Archive for the ‘Resilience’ Category

O God of the highest heaven,
occupy the throne of my heart,
take full possession and reign supreme,
lay low every rebel lust,
let no vile passion resist thy holy war;
manifest thy mighty power,
and make me thine forever.

Thou art worthy to be
praised with my every breath,
loved with my every faculty of soul,
served with my every act of life.

Thou hast loved me, espoused me, received me,
purchased, washed, favored, clothed,
adorned me,
when I was a worthless, vile soiled, polluted.

I was dead in iniquities,
having no eyes to see thee,
no ears to hear thee,
no taste to relish thy joys,
no intelligence to know thee;
But thy Spirit has quickened me,
has brought me into a new world as a
new creature,
has given me spiritual perception,
has opened to me thy Word as light, guide, solace, joy.

Thy presence is to me a treasure of unending peace;
No provocation can part me from thy sympathy,
for thou hast drawn me with cords of love,
and dost forgive me daily, hourly.

O help me then to walk worthy of thy love,
of my hopes, and my vocation.

Keep me, for I cannot keep myself;
Protect me that no evil befall me;
Let me lay aside every sin admired of many;
Help me to walk by thy side, lean on thy arm,
hold converse with thee,
That I may be salt of the earth
and a blessing to all.

(text from “The Valley of Vision” devotional)

I’ve felt the pressure of temptation
I’ve heard the screaming lies of accusation
I know the world can be distracting
But if I keep one foot there
I’m just acting

Well I can’t think of a reason why I should look back
And I don’t intend to start now
Gonna set my face like flint to Jesus and His word
And I’m keeping my hand to the plow

I’ll felt the weight of condemnation
And how the devil twists my situation
My brother if you feel defeated
Let me remind you friend
That you’ve been cheated

Well I can’t think of a reason why I should look back
And I don’t intend to start now
Gonna set my face like flint to Jesus and His word
And I’m keeping my hand to the plow

 (from the album “Hand To The Plow” by Paul Clark; words & music by Paul Clark)

O God Most High, Most Glorious,
The thought of thine infinite serenity cheers me,

For I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed,
but thou art for ever at perfect peace.

Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfilment,
they stand fast as the eternal hills.

Thy power knows no bond, thy goodness no stint.

Thou bringest order out of confusion,
and my defeats are thy victories:
The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

I come to thee as a sinner with cares and sorrows,
to leave every concern entirely to thee,
every sin calling for Christ’s precious blood;

Revive deep spirituality in my heart;
Let me live near to the great Shepherd,
hear his voice, know its tones, follow its calls.

Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth,
from harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit.

Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities,
burning into me by experience the things I know;
Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel,
that I may bear its reproach,
vindicate it,
see Jesus as its essence,
know in it the power of the Spirit.

Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill;
unbelief mars my confidence,
sin makes me forget thee.

Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots;

Grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to thee,
that all else is trifling.

Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout,
strong and happy.

Abide in me, gracious God.

(from “The Valley of Vision” devotional)

Lord Jesus,
I am blind, be thou my light,
ignorant, be thou my wisdom,
self-willed, be thou my mind.

Open my ear to grasp quickly thy Spirit’s voice,
and delightfully run after his beckoning hand;
Melt my conscience that no hardness remain,
make it alive to evil’s slightest touch;
When Satan approaches may I flee to thy wounds,
and there cease to tremble at all alarms.

Be my good shepherd to lead me into
the green pastures of thy Word,
and cause me to lie down beside the rivers
of its comforts.

Fill me with peace, that no disquieting worldly gales
may ruffle the calm surface of my soul.

Thy cross was upraised to be my refuge,
Thy blood streamed forth to wash me clean,
Thy death occurred to give me a surety,
Thy name is my property to save me,
By thee all heaven is poured into my heart,
but it is too narrow to comprehend thy love.

I was a stranger, an outcast, a slave, a rebel,
but thy cross has brought me near,
has softened my heart,
has made me thy Father’s child,
has admitted me to thy family,
has made me joint-heir with thyself.

O that I may love thee as thou lovest me,
that I may walk worthy of thee, my Lord,
that I may reflect the image of heaven’s first-born.

May I always see thy beauty with the clear eye of faith,
and feel the power of thy Spirit in my heart,
for unless he move mightily in me
no inward fire will be kindled.

(text from “The Valley of Vision” devotional)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for men.
Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

Lord Jesus,
as I enter this workplace,
I bring Your Presence with me.
I speak Your peace,
Your grace and Your perfect order
into the atmosphere of this workplace.

I acknowledge Your Lordship over all
that will be spoken, thought, decided and accomplished
within these walls.

Lord Jesus, I thank You for the gifts
You have deposited in me.
I do not take them lightly,
but commit to using them
responsibly and well.

Give me a fresh supply of faith
on which to draw as I do my job.

Anoint my creativity, my ideas, my energy
so that even my smallest task
may bring you honour.

Lord, when I’m confused, guide me;
when I’m weary energize me;
when I’m burned out,
infuse me with the light
of Your Holy Spirit.

May the work I do
and the way I do it
bring hope, life, and courage
to all that I come in contact with today.

And Oh Lord,
even in this day’s most
stressful moments,
may I rest in You.

In the name of my Lord
and Savior
Jesus Christ I pray.
~Unknown

by Martin Jacobs

Good news for those who are conflicted, and bad news for those who aren’t.
(But not in the way you might think)
Some time back, a friend of mine at church observed that I was quite internally conflicted. She was right, of course, but she seemed to think that I shouldn’t be.

[Author’s note: I had included some words here about a personal situation. Sitting in Church, I realized that they might cause some unnecessary aggravation, so I left, came home and removed them. Hopefully, I’m acting in line with Paul’s admonition below.] 

I have heard these sentiments before, particularly among the friends in my previous charismatic churches. I am writing about them because I feel that they might be well intentioned, but they are ultimately misguided. They are misguided because the idea behind them is not supported in the Bible.

The troubling aspect is not that my friends are concerned with my welfare. They are, and I am grateful.

The troubling aspect is the underlying idea. The underlying idea is that the Spirit-filled person would experience a kind of Zen-like internal calm (in polar contrast to my internal conflicts, for example). This is typically expressed in terms of stilling your mind until it becomes a millpond, so that the image of God can be reflected in you, or so that you can detect the slightest hints of the Spirit’s movements.

Sounds spiritual, doesn’t it?

Though these metaphors sound at home in a typical Christian greeting-card, bookmark or button, they have no equivalent in scripture. Indeed, the more I read the scriptures, the more I see them contending with this kind of thinking.

My concern is that sooner or later, the Christian who holds to the Zen ethic is going to have to decide whether they believe it’s true because it feels right, or because it’s supported in scripture. I can claim some experience in this regard. In short, I tried the former strategy, but it didn’t work, so now, God willing, I’m trying to head down the latter way.

This has led me to revise much of my earlier thinking, and this revising has yielded much internal conflict. If I had avoided the internal conflict, I would not have allowed the Word of God to shape my thinking. See how skewed things become if we evaluate them by how internally conflicted we feel about them?

So, lets take a look at what scripture actually says on the topic. The following is a brief survey, based on the kind of language used by the Zen promoters in Christian circles.

Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10, KJV)
Incidentally, it’s the title of one of my favorite choruses.

Consider what it actually says. The NASB renders “be still” as “cease striving”, but the Hebrew simply states “cease”, “drop” or “abandon” (הרפו / harpu, see http://net.bible.org/#!bible/Psalms+46).

The translators did not miss the boat here, because the meaning of the Hebrew word for “cease” comes out of its context; the Psalmist observes the restlessness of the heathen, and the turmoil of life, and points the believer to the sure refuge of God. As we all know, a castle on a hill cannot be moved (unlike, say, a tent), so, according to the Psalm, what we need to do for our security is to stay in it. The heathen, by contrast, were always trying this or trying that, running around restlessly looking for safe ground.

The metaphors and typology of the Psalm are exquisite, and the message is profound; you will find refuge and our rest in God, so don’t try to find it somewhere else. He, not our internal state of mind, is the fixed point, the rock on which we stand. So, be still and know that (however you might feel about it, or whatever your internal experience of it might be) the God of Jacob is your refuge.

The still, small voice of God (1 Kings 19:12, KJV )
The story goes that, after defeating the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel, Elijah runs away and hides in a cave. Elijah, evidently, is your quintessential anti-hero. God comes to Elijah and asks him what’s going on. Elijah, despite the overwhelming vindication of God at Carmel, is depressed because he thinks he’s the only one of his generation who sees God. God needs to teach him something.

First, God sent a wind, but God was not in the wind.

Then God sent an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake.

Then God sent a fire, but God was not in the fire.

Then came a still, small voice, and Elijah was ashamed because God had spoken to him.

It’s a beautiful story and it tells us that God does indeed speak to us.

What I find remarkable is that after hearing the still small voice, Elijah expresses exactly the same anxiety as he did before (1 Kings 19:14 is a verbatim repeat of 1 Kings 19:10, the only difference being the substitution of “because” for “for” in the King James Version, but the Hebrew is identical). The difference is that after hearing the voice, Elijah has an answer, or a plan of action, which he then executes.

Consider Elijah’s state of mind when the still small voice came to him. I would not call it “calm”. It looks obvious to me that Elijah is being torn by internal anger, conflict and anxiety, which is why he goes and hides in a cave. My point is that this is the state of mind in which God comes and speaks to him. It is good news for us, because it means that we don’t have to foster an internal Zen-like calm before God speaks to us.

Let this cup pass from me (Matthew 26:39)
This is not a favorite of the Zen promoters. I strongly suggest they spend more time thinking about this than their favorite slogans.

The story here is that Jesus is praying on the night before he will die. He knows what is coming. Matthew describes him as “grieved and distressed” (Matthew 26:37). The good news is that Jesus, being fully and wholly human, is reacting to the situation in an absolutely normal human way. He is reacting the same way you would if you knew that in the morning, you would be publicly humiliated, have the skin flogged off your back, and then you would be impaled on a scaffold and left to die of exposure or asphyxiation in public as your tormentors watched to ensure that they would win.

At this point in time, under these circumstances and in his present frame of mind, was Jesus filled with the spirit?

Emphatically, yes.

We need some theology to explain why. Jesus Christ is both fully and wholly human all the time, and fully and wholly God all the time. How could God not be filled with himself? If you try to take the Holy Ghost out of Jesus in Gethsemane, you start down the short, broad road to the classic heresies.

Incidentally, I wonder if the contentions that Athanasius and the other Church Fathers had with the heretics crystallized on this issue; the followers of Arius believed his story because it felt right, whereas Athanasius stuck doggedly to what the scriptures said.

Consider this: Christ was filled with the Holy Ghost whilst experiencing unbearable internal conflict, grief and distress. Why then, do we insist that the sign of the Spirit’s indwelling is an internal calm. Does God operate differently with us than He did with Jesus? Emphatically, no.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (Colossians 3:15)
At first glance, this appears to support the idea of the millpond mind.

Except, that is not what Paul is writing about. What Paul is writing about is actual or potential conflict between believers in the Christian community. The context is so important, it’s worth repeating in full;

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
Colossians 3:12-17

In this passage, Paul anticipates conflict in the Christian community, and he gives us the perspective and tools to deal with it.

Why is it about conflict? Because Paul writes to a situation where believers need to “bear” one another, and “forgive” one another. They would not need to do so if all they did was sit in a circle and gaze at their navels. These were people who interacted with each other in a human way, and they evidently didn’t always get it right and they didn’t always agree.

The cults make much capital over the apparent disagreements in Christendom. Their mistake, which is repeated too often among Christians who should know better, is that they substitute the unity of Christ’s community with cultural or ideological hegemony. The message of the Gospel, by contrast, is that Christ’s Kingdom is made up of all sorts of people, from every tribe and nation.

In Colossians, Paul gives us the outlook to deal with conflict in the believing community. He lays down the foundation for our relationships; we should take on an attitude that is remarkably Christ-like and highly attractive. It’s based on a whole raft of classic virtues, which are bound together by love. It is in this context that Paul writes about the peace of Christ in our hearts. So, what he is writing about is something that dwells in the space between us as we interact with those with whom we might not ordinarily or voluntarily interact in a way that benefits them.

Then, Paul gives us the tools for the job. His toolkit starts with the word of Christ, and includes teaching, admonishing, psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (we’re back to the role of worship music here), which are all applied with a spirit of thankfulness to God.

We ought to be thankful to God because these people, who might have offended or wronged us, are still beautifully made in the image of God. However much the ravages of sin have disfigured the image of God in every human being, they can never erase it, and that gives us cause to rejoice for even the foulest of sinners, including me.

What Paul’s toolkit does not include is my internal impulses; Paul does not list any criteria related to the state of my internal experience. And, it’s for good reason. As I have written previously, the Gospel of the New Testament trumps the Jesus of our imagination with the Jesus of the Flesh.

Finally, though Paul writes about how we should deal with others, can we rightly apply the same strategy to ourselves? Emphatically, yes. Should I treat myself any differently than anybody else? Emphatically, no.

If the Gospel is true for them, it is also true for me, and for everybody. If I can bear and forgive someone else for his or her conflict, why can’t I bear and forgive myself? I should accept that I will not always get it right, and I will not always agree (not even with myself), but it is Christ who reconciles me and gives me room to live, just as He reconciles all in His new creation.

Good News to Those In Conflict
So, the message about the peace of Christ ruling in our hearts is good news to those in conflict. It means that we don’t have to react to situations in ways that are not normally human. You can be internally conflicted, and still be filled with the Holy Spirit, and still hear the voice of God.

The bad news for those who don’t experience conflict internally or externally is that it is not normally human. This is a real problem because Christ inhabits a space that is populated by normal humans, the first of which is Himself.

For a better and more comprehensive exploration of this issue, I highly recommend Professor Phillip Cary’s book Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don’t Have to Do (because they are not in the Bible)

May Jesus Christ draw our vision away from an unhealthy preoccupation with our own internal state of mind, and may we fix our eyes on Him, who is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).

(Originally posted on the “MartinOf Brisbane” website. Reprinted with permission.)

 

O Spirit of God,
Help my infirmities;

When I am pressed down with a load of sorrow,
perplexed and knowing not what to do, slandered and persecuted,
made to feel the weight of the cross,
help me, I pray thee.

If thou seest in me
any wrong thing encouraged,
any evil desire cherished,
any delight that is not thy delight,
any habit that grieves thee,
any nest of sin in my heart,
then grant me the kiss of thy forgiveness,
and teach my feet to walk the way of
thy commandments.

Deliver me from carking care,
and make me a happy, holy person;

Help me to walk the separated life with firm and brave step,
and to wrestle successfully against weakness;

Teach me to laud, adore,
and magnify thee,
with the music of heaven,

And make me a perfume of praiseful gratitude
to thee.

I do not crouch at thy feet as a slave before a tyrant,
but exult before thee as a son with a father.

Give me power to live as thy child in all my actions,
and to exercise sonship by conquering self.

Preserve me from the intoxication that comes
of prosperity;

Sober me when I am glad with a joy that comes
not from thee.

Lead me safely on to the eternal kingdom,
not asking whether the road be rough or smooth.

I request only to see the face of him I love,
to be content with bread to eat,
with raiment to put on,
if I can be brought to thy house in peace.

(from “The Valley of Vision” devotional)

by Fred W. Anson
A recovery parable
The story is told of an accused man whose guilt or innocence was difficult to determine.

In this culture they had a strange form of justice for such cases. Near the town there was a subterranean cave that the accused was lowered into via a rope. After the prisoner was there a week’s worth of food and water was also lowered down in a basket and the rope pulled back up. The accused was then left to contemplate these words, “There is a way of escape from this prison.  Should you indeed escape you will be welcomed back into society and given a full pardon. However, we will not return for you, check on you or help you in any way. Your future is before you and your fate is in your hands – life or death, guilt or redemption. In this way, and this way only will our justice be served.” And with those words they left.

After his eyes adjusted to the darkness – for the cave was very deep – the prisoner noted that the hole in the ceiling that he had been lowered through was too high to reach.  Further the walls were rough and probably impossible to climb. Yet the only world he knew was outside that hole so he knew he must reach it somehow and pull himself through to freedom, redemption, and justice!  His heart yearned for justice and home.

In the ensuing days dirt was piled high, so were rocks. But there simply wasn’t enough dirt and rocks to reach the hole. When he tried to scale the cave walls after great exertion and pain he would merely get as high as the smooth, slick, unyielding ceiling before falling hard onto the floor. This progressively caused more and more pain and injury with each failed attempt. All the while the sheen of the sun, the chirping of birds and the song of wind above the hole at first teased him then tortured him with thoughts of what a new life of freedom could be “out there!”

He jumped. He yelled. He cried. He sobbed. But no one came to his aid. He raged and stormed at the hole. Still no rescue came. He was alone with only pain and regret as his constant companions.

Then his food and water began to get low. “Rationing and time! Surely, that’s the answer – this is a test of wills I will simply wait them out. They will see my determined resolve, my regret, repentance, and humble state if just enough time passes. In the end they will surely have mercy and come back and save me!” So he carefully measured and extended his supplies well beyond the one week period. But to his shock and horror, still no help appeared. He was alone. And though he barely had the energy to do so, he wept again.

Finally, weak from hunger, thirst and fatigue the prisoner succumbed to the inevitability of a slow, lingering, pain filled death. In his final moments as he lay staring at the hole he quietly whispered, “They lied! The whole world is a lie! Life is a lie! There is no escape from this hell – the hole mocks me while this cold, dark, empty cave consumes me! I am lost.” And with those words he died.

A few days later from the back of the cave in the deep, deep darkness came the quiet sound of crawling men. They squeezed through a hole in the back of the cave just large enough for a man to get through. Finding the body they pulled it through the hole, which lead to another even darker, colder cave that led to a tunnel which lead to a large dimly lit cave which opened to a vast, open forest. It was there where the road back home could be seen past a thick thicket of ripe berry bushes and a rippling creek. Ironically had the prisoner been less fixated on returning by the same means that he had come in he might have found the way out (though hard, complex, and difficult) was there all along.

The former prisoners of that very same cave who now carried this lifeless body had ultimately discovered the answer that others had who died slow painful deaths desperately tried to find. For both the living and the dead the answer was the same: The way out is through.

. . . And so dear reader should you ever find yourself in that dark cave please remember these words, “The way out is through!”

(Adapted with profound thanks and appreciation from “Healing the Shame that Binds You” by John Bradshaw)

I had been in Alcoholics Anonymous for some time before I discovered that the Serenity Prayer used there and in other 12-Step Groups is actually a faint shadow of the powerful prayer that was originally included in a sermon by Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in 1943.[1]

So, for your edification (and for mine, for it never gets old) is that original prayer:[2]

The Serenity Prayer
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

NOTES:
[1] While there is much I would like to say about how the potent source of the original movement (the power of Jesus Christ to seek out, save, redeem, and restore lost sinners ensnared in sin) has slowly leaked out  and left AA a hollow, less efficacious shell of what once was, I will save it for a later blog.

[2] Source: Serenity Prayer Wikipedia article . Please note that the prayer was not originally untitled.  I have added the title that it was later added by Bill Wilson and AA for the sake of aesthetics.

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,

Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold
thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter
thy stars shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
that every good work or thought found in me
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty
thy glory in my valley.

“Monument Valley” by Frank Wilson

 (from “Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions” edited by Arthur Bennett)