Monday, May 18, 2009

More on Peace that Passes Understanding

So ... I've contemplated this time and time again.

I remember when I was in high school - it just seemed like there were other Christians around me who were STRONGER somehow, more at peace with their relationship with God. They seemed like they had almost a slowness about them, not like stupid slowness, but like where the Spirit of God put everything they said/thought/heard through a filter before they finished processing it. I always felt like they had something I didn't. Isn't that strange?

Anyhow - as I'm getting older, I feel like I'm understanding more and more. And someday I'll have that peace about me, that filter that processes everything before I say it, and others will want what I have. *smile*

There are SO many things in this world I cannot understand. It makes no sense to me that God has ALWAYS existed. Everything in my limited world has a definite beginning and end. It makes no sense to me why God would want to create us. It makes no sense to me that Jesus would be willing to die on the cross for me. My mind cannot fathom that there is an invisible God out there, watching me, blessing me, and loving me. The incredulity of the Bible stories I read are WAY beyond my understanding. My limited human mind wants to be able to wrap itself around these ideas, find the logical answers, back things up with science. How on earth did dinosaurs roam? Where did cancer come from? How is it that good people are allowed to suffer, while the jerks are off the hook? I fight within myself sometimes with these things. I guess the biggest thing that comes to haunt me is : Can the Bible really be the final authority? Can it really be God's Word to us? Can it really be infallible?

Sometimes the questions drive me crazy. The doubts plague me. My heart LONGS to believe but my brain keeps interjecting.

And then one day it came to me.

There is NO way for me to understand. My limited human mind will NEVER know all the why's/how's/when's/what's/where's. There is no way. The Lord knew this when He created us. We cannot understand it all.

And that is why He gives us the PEACE that PASSES UNDERSTANDING. So although my brain wants to keep on interrupting my moments of faith with the illogical parts about Christianity - I have faith. I have peace. And the peace He gives me TRANSCENDS my understanding, or lack thereof, I suppose I should say.

Faith isn't logical. It's a blind allegiance to the unseen Creator. I trust that He is real, that He loves me, and that He saved me. And someday - I'll get to Heaven to live with Him, and He will explain it all. But until then, I have the peace that passes understanding to get me through my times of doubt.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Peace That Passes Understanding

Philippians 4:4-9
"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you."

My Bible has a little study guide underneath the text, and it says about vs 7 ("the peace of God... will guard ...") : "Paul's choice of a military term implies that the mind is in a battle zone and needs to be "protected by a military guard". Since the purpose of such a guard in a wartime situation is either to prevent a hostile invasion or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from escaping, the peace of God operates in the same way : to protect the mind from external corrupting influences and to keep it focused on God's truth."

I have more to write on this, but need to tend to dinner and will post my thoughts later. :)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Parable of Unmerciful Me

When I was young, I had never been a "big" sinner, broken one of the "big" rules. This is the way I saw life : Being a Christian wasn't hard! I had a great track record. Lots of little sins, sure, but NONE of those big ones that all of my peers were making! I didn't party! I didn't drink! I didn't do drugs! I didn't cuss! I wasn't promiscuous! I went to church 5 times a week! I was in 4 Bible Studies! I was on Youth Council! I was part of an evangelism team! I had it all figured out. I had a Bible verse for everyone, a comment for every situation. I gave spiritual guidance to people whether they needed it or not because I thought it was my place. It was easy to point a finger at others because I felt I had the right. My own life was "pretty good" so it was easy to point out the bad in the life of someone else. I put my nose in other people's spiritual lives because I thought I could help them, thought that by MY insight, they might grow and become better people. I would tell someone what they were doing wrong, rattle off a list of verses, then tell them "I love you brother/sister" and walk away whistling as though my good deed for the day was done. I thought I was doing GOOD, thought I was HELPING. ... I see now that I came across to others as naive, self-righteous, and judgmental. I realize, only now, that my "great track record" was actually a source of pride for me. I was "better" than most of the other kids my age. I would have NEVER been able to voice such a thing at that age though - I always THOUGHT I was humble!! (So if any of you who are out there from high school are reading this - I'm truly sorry to have been so arrogant.)

I THOUGHT I walked in love. I THOUGHT that I was humble. If someone had approached me to tell me that I behaved self-righteously, I probably wouldn't have believed them, and just would have thought they were upset that I spoke the "convicting truth". Pretty sickening to say these things about myself, BUT ... I am growing and learning.

In high school, I thought it was easy to walk the straight and narrow and scoffed at those who stumbled off the path. ...Pride cometh before a fall!!!... When I fell into one of the "big" sins for the first time, I lost a lot of my pre-conceived notions about how easy it is to stay on the right path. I also came to the shocking realization that the whole time I was on the "right side" of things, that I had been considering people who stumbled off the path to be "bad people". If you drank, you were "bad". If you had sex outside of marriage, you were "bad". If you did drugs, you were "bad". (And there were various other "big sins" that apparently made one "BAD" in my twisted view of Christianity.) And good Christians stay away from "bad people". Once I found myself amongst the "bad" people, I realized that we are ALL just PEOPLE. And people (even good Christians!) make mistakes - it doesn't make someone "bad" when they make a mistake, it just means that they've made a poor choice. We are all just sinners in desperate need of God's grace. The line between someone who has participated in a "big sin" and someone who hasn't isn't NEARLY as well-defined as I had thought it was - in fact, I had drawn it! It wasn't really there in the first place. Just a convenient way for me to elevate myself (good) from the others (bad). It took quite some time, but I finally realized that I had pridefully always considered my self-worth to be based in how much I WASN'T like the "bad ones".

My life spiraled out of control for awhile. I aggressively gave into my rebellious nature. I had the wrong feeling that since I had already lost my "track record" that somehow, my entire testimony was lost. I was no longer the girl that defied the odds and stayed "good" despite everyone around me. And when I came back to the throne of Jesus, and placed myself at His Feet ... It was THEN that I KNEW that This should have always been my place. My place wasn't on the "good" side, or the "bad" side. I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to return myself to that status of being on the "good side". But I am learning - now, even! - that it isn't about that. Where I belong is at the Feet of Jesus, begging for His Mercy. Even when I was on the "good" side as a youth, I realize now that I reeked of pride, so how good was I really??

But now, I have been forgiven of much. The Lord reached into my life and saved me from all kinds of muck and mire. And it is here and now that I realize that I am worthless. I amount to nothing. Left on my own, I quickly run to my sinful nature. But the LORD sees all my trespasses, all my pride, all my "bad" things ... and loves me despite them. He reached in, and saved me, where I was. He brought me into His MERCY, His tender Mercy. Did I deserve it? No, I deserved DEATH! But He PAID for me. Jesus paid it all. And all to Him I owe. And so at Jesus' Feet I will stay. The point of view from here is much different than the one I had before my fall. The view from here is a much more merciful one. As I watch people stumble and make the same mistakes I used to look down my nose at people for, I can look at them and say "I've been there. I know how easy it is to make those mistakes. I'm no better than you. Before, I would have pointed my self-righteous finger at you, but now since I understand - I can offer you my hand to help you get back up. See over here? These are the Feet of Jesus. This is where I have found WHO I AM. I'm no longer "good" or "bad", but HIS. Fully paid for by His Blood."

I would never say that God had it planned for me to spend time in rebellion. But He is faithful, and so He has now turned even that evil time in my life around for GOOD!! Praise be to Him! Because now that I have been there, I have a much greater understanding for a mercy on the people who follow in my not-so-good footsteps. I know how easy it is to stray, and once you've strayed, how easy it is to slip even farther away. The fall away is effortless. It is the climb back up that is so hard.

Without God's tender MERCY, I am nothing. I will never be righteous enough, good enough, holy enough. But it is His Mercy and Grace which draw me to Him and stir me from within to change for Him. And if I eagerly desire His Mercy for my life, my own wretched life, then I must also pass that same mercy on to everyone around me. Christ's mercy on me should radically change my life. It calls me to be humble when pride wants to devour me, to be forgiving instead of bitter, to be understanding when my heart wants to judge, to offer a hand up instead of pointing a finger, to listen when I want to clamp my hands over my ears, to be open-minded when I want to get defensive, to admit I have done wrong when my pride wants to excuse my actions, to be loving when I want to be rude, to be peaceful when my emotions wants to wage war, and to see a person who needs Grace just as much as I do, instead of seeing a "bad person".

I don't have it all figured out. Even though I know with my mind that I need to be radically changed like I listed above, I still war with my heart to be RIGHT. Just in the last few days, I've been guilty of NOT doing pretty much all of the above.

I have been shown Mercy, I want Mercy for my friends, AND I want Mercy for those that my pride sometimes tries to tell me shouldn't get it. So I'm sorry, and I'm sad, and I've resigned myself to being in an ever-constant state of "working on it".

But - I am renewed and I am forgiven. I am changed. I AM HIS.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Or seventy times seven)

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matt. 18:21-35)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Making Progress

It's the strangest thing, but the last two times I have turned on my car, the radio had a sermon on at the time I was driving (two different stations tho - the first day was Vertical Radio, the second day Vertical Radio was hosting a softball game so I switched to the Calvary Chapel Satellite Network out here). Both times it was about "God's Presence". I chose to name my blog "Pursuing His Presence" and so I thought the timing on that was interesting.

I guess I feel like a breakthrough is imminent. Like I'm going to get there soon. Like I'm on the cusp of something big, or rowing down a river that has a unforeseen waterfall ahead.

I've been reading my Bible a little bit every day, first Galatians and now Hebrews. My prayers still feel funny, like I'm shy of talking to God. In fact, that's the first time I've ever voiced it that way, but that's EXACTLY what my prayer life is like. I'm SHY around God. Is that weird? Has that ever happened to anyone else?

My doubts though ... UGH ... after living a life away from God, I realize how much the secular world does everything it can to try and persuade you that God doesn't really exist. I catch myself wondering sometimes - is it REALLY all about this? Jesus is the ONLY way and there is only ONE God, and that God created everything we see, knows everything including the past and the future, and if He's so real how come we can't see Him and He doesn't speak to us anymore? And is the Bible REALLY God's infallible Word and its truths hold steady for us today? And then I stop to think about it, and of COURSE Jesus is the only way - I've felt His Power. And I
KNOW in my heart that God is real because I have seen His miracles. I know that this world was created. I have taken biology classes and HOLY COW, let me just say that there is NO WAY that this earth could have just "happened". The complexity of nature, plants, leaves, trees, flowers, animals, water, chemicals - and how nature all balances together, it's just amazing. God made this world to work together, and I know that. It's like these little "doubt demons" flit through my head and say "this world wasn't REALLY created ... it just happened!" But then when I stop to REALLY ponder that, I can see with my very own eyes the complex and vast nature around me, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this world was CREATED. And if life evolves, as they say it does, then there would be life on other planets too. Because if life here on earth can "evolve" and "adapt" to support different environments, different climates, and different temperatures, then surely some kind of life would exist out there on another planet, because it would have evolved itself to do so, just like it supposedly did on earth. (Notice no life on other planets.) And of COURSE the Bible is God's Word, living and active.

Am I the only one who has these doubts constantly battling in my head? It's like my mind wars with my heart/spirit all the time. Is that normal?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Songs on my Heart

These are some songs swirling around in my heart and head right now. Wanted to write them down to get the lyrics out in front of me.

My Eyes Are Dry
My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me

What can be done with an old heart like mine?
Soften it up with oil and wine
The oil is You, Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew, in the wine of Your Blood

Light The Fire
I stand to praise You
But I fall on my knees
My spirit is hungry
But my flesh is so weak

Light the fire (Light the fire)
In my soul (In my weary soul)
Fan the flame (Fan the flame)
Make me whole (Make my spirit whole)
Lord, You know (Lord, You know)
Where I've been (Where I've been)
So light the fire in my heart again

I feel Your arms around me
As the power of Your healing begins
You breathe new life right through me
Like a mighty rushing wind

Create In Me
Create in me a clean heart, O God
And renew a right spirit within me
Create in me a clean heart, O God
And renew a right spirit within me

Cast me not away from Thy presence O Lord
And take not Thy Holy Spirit from me
Restore unto me the joy of my salvation
And renew a right spirit within me

Beginning My Journey

I've chosen to start a new blog for my spiritual journey. I'm hoping it will help to hold me accountable to continuing in my journey. I've chosen the address "pursuing His presence" because that's my goal, I suppose.

When I was younger, and before I made poor choices to walk away from the Lord, I had a passion. I had a zeal for Jesus, an unmistakable joy - one that couldn't be quieted. I FELT the Lord working in my life. I felt the Spirit whispering to me, changing me, guiding me. I talked with God. I feel like I knew Him intimately. I prayed intensely. I sought Him and His direction. I FELT His Presence all around me - in the good times and in the bad.

But then I made the stupid choices to walk away from His love. To pursue unrighteousness and sin. I experimented in lots of different kinds of sin, lots of earthly pleasures. I was away from the Lord for four full years. It started in January of 2001. I discovered that dabbling in sin was a dangerously slippery downhill slope. Once you get started on it, it's VERY difficult to have the strength to turn around and climb back up. I suppose I became "full-blown" in May or June of 2001 - I gave myself over to the worldly things, I guess. Did whatever felt good, didn't go to church, said things I wish I hadn't, did things I still cringe over. I knew the whole time that God was calling me back to Him, but I ignored Him. I knew that even though I surrounded myself with people that were "lifers" and would always be in the lifestyle we were in, that I wouldn't be. I knew that a day would come when I would give myself back over the Lord. But I fought that knowledge intensely and rebelled as much as I could. Looking back, I can see that I BELONGED to the Lord, and that's how I knew that one day I would return to Him.

I finally became broken enough in February of 2005. I had started the journey in about March of so of 2004, but never fully committed to it. I cleaned up a little bit, but when the true tests came, went right back into the sinful lifestyle again. But Praise God for His enduring faithfulness, because He sought me and called me back to Himself. He stripped me of my friends, my soulmate (through faults of my own, I might add), and my habits. He isolated me from everything that had been defining my life so that the only thing I had left was Him. My heart ached. I was utterly alone. Through this loneliness, He began softening my heart. Finally, in February of 2005, I was talking to my soulmate (now husband) again, and he was also re-discovering the Lord after 7 years of being away! Isn't that amazing? We actually made the decision to rededicate our lives to Christ and turn back to the Lord - TOGETHER. It was over the phone one night at like 3am. We both made the decision to cold-turkey quit our lives of sin and "get right" with the Lord. We quit our old ways, we turned away from the sin, we got back into churches. Of course, we're married now - and we wrote our dedication of our marriage to the Lord into our vows. :)

So, here I am now. Our marriage is still dedicated to the Lord. We trust in Him, and He has blessed us so much. We have two beautiful children. We go to church - Calvary Chapel - and have a wonderful "family" there. We keep the "bad" things out of our lives, we plan on homeschooling our kids, we try to walk uprightly and we are teaching our children to pray.

But somewhere along the way - I either lost it or never regained it - my passion disappeared. The ONEness, the peace, the JOY ... all of these things which used to totally encase my heart and soul every day ... these are somehow missing. Maybe not missing entirely, but they aren't available to me in the zealous quantities that they once were. I don't want to be the Christian who just goes to church on Sundays and lives a good, quiet life. I want to be sold-out, passionate, and FULL OF LIFE. Full of the Spirit.

I want to FEEL God's presence in my life again. I haven't felt that stirring inside of me in so long. I desire to have a real, working relationship with the Father again. I desire to know Him intimately and to seek Him. I long for the times when I could be quiet and feel Him speaking to my heart.

Too long has the fire been out. I don't want to be coals anymore, I want the FLAMES!! I want to FEEL God's presence. I used to smile ALL THE TIME because I had so much JOY welling up in my heart that it overflowed to my face. I want that back!

CONFESSION : My prayer life is practically non-existant. I always tell people I'll pray for them but then end up just saying "Oh yeah God, and you know my friend so-and-so needs Your help today, thanks." And that's about it. I hardly ever pick up my Bible while at home. I do manage to make it to church almost every Sunday, but I'm not as involved as I should be. My spiritual life SUCKS. It's dead. Lifeless, passionless, dull. And the sad thing is, I don't even really know where to begin to get it back on track. I feel like I'm so far behind and it's such a big process that it's overwhelming and I'm having a hard time even starting! I'm not sure if I'll ever have the passion of my youth again. Is it just a youthful thing? When you don't have bills/marriage/kids/etc to worry about, is that the only time you can be truly sold-out to the Lord? Is that the only time you can truly FEEL Him in your life? Is that something that mature/older Christians don't experience? I don't want to go through this life being "good" and going to church and reading and praying but still feeling this LIFELESS.

I want the passion back. I'm searching for it. I'm on a quest. I don't know where to start and I'm not sure where I'll end up, but I know what I want. I want to FEEL His presence in my life again. I want to hear Him speak to me. I want to know Jesus Christ intimately once again. I want to feel as though this veil between us is lifted and I am back IN TUNE with Him again. This is my desire. This is my heart. ..... And so I begin .....