Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Joy of Thanksgiving

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:6-7, NIV

On this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, here's another "guest" post, this time by George Mueller, a great saint of the 1800's.  It's found in the October 13th reading of my ancient copy of Streams in the Desert.  (Current versions of this classic devotional have different readings on different days.)

Ms. Cowman takes this quote from Mueller's Life of Trust.

George Mueller says,

. . ."With thanksgiving." We should at all times lay a good foundation with thanksgiving.  If everything else were wanting, this is always present, that He has saved us from hell.  Then, that He has given us His Holy Word--His Son, His choicest gift--and the Holy Spirit.  Therefore we have abundant reason for thanksgiving.

O let us aim at this!

"And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."  And this is so great a blessing, so real a blessing, so precious a blessing, that it must be known experimentally to be entered into, for it passeth understanding.

O let us lay these things to heart, and the result will be, if we habitually walk in this spirit, we shall far more abundantly glorify God, than as yet we have done.

Joy comes only to a heart that is thankful.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Christian's Ultimate Dilemma

Here's a guest post by my friend (everybody's friend), Jeff Gerke

Okay, let's be honest here. How many of us who call ourselves Christians are utterly righteous in our minds? It seems to me that we all live a double life, one in which we talk the Christian talk (and, hopefully, walk the Christian walk), but on another level, our minds are thinking entirely...other...things.
Not very nice things. Downright mean things or selfish things or fearful things or lustful things or jealous things or greedy things or scandalous things--even illegal things. Thoughts that would get us in trouble with our friends, pastors, spouses, bosses, or even the police.

Maybe I'm oversharing here, but I find that I'm fully capable of humming a Christian worship song while simultaneously sinning. I surprise myself sometimes that I'm able to have both parts going on at the same time. You'd think I'd have to shut off the one to do the other, but it seems I'm quite capable of having both in hand at once.

You should see my journal. You'd be shocked at what I lay out before God. (That's why I password protect it!)

This state of affairs bothers me. I've been a Christian for 32 years--graduated seminary and been on staff at a church. I'm confident in my faith walk with Jesus. Now, wouldn't you think that someone like that would be purified in heart by now? Yet I find that my inner voice is both sacred and profane. I am simultaneously capable of compassion and holiness of thought and deed AND of a calculating sort of...un-Christian thought and deed that would surprise you.

The sort of thing that Christian men tell each other on the last night of a men's retreat. And, I assume, that Christian women tell each other...sometime.

My question is whether this is a bad thing or if it's just a true picture of the Christian mind. We look around us at Christian leaders we respect, and we tend to assume that they are as pure on the inside as they seem to be on the outside. But I suspect that if we were to get to really know them, we'd see the humanness and sinfulness still there.

Certainly we've seen so many "fall." So where did the fall come from? Were they total pretenders from the beginning and never true Christians at all, or were they MIXED, like I am, true Christians who just got too far over to that other side of things?

Maybe it's that Christians are the only ones with something OTHER than that calculating sinfulness in us. Maybe unbelievers have just the one sort of thinking most of the time. So is it a blessing or a curse (in a sense) to be possessed of both minds? At least Christians are CAPABLE of true righteousness. Occasionally.

I'm able to accept my situation as being normative for what Christianity really looks like. I know I'm a real Christian even though I have this whole other LARGE part of my brain that doesn't look like what Christianity is supposed to look like. I'm okay with it. I know God's working in me every day.

But I wish I heard more Christians talking about this, admitting their own dark or impure or uncharitable thoughts. And not just individual thoughts, but continuous thinking from a mind that has both light and darkness in it.

Personally, I think many Christians are in a form of bondage over this. We're led to believe that we should be as shiny pure on the inside as we say we are on the outside, and when the reality is that we still have all those "other" thoughts, we condemn ourselves. We succumb to the voice of shame. We redouble our efforts and our prayers and our spiritual disciplines to try to make the inside line up with the outside. And ultimately we fail. Rinse. Repeat.

How wonderful, how FREEING, it would be for Christians to accept that this BOTH/AND situation is normal and to accept themselves in their mental plurality. To understand that it's not only OKAY but NORMAL for a Christian to be capable of both mercy and murder, of love and lust, and that it's only the Holy Spirit in His very, very long sanctification process that can make a change. Our efforts only slow things down.

And to accept that probably we'll be on our deathbeds still thinking holy and heinous thoughts at the same time.

Don't you think a wider honesty and openness about this would be a healthy thing? Or are we too scared to "go first" in case others say, "What? I'm not like that at ALL. What's wrong with you?"

Well, I just went first.

So those are Darth Jeff's thoughts.  Comments anyone?