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Posts tagged ‘faith’

Au Naturel | Secrets About Faith and Truth

I took longer than usual about my morning ablutions, enjoying every moment from the thyme-scented bath to the flawless foundation (well, flawless for me) to the popping red lips. I painted my nails and tried to look at my – let’s call them curves – as if I could love them. A little bit. I checked that my hair had just the right balance between bouncy curls and sleek smoothness that it needed for the evening’s activities (eight hours later), before pinning it all up again to protect it from our humid climate.

By the time I was ready for the day, mundane as my morning plans may have been, I was bubbly with a little inner champagne of joy and a serious case of the ‘I’m-all-that’s.

I headed outside to hang out the laundry (see? I told you. Mundane.) It was the perfect day for it: hot and bright, with a soft little breeze to ease the oppression of too much humidity.

I’d just taught Goldilocks about the meditative power of doing chores, and I decided to sink into mine with a soulful relish.

The breeze dance through my just-styled hair, displacing some of the morning’s artistry. Usually, I’d have railed inside at the frustration. I’d have willed my hair to stay in place – maybe even pinned it down. I’d have been frustrated by my inability to impose my will on the sun, the wind, my hair, the humidity content of the air, the recalcitrantly damp laundry and the pervading heat.

But not today.

Today I let the wind have its way with me. I immersed my self in its cool touch and felt connected to the earth on which I stood, the greenery surrounding me. These all were my mother, my sisters. Soul mates. Friends.

I heard – no, wait – felt the breath of that breeze whisper ancient truths into my waiting mind.

“Your children’s destiny is not your responsibility. It is no reflection on you. What they become is their affair. What they believe is their choice. You cannot make them believe anything. Not ever. You can teach them what you believe, and you can tell them why. You can model your truth, living it with honest and integrity, and without hypocrisy or ulterior motives. And you should. You can give them the tools they need to think, to learn, to discern, and to grow. You can open the door. You can show them the way. You may even walk part of it with them. But it is their way. And you cannot change it. Only they can do that.

Live joyfully with your children. Relish them fervently. Be present with them every moment that you share. Because those moments grow fewer. And those moments, finally, are all that you can truly give them. Make sure they are enough. Waste none.”

A friend is filled with dogma and fear for her children’s souls. If she cannot make them share her faith, they have no hope.

But she cannot make them share her faith though now, perhaps, for a time, they day. Tomorrow is tomorrow, and what will be will be.

I pray for my children’s souls, but I do not fear. I cannot make them believe anything, but I can teach them to live their truth by bravely living mine.

They are wise and they are strong and they will make right choices for themselves. They will make wrong choices for themselves. They will suffer. And they will rejoice. And in between the suffering and the rejoices, in the myriad tiny and tremendous choices they will make each day from this day until their last days, they will live.

And they will live well.

Secrets about faith and living your parenting

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Principles for freeing your life from worry

Recently, I’ve been battling with a very specific issue of faith. As I grappled, I was tempted to feel alone: as if this struggle was unique to me and my situation, and I was the very first person ever to have felt the things I felt.

Don’t we all get there, sometimes? We feel so alone in the midst of our struggles that we forget one of the greatest truths we possess: we’re never alone. Hebrews 4:15 tells us so beautifully how Jesus faced the same trials we do, yet never sinned. We can turn to Him for the strength we need.

Our business has been going through a rough patch these past few months. I don’t think it’s serious or long-term, but it’s stressful to be in the middle of, and we don’t really have the resources to weather it. Whenever challenges strike, I immediately become introspective. Through a combination of prayer, self-analysis and endless speculation with those closest to me (poor things!), I try to dissect the actions and decisions I’ve made to arrive at the tenuous position in which I find myself. (It’s a little exhausting).

As I search for answers, I inevitable turn to God’s Word to shed some light on the situation. I was baffled and confused when I read in Proverbs about the necessity of “look[ing] well to [one’s] herds” and “prepar[ing] the horse against the day of battle” – all verses which underscore the necessity of making plans, being involved, taking an active role in the health of one’s finances – and verses that speak about not worrying about what you’ll eat for tomorrow, since today has worries enough.

Peter teaches us to cast all our worries on His mighty shoulders, because He cares deeply and specifically for our well-being. How could we leave everything in God’s hands AND be prepared for the winter, so to speak? In fact, the next verse in Peter gives us a clue: be sober and vigilant.

In other words: be awake, in your right mind, keeping watch.

Be free from worryBe prepared.

And then it struck me (finally – I’m a little slow ;)): what better way to be free from care than to be prepared? And what better way to be prepared than to turn to the User Guide for Better Living for the guidance we need?

Proverbs teaches us the value of being ready for whatever is likely to befall. Obviously there are scenarios we cannot predict, and these we leave to God. But the passages that teach us not to worry or be anxious are not teaching us to abdicate our responsibilities, just as the passages that teach us to be prepared and diligent are not advocating self-reliance. A full surrender to God doesn’t mean we do nothing. It means we do everything we can – as best we can. We just do everything His way, in His strength. And what better Way is there, after all?

When people say, “let go and let God”, it’s misleading. It’s not saying enough. We do need to let go: of fear and anxiety and doubt. We do need to let God: we need to let Him show the way. Then we need to go the way; do what He says. It’s not a state of relaxed idleness, trusting in His provision while we do nothing at all. It’s a state of watchful faithfulness, trusting in His provision through the strength and skill He has given us by His grace.

In other words: it’s being prepared. It’s being ready for use, just like a clean dish and a tidy house. Let’s make ourselves useful, and trust Him to use us for His perfect will.

What marriage is … and isn’t

I am one of the lucky ones. Growing up the way we did, we got to see what works in marriage – and what doesn’t. That means I knew what I wanted when I chose my man, and I knew what I needed to do and to be. I didn’t come into this arrangement with a string of expectations and idealistic fantasies. I knew marriage is about hard work, and I’d found the man I was willing to do the work to keep. I also knew that what I wanted from life was not marriage, and what was missing from me couldn’t be filled by a man, no matter how awesome he is.

Only God can fill that gap.

Yep, I’m one of the lucky ones. That doesn’t mean we haven’t faced our share of trials, and sometimes I’ve honestly wondered if we had what it takes to keep it together. I am sure we all have. And I’m sure we will again. What I do know, though, is that a marriage built on God is hard to shake.

That’s why I love this video.

How to be HAPPY this New Year

The Pursuit of Happiness

Text:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives examples of the various “unalienable rights” which the Declaration says all human beings have been given by their Creator and for the protection of which they institute governments.

We as humans have latched on to and taken hold of this idea to such an extent that we now believe the pursuit of happiness to be our primary reason for being. We have convinced ourselves that it is our right and, in fact, our duty, to devote our time and energy to those things which make us happiest. Achieving happiness, whether we measure it by our own emotions, the praise of others, or the number of things we amass, is the mark of success in the race of life.

The Latest Fad

Dozens – even hundreds – of books are devoted to the subject. Newspapers, magazines and blogs devote swathes of rainforest to sharing the secrets of happiness. Everything from diet to habits to attitudes to vocation comes under the microscope, ready to be analysed and assessed for its ability to increase or diminish our perceived happiness. Anything less than bliss must be cast aside as rubbish, discarded for its obvious lack of value in the quest for personal pleasure.

A Fad with Flaws

A rational observer will soon see some key flaws in this approach.

From a secular point of view, hard work and easy amusement tend to be at odds with one another. If easy amusement is the ultimate goal in life, it stands to reason that hard work has no value, and in fact detracts from this goal. As such, it ought to be eschewed.

From a spiritual point of view, not only are the quiet disciplines of a life ordered after God’s precepts not immediately obvious as pathways to plain pleasure; the reminders of our sinful nature throughout God’s Word and godly teaching are sure-fire mood killers, and add no profit to a life focused on so-called happiness. Thus, glorifying God and pursuing pleasure are at odds.

Modern Science Shows the Way – or Does It?

A recent edition of the popular modern magazine, Psychologies, draws attention to this phenomenon only too well. This magazine specialises in bringing the very latest advances and discoveries in the world of mental health research to the public, to enable us to benefit from the fast-growing body of knowledge on the subject, and essentially begin to heal ourselves.

This particular issue dedicated three separate articles to the subject of finding happiness, and offered practical advice on how to achieve this goal.

Think Happy Thoughts

The first article related current research showing that, typically, lottery winners find that their happiness peaks briefly after their win, then dips to pre-winning levels, if not lower. In fact, many lottery winners become so depressed, they need to be hospitalised, and some even commit (or attempt) suicide. Giant windfalls provide short-lived mood enhancers, the writer explained. However, the simple act of actively noticing and enjoying the beauty available everywhere, in a focused and intentional way every day, would gradually provide a sustained lift in mood that would not only lead to elevated levels of personal happiness, but would also furnish the person with a reserve of inner strength which would help him through the harder times when they arise (as they will). The writer suggested the company of good friends, stimulating conversation, excellent literature, beautiful sunsets, scenic walks and so forth as potential subjects to enjoy and ponder.

Find Your Happy Place

Another article explained that regular reflection was the pathway to happiness. Taking time every day, the  writer said, to “get away from it all”, and to calm and order your thoughts, would make you more disciplined, more focused, calmer on the inside, and, as a result, happier. Suggestions included yoga and meditation, among others, as ways to take your mind to a more peaceful place.

An Attitude of Gratitude

A third article was in fact a letter of appreciation written to the letter. The writer explained that she had become very discontent with her life, particularly her work. She said that she’d been battling bitterness and depression for some time, when her niece gave her a copy of Psychologies to help her get perspective. One of the articles she’d read reported a study that showed that people who spent their days actively finding things to be genuinely grateful for reported increased happiness, better health, and faster career growth. They tended to be more well-liked by colleagues, superiors and their families, and found that, over time, the quality of their lives improved. The writer of the letter said that she had decided to give this approach “a go”, and had found that it had already begun to have the desirable effects described in the article.

God’s Had the Answers All Along

In each case, the magazine was reporting the most current research on the subject, sharing with us the most-recently discovered ways to pursue personal happiness.

The funny thing is that God has been saying these things for thousands of years.

In Philippians 4:8, the apostle Paul exhorts us with the following:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

In other words: actively seek the good, true, pure things God has put in your life, and use your brain to consider those, instead of miring it in the bog of worry and stress we seem determined to infest.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Paul makes it very simple indeed:

Pray without ceasing.

In other words: don’t give up. Take the time all the time to get your mind quiet and focused. Give your problems to God and await His answers in faith.

This chapter goes on to say, in verse 18,

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

In other words: be thankful. As the writer in Psychologies pointed out, an attitude of gratitude takes you places. Paul is not saying for everything give thanks, although we can give thanks for every trial when we choose to see God using that trial to mould us into something useful for Him. But Paul says in everything give thanks. Perhaps your trial is too hard to allow you to be thankful for it. But there are thousands of things in each life for which we can be thankful. And we should.

And to make it abundantly clear, in verse 16 Paul says this potent phrase:

Rejoice evermore.

Now we get to the heart of the matter – and it is a heart matter. He says “rejoice ever more”, then goes on to say, “pray, give thanks, stay away from bad things and focus on the good.” And the result surpasses temporary happiness. The result is joy – sustained, deep, unshakeable joy not dependant on circumstances, relationships, events, health or anything other than the faithfulness of our Saviour.

God knows the recipe, and He graciously shared it with us over 2000 years ago. Scientists think they have finally unlocked the secrets of the highest purpose in man’s life. But they are wrong on two counts:

One is that happiness is not the result of happy thoughts, an attitude of gratitude, or a regular brain drain in meditation. These are second hand substitutes that lack depth, effectiveness and long-term power. The real path to what we believe we want, happiness, is prayer, focusing on the good God has given us, and thanking Him in every circumstance.

More important, however, is that the pursuit of happiness is NOT the point of our existence. The glory of God is. We cannot glorify God, pray without ceasing, thank God even in the face of trials, or reflect on His goodness, if we don’t know Him personally, and experience His grace at work in us regularly. Have you met this Jesus, and do you know Him as your Saviour?

Finding PEACE in the trials of life

Papa Bear is a trainee pastor. This means that every now and then he gets to preach. I love it when that happens. He has a keen insight and a philosophical outlook that really speak to me, and I enjoy hearing what he has to say. Last week Sunday our pastor was away on a conference, and Papa Bear got to preach. Here’s what he spoke about:

Finding PEACE amidst the trials of life

As Christians, we seem to have this world view that life should be easy for us. Somewhere along the way we picked up the idea that the meaning of the term “God’s Blessing” was the way would smooth, plain sailing. We imagine that people will like us and see the good in us as we strive to be more like Jesus. We imagine that, by sheer dint of hard work, (and a bit of judicious planning) our financial woes will be a thing of the past. We expect to be safe from all external harm – crime, accidents, political chaos and so forth. And we expect that we will have good health until we drop dead from the simple accumulation of minutes on the face of the planet.

Why do we believe these things? There’s certainly no Biblical support for this world view whatsoever, and there’s also no anecdotal evidence available from a cursory glance around the planet. Everywhere we look – whether we’re looking around us at the people who share our space on this planet, or behind us, at the people who’ve gone before us in time, the evidence suggests strongly that a life of peace and comfort is not likely to be a reality for ANYONE – and much less likely for a Christian than for anyone else.

Jesus explained this very truth to use when He said, “18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. 23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did , they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law , They hated me without a cause.” John 15:18-25

Charles Spurgeon explained the attitude we should adopt like this: “If we cannot believe God when circumstances seem to be against us, we do not believe Him at all.”

Let’s take a look at five facts about trials that will help us to gain peace as we face them each day.

  1. The predictability of trials – they’re a fact of life

    Another famous line from Charles Spurgeon explains it like this: “The safest part of a Christian’s life is the time of his trial…Smooth water on the way to Heaven is always a sign that the soul should keep wide awake, for danger is near!”
    Romans 12:12 – Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
    The implication is that tribulation is a part of life. Note what it says in the book of James:
    James 1:2 – My brethren, count it all joy WHEN ye fall into divers temptations;
    When – not IF … we ALL face trials and temptations.
    Acts 14:22 – Confirming the souls of the disciples, [and] exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
    Psalms 34:19 – Many [are] the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.

  2. The endurance (permanence) of trials

    Trials will always be a part of everyone’s life – whether you can see it or not. Your trials are as bad for you as Joe Soap’s mine are for him.
    1 Corinthians 10:13 – There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it].
    We keep getting tried until we acquire the lesson.
    James 1:3-4 – Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
    Note: “let patience have her perfect work …” – in other words, let the trial finish making you patient, so that your heart can be perfected in the lesson you’re learning. Resistance is futile (and painful J)

  3. The assumption of trials

    We assume they’re to be endured, but in fact we should see them as opportunities for growth.
    Romans 5:3-5 – And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
    We assume we should be exempt from them but in fact trials have been promised to us.
    1 Peter 4:12-15 – 12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.
    We assume we’re alone in trials, but in fact this is when God is most near us.
    “As sure as God puts His children in the furnace he will be in the furnace with them” Charles Spurgeon
    Psalms 23:4 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou [art] with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
    Hebrews 13:5 – Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
    We assume we can’t handle it
    Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

  4. The comfort of trials

    God is with us, and He strengthens us:
    John 16:33 – These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
    Even the worst of times works with God’s plan for our ultimate good:
    Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.

  5. The end (purpose) of trials – our maturity

    To establish us:
    1 Peter 5:10 – But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle [you].
    To work together for our own good
    Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.
    To perfect us (make us mature, complete)
    James 1:2-4 – My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
    We are promised rewards for faithful endurance
    James 1:12 – Blessed [is] the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
    Romans 8:18 – For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time [are] not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
    Revelation 3:21 – To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

What should our response to trials be?

Positivity (JOY), patience and prayer.

Romans 12:12 – Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

James 1:2-4 – My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

1 Peter 4:12-15 – 12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.

John 14:16 – And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

James 4:7 – Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

And finally, another quote from Spurgeon to round it all off:

“Hope itself is like a star- not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity. ”

Doubt. Without it, your faith does not exist.

Red Riding Hood is a deep thinker. She ponders ideas and philosophies, turning them round and round in her beautiful young head until she begins to find the sense, the meaning behind it all.

This is most apparent when it comes to pondering her faith. We feel strongly that it is our duty to teach our children what we believe to be true. If we saw them heading towards certain and imminent death – walking onto a busy highway, for instance – we’d be compelled to stop them, correct them, and show them the right way. The safe way. To save them from certain death. In the same way, it is only right that we teach them what we believe to be the only way to be truly Safe.

Truth first

The truth is like a lion: let it looseHaving said that, we encourage them always to seek the truth. Truth is robust. It cannot be contained. It cannot be ignored. It cannot be denied. It certainly should not be feared. Above all, it must be sought. I encourage my girls to ask questions, to keep digging into all they know, until they are completely satisfied that they have found the truth. And then I encourage them to dig some more. No question is taboo. No answer is too unpalatable to be given.

No matter the cost, we must know the truth. I want to know the truth. I want to believe the truth. It’s not a case of wanting what I believe to be true, although of course I want that. Who wouldn’t want the assurance of knowing that their beliefs are true? And who would wilfully continue to believe something they know to be false, after all?

Quetions are our friends. They lead us to truth. So the girls are never discouraged from asking as many questions as they can think of, to anyone who will take the time answer.

A shaky foundation?

Red Riding Hood has a persistent fear. She is concerned that her faith isn’t real. We’ve covered this ground over and over again, and it’s taken me some time to get to the heart of the problem. This week we had a breakthrough. Even though Red believes in the fundamentals of our faith, sometimes she has doubts. These very doubts provoke the questions of all true truth seekers.

When I understood that, I could address her fears properly for the first time.

The fact is that it is these very doubts that create the need for faith. They justify faith. Without them, all we’d have is knowledge. Knowledge is good and pure, valuable. The Bible tells us that the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. That is the way to pure truth. But faith is a beautiful thing. It brings with it a sense of mystery, an aspect of the divine. Faith sets us apart from the animals. Faith makes us human. It gives us purpose. It gives us hope. Faith gives us the strength to keep going.

Without faith, we are less than we could be. Less than we ought to be.

And if we have no doubt, we cannot have faith. Our doubts define the course of our life’s journey towards truth. But they serve a higher purpose in creating the requirement for a deep, unwavering faith. In these ways they do us a great service.

How about you? Do you ever doubt your faith? Do those doubts make you question the validity of what you hold to be true? I encourage you to recognise those doubts as opportunities for growth. Allow the questions they give rise to to lead you down new paths of enquiry. Embrace the faith that holds you to the truth. And never, ever fear truth. As St Augustine famously said,

“The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself.”

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart.

Yesterday, my “Slaying Dragons” exercise did not get off to a good start. Around midnight last night, it dawned on me that I had tried to do it in my own strength, without so much as a word of prayer. How foolish! I found this on Facebook today and thought it a fitting reminder to get me back on track.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine understanding

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine understanding

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