Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Do You See the Test?

INESCAPABLE. Reality is unavoidable if living an abundant life is our serious goal. Truth is inexorably relevant for understanding and exploring purpose. Purpose is the underpinning premise of life. And yet, what comes with the territory of truth, purpose, the abundant life, and reality, is the test.
If we’re alive in Christ — awake in the Spirit, I mean — then we may say that, even though God does not tempt us, He does allow life’s circumstances to test us. We can say this is true, because that’s how life works.
Tests. They’re part of the routine, run-of-the-mill, ordinary, day-by-day life. They come cloaked in obviousness as much as they’re often unanticipated. Hindsight sees tests far better than foresight does.
And what does the test require? The right response, of course.
Now the apostle Peter had different things in mind when he wrote this:
“Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.
— 1 Peter 3:16 (NRSV)
But it applies equally the same regarding tests. If our conscience is clear, and we’re able to see the test for what it is, then we have the capacity to respond maturely in love rather than react in the immaturity of fear. When? Importantly, not if, but when.
The test of discipleship is how well we accept and embrace the presence of tests.
If we can see the tests of life as the proving ground of our trust, we won’t resent them. We may be blessed with awareness of tests, and of faith to surrender in the presence of them.
What could be better than experiencing a test, seeing it for what it is, and responding well? This is the proving of our faith.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Courage When Hope Continues to Disappoint

SEASONS of life come and go, and in God’s goodness there’s a variety of them. But what about when what we hope for continues to elude us?
Proverbs 13:12 (NRSV) says,
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Some hopes remain elusive for years. Some never materialise. However hard this concept is to accept, we’re counselled to hold in tension the truth that God has good plans for us. Part of those plans, I’m sure, is how He makes us sturdier of spirit for having been disappointed; for having had the courage to take reality on; having the courage to accept hopes that may/will never eventuate.
There are hopes we all have that continue to disappoint us, some ultimately so. And so what do we do with these unreconciled dreams?
Some wither and fade over time, and we don’t need to do anything apart from be patient. Other hopes deferred continue to harass us, especially when, in every conceivable reality, those hopes are realistic, even doable. Unfortunately, there are also some hopes we harbour that are unrealistic, and it’s worse still when we don’t quite have the courage to face those realities, especially when we suspect our cowardice.
A hope deferred is an ambiguous loss, which is a loss that confounds us because we don’t have the assurance of loss. Sometimes it’s best to simply know a hope is lost and not be left hanging.
We need patience and courage when hopes continue to disappoint.
Here’s a model prayer to help us based off the Serenity Prayer:
Lord, give me patience to wait for the hopes that haven’t arrived yet, courage to let go of unrealistic hopes, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Casting Stones at Self-Condemnation

Recently, as I considered an old truth in a new way, God struck me with fresh insight. It was simply this: deeper beneath our anxiety we often propagate self-condemnatory thinking which is always based in a lie. It can only damage us.
The truth is, theologically speaking, we can only and do only ever condemn ourselves. We may try to condemn others, but, in that act, we only end up condemning ourselves.
But condemnation is a ruse.
In Christ, condemnation was vanquished long ago. God condemns us not. Nor are we to condemn others. So, why do we go the unscriptural route of condemning ourselves?
And, still, we do so. We judge ourselves and render unreconcilable things resolvable through scapegoatism. We take too much responsibility because others don’t take their share, and such a ‘resolution’ costs us anxiety, because we condemn ourselves. Into the convent of victimhood we go, to be shut up in insufferable silence indefinitely.
Until we see we’re living an anti-relational lie. Self-condemnation only ruins relationships.
Biblically, we can no sooner condemn ourselves than anyone else. The purpose of the gospel spreads far beyond the inner intrusiveness of self-condemnation, because the gospel is outwardly oriented, ever convicting lives of the purpose beyond condemnation.
We disobey God when we suffer ourselves to the extent of self-condemnation. It’s such an unjust paradox. We feel our guilt justifies in God’s holy sight, when the opposite reality is what He seeks.
God cannot give us the peace we pray for in our anxiety, if what’s feeding our anxiety is self-condemnation.
If we’re given to anxiety, we should quickly make a thorough precis of whether we’re self-critical of ourselves or not. Many Christians actively engage in this. They don’t understand that God’s kindness leads us to repent — and thereafter, no guilt and no condemnation is to be felt. We’re to feel forgiven, knowing that we are. God never condemns us, ever, because of Christ.[1]
Into freedom we’ve been reborn through Christ, to flourish within His Kingdom that restores us.
We cannot live freely when we’re tormented by guilt replete with self-condemnation.
The Lord implores us to move on in the resurrection freedom He died for to give us.
It is wrong to cast stones at sinners, but sins are to be pelted with them.

[1] Now, people may ultimately condemn themselves for not accepting Christ. There is no condemnation this side of death.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Becoming the Person We’re Becoming

Dr Caroline Leaf says that what we think about most, grows. It is a truth that pierces the heart and compels understanding. Too often I have lazily allowed negative thoughts to grow to the point of overwhelming me. You too may ascend in agreement. If not, this article is not for you.
Becoming the person we’re becoming is a process, and such is the patience of God, we may routinely relearn and retake lessons.
When we learn the product of our negative thinking we begin to see the urgency in the truth: what we think about most, grows. The pain we’ve endured takes us deeper into the purposes of hardship; lessons hard learned should avail to us resolute realities. One of those realities is we soon get sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.
Such is the impetus that convinces us to relearn and retake our lessons.
The James’ double-mindedness comes to bear upon the negative mind, for none of us enjoy being the procurer of our own destruction. Knowing this compels us forward on a different trajectory.
We try again. Starting over, we investigate the possibility of reframing our thoughts. We meditate on His Word — those that speak to us — day and night. And one of those, among the many, the Lord instructs me, comes this time from a children’s book.
Whatever is lovely.
Here is the truth in its New Testament glory.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.— Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
Think about such things.
Another version of the Bible — an Australian English — says, “whatever gives pleasure… then turn [this] over in your mind.” (Under the Southern Cross version) How wonderful when we find pleasure in the simplest of loves, knowing God loves us. That that is all that really matters.
If what we think about most, grows, then as we think about whatever is lovely, love is what grows from within us.