It is my birthday. I am 53. I do not like big deals done on my birthday. I never have, really, and that is probably because I didn’t grow up in a family that goes overboard with stuff like that.
The Lord put it in my mind this morning during my devotional time, that I have not done one of my yearly “stock-taking” times in two or three years! I don’t do it at New Years Day or the end of the year. For me, that time has always been autumn. At first it was that, because my deep depression would usually let up a little as the summer turned to fall. Then when the kids started school, it made even more sense to do it at that time, because when you are raising kids, that promotion up to the next grade is always a significant milestone anyway. Well, our oldest graduated in 2014, and youngest in 2016.
I was going through a difficult time in latter 2015 into 16.
I have shared openly, my life struggles with readers here, and won’t rehash that, but through all of the struggles I never felt the need to ask God “why”, until last year. It was not a matter of “nobility”, just an understanding that the Lord grows us through trials, coupled with a very honest grasp of how sinful a person that I am. We tend to ask “why me”, when bad things happen, but seldom ask it when good things do.
It wasn’t long ago that I posted an entry under the title of “Where is that Angel with the Bread?”
The Bible says that there is a season for everything. He points to the cycles of planting, harvesting, storing, etc, but the Sabbath principle proves that there is also legitimacy in dormant seasons. That is a time when restoration takes place, be it the farmer, or the farm, one plant or the whole Earth.
A while back I realized that I was still trying to blog, but my heart was no longer in it. Or, I guess I should more accurately say that my spirit wasn’t in it. It is still very much in my heart. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t have had the “mixed emotions” of burn-out vs guilt in being unable to keep it up. Double mindedness is not of God. It is confusion. I find that it is often an indication of our attributing more import to one’s self, instead of respecting the fact that God doesn’t need us in order to accomplish a thing. He loves to bless us by using us, but that is a privilege rather than a “right”.
On one hand, we tend to view that “sense of obligation and responsibility” as a virtue, in the scheme of this world. However, in God’s economy, that particular value resides in a very different currency. God honors humility, while those who have an overblown sense of their own responsibility are actually sinful in their approach, whether or not they realize it. How could that be, you may ask? Well, because it puts us in the driver’s seat. It attributes (irrationally and erroneously) powers to ourselves which only belong to God. We get to thinking we are his peer instead of his student and disciple. Though God invites us to enjoy a very close personal relationship with Him, he never shares His glory. Not because He is “self-important” but because He (meaning the three-fold God-head) is worthy, and no one else is.
So, even though it wasn’t my idea or plan this morning, when I got out my Bible and started to read, God made it “review day”. Doing that on my birthday makes as much sense as other options, so my Birthday it is! So, I had been asking the Lord, of late, to show me what is going on in me. Do you ever do that? I mean, I know many people are not as introspective, analytical, and verbose as me. (Be very, very glad!). But haven’t you ever gone through a period or a certain situation where you truly were surprised at how you reacted, or that a certain occurrence triggers you in a way that exposes things about you that you would prefer the world at large not know about? It is said that what comes out of us when squeezed (under pressure) is the real test.
Listening to Pastor Greg Miller this weekend (Bible Believers Fellowship, Worthington Ohio, available on SermonAudio.com as well as YouTube) in his series on the Armor, provided a bit of perspective that was a new facet for me. Essentially, in explaining about the “Girdle of Truth” (not belt, but girdle) he displayed an ancient soldier in armor that had a sort of a leather apron that shielded the “groin area”. A very sensitive, vulnerable area (even beyond the physical sense). Then he showed the modern day equivalent in body armor, which I had never known about. I am sure you can figure out which piece it is in the photo.
There is more to it than that, but I’ll let you figure that out. If you have a son who played sports, you’re ahead of the curve. These things undergo ballistics tests. No kidding. (I know, right? Who would volunteer to be the test subject?)
But anyway, I certainly digressed there, didn’t I?
I knew in principle what the phrase “gird up your loins” in the Bible meant. Those “dresses” men used to wear, would certainly be restrictive and dangerous when a man needed to run or fight, or work. But the point Pastor Miller made, was that this armor, besides being a general shield against external attack, also serve to help prevent the internal kind, originating in sinful flesh, stoked to worsen by the devil himself, and so easily prompted by this world and the simple fact we have eyes.
He said, “everyone has their own besetting sin, you know what yours is”. He named pornography, as an obvious one, but everybody is different, just like some of us are musically vs mechanically inclined.
The more you immerse yourself in the Word, the more light will shine into the dark corners of your mind and soul. The Word is a light, but also it cleanses and prevents an inner atmosphere conducive to evil taking root and growing. To be tempted and flee from it, is not a sin, but to “stick around for more” is to give in to that temptation, and that is sin.
When we are run-down, tired, discouraged, out of fellowship, or negligent of partaking of the Word, we create the perfect set-up for ourselves to give in to sin.
When we do something “for the Lord” even when we start out with a firm grasp on the fact that it is God who works in us to do His will, I don’t know about you, but I always eventually get it up on my own shoulders. I mean, we forget how frail we are, like little pigmies, (or a chuahua, or a two-year-old) we think we are bigger, stronger and smarter than we actually are. To a certain extent, the Lord allows for that, but the longer you have been in “Disciple school” the further along He expects you to be. Still, some people are just slow learners and there are definitely those who must learn everything “the hard way”. That category, if we are honest, encompasses most of us.
I guess that is another reason why I didn’t tend to ask “Why?”. But just recently I started to. Now, if you’re someone who just wants to feel sorry for yourself, you’ll be asking why all of the time. But if you have learned some things in life, you will ask that much less often.
The Lord impressed on me this morning, that with children, the frequency of the question “why?” is an indicator that the child is ready to learn stuff. And this principle still applies as they enter adolescense, teendom, and adulthood even.
So, asking why is not necessarily always a bad thing. It sometimes is just a sign that you’re getting ready to start a new “semester” or course in “Disciple school”. When you get up into college, and graduate school, your learning is expected to be more self-directed and self-initiated, but it is still “work”! Work, results in tiredness, and prolonged, intense work, results often in profound tiredness or as we say, “burnout”.
Elijah was weary, and right on the heels of being the vessel through which God performed significant miracles, he then seemingly had a sudden bout of cowardice and contrariness. (Do we really change all that much between the ages of two and fifty-two?) Boy, I can throw me a tantrum. Can you?
I strive to encourage people, but lest anyone be inclined to imagine me to be pedestal-worthy, let me just relieve you of that notion right here and right now. (Keep it real, girlfriend!)
I am as mean as a snake. Not all the time, but yeah, I can be and am sometimes. From time to time, God sees fit to loosen the leash a little, and let us see what we really are. Especially if we have asked Him to at some point. (Be careful what you ask for).
But I don’t like it. And my conscience is still in good working order. And there are a lot more times that I care to admit, where that is about the only distinction between me and the world. Separation is not a concept anyone preached to me until relatively recently. It’s practically a lost Christian principle.
Aside from revealing to me that it’s not necessarily bad to ask why, that “why” signals moving into the next stage of Christian life, the Lord also reminded me how that no matter how far off the rails we sometimes go, He still keeps the bumpers up for us.
Do you know what I mean when I say “the bumpers”? Most bowling allies are equipped with at least a couple of “kiddie lanes” that have “bumper rails” that they can raise for little kiddles whose aim may not have fully developed yet. This is to prevent some of the more enthusiastic and strong kids from lodging a bowling ball five lanes over and messing up the games of others nearby.
God only lest us stray so far. That whole “Shepherd of the Sheep” deal. What a comfort and relief, at the end of the day. God keeps in mind that we are dust, even when we idiotically think we are Iron Man. (Wonder woman, whichever the case may be). Or, lets go with Bible heroes. Sampson? David?
We can’t see but so far ahead of where we are walking at any given time. When our boys were each in about third grade, we learned both were near-sighted. The first time the firstborn put on his prescribed glasses, was in the parking lot of the optomitrists office. He peered into the distance, and said, “wow, those trees way over there actually look like trees, everything is so clear!”. (Pause to say “awww, poor baby”) There is a difference between “finding out your kid is visually impaired” (via a note from the school nurse) and “finding out your kid is visually impaired” by how profound a difference a pair of glasses makes!
As we go along the way in our pilgrimage here in this world, we all struggle with some visual impairments. Sometimes the Lord hands us a lens that brings fuzzy things into fucus. That keeps a sense of wonder in our lives. That’s what happens when I ask the Lord a question. He ALWAYS answers my questions. It doesn’t matter if it is a “spiritual question” or not. He’s a daddy. We are His children. He delights in meeting our needs, watching us grow, answering our questions, guiding us, and hearing from us!
Until we see Jesus and become like Him at that “change in the twinkling of an eye”, we are still little ones as toddlers to God, to a certain extent, by virtue of the fact of how big He is, rather than how much growing we do.
And just think; we have only just begun to learn and discover. I love it when God gives me a lens that reveals something I couldn’t see before. I love to learn. I am the most happy when I am actively studying something. At this stage of life, I love the blessing of having time to study the Word, but I really gotta get over that pride thing when I learn stuff. On the other hand, it is okay to delight in growing understanding and discovery. After all, isn’t one of the coolest things about having a kid or grandkid, (or working with kids in some way) the opportunity it presents for us to “experience again for the first time” the wonders of God’s creation?
I was thankful and grateful that our sons had access to a pair of glasses. We take stuff like that for granted far too often.
Life is a series of stages, from conception until our final breath. Maybe we squandered some opportunities, but as long as we are still breathing, we have another chance to embrace whatever the days bring. I’m definitely not a “pie in the sky, Polyanna sort”. This is a sermon I have to preach to myself frequently, daily, sometimes hourly.
Of the stuff I deal with a.k.a. my bouquet of challenges, the mood issues (Bipolar) are the ones I talk about the least. Partially that has been because since the diagnosis of the sleep disorders, that seems to have been largely curbed and corrected, however, the nature of Bipolar is that it is episodic. I was surprised to realize I was swinging down depression way again, a few months back. A little more troubling is the other end of the mood continuum. Because I never experienced mania as euphoria, as some do. I experience it as anger, and violent thoughts and irritability such that I felt like my skin was peeling off. I am careful to remain guarded about classifying mood swings as a disorder, because as a Christian, I have an obligation to live circumspect, and stay accountable. To the degree that I struggle with the problem, be it rooted in chemical imbalances, or sin, in my opinion, is not really the important distinguishment that I need to make. Just because something is more of a challenge to me, doesn’t let me off the hook. That means, admitting when I realize I’m experiencing trouble in that area again. It means apologizing a lot. It means asking forgiveness and staying “fessed up” with the Lord.
You think I got this smart by my own effort? We gotta realize that Disciple School includes a significant degree of “hard knocks” in the curriculum.
Oh, and by the way, the Lord did give me one clue or answer to my “why?”. It is the fact that I have prayed asking Him to make me as I ought to be, to show me my self and my sin as He sees me, and that I would be a reflection of Christ. Big ambitions? Well, I never articulated this, and probably don’t mean it in the same way others do, but I guess I am kind of a “go big or go home” sort of person. Definitely prone to extremes. In fact, I didn’t even know the road had a middle until I was in my forties.
What are some of the things that I intend you to take away from this meandering missive? Eat when you need to, (partake of the Word regularly, and more so in challenging circumstances), stay hydrated because just as water is imperative for metabolism, (including the filtering and excreting of toxins) so does the living water enable life in the spiritual sense, and flushes out the bad stuff. The Holy Spirit was given for our edification, education, and encouragement. Coming intentionally into His presence, by reading the Word, and prayer, we are being pro-active which is a good plan when up against principalities and powers. Pastor Lawson shared a testimony of a man who sat by his daughter’s deathbed, and while she was dying, she was the one comforting him. She said “Jesus is coming to get me”. When she took her last breath, she gave him one more smile and with perfect peace and trust, she went with Jesus to Heaven. He got a glimpse of the glow of heaven, but he also saw (with spiritual glasses) by God’s permission, the dark presence that hovered over the little girl in that instant in time.
The number one best part about my time spent in nursing, was the privilege of being there when the veil parts for one of the Lord’s own to leave this realm and go to that one. The number one most wrenching and horrifying experiences I had in hospice, were in attending the deaths of unbelievers. Believe what you will, but work as a hospice nurse for a while and your opinion may change on whether hell and heaven are real. I am not saying everyone can discern this. But even atheist nurses don’t deny the supernatural aspect of patient care in death.
You could say that is another pair of glasses the Lord sometimes gives. Some people more often than others, witness that kind of thing at least once in life. The other account Pastor Lawson shared was the death of D.L. Moody. I posted the sermon, prior to this post. Listen to it for yourself, because for those who are yearning for that day, it’ll be an encouragement! Those testimonies are at the very end.
Spiritual warfare for our souls is ongoing from conception to that last breath. You can be sure that even as angels arrive to carry a believer to the Lord, Satan has his representation there as well. In the vain hope of one more shot at keeping you from salvation. At least that is how they see it. In reality, God is the one who has allowed them to witness the death of saints, as testimony for the prosecution against them against their own judgment day.
If we could see in to the spiritual realm, it would scare us to death. But God gives us a lens from time to time, that lets us see some of it. And He gave us one critical lens that we have free access to 24/7/365, and that is Holy Scripture. If you have never looked at life through that lens, you’re missing out! More critically, you are missing the most crucial opportunity ever offered to anyone.
If you are a Believer, ask the Lord for a peek through one of His lenses sometime. Ask him for glasses to correct your nearsightedness and provide a more eternally focused perspective. If you are an unbeliever, I challenge you if only for the sake of curiosity, to take up that Book and see for yourself whether or not it casts everything you ever thought you knew, into a whole different light. I double-dog dare ya!