Insights from the joy of having peace with God

Archive for the month “September, 2013”

Biography Binge

A few years ago I was preparing to teach through Paul’s letter to the Roman church and stumbled onto the story of Martin Luther’s “Black Cloister” moment of salvation. (when he read Romans 1:16-17) I was fascinated that a monk could teach for years and then upon reading a relatively unknown and general verse could have his life changed forever. I read his biography and then became hooked on the conversion stories of some of history’s heroes. I read a biography on Charles Spurgeon and was blown away by how he was used by God in a critical moment in history. Then it happened. By it, I mean the publishing of Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. If I had not caught the disease yet, I had a full blown case of biographical intrigue.

I broke away from the illness so as to try and somehow contain it, but this year the symptoms returned and there was no stopping my curiosity. I have now read biographies on John Wyclif, Adoniram Judson, William Wilberforce, George W. Bush (autobiography), and now C.S. Lewis (recently written by Alister McGrath). I now have the autobiography of George Whitefield on my bookshelf staring at me. It has sensed my weakness. Can anyone else sympathize with my condition?

This binge has been very eye opening. Here are some of the things that I have learned/observed in this time:

1. Every person that is regarded with heroic status has human baggage packed away in the closet. It is easy for me to place men and women in such high places of esteem that they seem saintly. In every case though, I feel like I have met real people who have simply been blessed with moments of grace by God to accomplish great things. They all had real struggles, sins, and issues that somehow make me feel like I still stand a chance to make a monumental mark in history because my failings are in good company.

2. The moments in history that define those who I read about were not regarded as great in the time that they occurred. There were some who applauded the accomplishments, but intense struggle was encountered in almost every circumstance. What we now see as heroic was once regarded as foolish. This gives me great perspective to view the “here and now” with humility and perseverance.

3. Hindsight is usually 20/20. It is easy to look back into history and see the glaring problems with things that are believed or done. Evaluating the sum of a person’s life will reveal blind spots and stains. I find myself thinking “they were great until they did that or until they said that.The fact is that we stand today on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. One of my favorite professors has once said that we should approach history with humility because of this very fact. Instead of judging the problems we find we should be grateful for the mistakes that they have made along with the victories that they have won. We inherit both for either warning or encouragement.

4. I see my story through the lens of theirs. By seeing the providential events in the life story of others I am able to identify moments in my own life that carry much meaning and value. What I mean by this is that I become aware of how some pivotal moments in my life will affect my future. The results of my decisions are yet to be seen. The importance of my obedience to God today will affect moments throughout the rest of my life.

I don’t think that I will recover from this condition so I will make due by finding more good life stories to dive into. I feel somewhat connected to those that I read about. One day we will be connected in eternal worship and I look forward to that day. For now, I will continue to connect with them through the stories of their lives while moving forward in humility and obedience in mine.

Obedience is mine. The Results are His.


Don’t Manage Your Stress and Anxiety

I know it all. Really. Ask my wife and she will tell you that I act as if I do. Sometimes I recognize this as pride, but other times I chalk it up to confidence. I pride myself on how “in control” I am in life and how little stress affects me. Correction: I used to.

Stress is not something I deal with often, but when it hits, it packs a punch. I know that many of you know what I am writing about. About 8 years ago I started experiencing dark periods of depression. I didn’t know exactly what was happening as I was usually known for my care free, easy going nature. I found myself in seasons of loneliness, indifference, void of feeling any emotion. In these moments I found that even knowing the truth of the Word did not mean that my body was able to believe it. I needed more than intellectual ammo, I needed the Holy Spirit. The good news is that He is always there. I am learning more about who He is and how great He is by my confrontation with how weak and depraved I am. I was starting to figure this whole thing out. But….

Recently I had some questionable news come back on a lab report during my annual physical examination. The info I received was so cryptic that I turned to the source of all credible information, WebMD. I knew this was a bad idea, but I clicked away anyways. If you are not familiar with the magnitude of this mistake please take note. Any symptom that you have on this site will show that it could be a sign of death, doom, and destruction. Out of hundreds of possibilities of what my reading could mean, my mind stuck on the worst of them, incurable cancer.

Within minutes my body literally went into panic mode and I experienced my first anxiety attack ever. For days I had no appetite, could not sleep through the night, and I even started to exhibit real symptoms of disease. After numerous tests my doctor could only tell me that the original reading that started this anxiety was a bad reading and that everything seemed to be fine. Right, like I could really believe that.

Finally I allowed myself to surrender to the thought that I was fighting a spiritual battle with physical weapons. I was trying to find ways to reduce my level of stress and anxiety through breathing exercises, stretching, walking, even praying. If I did enough of those activities I believed that I could “manage” the anxiety away. As I was reading through my Bible I kept reading commands given by God through prophets in the OT.

“Fear not.” 

I always thought of this phrase in Scripture as a kind suggestion. As I studied more I found that it was not a suggestion for managing problems in life, but a direct command. To go even further I found Scriptures that deal with anxiety and stress and found them to be commands as well. God does not command us to “fear not” and not to “be anxious” because he wants to help us experience a smoother ride in life. He commands it because it is not of Him. Because of this I was finally confronted with the fact that being apart from Him it did not proceed from faith, and therefore is SIN.

Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:7 “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Fear and anxiety are not from God. Therefore my reaction to fear and anxiety in my life should not be to try and manage it, but to hit my face before my God and repent of it. How freeing this is. The burden of worry is lifted. The pain subsides. Please make note that not all of my physical ailments have gone away, but they are no longer my burden to carry. I no longer need to worry about them because they are in the hands of my loving God. My job in this season is to live out His calling in my life. His job in this season is to bring about His will. Peace comes from not trying to do His job.

Obedience is Mine. The Results are His.

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