One morning several months ago, I got a phone call from a family member. She indicated that she was struggling with her faith. Prayer wasn’t “working” and she was questioning her salvation because of it. She cited the last third of Proverbs one:

Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.
Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the LORD,
They would have none of my counsel
And despised my every rebuke.
Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way,
And be filled with to the full with their own fancies.
” Proverbs 1:28-31 (NKJV)

She reasoned that God was ignoring her prayers because of her refusal earlier in life to be obedient. She was convinced that she must not therefore be called and saved. In Romans 9 she had convinced herself that she fit Esau’s profile and fate rather than Jacob’s.

As I tried to reassure her that her concern itself argued against her conclusions, and that she was listening to the enemy rather than God. She responded with a collection of evidence that she was convinced proved otherwise. Then she nearly brought me to tears when she said, “I could never be like you. You’re different. You became a Christian when you were four-years-old and have been steady ever since. You don’t doubt and you’ve been a good person all your life.”

Oh! What have I done? Gary, you hypocrite! You’ve led your family, and possibly others, to believe you’ve had it all together spiritually for fifty eight years!

She, and I’ve learned since, others, have thought that my life has been one of continuous spiritual growth. In a sense it has, but not like they have thought. They thought that, whenever God spoke I listened and obeyed. They should have noticed clues to the contrary if they had watched my life more closely.

Before we got off the phone, I told her that first of all I began trusting Christ at the age of nine – not four. Of course that was trivial. Far more important was that I have had, and still sometimes have doubts and some rather significant questions as well as things I don’t understand about God and the Bible. I don’t have everything figured out. I am tempted in the same ways everyone else is and have failed. I still fail. I am ashamed of my thought life. I have a morbid dread that someday I’ll have dementia in a way that past and occasional current thoughts that I can now suppress will flush out for others to hear. I really want my last words to glorify God, not shame Him.

I realized that day that I was wearing a mask. People – especially most of my family – were seeing only the result of continuous confession of the same kinds of sin they were struggling with. They weren’t seeing my struggles. Whether consciously or subconsciously, I was hiding all that from them and giving them the impression that I’m different from them.

That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to hear details. Satan has a way of taking some public confessions and using them to talk us into giving ourselves permission to sin in the same way.
“I’ll just confess it afterward like they did, and be forgiven.” That’s partially true, but there is more than one sin involved when we do that – the more serious of which is a slap in the face of our precious Savior, nearly – if not in fact, blaspheming His suffering. How can we treat Him so flippantly??!!

Some may really be like what people think I’m like in my thought-life, but I suspect there aren’t many.

We need to be able to be imitated. But we need to be careful that our disciples know what they are imitating – not a perfect life, but a life that keeps short accounts with God. A life that consistently runs back to God – confessing sin, claiming God’s promise of forgiveness, and moving on in renewed obedience.

If all we communicate to our friends, to our family, to our children, is the victory and they don’t see the battle, we are going to continue to mislead them.
• Some will respond like the dear one who called me, putting us in a category of people exempt from their kind of battles.
• Some will hide their own struggles and imitate our outward actions, make their own masks and continue to struggle alone, usually in defeat!
• And others will see through our whole charade, call us by the hypocrites we are, and have nothing to do with Christ.

You may be looking at another brother or sister and thinking: “They’ve got it easy. They’re not going through what I am. They don’t have the thoughts I do. They don’t have the questions I have. They don’t have the doubts I have. No wonder they’re so victorious. I could never be like them.” If so, please realize that you’re probably not seeing their struggles.

Hebrews 10:23-25 – “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Brothers and sisters, we need each other. We need to come alongside each other, struggle together, hold each other accountable, and be honest with each other.
I need you – you need me.

Understanding Each Other

Last evening Lynda and I had the privilege of hearing Ryan Longnecker, (intern working with Bethany’s high schoolers) speak on post-modernism and the emerging church. One of several significant points he made was a quote from his room-mate’s dad.

You can’t even say you disagree with someone unless you can state their side in terms they agree with.

What a simple, yet profoundly important statement! All too often we insist on our own definitions of what others think – as if we are better qualified to tell them what they are “really” thinking and what they believe than they are. But then it actually takes work to listen without latching onto part of a statement and occupying our mind at building a rebuttal rather than hearing the rest of what is being said. We want to be ready to jump in at a pause to speak our mind – not ready to let what has been said sink in. Silence in a conversation? Egad! How scary! We may never get a chance to express the most important side (ours). We need to get away from the fear of silence in a conversation and train ourselves, individually and as groups, to allow time to consider and digest what has been said so that we make sure we are understanding it. But we are not comfortable with silence. We feel that something is wrong – that everyone is at a loss for words, and we have to fill the time with something. We need, we must, get over that and really think about what is being said! We need to be sure we accurately understand before we let our minds work the pros and cons.

Speaking up … or not (Silence)

“If you haven’t got anything good to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.” (Mother)

“Tis never so, that the louder the voice, the truer the argument.” (Ching Chow, 1968, News Syndicate Co.)
addendum to Ching Chow: Unless the argument is over who is the loudest.

Important truths are often hidden in the minds of people who are afraid to express them.
Important truths are often hidden in the minds of people who are not allowed to express them.

Mark Twain used silence during his lectures for dramatic effect.

Think twice before you speak. It might prevent foot-in-mouth disease.

Don’t be quick to answer dogmatically about things.

“Silence is not always golden. Sometimes it’s yellow.” (author unknown)
– Learn the difference.

The best way to avoid an argument is to preclude it. If appropriate, bring it up it up and answer it first. That will diffuse it, and prevent your opponent from claiming he has caught you off guard.
– “Asked and answered” as would be objected in the courtroom.
– Shows you are aware of the issue and have considered it.

Chronological Snobbery

“…what I have called ‘chronological snobbery,’ the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also ‘a period,’ and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them.”

C.S. Lewis, Surprised By Joy

Happiness

  • “You can’t be optimistic with misty optics.” (Charles Feinberg)
  • “You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd. But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to it.” (Roger Miller)
  • “People are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” (Abraham Lincoln)
  • Behave the way you want to feel. (me)
  • “If the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, start watering your own grass.” (Bayless Connelly)

The Way Things Are

    In no particular order

  • We don’t live in the world as God created it. (Gary Parker)
  • Intellectual honesty is not the enemy of faith – even with respect to the Bible.
  • Neither is logic.
  • All truth is God’s truth.
  • Not everything that happens has someone to blame.
  • I don’t have to have an opinion on every issue.
  • I don’t have to take a side in every conflict.
  • The law of the harvest: We reap what we sow, more than we sow, later than we sow. (Charles Stanley).
  • There are usually more ways than one to accomplish a task. The traditional way, or the “way we’ve always done it” may not be the best or most efficient – but not simply because it’s traditional.
  • The comfortable or convenient explanation is not always the best explanation.
  • Clever words do not in themselves form truth.

Praise & Criticism

I’m neither as smart, nor as dumb as people think I am.

    Therefore:

  • I shouldn’t think of myself more highly than I ought to think. (Romans 12:3)
  • I need to be realistic about what is said and shouldn’t take their praise more seriously than is really warranted.
  • I shouldn’t worry about what others think.
  • I shouldn’t quickly take offense at criticism since its intent is probably not as serious as I think.
  • I should consider the validity of any criticism, and if valid, heed and grow from it.