Friday, February 21, 2014

Time Out! Get Still, Get Quiet...Listen. (Part 4)

Okay, so after some prayer and consideration I think this is the last lesson I'm going to be sharing from that particular retreat I went on a couple weeks ago.  However, I'm sure that there will be more (hopefully shorter) things to share in the near future and I look forward to seeing what God is working on.  He is always working on something and working in our lives and I can't wait to write about it.  Meanwhile, lets dive right into it!

By the way, if you missed the any of the previous posts they can be found at: Time Out! Get Still, Get Quiet...Listen.

LESSON 6: Whatever You Desire the Most is Likely What God is Going to Ask You To Trust Him With the Most.
     What do you want more than anything else in the world?  I'm not talking about something from a Christmas list, I am talking about that thing brings you to your knees before God.  I'm talking about the one desire (other than God Himself of course, for those of you who need it to be specified) that seems to be the missing piece to your life.  That one thing that you have not achieved or that one thing that burdens you so strongly that you can't seem to find peace without it.  I am talking about the thing that can sometimes even cause us to turn from God and do it ourselves.  For some people its a job; for others it's a spouse, or kids, or friends, or a house, or a repaired relationship, or healing of some sort, or  maybe an educational opportunity.  Sometimes, more than one of these can be applicable.  It can go on for so long that no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try and no matter how much you work for it, things just don't seem to work out.  What if... just what if... God is asking you to trust Him with it?  I mean, really, truly trust Him with it.  I want you to pause for just a minute and think about that thing in your life you want the most.  Get it in your mind and keep it there, then read on ahead as we go to the book of Genesis to take a look at one of my favorite stories in the whole Bible.
Genesis 15 begins:
     After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:  “Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.”  But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?”  And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”  Then the word of the Lord came to him:“This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.”  He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring  be.”  Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.  He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”  But Abram said, “Sovereign  Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it? So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”” 
     God then makes a promise to Abram (later renamed Abraham) and even goes so far as to go through the covenant ceremony with him.  Now there is a ton in this chapter that we can learn from, but I am going to let you read the rest of it on your own if you want to dive in further.  I will, however, explain the basics of the covenant ceremony.  When two people would make a covenant or a business agreement, they would take animals, cut them in half (unless they were too small as was the case with the birds) and arrange the halves opposite one another to create a gruesome aisle.  The two parties would walk down this path between the animal pieces as a way of saying "If I don't hold up my end of the promise, may what happened to these animals happen to me".  It's kind of a big deal when something like this happened and God just entered into a covenant with Abram.  Now when I went and read closely, I noticed for the first time just what God was entering a covenant about.
     Abram and his wife were quite wealthy, were quite well known, and highly respected even among the kings of the region and even though they were sorta nomads, they had everything they needed for a good life in the wilderness.  What they didn't have, however, was an heir; they didn't have a son.  After reading Abram's whole story, considering where he was in life, what he had, what he valued, I would go ahead and speculate that what Abram and his wife wanted more than anything else was a son.  They wanted a child more than anything else and I believe that Abram would have traded most anything they had for one.  Have you ever been to that point?  Have you ever gotten to the point where you prayed: "God, I would trade almost all these blessings you have given me for this one thing".  I think Abram wanted a son THAT badly.  But if you look closely, it says that when God told Abram that he would have a son "Abram believed The Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness"  It wasn't the child that Abram asked God to confirm, it was the promise of the land that Abram asked God to confirm.  The land mattered to Abram, sure, but probably not nearly as much as the child.

     I am going to start speculating here, so take what I am about to say with a grain of salt.  I think God loved the fact that Abram trusted Him with the thing that mattered most to him.  Abram didn't ask God to prove to him that He would give him a son, He took God at His word.  What if God offered the covenant ceremony to Abram because Abram trusted God with what mattered most to him.  What if God gave Abram exactly what he asked for, what he wanted most, because Abram had faith that God would come through for him for his greatest desire.

     More speculation here: God wants us to trust Him with what we want most because it'll be just that much harder to make an idol out of something that we are having to completely trust God for.

    Next speculation: Why God was so willing to answer Abram's prayers:

"Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness." Genesis 15:6

So what?

  • "The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous." Proverbs 15:29

  • "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." James 5:16b

I'm just going to leave that one with just the verses and let you figure it out.  As I've said before... you're smart so I'm sure you'll be able to pick up on it.

Okay, so do you still have that thing in your mind from earlier?  That's okay, take a second to get it back.  Think of that thing that you want more than anything else in the world, that thing that would be the biggest answer to prayer ever.  Got it back?  Good.  Now, give it to God.  Tell Him that you are trusting Him with it.  Tell God that if it's going to happen it's because HE is going to make it happen.  Now, let go. Let go and let God work on it.  He'll give you exactly what He knows you need and when you trust Him, when you have faith.  How can we know that God will hear your prayer?  Remember the verses from just a minute ago?  Add this one to the mix:

"This righteousness is given through faith in  Jesus Christ to all who believe." Romans 3:22

We have been made righteous because Jesus made us righteous.  Trust in Him for your eternity, but trust in Him for other things too. God wants you to trust Him.  God wants to bless you, but He wants you to trust Him for those blessings.  Go ahead and give it a shot but remember that God knows what's best, and He loves you very much.

-The Sailing Preacher

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Time Out! Get Still, Get Quiet... Listen. (Part 3)

    There are certain themes that always seem to accompany God, and "Faith" is one of the biggest.  It wasn't until this weekend that I really took a lot of time to make a connection between faith and living a life with God.  I'm only gonna share this one lesson, but this one is gonna be a bit long so please bear with me.  It's a really really deep topic that God taught me a lot about that I am only going to be able to begin to scratch the surface of, but I am going to try and make it worth your while to stick it out and read all the way through.

LESSON 5: God Will Never Stop Growing Your Faith

     Now a man named Lazarus was sick.  So his sisters went to Jesus and said "Lord, the one you love is sick."  When He heard this he said "This sickness will not end in death.  No, it's for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it."  They stayed where they were for two more days, then He told His disciples that they were going to go to Judea.  His disciples questioned Him about going and after responding to them, He added "Oh yeah, our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I'm going there to wake him up. The disciples began giving Jesus medical advice: "But Lord, if he sleeps, he'll get better!"  But Jesus wasn't actually talking about sleep.  He tells them "Lazarus is dead..." then proceeds to say one of the most insensitive things but also something that for me that has opened my eyes to a crazy new level of understanding of God: "...and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe."  His disciples must have been really confused at this one.  I imagine one of them (probably Peter) saying: "Wait, so you're telling me that it's so important to you that we develop a deeper, more mature faith that a man had to DIE?"  then Jesus replying "Yep, lets go wake him up".
      After they make it back, Lazarus had been dead for 4 days and had been buried and placed in a tomb, and by this time his body had even begun to decay.  The entire village had most likely been there at his funeral, had helped with his burial, and had mourned with his sisters, Mary and Martha.  I'm not going to get into all the awesome lessons that can be taken away from what happens next, but Jesus, after talking with some people goes to the tomb where Lazarus is buried.  A crowd had gathered by this time and was watching what was about to transpire.  Jesus, standing in front of the tomb prays this prayer: "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here that they may believe that you have sent me."  In my own paraphrase, He said: "God, you've heard my prayers.  YOU want Lazarus raised from the dead, I want Lazarus raised from the dead.  In fact, the only reason I'm praying this now is so that everyone here sees that You sent me and that You're the one that's gonna make this happen.  Okay, ready?  Lets do this!"  Then He turns to the tomb and shouts "Lazarus, come out!" 
     It says then that from the tomb, the dead man came out, his hands, feet, and face still wrapped up in the burial cloths.  Jesus even had to remind people "Hey guys, go help him take his grave clothes off!" because they were probably standing there in such shock and awe as to what they just witnessed!  Guys, there is NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING that our God can't do!!!  All this, all of it was done for two purposes: to deepen and mature the faith of the disciples, and to point a big ol' glorifying spotlight on God and just how sovereign, powerful, and GOOD He is!
     This story can be found and read for yourself in John 11, but I want to point out something.  Jesus could have gone and healed Lazarus right when he was at the point of death and He still would have been seen as a miracle maker.  Bringing a man back from the dead after all hope of a miracle had passed, however, deepened the faith of the disciples and everyone who was there like never before!  If God is able to bring someone back from the DEAD, what is there He can't do?!  At that point, however, God raised the bar for the disciples and this is where Lesson 2 really began for me.
     Being the kind of person I am, I like to know things.  I like to know what's going to happen to me, I like to know (even if generally speaking) what to expect, I like certainty.  I'm sure you can probably relate, most people do.  Knowing things is definitely not a bad thing either!  There is nothing wrong with knowing what you're going to have for dinner tonight, knowing what's going to be on next week's test, what your boss expects of you at work... and knowing exactly what that thing is that your dog is eating.  Those are usually really good things to know.  When it comes to knowing what God is going to be doing in your life, however, I would recommend considering not trying too hard to figure it out.  I know I am going to be getting a lot of emails about this one but before you start composing one, please just hear me out.
     God wants a relationship with us. No one is going to deny that.  God wants us to know Him, and that's why He will always answer the prayer "are you there?"  Chances are, however, He's not going to answer with a bright light suddenly appearing in the middle of a room and a big booming voice from Heaven saying "Yes, I am here!"  He's capable of it, sure, but you probably don't want Him to.  See, faith is one of those things God asks of us.  In John 20:29, Jesus says "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."  It's so important to Him that your faith be grown, that if He reveals Himself in a way that takes away your need for faith, you can almost be certain that He's going to put you through another kind of test or allow you to go through some different circumstances that pushes your faith and makes you turn to and trust in Him.  
     Part of what I was seeking this weekend was confirmation of some things I believe to the core of my being that God told me years ago.  I just wanted reassurance that they were from Him, and frankly I began to doubt because it seemed as though He wasn't gonna come through for me.  I just needed to know!  Was I believing a lie or should I keep hoping and trusting?  During my time away, however, I learned this very lesson and soon after, during some quiet time, I felt God telling me "Caleb, just trust me... wait...I got this...let go... I've got to work on something first."  This was something that I felt God had been telling me for weeks at that point, but it wasn't until I got away and got still that it really clicked in my head.  I shared what had happened with my old mentor and he told me "Yep, that sounds like the Big Guy."
     That is the kind of thing I am talking about though.  God reveals things to us, sure, but the more He does the higher the bar is set for us to be faithful, and the tests we might face could be so much more challenging.  It sounds like a rotten deal doesn't it?  It sounds as though the best thing to do is just not try and think too much about this stuff in the first place because, I mean, who wants to be put through bigger tests and challenges?  Who wants to take the risk of more suffering and hardship?  That's up to you. I'll tell you what though, if you're up for the challenge; if you're willing to trust God and go along with it and push yourself and allow God to stretch you, you'll begin to see things and you'll begin to experience things through God that you never would have thought possible!  You'll develop a depth of faith never before imagined and a trust in God that will be UNSHAKABLE!  You'll be able to see works of wonder and power, you'll see lives changed, and sometimes even witness actual miracles!  There will be days where you collapse in bed, say to God "Wow, I never could have made it through today without your direct intervention... thank you God for such an adventure!" You reach that point with God, and your life will never be the same!

Missed the last one?  Catch up in Time Out! Get Still, Get Quiet... Listen. (Part 2)
To Be Continued in:   Time Out!  Get Still, Get Quiet...Listen. (Part 4)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Time Out! Get Still, Get Quiet...Listen. (Part 2)

Welcome back!  I wanted to start of by thanking everyone who has been praying for me as I attempt to communicate some of the things God has shared with me.  If you missed the first part of all this, you can catch up at  Time Out! Get Still, Get Quiet...Listen. (Part 1)Anyway, let's jump right back into it shall we?

LESSON 2:  Heated Seats In the Car On a Cold and Snowy Day Are A Gift From God!

     I really don't even need to get into this one.  Anyone who has experienced these delightful upgrades knows what I'm talking about.  Sunday afternoon, a snowstorm hit Dexter, MO.  We had gone out to lunch after church and by the time we exited the restaurant there was a good three inches of white powder on the ground.  When I hopped in Steve's truck and mentally prepared myself for the heater to warm up and deliver me from the cold, he looked over at me and said "Oh by the way, these seats are heated."  At that moment, I wanted to hug that man!  For the duration of the ride back to his place, I sat in blissful warmth and a new found appreciation for whoever it was that first had the idea to put something in car seats to warm up your backside!

LESSON 3: Mountain Dew + Middle School Boys = Insanity!
     After spending Friday evening with a group of the 8th grade boys from the Disciple Now conference at their host home I have come to the belief that Pepsi Co has discovered the ultimate source for limitless energy:  caffeinated middle school boys!  All we need to do to cure the world's energy problems is find a way to hook up a group of about a hundred middle school boys to some sort of generator, give them each a 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew and BOOM... an almost inexhaustible supply of energy.  There are two drawbacks to this though that would make it hard to replace our current sources:
              1) It's not cheap.
     The cost of feeding those boys would certainly erase any costs saved by switching to "Dew-Energy" and in fact might actually require the bulk of the revenue for an entire city to provide enough fuel for these .
              2) It's not clean.
     If you've ever seen the bedroom of a middle school boy, chances are you wished that you had a hazmat suit upon entry.  Between the clothing on the floor that may be clean or may be dirty, the odd smell drifting from the closet and under the bed that might actually be the result of a new species of mold growing, and the pair of tennis shoes in the corner that has some sort of earthen material caked on the soles that is hopefully from a soccer game played months ago... there is no way this new energy source would pass environmental regulations.
     So much for solving the world's energy woes with mountain dew and teenagers.  Instead, I think we should just pull out video cameras and make some memories of the hilarity that will certainly ensue.
     Okay all joking aside, I want to take a moment to share my heartfelt joy at the opportunity to watch these boys throughout the course of the weekend.  Coming from various backgrounds with significant differences in personality, interests, and...well...attention spans, these guys still rallied together to support one another and formed a comradery through the weekend that was reflective of the kind of community that God calls us all to have.  The strength, courage, and leadership that they demonstrated at the rally, the solidarity that they displayed in front of their peers, and the goofy fun that they all managed to have together tells me that they are going to be a dynamic group.  Yet, what set them apart in my mind as something different and unique was the absolute submission that they all displayed when the entire group of them ran forward during the worship set and fell on their knees at the alter of God, praying with and for one another.  They didn't care about what others thought of them, they didn't care who saw... They fell at the feet of Almighty God and laid it all out before Him.  When I witnessed that after everything else I had seen from these guys, I realized that this is going to be a group of boys that will grow up to become a group of men that will make a difference in their school and then wherever they find themselves in the world.

LESSON 4: If God Teaches You Something and Asks You to Share It, You Have A Responsibility to do so... Accurately
 This lesson is one that is based on something I noticed in some of the time I spent in the Bible on day one.

    Genesis 1 talks about God's creation of all things in a general sense.  Genesis 2 focuses specifically on God's creation of man and woman and describes the kind of life they're to live and their purpose.  Genesis 3 then talks about the fall of mankind and the first sin.  Now, I have been through more bible studies, read more books, and heard more sermons on lessons from these three chapters than I can even begin to count, but as I began my trip, I caught something in one of these chapters that I hadn't noticed before.

    Leaving St. Louis and having more than three hours in the car by myself left me with a lot of time on my hands and I wanted to make the most of it. I decided to use the feature of the YouVersion Bible app (which is both awesome as well as free, which makes it even more awesome...) that actually reads the bible to you to get into the Word from the start.  Since this weekend was about starting from scratch with God, I decided that a good place to start in the Bible was at the beginning!

     Genesis 1 went by and nothing new really stood out to me.  Then the man reading, began into Genesis 2 and I started to notice something that actually kinda caught me off guard.  

Here's the basic story found in Genesis 2 and 3 and I decided to just emphasize the points that got me thinking:   

     "... In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (2:9) 
...The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.' (2:15-17)
...Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. (2:22)..."  

Then Chapter 3 began.  

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, 'Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?'  The woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” (3:1-2)

    Now I have been taught time and time again that Eve misquoting God (He never actually said they couldn't touch the tree) gave the devil a chance to twist things around and contributed to Eve's sin.  A lot of teachers/pastors/bible study leaders then used Eve's failure in that regard to emphasize the importance on correctly learning the word of God.  I would have to agree with them wholeheartedly and this passage definitely teaches exactly that, but I truly believe that if you read between the lines, there is ANOTHER lesson to be learned here.  If you read the passage carefully you'll notice the order of events: 
     First, God planted the garden. 
     Next, He created Adam and put him in the garden.  
     Then, God gave him the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  
     Then God created Eve.  

The Bible never says that God repeated His command to not eat of the fruit of the tree.  God gives Adam the instructions and then expects Adam to share it with Eve.  

***(Before I continue I will include a disclaimer, if I hear of anyone using this commentary of mine to try and emphasize the superiority of men over women in the eyes of God, which is TOTALLY unbiblical,  I will find you, smack you upside your head, and then rub your nose on your computer screen like a bad bad doggy who just messed on the floor... in all Christian love of course!)***

    What I am seeing here instead of something that is clearly an instance of Eve misquoting God, it's possible that Eve is either just misquoting Adam, OR... quite possibly (and in my opinion much more likely) Adam misquoted God to his wife, adding the "don't touch it" part as an extra safeguard to make sure she stayed away from the tree.  His heart was in the right place because he loved his wife very much (Genesis 2:23) and probably just didn't want to live without her in the event she ate of the fruit and suffered the death that God told him they would.

   At this point we could start going into things like: ways people can be overprotective.  Or, maybe we could talk about being controlling.  Maybe about how sometimes we can't trust God and feel like we have to do some things ourselves.  Regardless of what else this implies, ultimately what we see here is that God gave Adam a message to share and at some point that message was not accurately communicated.
     Normally this is the part where I would suggest some sort of action or offer suggestions as to how to apply what I shared, or go deeper into the topic, but I'm going to let you figure out for yourself what this means to you and in your specific situation.  You're a smart person.  I will finish this though with two thoughts:  
     First, God might put it on your heart to share something with someone, and if He does, you should probably do what He tells you.  It's called obedience.  Not doing so is called sin.  
    Secondly, James 3:1 says that anyone who teaches the Word of God (or shares a message from Him) will be judged more strictly because they are representing God.  I have seen too many people use the classic "Well God told me (fill in the blank)" to achieve their own purposes, win an argument, or manipulate people to what they want. 
I'm not going to say anything else on this matter but I will caution you in light of what I shared: if/when you DO get a message from God and you ARE representing Him, be sure to do so accurately.

Re-Read Lesson 1 in Time Out! Get Still, Get Quiet... Listen. (Part 1)
To be continued with Lessons 5 in Time Out! Get Still, Get Quiet...Listen. (Part 3) 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Time Out! Get Still, Get Quiet... Listen. (Part 1)

        Did you know that if you stand in front of a mirror in a crowded store and look at yourself, you'll see something completely different than if you stand in front of a mirror in the quiet and stillness of your home?  This is because when you're in the busy environment in public, you're going to be paying attention to who's around you, and you'll be seeing all the things for sale in the reflection behind you. You will be paying attention to how much time you linger in front of the mirror and about the way you probably appear to those around you.  Your mind will be focused on so many different things that you won't be able to focus on the fine details.  Standing in front of the mirror at home, you have none of those distractions.  You can stand there and linger as long as you want, with yourself as the focal point of your attention.  You can see yourself in a way that is completely honest and thorough (if you really want to, that is).  Basically, what I'm saying is: when you want to see something for what it really is, environment matters.

       Lately, because of a lot of things that have happened in my life, I have developed a bunch of questions and I wanted to find answers at ANY cost.  I needed to hear from God!  Over the last few weeks I have spent a LOT of time and energy trying to seek/hear from God, but to no avail.  I had sought healing, guidance, encouragement, and frankly, just reassurance that I hadn't been forgotten.  I had turned to the Bible, had conversations with friends, read books, listened to sermons, and they all only led me to more questions and uncertainty. I decided that it was time for me to find out from God Himself what to do and I knew that I needed to get away from everything and find some silence and solitude so that I could. Up to this point I had been having difficulty connecting with God and hearing from Him, so I knew that I needed to go someplace that I could be in a - for lack of a better word- sanctified environment. I knew that I needed to go someplace that got me away from everything that was burdening me so that I could see things as they really were and a place where God was at work because I needed to get as close to Him as I could. I soon found myself composing an email my old pastor/mentor and his wife and asked if I could come stay with them in Southeast Missouri for a few days.  When they agreed, I just knew that God was going to do something amazing on this trip and boy was I right!  I reached out to several of my friends and told them of my plans, requested prayers throughout the weekend, shut my phone off, left my laptop at home, and then began the journey southward to see what God had waiting for me in the town of Dexter, MO.

     My weekend was split between three things:  Spending time alone and in solitude, spending time with Steve and Cheryl (my gracious hosts), and helping out with the massive youth rally at their church called Disciple Now.  At first I was kinda hoping that I would be able to lock myself away for the duration of the weekend and just be utterly alone, but I remembered what God had said about serving others so I agreed to help with the youth as well.  I think God knew better than I did (as usual) what I needed because I got to meet some interesting people, I got to watch God work in the lives of dozens and dozens of students, and I was blessed with the outpouring of wisdom from a wonderful couple who have served in ministry for, well far longer than I have even been alive, and on top of that I STILL got to spend the quiet study and prayer time that I needed so desperately.  That being said, within the first hour of my arrival God began working on me and taught me the first lesson of the MANY that would follow over the course of the weekend.

    Now, I was originally going to attempt to write about everything I learned in a single entry on here, but then I realized that there would be NO WAY people would keep reading long enough to get through it all, nor could I come close to finishing in a reasonable amount of time.  Instead I am going to begin sharing everything in a series of stories and lessons that I learned over the course of several posts.  Please bear with me and keep an open mind.

LESSON 1: Spiritual Warfare is real, as are angels and demons. Don't ignore it.
     For anyone who doesn't know me well enough yet, I absolutely LOVE stories.  I love telling them... I love hearing them...stories are what motivate me to adventure, to risk, to live!  I love stories so much I even wrote about it previously (check out: Telling Your Story) and lately I've been sharing a lot of stories with people about their encounters with angels and demons.  The coolest, scariest, and most eye opening part of these stories is that they are all true!  For example, in 2005, a mission team I was on in Alabama had an encounter with a demon who was trying to scare us into inactivity and distract us from our mission down there.  More than a dozen people (myself included) were there to witness it and I got my first in depth lesson on this kind of spiritual warfare that is going on all around us.  The year before, a mission team from our church, Steve included, were in Puerto Rico working with a partner church to get some construction done on a new building.  Steve was asked to deliver the Sunday morning sermon for the church and he felt led to preach on the Fire of God.  After the message a demon possessing a girl manifested itself. It became so violent that several large guys had to restrain this tiny little girl while Steve and some of the elders of the church prayed over her for an extended period to drive the demon out of her.  Someone I know very well told me a story of how he felt a dark presence with him in his bedroom several nights in a row and one morning woke up to find scratch marks that looked like claw marks on his body in places he couldn't reach.  This weekend, I got to meet a gentleman this weekend who shared a story of how he was on a mission trip in Haiti during the uprising in the early 90's and was saved, from a group of terrorists, by an angel who showed up in the middle of a war-torn rebel-occupied city as a Haitian-looking man dressed in a white suit, riding a white motorcycle with the word "Jesus" written on the gas tank.  In perfect, unaccented English, he warned them that they were being led into a trap and then proceeded to lead them out of the city.  Several of my friends have told me similar stories about their own encounters but were always hesitant to share with anyone because they don't think anyone would believe them.  Those stories don't even include the many many stories and testimonies I have heard from people I didn't even know.
     Call me crazy but at times, even without actually seeing demons in certain places, I have just felt a sense of the presence of darkness and evil in a place.  I have felt spiritual oppression, as though the invisible demons were running wild and had control over certain people or places.  Likewise, there are times I've been places and with people in which I have felt so full of goodness and at such peace that they must have had angels surrounding them. I decided that since demons are real and their presence can affect my life so substantially, it would be a great idea to spend some of this weekend investigating them. This is what I learned:

  • Demons are not actually angels of light and beauty, they are quite frightening indeed.
  • They cannot possess a believer because One greater than they already occupies your body (believers are filled with the Holy Spirit, and what demon can overpower God?) but they CAN attack, oppress, and suppress a believer through fear, distraction, temptation, making your believe lies, or other such methods...Sometimes if they are strong enough, can even physically manifest themselves and cause bodily harm (see below).
  • They hate us because we were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and since they hate Him they want to take it out on us.
  • They can enter a home or a life through anything that is not submitted to God (i.e. dishonesty, greed, sexual sin, anger, bitterness, resentment, anxiety/worry, control... you get the idea).  Anything that is not submitted to God is an open door for a demon to use to get in.
  • Occultic things supercharge demons and give them extra power/influence. 
  • They make it harder to hear God and sense His presence.  (This is a reason I felt it necessary to go someplace I felt was completely sanctified and had no hint of a demonic presence)
  • Praying in the name of Jesus is how you get a demon out of someone or someplace.  We have been given authority over the demons because we have identified with Christ.  They don't always respond right away because like a tree that has taken root, the longer a demon has been present the stronger the hold it has and harder it is to get it out.  This is why it took these pastors and elders so long to get rid of the demon from the little girl in Puerto Rico even though they were praying in the name and with the authority of Jesus.   
    What I decided I needed to do was to make sure that there was NOTHING in my life that I had refused to let God do with what He wanted.  That's what it means to be submitted to God.  It's like it says in the Lord's Prayer " your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." and when you're praying it you could even *gasp* change it... and say  "Your will be done on earth and in my life, as it is in Heaven".  Frankly, its a really good idea to reach this point of submission to God anyway, and this was just the final boost I needed.  I think I made the devil kinda angry this weekend because I became wise to his schemes and stopped letting him mess with me, but I don't care.  
     Oh, one last word on the topic.  I found a verse to give you some hope when the devil tries to mess with you, tries to make you fall, tries to attack you, to tempt you, or to make you believe a lie:  James 4:7-8 (NIV) says "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you."  If you stand with God, you can then stand up to the devil and all his little minions and when you do, he's gonna see that you're not alone and he's gonna run like a scared little rabbit as fast and as far as he can.

To Be Continued with Lessons 2-4 at Time Out! Get Still, Get Quiet...Listen. (Part 2)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Identifying Truth

     The other day I was conversing with a friend of mine and I brought up a topic for which I had been seeking answers for a while now.  She paused for a moment, considered what she would say, then shared her perspective.  When she did, I kid you not, every fiber of my being began screaming out "THAT'S IT!  THAT'S TRUTH!"  My dear, dear Friend had presented truth to me and I instantly knew it.  This wasn't the first time either... this is a friend whom, because of this and several other instances like it, I now trust implicitly in every way because I know she speaks truth.  That does bring up the question: what is truth and how can we know what truth is when it is spoken?  How did I know so wholly and completely that what I heard was truth? 
     Award winning staff writer for the New Yorker and best selling author Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book on this topic called Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking in an attempt to answer that very question.  I read the book and would highly recommend it due to its interesting subject matter and its readability.  However, It doesn't answer the question.  There is a TV show called "Lie to me" which is a thriller/drama about a team of deception experts who use their expertise in various situations ranging from prisoner interrogation to governmental appointee vetting.  They can look at a person, talk to them for a couple minutes then tell whether or not they are telling the truth.  However, it does not answer the question.  Professors, books, Philosophies, even other religions try to present truth and give reasons as to how you can know or believe that they are speaking truth, but each of them fall short.  So what is truth and how can anyone know?

 I decided I am going to keep this very short and simple. In other words, no long winded narratives this time.  I'm pulling this straight from the Bible because it gives us the straight answer:

  • Jesus said that God's word is truth.
    • "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is TRUTH."  John 17:7
  • Jesus said that HIS word is truth.
    • "Jesus said,  “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.Then you will know the TRUTH, and the TRUTH will set you free.” John 8:31-32
  • John the Apostle taught that Jesus HIMSELF is truth.
    • "For the law was given through Moses; grace and TRUTH came through Jesus Christ." John 1:17

In essence, all truth comes from God.  God is truth and his words are truth.  Anything that comes from God is truth and it is the standard by which everything is compared to truth.  So, how can we know what truth is? How can we know what God is saying in every instance?  How do we know what truth is for that exact circumstance you're seeking answers to?  WELL... that really is a complicated question.  It's one that I, unfortunately, do not have a catch-all answer for.  If anyone knows, by all means share!  Here's what I do know though:

  • God gave us His word in the form of Scripture.  
    • " have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness," 2 Timothy 3:15-16
  • God gave us a Community of believers.
    • "The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments,  for, 'Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Corinthians 2:15-16
But see, in the Bible, God doesn't speak directly to every single situation we might face, nor do other people always know what truth is for your life. So,

  • God gave us the Holy Spirit
    • "I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit (within me)—" Romans 9:1  (My words added in parentheses)

Listen, I don't claim to have it all figured out.  I don't even believe that it's possible to know the truth in every situation.  Knowing the truth has brought me freedom, yes, but it has also brought me misery, heartache, betrayal, and pain.  Sometimes we just have to move forward in life just trusting that God has it all under control.  It is not very satisfying, I admit. For someone like me, it's more than not satisfying... it's downright maddening.  But I do know that the closer you are to God, the closer you are to Truth.  The closer you are to Truth, the more clearly you can hear the Holy Spirit guiding you.  THAT is the point where incredible things start happening in your life.  

OH and I know that my dear Friend is the GREATEST for being willing to speak truth to me the way she does.  It's not always pretty, nor does she tell me what I want to hear all the time... but it's the straight Truth, it's from God, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  Dear Friend, thank you so very much for being a voice of Truth in my life and I truly hope you know how grateful I am for you.

-The Sailing Preacher

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Telling Your Story

Lately I have been finding myself being obsessed with the idea of stories.  I realized that I absolutely LOVE stories.  I love hearing them, I love telling them, I love reading them!  Stories are the most basic way we communicate things about ourselves to others, to share our experiences, to share our lives.  Before written language, stories were the only way information got passed along in a culture.  So I started asking the question: "what makes the difference between a good story and a GREAT story?" I have had a lot of people tell me their perspective over the years, I've read a lot of books by a lot of experienced storytellers, AND I have heard a LOT of really good stories from people.  Now, before I get too far into this, I am going to tell you that this is not going to be a typical "Here's how to be a better storyteller" essay nor will it be a "I'm going to tell you how to be a better public speaker" lesson.  That can be attained by reading books or going to seminars.  No, this is going to be something different altogether.  I want to talk about the story you will tell about your life, more specifically the story we tell when faced with tough decisions.

Every day we are faced with decisions that may or may not directly impact our lives.  From where we decide to go to lunch, to whether we come home right away or swing by the gym after work, to whether or not we say hello to the coworker we pass in the parking lot on the way home at the end of the day.  Each decision leads to a different story we tell.  Our story reflects who we are, but keep in mind it's only that: a story.  It does not define us.  BOY do I wish I had learned about this long ago.  I guarantee, had I thought about decisions in terms of the story I would forever tell, I would have most definitely done things differently in quite a few areas of my life.  I wouldn't have taken some things as seriously as I did just as I would have taken other things more seriously.  I would have paid closer attention to the still small voice inside of me when it whispered "bad idea, don't do that" or "don't go there".  You see, when we tell our story we don't want to have to lie about any of it or be ashamed of any of it.  I truly think there is something freeing about being able to tell our entire story.  When life is easy, its easy to tell our whole story but when circumstances get difficult and decisions become harder and harder to make, it takes a lot more discipline to make the right decision... to be able to keep your story whole.  Take, for example, Joseph in the Old Testament of the bible.

The story can be found in Genesis chapters 37 then 39-45.  Joseph was envied by his brothers who, because of their jealousy, sold him into slavery.  God was with Joseph through it all and Joseph was quickly put in charge of the household of a wealthy Egyptian named Potiphar (prounced "Pot-eh-fur").  Joseph was faithful to God and did what was right and before long, Potiphar's wife took notice of him.  The bible describes Joseph, as a young man, as "well built and handsome".  That means he was a young stud and she wanted him.  She approached him time after time trying to get him to go to bed with her.  He kept doing what was right each time.  He even explained to her why he was not going to.  He said in Genesis 39:8:

'"With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care.  No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife." How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?"'

Basically he was saying "Listen, I've got a story to tell and what you're asking me to do isn't consistent with the story I want to tell because I want my story to be honoring to God. Oh, and by the way... you've got a story too ma'am.  What you're about to do is going to be a part of your story forever."  Well, Potiphar's wife was not too happy about that so she managed to frame Joseph and get him thrown in prison.  While down there, he met a couple guys and told them his story... his WHOLE story... the WHOLE TRUTHFUL story.  He tells them he's innocent and asks if there's anything they can do to help him out of there he'd be really grateful.  YEARS go by and Joseph, still faithful to God, is finally released.  He warns Pharaoh of a massive famine on the way and then gets made prime minister of Egypt to help prepare for it.  Fast forward, the famine hits and Egypt is the only nation that has food... in fact, has it in surplus. Other nations have to come to Egypt to buy food from them, including Joseph's brothers.  

See, Joseph's brother's had a story too.  When they sold Joseph into slavery they had to tell their father SOMETHING, so they lied and said he was eaten by a wild animal.  It absolutely broke their father's heart (37:35), and every day after that, they had see their father's broken heart, live with their lie, and the knowledge that their jealousy was the cause of his pain.  That was part of THEIR story.  So, when they came to Egypt, Joseph was faced with another decision... another choice that would affect the story he would tell.  He could choose to use his new position of power and exact his revenge, OR he could write his story in a different way by treating his brothers not like they deserved to be treated.  (Spoiler alert) Joesph decided to be consistent with his story. He forgave his brothers and the whole family reconciled.  They brought their father into Egypt and lived out the rest of their days together happily ever after.  
So why would I share that particular story?  There were a lot of examples of how each decision we make affects our story.  We can either choose to write our story consistent with our faith in God, or we could try and write our story apart from Him.  I've tried both and let me tell you... when I try to write my own story it turns ugly fast.  

Something that I realized (and the real reason that I am so interested in the idea of my story) is that because I am a single guy, every choice I make as a single man will eventually become part of my married story.  I will have to tell my wife my whole story and I really don't want to have to hide anything.  I want to be able to tell her my WHOLE story without changing anything or hiding anything.  Truth be told, (and I am being kinda vulnerable here guys, so please be kind) I am extremely unhappy that I cannot tell her certain things like "honey, I never dated anyone but you" or "you were my only love" or "you were my first kiss" or other things like that.  There's something incredibly special about being able to say it and not have to LIE about it!  I have a couple friends who CAN say those things and Oh how I envy them!  Just because you learn from things in your past and they helped make you who you are doesn't take away from the fact that they happened in the first place and will forever be part of your story.  

In addition to my story as a single affecting my MARRIED story, one day I hope to become a parent  When that happens my KIDS' stories will begin with me too!  The decisions I make will influence THEIR story, much like my parents' choices influenced MY story, and their parents' influenced theirs, and so on.  

Your story is not just made up of decisions in relationships... it can be from what church you choose, the reasons WHY you chose a certain church... what JOB you take... what you do if you LOSE a job... how you face difficulty and hardship, how you lean on God in the tough times AND the good... See not only will your decisions affect your story but others will SEE your story too:  your friends... your family.... your spouse.... your kids... as private a person as you might be, SOMEONE will still know your story.  SOMEONE will still know, even if that someone is God.  Chances are though, He's not the only one.

All I know is I am going to be MUCH more mindful of the fact that the choices I make today will be part of the story I will tell forever.  I know that I want to tell a story that will be honoring to God, that will be honoring to my future wife, and that will give my kids the ability to tell a much better story than I can.

-The Sailing Preacher

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pain and Promises

Isn't it funny how many curve balls life can throw at you?  There’s an old adage that says “the best way to make God laugh is to tell him your plans”.  It isn't the most theologically sound statement to make, but the sentiment is undeniably true.  A year ago I thought I would be enrolled in medical school, married, living in a new area, and enjoying every minute of it.  BOY was I wrong!  I used to feel like I was the only one who felt this way but the more people I talk to, the more I realize that I am unquestionably not alone in this area.  The events of the past two years… and ESPECIALLY the last 3 months have truly caused me to, once again, start from scratch and try figure out this thing called life.  The most significant of these events was the birth of my nephew.

I remember how excited everyone was when my brother's girlfriend announced they were inducing her the day after Christmas.  It had been a long nine months and everyone from my brother to my grandmother was relieved that the end was in sight.  The journey to this point had not been an easy one for any of us.  I am not going to go into a lot of details in order to protect the reputation and honor of a lot of people, but the arrival of a new baby in our family could not have come at a better time, especially for me.  See, God had been working hard in my life in ways that I was not too happy about.  He decided that I needed to lose everything I cared about so that I would re-center my life around Him.  It worked. My eyes went straight to the sky and my heart went straight to Him.

I very quickly began to feel like Job did in the Old Testament and my way of thinking became quite a lot like his:

"If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas" Job 6:2-3
"I despise my life; I would not live forever. If I had sinned, what have I done to you O watcher of men?  Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?" Job 7:16,20
"Even if I summoned (God) and He responded, I do not believe he would give me a hearing.  He would crush me with a storm and multiply my wounds for no reason." Job 9:16-17
"Though I cry 'I've been wronged!' I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice." Job 19:7

After reading that particular book of the Bible, I realized that during a time of suffering... God is still God and is not obligated to answer my questions nor is He required to explain why I am going through what I am going through (Job 38-41).  As true as that is, its not very satisfying for a man who spends his life seeking knowledge and understanding.  So what did I do?  I tried to find them anyway!

Have you ever thought about promises?  We tend make a lot of promises.

We make promises to ourselves: "I promise to get back into the gym", or "I promise to lose weight", or "I promise to pay more attention in school", or "I promise to respect myself more with my decisions".

We make promises to others: "I promise I'll get the milk on my way home", or "I promise I'll call that client for you when I get into work tomorrow", or "I promise to love and cherish you for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer..."

We make promises to God: "God, I promise if you get me through this test, I'll volunteer to serve the poor." or "If you get rid of this flu bug I'll never miss church again." or "If you just give me (blank) I'll dedicate my entire life to you."

The problem with us making promises is that we tend to fail to follow through all the time.  We might be able to keep MOST of our promises MOST of the time, but no one has a 100% track record.  God makes a lot of promises too.  There are entire books written about the Promises of God.  A few of them (not even CLOSE to the full list) are:

  • "So do not fear for I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10.
  • "Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare." Isaiah 55:2
  • "Jesus said to her, 'your brother will rise again.'" John 11:23
  • "Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." Luke 23:43
  • "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." Genesis 12:2-3
While we might not have a perfect track record, God does!  His faithfulness is 100%.  When God makes a promise, He follows through.  He might not do so in our timing, He might not do so in the WAY we want, but He ALWAYS keeps His promises.  As a wise man once said "Our God is a covenant making, covenant keeping God."  The prophet Isaiah said (in ch 25, vs 1) "O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things planned long ago."  That is a beautiful realization!  

But, like I often do, I tend to over-think things.  For a while now I have questioned whether or not God still makes promises to us in the 21st century. I have searched the scriptures and tried finding proof or some sort of hope that God does still make new promises. The problem I came across is all the "hope giving" verses I found, when taken in context, were promises to sustain the nation of Israel or to bring us the Messiah, or to give us the Holy Spirit... or other promises that have already been fulfilled.  

I began to doubt God.

I later realized that the doubt wasn't really rational but was derived from my personal bitterness and anger that my life felt/feels meaningless and inconsequential.  It was derived from the feeling that God had forgotten about me or perhaps even that He has no intention of giving me the ONE desire of my heart greater than all others in this world (save for the desire for God himself)... The desire to have a wife and a family. The arrival of my nephew reinforced that feeling because it pointed a big spotlight on that particular area of my life. My younger brother has achieved that which I have always wanted.  Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love and adore both my brother and that baby...he truly is a blessing and miracle, but nonetheless, he's a daily reminder that God has chosen NOT to bless me in that way.  That really made me question one of the promises in the Old Testament that I had used for comfort and reassurance for years, Jeremiah 29:11.  It says:

  • "'For I know the plans I have for you' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
When I, in my hurt, looked at that particular promise in the context... I saw for the first time what it was REALLY written for.  See, the nation of Israel had been taken into captivity into Babylon and they were beginning to lose heart.  God had promised that they would be established as a nation forever and yet here they were in captivity.  No kingdom. No country. No hope.  I would have lost heart too. God made the promise through the prophet Jeremiah to reassure the people of Israel that He was still in control, that they would not lose their identity through this time of captivity and even to reassure them that it was only a temporary situation. In my studies, I saw why God would have needed to preserve Israel to keep his promises earlier in the O.T.  That, unfortunately, didn't give me a lot of hope that I could even apply this verse to my own life.  When Christ was born, God fulfilled the promise that necessitated Israel to be preserved. So what did that mean for me?  

I felt myself becoming even more bitter, I felt myself losing all hope that the next tomorrow would be better than my today.  I felt like I was reaching the point of absolute despair.  Finally, a turning point came when I was reminded of something I had been taught years ago regarding the Bible.  The things in scripture may have been written contextually, but everything IN scripture can still be used in life in the 21st century.  It was written TO the people of that time but written FOR all people of all times.   How that works exactly, is a different story but the point is that remembering that fact gave me the first shred of hope I'd had in a long time.

I can finally see that those promises were not just made to the nation of Israel but also to me.  My bitterness is gone, my anger is gone, my doubt is gone.  There is still more pain and longing than I have ever experienced before in my life, but the one thing that now exists that makes it bearable: hope.

By the way, if you look to the very next verses in Jeremiah 29 you'll see something quite interesting.
  • "'Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,' declares the Lord."  Jeremiah 29:12-14
God elaborates on His promise.  He is saying that He cares.  He wants to be my... He wants to be OUR God.  He is exactly who He claims to be.  God is faithful and God can be trusted!  I realized that God knows how to bless me better than even I know how to bring blessings to myself.  I think it truly is time to give over everything, even my own happiness... my desires.... my everything, to the one know knows the name of every hair on my head.  No matter how well I might know myself, how much I might know what would bring be TRUE happiness... He still knows better.  Really, who could do a better job of being the God of my life, Him or me?  I think you probably know the answer to that one too.

-The Sailing Preacher   

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My take on the MCAT (and then some)

To say the MCAT is not for the faint of heart is an understatement. The culmination of years of classes, months of prayer, weeks of study, days of practice, and hours of testing, along with an abundance of prayer from people that I thought had forgotten me, and I have overcome the most formidable challenge I've ever attempted. If you’re not familiar with what the MCAT is, the most accurate way to describe it is an intellectual gauntlet prospective medical students must run in order to earn the right to be considered for one of the most competitive professions in existence.

The test is composed of four sections, three multiple choice and one essay: Physical Science, Verbal Reasoning, Writing Example, and Biological Sciences. The physical science portion consists of both physics and general chemistry, often combining elements of both into single questions. The verbal reasoning tests your ability to quickly read a passage then, extract, synthesize, and answer question pertaining to it. The writing sample presents you with two writing prompts and three questions to address about each in an essay for which you’re given thirty minutes apiece to write. The section that tests biological sciences contains material from general biology, anatomy and physiology, and organic chemistry. Each section is timed, and not generously either, a short break is offered in between: a total test time of 5 hours. As you can probably imagine by now, nobody leaves the testing center feeling refreshed and optimistic. I am no exception.

As promised, I will tell you how the test went. Simply put, it was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done. I went into the test nervous (and rightly so) as it had been several years since I’d attempted a standardized test, and the online practice tests I had taken to prepare yielded discouraging results. Nevertheless, if I ever hope to attend med school I had to endure. The preparation I had done hardly prepared me for the test, and there’s no other way to say that. The material I was tested on was different than the material I focused my studies on, the material emphasized in each section was the portion of each subject that I felt were my greatest weaknesses. The test, while requiring a knowledge of the sciences, was one in which the most successful was not the better scientist or even student, but the best standardized test taker. Now, I know you think I'm probably feeling somewhat disappointed, depressed, let down, or maybe a little discouraged. Interestingly enough, I’m not. Not at all. "How in the world is that possible?" You’re probably wondering. Well, I’ll tell you.

On my drive to the testing center, I happened to be listening to a sermon from three years ago that I had actually forgotten I had. It was regarding the story of Gideon. Truth be told, I mostly turned it on so I didn’t have to drive in silence and felt I needed something uplifting filling the air. I was mentally reviewing the reaction mechanisms for the organic chemistry when I heard the preacher mention John the Apostle. He pointed out that when John was writing his gospel, he always referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. This was not an arrogant position he was taking, he was not saying “Jesus loves me, ha ha, I’m so special”. John referred to himself in that way because it’s who he was. He identified himself as one who is loved by Jesus. He then asked the question: “who are you?” Not what do you do for a living, not what your hobbies are. Who are you; in the core of your being, your reason for existence, why you were put here on earth, who are you? Well, I thought about that for quite a while before coming to an answer.

For me, the answer to the question “who am I?” actually also answers the other question, you know the one that everyone asks someone who says they want to go to med school: “Why do you want to be a doctor?” The conclusion I arrived at, the reason I want to be a doctor, the very nature of who I am is this: I am a person who loves people like Jesus did when he healed them of their suffering. I don’t have any magical healing powers, but I do have an understanding that God works through doctors to heal people in a different way. To become a doctor is to fulfill my purpose. This realization significantly strengthened my resolve to get into medical school. This, however, does not explain why I am not worried about my performance on the test today. One of the most memorable, and most often quoted verses in the Bible is Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” Well, when I left a future in pastoral ministry to pursue medicine, I did so after much prayer and a belief that I was better suited for medicine. I was understandably scared during the initial transition, but it wasn’t long after that I was reassured that this is what I was truly called to do and that God would somehow make it all work out. The Bible is filled with examples of God’s providence (or making things work out for the best) as well Him as keeping His promises. Moreover, I’ve seen example after example in my own life of exactly this theme: God working things out for the best, and somehow providing for the fulfillment of my purpose and His promises.

Even though I don’t feel confident in my performance on the test (simply because I don’t know how I did) I know that I worked as hard as I could to prepare and gave my very best, I know that somehow God will bless the work I did and even if He makes me wait a little while, He will get me into med school someday, somehow and in a way that will show His glory.

That being said, the work to prepare was indeed grueling and at times overwhelming. There were days in which I felt that God had abandoned me, and even some where I felt I was losing my faith. I would cry out for relief, rest, or even just reassurance that it was not all for nothing. When those days came, when I was desperate for help, I was not sent a heavenly being with wings, a halo, and a harp, God stayed quiet but instead sent special people into my life who would say just the right thing to encourage me and keep me going. I could not have survived without those people, too many of them to name.
Some other people I could not have done this without are the professors who taught me the basic sciences needed for the test. They’ve been more than just instructors; they’ve been mentors, teachers, and guides. They’re the ones that go above and beyond every day for students like me who are trying to forge a better future for themselves.

Finally, the most important people throughout this entire process have been people the people who’ve prayed diligently for me. In the end, regardless of anything we do to prepare, to advance, to achieve, it’s always God who makes things happen, and it’s prayers of people that moves the heart of God to act on our behalf.

In 30 days I’ll get the results of the MCAT, and I know that regardless of what the score is, somehow God will make it sufficient.

-The Sailing Preacher

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Double Life

So, it's been several months since my last post, and I do apologize. I have been on a journey of self-discovery and have learned quite a few interesting things. It's a funny thing, comming to terms with oneself. In my opinion, too few people take time enough to look within themselves and come to grips with who they really are. Among those who do, even fewer actually have enough courage to share any of that with anyone else.

It is my observation that every person lives two lives... the one they share with people and the one they live in private. Rarely does the life they live in private surpass the one they live in public in terms of respectability and reputability. It was Plato who first suggested a dualistic (double) nature to the universe. His philosophy was that there was a physical world and an immateral world and both were identical in some ways yet different in others. He theorized that the immateral world was perfect/ideal and the physical world was nothing but shadows of the ideal world. This is illustrated by his famous Allegory of the Cave. You can look it up on your own if you're curious about the full and complete details of that stuff on your own, but if you don't want to wade through all the deep thinking and analysis that is necessary to understand it, I'll cover the basics in a short paragraph, then explain why I am bringing up the works of a long dead Greek philosopher.

Plato living today would explain his theory as thus: Suppose you're looking at a chair. That chair is only an imperfect illusion. In reality, the perfect chair exists in the ideal world, the immaterial world, the perfect world, and all we're seeing is a physical copy of that perfect chair. But, because it's physical, it can never be as perfect or as real as the chair in the ideal world, and since we exist in the physical world, we can never fully comprehend nor see that ideal chair.
Having explained it not much clearer than Plato did, I will now explain why I brought that up. We all live a dualistic nature. We have an ideal life (the private one that no one sees) and a physical life (the one that everyone sees). The difference between Plato's philosophy and what I'm talking about is that because we're human and can choose to reveal ourselves as we see fit. However, not enough of us understand our double lives enough to bring the hidden one to the surface.

When we go to church on sundays, why is it that no matter how our week was, no matter what crap we tread through,when asked how we are doing, we always put on that smile and reply with the usual "I'm good thanks," and move on? Why is it that we let our friends in to deeper parts of our lives, and our families into others. No one, and I mean no one knows every deep dark secret that we have to hide. Why is that? Is it because we're ashamed of who we are?

One of the things I've been thinking about recently is Christian culture and other things that go along with it. Why is it that every human being has made a judgement of someone else. You think you're better than someone and I promise you that every person feels the same way. I know that in church, there are a TON of suit wearin', bible-thumpin', scripture quotin', blue hairs (old people) walking around and just as many church goin', worship music listenin', small group attendin', bible readin' young folks who are all the same: Self Righteous. I know this because when a young woman comes in off the street with her little baby and no daddy in sight... some people will pass judgement and ignore her while giving her "the eye", and others will think "She needs my help, I'm going to reach out to her and show her through my life that she too can be freed of her life of sin if only she accepts Christ."

Right away, the instinct is to say "that's a good thing", but lets take a look at the mind set of the person saying that. The "considerate" person really has several things going on inside of them and some of them might be as follows:
1) "Every one of us has sinned, but I have accepted Christ and now try to live a holy life, one that can be used as an example for how Christians should live."
2) "Wow, I'm sure glad my sins aren't as big as hers." or for some "Wow, I'm sure glad I don't sin like that anymore"
3) "She needs my (or at least someone's) help"

Each and every one of these things might, on the surface, seem innocuous or even good! However, this is too a dualistic reality. See, with these thoughts and ideas, the "considerate person" has elevated himself or herself above the young mother in righteous stature. There is, in fact, a term for this... Self-Righteousness. The supposedly considerate person has obviously spent a long time working to purify their lives and this holds himself or herself to be more holy than another. What this person has forgotten was that at one time or another, they too were a lowly sinner destined for Hell. Christ came into the picture and completely forgave them of their sins. Now, they live their lives completely without the need for Jesus. They're not sinners anymore by their own standard. They have all the answers and holy life. They've forgotten that they still sin on a daily basis. They've forgotten that we still need Christ, and that we are no better than the young mother.

The person who attempts to live a Holy life soon forgets that they need Christ and not long after, take the place of Christ in their own lives. They become obsessed with living Holy lives and soon become disconnected with the people still not knowing Christ. Enough years go by and they become the folks who ignore the young mother but give her the "eye". The self righteousness becomes a way of life and they become like the Pharasees of the New Testament and forget what Grace really is. The funny thing about this whole scenario is that most likely, the person has some deep sinful secrets... a hidden life, a private, secret sin that they refuse to admit to, deal with, or even ask Jesus for forgiveness for. I mean, they have already taken the place of Christ in their own lives, so they don't need Christ to forgive them! In their minds, their goodness outweighs their one little sin, and BAM! They've fallen into the same trap that people have been getting caught in for centuries... They're trying to earn Heaven by their own good works. To reference Led Zepplin, they're "Buying a stairway to Heaven". Shoot, if they keep their sins a secret for long enough, they might begin to believe that they don't even commit that sin.

I, for one, do not wish to become like the Pharasees. I would recommend that you come to grips with your own sins, stop denying that they exist, lest you too begin to believe that you're better than everybody else. Stop living a double life. Find someone to spill all your deepest secrets to. It will make certain that you never live a double life again. You'll finally be able to live the life like Christ would really want you to: completely dependent on Him!

A Disclaimer: This is not written to give license to sin, but instead to help you feel comfortable with who you are and not feel guilty while trying to pursue a deeper relationship with Christ. Ultimately the goal of everyone should be to become like Christ, but I know human nature and I know that people aren't that good.

-The Sailing Preacher

PS. If there are any questions, feel free to e-mail me.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Next Mountain

This past Saturday, I accomplished what many never do. I graduated from a 4 year university with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication with an emphasis in public speaking. If it seems like a mouthfull or that it was hard, don't let the title fool ya, they usually do. It was very easy; partially because I thrive at public speaking and partially because my expectations were low. About a year ago, a professor of mine told me that in the corperate world, no one cares what your GPA is, they only care whether or not you have a degree, experience, and are able to produce results. The only time a GPA matters is if you're trying to get into higher schooling. Anyway, I arrived at the graduation about an hour and fifteen minutes early, then spent the rest of the time before the ceremony talking to other graduates. I talked to one girl who had double majored in Spanish and Political Science, and found out she was headed to law school eventually. I also talked to a guy who I actually took some classes with, who got a degree in Mass Comm, with an emphasis in media management, and he had a couple interviews but was taking the summer off to try and recover from the last couple years. I found a friend who was continuing to grad school and hoped to become a communication professor AT Lindenwood University. I also talked with a girl who got a degree in Criminal Justice and wants to go into the FBI. The interesting part of her story is that she had a baby not even 9 months prior to graduation. Somehow, she was able to work almost full time as a server AND be a mom AND still find the time and energy to get her college degree. That astounded me. Other things that caught my attention were the number of people who were non-traditional students getting their degrees. They decided that even though they had started their lives already, it was not too late to improve themselves even further. They each found themselves faced with a mountain, and each of them conquered theirs and each of their faces beamed with pride at their accomplishment. Why is it that even though I too was among those graduates, I don't feel the least bit proud of what I've done?

Over four years ago, I remember driving up to the campus of Missouri Baptist University with my friend Joe and we were completely energized at 8 AM to be going to our first class in college. This past Saturday, I walked across a stage in front of 7,000 people, both fellow classmates and their families, shook the hand of the president of the university, and got my picture taken with my diploma cover (we don't get to pick up the actual diploma for a couple more weeks). I had done it. I had conquered my mountain. Why then do I sit in fear of an onset of depression? Why do I feel the mountain that I just climbed seem like it was nothing but a big hill? It was supposed to be tough. It was supposed to stimulate the mind, and challange the intellect. However, I don't feel like the challange was there. I don't see the huge mountain to climb. The NFL lineman to get past. The gallon of milk to chug. Perhaps that's why in my mind, my college degree isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Perhaps that's why I felt that by sitting among the 700 other college graduates, and looking around at some of the people recieving their degrees, I wondered what was so special in what I had accomplished. For some, it took everything they had just to stumble across the finish line and get that paper. For others, they just let the time slip by doing just the minimum to get the degree so they could get a job when they got done, caring nothing about the learning. Why even go to college at all. Some people receiving degrees BLEW MY MIND because of the amount of alcohol consumed and the parties attended. When they had time to do their work will remain a mystery to me. As for me, the education itself was the most important part, but perhaps that's why I feel cheated. I'm not going to chase that rabbit as a favor to you. Trust me, I could go off on my second Sailing Preacher Rant, but that's not for now.

Anyway, the next step in my journey takes me to seminary and beyond. It's supposed to be very tough to do, as most masters work is and even tougher still because it's a 3 year program rather than just two, and the subject matter is very diverse. Still, I don't feel like the challange is going to be there. I mean, just about every preacher in the country has a masters of divinity and that takes away from the difficulty, and shrinks the mountain even further. I honestly believe that the only educational mountain that exists for me is a doctorate degree of some sort. Few have it, it takes a lot of work to achieve, and carries with it a certain understanding that you have "arrived". Plus, how cool is it being called Doctor! My brother is headed into med school and doesn't really like that, but he can kiss my degree holding butt! Wait, take that back... it creates a wierd mental picture. Anyway, I suppose the only thing I can do is find little hills to tackle until seminary starts and I can begin attacking the proverbial Rockies. This does beg the question... when I do get my doctorate, what then? I suppose by that time I'll have more answers and I guarantee that you'll be reading about any new discoveries as they arise.