Saturday, September 20, 2014

Standing In Spiritual Places


Yesterday, the weather was beautiful so I decided to take my three-year old son, Noah, out to a local park a few miles from our house. He can sometimes become quickly bored with doing the same thing for very long so he took off running into a small field adjacent to the playground equipment. The field was lined with trees and thick shrubbery. As he ran over and stopped beside the treeline, I heard a loud rustling sound coming from within it. He noticed it too as he turned to look into the bushes and see what it was. Being the overly-cautious parent that I am, I called for him thinking that we could safely figure out what it was together. As he took his first step toward me, a large dog jumped out of the shrubbery behind him, barking frantically.

My first instinct was to run to my son but I didn’t want to startle the dog as he was only a few feet from him, beside the bushes. I could see the dog had a few inches of broken chain dangling around its neck as it began to look back and forth at us both and growl. Immediately, I began to pray. I yelled to Noah and told him to just be still. Of course this is impossible for a three-year old (especially in this situation). As the dog continued to snarl and growl, Noah got scared and started to run towards me. As soon as he turned to me, the dog ran towards him. Before I could even take a breath, the dog pounced onto Noah tackling him to the ground with ease about ten feet from me. As my mind instantaneously became clouded with what was unfolding, I could see that the dog had instantly sunk his teeth into Noah’s right leg. For the next several moments everything was seemingly in slow motion. As I ran over towards them, Noah looked up at me with a face that I hope to never see again as long as I live.

After I ran over to him I just froze. I stood beside the commotion and stared, still praying. “God, help us!” I cried out loud. As I stared down, watching the dog pull at Noah’s arms and legs, I begged Jesus to come help us. I didn’t know what else to do so I just continued to pray. I pleaded for God rescue us, to free Noah from this awful event. As the dog persistently bit Noah, I could see that Noah was not looking good. The dog was having his way with him and there was just nothing I could do about it. The scene felt like it went on for hours, even though I know that it was only mere minutes. After a while, the dog stopped and ran off as fast as it had arrived. Weeping, I knelt down and picked up my son’s bloody little body and held him close. As I fell to the ground with him in my arms, I cried out to God, “Why… why did You let this happen?! Why?”

OK. For those who know us personally, please allow me to immediately state, this was entirely fictitious from beginning to end. There was no dog attack and Noah is completely fine. Now please allow me to explain. 

First of all, were you wondering why in the world I didn’t kick the living daylights out of that dog? Why didn’t I beat it like a madman to loose my son? Why did I not do anything more than just stand there and pray? Pray? That’s all I did?

So now for some application of this parable - I am Noah’s earthly defender in the spiritual realm. As bizarre of a statement this is to most Christians, it’s true. Noah has severe anaphylactic allergies that cause him great distress and trouble. When they come, they come quick and powerful. They pounce on him just like the aforementioned dog and oppress him. Some come entirely out of nowhere. For too long my position had been too passive (as in the story above). I might as well just have stood there like I did with the dog. Doing little more than watching it all unfold as a bystander. I’d beg God to help Noah, to help us. I’d ask God why He would allow these terrible occurrences to happen but I’d rarely, if ever take a spiritual stand against the enemy that comes to steal, kill and destroy. The moments always pass and then we’d move on. But looking through today’s lens of spiritual understanding, I’m seeing things a bit differently. My wife and I have said from day one, when we realized the seriousness of his allergic reactions, that we simply felt helpless. But I recently made a decision that it would be this way no longer. This resolution was tested almost immediately within days as we were out and Noah began to have trouble breathing. I will be honest, I was no sword-wielding spiritual soldier on his behalf, but something inside of me felt different this time. I chose to set aside my fears and embrace my role as the spiritual head of my family. In myself, of course, I’m weak and entirely incapable of anything. But in Christ, I can stand in places unseen and address the principalities and powers that desire to afflict my son. No sickness or disease or anything else we’d deem detrimental goes without God’s choosing to allow it to come to pass. So it must be addressed as such. That being said, we cannot just casually put up with it as acceptable either.


Trials come to purify us, to give us the opportunity to walk in victory, relying upon strength that is not our own. It’s a mystical paradox isn’t it? We embrace the opportunity to be thrust into a position of reliance upon The Christ yet we wrestle against the powers that unleash all hell against us in order to produce it. It is, without question, a thing to be grasped in our spiritual understanding and not just approached with our natural reasoning. We need to be a spiritual people who walk in an awareness of what is truly affecting us and the ones that we love. To get right to the heart of it, we need to awaken our spiritual senses. Far too often we only assess (improperly) our circumstances with our limited natural senses and understanding. To summarize, in light of the parable above, I need to take a stand against the attacks of the enemy that come against me and my household. I cannot just pray it away, motionless in the spiritual realm. How silly of an analogy it is from where I sit this morning to envision such an attack and only respond with passivity and helplessness. Again, it is not at all about my own strengths or abilities. In Christ alone am I able to stand and seek after a victory over whatever may come. “Lord, help us to see properly and to filter all that we encounter through the eyes of the spirit and an activated mind of Christ. We desperately need Your help. Come quickly.”

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Lord, Help My Unbelief


Fear. Anxiety. Doubt. Disbelief. Not exactly favorable characteristics of a follower of Christ now are they? But the reality is, these are realistic familiarities for all of us as human beings, even as regenerated ones attempting to operate according to the mind of Christ. I had never known the disparity of deep-seeded fear and anxiety that I know now before I became a parent just over three years ago. Of course I had issues before but they were generally confined to myself, generally controllable on most levels. But now? Now I have a son. A beautiful, wonderful and incredibly precious son. The reality for him, today, is that he’s somewhat fragile, physically. He has extremely easily triggered bronchial flare-ups, anaphalactic food allergies as well as a newly-discovered allergic response to insect stings. Frantic administering of breathing treatments are far more common than I’d ever say I can properly handle. Sneezing and wheezing at even a touch from someone who came into recent contact with dairy products. The latest being a reaction out of nowhere after he ate a few bites of a “safe” granola bar and was possibly bit/stung by something outside. It can come at any time and we must be prepared for when it does.

I’ll never forget the morning he and I made pancakes and I ignorantly used a buttermilk mix. He ate the batter… he ate the pancakes that we made… he eventually turned blue as he struggled to breathe as we sped off to the ER. Even a hint of the memory brings tears to my eyes. “How in the world do we handle this?”, I often ask. To be embarrassingly transparent, there are times when his reactions are at their worst that I literally want to leave and simply let my wife handle it. It’s just too much. I freeze. Sometimes I even feel nauseous.  I feel incapable of doing anything. Sometimes I get angry, as a follower of Christ, as one that relies upon faith and expectation for healing. My inner most places believe my Father holds my son capably in His hands but what my natural eyes see often seem to overrule and cloud my thinking, in the moment.

Yes, I know there are children living with terminal illnesses. Yes, I know that there are children with handicaps and mental illness. But this is my son. This is our life. I’m absolutely thankful that for the majority of the time our son is healthy and whole. I am grateful and I want to be clear that I’m not overlooking that fact.

So, yes, I am one of little faith. That is the ugly truth. I waiver, I fear. I wrestle between my natural thinking and the mind of Christ that I’ve been given. I’m flawed. I’m in desperate need of strength that I, in myself simply do not possess. So, where do I turn but to the Lord Who tells me that in my weakness He is made strong? As my wife and I always arrive at the same conclusion, what else is there for us to do but embrace this reality, pray and eagerly wait in expectation of a healing. Whether we see a change or not is the challenging thought. Will I waiver if my son spends the rest of his days with these physical challenges? If at the age of twelve, we’ve not seen changes, do I forsake my faith and abandon my expectations? Of course I cannot. As a follower of Christ, my response will not be limited to what my eyes cannot yet see. As the man in the Gospels told Jesus in regards to his son, “I believe… help my unbelief”. I do believe, I really do. But I’m also often riddled with unbelief.

So we forge ahead into the unknown future. Every experience with my son's health gives me yet another opportunity to stand spiritually strong in the moment, relying upon the strength of my Saviour. He alone can enable us to properly respond in our thinking and rightly assess our views upon whatever unfolds in these fragile lives that we’ve been given. Time and time again I’ve tasted and seen His miraculous healing, in me and in others. I rejoice that one day, we’ll all be freed from this fallen state. No longer will we be confined to bodies of corrupted flesh, freed to be healthy, whole and raised to new life eternal. Until then, I choose to instance-by-instance lay down my fears, my shortcomings, my unbelief. Lord you know my heart, help me. Help us all. We’re in desperate need of You.            

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Embrace The Suffering: 1 Peter 4:1 & 2


1 Peter 4:1&2

"Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,  so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God."

STRONGS HEBREW/GREEK ORIGINS

"Therefore, since Christ has suffered (pascho: to be vexed, to feel and have a sensible experience, to sadly be in a bad plight, sick) in the flesh (sarx: body, flesh and bone), arm (hoplizo: furnish with arms, to furnish one's self with a thing) yourselves also with the same purpose (ennoia: mind, intent, consideration, meditation, conception and thinking), because he who has suffered in the flesh (sarx: body, flesh and bone) has ceased (pauo: leave, refrain, no longer stirred by incitements and seductions) from sin,  so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh (sarx: body, flesh and bone) no longer for the lusts (epithumia: desires and cravings for what is forbidden) of men, but for the will (thelema: desire, pleasure and purposes) of God." 

SUMMARY 

Therefore, since Christ has suffered in sadness and plight, experientially in His body, arm yourselves also with the same mind and intent, because he who has suffered in his body has refrained from being enticed by the seductions of sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the body no longer for the forbidden desires and cravings of men, but for the pleasure and purposes of God.

MEDITATION

I remember as a child being reared within the organized Baptist church, sin was always openly discussed. It was always made clear that my sin made me vile and despised by God and so therefore I must “make a decision” and somehow cease from sinning. Of course little beyond the hollow “try harder”, “be better” and “go to church more” approaches were every taught so off I went into my life, ignorant, na├»ve and entirely ill-equipped for spiritual success. Alongside these teachings it was insinuated that if you were uncomfortable, unhappy or experiencing anything deemed as “bad”, you surely did something wrong to encounter such suffering and likely “backslid” in order to encounter such calamity.  

Fast forward. Here I sit this morning within mere weeks of 41 years of age being added to my vapor of a life. I’d like to think that I’ve learned a lot over the years, post-rebellion. Not in an arrogant way, but just a satisfaction that I’ve chosen to embark down the path of studying and embracing the realities of this mysterious Christ-life. I don’t run from the difficult things that make me confront my comforts or misconceptions about true Christianity any more. In fact, the more I read, the more I contemplate the vast depths of the Scriptures, the more I see how vital the challenges and sufferings are for spiritual growth.

So you want to stop sinning do you? Me too! But, incrementally, we must embrace the suffering in our flesh, arming ourselves with the purpose of Christ. It is not a simple matter of the will, it will take decision-by-decision action. Action that is rooted and established in complete surrender to the mind and will of Christ Who indwells the Believer. Our purpose, our intent and goal must be joined with that of Christ. Then and only then can we live out our post-regeneration lives for the desire, pleasures and purposes of our Father.

Hebrews tells us that “Jesus learned obedience by the things which He suffered”. What a beautiful thing it is I’ve found: to embrace this life I now live in the flesh, and the sufferings that come, trusting that it is giving me the opportunity to learn obedience as Jesus did. He fully knows that our absolute only hope is found in Him and He has left us in this physical body post-salvation for a reason! May we embrace the sufferings of this flesh and then be empowered to cease from sin.    

Monday, June 30, 2014

"Residence" Now Available Online

A short story that I wrote several years ago is now available for free as an ebook. Spread the word.


Monday, June 02, 2014

Embrace The Eternal


Life was simple and easy once. Not too long ago really. I worked 25 hours or so a week (maybe 30 now and then). Kristin, my wife, made good money working 40 hours a week. We did what we wanted when we wanted to do it. Life was good.  Life was easy. We’d go out to plenty of fun dinners and take weekend getaways to the mountains. We’d watch movies with the home theatre system rumbling our walls as we shared a bowl of popcorn on the couch. We’d stay up late and sleep in on Saturdays… as late as humanly possible. That is, unless I had a sunrise trout fishing trip planned, of course.

Perhaps I should stop reminiscing right here. This month, three years ago, Kristin was seven months pregnant with a surprising promise who we named Noah Daniel. After his arrival, simple and easy took an immediate exit right out the door. And our world of safety and comfort went right with them. Since that day, almost three years ago, we’ve been to ER’s as our little son turned blue from not breathing to being swollen and bright red from allergic reactions to foods. We’ve had sleepless nights instead of nights out on the town.  We’ve gone without romantic dinners in quiet little Italian restaurants because now our gazing into one another’s eyes would be to the sounds of “No. I don’t want to eat.” We’ve exchanged movies and surround sound for quiet evenings hoping not to wake our son because he was sick all day and needs to rest. We’ve traded sleeping in on weekends to being awoken, sometimes at 6am (or before) to the sound of “Daaaaaaaaaaddy.”

Of course, I could go on and on but please allow me to drive straight to my point. Simple. Safe. Comfortable. Easy. Our lives for many married years. As recently as last night, as Kristin and I stayed awake virtually all night long tending to our sick little one, I was reminded not of what we’re missing but rather what we’ve gained. It's not about fleeting moments (sleepless nights with a sick toddler), it's about a much bigger picture- rearing him to be one captivated with Jesus. You see, my Father has me on an incredible uprooting adventure that all started in that hospital maternity wing. Some of my comforts are dying a slow and painful death and some, it seems, were seemingly ripped right from my chest.

I can say that at this stage I hope to be more willing to lay them down at the feet of my Father in surrender. This season we’re now in as a family is a call to leave the comforts and safeties of our life behind. You see, we’re being called to move from easy unto eternal. It’s surely not a painless endeavor. In fact, many times it seems to scare me to no end. That’s because it’s all out of my control – and that’s exactly where it needs to stay. If I can control it, it will always be limited to my abilities and strengths as well as remain at comfortable levels that I can manage easily. But it seems that God will have none of that these days. His call is clear – “Leave the safe. Leave the comfortable. Leave the controllable, calculated world that you’ve created.”

As I was wrapping up a 5-hour detail job today, someone walked by and commented on how awful the vehicle was when I started and how long it was taking me to do the paint restoration process. It was in dreadful shape, yes.  But what came out of my mouth in response stuck with me the rest of the day. “You’re right.  The challenging jobs are a lot of hard work but they sure are a whole lot more rewarding,” I said. Our life in Christ must be like this. We must be willing to embrace the trials, pains and discomfort of dying to our ironclad wills. It will not be pleasurable in our flesh but it will absolutely be so worth the effort when all is said and done. It will take the remainder of our days as we grapple with the processes of letting go of our comforts and cravings in order to perfect us. The end result, the reward of it all, is to please our Father.


So, we venture out. Sometimes with arms raised and a roar from our mouths as we run across the fields of life and, at other times, with fingers digging into the ground as all that we’ve known as “normal” is moving away from us. Either way, the call goes forth. “Come and die. Lose your life for My sake and you will find it.” It makes no sense to almost everyone that I meet, and often even to me. But we keep our gaze on Christ and lay aside all things that keep us from being more and more conformed into His beautiful image. Anyone can do easy. May we be a people who embrace the eternal.