Soul Settlers

Safe Harbors Aren’t Silent…

 

If you will lend me a few moments I will try to make it worth your time. I want to address a topic that is rarely discussed among Christians. Please allow me to introduce it with two experiences that I had last week.

 

Last Monday I had a nice dad-and-daughter discussion about life being made up of “different times.” We read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 — grab your Bible and take a peek at it — and were reminded that both good and bad times come and go. It was a rich discussion, and we discussed how important it is to learn to identify and appreciate each time for what it is — a passing season. If you are wondering what sparked that discussion, well, let’s just say that someone close to our family had hinted that crying is “bad,” and that one shouldn’t cry, ever. Ecclesiastes cleared that up nicely. Truly there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh.” Especially with a teenager in the house.

 

The second experience involved reading an article on Twitter by @Desiring God about anxiety, OCD, and how Christians can deal with both (@Desiring God is a must follow on Twitter and DesiringGod.com is one of the top Christian resources online). Let’s be honest, few Christians discuss those topics. And, please don’t pretend that you do not get anxious or worry a bit too much for your own good, and know someone close to you that checks his/her alarm clock or door locks a few too many times.  Sadly, we choose to remain silent during such topics. Now that we have that out of the bag, onward.

 

For those of you furrowing your brow in disbelief about how these two experiences can be interlaced for the good of humanity — O ye of little faith and scant imagination — have a seat, read on, and you’ll see. If you aren’t convinced at this point then go back to reading your current issue of Negativity Illustrated or Crusty Mind, Calloused Soul.

 

Here’s how the two intersect: each of us slog through seasons of life that are anxious, troubling, or blue. It’s part of life. Seasons of life are part of the deal, and keeping our mind and soul well-keeled during each of them is a consistent challenge.

 

Knowing and admitting that each of us Christ-followers has flaws, struggles, and obstacles let’s us latch onto a verse, begin to sort it out, and apply it to our lives.

 

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV).

 

Frequent readers of this blog — stellar folks with fine taste I might add — have seen this verse before. It’s one of my favorites because it covers vast, rugged terrain in a few brisk steps. It shows us that God does not want to us have fear or anxiety. Not ever. God’s design is for each believer to continually know a sense of His power and enjoy sound mindedness (also translated as “self-control” or “controlled mind”). 2 Timothy 1:7 can expose and exterminate problems that exist between your ears, your mind and soul, you and others, and your use of time and mental energy.  God’s Will is for you to have abiding peace and joy in life (see John 14:27-28 and John 15:11). Holding to this and recognizing that there are seasons in life that rise and fall, stride and stagger, helps you to appreciate that those times are temporary. This enables you to view your thoughts, attitudes, patterns, and life in view of the light of God’s truth. It is in His light that we see light (Psalm 36:9 and 119:130), especially during dark days.

 

In closing, as you go through tough seasons in your life please know that:

  • Other Christ-followers go through the same things.
  • There is a connection between the tone of the mind and the timbre of the soul, bath yourself in God’s Word. Both mutually benefit from it.
  • There is no reason to be silent about it. In the New Testament we are commanded to encourage, pray for, lift up, and help one another. (I happen to know a Bearded Acorn working on a book manuscript about the “one another” commands in the New Testament. Nice teaser, eh!)

 

Many Christians, and churches, lean away from discussing blue, jittery, or unsettled aspects and seasons of life. That is a shame, and a bit of a sham. Someone that you know is currently going through one. Acting as if you haven’t struggled in a similar way is poorly disguised Pharisee-ism

 

Because of what we have covered in these few paragraphs please set your mind on easing the mind and soul of someone else this week. As God’s compass has steadied your ship during tempestuous times you then are able to offer safe harbor for others.

 

“But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you …”2 Corinthians 7:6-7a

 

Did you catch that? God comforts us so that we can comfort one another. There is mutual relief and restoration in sailing alongside a fellow believer. Pull up the anchor, set your course toward a small boat rocking on the waves, secure them to your ship, and help them to the harbor…

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Bible study

Yours for the asking…

2 Chronicles 1:7-12 records an encouraging interaction between God and Solomon. God asks Solomon a question, Solomon responds discerningly, and God blesses him for it. Take a look:

 

“In that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask what I shall give you.”….Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?”God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like.” 2 Chronicles 1:7, 10-12
For the sake of brevity, let’s cut the principles into large pieces. This will save you from reading details and allow you to spend time in reflection instead. Here are the big slabs of truth:

 

  • Solomon had intimate fellowship with God. Notice that the interaction was not one-sided; it involved Solomon both listening to and responding to God.
  • Solomon’s response to God was wise and selfless. Solomon could have asked for riches, power, revenge on his enemies, or a long life; he did not. He asked for something that would honor God and help His people.
  • God granted Solomon his request for wisdom, and, also granted him the things that he didn’t ask for. We need to pause, grab ahold of this point, and wrestle with it. Play some mental ju-jitsu with it for a bit. Keep grappling with it, that’s it; wait, don’t knock over the lamp. Whew. Keep it down, someone in your house may become annoyed with your tussling with truth and mumble, “Are they in there reading The Bearded Acorn and wrestling with God’s Word again?” The word picture begged to be played out. Sorry, mostly.

 

Here’s the scoop on the third principle: After Solomon showed God-honoring reasons for his request God then granted him more than he had asked for. To state it another way, God doesn’t provide us with acres until we are faithful with inches. This principle should encourage us. It does so in several ways. First, it shows us that there is soul-building, joy-giving purpose in day-to-day living. Each day of honoring God leads to deeper days of it later. Honoring God in the most mundane of activities — work, house work, relationships, etc. — is proving ground for the events and tasks that lie ahead. Second, what we consider needful may actually be harmful. We must be satisfied in letting God determine what we need and when it is best for us to receive it. Third, following God is a daily process made up of successes and stumbles, watching and waiting. Rest assured that He gauges and guides the process perfectly. All three of these points direct us to trust God in the smallest areas of life as we grow toward more sizable ones. The super-sized Reese’s cups in life come after we have eaten our broccoli, with a good attitude.

 

To see these things in the day-to-day requires wisdom. You might be thinking, “If I was only as wise as Solomon…” The same wisdom that was granted to Solomon is available to you!

 

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5

 

Ask God for wisdom. He has plenty to give, and is pleased to give it to you. Remember, that wisdom is not magic dust sprinkled on your head from heaven. Wisdom is found in God’s Word. As you read and study the Bible the Holy Spirit will provide wisdom for understanding and application to your life. As you ask for wisdom each day, study God’s Word, and rely upon His Spirit exercise patience. You will begin to recognize His wisdom germinating, and then sprouting in your mind and heart. Growing in wisdom is like the slow and steady growth of an oak. The growth rings of wisdom are added as you seek God, soak in His Word, and follow Him.

Ask, and like Solomon, you will receive…

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Uncategorized

Good words for a good week…

Some of God’s greatest gifts arrive wrapped in rough paper. Likewise, some of God’s good news begins gruffly. With that in mind, let’s leap in.

 

Do you ever find yourself shying away from using the word “sin?” It seems harsh, personal, and condemning. It is all of those things, and from God’s view it is rightly so. Why? Sin wrecks the world, and each person in it. Until we call it what it is we cannot deal with it honestly. Not correctly identifying inherent sinfulness as our primary problem would be like accepting a doctor’s diagnosis of: “Yes, you certainly have a terrible disease, but let’s not identify it, or label it specifically — that would be harsh and upsetting — rather, let’s call it something more pleasing and see if you can improve your health by ignoring it.” That’s industrial strength negligence. Although it would seem like a ridiculous approach to physical health some have no qualms about handling their spiritual matters in this manner.

 

You are wondering where the good words are, aren’t you? Well, we must first ascertain  that sin is the ailment before we can apply the cure. With that out of the way, here’s the cure:

 

“For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,” Romans 4:3-5

 

The deeply personal bad news is that we are all sinners, and sinful. The worse news is that many people believe that it is possible to work their way out of it. Attending church, doing good deeds, and giving to charities are all common approaches to “doing more good than bad.” The truth — Bible truth that is — tells us that we cannot do so. We do not have the ability, capacity, or consistency to do “good” that will erase our sin. No one will be forgiven and receive eternal life because of what he or she did. No one; not you, not me, not anyone, ever. Romans 4:4 makes this jarringly clear: if you attempt to work to earn God’s favor and forgiveness you actually go further into debt to Him for your sin. Hint: trying to earn God’s favor is a sin in itself as it attempts to reduce God’s standards to ours and exalts our abilities to those of Christ. Ouch!

 

Now to the good words, good words to encourage you toward a good week.

 

Romans 4:5 gives us three astounding truths:

  • Our relationship with God is grace-based, not works-based. Whew!
  • The “ungodly” and “unrighteous” — that’s us — are forgiven and justified by faith in Jesus.
  • The righteousness of Jesus is applied to those who believe in Him.

 

In summary, you and I cannot earn God’s favor and forgiveness; we receive it by His grace through faith in Jesus. And — this is a a big one — we are forgiven by faith in Jesus and His righteousness is applied to us (that’s a big “and”). So, God does not see you as a sinner huddled under the Name of his Son, rather, He sees you cloaked in and covered by the righteousness of His Son. He looks at you through the lens of the Lord Jesus. How’s that for good words from God’s Word?

 

He did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves and gives us what we could never earn. That’s a grand description of God’s grace. His grace for you, and to you, each day. Good words indeed…

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Bible study

Liberty that lasts…

As we celebrate of the 4th of July each of us will consider the purchase price of our liberty. Hundreds of thousands of America’s finest folks have offered their service, and often their lives, to provide innumerable and immeasurable freedoms:

  • To worship as we choose
  • To believe as we choose (or have been chosen to, depending on your view of Romans 8, Ephesians 1, and Acts 13:48). Yes, I had to put that theological jab in there. But, it was designed to nudge you to read those verses, and think on them.
  • To raise our children as we choose
  • To own property, a home, a Bible, and your own thoughts, to clip your fingernails in pubic (please don’t!), to post your events on FaceBook, to pierce or tattoo your whatever, and such.

 

Those macro freedoms are offered to us all, for now. While they are grand, much of the greatest enjoyment comes in the specific application of them in your life. Here are some examples from my weekend:

  • The building excitement of carrying on our family traditions on Independence Day: the kids’ all day swim-fest, grilling hamburgers and hot dogs, Dairy Queen ice cream, and watching the local fireworks display. And, getting a little moist in the eyes at some, or several, points during the day.
  • The joy of spending a couple of shirt-soaking hours picking purple-hulled peas with my dad, talking about our jobs, and enjoying stories from years past.
  • The restfulness of reading: the Bible, the poetry of Wendell Berry (A Short Porch is a new collection of his “Sabbath Poems”), Arkansas Sportsman magazine, and Mayflower (an account of the Pilgrims dream of and journey to America).

 

Each of those moments cascade from the many freedoms that we enjoy as Americans.

There are those in our culture who want to change that. They seek to redefine our freedoms in order to conform them to their purposes and views. Know this, their redefining of freedoms is an attempt at reducing them. We will sway with them or succumb to them only if we allow it. While subtle and invisible, the struggle against this is real, and fierce. Without a doubt, our current cultural conflict is a spiritual one. So, what better way to combat the “redefining” of our culture than with eternal truth?

 

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

 

Notice in Galatians 5:1 that Paul gives Christ-followers a trio of tested truths to grasp to as they grapple for spiritual, and cultural, liberty:

  1. Christ Himself has set us free. It is a precious freedom from the power of sin and full pardon for our sin.
  2. His followers have to “stand firm” in order to retain this freedom. There are pressures and powers within us (our sinful nature) and outside of us (the world, its ways, and the enemy) that will lie to and lure us away from the truth, the life, and freedom that He brings (John 8:32 and 10:10, you know the drill, look them up and read them).
  3. The way our liberty is lost and we are enslaved again is by us allowing it to happen. We have the power of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit to correct and keep us.

 

What’s the point of the previous 550 words? In summary: as Christians, and citizens of the United States, we enjoy rich spiritual liberty in Christ, and daily freedoms as Americans, if we forgo the spiritual freedom then we will certainly forfeit the cultural ones. Believe it or not, reading your Bible each day, spending time in prayer, recognizing what God is doing in your life, and appreciating the joys and liberties that you experience are a firm defense against losing them. A great enemy to each of God’s gifts is not our opponent’s onslaught against them, it is your indifference to them.

Our society is at the gates, jangling the chains of submission. You have the sword of truth and shield of faith, what will you do?

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