Friday, February 3, 2012

The Battle Rages On

I find great comfort in the writings of Paul the apostle. Although I associate better with Peter, typically (he's so limber like me- always putting his foot in his mouth) the writer in Paul connects to my spirit. Romans chapter 7, in particular, gives me hope and encouragement.

I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Romans 7:21-24

And the fact that Paul prayed three times for God to remove some undefined "thorn is his flesh to which God's reply was: "NO." He assured Paul His grace was sufficient.

I reposted on my Facebook today a blog from November of 2009. It was about anxiety, and the constant battle I have had with is since 2004. Here we are in 2012 and it is still a nemesis. It's, perhaps not as powerful as it used to be. I am certainly able to call it out and recognize it for what it is, which in reality is a HUGE first step in the battle. (Think of little David calling out big old Goliath as the "uncircumcised Philistine," who had no shot against the him with the Living God on his side.)

But there is something disheartening in the fact that the battle keeps coming back around, a little different, and yet somewhat the same. And for me, I see this with many of my "constant battles." They seem chronic. So when I read Paul's words, the man God chose to use more than possibly any other person ever on the planet, it gives me hope. Because what I understand from my reading here, is that it's not so much the battle that I define that's chronic, but it is the battle that is "the flesh," that is lifelong.

Today in the news there is talk about the fact that Josh Hamilton, MLB outfielder for the Texas Rangers has been seen drinking in bars. I've read Josh's book, and seen his I Am Second video, and the man has had a radical experience with Christ, and been blessed tremendously, and yet, his battle rages on too. You can click on the link of his video and hear him say for himself, HE KNOWS BETTER, and he knows that just one drink is a slippery slope for him toward decisions that could end his career. The first line in the video says in effect, "drugs and alcohol, I never used one without the other," so for him, just a beer in a bar is NOT, "no big deal."

When I told my kids this morning about Josh so we could pray for him, my Jake's response was "He should go watch his 'I Am Second video'," and Jake was right, he needs to remember where he has come from, and be reminded this is a battle he cannot fight on his own. I imagine he too would appreciate Paul's words above. I just hope his desire match's Paul's as well, and that whatever caused him to drink on Monday, he wants Christ more.

Josh makes reference to a particular scripture in his video that is appropriate for any of us to remember as we struggle and fight our own personal battles "of the flesh." Whether it is an issue of alcohol and drug abuse like Josh Hamilton, or something considered more benign like food, or something emotional like anxiety or anger, it's important to recall that we have an enemy of our souls who is studying our weaknesses with one purpose, to destroy us. If he cannot destroy our lives or our salvation, he will find some satisfaction is destroying our witness to the world around us.

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
James 4:7

Sometimes in our minds,I think, we think of "resistance" as some sort of defense mechanism. I can picture someone backed in a corner slapping or striking at someone coming at them. But I don't think this is the kind of resistance referenced here. I think it's far more proactive. It's a pushing back, started perhaps even before the attack begins. And it's done in submission to God, which to me speaks of abiding, praying, meditating on God's word. I know Josh Hamilton has had many "safety nets" in place since his sobriety (though this is his 2nd public slip) and I know recently his accountability partner moved away and the position not yet refilled. It speaks volumes about how we cannot get comfortable in the "status quo" of things when they seem to be going well. The bible describes Satan as a lion prowling about- waiting to pounce. And I suspect it's that moment that we relax in confidence, like Josh thinking, "One drink won't hurt," that the enemy comes out claws drawn.

I know for me the anxiety always comes first thing in the morning because I am in that sleepy unfocused state. To battle it back I have to engage immediately with the Word and use it to resist the sense of fear that tries to overwhelm me.

The battle rages on. Diligence is required in this Walk of Faith, because if we are not focused, we risk falter. And in that moment that we do, the enemy is ready to capitalize. Not for a moment should we ever consider ourselves to have "arrived" to a place where we can get by in the battles of life. If we don't keep the constant mindset that we are in battle, we will never find the victory God has called us to. And most important of all is to remember that that victory is never of our own doing, but is always in our relationship with Christ.

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.
And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
Who is he who overcomes the world,
but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

1 John 5:4-5

Stand firm, be diligent, resist your enemy- fight the good fight submitted to the Lord, and say a prayer for Josh Hamilton that the Spirit of God would rise up in him and help him do the same, in Jesus' name!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Skiing the Mount - Micah 6:8

Sometimes I wish there was a "red phone" like I remember in old cartoons and movies, where if it rang, it meant it was "THE" call you had been waiting for, the answer you needed. But there is no red phone on the path of this walk of faith, because by definition faith has an element of the unknown. Believing in what we SEE isn't faith at all. It's the confidence in the unseen that is what our faith is made of.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

My journals are full of questions, me asking the Lord for answers and direction. Last year I found myself asking the Lord over and over what He wanted from me, what He required of me, and over and over again, the same scripture would come into my mind. It's probably written in last year's journals at least two dozen times:

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

So simple and yet so challenging. They're all twisted together. And though simply stated, they are not the easiest commands to walk out.

Doing justly is perhaps, in a way, the step I struggle the least with. I see the world in a very black and white way, right is right and wrong is wrong. I think "shades of gray" are over stated. But there in my "doing justly" I have already begun to stumble in both "loving mercy" and "walking humbly." Because when you are "doing right," or perhaps I should say when I am "doing right," I look around and think to myself how that ought to be the case for everyone else as well. And I even begin to look highly on myself for my doing, and the walking with humility has gone completely by the way side. I've slipped down the slope already.

I was reading Romans 14 the other day, and I had an a-ha moment:

So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. Do not tear down God’s work because of food. Everything is clean, but it is wrong for a man to cause stumbling by what he eats. It is a noble thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother stumble. Do you have a conviction? Keep it to yourself before God. The man who does not condemn himself by what he approves is blessed. But whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from a conviction,and everything that is not from a conviction is sin.
Romans 14:19-23

There's a truth here about doing justly. I can only define with certainty what "doing justly" means for myself, I cannot not be certain of what it means for another. But if God places a conviction in my heart, then I must be obedient to it, if I do not, then I am guilty of sin.

Now mind you, I am NOT expanding shades of gray. Much of life is STILL very black and white. Sin IS sin, even if not all conviction is conviction. For example, my husband and I don't drink alcohol, at all, ever. It's our conviction that drinking alcohol is wrong. For us it is. But we know many other Christians who do not hold our conviction. They like a bottle of wine with dinner, or a beer after work, not drinking is not their conviction. It doesn't make us better Christians (which is actually impossible to be.) Drinking may be defined by conviction, but getting drunk on the other hand is not. The Bible states VERY clearly, DO NOT GET DRUNK. So getting drunk is a sin for all.

I also find myself often struggling with mercy. I like to see people get what they deserve. Yes, I said it. I am a "justice minded" person, and when I see someone continuing in sin. If I found out (hypothetically) that someone who was getting drunk regularly was going to jail for drunk and disorderly or for a DUI, mercy would not be my first inclination, my thought would be "Well, GOOD. Now perhaps they will wake up/ wise up/ sober up and make better choices." That isn't merciful. And I would struggle with the situation if someone got off with a slap on the hand or a warning, I would not find myself loving mercy. But God says I should. And again, when I don't, I am NOT walking humbly with my God.

I am a work in process (as we all are,) and I am trying so hard to find the manner in which to walk this Truth out. Recently the Lord reminded me that if there is mercy for me, there must be mercy for all. When I demand justice, I make myself subject to it as well. If I want others to get "exactly what they deserve" when they wrong me, or someone I love, I have to ask myself, "am I willing to get exactly what I deserve?" Or would I prefer to live under the grace and mercy that I've personally traded for justice. If it's good for me, it has to be good for others as well.

This scripture, like so many is simply stated. It's beautiful and clear and its purpose is evident. It's like strapping on a set of skis. I look at them, I know how they work, I have seen others ski and I mentally "get" what I need to do, but when I put the, on for myself I stumble, struggle, fall down and fail. It is awkward and difficult. There is nothing "natural" about it. So what do you do? You keep getting up, and doing it over again and again and again, until what you mentally understand that you need to do becomes natural to do. It won't be perfect, there will always be falls, and you have to watch out for the obstacles and terrain that make it more difficult, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

That's where I am, trying to learn how to ski this simple mountain, that really isn't so simple at all. Mount Micah - here I come... again. Maybe I won't fall down so many times today.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

100 Verses - Week 21

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, so that you are able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:13

Join the Challenge.

Based on the book 100 Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart by Robert J. Morgan