If I go to the heavens, you are there; If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
Sometimes life is hell. That's how it feels. It feels like we have taken up residence in hell. Sometimes the darkness overwhelms us. Sometimes we hurt so much that we can't imagine experiencing joy or peace ever again. Sometimes we seem to have 'made our bed ' in a place that God has deserted, a place from which God has turned away.
But the psalmist says 'even if I make my bed in the depths, you are there'. There are no genuinely God-forsaken places on our journey. There are no places unfamiliar to God. It is a difficult and painful journey, but our lines of support are not stretched thin. God is not at a distance. God is with us.
If God is with us, we can travel through those dark times in recovery, those times in hell. If God is with us, we can hold on through the difficult emotional and spiritual roller coaster of recovery.
No matter where I am, Lord
you are with me.
If I am up, today.
You are here.
If I am down.
You are here.
If I am very, very down.
You are still here.
If I am very, very, very, very, very down.
You are here.
Even in the terrible times when I am in the depths, you are there with me.
Your presence is a ray of hope
in the dark times of my recovery.
Copyright Dale and Juanita Ryan
National Association for Christian Recovery
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love may have power . . .to grasp . . . the love of Christ.
We all have root systems. Roots are life-lines. They seek out and drink in water and nutrients. And they provide stability in times of wind and erosion.
Unfortunately, many of us are rooted in the soil of shame. Roots in this rocky soil become bound. They cannot sustain growth. They are not able to provide nourishment or stability.
Recovery for many of us is like being transplanted. It is the process of allowing God to first pull us out of the parched and rocky soil of shame and to then plant us in the soil of love. In the rich soil of love our fragile roots can finally begin to stretch, grow and take hold. It is a soil in which real nourishment and real stability are possible.
But transplantation is not a simple matter. No matter how gently God pulls us up out of the soil of shame, there will be trauma. And sinking roots in new soil will feel like an unfamiliar and risky adventure.
As our roots sink deeper and deeper in the soil of God's love, however, we will begin to experience growth that never could have been possible in the soil of rejection and shame. We will become 'rooted and established' in love.
My roots are in poor soil, Lord.
They do not nourish.
They provide no stability.
My roots are bound, Lord.
Give me grace-full soil, Lord.
Sink my roots deeply.
Give me stability.
In your love.
Copyright Dale and Juanita Ryan
National Association for Christian Recovery
When my daughter was two years old she ran away from home. It wasn’t exactly a pre-meditated fleeing. Truth is, someone (most likely me) left the back fence gate unlatched. So while my wife stepped inside to answer the phone, our little (evil) Yorkshire terrier made a break for it, taking our sweet little toddler as an accomplice on her cross-neighborhood joy-run.
Who knew a two year old with a saggy diaper could run so fast? In less than 60 seconds she was gone. Vanished. Completely out of sight.
A panicked call had me speeding home from the office while a band of concerned neighbors started the hunt. Thankfully, just as I was frantically screeching into our development, relief came. They’d found her (and unfortunately the dog, too) nearly three streets away and just a few yards short of a retention pond, completely oblivious to the chaos her devious curiosity had created.Here’s what I know…
I would have wrestled a bear to find my daughter that day (because, as you know, there is a burgeoning kodiak population here in suburban Indianapolis). Nothing else mattered. Meetings. Deadlines. Obligations. Life paused until she was back home safe where she belonged. We dropped everything to go and find her.
And that’s exactly the way God feels about you and me (but I fear we’re internally wired to think the opposite).
We see it from the very first chapters of the Bible:
“The woman stared at the fruit. It looked beautiful and tasty. She wanted the wisdom that it would give her, and she ate some of the fruit. Her husband was there with her, so she gave some to him, and he ate it too. At once they saw what they had done, and they realized they were naked. Then they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. Late in the afternoon, when the breeze began to blow, the man and woman heard the Lord God walking in the garden. So they hid behind some trees.
The Lord God called out to the man and asked, “Where are you?”
When Adam & Eve sinned, they were the ones that covered up. They were the ones that ran and hid. God came looking for them.
And He’s been pursuing us ever since.
You see, we instinctively think we have to clean things up. That we’re the ones who right the wrongs. That we’re the ones who must do the work to fill the gap between our sinful selves and a holy God. That we’re the ones who have to pay the price. That we’re the ones sentenced to go looking for a God who has hidden Himself from our ugly screw-ups.
But let me remind you, Holiness came looking for sinfulness. Jesus chased you all the way to a cross. Not to destroy you, but to redeem you. And then to empower you, transform you, and call you to something greater.
He’s looking for you. Right where you’re at. No matter where you’re at. It’s time to stop hiding and let yourself to be found.
This post was written by Erik Cooper. For the original post, go to: http://beyondtherisk.com/2013/04/10/i-would-wrestle-a-bear/BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
"Now, the whole thought in prayer is to get the will of God like that done in our lives and upon this old earth. The greatest prayer any one can offer is,
"Thy will be done." It will be offered
in a thousand different forms, with a thousand details, as needs arise daily.
But every true prayer comes under those four words. There is not a good desirable thing that you have thought of that He has not thought of first, and probably with an added touch not in your thought. Not to grit your teeth and lock your jaw and pray for grace to say, "Thy will be endured: it is bitter, but I must be resigned; that is a Christian grace; Thy will be endured." Not that please. Do not slander God like that.
There is a superficial idea among men that charges God with many misfortunes and ills for which He is not at all responsible. He is continually doing the very best that can be done under the circumstances [that He designed] for the best results. He has a bad mixture of stubborn warped human wills to deal with. With infinite patience and skills and diplomacy and success too, He is ever working at the tangled skein of human life, through the human will. (pg 202)"
To read more about prayer, go to the book, Quiet Talks on Prayer by S.D. Gordon
BE A MAN.
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Many of us find it very difficult to feel confident in intimate relationships. If we learned early in life that the people most important to us were unapproachable, then confidently approaching others as adults may be difficult. There are many ways to learn that approaching other people is dangerous. It can come from abuse, or criticism, or disinterest.
One result of experiences of this kind is that we find it difficult to be confident when we approach God. This is particularly true when we are feeling fragile, weak or needy. The last thing we expect is mercy and grace in our time of need. We expect to be criticized. We expect God to say 'why are you still so needy?'. We expect to be abandoned. We expect God to say 'I'm busy now.' We expect to be rejected. We expect God to say 'If only you had more faith or prayed more or read the Bible more or trusted me more.' With expectations like this, it is no surprise that we lack confidence when approaching God.
But God offers us an invitation we long to hear. He invites us to approach. And, God invites us to come with confidence. God will pay attention. God will hear us. God will be interested in our well-being. God will respond with mercy, grace and help.
I don't have much confidence, Lord.
I don't trust other people very much .
I don't trust you very much.
I don't expect mercy and grace
from anybody, especially in times when I'm this needy.
I expect criticism, abandonment, and rejection.
Thank you for inviting me to come to you.
Thank you for providing good reasons to have confidence in you.
You are full of mercy and grace.
This is a time of need for me, Lord.
Give me confidence to approach you today.
I need your mercy and grace.
Copyright Dale and Juanita RyanNational Association for Christian Recovery
There have been a few times when I have been so angry, that I felt like slugging someone...
Let me set this up for you. The church that I attended would put on a terrific Easter Musical every year. It was a great production and much of the community would go. It was quite popular. I enjoyed being part of it.
I was at a fast food establishment and I overheard a conversation that I wish I had never heard. Two young men were talking about the Easter Musical. Since I was in the production, I listened intentionally. Then they started talking to each other about how to pick up girls. I heard the usual stupid man advice about showing off, flexing your muscles, driving a fast car, flattering, flirting, etc.
However, what I heard next was REALLY DISGUSTING.
I wish I hadn't been eavesdropping.
One young man said, "I take girls to that Easter Musical that's going on right now. I cry when Jesus is on the cross and they get all emotional. Then, when I get them home, they are like putty in my hands. I can do anything I want and they never say no." He continued, "If I can't get a girl to go with me, I will hang out afterwards and talk to the girls that have been crying. It's pretty easy to pick one up when they're like that." It made my blood boil. I wanted to slug the guy or say something but I was so angry and in such shock, I just sat there in disbelief.
Did you catch what was DISGUSTING about that conversation? God talks about this. He says, "They commit adultery with their eyes, and their desire for sin is never satisfied. They lure unstable people into sin..."
Why is this disgusting?
Did you catch what this young man said? He took the most wonderful and supreme act of love and perverted it for his own selfish, sinful advantage. And not only that, he took others with him.
Do you find that disgusting?
I have talked about several disgusting things on this blog. What makes this the most disgusting thing I have ever heard?
Do you understand the gravity of this young man's statements?
It is downright disgusting to use something that is holy for sin. To defile God's holiness with sin is a major affront to God. This conversation gave me a whole different perspective on God's Holiness and what it means to be a man.
A real man takes God's Holiness seriously. That doesn't mean that a real man can't have fun and can't make light of some things that happen, even in a church. But a real man knows better than to defile God with sin. God and sin can NEVER be connected, even the slightest connection is abhorrent to God.
Do you defile God's Holiness? Do you take Him seriously?
God says we are to be holy in all we do. Never connect God to sin.
BE A MAN.
Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction
When Dr Oord asked me to review this book, I was in a bit of a quandary. Why would a theologian want my opinion about his newest book? Theology is just a hobby of mine, like my interest in cultural anthropology. I think maybe because I had written him about I much I enjoyed his earlier book, Relational Holiness and have engaged in online discussions with him, he must have thought I would have something interesting to say.
Being a counselor educator by profession, I am frequently evaluating the writings of my students, the research pertaining to my field and am trying to incorporate my hobbies into my professional life, looking for overlap. This book did bring together my profession and my hobbies.
I was glad to write this short review. I am new to the field of Relational Theology. Hopefully without being offensive, I would retitle the book, Relational Theology for Dummies. I don’t say that because I think that the book is not worthy of reading, I say it because it is a perfect book for someone like me: someone who is not a professional theologian, but someone who wants to understand the Relational branch of Christian theology in a simple format
This is a very easy read and covers many different areas of Relational Theology. It contains 31 chapters that are short and heavily edited. These chapters are grouped into four sections: 1) Doctrines of Theology in Relational Perspective, 2) Biblical Witness in Relational Perspective, 3) The Christian Life in Relational Perspective, and 4) Ethics and Justice in Relational Perspective. There were several contributors I recognized and even some with whom I have been personally acquainted: Callen, Oord, Lodahl, Flood, Winslow, Thompson, Peterson, Leclerc, Salguero, Mann and many others.
To give you a flavor of the book, I’ll share with you some of my favorites sections:
- “God is understood to be truly personal, loving, and not manipulative (7).”
- “God’s grace works powerfully, but not irresistibly, in matters of human life and salvation. God empowers our “response-ability” without overriding our genuine responsibility (8).”
- “God created humanity to be in responsible relationship with Him, and to find its identity – the “image of God” – in relationship. Yet humanity sought to become independent of its Creator and claim self-sufficiency (15).”
- “God is love, and if we truly live in relationship with God, we will live in love with others and all creation (16).”
- “When we explore relationship through the notions of love and trust, we see that faith and relationship become inseparable (34).”
- “A relational interpretation of the Christian faith proceeds on the assumption that God has created us human beings to be loved and to love … sin is a term that may be identified with any falling short of God’s ideal for us: a life of love (37).”
- “Through intimate union with God in Christ in a living personal relationship, we are transformed into His likeness. We do not merely follow His example. Rather, we become Christlike through abiding in Christ, through living in God (41).”
- “To read Scripture as the Church means that we read with God and with one another. We listen to what God calls of us as the people of God. We also listen to one another, as we discern what that call might even mean for us, at this time and in this place (60).”
- “Prayer is waking up to the presence of God (67).”
- “Too many of us function like atheists when it comes to prayer. We claim belief in God, but we do not act on it (68).”
- “God not only created us for relationship, God also seeks to restore and strengthen that relationship when strained (81).”
- “Love is at the heart of ethics (89).”
- “God is love. Love attempts to care for all people. Love considers how power affects the lives of people (94).”
- “Holiness only exists in it expression, which is love (102).”
- “God has freely created all that is … creatures are free because they have been created by God to reflect and embody God’s loving freedom (108).”
- “Obedience, which reflects love and gratitude, cannot be forced, because the nature of love requires freedom to obey (112).”
- “When freedom to obey means freedom to disobey, the relational God pursues the exiles from Eden. God reminds them they could choose restoration and peace (112).”
- “All creation is interrelated and creation is ongoing. God is both Creator at the beginning and continues to create today (114).”
This book is an exciting compilation of the best of today’s Relational Theologians that quickly became very meaningful to me as I ponder my relationship with God. I could easily have quoted many more sections of this book and would heartily recommend that you read it as well.
One of the things that I like about this book is also its biggest weakness. This book is edited so that the chapters are short, less than four pages. That made it easy for an armchair theologian like myself who needs time to digest concepts and not feel overwhelmed in jargon. However the short chapters, in an attempt to explain concepts, at times seemed a bit disjointed, jumping from one concept to another within the same chapter, reading a bit choppy.
One suggestion for the reprint as I’m sure that this book will become popular: I would suggest that each chapter reference the author's recommended bibliography. This would help the reader follow-up in more detail the chapters that interest him/her more.
My grateful thanks is extended to Dr Oord for providing me with a copy of this book. I would recommend you purchase this book if you desire a cursory overview of Relational Theology. It is the first serving of a theological meal that won’t completely whet your appetite but leave you hungry for a bigger helping.BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
A Manchineri believer in Brazil, Genesio, recently told missionary Peter Rich, how ice cubes led to his salvation.
“I used to think that only people that preached God’s Word were able to have ice cubes. I didn’t know what they were. One day I asked my mother, ‘What are those hard things that missionaries have in their cups?’ ‘Son, she replied, ‘That’s just something other people do.
“But I was still curious so I asked Peter, What are those things in your cup? He told me that it was water made hard with cold. I knew he was lying to me. I went home and said to my mother, ‘I think Peter is lying to us. He said those hard things were just water. I know that’s not true.’
“Then one day after we had finished some work we were doing for the missionaries, Peter gave me some water with those hard things in it. I drank the water and asked if I could take the hard things home with me. Peter gave me some water with the hard things in it. I ran home as fast as I could and asked for a bowl to put them in. My mother and brothers and I poked them with our fingers and wondered what they could be. Around midnight we noticed that they were turning into something like water. What could it be?
“Later I was watching when Peter was filling a little tray with water. He said he was going to put them in that box they call a refrigerator and by the next day the water would turn hard. Peter said, ‘Come back tomorrow and I’ll show it to you.’
“The next day I went back and the water was hard. Peter showed me the back of the box and explained that the process that made heat which made the water get hard.
“Not long afterwards I was talking with my brother Tshiko. He was telling me that he didn’t believe the things that the missionary was teaching. I told Tshiko that I also did not believe at first but after seeing how a box made by mere men could take water and transform it into hard rocks I now believed that a God who created all things could surely transform the soul of a wicked person into His image.
“From that time on I looked forward to the meetings because I wanted to learn all I could about this God. I never had any trouble listening from then on. Now I know the true God.”
Genesio along with several other Manchineri believers continues to help Peter translate the Scriptures into the Manchinere language.
Pray that Peter Rich and his co-workers, Genesio and his brother Raimundo, will clearly and accurately translate God’s Word into Manchineri.
This post was written by D McMaster. You can find the original post here: http://usa.ntm.org/mission-news/52278/the-testimony-of-the-ice-cube
BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
"How do I know when it's God talking to me or the devil?" This is a question that I get quite a bit in my correspondence and conversations with people.
I have met different people who discern God's will or God's voice in curious ways:
- One person told me that the plant on his microwave will blow in a certain direction that tells him the next thing he thinks/hears is God talking to him.
- Another person told me that when he spends time in prayer, he has the window open. If the curtains blow out, the answer from God is yes. If the curtains suck into the window, the answer from God is no.
- Yet, another person told me that when he prays, he stands as still and as upright as he can and while he's praying about a decision, if he leans to the right, the answer is no. If he leans to the right, the answer is yes.
- I have also had people (who were not psychotic) tell me that God tells them answers thru the people talking on the television.
- Another individual told me that he looks for signs. For example, he was contemplating whether to take a job in Wyoming and he saw someone wearing a Wyoming shirt shortly after praying. He wondered if that was God leading.
Jesus had a little something to say about this. He says that wicked and adulterous people are always looking for a sign.
It seems to me that much of what Christians call discerning God's voice amounts to not much more than folk religion. Folk religion is unreflective religious beliefs based largely upon feeings, cliches, devotional literature and "evangelegends."
Folk religion is not God honoring. In my discussions with those five people above, I can assure you that they came up with some pretty goofy ideas about what God was saying. God is clear, He says if anyone lacks wisdom, we just need to ask Him.
As Christians, we now have the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit. We no longer need to consult the urim and thummim.
Nor do we need to cast lots
to make decisions.
However, if you read my post yesterday, I wrote about how the devil tries to remind of our sins and failures. How, do we know when its the devil is giving us a hard time or God's Holy Spirit convicting us of something that needs to change?
The answer is simple. The devil hates you. God loves you. Once you get that concept firmly in your mind, discerning which voice is which becomes less problematic.
Now, I'm not saying that we have the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. I'm not wanting this to be caricatured.
My experience is often it is not the devil speaking to me but it is my own sinfulness getting in the way. My own sin nature speaks to me.
Nevertheless, if you hear a thought that says, "you know, you really are a pathetic excuse for a Christian. You are such a hypocrite, you are so selfish."
Does that sound like a hateful thought or a loving thought? I can tell you that thought either came from your own sinfulness or the devil (or maybe even both). Do you see what that thought does? It cuts you down at the very core of your being it attacks you as a child of God. It's like being blasted with a shotgun.
Now, let's say you hear a thought that says, "you know, you just spoke about how you didn't like that style of worship. Did you consider that worship can take many forms? You need to apologize for what you just said."
Does that sound like a hateful thought or a loving thought? Do you see what that thought does? It is clear and concise. It doesn't attack you as a child of God. It's like a single bullet shot right into your pride.
So, are you seeing the difference? When you have a thought and it feels like you have been blasted with a shotgun, that the thought was so diffuse, you can bet that it's not from God...
God's Holy Spirit is a sniper. He shoots clean and hits his target.
There is no collateral damage.
When the devil speaks, its to entice you away from God. To destroy how you view yourself before God.
When God speaks to you, it's to attract you to Him.
Paul's words ring true when discerning the voice of God, "Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
We are not very understanding or tolerant of our limitations. We forget how we are 'formed'. Instead of accepting our creatureliness as a good gift from God, we often find ourselves being harshly judgmental and unforgiving of ourselves. This lack of compassion can lead to self-abusive and self-neglectful behaviors. When we forget how we are formed, we can forget to take care of such creaturely basics as sleep, decent food and relaxation.
Fortunately, God does not forget how we are formed. God remembers. God knows we have limitations. God remembers that we are 'dust'. Because we are so intolerant of our limits, it is important to emphasize that the metaphor 'dust' in this text does not imply worthless. It is not that God remembers how worthless we are - just dust to be sweep up and thrown away . Quite to the contrary, God remembers our weakness and limitations and has compassion on us. Again, because we are so intolerant of our limits, it is also probably important to emphasize that 'compassion' is not 'pity'. God does not pity us poor, pathetic, helpless mortals. Quite to the contrary, God's compassion is the tender, loving care of a good parent towards a child.
God knows and respects our limitations. They are not a surprise to God. God is our Creator. God remembers what we tend to forget. God remembers that we are creatures.
Thank you, Lord, for remembering what I forget.
You remember that I am human,
that I need to sleep,
that I need to play,
that I have limited strength and ability.
Thank you for having reasonable expectations of me.
Thank you for understanding my limits.
Help me to be compassionate with my humanness
Even as you, Lord,
are compassionate toward me. Amen.
Copyright Dale and Juanita RyanNational Association for Christian Recovery