Of Prophecy and Respect pt 5

Of Prophecy and Respect pt 5

Beginning with Job 28, the Lord seems to be answering my prayer to learn to respect Him. What has been stretching my understanding of God now is how He decided to answer my prayer. He seems to have spoken through prophecy which is something I have little experience with. But as I have explored the passage, it seems at every turn to be speaking to prayers I’ve been praying for the last few months.

Reading Matthew Henry’s commentary on Job 28, one further detail really drove home the authenticity of this chapter being something God wants to share with me. Almost immediately Henry starts talking about Deuteronomy 29:29 which says “The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law.” I was floored reading this because I have been praying Isa 45:3 every day November began. God tells Cyrus there, “I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches from secret places so that you may know that I, Yahweh, the God of Israel call you by your name.”

I have been asking God for His secrets. I’ve been praying to grow in hoping to see His kingdom expand and hoping to see Him every day. And it seems that He has heard me and is answering in a mysterious, yet pointedly accurate way. He seems to be answering me in a way that requires me to go deeper with Him if I want answers. He is answering in a way that requires me to continue to pursue a relationship with Him.

And now that I believe I think I am aware of how God is getting my attention, I need to discern a faithful response. At the moment, continuing to read Job 28, and As Kingfishers Catch Fire seem to be the first starting points. I need to remain glued to what God is saying. But I think that I also need to be talking to my community about what I am finding. I show God respect by pursuing what He is saying and honoring His boundaries along the way. Ironically, all this seems to point back to friendship. I’m encouraged me because it seems that what I’ve shared is what it looks like to have a prayer answered by God. So I will share with my brothers at the MANsion. I will process with the FORMees. I will talk to my fiancé. And I’ll keep sharing here.

Until next time,

Be Present

Be God’s

- Ben :D

Of Prophecy and Respect pt 4

Of Prophecy and Respect pt 4

Fearing God seemed to mean to me that I needed to learn respect. I needed to come to a place of treasuring the boundaries God has outlined as promoting and maintaining a healthy relationship with Him. But respect isn’t possible if I don’t have the humility to be a friend. So when I read again in Job 28 that to fear God is wisdom, I felt God was beginning to answer my prayer in learning how to live this out.

Eugene Peterson’s description of Abraham’s friendship with God seemed to be a start to this. And God seems to be adding Matthew Henry’s words. In his commentary on Job 28, Henry cites the very proverb about the rooster I shared with you in an earlier blog post (To Fear or Admire pt. 3). He cites the proverb to point out that generally we do not know the value of grace and so do not participate in the necessary pursuit to enter into it. He uses the example of miners who have an incredible understanding of pursuing earthly wealth in the bowels of the earth as a template for the pursuit of wisdom which is found in Heaven. And he says we cannot find the wisdom from above unless we are one with the Divine who is the holder of wisdom. By being one with His Spirit, we are then able to search out His wisdom.

To paraphrase Henry’s thoughts, there are three kinds of fearing God. One is the fear of a slave which comes from having stern, resistant, or demanding thoughts about God. These cause us to walk away from God. There is a selfish fear of God that comes from being afraid of what He will do to us if we don’t obey. Henry says this can prompt a kind of living directed at God but this isn’t a life lived with God. Finally, he says, the best fear of God is one coming from filial fear. Filial means from a son or daughter. He says filial fear comes from great and high thoughts of God (i.e. deep respect). Henry says that this filial fear shows up “by a constant care to depart from evil.” And once we cease to do evil, Henry points out, only then can we learn to do well. Then we can learn to live in a right relationship with God.

I’ll finish sewing together this idea of prophecy and respect next time.

Until then,

Be Present

Be God’s

- Ben :D

Of Prophecy and Respect pt 3

Of Prophecy and Respect pt 3

Going into the prophetic ministry time at OneThing, I had recently asked God for humility to pursue friendship with Him and learn to fear Him. The first word that was shared was that God has given me a gift of wisdom and going deep with Him in understanding. Then the first person shared that God sees me as humble. That He wanted to affirm that in me. Looking back now, I am majorly encouraged by what she shared because only a day earlier I had been asking God to lead me in humility.

I have been thinking about respect since my prayer from a previous blog post. And I believe that respect begins at the place where I begin to value someone other than myself. Specifically from my previous prayer, learning to fear God means learning to respect Him. Learning to respect Him means learning to treasure the precious boundaries He outlines as necessary for a healthy relationship with Him.

I was given a book as a late Christmas gift from two friends the first day of the conference. It seemed that God was lifting the call to rest from pursuing knowledge and understanding thru the gift. As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson was the gift. The second sermon in the book concerns the story of Abraham as the friend of God. ‘Coincidentally,’ right after praying to grow as a friend of God, the very next day I read a sermon Peterson delivered about being a friend of God. Describing friendship, Peterson notes, “Friendship is not a way of accomplishing something but a way of being with another in which we become more authentically ourselves” (p. 20). Ouch. This is literally what I had just spoken to God about not 24 hours earlier. I asked God to lead me away from trying to accomplish something in my fiancé’s life rather than being her friend. I had asked God to lead me in friendship with Him instead of trying to accomplish fame from Him. And He answered.

Peterson said Abraham’s honoring God,

“were spontaneous acts of friendship and gratitude, expressions of respect. What friendship means is that two persons are in touch with each other and share important interests. And that is what the friendship of God and Abraham is all about. Abraham was in touch with the God who was in touch with him. He accepted God’s concern for him as the reality of his life, and he returned it by making God the center of his life. He obeyed, he journeyed, he prayed, he believed, and he built altars” (p. 20)

Obedience, prayer (conversation), believing (faith), journeying, remembering. That sounds exactly like what respecting someone in doing life together looks like. When I came to Job 28 and Matthew Henry a few days ago, these words from Peterson, the prophetic words, and my prayers made Job and Henry quite interesting reading.

Until next time,

Be Present

Be God’s

- Ben :D

Of Prophecy and Respect pt. 2

Of Prophecy and Respect pt. 2

I mentioned last time that while at OneThing in Kansas City, someone shared a prophetic word with me which was Job 28. I read the passage when I got home from the conference and found the words there seemed to be a direct response to my prayer to grow in respect. But before I read the passage, I had a conversation with my fiancé which was difficult for me.

While we were at the conference, she was deeply moved by something the first speaker shared. And I found myself mildly offended. While we processed the teaching together, I shared that I agreed with what the speaker shared but didn’t understand why she seemed so determined now to respond. I was confused because I had been sharing exactly the same thing with her for about the last three months and slowly we had been moving in the direction preached by the speaker. I felt hurt because her response implied to me that she trusted him more than me. It seemed that when she would tell the story of her growth in the future, the seminal component would be the speaker rather me.

And even as I was trying to say this to her, I realized how incredibly selfish my words were. I deeply desire to be her encourager and enable her to life a life fully alive in Christ. I could see all the work I had put in and assumed I would also be the one to harvest from my effort in her spiritual life. I was humbled to watch another person be the blossoming touch in the life of the person I love most on earth. I realized I wanted to be that person for her.

After the conversation, I found myself not only asking for her forgiveness for my selfishness, but also talking to God. I asked God for a humble love that rejoices, that hallelujahs at the work of God more than at my role in His accomplishing it. I asked for a love which celebrates what God has done in places I worked without feeling credit for my role. I asked for a love which is encouraged by everything God does and asked to remain unoccupied by my presence in His accomplishments. And finally, I prayed that God would forgive me for wanting fame in heaven  more than being His friend on earth. I asked for a humility to pursue friendship with God rather than fame from God.

This prayer and the one asking to learn to fear God were the major prayers in my heart as I went into the prophetic ministry time the next day. We’ll dig into that more next time.

Until then,

Be Present

Be God’s

- Ben :D

Of Prophecy and Respect

Of Prophecy and Respect

Just over a week ago, I prayed that God would teach me about respect (see To Fear or Admire pt. 4). Funny enough, He seems to have replied in a somewhat unexpected way. It was unexpected to me because I guess I carry an expectation that God teaching me means that something will suddenly go terribly wrong in my life and I’ll be punished in a way I won’t soon forget. My understanding of correction appears to be overwhelming force which I won’t dare crossing again.

Scripture claims in Romans 2:4 that God’s kindness is intended to lead us to repentance. So I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that He is redirecting me via kindness while I seek to respect/fear Him. He did this by speaking in two different ways.

I went to the OneThing conference over New Year’s. At the conference, the FORMees went to the prophetic ministry. There are two people who ask God for what He would like to say to us to edify, encourage, and console us as Paul describes in 1 Cor. 14. They shared they felt God had given me a gift of wisdom and a desire to understand Him. I have never met either of these two before but I am completely confident my friends who know me would testify the same. One then shared that he believed God wanted to share Job 28 with me. Seeing as God seemed to be speaking to me through His people, I decided to read Job 28.

Job spends the whole discourse talking about wisdom as a hidden treasure. But Job ends this blurb by saying that the fear of the Lord is wisdom and to turn from evil is understanding. I was bemused when I read this. Surely God had heard my prayer.

When I read a passage in the Bible and want more insight, I generally google Matthew Henry and the passage I’m looking at. He wrote a commentary on the whole Bible and I’ve found his thoughts to be by and large helpful. So I decided to see what Henry had to say about Job 28.

Before we get into that, I want to mention the other way God seemed to get my attention in responding to my prayer about respect and fearing Him. It came out of a difficult conversation with my fiancé. The conversation was hard more because I realized I was being somewhat selfish even while I spoke to her. I’ll share about the conversation next time and hopefully then we can get back to Job 28.

Until then,

Be Present

Be God’s

- Ben :D

Consistency & #JesusGoals pt. 4

Consistency & #JesusGoals pt. 4

Emma’s challenge to connect with someone else about my seeking with God reminded me of a time I felt I had successfully sought a new depth in my relationship with Jesus. It also helped me revisit my current seeking with God. At the moment, I am seeking God as healer. I hope to see Him move in healing and miracles. But I found myself reinforcing unbelief by consistently writing down ‘no change’ after praying.

I removed these comments because I realized I was building in myself an expectation that God wouldn’t heal the person I was praying for. Building a faith that God wouldn’t or couldn’t heal was completely opposite to the hope I had begun with. Part of the goal of persevering in remembering who I prayed for is building an expectancy that God can and will heal.

Formerly, I would become discouraged when it didn’t seem like someone was healed. I think I finally understand what a friend told me once when he said, “Every time I pray and someone isn’t healed, I believe MORE for the next time.” What he said seemed to play completely into the definition of insanity to me. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. I wasn’t able to understand what he meant until writing this post actually.

Earlier this year, God seemed to be asking me to submit my understanding, desire to understand, my knowledge, and my desire to know to Him. So I stopped reading books. I started living in community. Now that I have a bit of separation from the pursuit of understanding, I can look back and see how pressing on in obedience to God without seeing results can build faith. It builds faith because I am refusing to give up on a hope that God has shared with me. Spiritual faith is insanity to logic. I can’t reason my way into love. Love is something lived. Faith is lived more than it is thought. We know faith without works is dead, and I wasn’t doing much with all the knowing and understanding I had acquired. Thankfully, the laws of heaven supersede the laws of earth when the two are in conflict and so I can continue in my foolishness of praying for people to be healed. I can be insane for Christ.

I have yet to see someone healed and have only been told of one person I prayed for being healed. She was quite ill with a cold when I saw and prayed for her. The next day she woke up without any symptoms or post-cold grogginess/soreness. One out of 54 so far. Responding to Emma’s challenge about my seeking, for me, has been to turn to community. I have been praying for others by myself. Seeking, by its very nature, is communal. Seeking is looking outside of myself. I’ve done all the seeking by myself I can do. So I have contacted someone in Fort Wayne who goes and prays for people and is consistently seeing God heal them. Seeking for me now will be praying for others with him. I’m hoping that maybe the manner of my seeking was the only insane element in specifically pursuing seeing God as healer. I can honestly say at this point that I actually am more convinced that God can heal even though my experience doesn’t testify to the truth yet.

Until next time,

Be present

Be God’s

Ben :D

Consistency & #JesusGoals pt.3

Consistency & #JesusGoals pt.3

From 1 Chronicles 28, Emma challenged us to revisit our own seeking with God. I remembered a time when I felt I had successfully sought to become more like Jesus in loving my neighbor. I sought to have one 5 minute conversation with someone from my neighborhood every day.

My first attempt lasted about 6 days then I missed a couple days. But I felt it was possible. So I restarted and went over 30 days straight of having at least one 5 minute conversation with someone from the complex every day. After that break, I managed another streak of about 2 weeks. But suddenly, honestly, I found it was rather natural to speak with my neighbors and I didn’t bother trying to record a streak. By the time I moved out 2 years later, it wasn’t possible for me to walk thru the courtyard without someone yelling out my name and greeting me.

Many days during the streak, I didn’t think it would be possible to keep it going. I remember a couple times coming home at around 10pm and needing very badly to sleep. I would tell myself: “Well, I guess today is the day the streak ends.” But miraculously, God would have someone walk out my building for a smoke, or get out of their car right next to me and I would get to talk to them. I thought it was really interesting that God faithfully gave me the grace to persevere and the grace to maintain the streak. I think part of the reason why was because it was never about the streak but the goal of knowing my community. I couldn’t love my neighbors like Jesus if I didn’t know them. And I couldn’t know them if I didn’t talk to them.

Currently, I have been asking, seeking, and knocking on the door of healing and miracles. I’ve read books about healing and ask God every morning for the gift. The knock part, the act part, for me has been actually praying for people to be healed and writing down the person’s name and ailment I prayed for. At first, I would write below it: ‘no change.’ But after praying for about 30 or so people, I realized I was beginning to become proud of not seeing any healing. This was where I was when Emma shared her reflection. I felt convicted by Holy Spirit that week after I saw someone to pray for but deliberately did not pray. I didn’t pray because I didn’t think God would answer my prayer the way I wanted Him to. In response to the conviction, I went back and scratched out all the ‘no change’ comments. And I’ll tell you why next time.

Until then,

Be present

Be God’s

-Ben :D

Consistency & #JesusGoals pt.2

Consistency & #JesusGoals pt.2

Emma found that she was lacking consistency in her spiritual life. She responded to the inconsistency by asking someone who had consistency in their life how they arrived there. She asked, she sought. Her seeking then led her to 1 Chronicles 28:9-10. She continued her reflection telling us:

“1 Chronicles 28:9-10 says,

9 “As for you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands the intention of every thought. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever. 10 Realize now that the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary. Be strong, and do it.”

I just want to challenge you all to take this head on with me and look at your goals and where you want your relationship with Christ to be. Let’s get with the person next to us and tell the Lord what we want to give Him and how we want to know Him more & deeper. As you do, take the time to ask him for strength, guidance, and encouragement.”

In my personal response to Emma’s challenge, two things came to mind. The first was the time that I spent living in an apartment complex of mostly Burmese refugees. I wanted to be part of the community but found after living there for a year that I had made pretty much zero progress. I felt convicted because the main idea behind moving there was to intentionally invest in the community. Working third shift had been my excuse but I realized that I would always have some sort of excuse. So I asked myself, if I wanted to be a member of this community, what was something reasonable and actionable I could do each day. What was something if I did it each day, after a month or two could result in becoming a member of the community? I landed on resolving to have a 5 minute conversation with someone from the apartment complex every day.

I’ll share more about my response next time. Until then,

Be present

Be God’s

-Ben :D

Consistency & #JesusGoals

Consistency & #JesusGoals

     As part of being in FORM, we have a rotation of FORMees who share reflections publically with the staff at Grace Gathering and the rest of the FORMees. It was Emma’s turn recently and she shared the following thoughts:

     “I recently went back to my home in Michigan for Thanksgiving break. I was kind of slapped in the face with what an odd transition of life I am in. I have been here in Fort Wayne, growing in my faith and just learning simply how to be an adult, away from my parents.

     While back in Ann Arbor, I was able to recognize how my thoughts and actions seemed immature and different than what I had been experiencing in my new home here. It felt weird to live without your parents and then to go back and live the life you’ve been used to where I followed rules and had certain thinking in their household. Keep in mind, I have been super legalistic and very harsh on myself which I have been definitely growing in but I felt that coming back. I realized this is a transition I am sure most people go through when they come home from either college or whatever they are doing away from family. I explained my thoughts to my dad and we had a nice conversation about it.

     I like to pick out little golden nuggets, or what stands out to me, in conversations and this time it was my dad telling me “if you want to be treated/feel like a woman, you need to act like it.” This ties along with how I have been feeling spiritually and what I have been learning recently. I have been surrounded by amazing Christian leaders and people PASSIONATE about Jesus. And ultimately, I want that. I am inspired and I look at those peopled want to be like them, be with someone like them, and surround myself with people like them.

     I noticed how I would get on spiritual highs and lows and I just wanted to be at an even keel. So I asked for advice on this and was told to look at my seeking. How much effort was I putting in? How much time? Was Jesus my #1 priority? It hit me that if I want to reach my spiritual goals or the kind of Christian I aspire to be, I need to ACT LIKE IT. And ultimately, take action. It is going to look different. It will not be easy. There will be sacrifice, crosses that need to be carried, habits that need to be broken and choosing to place your time into seeking opposed to what you’re used to.”

Then Emma shared 1 Chronicles 28:9-10 with a challenge. We’ll at those next time.

Until then,

Be present

Be God’s

-Ben :D

To Fear or Admire pt 4

To Fear or Admire pt 4

The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even when I go thru the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me. Your rod and your staff comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows. Goodness and love will chase after me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

We’ve been looking at the role of the shepherd in correcting the sheep. The context was seeking to integrate fear and admiration. Admiration generally comes from perceiving the great value of something or someone. I’ve realized that I had lost my capacity to perceive the value of discipline (correction) because I have felt abused rather than protected by discipline. My lived experience was punishment and I lost faith in the goodness and life found in restraint.

The truth is that where there are no boundaries, there is only chaos. The boundaries that discipline maintains are what enable me to do whatever I want. I found fear of the Lord is recognizing how actually dangerous He is. Living outside of His boundaries results in decay. Life outside of His boundaries is sin and is why Jesus had to die. God’s punishment, the correction necessary for moving outside what He has said, came on Christ so that we could be shown mercy. Living in the mercy and grace of God has led me to forget the reality of danger.

I honestly have yet to fully figure out how to action God drawing my attention to respect. It seems that He may be saying I do not respect Him as He desires. I don’t treasure His boundaries as fully as He does. Maybe you’re there too. When I don’t know what to do, I ask God for wisdom and discernment. So maybe that’s our next step.

Daddy, please forgive me for not respecting You or Your boundaries how You desire me to. Thank you for drawing my attention to the irreverence at work in me. Thank You for showing me that I don’t admire Your boundaries. Please forgive me for not fearing You. Will you please place the fear of You in me? Will you please teach me to fear you and admire Your boundaries? Please give me the wisdom and discernment I need to do something about what You are saying. In Jesus’ name. Thank you for hearing me.

Until next time,

Be present

Be God’s

- Ben :D   

To Fear or Admire pt 3

To Fear or Admire pt 3

Derek’s words about fearing God reminded me of a comment I had made to him earlier in the week. As I was walking out of the house we live in, I told him a joke I have about myself. I am generally carefree which means that I’m not particularly careful(l). Being not particularly careful, I can be careless. And then I told him: “and I don’t think I’m very respectful. I don’t try to disrespect people but I don’t think I really go out of my way to respect others either.” So I found the timing of his reflection apt.

As I spent some time reflecting on his words, I remembered that another way to talk about fear is to talk about respect. Respect is generally attributed to a form of admiration. But I don’t think that growing up as I have that I learned to admire very much. Sarcasm is a second language for me. Sarcasm, at its core, disgraces. I operate in a culture built around disrespect. In the absence of respect, almost anything goes because there is nothing to save. Value is gone.

This thought reminded me of a fable attributed to Aesop which became a prayer for me earlier this year. A short version goes that there was once a rooster strutting around the farm. He wandered in to a barn and saw something shiny in the hay. “Dibs!” he yells, digging it out. The shiny thing was a pearl. But realizing this, he says, “you may be a treasure to people but for me, I would rather a piece of barley than a whole barn of pearls.” The moral of the fable is that precious things are for those that can prize them. Humans value pearls and interact with them with respect. We treat pearls with admiration. I was stopped in my tracks and found the fable became a prayer for me.

At the time I had been asking God why I was still single. He seemed to be saying that I was not presently able to cherish someone other than myself. That was a pretty crushing realization but I responded by asking God every morning and multiple times a day for a heart that prizes precious people and precious things.

That journey into awareness of respect and practicing it returned to me reflecting on Derek’s comments and illuminated them. Fear is generally the emotion attached to believing someone or something is dangerous. God is quite dangerous. To quote C.S. Lewis’ ubiquitous phrase about Christ: “He is not a tame lion.”

We’ll try to make full bed partners of fear and admiration next time.

Until then,

Be Present

Be God’s

- Ben :D

To Fear or Admire pt 2

To Fear or Admire pt 2

Yesterday Derek presented the image of a shepherd breaking the legs of a sheep as something good. The image was a bit jarring to me. Maybe also for you. Derek noted that the power of the shepherd would cause some fear to leave again. Speaking of this, Derek continued,

“This reminds me of Romans 11:22, “Note then the severity and the kindness of God: severity toward those who have fallen, and kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you too will be cut off.”

While I would say our primary focus and experience as Christians is the goodness of God and his love shown to us in the cross, and the gentle guidance and transformation of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we still must not turn a blind eye to the reality of God’s just character. Paul reminded the Corinthian church, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” What we do matters. He is holy; apart from God, we are not holy and deserving of his wrath. He has made us and he can unmake us if he so chooses. 

It’s interesting the Lord has helped me unpack a lot of fears I’ve had and has delivered me from them. We do not have to live in fear, for “we have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7). I suppose in a way when we give in to fears, we are saying, “this thing that I am fearing is worthy. It is worthy of my fear.” And that’s a lie. We fear God alone because he alone is worthy. He alone is worth beholding with a healthy fear and pure reverence. 

So I challenge you to be still. To allow him to reveal who he is in the silence. Take time to stop all the doing, the talking, the praying and reading. Give the Holy Spirit the space. The space to do whatever he wants with you. I believe a greater personal knowledge of who God is in his greatness and intimacy will help us remain faithful, and worshiping him can cause all other fears to melt away.”

There are numerous directions to go with a reflection like this one. Rather than try to tackle them in maybe the most logical order, I’ll share my own response so far and hopefully it can aid you too. My mind immediately sought to deconstruct how someone deliberately breaking my legs and draping me over their shoulders could be healthy. (Assuming the goodness of the shepherd) I think the point of the image is that the time spent healing would be time resting. It would be time of intimacy with the shepherd and this would restore my faith in his goodness. Resting, even if it’s an enforced time of healing, with God builds an intimacy with Him. And intimacy with God produces faith in His goodness.

The Psalm Derek quoted about God making us lie down is quite powerful. I found it quite helpful to recognize that God can make me rest and restore my soul in order that I may then be led thru the valley of the shadow of death. I am able to pass thru the valley because of the intimacy with God. 

Until next time,

Be present

Be God’s

- Ben :D

To Fear or Admire

To Fear or Admire

As part of being in FORM, we have a rotation of FORMees who share reflections publically with the staff at Grace Gathering and the rest of the FORMees. It was Derek’s turn recently and he shared the following thoughts:

“A month or two ago, my FORM brothers and I were discussing what we sense God wants to speak to us. Unexpectedly, really, I sensed the Spirit impressing upon my heart the idea of the fear of the Lord. I had thought back to a couple of encounters I have had with the Lord where I was left in deep awe of him. It seemed the Lord wanted to reawaken a holy fear of Him inside of me, like a grizzly bear that has been in hibernation for the winter. He was inviting me to receive fresh revelation of who he is.

I have spent some time meditating on Psalm 86:11,
“Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth;
Unite my heart to fear your name.”

A friend told me of how shepherds would deal with wayward sheep. If a particular sheep kept going astray from the flock, the shepherd would break the sheep’s legs. Yep…. He would then carry the sheep on its shoulders everyday until the sheep’s legs are healed and it can walk again. After that the sheep never leaves that shepherd’s side. 

This can remind us of our own walk with Christ. When we keep trying to do things our own way in life, the Lord our shepherd can “make [us] lie down” and have to depend on him. To me, it sounds abusive for the shepherd to literally break the sheep’s bones. In actuality, he is saving the sheep’s life. A sheep is not meant to be without a shepherd, and it can face life-threatening dangers it has no clue about if it goes off on its own. 

This sheep example has different layers to it, but I want you to imagine being this sheep. The first time you go astray you think, “I don’t like my shepherd right now, and want to experience independence. So long, flock!” Then imagine facing the consequences and the long healing process. Not only was your life spared, but you experienced constant nurture from your shepherd and a particular closeness with him during that time. You are convinced of the shepherd’s kindness and desire to stay in his flock always. Now imagine a few months after that, you start to forget that reality. You have a bad day and think, “I don’t like my shepherd right now, and want to experience independence.” BUT, even if not because of his kindness, you will not leave the flock since you know the shepherd has the power to punish you, to break you. “Nope, not gettin’ my legs broken again!””

Honestly at this point I struggled to keep following what Derek said. The idea of the justice of God is not something I spend much time meditating on. Thankfully we can come back tomorrow to see how he developed his thoughts even while we take some time to absorb what he’s said so far…

Until then,

Be present

Be God’s

- Ben :D
 

On Apostasy and Hope pt 4

On Apostasy and Hope pt 4

     I struggled a lot with depression. Telling the whole of that story is another multi post series. But what I want to say here is that I read a book by Ann Voskamp called 1000 Gifts and it was transformative. Thankfully this groundwork had been laid for two years in me by the time I was seriously considering abandoning God. I didn’t believe I could go on. At this point in the reflection, I wrote:

     "And the faintest faith sometimes I can muster is to be grateful to God each day. 1 Thess. 5:8 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” God is good. Sometimes giving thanks to God is the faintest and only act of faith I can do. But that gratitude reminds me that God is good. The pain, the despair, the anger, my hurt distract me from His goodness. But the glimmer of hope that gratitude to God provides me is somehow enough hope to give thanks again. And go one more day without walking away. Maybe I’ll yet see Jesus today.

     I am frequently not happy. So too I think that it is healthy and even necessary to talk about the temptation of apostasy. Because if it is not confessed it will only continue to grow in us instead of being released from us. I was encouraged by the realization that the temptation of apostasy proves that faith is still alive in me. Because I cannot forsake what I do not have. I was encouraged by the odd realization that the temptation of apostasy is not from God; it’s from satan. And even though I had given up on me, the demons hadn’t.

     These two realizations make the temptation more bearable because it means maybe. Maybe I won't walk away. God promises to give us the strength to bear all temptations and trials. Isaiah 30 says in quietness and trust is our strength. I don’t have to fear silence. The silence is actually what builds trust. Because when God doesn’t seem to speak but remains faithful, I learn to trust Him. The awareness, then, of temptation and faith’s presence work together to pull the suffocating hands of apostasy back just a breadth and that breath which enters is hope.”

     I’ve heard stories of people who have left the church because it wasn’t ok for them to continue to have problems working out their salvations. So I hope that this story encourages you to ask God hard questions. I hope it encourages you to persevere. And I hope it encourages you that if you are struggling with something which seems too dark or too terrible that you will share it with us. And I pray that Christ in you, which is your hope, will awaken in you.

There is hope for you. The story Mark tells doesn’t end with a dead child. He says:

27 But Jesus, taking him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.

On Apostasy and Hope pt 3

On Apostasy and Hope pt 3

     In my reflecting, I found that I would frequently get angry with God. He had made a covenant with me and it didn't seem like He was coming thru. People shared words from God with me (prophecies). These seemed to be ambiguous at times and left me feeling like I had something to hope for but didn't see them being 'fulfilled.' I felt He had made promises to me.

     At one point in time I used to carry two pennies in my pocket as a joke and metaphor for having my own ideas and opinions. I was talking to God on a prayer walk and felt so downcast that I threw them into the sky at Him. I missed. And I realized I had no memory of His goodness. In my anger I destroyed my memory of His faithfulness, my memory of His goodness, my memory of His promises. And without any promises from God or recollection of His ever being good, I despaired. Let’s return to the written reflection from earlier. It continued:

     "I was aided by the idea that even the off hand chance of the reality of the hope of glory is enough to press on because it’s better than nothing. It reminds me of the Marshwiggle’s response to the witch in C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Silver Chair’ while under her enchantment. He tells her even if he has only dreamed up all the goodness of Narnia, he is still on Aslan’s side even if there’s no Aslan to lead it. He is going to live like a Narnian even if there isn’t a Narnia. He’s going to look for it even if he’ll never find it. He’s setting out into the dark to search for it because it’s better than the reality the witch would have him believe. It’s better than the reality the witch was subjecting him to.

     And I guess if there’s half a chance of the reality of Christ then there’s the possibility it could get better for me eventually because of that glimmer of glory. The glimmer of love; that God is somehow good even when I don’t feel it. I’m sorry you hurt. I’m sorry you want to walk away. I’ve been there and find myself there from time to time. May hope live in you again in Jesus’ name. Even the faintest hope provides fuel for the faintest faith.

     And honestly I say this to you because I want to walk away. But I’ve given Jesus everything. I need Him to come through on those promises because I have nothing else. Which leads me to days where I don’t want to go on; days I don’t believe I can go on."

I hope you will carry on and return for the final section. We’re nearly there.

On Apostasy and Hope pt 2

On Apostasy and Hope pt 2

     For about three years I worked comfortably for Nestle. It was a great job and I was doing well there. I had been recently promoted but felt something was missing. I didn’t see Jesus moving in my life like I thought He would be. Which led to me leaving my job and pursuing a teacher’s license and a job as a substitute teacher.

     After faithfully obeying this direction for two years, I finally arrived at my student teaching component. And immediately had surgery on my shoulder. I couldn’t physically provide for myself. I couldn’t financially provide for myself. And I was totally confused. I had just finished memorizing the Gospel of Mark. I was finishing getting my license and here I was, completely miserable. So I found myself writing down the following when I was asked about leaving the faith (i.e. apostasy):

“I’m sorry you are considering walking away. I guess what I would say is I’m sorry hope has perished within you. And I don’t really even know what to say. But I’m reminded of a song by a singer I greatly admire named Rich Mullins. It’s called ‘Hard To Get’ and he spends most of the song lamenting how it seems Jesus is playing hard to get and how this provokes doubt, even despair in him. He even says “I know that it would not hurt any less, even if it could be explained.” I don’t think I can explain your hurt to you and even if I could, it won’t remove it.

But as Christians we have a peculiar hope; it is a mysterious hope, but it is that Christ in us is the hope of glory. Rich finishes the song singing, “I can’t see how You’re leading me/ Unless You’ve led me here/ To where I’m lost enough to let myself be led./ And so You’ve been here all along I guess/ It’s just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get.” I have found in my wandering I have felt misguided and hurt. And I have found that my hurts have led me to anger and so I destroy my memory of God’s promises to me. I destroy hope and so I despair. But I guess I would say if you’re there, ask for hope. Ask for help. You probably already have and it still seems like it hasn’t come. Which invokes despair."

More next time.

On Apostasy and Hope

On Apostasy and Hope

     Hi! My name is Ben Klimek and I had the opportunity to share a story with the FORMees and Grace Gathering staff. One component of FORM is sharing reflections to practice skills such as public speaking. (As a heads up, there are 4 posts and each are about 400 words):

"Today we are going to use a story from someone who encountered Jesus in Mark 9 to frame my thoughts. We'll be in Mark 9:20-27. It reads as follows:

 “So they brought him to Him. When the spirit saw Him, it immediately convulsed the boy. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. 

21 “How long has this been happening to him?” Jesus asked his father.

“From childhood,” he said. 22 “And many times it has thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

23 Then Jesus said to him, “‘If You can’?[c][d] Everything is possible to the one who believes.”

24 Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly coming together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit,[e] I command you: come out of him and never enter him again!”

26 Then it came out, shrieking and convulsing him[f] violently. The boy became like a corpse, so that many said, “He’s dead.” ”

     This story stood out to me recently as I was considering my experience as someone raised in a Christian home. It struck me because I felt quite like the boy in the story. My parents brought me to Jesus when I was young. He wasn’t someone I would choose until I was in college. Recently, I stepped out in faith and wound up in a place where I was going biweekly depending on friends and family providing for me. I went from making $40k+ a year to less thousands than months. A year ago in the same month I had to get glasses and then completely tore my labrum.

     My understanding of following Jesus was that I would be joyous and/or happy. How was it possible, like this boy, that I had been brought to Jesus and felt completely dead? I was unhappy and couldn’t understand how encountering Jesus had left me worse off.

     This is where I was when I heard an interesting question. A missionary friend was preparing to leave for Japan and asked believing friends: what they would say to someone considering walking away from the faith?" 

My thoughts and story about apostasy (the word for saying: giving up and walking away from faith in Jesus Christ) are next…