The D’s of Depression – Delve Into the Depths of Your Soul Part 5

Knowing others is wisdom Knowing Yourself is ENLIGHTENMENT Lao Tzu

As we continue to delve into the depths of ourselves, there is a source of help. It is called the scriptures. I believe that through the scriptures, we can come to better understand ourselves, those around us and more importantly, our Creator.

I can bear testimony to the ability the scriptures have in helping us to understand our importance while also understanding that we are as a grain of sand.

I know that it can be a challenge to understand how God can know each of us individually. All I can say is that He does. I don’t know how it is done but I witnessed it during my near-death experience. Our Creator truly is perfect and without flaw. He is love in its all encompassing perfection.

I know that God desires for you to know yourself and for you to know Him personally and intimately. It is when we better understand him, that we are able to more successfully allow  Him to guide us and to help us manifest our true, divine potential.

A wonderful source of guidance in our endeavor to know ourselves is the scriptures. I hope you will enjoy today’s installment written by Mark Roberts and shared from the Patheos.com website! Have a wonderful weekend and I hope you spend some of your time over the weekend getting to know yourself better!

Divine Guidance Through Scripture

In my last two posts I explained that God can guide us through shaping the circumstances of our lives. But I admitted that this sort of guidance is often ambiguous. Circumstances may appear to point in more than one direction at the same time. Or different circumstances might seem to contradict each other. So we need to be able to weigh the events of our lives to determine with greater precision how God may be guiding us.

I would suggest that Scripture often provides the scales for this kind of discernment. Now before I go further, I should mention that I am a Christian who swims in the Reformed evangelical stream of the Protestant tradition. Knowing this about me, you’d expect me to uphold the authority of Scripture. I believe that the Bible is God’s Word given to us in human words that are, like Christ Himself, both divine and human in a mysterious way. I don’t have time here to explain in detail what I mean by this or even to defend it. But I should fess up so as to make sense of what I’m about to say about Scripture.

There are people, including some Christians, who look to the Bible for guidance even though they don’t believe it’s inspired by God in an unusual way. They view Christian Scripture as a source of wisdom similar to other sources, like the plays of Shakespeare or Gandhi’s The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Without denigrating the wisdom found in such writings, I believe that the Bible is uniquely inspired and, therefore, uniquely authoritative, and, therefore, uniquely able to guide us in life.

How Does the Bible Guide Us?

The Bible provides a reliable yardstick by which to measure our claims to be guided by the Holy Spirit through circumstances or feelings. If, for example, you think that the Spirit is leading you to do something the Bible prohibits, you can be sure that your spiritual lenses have become foggy. Throughout history, people have committed blatant sins under the claim God’s guidance. But since the Spirit inspired the writers of Scripture, that same Spirit can be guaranteed not to lead us to contradict the plain direction of Scripture.

Earlier in this series, I referred to a friend of mine, I’ll call him Bill, who claimed that God had brought him and a married woman together to deliver her from a terrible marriage. I think Bill actually believed this. Unfortunately, Bill’s claim to be led by the Spirit to commit adultery contradicted the clear teaching of Scripture in many places, including such “minor” passages as the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. No matter how much circumstances seemed to weigh in Bill’s favor, and no matter how much his feelings led him toward a intimate relationship with a married woman, he was misconstruing God’s guidance. According to Scripture, adultery is wrong, plain and simple.

There is a positive side to scriptural discernment of circumstantial guidance. If events in your life seem to point you in a certain direction, you can be more confident about that direction if it leads you to do that which Scripture affirms. This isn’t foolproof, of course. For example, if someone loses a plane ticket to Indonesia and you find it, you shouldn’t interpret that as proof that God wants you to evangelize in that country, even though sharing the gospel is consistent with God’s Word. It’s much more likely that God wants you to turn in the ticket so the rightful owner can use it. But if, on the other hand, events in your life give you an opportunity to share your faith with your neighbor, the fact that Scripture teaches you to do this very thing makes the probability of divine guidance in that direction more likely.

The Bible gives us much more than the ability to evaluate the spiritual significance of circumstances. It is the primary source for divine guidance in our life. The Spirit who inspired the biblical writers also works in our hearts to help us understand what God wants to say to us through the Bible. One of the chief functions of Scripture is to reveal God’s will for our lives. (Of course I realize that some Christians today do not recognize the unique authority of Scripture. They believe that their experience can trump biblical teaching. But this opens a Pandora’s box of confusion. What if your experience and my experience lead to inconsistent conclusions about divine guidance? How can experience be the ultimate arbiter of God’s guidance?)

Often, when folks say “I am seeking God’s will for my life,” they are referring to God’s specific will, whether to marry a certain individual, or to take a job offer, or to go on a mission trip. But the Bible usually refers to God’s will in a more general sense, as that which we all should do with our lives. For example, Paul writes: “For this is God’s will, that you be fully set apart from this world to live for him, that you keep away from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3, my translation). If you are tempted with sexual sin, you really don’t have to spend too much time wondering which partner God wants you to fornicate with. Scripture has made God’s will abundantly clear: don’t do it!

In another place Paul writes, “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Through this verse, the Spirit of God is guiding all of us to be thankful in prayer. Given the fact that there are thousands of imperatives in the Bible–thousands of actions God wants us to do–we can’t read too far without encountering divine guidance for our lives.

If we take Scripture seriously, therefore, we can know that it’s God’s will for us to worship him, praise his name, give thanks for his gifts, pray for his help, love God and our neighbors and our enemies, feed the poor, seek justice for the oppressed, invite the homeless into our homes, be faithful to our spouses, tell others about Jesus, gather with other Christians on a regular basis for fellowship, and so on and so on.

I realize that what I’ve just said may not satisfy the person who is asking: “But is it God’s will for me to do this particular thing?” I do in fact believe that sometimes we receive more specific guidance through Scripture, and I’ll say more about this in my next post. But I also believe that if we do the things that are clearly commended in Scripture, our minds and hearts will be shaped by the Spirit so that we are more apt to correctly discern God’s specific will in specific situations.

From Scripture we know that we should love God, love our neighbors, love our enemies, etc. etc. etc.

But what about when we’re facing decisions in which general biblical teaching doesn’t seem to make an obvious difference? The clear call to love my neighbor, for example, doesn’t tall me exactly how to do this, or exactly which neighbors of the hundreds in my life deserve the bulk of my time and attention.

The Holy Spirit can also give quite specific direction as we encounter the text of the Scripture, taking that which is true for all Christians and applying it to our particular lives and situations. This sort of thing happens all the time in personal Bible study, in group studies, and when God’s Word is preached. This is one major reason, by the way, that I am a preacher. I’ve seen God change lives through the power of his proclaimed Word.

For example, several years ago in a sermon I mentioned an Old Testament passage in which the Lord says, “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16). I connected this passage to the teaching of Jesus on marriage, calling my congregation to a new commitment to marriage. As I greeted folks after service, I heard the usual collection of “Nice sermon, pastor” comments.

The next morning I received an altogether different kind of response. A man I’ll call Jeff called me at church. He had been in worship the day before and had a desperate need to speak with me. He didn’t want to elaborate on the phone, but said it had to do with my sermon. I rearranged my schedule so I could visit with him over his lunch hour.

“Your sermon really upset me,” Jeff began.

Oh no, not a great start to this conversation, I thought quietly as I steeled myself for his criticism.

“What you said about marriage and divorce has completely messed me up,” he continued. He then told me his story. A couple years ago, he had begun an affair with a coworker. When his wife discovered his unfaithfulness, Jeff left her and their two small children, and moved in with his girlfriend. Shortly thereafter, he began divorce proceedings. At the time of our lunch meeting, everything was final, except one last signature. With the sweep of a pen, Jeff’s marriage would be completely over.

Until the day before when I mentioned that God hates divorce, Jeff had never really questioned the morality of his actions. He was sorry to hurt his wife’s feelings and especially those of his children. But he was tired of his marriage and in love with his coworker. Then, owing to a number of “coincidences,” Jeff had visited our church the day before, only to hear my sermon on marriage and divorce. (This, by the way, illustrates quite wonderfully how the Spirit can use both circumstances and Scripture to guide us.)

“For the first time I’m wondering what God thinks about what I’ve done,” Jeff continued. “Maybe I shouldn’t get divorced. Maybe I should try to get back with my wife, though by now she hates my guts. I don’t know what to do. What do you think I should do?”

I tried in a gracious way to explain to Jeff what God intended for marriage and God’s consequent hatred of divorce (even though it is something God has allowed in some circumstances and which God forgives even when it is completely wrong). I agreed that Jeff’s wife might very well have no interest in reconciliation, but encouraged him to talk with her. She was a Christian, I discovered, as was Jeff, though he had not been living in fellowship with God for many years. As Jeff and I prayed together, I pleaded with God for help. Neither of us felt a lightening bolt from heaven that promised healing for his marriage, but we sensed God’s support for an effort to reconcile.

Ten months later, I found myself praying with Jeff once again. But the context was very different. The intervening months had been an emotional roller coaster for him and his wife. At first she laughed off his offer to reconcile. But, after a while, she sensed a genuine change in Jeff’s heart, especially when he terminated his extra-marital relationship. Lots of counseling, prayer, and support from other Christians slowly brought healing to their broken marriage. Ten months after my first meeting with Jeff I was praying with him . . . and with his wife, as they stood at the altar to renew their marital vows. God had brought them both through an astounding process of reconciliation. Before family and friends they testified to the power of the Scripture to change our lives for the better, by helping us to confront what is wrong and by teaching us to do what is right.

Jeff’s case marvelously illustrates the guidance of the Spirit through Scripture. But, I’ll freely admit, things don’t always happen this way or end this happily. In my next post I’ll include some warnings about the potential for misconstruing God’s will through the misuse of Scripture.

Unfortunately, people can indulge in silly and self-serving interpretations of biblical texts, such as one I heard from a man teaching on Matthew 6:33: “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:33, NIV). “Do you want an expensive car? A large home? A financially prosperous life?” he asked, “Jesus promises to give you ‘all these things’!” Of course he took “all these things” completely out of context, turning Jesus’ promise of basic necessities into a guarantee of opulent living.

It seems so obvious that this man’s values were far too worldly, yet we all read the Bible from our own worldly perspectives to one extent or another. No Christian is immune from this disease, including me and you. This means that we will tend to mold both the meaning of Scripture and the guidance of the Spirit to fit our preconceived expectations. You can see this in all sorts of situations. Republicans tend to find their political views upheld in Scripture, while Democrats find their convictions in the Bible. The same is true for Libertarians, Greens, and those who don’t vote for religious reasons. People who oppose the ordination of women see Scripture as lined up on their side, while those who support it believe that their view is biblical. And so it goes.

One basic rule of thumb to remember is this: If your reading of the Bible completely confirms your pre-existing beliefs, you may well have projected those beliefs into Scripture. On the contrary, if you find that Scripture is challenging your assumptions and commitments, then you may well be in touch with its genuine meaning.

If we seek to discern God’s guidance correctly, our very way of seeing and thinking needs to be changed, and Scripture plays a leading role in this process. This is exactly what Paul urges upon us in Romans 12:

Don’t be conformed to this world, but keep on being transformed through the renewing of your minds, so that you might discern what the will of God is, that which is good and pleasing and complete (Rom 12:2; my translation).

As our minds are made new through the work of the Spirit, we will be better equipped to determine God’s will for our lives. Notice that this transformation is an ongoing process, something Paul accentuates with his choice of Greek verb form: “keep on being transformed.” Such transformation begins in conversion and continues throughout our lives. The Bible is one of the chief tools employed by the Spirit in this work of mental remodeling. The more we internalize God’s Word, the more we will be able to determine God’s will because our powers of discernment will be formed and energized by the Holy Spirit.

By the combination of Word and Spirit God guides us. But too often Protestant evangelicals like me envision this guidance individualistically. By so doing, we misunderstand God’s intentions for us and often misconstrue his guidance for our lives.

Divine Guidance Through Reason

So far I’ve shown that God guides us through circumstances, Scripture, and community.

Because the Spirit’s guidance can be so marvelously miraculous at times, we can overlook or even disparage so-called “normal” processes of reasoning. Sometimes, we even sit around like spiritual couch potatoes, waiting for some special gift of guidance while failing to use the gift of our minds, one of God’s most amazing endowments to human beings.

God has given us powers of reason to be used for his purposes. Whether we utilize these powers to make medical discoveries, teach Sunday school, or discern God’s will, God is honored when we use his good gifts for his glory. Moreover, the Spirit of God works in and through what can seem to us so natural and normal.

Some Christians think in terms of a false dichotomy between natural and supernatural activities, believing that God’s hand can be seen only in the supernatural or the extraordinary. But this distinction underestimates God’s presence throughout the natural world. The Son of God, through whom God created the world, “sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command” (Heb 1:3). The Lord is present and active in the “normal” affairs of the universe, in that which seems ordinary to us, even as he is present and active in that which is spectacularly unusual. So, when we use our ordinary human reasoning for the purpose of seeking God’s will, the Spirit can and does guide us.

The problem with this facet of spiritual guidance lies in the sin-induced corruption of our natural reason. Before we knew Christ, we were “alienated from God and enemies of God in our thinking” (Col 1:21, my translation). When we were reconciled with God through Christ, our sin was forgiven and our minds began to be renewed. But that renewal is an ongoing process that continues throughout our lives as we learn to think in new ways. No longer are we stuck in futile, human ways of thinking (Eph 4:17, Col 2:18). We can begin to think in godly ways because we have been given the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). When we allow the Spirit of God to be active in every facet of our lives, then our thinking will also be guided by the Spirit (Rom 8:5-6). But, none of this guarantees the rightness of our intellect. Reason, though a gift of God in creation and touched by the new creation, is not infallible.

As we devote ourselves to the key relationships of the Christian life, spending time in fellowship with God and God’s people, we will start to think more like God and less like a captive of our corrupt culture. As God’s written Word permeates our minds and hearts, we will treasure the things of God and think the thoughts of God. As we prayerfully ask the Lord to inspire our thinking, the Holy Spirit will lead us. Then we can have even greater confidence that our human reasoning, transformed by the Spirit to be more like what God intended it to be, will guide us in God’s paths.

When our reasoning receives input from Scripture, and when it is something done in the context of Christian community, then the possibility of correctly discerning God’s will is greatly increased. Reason often allows us to make connections among key factors, taking in the various kinds of input that God is supplying. I would never suggest that reason alone is adequate for spiritual discernment, but it does supply a crucial link in the chain of divine guidance.

Divine Guidance Through Dreams and Visions

So far in this series I’ve shown that God guides us through circumstances, Scripture, community, and reason. Those who especially liked my last post on divine guidance through reason might find themselves a bit uncomfortable with today’s post.

I must admit that the subject of guidance through dreams and visions does not reflect my personal experience to any great extent. In fact, I feel most comfortable among Christians who are guided by thinking, not by visions and dreams. But as a biblically-committed Christian, I must not truncate my understanding of God’s activity by my own limited experience, no matter how tempting that may be. Rather, I must let the Bible speak. For this reason, I recognize the possibility of spiritual guidance through dreams and visions. Whether we are sleeping or awake, the Holy Spirit can reveal God’s will to us through inspired visual images.

Throughout the Bible, God communicates with his people through visionary experiences. In Genesis 15, the Lord speaks to Abraham in a vision (Gen 15:1). A few chapters later, God speaks to the gentile king Abimelech in a dream (Gen 20:3). So it goes throughout the Old Testament stories. The New Testament begins on a similar note, with an angel appearing in a dream to Joseph, telling him that his fiancée is pregnant by the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:20). Not long afterwards, Joseph receives direction to go to Egypt as, once again, an angel speaks to him in a dream (Matt 2:13).

If we were to think that things like this happened only for biblical characters, the promise of Joel corrects that misconception. Several centuries before Christ, the Lord spoke through this Jewish prophet:

Then after I have poured out my rains again, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. In those days, I will pour out my Spirit even on servants, men and women alike (Joel 2:28-29).

Seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, God poured out his Spirit as promised by Joel. Peter, preaching the first Christian sermon on the Jewish festival of Pentecost, quotes from Joel’s prophecy to explain what has happened to the followers of Jesus who have just received the filling of the Spirit (Acts 2:16-21). The fulfillment of this prophecy at this time implies that Christians, both old and young, will experience divine guidance through dreams and visions.

The rest of the book of Acts illustrates this implication as the Holy Spirit guides the early Christians through extraordinary visual experiences. In Acts 16, for example, the Spirit at first spoke to Paul and Silas, telling them not to evangelize in the Roman provinces of Asia and Bithynia. Then Paul had a vision in the night, in which a man from northern Greece asked him, “Come over here and help us.” The evangelists quickly left for that region, believing that God had called them to preach there (Acts 19:6-10). Later on, when Paul’s ministry in Corinth brought on Jewish wrath, God inspired and affirmed Paul through another vision:

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will harm you because many people here in this city belong to me.” So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God (Acts 18:9-11)

Of course, as we have noted with respect to other forms of guidance, that which we derive from dreams and visions must also be tested by Scripture in the context of prayerful, reasonable Christian community. Throughout history, heretical theologies have often originated in the visions of their founders, visions inspired by something other than the Holy Spirit. The New Testament letter from Jude refers to false teachers as “dreamers” (Jude 1:8). But, for those of us inclined to exalt rationality far above visions, I daresay that most modern heresy stems from thinking, not dreaming.

I know a woman named Sandy who, years ago, had a dream in which she and her husband were missionaries in a city she had never heard of, in a country on the other side of the globe from where they were presently living. As she shared this dream with her husband and with her church, they all began to believe that Sandy had indeed heard from the Holy Spirit, even though she and her husband were not missionaries and the city revealed was in a country that prohibited the entrance of all missionaries. Years of patient discernment followed, as this couple sought to follow God’s leading. He confirmed what Sandy had dreamed in hundreds of ways. Many, many years later, through a most amazing series of divine interventions, the dream was fulfilled, as they began to minister in the very city whose name had once revealed in a dream. A skeptic would scoffingly say that this was a self-fulfilling prophecy. But, knowing the journey of Sandy and her husband, I stand amazed at the grace of God who still speaks to us, as promised, through dreams and visions.

(For the safety of Sandy and her husband, I have not used her real name and I cannot divulge the country in which she serves.)

The excerpt from today’s inspiring article was shared from the following website: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/how-does-god-guide-us/

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A Believing Heart…Believing in God

In matters of religion, a skeptical mind is not a higher manifestation of virtue than is a believing heart

I’m not going to lie. Somehow, I have always known that there is a God and believed in Him and in His ability to help me. I have sensed Him in my heart and I have seen Him all around me: in nature, in loving relationships, in the solutions to life’s problems that seemed to be handed to me. I know that not everyone has that experience.

Though I know that not everyone believes in God or has a believing heart, I also know that virtually everyone born to this world questions at one time or another if there is a God.

I believe that my life is a testimony of his existence. Even if you exclude my near-death experience, there are just too many “directed” events for me to brush a belief in God under the carpet. If I had never had a near-death experience, I have found the “needle in the haystack” far too many times to ever question God’s existence!

In that light, I share today’s story. I love Marilyn’s story. I also love that she trusted her heart and recognized the tangibly intangible moments that she shared with God. I hope you enjoy!:

How an Atheist Found God

A personal account from an atheist who was convinced no god exists, and what facts led to God.

By Marilyn Adamson

Religious people seemed annoyed by my question, “How do you know that God exists?”

Perhaps they wondered about my motives. Or maybe they had no idea how to answer. Most of their responses were, “Well, you just know.”

I wasn’t trying to be difficult. But I certainly did not “just know.” And I was hoping someone did!

After many months of this, I thought, “Here are the people who say they believe in God, but no one knows why!” It was like learning the truth about Santa Claus. It seemed obvious that God was completely fabricated. Maybe some people needed to believe in God but clearly there was no proof. No objective evidence. I came to the most stark conclusion…God did not actually exist.

I held this belief for years, not expecting it to ever change. But then I met someone who caused me to become interested in the possibility of God. She was caring, kind, and very intelligent. It bothered me that someone that intelligent could believe in God.

She talked about God like he was her closest friend. She was convinced he deeply loved her. I knew her life well. Any concern she would take to God, trusting him to work it out or care for her in some way. She would tell me, quite candidly, that she was merely praying that God would act upon her concerns. For over a year, I regularly saw what seemed to be answers to her prayers. I watched her life through a myriad of circumstances, and her faith in God was unwavering.

So, I wanted to believe in God on one hand, because I admired her life and her love for others. But I couldn’t believe in something against my intellect, against my better judgment. God did not exist. A nice idea, but that was all. Wanting something to be true, doesn’t make it true.

During this time I was developing a personally built philosophy.

I tried something that I’m not sure many people do. Every few weeks, I would study a particular philosopher’s take on life …Nietzsche, Hume, Dostoevsky, Sartre, Plato, etc. and then try to apply it to my own life. I was looking for the perfect, workable philosophy for life. I found over and over, that either their philosophies seemed lacking, or were too impractical to implement. But I kept searching.

I was challenging my friend with every question that came to mind about God. I would find myself writing out questions late in the evening. This went on for well over a year. One day she handed me a book1 that briefly answered questions like, is there a God; is Jesus God; what about the Bible. It presented facts. No comments like, “you have to believe.”

I saw some evidence for God that was solidly logical. The parts particularly convincing to me were the chemical properties of water and the earth’s position to the sun. It was all too perfectly designed, too perfectly put together. My faith in “nothing behind it all” seemed weaker than the possibility of God. I had fewer reasons to be certain of nothing, and more reasons to conclude that God might be there.

I then encountered a situation that fully challenged my current philosophy on life. What I had been putting my faith in proved to be completely insufficient. It shocked me to see that I was at a loss for an approach to life that was fully reliable. However, the situation resolved itself and I moved ahead. I have a pretty steady personality. Throughout my life, I never really felt “needy.” No on-going crisis. No big gaps or struggles. And certainly nothing I felt guilty about.

But the concept of God was something I couldn’t get off my mind….was he there? does he exist? maybe there’s a God…..

One night I was talking to my friend again, and she knew I had all the information I needed. She knew that I had run out of questions to ask. Yet I was still trying to debate. In one clear, abrupt moment, my friend turned to me and said, “You know, I can’t make this decision for you, and God’s not going to wait forever.”

And I immediately knew she was right. I was playing around with a very important decision. So I went home and decided that I was going to decide. I was going to either ask God to come into my life, or I was going to end the subject forever and never allow myself to consider the possibility of God again. I was tired of dealing with this decision. I was tired of thinking about it.

So, for the next three or four hours, I reviewed everything I had read and observed. I evaluated it all.

I concluded that the evidence for God was so strong that it made more sense to believe in God than to believe he wasn’t there. Then I had to act on that conclusion.

I knew that just intellectually concluding God existed, was way too light. It would be like deciding…airplanes exist. Faith in an airplane means nothing. However, if you need to get somewhere and an airplane is the way, you have to decide to act and actually get on the plane.

I needed to make the decision to actually talk to God. I needed to ask him to come into my life.

After a few hours of thought I addressed God, “Ok you win. I ask you to come into my life, and you may do with it whatever you’d like.” (It seemed reasonable to me, that since God exists, God had every right to influence and direct my life, if he wanted to.)

I went to bed and the next morning wondered if God was still there. And honestly, I kind of “sensed” that he was. One thing I knew for sure. I immediately had a huge desire to get to know this God whom I now believed in.

I wanted to read the Bible. When I did, it seemed that God was spelling out who he is and how he viewed this relationship with him. It was amazing. What really surprised me is how often he talked about his love. I hadn’t expected that. In my mind, I was simply acknowledging God’s existence. I had no expectations of him, but as I read the Bible, he chose to communicate his love to me. That was a surprise.

Now, my basic, skeptical nature was still there. The first few months or year, I would ask myself, “Am I really believing in God? And, why am I?” And I would methodically review five objective reasons why I believed God existed. So my “faith” in God did not rest on feelings, but on facts, on reasons.

To me, it’s like the foundation of a building. The facts/reasons support my faith. It’s like someone driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. They can feel whatever they’d like about the bridge. But it’s the construction/design/materials of the bridge itself that allows them to safely get from one end to the other. In the same way, the objective reality of God–the logical, historical, scientific reasons to believe in his existence, are important to me. There are people who don’t seem to need that. But I hate being fooled, and I have little regard for wishful thinking. The substantiating reasons for God’s existence mattered to me.

My Experience, Part 2 – Further Evidence of God

Since that time, now that I’ve been a Christian for a number of years—-why do I now believe in God? What reasons do I have for continuing to believe in God?

I’m not sure any of these are going to be believable to you. But I’ll try to put that concern aside and be candid with you. Previously my questions were about God’s existence. After beginning a relationship with God, I saw additional evidence that God is real. Such as…

1. When I have questions, concerns, or would like insight on a matter, God speaks to me through the Bible. What he shows me is always perfectly suited to my question, and a better, more satisfying answer than I expected. Here’s an example.

One day, my schedule, deadlines, and obligations were crawling up my neck and tightening their hold. You know that feeling when you’re so overwhelmed, you don’t know what to do first?

So I got out a piece of paper and pen, and asked God: “Just tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it.” I was fully prepared for shouldering 100% responsibility, and was basically asking God to just set the priorities, tell me how to approach it all, and I would.

I then opened my Bible and immediately read where Jesus was talking with a man who was blind. Jesus was asking him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I read it again. Jesus asked: “What do you want me to do for you?” Rather amazed, I picked up my pen and began writing an entirely different list…to God. This, I have found, is characteristic of God. Reminding us that he is there. That he cares, and he’s capable.

I choose that example because it’s brief. But I could cite hundreds of examples where I was asking God a question and he perfectly, thoroughly answered me. It probably is the characteristic of God that I most appreciate and value–that he is willing to answer my questions.

This isn’t something I learned from other Christians. It’s just how my relationship with God operates. I ask a question, with an attitude that I really want to give him freedom to tell me whatever he wants to….to correct my thinking, to point out an area in my life that isn’t right, to show me where I’m not trusting him, whatever. And he always graciously speaks to me.

2. Similarly, when I need direction for a decision, he gives it. I believe that God cares about our decisions. I believe he has a plan for our lives, that he cares about who I marry, what kind of job I have, and some decisions smaller than that. I don’t believe he cares what toothpaste I buy, or lots of mundane decisions. But decisions that will affect my life or what he wants to accomplish through my life…I think he cares.

When has God given me clear direction?

One time I needed to decide about a trip to the Middle East. There was risk involved, and I was willing to go only if God wanted me to go. It was important to me that I knew what he wanted.

Two different times I asked God about a job. Both times his leading on it was so clear, that anyone watching would have concluded the same. Let me try one thin slice of an example.

During my senior year of college, I had decided to take a job with a Christian organization after graduation, that would require a move to California.

It was Christmas break, and I was now visiting my parents. One evening, I was alone and thinking through a long list of friends. I was wondering who I could talk into moving to California with me to be roommates. One person named Christy, came to mind, who had already graduated and settled in a job in Iowa. I thought she’d be the perfect roommate, but I hadn’t talked to her in several months. Just 30 minutes later, at my parents home, Christy calls me on the phone.

Her first sentence was, “I heard you are taking a job with this Christian organization.” I was floored because I had only told one friend, in Ohio.

Her next statement was, “Ok, I’ve got the pots and pans and dishes.” I said, “WHAT?!” She was moving to the same town in California and was calling to see if I would room with her.

Ok, so you see my point.

You might ask, why such a big deal, to even need God’s help in this decision? I knew that my parents would be completely opposed to this job. I thought it might cost me my relationship with my parents forever. So it was not a light decision. I asked God to guide me toward what he wanted. And he did. There were about ten other events related to this job, just as clear.

Other reasons I still believe in God…

3. In terms of explanations about life–why we’re here, what the purpose is, what is important in life, what to value or strive for–God has better answers than anything I’ve ever read anywhere. I have studied multiple philosophies and religions and other life approaches. What I read in the Bible, what I see from God’s perspective, all the pieces of the puzzle fit.

There is still a lot I’ll read in the Bible and close the Bible saying, “I don’t get it.” So I don’t mean to suggest I fully understand everything in the Bible. Instead, I’m saying that life only makes sense from the perspective of what God has revealed. It’s like reading the operating manual to life on earth, only we are not left to merely follow the manual. The inventor is explaining to us how it all works, and then offers to personally guide us through it, on a daily basis.

4. The intimacy with God is deeper than intimacy with any human being. I say that married, with two children, and tons of very close friends. His love is perfect. He’s incredibly gracious. He takes me right where I’m at, and as I said, speaks to me. He intervenes with actions that leave me amazed as the observer. He is not a belief or doctrine. I see him act in my life.

5. He has done more with my life than I would have done on my own. This is not a statement of inferiority or lack of self confidence. I’m speaking in terms of accomplishments that far exceeded what I ever had in mind. He provides ideas, direction, solutions, wisdom, and better motives than I could aspire to on my own.

Story shared from the following website: http://www.everystudent.com/wires/atheist.html

 

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God Can Calm All Storms…

sunrise over the earthI don’t know about you, but it seems to me that there is always some sort of “storm” in my life. I think it could also be called personal growth or personal challenges.

Less than three months ago, I sat in an intensive care unit beside the hospital bed of my granddaughter as her young body fought for life. Today, I watch her at home as she recovers and rebuilds her strength. I know without the smallest doubt that she and I and all of our family were assisted by angels  throughout those very difficult days.

Later today, I will sit in front of my computer and I will attempt to learn a new powerful software so that I can make my book available online again.

For you, today’s challenge will be different. Some of my challenges have been relatively easy to overcome (I am hoping that is the case with the new software today!). Others, have been very difficult – such as the 15 years it took to overcome my 24/7 migraines. I know now that life never was meant to be a cake walk. However, whether our current challenge is more similar to a sprint or a marathon – God can and will help us through it all.

There was a time when I was experiencing my migraine headaches that I wondered if I would ever know another day of life without skull crushing pain. Fifteen years is a very long time to have a headache.

Yet, a few days of headache pain would have never created the health advocate that I am today. Now, as I look back on that experience, it is easy to see that I was given incredible blessings through that trial. Somehow, I was enabled to function much better than I should have been able to function and step by step I was eventually led to the people and answers I needed to find health and healing once again.

Storms will be a consistent part of life but God can and will calm them all – if we ask and allow.  Sometimes, they may not disappear from our lives but where they remain, God will take us by the hand and help us walk above the waves.

Today’s story share’s a wonderful reminder of God’s watchful care. I hope you enjoy!:

THE FIRE

An article in National Geographic several years ago provided a penetrating picture of God’s wings.

After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings.

The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise.

She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had singed her small body, the mother remained steadfast. She had been willing to die so those under the cover of her wings would live.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
Psalm 91:4 (NIV)

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God’s Gifts

God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame. Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I love sharing inspirational quotes through memes! I also love sharing the thoughts and stories of others. Even if I had never had a near-death experience, there is so much that testifies to me of God’s love for each of us!

My personal life experiences alone have shown me on a daily basis that I am incredibly blessed. My life is abundantly filled with evidence of God’s love for me and my family!

I have to admit that most days, even with the awareness of my blessings that I have, I know that there are blessings and gifts that I have received that are going unnoticed and unacknowledged. I miss out on way too many sunrises and sunsets and my exchanges with others are too often handled by a woman that is too inclined to let commitments and responsibilities drown out my ability to be sensitive to the needs of others.

Yet, I am grateful and as I carry on in this business of life, it is my hope and prayer that I will be better and better at the things that really count – the things that God has given me.

I hope that you are able to recognize, enjoy and use the gifts and blessings that God gives daily to you!

I hope you enjoy today’s story!:

Every Good and Perfect Gift

Do you like to receive gifts? According to Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, authors of The 5 Love Languages,  receiving gifts is one of the ways some people best express and receive love.

What comes to mind when you think of “the best gifts ever?” For some the answer might be jewelry. For others technological gadgets, new tools. It has been said that “the best things in life are free.” If you agree you might think of a quiet walk in the park, watching a beautiful sunset, spending time with someone you love, or watching a child in a moment of discovery.

Certainly, forgiveness and life itself would be included in your list of ‘best’ gifts. But how do we achieve these? Your world view will lead you to one of two conclusions: “best gifts” either result from our own efforts and deeds or they come as a gift of love from God. Sometimes we receive these gifts and sometimes it seems we are oblivious to them.

There is a fable of a man who died and went to heaven. Upon arrival he was given a welcome tour where he was shown many great mansions and wonders. Coming to one building with no windows, he asked to go in but was encouraged and his guide to not pay any attention to it. The man insisted on seeing it and once inside he discovered a huge trove of beautifully wrapped presents. Looking closer he saw that each one had a tag with his name on it. Asking why they were here, the man was told, “These are the blessings you were freely given in life, but never received; they are gifts you never opened and so never enjoyed.”

God describes His very best gifts in the love letter He wrote to us, the Bible. When we receive and open these we discover forgiveness, eternal life, love, peace, joy, and hope. We receive undeserved grace and mercy, compassion. We are filled with strength, wisdom, and courage. When we enjoy His gifts we are embodied with goodness, faith, perseverance, contentment, and the character of the living God. We don’t earn these by our own doing. They are free gifts from a loving God who knows the true desires of our heart and longs to graciously give them to us.

It’s true. The best things in life are free: good and perfect gifts from our Heavenly Father – love, life, laughter, friendship, forgiveness, freedom, and so much more. Receive and open the gifts He freely offers you today and every day. Live thankfully and share them with others and discover yet another great gift, the joy of living.

Every good and perfect gift is from above.  James 1:17

by Bryan Thaye.
Story shared from the following website: http://www.golightourworld.org/every-good-and-perfect-gift/

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The Golden Rule….Still a Good Idea

The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule…not only is it still a good idea; it is one of the easiest way to improve our lives, our relationships and the world!

The Golden Rule is not about controlling or manipulating. It is about honoring and understanding. I believe that that is what makes it so profound.

In order to utilize the Golden Rule, we must love: love ourselves, our creator, and those we call our fellowmen.

Many assume that loving ourselves is a natural accomplishment. I have found that most children love themselves easily. However, for teens and adults – loving ourselves is often filled with difficulties. Life seems to hand us experiences that challenge our ability to love and accept ourselves as wonderful and worthy of love. Yet, loving and honoring our self is fundamental to loving God and others.

Loving our Creator is an endeavor that requires effort and sacrifice. Knowing God through prayer, meditation, and the scriptures is essential and blesses our lives with strength that cannot be demonstrated but which I believe is tangible nonetheless.

Loving our Fellow man can be difficult. However, once we understand that each of us has the same basic needs, I think it becomes easier. We all need love. We all want acceptance. We all want to live a meaningful life and we all want security. Our personalities and beliefs may be very different but our core needs are very much the same.

During my near-death experience, I saw how we interacted with each other in that realm. I saw how we loved each other and cherished each other. Maybe even more important, I saw how we honored each other and supported each other in our various talents, gifts and endeavors. In other words, heaven was an amazing place to witness the Golden Rule being practiced and implemented.

As you read today’s story, I hope you will think about the Golden Rule and the positive impact it could have on your life!:

THE OLD MAN AND HIS GRANDSON

There was once a very old man, whose eyes had become dim, his ears dull of hearing, his knees trembled, and when he sat at table he could hardly hold the spoon, and spilt the broth upon the table-cloth or let it run out of his mouth. His son and his son’s wife were disgusted at this, so the old grandfather at last had to sit in the corner behind the stove, and they gave him his food in an earthenware bowl, and not even enough of it. And he used to look towards the table with his eyes full of tears. Once, too, his trembling hands could not hold the bowl, and it fell to the ground and broke. The young wife scolded him, but he said nothing and only sighed. Then they brought him a wooden bowl for a few half-pence, out of which he had to eat.

They were once sitting thus when the little grandson of four years old began to gather together some bits of wood upon the ground. ‘What are you doing there?’ asked the father. ‘I am making a little trough,’ answered the child, ‘for father and mother to eat out of when I am big.’

The man and his wife looked at each other for a while, and presently began to cry. Then they took the old grandfather to the table, and henceforth always let him eat with them, and likewise said nothing if he did spill a little of anything.

Story is shared from the following website and is a Grimm’s Fairy Tale: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2591/2591-h/2591-h.htm#link2H_4_0029

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