, It’s yours. Do with it what you will. Do with me what you will.” I’ve been feel­ing at peace now for a cou­ple of weeks but as an arti­cle I’ve yet to pub­lish will show, I have great faith in God on behalf of oth­ers, but a great prob­lem with hav­ing demon­stra­bly lit­tle faith when it comes to myself. I’ve been hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ty trust­ing in the peace to be what I asked for and to be real and last­ing. I think that uncon­scious atti­tude may be chang­ing as this seems twice on this issue God has answered my prayers with mer­cy and grace.

I was test­ed in this all too soon when a shared-friend shared with me a pho­to my lost beloved post­ed to her social media. A pho­to of her hold­ing a sweet pre­cious lit­tle baby. She spec­u­lat­ed that it might be my lost beloved’s own child. She knew I would like to know as I’ve been denied pret­ty much all knowl­edge for five years, but thought it might be unfor­tu­nate if true, espe­cial­ly if con­ceived out of wed­lock.

I was entire­ly sur­prised to be able to hon­est­ly respond that if the lit­tle one is my lost beloved’s, then it’s rea­son for joy. My lost beloved looked so much hap­pi­er, health­i­er, and more at peace than I’ve seen her in 7 years. From the ear­li­est days of our mar­riage, she want­ed des­per­ate­ly to have chil­dren and to be a moth­er, but it seemed that PCOS and some autoim­mune dif­fi­cul­ties would deny her the deep­est wish­es of her heart. If she’s remar­ried; If she has a fam­i­ly; yes, there is an ache, but I can­not help but be grate­ful to God. I prayed for this for 7 years while she was my wife. After a peri­od of learn­ing to see past my own bro­ken heart and what I thought unen­durable pain, I’ve prayed near­ly every day since that wher­ev­er she is, that God bless­es her, brings her peace, hap­pi­ness, ful­fill­ment, and most of all close rela­tion­ship with Him in all things. I want­ed, and still want, truth be told, these things to be with me, but I want even more for her not to be denied the deep­est desires of her heart. Gone is a por­tion of the self­ish­ness that ruled my heart, selah.

So, yes. Right now I am feel­ing at peace and feel­ing as though prayers have been answered and requests ful­filled. There’s noth­ing on the hori­zon, but, for now, that’s OK. My want for my lost beloved to return and rec­on­cile is in no way dimin­ished. My want to have a beloved and be a beloved and to raise a fam­i­ly in love is in no way dimin­ished. These deeply held desires have not been dimin­ished, they’ve been sur­ren­dered to a new keep­er… one who is far bet­ter than I with such things. There is peace. Unless I once again try to wrest back con­trol, there will be peace, and pos­si­bly through peace, ful­fill­ment, or ful­fill­ment of a sort not yet known or longed for.

Christianity Cannot be Moderately Important

Clive Staples Lewis“Only thus will you be able to under­mine their belief that a cer­tain amount of ‘reli­gion’ is desir­able but one mustn’t car­ry it too far. One must point out that Chris­tian­i­ty is a state­ment which, if false, is of -no- impor­tance, and, if true, of infi­nite impor­tance. The one thing it can­not be is mod­er­ate­ly impor­tant.”

— C. S. Lewis, Chris­t­ian Apolo­get­ics, God in the Dock and oth­er Essays, page 102, Wm. B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing, Sep 15, 2014

Postmarital Singleness

I ran across this excel­lent arti­cle, and while there is much to take away, it’s clear that it was writ­ten to the Rebeu­tion youth. For those of us who have once been mar­ried, the temp­ta­tion is to seize on it all, most espe­cial­ly the opti­mism and hope Paul gives for those who are sin­gle, and while some of that is there to be seized, I do not think all, and care and con­sid­er­a­tion should be tak­en.


Sin­gle­ness is a Gift and That’s Bib­li­cal in Case You For­got

Sin­gle­ness is not a form of embar­rassed earth­ly pur­ga­to­ry. It is not a sign of God’s dis­plea­sure. It does not make you a dif­fer­ent kind of Chris­t­ian or require you to start your own sep­a­rate Bible study with the oth­er spir­i­tu­al lep­ers.”

Per­haps Kee­ley, but that’s exact­ly what divorced sin­gle­ness is. You’ve bet the farm on what you knew was not a gam­ble and you’ve lost. You’ve giv­en away your best; inno­cence, youth, ener­gy, opti­mism, all your ‘firsts’, hopes and dreams, and your entire heart and you come away with a piti­ful rem­nant.

I keep return­ing to the night­mare at the begin­ning of Josh Har­ris’ I Kissed Dat­ing Good­bye; “I thought I had your heart.” “You do. All that’s left is yours.” Mar­riage is the first mar­riage. Remar­riage, while it can be won­der­ful and can be many of the things the mar­riage was sup­posed to be but wasn’t is still some­thing dif­fer­ent.

Once you under­stand that you’re almost forced by good con­scious to lim­it your remar­riage yearn­ing to only those who are also the rem­nant that you are. You become con­vinced that you have no right to take from anoth­er what you your­self lost, even if freely giv­en. You rec­og­nize and defend in that oth­er per­son the poten­tial and the ethe­re­al “right” to have a mar­riage, not a remar­riage, with a ful­ly intact com­pli­ment of God’s gifts; inno­cence, youth, ener­gy, lifes­pan, etc.

It there­fore becomes dif­fi­cult to see post-mar­tial sin­gle­ness as a gift, because 1 Cor 7 sin­gle­ness is a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent ani­mal. Your gift of sin­gle­ness has been spent. Your gift of mar­ried­ness has been spent. “Yes God, I’m ready to serve.….…..All that’s left, is Yours.”

Titus 1:15–16

To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbe­liev­ing, noth­ing is pure, but both their mind and their con­science are defiled. They pro­fess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and dis­obe­di­ent and worth­less for any good deed.

I won­der if Lewis was not con­sid­er­ing this pas­sage when he wrote Book 3: Chap­ter 8 of A Pilgrim’s Regress, “Par­rot Dis­ease”. ‘Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no dif­fer­ence between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?’

Every day a jailor brought the pris­on­ers their food, and as he laid down the dish­es he would say a word to them. If their meal was flesh he would remind them that they were eat­ing corpses, or give them some account of the slaugh­ter­ing: or, if it was the inwards of some beast, he would read them a lec­ture in anato­my and show the like­ness of the mess to the same parts in themselves—which was the more eas­i­ly done because the giant’s eyes were always star­ing into the dun­geon at din­ner time. Or if the meal were eggs he would recall to them that they were eat­ing the enstru­um of a ver­minous fowl, and crack a few jokes with the female pris­on­ers. So he went on day by day. Then I dreamed that one day there was noth­ing but milk for them, and the jailor said as he put down the pip­kin:

Our rela­tions with the cow are not delicate—as you can eas­i­ly see if you imag­ine eat­ing any of her oth­er secre­tions.’ Now John had been in the pit a short­er time than any of the oth­ers: and at these words some­thing seemed to snap in his head and he gave a great sigh and sud­den­ly spoke out in a loud, clear voice:

Thank heav­en! Now at last I know that you are talk­ing non­sense.’

What do you mean?’ said the jailor, wheel­ing round upon him.

You are try­ing to pre­tend that unlike things are like. You are try­ing to make us think that milk is the same sort of thing as sweat or dung.’

And pray, what dif­fer­ence is there except by cus­tom?’

Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no dif­fer­ence between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?’

So Nature is a per­son, then, with pur­pos­es and con­scious­ness,’ said the jailor with a sneer. ‘In fact, a Land­la­dy. No doubt it com­forts you to imag­ine you can believe that sort of thing;’ and he turned to leave the prison with his nose in the air.

I know noth­ing about that,’ shout­ed John after him. ‘I am talk­ing of what hap­pens. Milk does feed calves and dung does not.’

Look here,’ cried the jailor, com­ing back, ‘we have had enough of this. It is high trea­son and I shall bring you before the Mas­ter.’ Then he jerked John up by his chain and began to drag him towards the door; but John as he was being dragged, cried out to the oth­ers, ‘Can’t you see it’s all a cheat?’ Then the jailor struck him in the teeth so hard that his mouth was filled with blood and he became unable to speak: and while he was silent the jailor addressed the pris­on­ers and said:

You see he is try­ing to argue. Now tell me, some­one, what is argu­ment?’

There was a con­fused mur­mur.

Come, come,’ said the jailor. ‘You must know your cat­e­chisms by now. You, there’ (and he point­ed to a pris­on­er lit­tle old­er than a boy whose name was Mas­ter Par­rot), ‘what is argu­ment?’

Argu­ment,’ said Mas­ter Par­rot, ‘is the attempt­ed ratio­nal­iza­tion of the arguer’s desires.’

Very good,’ replied the jailor, ‘but you should turn out your toes and put your hands behind your back. That is bet­ter. Now: what is the prop­er answer to an argu­ment prov­ing the exis­tence of the Land­lord?’

The prop­er answer is, “You say that because you are a Stew­ard.”’

Good boy. But hold your head up. That’s right. And what is the answer to an argu­ment prov­ing that Mr. Phally’s songs are just as brown as Mr. Halfways’?’

There are two only gen­er­al­ly nec­es­sary to damna­tion,’ said Mas­ter Par­rot. ‘The first is, “You say that because you are a Puri­tan­ian,” and the sec­ond is, “You say that because you are a
sen­su­al­ist.”’

Good. Now just one more. What is the answer to an argu­ment turn­ing on the belief that two and two make four?’

The answer is, “You say that because you are a math­e­mati­cian.”’

You are a very good boy,’ said the jailor. ‘And when I come back I shall bring you some­thing nice. And now for you,’ he added, giv­ing John a kick and open­ing the grat­ing.

2 Timothy 4:18

The Lord will res­cue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safe­ly to His heav­en­ly king­dom; to Him be the glo­ry for­ev­er and ever. Amen.

Frost said, “…but I have promis­es to keep; and miles to go before I sleep; and miles to go before I sleep.”

Miles and miles seem lit­tle dif­fi­cul­ty in light of the promise we know awaits.

The Grace & Truth Paradox — Randy Alcorn

The Grace & Truth Paradox
This mar­velous lit­tle book by Randy Alcorn fell into my metaphor­ic hands just at the right time when I and my room­mate were asked to start a small-group bible study and the top­ic asked for was “How to debate with love.”

Below are quotes that I found espe­cial­ly mean­ing­ful. (More to fol­low as I con­tin­ue my explo­ration.)

What Gives Us Away?

A friend sat down in a small Lon­don restau­rant and picked up a menu.

What will it be?” the wait­er asked.

Study­ing the puz­zling selec­tions, my friend said, “Uhh…”

The wait­er smiled. “Oh, a Yank. What part of the States are you from?”

He hadn’t said a word. But he’d already giv­en him­self away.

In the first cen­tu­ry, Christ’s fol­low­ers were also rec­og­nized imme­di­ate­ly. What gave them away?

It wasn’t their build­ings. They had none.

It wasn’t their pro­grams. They had none.

It wasn’t their polit­i­cal pow­er. They had none.

It wasn’t their slick pub­li­ca­tions, TV net­works, bumper­stick­ers, or celebri­ties. They had none. What was it?

With great pow­er the apos­tles con­tin­ued to tes­ti­fy to the res­ur­rec­tion of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. ~ Acts 4:33

They tes­ti­fied to the truth about Christ and lived by His grace. Truth was the food they ate and the mes­sage they spoke. Grace was the air they breathed and the life they lived.

The world around them had nev­er seen any­thing like it. It still hasn’t.

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace & Truth Para­dox, Ch 1

“We should nev­er approach truth except in a spir­it of grace, or grace except in the spir­it of truth. Jesus wasn’t 50 per­cent grace, 50 per­cent truth, but 100 per­cent grace and 100 per­cent truth.

Truth-ori­ent­ed Chris­tians love study­ing Scrip­ture and the­ol­o­gy. But some­times they’re quick to judge and slow to for­give. They’re strong on truth, weak on grace.

Grace-ori­ent­ed Chris­tians love for­give­ness and free­dom. But some­times they neglect Bible study and see moral stan­dards as “legal­ism.” They’re strong on grace, weak on truth.

Count­less mis­takes in mar­riage, par­ent­ing, min­istry, and oth­er rela­tion­ships are fail­ures to bal­ance grace and truth. Some­times we neglect both. Often we choose one over the oth­er.”

“A para­dox is an appar­ent con­tra­dic­tion. Grace and truth aren’t real­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry. Jesus didn’t switch on truth and then turn it off so He could switch on grace. Both are per­ma­nent­ly switched on in Jesus. Both should be switched on in us.”

“Some church ser­vices are per­me­at­ed with Chris­t­ian clichés that mys­ti­fy unbe­liev­ers. Nobody’s drawn to what’s incom­pre­hen­si­ble. Grace com­pels us to put the cook­ies on the low­er shelf where the unini­ti­at­ed can reach them. Jesus warm­ly wel­comed the non­re­li­gious and spoke words they under­stood. So should we.

Oth­er church­es try to make sin­ners feel com­fort­able. How? They nev­er talk about sin. Nev­er offend any­one. They replace truth with tol­er­ance, low­er­ing the bar so every­one can jump over it and we can all feel good about our­selves.

But Jesus said, ’ ‘No ser­vant is greater than his mas­ter.’ If they per­se­cut­ed me, they will per­se­cute you also’ (John 15:20).

Something’s wrong if all unbe­liev­ers hate us.

Something’s wrong if all unbe­liev­ers like us.

If we accu­rate­ly demon­strate grace -and- truth, some will be drawn to us and oth­er will be offend­ed by us—just as they were by Jesus.

When we offend every­body, it’s because we’ve tak­en on the truth man­tle with­out the grace. When we offend nobody, it’s because we’ve watered down truth in the name of grace.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 2.

“Grace nev­er ignores the awful truth of our deprav­i­ty. In fact, it empha­sizes it. The worse we real­ize we are, the greater we real­ize God’s grace is.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 3.

“God has writ­ten His truth on human hearts (Romans 2:15). Shame and twinges of con­science come from rec­og­niz­ing that truth has been vio­lat­ed. When peo­ple hear truth spo­ken gra­cious­ly, many are drawn to it because of the moral vac­u­um they feel. Hearts long for truth—even hearts that reject it.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 4.

This next one is very sim­i­lar to Ray Comfort’s anal­o­gy in his talk Hell’s Best Kept Secret in which he talks of Jesus being offered not as sal­va­tion from the trans­gres­sions of the law, but as “Life Enhance­ment”. Peo­ple are enticed to ‘try on Christ’ with promis­es that their dif­fi­cul­ties in life will be resolved (using a para­chute as metaphor for Christ), but with­out any true under­stand­ing of the jump out of the air­plane that is to come. They put it on. It is uncom­fort­able and bulky and gives no ben­e­fit and so they tear it off, are angry at the para­chute (and the stew­ardess who gave it to them), and resolves nev­er to be fooled by that non­sense again. This as opposed to the one who is told at the out­set that there will be a jump to come and the only thing that will save them is wear­ing the para­chute. Then when the dif­fi­cul­ties of life befall him, say for instance, a new stew­ardess who trips and spills boil­ing hot cof­fee on him, he doesn’t cast off the para­chute and say “You stu­pid para­chute!” No, holds it all the tighter, and may ever Look For­ward to the jump to come.

If a teacher is guilty of preach­ing life enhance­ment instead of the truth, then there is noth­ing at all redemp­tive in his min­istry. Indeed, it is less than redemp­tive. It is damn­ing.

The oppo­site is near­ly as bad. That is, preach­ing truth in absence of all grace. Ray Com­fort clar­i­fies, “I’m not talk­ing about Hell­fire Preach­ing. Hell­fire Preach­ing will pro­duce Fear-Filled con­verts. Using God’s law will pro­duce Tear-Filled con­verts.”

The world’s low stan­dards, its dis­re­gard for truth, are not grace. The illu­so­ry free­dom, how­ev­er, -feels- like grace to some­one who’s been pound­ed by grace­less truth—beaten over the head with a piece of the guardrail. In fact, peo­ple who grow up in joy­less reli­gion learn that there’s no hope of liv­ing up to such daunt­ing stan­dards. “Why even try? It’s -impos­si­ble!-.”

But prop­er­ly under­stood, bib­li­cal truths are guardrails that pro­tect us from plung­ing off the cliff. A smart trav­el­er doesn’t curse the guardrails. He doesn’t whine, “That guardrail dent­ed my fend­er!” He looks over the cliff, and sees demol­ished autos below, and is -grate­ful- for guardrails.

The guardrails of truth are there not to pun­ish, but to pro­tect us.

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 4.

God­ly liv­ing cen­ters not on what we avoid, but on whom we embrace. Any­time we talk more about dos and don’ts than about Jesus, something’s wrong.

—Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 4

When did Religion become a ‘bad’ word?

I’m hear­ing the word reli­gion being used as though it’s a bad thing and it’s start­ed both­er­ing me great­ly. I under­stand why peo­ple have turned it into a neg­a­tive word, but I think it’s very impor­tant that we fight the urge to go along with talk­ing about reli­gion as though it’s some­thing bad… or even some­thing good… because “reli­gion” is not inher­ent­ly bad or good, and any good­ness or bad­ness is added by what I myself make it.

No mat­ter how we might strive to empha­size the dif­fer­ence between our ortho­praxy and the ortho­praxy of some­one else… i.e., stress­ing that our Chris­tian­i­ty is about “rela­tion­ship” while dis­tanc­ing your­self from, say, the strict litur­gi­cal prac­tice of one denom­i­na­tion or church or oth­er, we are still com­mit­ting reli­gion and always will be.

It’s ok to self-iden­ti­fy as a Chris­t­ian of a par­tic­u­lar mindset/practice, but I’m think­ing we’re doing every­one and the Eng­lish lan­guage a great dis­ser­vice if we aid in the demo­niza­tion of a func­tion­al decent word that is free from the bur­den of the addi­tion­al bag­gage peo­ple are try­ing to incor­rect­ly (fool­ish­ly) hang on it.

Here­in I find irony… I myself have been doing this and doing it for years. My pro­file set­tings on Face­book have read: “Reli­gious Views: Chris­t­ian — Rela­tion­ship not Reli­gion” since I cre­at­ed my account lo these many eons past. That changes today.

My reli­gion is Chris­tian­i­ty, and by that I mean what was meant the two times the word appeared in scrip­ture, “One who is fol­low­ing Christ.” I’m going to strive to fight the com­pul­sion to hang more bag­gage on my answer.

Disappearance of Theology from the Church

David F. Wells

“The dis­ap­pear­ance of the­ol­o­gy from the life of the Church, and the orches­tra­tion of that dis­ap­pear­ance by some of its lead­ers, is hard to miss today, but odd­ly enough, not easy to prove. It is hard to miss in the evan­gel­i­cal world–in the vac­u­ous wor­ship that is so preva­lent, for exam­ple, in the shift form God to the self as the cen­tral focus of faith, in the psy­chol­o­gized preach­ing that fol­lows this shift, in the ero­sion of its con­vic­tion, in its stri­dent prag­ma­tism, in its inabil­i­ty to think inci­sive­ly about the cul­ture, in its rev­el­ing in the irra­tional.”
― David F. Wells, No Place for Truth: Or, What­ev­er Hap­pened to Evan­gel­i­cal The­ol­o­gy

Lower the Law and you dim the light

Charles Spurgeon
“Low­er the Law and you dim the light by which man per­ceives his guilt. This is a very seri­ous loss to the sin­ner rather than a gain, for it lessens the like­li­hood of his con­vic­tion and con­ver­sion. I say you have deprived the gospel of its ablest aux­il­iary [most pow­er­ful weapon] when you have tak­en away the school­mas­ter that is to bring men to Christ. They will nev­er accept grace until they trem­ble before a just and holy Law. There­fore the Law serves most nec­es­sary and blessed pur­pose and must not be moved from its place.”
— Charles Had­don Spur­geon

Six years in… and trusting God

LovelyRainaSix years and a bit ago, my beloved, beau­ti­ful, sweet, and pre­cious Raina Janel left.

Six years ago I read an arti­cle writ­ten by a cou­ple, who, against all rea­son and over­com­ing insur­mount­able bar­ri­ers, had their mar­riage mirac­u­lous­ly restored from scat­tered ash­es after six years.

Six years seemed impos­si­ble, but even so, it always was a fixed quan­ti­ty in my mind.

« Six years »

5750790729_e7723ee282_xlargeAs it loomed ever clos­er, I real­ized that I had uncon­scious­ly begun to view six years as a cut-off… a lim­it on God’s sov­er­eign pow­er to enact any mir­a­cle He might desire to per­form. A count­down clock ticked ever near­er towards that day when all hope would be gone.

This I real­ized a year and a half ago.… four and a half years into my great and all-encom­pass­ing sor­row… and I real­ized I had been a fool.

TogetherWeddingGod is not lim­it­ed by the cal­en­dar. He may, by His own rules be lim­it­ed only by the death of one or the oth­er of us, but I don’t know His rules and so it would be fool­ish to expect that even death is any bar­ri­er or hob­ble.

I press onward, with no hope in the restora­tion of our mar­riage but infi­nite­ly increased hope and trust in Him. What a tes­ti­mo­ny He may give us. Six pal­try years… pshaw. Child­splay! Imag­ine the tes­ti­mo­ny to His Awe­some­ness of a mar­riage restored after 20 or 30 years; if only a cou­ple places their hope and their hearts in Him, and if not us, I pray oth­ers.

God is Great! He patient­ly and grace­ful­ly con­tin­ues to work on me… my heart, my all. I hope I’m an improved man for 6 years; more hum­ble, less cer­tain that I’ve got any­thing fig­ured out, less full of false pride, and a more lov­ing heart. I remain an abom­inably slow and stub­born, but still ded­i­cat­ed stu­dent.

This para­graph sounds con­tra­dic­to­ry. I real­ly have absolute­ly no hope in this any more and a over a year and a half ago I put all things Raina away in a box on a shelf, both metaphor­i­cal­ly and lit­er­al­ly, and for the most part, there she has stayed for the sake of my san­i­ty and so that my mind was clear to focus upward instead of back­ward. I speak of the gift of a tes­ti­mo­ny not in the sense that I har­bor hope for one, but in the sense that I know that noth­ing is beyond Him and so I don’t rule it out. For all I know, He has either noth­ing, or some­thing dif­fer­ent in store for me. What­ev­er it is, or isn’t, I trust in Him that it will be best.

Are you having a secret sordid affair… with money?

Hiding MoneyThink about it. In recent years it’s become very front-of-mind to have account­abil­i­ty in the area of our lives gen­er­al­ly described as sex­u­al integri­ty. We encour­age men and women alike to find like-mind­ed folks to sup­port them as they try to align this area of their life with God’s stan­dard. We invite these trust­ed peo­ple to have unfet­tered access (if we’re being hon­est) into our lives to make cer­tain that we can­not keep sex­u­al sin hid­den… sin such as porn, affairs, sex out­side of mar­riage, vis­its to strip clubs, pros­ti­tutes, cha­t­rooms, hookup apps, dat­ing sites, etc., even men­tal­ly lust­ing after those who are not our spouse.

That kind of account­abil­i­ty seems almost insane to one who has not gone through the expe­ri­ence of a self-moti­vat­ed “dying to self” and decid­ing that we desire God more than we love our sin and pride, or alter­na­tive­ly, of being caught out by a loved one or leader and giv­en a choice between being account­able or fac­ing con­se­quences we can­not bear to face.

Yet, even to those of us who are striv­ing for account­abil­i­ty in this area, many of us would balk far more strong­ly if some­one were to sug­gest that we asked our­selves if we need­ed to be Finan­cial­ly Account­able. We’d be will­ing to let oth­ers in to our sanc­tum sanc­to­rum of deep­est inner secrets of our sex­u­al thought-lives, com­put­er usage, and dat­ing activ­i­ties, but the very idea of let­ting anoth­er like-mind­ed broth­er or sis­ter see what choic­es we have been mak­ing with our mon­ey would be almost crip­pling­ly unthink­able. We’d take up arms and fight; Yes,fight to the point of destroy­ing friend­ship and fel­low­ship if any­one were to dare sug­gest that we might be hid­ing a dirty-lit­tle-finan­cial-secret; a lit­tle expen­di­ture here, a ‘just for emer­gen­cies’ maxed-out cred­it card there…

Why? I don’t know why for each per­son, but there is one rea­son I think would be fair­ly com­mon, that rea­son being that it’s not just that we don’t want oth­ers judg­ing our finan­cial hon­esty, but that finan­cial hon­esty would shine a reveal­ing light on a whole host of things in our lives that we are dis­hon­est about, things that we are ashamed of and want kept secret.

In some ways it might be even hard­er for those of us who have sought account­abil­i­ty in the area of sex­u­al integri­ty because we have, in our hearts, incor­rect­ly begun to feel that we’re real­ly upstand­ing folks. We’ve exposed the dirt­i­est, dark­est, most shame­ful, most hid­den parts of our­selves and let the light of hon­esty shine into the dark­est cor­ners and most hid­den nich­es. We might think our­selves jus­ti­fied in keep­ing this oth­er area of our life in shad­ow behind locked doors. We might be loathe to admit, even to our­selves that we might find our­selves far and away more great­ly ashamed of our lit­tle finan­cial dal­liances than ever we were about an occa­sion­al look at a skin mag, view­ing an imag­i­na­tion-inspir­ing Hol­ly­wood movie, hang­ing out on dat­ing sites where the con­ver­sa­tion can become… stim­u­lat­ing, a Google image search with Safe-Search fea­tures dis­abled, or that lin­ger­ing look we take each time we pass the desk of the sec­re­tary at work who is com­plete­ly unaware of just what we can see when stand­ing while she’s sit­ting.

The bible tells us that even our best is as filthy rags, I would think most espe­cial­ly if our best is help­ing us give our­selves a pass some­where else. Isa­iah 64:5–8 NASB

5 You meet him who rejoic­es in doing right­eous­ness,
  Who remem­bers You in Your ways.
  Behold, You were angry, for we sinned,
  We con­tin­ued in them a long time;
  And shall we be saved?

6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
  And all our right­eous deeds are like a filthy gar­ment;
  And all of us with­er like a leaf,
  And our iniq­ui­ties, like the wind, take us away.

7 There is no one who calls on Your name,
  Who arous­es him­self to take hold of You;
  For You have hid­den Your face from us
  And have deliv­ered us into the pow­er of our iniq­ui­ties.

8 But now, O Lord, You are our Father,
  We are the clay, and You our pot­ter;
  And all of us are the work of Your hand.

Some final thoughts:

Has some­thing very help­ful to the Chris­t­ian walk per­haps been mis­used and caused great harm for some in this area? How many of us Chris­tians would be inclined to wave our Finan­cial Peace Uni­ver­si­ty grad­u­a­tion cer­tifi­cates (metaphor­i­cal­ly speak­ing) to quell any ques­tions oth­ers who care about us might have for us. We’d nev­er wave our actu­al bud­get. I know I’ve waved my cer­tifi­cate a time or two when uncom­fort­able scruti­ny has fall­en upon me. Heav­en for­bid that we wave our “I Tithed” stick­er around like we’ve just left the vot­ing polls to rebuff inquiry into this area, because, “If I’ve tithed, I must have my finan­cial house and heart in order.” I’ve been amused at the social meme late­ly of com­plete­ly replac­ing rhetoric with the antithe­sis of rhetoric; the “Because Sci­ence!” or “Because Racist!” argu­ment [air quotes], how­ev­er, it’s not so amus­ing when I real­ize that I might have myself used the “Because FPU!” or “Because Tithe!” argu­ments to stomp on hon­est inquiry.

I think in a lot of ways, our hearts and pri­or­i­ties may far more clear­ly be reflect­ed in our bank state­ments than our CovenantEyes or X3Watch account­abil­i­ty reports.

I guess this area for some of us may be one more exam­ple of Col. Jim­mie Coy’s ABoBs (A Bowl of Beans one is will­ing to pur­chase in exchange for their eter­nal spir­i­tu­al birthright).

Orig­i­nal­ly post­ed to Face­book Novem­ber 1, 2014, as a fol­low-up to thoughts post­ed Octo­ber 17, 2014 and repub­lished here as An Invi­ta­tion to Self-Reflec­tion

An Invitation to Self-Reflection

Dark Corner
Orig­i­nal­ly post­ed to Face­book Octo­ber 17, 2014.
Late­ly I’ve been pon­der­ing some ques­tions I would ask myself and invite oth­ers to ask them of them­selves.
If I would answer ‘yes’ to the fol­low­ing ques­tion, “Am I in a rela­tion­ship with oth­er believ­ers that involves some form of account­abil­i­ty?”, then these fol­low-up ques­tions to myself would fol­low:
  1. In all the aspects of my life in which I am osten­si­bly trans­par­ent, is there any activ­i­ty or aspect which I have com­part­men­tal­ized away and either con­scious­ly or uncon­scious­ly in order to make cer­tain that it nev­er gets exposed, dis­cussed or explored, by not bring­ing it up or by steer­ing the con­ver­sa­tion in a dif­fer­ent direc­tion when some­one else brings it up? Might I even go so far as to con­fess oth­er areas of weak­ness both to show a sin­cere desire for account­abil­i­ty and to direct atten­tion away from my secret activ­i­ty? Do I have a dark hid­den cor­ner?
  2. If the answer to #1 was yes, why do I do it? Am I:
    1. Ashamed or embar­rassed?
    2. Fair­ly cer­tain that I know what their response would be and that they might ques­tion whether it was wise, or God­ly, or some­how at odds with the kind of rela­tion­ship with God that I want and pro­fess to want to have?
    3. Com­plete­ly cer­tain that I know what their response would be because it’s come up before and per­haps I even agreed at the time (Do I not now?) that it was unwise or unGod­ly or some­how at odds with who I claim to (want to) be in God?
  3. Final­ly, if the answer to #2 matched any of the pos­si­ble rea­sons, or even rea­sons that weren’t sug­gest­ed, how impor­tant real­ly, is that activ­i­ty or aspect, and do I real­ly want to keep pos­ses­sion of that activ­i­ty or aspect?
I say final­ly, but it leads me to pon­der some­thing Col. Jim­mie Coy asked us about at the Val­ley View Com­mu­ni­ty Church 2014 Men’s Retreat; Does that ‘thing’ qual­i­fy as an ABOB, A Bowl of Beans, a bowl of lentil stew which I desire so very strong­ly that I am will­ing to trade away my entire birthright, as did Esau, in exchange for gain­ing or keep­ing. Fur­ther, when I’ve reached the bot­tom dregs of that bowl, will I still agree with the log­ic and rea­son­ing that led to my deci­sion? Will I find last­ing sat­is­fac­tion that replaces the val­ue of my birthright, or will I find last­ing remorse over that which I for­sook?
From Jim­mie Coy: ABOB, A Bowl Of Beans…is any­thing that will sep­a­rate you from your Spir­i­tu­al eter­nal birthright. ABOB calls to each of us but ulti­mate­ly it is what sep­a­rates us from our great­est trea­sure. As Desmond Doss would say, ‘If we miss heav­en, we have missed every­thing.’ IC, jdc”

Divine punishments are also mercies and particular good is worked out of particular evil

SurprisedByJoy1“If the North­er­ness seemed then a big­ger thing than my reli­gion, that may part­ly have been because my atti­tude toward it con­tained ele­ments which my reli­gion ought to have con­tained and did not. It was not itself a new reli­gion for it con­tained no trace of belief and imposed no duties. Yet unless I am great­ly mis­tak­en, there was in it some­thing very like ado­ra­tion; some kind of quite dis­in­ter­est­ed self-aban­don­ment to an object which secure­ly claimed this by sim­ply being the object it was. We are taught in the Prayer Book to ‘give thanks to God for His great glo­ry’ as if we owed Him more thanks for being what He nec­es­sar­i­ly is than for any par­tic­u­lar ben­e­fit he con­fers upon us; and so indeed we do, and to know God is to know this, but I had been far from any such expe­ri­ence. I came far near­er to feel­ing this about the Norse gods whom I dis­be­lieved in than I had ever done about the true God while I believed. Some­times I can almost think that I was sent back to the false gods, there to acquire some capac­i­ty for wor­ship against the day when the true God should recall me to Him­self. Not that I might not have learned this soon­er and more safe­ly in ways I shall now nev­er know with­out apos­ta­sy, but that divine pun­ish­ments are also mer­cies and par­tic­u­lar good is worked out of par­tic­u­lar evil and the penal blind­ness made san­i­tive. ” ~ C. S. Lewis, Sur­prised by Joy

Relational Relationship

Matthew HenryEve was not tak­en out of Adam’s head to top him, nei­ther out of his feet to be tram­pled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be pro­tect­ed by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.” — Matthew Hen­ry

Sto­ries tell of a 17 year old Abra­ham Lin­coln singing a poet­i­cised (Cre­at­ed by him­self?) ver­sion of this put to music for a sister’s wed­ding.

…the moods which arise from a physical condition, never submit to them for a second.

OswaldChambersThere are cer­tain things we must not pray about – moods, for instance. Moods nev­er go by pray­ing, moods go by kick­ing. A mood near­ly always has its seat in the phys­i­cal con­di­tion, not in the moral. It is a con­tin­u­al effort not to lis­ten to the moods which arise from a phys­i­cal con­di­tion, nev­er sub­mit to them for a sec­ond. We have to take our­selves by the scruff of the neck and shake our­selves, and we will find that we can do what we said we could not. The curse with most of us is that we won’t. The Chris­t­ian life is one of incar­nate spir­i­tu­al pluck.”

— Oswald Cham­bers (24 July 1874 – 15 Novem­ber 1917)

My Utmost for His High­est

Whence comes my lack of peace and obstacles over which I stumble?

Psa 119:165 Those who love Your law have great peace, And noth­ing caus­es them to stum­ble. (NAS­B­Str)

So much in this world seems so dif­fi­cult to man­age, in terms of just liv­ing day to day. How much of that dif­fi­cul­ty do I cre­ate myself because I’m reach­ing for some­thing oth­er than what God gives and com­mands. Fun­ny how I can tie my own shoelaces togeth­er w/o notic­ing our remem­ber­ing and then cry foul when I lat­er come crash­ing down.