Realizations

Philosophy in the Middle of the Desert

The Paralysis of Analysis November 29, 2012

Filed under: Christianity/Theology/Spirituality — milesprowers @ 12:26 am
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[Written on 112812- while on a spiritual high after seeing Shane Claiborne speak, and then having an extended time of devotion/meditation]

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” ~Heb 12:2

The Christian life is a race.  In a race you can’t think about how weak you feel, how tired you are, but you ignore those thoughts and just keep running.  Otherwise you start to dwell on them and then think how to soothe the pain: “just slow down a little, you can still win, or maybe you can go all out to win a later race.”  No, this is the only race we have to run.

Likewise, don’t even entertain negative/depressing/pessimistic thoughts, because once you allow them in, you inevitably start to dwell on them and then on how to soothe them, aside from God.  When in reality God is what you need to soothe them.  And He will soothe them if you give them to him.

Negative thoughts are never from God.  Why would he ever have reason to put a negative thought in your mind?  What good does it do?  Does it increase your faith?  Make you more in love with Him or others?  Make you more likely to share the gospel or serve?
No.  Never.  Negative thoughts are always from the enemy.

Some argue that they aren’t pessimistic, they’re just being realistic. “I’m a realist.”  But since when does God want us to be “realistic”?  Is the Holy Spirit’s intervention in our lives realistic?  Is the supernatural realistic?  No.  God has told us to hope beyond hope (Rom. 4:18).  Have hope even when it doesn’t make sense, doesn’t seem realistic.  After all, we really do have something to hope in that should trump all our current circumstances (salvation from sin/judgement, God’s presence and bliss in Heaven, the love and peace of God, the promise that all things work for our good).

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.”  ~1 Cor. 13:13

This is what you’re supposed to believe is realistic:  that you have to do it yourself, you’re helpless, God won’t supernaturally intervene for you, he won’t give you a supernatural filling of peace, you’re left on your own to fight for your whole life trying to survive (finding happiness, not in God but in food and entertainment and your job and comfort).  But is that really more realistic?  Of course not.  But the enemy plants the thought in your mind and once you entertain it, your emotions embrace it.

And yet this kind of thinking directly contradicts Jesus’ whole attitude on Earth, who said: “Do not be afraid anymore, only believe.” ~Mark 5:36, Luke 8:50

Just stop the introspection and live!  Just keep running!
Believe that God is good and really does love you!  Believe that He will actually keep the promises He made to you in the Bible.  Believe that if you resist the devil he WILL flee from you.  Just try it and see that it actually does work.  It gets easier each time, and the first time’s always the hardest.

When that little man in your head starts nagging again just tell him that you aren’t listening today, and keep running the race.  If he starts up again later, then tell him again and ignore him again.  Who is he anyways that you should believe him instead of God?  Instead of listening to him, listen to God.  Embrace the love, peace, truth and goodness of the things of God which he wants you to embrace.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ,set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” ~ Col. 3:1-2

Look up, not down.

Be others-focused, not self-focused.
(But don’t become judgmental towards others as you focus on them, be judgmental of your own sin first.)
Be others-serving, not self-serving.

You can’t change others, so don’t try to change others.  Only God can change them, so ask God to change them.  And leave the ball in His court.  Or does He not truly care for them more than even you do?

Ask that God would create a time of silence in their lives when they can hear Him clearly, hear what He wants to say to them, and ask that He Himself changes them, according to His will, in His timing.  That’s if they even do need to be changed the way you think they do.

Don’t criticize others; encourage them.

If you’re convicted about an area of their life, judge yourself in that area first.  And then let God change them.  If they’re to be changed by you at all, let it be by your love and their own love for God, and His spirit drawing them, convicting them so that they change by their own choice, by the Spirit’s enabling.

And remember that while the Christian life is a race, it’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon.

Think only good things all the time.

🙂

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The Greatest Possible Sacrifice January 28, 2012

Filed under: Christianity/Theology/Spirituality — milesprowers @ 10:18 am
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[As written on 1/17-18/12, edited 012812]

“The universe is so vast and so ageless that the life of one man can only be justified by the measure of his sacrifice.” ~ RAF Flying Officer Vivian Rosewarne, shot down on 31 May 1940

All this talk of sacrifices…but I don’t sacrifice. Not really. If I did I would be out of my comfort zone, doing things I don’t want to do. As it is, I sacrifice…in my comfort zone. I sacrifice my time (not wasting time with insignificant things that don’t edify me or others), talent (use my strengths and skills to bring others closer to God), treasure (only buy what is necessary and give the rest to the ministry), body (rebel against the lusts of my flesh) and relationships (don’t let anyone become more of a priority over God, or get in the way of my calling). I sacrifice it to make the biggest impact I can possibly make…..and yet still manage to achieve my own desires, interests, and dreams. Still somehow keep my hands from getting dirty.
A wise man once said “If I even sacrifice my body to the flames, but have not love, I am nothing.” Equally in my case, if I rock the world to its core, but have not love… I am nothing.

I sacrifice my time, talent and treasure to use it for things other than indulging my selfish desires, but even then I’m using them to do something I enjoy doing. So then, is that really sacrifice? Is it that much of a sacrifice to choose not to indulge in fleshly stimulation at all times? I put all my time, talent, and treasure towards a ministry, but it’s a ministry I enjoy doing. So is it really sacrifice?
It’s easy to sacrifice physical things within your comfort zone that you have easy access to like money and food; what’s hard to sacrifice is the intangible, things like your embarrassment and weaknesses. Standing up to defend Jesus’ name or Christianity. Making that first embarrassing detour in the conversation to culturally-awkward topics like religion. Amidst your jam-packed schedule to ask someone if they need help with something or engaging them in conversation. On your day off to look for ways to serve others. Or forcing yourself to smile. Or giving up your spiritual gifts to serve in the area which happens to need the most help right in front of you, as awkward as it is. Or even physical things like fatigue and pain. These are the hindrances of true sacrifice.

Who really does sacrifice then?
The first thing that pops up in my mind when I think of total sacrifice, or the ultimate surrender to God, is the missionary. Surely a missionary who leaves behind all luxury and family and cultural comfort behind to pursue the selfless goal of fulfilling God’s neglected command to preach the Gospel to those most desperate for it. Yet what missionary doesn’t enjoy what he does? What missionary doesn’t feel the unparalleled, divine joy that comes from joining the ranks of the apostles in being obedient to God’s greatest command and fulfilling their meaning of life? Are there really missionaries out there writhing in misery right now, guilt-tripped into the mission field, and merely riding on the fumes of conviction to keep them going? If so, I’ve never heard of them, even if their missionary journey doesn’t bare evident fruit.

Perhaps we should let the missionaries speak for themselves. What would the most sacrificial of missionaries say on the subject? Fortunately for this essay’s sake, one of the most famous missionaries was asked about his sacrifice. To which Dr. David Livingstone replied:
People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. . . . Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.

Wow. I’m reminded of the passage that “coincidentally” came up today as I’m in the process of reading through the whole Bible chronologically. Luke 17: 7: “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? 9 He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? 10 So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”

So what then is the ultimate sacrifice?
100% sacrifice would be something like voluntarily going to jail or dying for no cause, where you can’t enjoy anything, nor do anything good which might bring you joy. That’s the ultimate sacrifice. And also that which God abhors.

As it turns out, “sacrifice” in reality is a relative term that requires a balance to be useful, much like the rest of Christianity. For if you truly sacrificed everything you possibly could, you wouldn’t be doing any good. God has called us all to be living sacrifices and yet I believe that in fulfilling that divine charge of making the greatest impact you can possibly make you will experience the greatest possible joy.

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