Doubts

I try to be honest in these posts. I hope I don’t claim to be holier than I am, but I do strive to cooperate in my sanctification and I want to be holier. Somedays I admit it is more that I want to want to be holier. But I also know that I have received strength and comfort and peace in amazing abundance and I seek to share that.

But to be perfectly honest, there are moments (rare, thankfully) when I doubt. Who hasn’t heard the world clamoring and had that little voice say “what if none of it is real?” What if there is no God, no heaven, no sovereign protecting and guiding history?

I was talking to a friend about the inevitability of death and that mine may not be that far off. She immediately responded that sometimes she has that little niggling doubt that God is real. But then she looks around at creation and is reassured that something that complex and beautiful has to have a Creator.

I love that she 1. knew that I would also be tempted and tortured by that same doubt, and 2. had a ready response for that doubt. She comforted me with the comfort with which she has been comforted. (I’ve always loved how that verse just admits sometimes only one word will do, repetition isn’t always bad. :-)

My treatment is to immediately pray a prayer of gratitude for all the benefits God has lavished upon me. The doubts quickly disappear when I overwhelm them with praise and gratitude.

Do you have a plan of attack for those moments when doubt pokes its ugly head up?

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They will know us by our love – Bible reading

It’s been awhile since I posted about my Bible reading. Let’s do a little catch-up.

Is 24-25 says destruction and desolation can be a good thing when it drives people to worship God. Too bad we are so hard-headed and hard-hearted that He has to resort to that to get out attention.

Is 26 – His judgments cause people to learn righteousness.  Leviathan again. Some say it is God, that Job commentary I read suggested that at least in Job it was an agent of chaos, or evil, autocratic powers.

There is no compassion for people with no discernment. Just because you “feel” it doesn’t mean it is ok or right. But people won’t take correction or even disagreement any more. It’s a sad state.

Psalm 12 – shelter and protection as the wicked prowl every side and vileness is exalted among men. It sounds like society today.

1 Th 1 – praise for their faith and how it came and how it is seen and known by fruit. (Paul and James echoing here)

1 Th 2 – they are Paul’s glory and joy. As God rejoices in our faith and obedience, feeble as it is, so Paul also rejoices

He was afraid they would crumble in face of persecution and suffering. He had warned them and now sends Timothy to exhort them to stand firm in the faith.

Forewarned is forearmed. We should expect suffering. We should not be surprised or discouraged by it. In fact, we should rejoice as we share sufferings with Christ, our model and brother.

We often hear people say we are holding up so well or I’m an inspiration. And I do want my witness to show that my faith is real. I can tell you it is all God. He is holding us up, giving us strength, patience, and endurance to keep going. If I’m an inspiration – what am I inspiring you to do?

I read the memoir by Paul Kalanithi about his lung cancer diagnosis and journey to death. He quotes Samuel Beckett “I can’t go on. I’ll go on”. That’s how some moments of some days go. But God is always there when I cry out. (Fantastic book, by the way. I highly recommend it.)

The thing is, as Paul Kalanithi captures so well in his memoir, “death may be a one-time event, but living with a terminal illness is a process”. And I don’t know how long I have (I wanted to say ‘how long it will take’ :-) so I just keep enjoying every day and putting one numb foot in front of the other.

Back to that Bible reading.

Is 30 is like James 4 – you can make plans without God but it will go according to His plan every time. He is waiting to bless those who turn to Him.

Col 1 – we were once alienated and hostile in mind.

Is 32 – a righteous and just ruler is protection for the people and provides benefits, like water. Fools and scoundrels won’t be admired. The Lord is our stability. The pattern of desolation and renewal.

Leviticus – repetition over and over. Because we are stubborn and stupid.

I wonder if they had a whiteboard listing the different types of sacrifices and what the rules were for each.

Interesting that God gets the fat (yum) and the priest gets the skin (to wear or to eat, I wonder).

One last comment. I’m finding 1 John easier to read in the New Living Translation. The ESV feels like a bunch of exclamations cobbled together, while the NLT provides more continuity and coherence.

That catches us up. More later.

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Praying for others

As my last post shows, I don’t think we’re here on earth to be rich or “successful” or famous or even just productive. I think we should be good at whatever we do. And that may lead to success or fame or wealth, or it may lead to another load of laundry and wiping something up off the floor that we shouldn’t look at too closely.

I have always said and am more and more convinced that we are here to be sanctified and then go to heaven. To participate in that sanctification process we should be reading and applying the Word, examining our lives and challenging our beliefs and our actions, and in prayer. Are you content or do things throw you for a tizzy when they don’t go as planned? Work on that. It may take you years, so get started now. (I mention this one because it is still a challenge for me.)

That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun or shouldn’t pursue advances at work or other ways to improve ourselves, like giving speeches or other skills. It just means we are always aware that we are working on our sanctification. If some group of friends or some activity exposes us to something we shouldn’t be doing or be seeing, get away and stay away. If interruptions of some activity are irritating you, pray about that and remember all interruptions come from God. Do you really believe God is sovereign, even over the interruptions? (Big area of work for me here.)

The beauty of spending time here now, is if life ever goes sideways with some major crisis, you’ll have practice at reacting correctly and you’ll be more mature than you were. Since life went sideways for me, I find my desire for things has gone away (what’s the point) but my desire for knowing God has gone up. If it’s that important “at the end” doesn’t that mean it’s important all along?

I started this post to talk about how my prayers for others are changing. Typically someone wants us to pray that their problem would go away, the doctor would figure out and fix the issue, and all would get back to a comfortable lifestyle right away. But I know too much now to be satisfied with those prayers. If I know the person is only lukewarm in their faith, I have to ask that God use this little crisis to reach them and let it last as long as it needs and get as bad as it has to get in order to grab their attention and point out how much they need God.

Someone said to me the other day “God never gives us more than we can handle” and I cannot figure out where it comes from. Some people confuse it with the verse that for any temptation God will provide a way out. Which is NOT saying the same thing. God will always give you more than can handle, so you can figure out that you can’t handle it and that you need Him, desperately. Many of these times when people ask for prayer they are the “fix this for me” kinds of prayer. They pray like they are asking for candy from a vending machine. They don’t really care what the deeper meaning and outcome could be, what God is trying to bring to their attention through the trial, they just want the fear and discomfort to go away, now.

I do want to pray for you. I want to pray for your sanctification, your personal love of and belief in God, and your eternal salvation. I’ll also pray that the doctor solve your problem, or your car get fixed, or your kid stop rebelling. But I may throw in a line about God doing it in His time and accomplish His goals with this struggle or crisis. Because I love you and have your deep interests at heart.

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The battle for your mind

I know you’ve heard this before. You need to be reading your Bible.

And I know you are busy and it isn’t that exciting and you got lost in Exodus, or was it Leviticus, last time you tried. But it’s a real need and a serious endeavor.

I recently read a short book (really, 138 pages) called God’s Battle Plan for the Mind by Davis W. Saxton. He pulls from the Puritans to show how important they felt reading and meditating on the Bible was. They expected some dedicated time reading and then applying what you read. (While the Pentateuch is applicable in many ways, maybe start in the New Testament an then try Psalms and prophets before trying to apply Numbers to anything except your bank account.)

In the book he does a good job of examining bad ways to meditate and then good ways to meditate. In fact, some of the books he quotes from are actually where the Puritan authors wrote down their meditations, so you could just borrow from them to practice. Read some Scripture. Think about what it actually means. Think about how it should change your behavior.

It’s a great way to think about whether you act like a Christian the rest of the week. Be convicted, feel guilty. It’s ok. Then you confess, repent, and pray for God to work in you and with you to change that behavior. Maybe you stop some magazine subscriptions, maybe you focus on some vocabulary changes, maybe television has to go. It’s your conviction about your change. But Scripture should change you over time. That’s why you need to spend time in the Word.

The Puritans have their deliberate meditation, time spent in the Word and applying it. Then they have occasional meditation, where throughout the day, wherever they may be, they think back on the Scripture and continue to think about it and see how it applies to their lives. But you can’t have occasional meditation if you never have deliberate meditation where you are actually in the Word.

For those who still struggle to get interested in the Old Testament, let the New Testament guide you. There are many times in the NT where it references something from the OT. A good study Bible still point those out. When you run across one, go to that spot in the OT and read those verses or that chapter. You’ll start building up your muscles for OT text.

You are here on earth for a short time. What you spend your time on shows what you believe. Do you truly believe that you are being sanctified to spend eternity with Christ? If yes, then actions that support your sanctification should be your most critical tasks every day! If reading your Bible isn’t at the top, then you don’t really believe all that strongly, I would argue. Mainly because I’ve watched my own habits change as I’ve challenged my beliefs to see if I really believe.

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There’s a hole in the bucket

I have loved the Harry Belafonte song “There’s a hole in the bucket” since I was a child. And surprise, according to Wikipedia it is a children’s song. And it originated in Germany, not Jamaica. :-)

There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole.

Then mend it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
Oh mend it, dear Henry, dear Henry, mend it.

With what shall I mend it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I mend it, dear Liza, with what?

Try straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
With straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, with straw.

But the straw is too long, dear Liza, dear Liza,
The straw is too long, dear Liza, too long.

Cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
Then cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, cut it.

With what shall I cut it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I cut it, dear Liza, with what?

With an ax, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
With an ax, dear Henry, dear Henry, an ax.

The ax is too dull, dear Liza, dear Liza,
The ax is too dull, dear Liza, too dull.

Sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
Oh sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, hone it.

With what shall I sharpen it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I sharpen it, dear Liza, with what?

With a stone, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
With a stone, dear Henry, dear Henry, a stone.

The stone is too dry, dear Liza, dear Liza,
The stone is too dry, dear Liza, too dry.

Then wet it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
Then wet it, dear Henry, dear Henry, wet it.

With what shall I wet it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I wet it, dear Liza, with what?

With water, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
With water, dear Henry, dear Henry, use water.

In what shall I carry it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
In what shall I carry it, dear Liza, in what?

In a bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
In a bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry, in a bucket.

But there’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, a hole.

I used to think it was silly of Liza to not know the bucket had a hole and couldn’t be used to fetch water. Harry did a good job with that final verse. But having lived around people in the “poor victim me” world for many years now, I now see the song as an example of how the world is out to get you and there is no way to move forward.

Come on, set a pot outside next time it rains and then fix the bucket!

It’s really about a guy who isn’t doing a very good job of taking care of his household. Funny how perspectives change. :-)

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