Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The "Can I?" Questions

Between the teaching of each color of CEF's Wordless Book presentation of the gospel (detailed in a previous post), I took the opportunity to ask some questions.

The DARK color page bothers me somewhat. Regarding sin, there are things I'm working on theologically speaking. Though there is one question I felt confident in asking.

I asked in class, "Is this okay? The transition between DARK and RED goes like this:
'But God has a wonderful plan so that you and I don't have to be punished for our sins.'
But I'm wanting to include the word 'already' because His plan was set forth from the beginning, that Jesus would come and die for our sins and reconcile us to God. Can I say,
'But God knew from the beginning that we would have this problem and he already had wonderful plan so that you and I don't have to be separated from God'?"

Her reply was, "Michele, this comes down to fine points in theology. We don't want to get into theology with kids."

I said, "Okay, though to me, saying the word 'already' gives them a small dose of comfort to know that their sin is not the totality of God's concerns."

She said, "Yes, of course, there's nothing wrong with saying the word 'already' and this is certainly a variation that is up to you personally."

I thanked her.

Next, during the CLEAN page presentation there were many statements that a prayer would enable them to receive Christ and be saved. To me that was off the mark, and I knew that as long as I was gracious, my next "can I?" question should be well received.

"Got another 'can I?' question," I ventured with a grin. "So, when we are preparing the child to review and respond to the gospel, can I, instead of postponing salvation to think about praying to receive Jesus 'in a little bit,' can I instead encourage them to realize that if they believe those things that they have become a child of God? I'm thinking specifically of examples where, even before the apostles were done preaching, the Holy Spirit fell upon those who were listening and hopefully this is exactly what would happen while we are preaching, too. We want them to look back on this moment and know they're reconciled because they had faith, not because they prayed the prayer, right? That the promises of God are the source of their assurance, and we don't want to postpone them from that foundation of the Word?"

I got a "Wow, yes," from both teachers regarding that. Phew!

"One more 'can-I' question, if you don't mind?" I asked a little later. "On the CLEAN page, as soon as I give them assurance by reading their name into John 1:12, and then I ask them,
'Now what happens if you sin again?'
can I do this? Can I flip right back to the RED page? I want to ask them,
'If you sin again, well, tell me, what happened at the cross? Did He die for that sin? Yes! He did! And because you believe He died for those sins, what? The CLEAN page reminds us that we are a child of God, right? Yes! That will never change, will it? So when you sin you go right back to the cross and remember what He did, there, okay?'
and then I can go into next how they ought to confess their sin?"

Another "Yes!" with an illuminated smile. She liked that idea a lot, because it puts the cross of Christ as the central fixture of the Christian walk. I love it! With one KA-POW! I knock out all the cults. I saw a lot of Catholics and other teenagers beg to understand that part of the Wordless Book at the fair.

I am thankful that somehow my editions to the CEF gospel were allowed and even taken well!

Because I know my opinions don't matter, and most likely they never will. I live down here in the real world where, if I want to serve with the support of those who make me qualified, I have to be incorporated into what is already available. CEF has a few bits of unsound principles to their gospel, but if I happen to know better (theologically), then what should I do?

Truth and grace advance one another.

I attend a church where free grace has gone into retirement. The leadership has packed up and moved away. The congregation is asking itself, "where are we now?" I listen and this is what I hear from fellow congregants:
"I understand, and I agree that we are saved by faith alone but I've always believed that."
"I understand that everything we do now matters in eternity but what about holiness? I know we're saved by faith but God wants us to live holy lives!"
"The pendulum for awhile was swinging away from Lordship Salvation, toward Free Grace; and now the pendulum is swinging back the other way."
It didn't impact sufficiently did it? Then there are some at my church who have decided that free grace is a divisive teaching. After seven years of graciously and patiently preaching the free grace gospel Sunday mornings and the doctrine of eternal rewards in the evenings, it is impossible to know why it would not take root.

I hold that reputation is nearly everything, it is more important than "being right right now."

I'm concerned to think that my church might be a microcosm of the movement, fast-forward say a few more years. I consider how few evangelicals have heard of the doctrine of eternal rewards. It has the power to completely overthrow the backloaded gospel. Think about what we're asking, for some people. It completely re-orders how they understand their walk with God. For some Christians it's a big deal.

It is incomprehensible how the LORD only let me in on the tail of seven years of free grace teaching. That is why it hurts so much that free grace is gone. It is surreal to have such confirmation only to be left alone again. My voice never mattered, but when I could say that others believe as I do, then I had legitimacy. Since 2005 I have been saying, "Can I?" to pastors and friends. They thought I was wrong even though I had the Word, but when I found free grace, whose mission is to protect the integrity of faith which saves, I wasn't wrong any longer. I need others with titles, experience, and a reputation, in order to make it!

Though that is not completely true. Being alone now with little more than God, well, He's not so bad a partner. Every day I wake up and put on the fragrance of the joy of the LORD. I went back to my old, soft-LS class and raised my hand, then was told hence-forth that I should not disagree in the presence of the class. Still I see God's power in my life. Defending the doctrine of faith alone to justify and sanctify turns out to be a full time job, always something here or there to say and for some reason, I am used for that job and I am pleased!

My goal is to both submit to theological authorities who are in some things wrong, and still speak the truth manifesting hope in them. When I can't speak, I always have faith which is His Spirit accomplishing much on my behalf. I don't give up on the truth. How could I? For that reason free grace means so much to me. I want to see it endure. I need it very much.

"Can I?" -- That's theology in the real world. Where having friends who will stand up with me, saves not only my passionate conscience amongst the saints, but most significantly the power of God's truth.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A bit of encouragement

In the kindness of our LORD on last Friday I had an encouraging phone conversation with Dr. Fred Lybrand. He was sharing some of his intentions for facilitating communication and dialogue for free grace on the internet. I was glad to mention that some projects have already been realized and some are on their way. He took interest in them so for that reason I write this blog post. The two projects he expressed interest in connecting with and using are:

- Stephen Stark's TheoTalk Forum,


- The multiple contributor's Blogger's Code of Ethics (which is still in its planning stages)

Whether or not these suit his specific plans is yet to be seen. Nevertheless, it is greatly encouraging to hear of his thoughts to increase FGA presence on the internet.

The CEF gospel

Here is the gospel presentation I am taught and tested and certified that I should present to lost children. Taught by Child Evangelism Fellowship.


What color is this? It's gold. What does gold remind you of? Jewelery? Yeah! They say in heaven there is a street of gold. Have you heard about heaven before? It's the place where God lives. You may know some things about God. He is the creator of everything; the trees and grass, even all people. He created you and He created me, and He loves us very much. John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world," and the world means you and me and every person here at the fair. Did you know that because He loves us He wants us to be with Him and He is preparing a place for us in heaven. Now God is perfect. That means he has never done anything wrong before. So because of that, there is one thing that can never be with Him in heaven. That thing is sin.

[turn to]


Sin is anything we think, say or do that does not please God. We have all done things that are wrong; I have and you have and everyone here today, has done them. In Romans 3:23 it says, all people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We were born that way - did your mom have to teach you how to do what is wrong? No, she had to teach you how to do things right, isn't that true? What are some of the sins that kids your age do? Steal... not obey their parents... yeah, that's right. I did those things too when I was a child. We know what is good and we choose to do what is wrong, don't we? When you choose to do wrong, what happens? Do you get in trouble with your parents? Well the same is true with God, there is a punishment for doing wrong things. The punishment is separation from God, forever. However, God has a wonderful plan so that you and I don't have to punished for our sins.

[turn to]


The Lord Jesus is God the Son. He was perfect while He was a man. He never thought or did anything wrong like we have. That punishment that belonged for us? He willingly took it instead for Himself. He willingly died though He didn't deserve it. He died on the cross. He shed his blood and gave up His life. Hebrews 9:22 says without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness for sins, but because He did bleed, all our sins are forgiven and the punishment is over with. So He died for us, and after that He was buried and three days later, he came back to life and now He is in heaven, and you can read that in 1 cor 15:3-4. And now because of what the Lord Jesus did for you, you can have your sins forgiven.

[turn to]


John 1:12 says, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name." That means that if you and I believe in Jesus, God gives you and I the right to become children of God! Isn't that amazing? In a second we're going to have the chance to pray to God about what we have heard about Jesus so that you can become a child of God. You kids remember your ABCs, right? Well we have some ABCs for when we pray to God to become His child. A stands for "admit." [turn back to dark page] That means you admit to God that you are a sinner. Or another words, you agree that you know you have done wrong things, and just tell him about it. B stands for "believe." Believe with all your heart that... what? [turn back to red page] That means you trust on the inside that the Lord Jesus died on the cross for your sins and mine, and rose again. C stands for "call." Receive Jesus as your Savior. Choose to receive Him. You must decide for yourself in your own heart. This is a serious decision between you and God. Would you like to receive the Lord Jesus Christ right now?

Okay! Let's review - why do you need the Lord Jesus? (Because I am a sinner.) What did the Lord Jesus do so you might have your sins forgiven? (He died on the cross and rose again.) What happened to the Lord Jesus three days after they buried Him? (He came alive again.) How can you become a child of God? (By admitting I am a sinner and want God to change me. By receiving the Lord Jesus as my Savior.) Would you like to receive Jesus and become God's child right now?

Let's pray, and you can talk to God in your own words, or if you want you can repeat after me. [Lead him through the ABCs.] [After prayer....] Whose child are you now? Let's read John 1:12 again. But let's put your name in there. "But as many as receive Him, to 'Johnny' He gave the right to become a child of God, to 'Johnny' who believes in His name." Did you know that Hebrews 13:5 says, "I will never leave you"? Practice on your five fingers and then point to yourself: "I will never leave [point to self] 'Johnny'." He also said in Hebrews 13:6 "The Lord is my helper." Practice on your other hand with five fingers and say "The Lord is 'Johnny's' helper."

When you become a child of God, He wants you to get to know Him better.

[turn to]


The color green reminds us of things that are growing like grass. When you receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior from sin, God wants you to grow to be more like Him. You have His power and strength to do what is right, but when you choose to sin, what should you do?

1 John 1:9 says "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Confess is to tell on yourself. If you mess up, you need to confess up. On this wordless book there are four corners, which remind us to GROW. The G stands for "go to church." Find a place where people are talking about the Lord Jesus and what He did on the cross. If you don't have a place yet I'll talk with your mom and see if you can come to my church. R stands for read your bible and pray. Reading your bible is how God talks to you, and when you pray that is you, talking to God. O stands for obey God's word. You can ask God to help you obey His rules. What are some of God's rules? In Ephesians it says children should obey their parents. The W stands for witness. Find someone you know will be excited for you that you received the Lord Jesus! Share the story with them, and use this wordless book I'll pin on your shirt today to tell others about what Jesus has done. I am going to give you a tract and a mailer so that we can send bible lessons to you in the mail, okay?

Would you like to pray before you go? You can just thank Jesus that today you have become His child. I'll let you say it in your own words. Can I pray for you too before you go? Thank you so much for stopping in today, Johnny; now - off to enjoy the fair you go, I hope to hear from you in the mail!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A new class

I signed up for a Training Children Effectively class with Child Evangelism Fellowship. When I am done I get a certificate that says I can lead children through an hour of bible study, song and game, verse memorization and gospel presentation. I signed up because I've been praying for God to show me who He wants me to serve, and children are number one on that list, with a significant second place for women. I would love to go on a mission this summer and this is a step to ensure I am as useful to the LORD as possible.

I'm praying hard though because Saturday morning I have to stand up in class and give the practicum for about a third of that hour presentation. Historically I get sick at the thought of public speaking, I just hate it beyond all known breadth. I don't know what is wrong with me. Kids are okay for me, and maybe after a long time, I can handle this? I know that it is easier for me to raise my hand in class and speak... maybe I am growing up? I sure hope so. I'm trying not to gag, as I prepare it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dr. Fred Lybrand's FGA Presentation

Dr. Fred R. Lybrand is President of the Free Grace Alliance and he currently serves as senior pastor of Northeast Bible Church in Garden Ridge, Texas.

The following are paraphrased and reviewed excerpts with permission from Dr. Lybrand. His presentation was given at the Free Grace Alliance National Conference on October 7, 2008.


Open your bibles to Titus.

Maybe you have heard of the man who was walking down the street with a fine suit on. But he was also leaning heavily to one side. One pant leg was 2 inches too short so he tried to compensate by walking crooked. Two men observed the man and one said, "I think there’s something wrong with that man," but the other said, "Yes, but doesn’t his suit look great?" In the same way we have beliefs that don't quite fit us in God's design, and it affects our walk with God.

We have grace-driven discipleship when we reek with encouragement. Our inspiration is our own experience of God's encouragement for us. He in His kindness has allowed me to stumble in the right direction. How can we invite others to participate in grace?

The theme of this year's FGA conference, "Grace-Driven," sounds a little compulsory to me, so instead of that I might call it "Grace-Beckoned" or "Grace Offered." How does our understanding of God's grace motivate and inform our approach to disciple-making?

In Titus chapter two I can't imagine Paul writing, "Do a demographic study and find out the non-believer's interests, then design a strategy so they will feel comfortable coming to church." No. Paul cared about a certain kind of church. The power of the grace of God will change them. Churches can get by without possessing certain things. Maybe they don't have an adequate building or they face other kinds of needs. Churches also can become large and successful operations. But honestly, if you have a small church or a large church and grace isn't in it, what does it matter?

We go back to the Word of God to get a grace-informed approach. Titus 2:11-14 -

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

It says that grace has appeared to all men, and that the kindness of God is the gift of His Son. Kindness is why we go and what we do. Titus 2:1 suggests that you be your own man, be your own personality.

There is a corporate role, a togetherness, in our thinking. In chapter two Paul addresses these three groups: women, men and servants. I make four observations of grace-beckoned disciple-making in this.

Here is a test, and I am going to play this short video in a second. But if you already know the secret of this test, don't spoil it for others, okay? In this video, your job is to count how many times the White Team passes the ball. Ready?

If we aren't paying attention we might miss an extraordinary opportunity. So the first of four observations, is this:

1 - Be present. Be there; your presence is required. "But as for you," to the elders he writes that they should minister constantly, always looking for opportunities. Sometimes we think traditionally about discipleship, and our idea of it becomes so narrow that we miss the moment - the gorilla in the room. We have virtual Christianity now. One church, many locations. If I am absent I might be successful to impress at a distance. But if I show up, and I am present, I can impact face-to-face.

2 - Learn. The grace of God is teaching us, Paul says. We've got to learn it and take it in; that is, the grace of God. We should endeavor not to teach the thing not learned because there is non-hypocrisy in that. If we are going to be smart we need information. Teachability is humility, and sometimes in order to make disciples you have to be willing to unlearn what you already know so that you can next learn what you need to know. In the scriptures God is constantly getting us at a new level. Continue to receive the grace of God in a new way by being teachable.

3 - Adorn. Adorn means to put monuments of the glory of God on your life. This is similar to what waitresses call "Flair" or "Bling" - they put it on to draw attention or to set the atmosphere. We too can adorn our lives as Christians, with doctrine. You can put on to your life the qualities that remind everybody that you belong to your God and Savior. One kind of attribute to put on is not answering back, and another is praying with someone when they are burdened.

4- Speak. Verse 15 says, "Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you." Despise may mean that you do not permit anyone to think around you. Show that you really thought through the doctrine, so they cannot dismiss you casually. Also, actions speak louder than words, so while you can tell people about grace it is better when demonstrated.

These four observations we make from the second chapter of Titus on grace-beckoned discipleship. What's the right method for you? What is the meat of this thing? Ask yourself how God uses me to impact you. Let me look at the diamond of God's grace and point out a certain facet of it. Someone else can point out another facet, though each one of us are all pointing to God, to the many variegated grace of God.

THE BEST METHOD FOR DISCIPLE-MAKING IS YOU. God sometimes uses methods, but He always uses people. If you are present, learning, if you show up, and adorn God's truth, cool stuff happens. Most feedback is not related to your main point. It's some side-piece you said in passing that God uses forever for someone else.

I'll share a story about a friend of mine. I caught up with him after a long time and he told me how sad and frustrated he was that his wife, Gail, did not seem to care very much about receiving the gospel for salvation. I looked at him and said, “Maybe God isn’t interested in working on Gail right now. He got the point. My friend gave up on insisting on her conversion. Instead he focused on his own life, she saw it, and now they labor faithfully together as co-heirs of the grace of life.

Other suggestions to consider.... Know the language of the people to whom you are sharing God's grace with. One powerful tool is the power of questions. Ask a question. Invite their involvement. I let them discuss it and then I give them a verse. This takes preaching out of it. Most people know how to make themselves smart, but how do we make ourselves stupid? We become stupid if we don't read, we don't do homework, and we hang out with the same kinds of people.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Which one causes sin?

Which of these leads to licentious living?

No law (but letting the Spirit lead in His timing)
Receiving commands for godliness


Friday, February 13, 2009

You are pregnant: Do you know your options?

This (above) is the title of a brochure I read today. I volunteer at a pregnancy crisis center and at a quiet little desk in one room of our suite, various volunteers bring in material related to our work for attention. Our organization is thoroughly committed to a pro-life end so that we will not refer any client to any doctor or agency which will put the health of the mother and baby at risk, through advising or enabling her to abort the baby. It is most difficult to identify pro-life resources for illegal immigrants who find themselves pregnant. They cannot obtain state health insurance, and so that leaves a small number of clinics that both speak her language and also accept her on a sliding-scale fee.

I am thankful that in our day there are a variety of agencies which offer to help pregnant women; unfortunately, most of them include abortion as a part of their help. Take for example the Boys and Girls Aid. Recently they provided for our volunteers a free training on what to counsel our clients concerning adoption. We took advantage of the opportunity and benefitted from that training. This week, however, here sat a brochure on our desk from their office titled "You are pregnant: Do you know your options?"

under "Considering Your Options," there were three-

"Making a Parenting Plan may be a good choice for me if: ..."

"Making an Adoption Plan may be a good choice for me if: ..."

"Making an Abortion Plan may be a good choice for me if: ..."

And the dialogue considering abortion goes like this:

* I have considered how making an abortion plan will affect my personal development and goals for the future.

* I believe that ending this pregnancy is the choice that best meets the needs of my current life situation.

* I can make an early decision and I am less than 20 weeks pregnant.

* I do not want to be pregnant for reasons of health and/or other personal considerations.

* I am prepared to meet the financial responsibilities for the abortion and the aftercare.

* I have discussed my need for support and have someone who will take me to the procedure and care for me before and after the procedure.

* I understand the impact the procedure can have on my fertility in the future.

* I understand this is a permanent decision.

* I am prepared to handle the emotional aspects of making an abortion plan and can ask for help if I need it.

* I have considered the feelings of my partner and family.

You know, I reviewed all the statements under those three options, and the only one which describes itself as "a permanent decision" is abortion. There are always ways to re-adjust life's circumstances while the baby lives, but once a woman aborts, there is no more room to maneuver if something might change. You know what I mean?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

the weak woman and her God

This is an incredible story.

Her "sermon," part I & II

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Why suffer?

In an old blog post titled "If it die, if it die, if it die", an excellent quote:

The words that were left indelibly in my mind were those of Jesus just before He went to the cross, quoted by Walker as the only plan which ensures success: "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit" (jn 12:24). Each time I hear or read those words they come alive for me because Thomas Walker and Amy Carmichael both staked their lives on them, willing to be a corn of wheat, embrace what is contrary to human nature, and be -buried- in South India in order that others might find the true life. When, by my own faults and indifference, or the distractions of the world, I have drifted from this changeless principle (and imagined that I might -avoid- the deaths and somehow be fruitful) the words have rung again in the ears of my soul, -if it die, if it die, if it die-.

-Elisabeth Elliot, "A Path Through Suffering," pg 42

And scripture says:

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 2 cor 4:10-12

Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Col 1:24,27

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave.... I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1 Cor 9:19, 23

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Phil 3:10

For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you. 2 cor 13:4

Like any good Baptist I suppose I'm afraid of testimony, and I don't know how to authenticate it or discern its merit without seeing it in scripture. Hence this post. "Why suffer?" I see in these verses that a spiritual transaction happens - the Spirit plants seeds in others, and disciples are made for Jesus Christ. The suffering of one causes the help to others.

I found this verse, and it comforted me because I am weak.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you steadfast. 1 Pet 5:10

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

look backward child

Looking backward is foolish if it is meant to boast. But it can be useful, too. At times it is all a Christian may have. Remembering how God has taken us through is a great source of encouragement.

There is a phrase for a time in our walk where God seems to disappear. They call it "The Dark Night of the Soul." The dark night of the soul refers to a dryness as simple as a spiritual discipline not returning the product it once did, or it may more seriously signal a sever altogether of the effectual presence of God.

In November of 2005 I had a miscarriage, and I wrote a few posts in regard to it. While gaining my senses I looked backward and remembered what I had said to God. I remembered that He was leading me. I chronicled my remembrances in two posts.

On November 23, 2005 I wrote in a blog entry:

Before the turn of the year 2005, I read a book I already recently quoted called "A Path Through Suffering" by Elizabeth Elliot. Not that any book should create in anyone a following and a devotion in likeness to scripture; however, at the end of her life, which was victoriously walked in intimacy to Christ, she simply has the wisdom to put the pieces together. Why should I not try and glean, to listen, to sit at her feet and absorb what she gained at a price??

This book was able to inspire me with an all-consuming love and trust for Christ. It was so inspiring that I was able to say to the Lord back then a year ago, "Lord, I am ready to go anywhere you want. No matter what that may look like. Would you let me suffer for Christ?"

And now everyone I imagine is thinking it is time to commit me to a mental facility. It sounds crazy. But you should have seen the love and peace I saw through the illumination of that path....

Then following day I wrote in a post what I prayed for my future:

And you will not believe what I happily prayed to God at some moment in it: "God, I am ready to sacrifice more. Anything you want, Lord, you can have it."

And that is when the trouble came. I suffered nothing more again in likeness to a miscarriage outwardly in my life, but inwardly all I could explain to others was that my God had "pulled the rug out from underneath me." This was a dark night of the soul in my life.

September 14, 2006
I have some bad news. I really honestly can't see my way out of this cyclic spin I'm in. It's too far out of my grasp to deliver myself. I am truly stuck. Does God ever decide to pull out the rug on someone? I know that sounds harsh. But, come to think of it, it feels harsh.

January 24, 2007
But I'm not interested in what I ought to be. All I can think about, is anything else. I rarely make myself behold a panoramic view of where I should be and where I have taken to. To do that feels like a knife twisting and turning inside. Still, I cannot believe myself. I haven't given up hope. I keep waiting for God to change me. I don't know how to help myself. I am beginning to wonder if someone else has to help me.

January 31, 2007
It's so bad that a couple nights ago I said to myself, "Can I just... not be a Christian anymore? Say that I don't believe in God?" It's only the people I love and the truth that is a message of hope which makes me try and fight and believe that maybe I too, can be redeemed.

February 5, 2007, on the eve of the birth of my third child
What had been is gone. Finally, I am able to look at babies, and remember why they are so delightful. Wow, it's like I've awaken. I don't know why I'm better. All I think is, thank you God, and please, please don't leave me now, old self. Stay.

March 30, 2007, the darkness didn't lift after having healed as a mother
I have to find a way to be a Christian. I don't know where to start, but, I know that's where I've decided to go. I think I've seen this before. I had to make a difficult choice. Still, I don't know how to reach around the pain to grasp faith. I don't have any ideas. I have complete lack of confidence that I will walk away from this post and be any better at closing the disconnect. At least at this juncture I'm open to the potential. I have to, and I am willing, to offer at least that small hope.

May 16, 2007, relating to Jesus' request to let this cup of suffering pass by Him
The account of Jesus in the garden before his arrest is a fulfillment of prophecy in Psalm 88:8....

"You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape."

Finally in October of 2007, maybe I was beginning to hear His voice on occasion, just a little bit. This was such a great post of release and conclusion. In full it said:

Can you hear the song tuning in clear, and pick up the melody and sing along with all your heart? I can hear it now and I don't hold back.

So? Life has troubles, and now it's becoming obvious that they don't stop... therefore what needs to change is me. If I don't learn to live right now then I won't ever be able to sing along with the song that someone is playing for Him. Life's always been lived in moments, present-tense; but because of my immaturity all I was was tense in the present.

I have been aware that I need to let go for some time and I still am at a loss, several experiments later, as to how to do that--how to focus the soul's passions toward the exterior--but even that I'm not going to worry about.

I suppose it is natural to forget where you are with God. How cool it is to rediscover, as it comes spilling out of your mouth, your origin-stories of trust in Him as you happen onto it in conversation.

I remember how I used to be long ago. Do you? So frequently the right word at the right time for the right need, I felt like I had one ear in heaven, and my joy, in everything I did, was so full in the promises of God. How I miss that easy-access to learning at his feet; somehow I had that privilege before and I know it was wonderful. I am looking for my old-self, I wanna go back to the way it was, yeah. I've been waiting for some time but there is "no normal" -- God's voice keeps to a warp and a muffle before it trickles down from the sky -- yet, I am at peace finally. When all other lights go out, the past illuminates that the straight and narrow is, as ever was, before me.

There is abundant joy backing me up from the rear and mist and fog in arm's reach ahead. Somebody ought best to twist me around and have me start walking backward.

Faith is not easy to put into practice. But I like grace, which is the present-tense capture of its essence. I like how simple it is. It deals with the difficulties of the moment until the moment is gone. And then it sings a song that floats on the evening breeze.

Walking forward while looking backward. This is the reason why I wrote this post. The LORD commanded us to "remember" Him by taking the sacraments. The Patriarchs of our faith built altars and pillars to remember and memorialize what the LORD had accomplished. To boast would be one thing. But when life gets a little dark, sometimes the only thing left to keep you steady is looking back over where you've already been.

I realize that the "Dark Night of the Soul" is mystical and some people think it flat-out nonsense. That's okay. To defend it scripturally I could site how the prophet Elijah had a great spiritual high followed by a depression. And Peter had passion for Jesus that led him to immaturely say "even if all others fall away, I won't." And I see Moses, as a young man being told who God was and that he belonged to God's people, but it wasn't till he was an old man that God personally gave him a testimony of it. I wrote a post recently asking if perhaps John the Baptist might have "lost his salvation" because in a dark prison he doubled-back and doubted who Jesus was.

LORD, I love you, and I know what you have done for me. I've been busy lately. But when I heard this song, I realized everything at once. You were always there. And I need to say it. You were always... there.

Monday, February 02, 2009

that I may gain Christ

Today I had two investments in quiet time that brought me to the same place.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the various ways I have suffered for Christ. Paul listed them once. I too have even been physically harmed several times because I would not renounce Jesus as the only Way to God. So, I thought it might be interesting to see what other things I might have in common with his list. It simply reminds me what I already know and have traveled well: how can the glimmers of this world interfere with my sanctification when I have been built up in Christ to surrender so much?

Sometimes I ask this question then regret I said it, as if I am requiring God to prove to me my weakness. I find this both encouraging and defeating all at once.

But I remembered that Paul said it was foolish to list his sufferings for Christ.

Then also, earlier in the day I pulled out the 24-page paper I wrote for my Wednesday morning bible study leaders. The woman who created our study, hand-wrote some additional comments to me in the margins when she gave the paper back. I hadn't read them till this morning. To Philippians 3:7-8 (the famous passage "that I may gain Christ") she wrote in the side:

Paul may here have been referring to his past as a prominent Jewish scholar, etc. [But as I think more of your point,] this is an interesting new insight to me in regards to this passage.

Which was pretty cool. My point from that passage had been:

Paul couldn't call righteous at this time the activities he once did in his life. Some things that had been righteous because they required faith, had eventually become sin because it became routine, not inspired and founded by faith! Routine doesn't require faith, does it?

There are two passages where Paul looks back on serving Christ, and boasts. Philippians 3:3-17-

For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

The other passage of boasting is 2 Corinthians 11:21-33 and into chapter 12, verses 1-11 -

What anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.

I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the "super-apostles," even though I am nothing.

For Paul there are two categories of boast. One is his flesh, and the other his appointed sufferings for Christ. Paul boasts of his natural human position and privileges, which he forsook once saved. And I think he also ongoingly-forsakes the boast of suffering for Christ to advance the gospel. All of it is attributed under the category of "garbage."

Paul can boast, but it is foolish, it is not mature.

It's garbage. In comparison. Why? Just imagine if the Christian you knew didn't need to persist on today, in living by the power of God? What if he only wanted to talk about the accomplishments of the past like an excuse to be done? But that's not God's will.

In God's perspective, that list of Christian service "gains nothing" (2 Cor. 12:1).

I am incredibly encouraged by reading on in Chapter 12 and 13 of 2 Corinthians. Paul gives an alternate method to measure Christ's glory in his life!! He measures the magnitude of accomplishment by what he is doing right now.

2 Corinthians 13:3-9 -

...since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you. For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.

Now I pray to God that you do no evil, not that we should appear approved, but that you should do what is honorable, though we may seem disqualified. For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. And this also we pray, that you may be made complete.

Suffering for Christ is proved not by a list from my past, but by the power of God in me today.

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