On Faith – Volume 4 (My Recent Testimony)

Posted on 27. Jan, 2011 by in Faith

This is part 4 of an ongoing series on faith, and what has turned out to be much more a journey than a topic, per se.  In my last post I discussed the nature of faith, and how it must start with knowing the will of God, and then knowing how to pursue the will of God.  After that, we must step out and act on what He has shown us, and trust that He will do what He said He would.  In the last 2 months I have learned a lot of points on walking out my faith, and I wanted to share my testimony here in case it would be a help to someone else.  After that, in my next post, I want to touch on why it is so important that we walk in faith, and why this has become such a big topic for me.  First, though, for my testimony.

I moved to Larned, where I now live, about 5 1/2 years ago, and began working at a hospital-owned clinic.  I did that for about 2 1/2 years.  In that 2 1/2 years my wife and I stepped out in faith and opened a retail shop in town, a combination coffee shop/scrapbook store.  Of course, that endeavor took a lot of our time and money.  In November 2007 I started doing extra work in an Emergency Room an hour away, to help support our own debt load, and to help support the store.  By the following January circumstances had transpired such that I quit my job, and started my own clinic, which opened in February of 2008.  I continued working in the ER full-time, in addition to working my own clinic, for the next 2 years or more.  Fast forward to 2010, which found me working at an ER closer to home, and doing a 24 hour shift every Thursday, and 48 hours in a weekend, one weekend per month.  By August or September Tayleene and I independently began to feel that it was time to give up the weekends.  We both felt that that season was to be over, but that in the natural it would continue until we decided to put an end to it.  We also were planning for the birth of our second baby in December, and I didn’t want to be gone from home as much.  We finally decided, in October, that my last weekend would be November, and after that I would only work my Thursdays.

Bear in mind, I still was not (and still am not) drawing a salary from my clinic.  Neither was my wife drawing a salary from the shop.  In fact, we were still having to put money into that business to keep things afloat.  So, in the natural, we had no business cutting back on our hours, but both of us knew this was the direction we were to take.   So, I gave notice and we “braced for impact” so to speak.

Ironically, this was a very similar situation to the one we were in when I first began ER work initially.  At that time I knew that the Lord would provide our needs, and part of me wanted to step out of the boat and let the Lord supply, but at the end of the day we decided to work extra to meet our needs.  Looking back on that scenario I do not regret my decision, as my faith was very fledgling at that time, and I still had a lot of fear and anxiety pent up on the inside.  I have no doubt that the Lord would’ve taken care of us, but it would’ve been an extremely difficult test, much more difficult than the test that awaited me this time around, and I don’t think I had the understanding to walk it out the way I did this time around.  The cycles and seasons of the Lord continue to amaze me!

So, as I said, I gave notice to my employer, and waited for the change to take place.  Initially things were fine, but of course I was still getting paid for past work.  By the first part of December, however, everything hit, and it hit all at once, and it hit hard.  One second I was feeling confident in my faith, that He would care for my needs, next minute (almost literally, it was over the span of 10-15 minutes as I paid bills one Sunday afternoon) facing thousands of dollars in bills that I didn’t have the money for, and internally was beginning to “freak out”.  Now, this is where the Mark of 2010 differed from the Mark of 2007.  In 2007 I don’t think I would’ve had the understanding, faith or strength to continue to stand, in spite of what I saw, and I think I would’ve “freaked”.  This time, I was able to begin standing on the word, knowing that He would supply.  In my mind I feared.  In my mind I felt guilty and condemned, especially as overdrafts began piling in (another thing I learned quickly, or rather relearned, is the art of balancing a checkbook, something I had not been faithful at prior to that).  In my heart, however, I knew the promises.  “My God will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory”.  “He has given us all things that pertain to life and Godliness”.  “It is He that gives seed to the sower and bread for food”.  And, of course, Matthew 6:26-34, the verse that made me realize that, in reality, these issues were small potatoes in the Lord’s eyes, and that my focus could not be continually on money, but must be directed to seeking Christ and His kingdom.  There was also the story of the fish with the coin in its mouth, further proof that this isn’t a big deal!  I would read the Old Testament with renewed eyes, seeing the miracles performed through much different eyes, realizing that, “my God is powerful, majestic, awe-inspiring and undeniable!”  How could such a God fail me?

In the initial two weeks or so of this process I kept looking for the quick fix.  I saw no hope for meeting the needs I had in my natural resources, so surely the Lord was going to have to use someone to dump a bunch of money in my lap, right?  The problem with that idea is that, then, my faith would’ve been in that gift, and not see that gift as the Lord’s provision.  Through the mentoring of a good friend, I realized that this issue is a process.  I realized that I didn’t have a money problem, I had a faith problem.  Could the Lord meet my need suddenly?  Absolutely.  Did I possess the faith to operate in that manner?  Absolutely not!  So, I had to have faith in the small things, and I had to become more efficient from a natural perspective.  Instead of burying my head in the sand at the stack of bills, a tendency of mine due to my own anxiety and fear, I had to face the issue head on.  I had to contact my creditors, and make arrangements for future repayment.  I had to cut back on spending, personally and in both businesses, that wasn’t vital.  Through it all, the Lord used the situation to address a lot of OTHER issues BESIDES faith.  I’ll hopefully post more on that  concept later.

It is now almost two months since I cut back my ER hours.  I still have some large bills.  I still am having to pinch a lot of pennies that I ultimately don’t want to pinch (buying new product for the store, etc.).  But, the Lord has given me favor with creditors.  A LOT of favor!  I am closer to being out of the hole now than I was.  I think the story that really explains it all to me is the 3 Hebrew children and the fiery furnace.  The three were faithful in their pursuit of their God, and it got them in trouble!  This is proof that life in Christ is not a bed of roses in the natural.  The king threatened them with the fiery furnace, and God didn’t keep them from that.  God did, however, protect them from the fire, and when they came out they didn’t even smell of smoke!  What a powerful testimony to the king.  This proves that, when we learn to walk in faith and trust in our God, times that are hard in the natural don’t need to be hard in Christ.  Although I am not at that point now, it gives me a reference point of what CAN and/or WILL be, as I continue to walk in Him.  The other thing my good friend pointed out is the correlation between the purity of our witness and the smoke from the fire.  If I continue to conduct my business as He is teaching me to, when I come through this fire my witness will be intact, and that is what I desire.  I don’t want my lack of faith or diligence to reflect poorly on Him.

Well, this pretty much gets us current, for the most part.  There maybe some ancillary lessons I have learned along the way, but I shared some of that here, and didn’t expect to.  I hope that this story is beneficial to somebody, and I’ll continue to post as new developments occur.

On Faith and Other Things (or On Faith – Volume 3)

Posted on 22. Jan, 2011 by in Faith, Walking in Christ

I’ve intended to complete my series on faith, started oh so long ago, and this is my attempt to at least bring you up to speed with where I am at this juncture of my life.  You see, I thought I had a certain level of understanding, and that a limited series would be able to explain that.  How foolish of me to not realize that knowledge and understanding are ever changing, and that a finite series could never contain what He builds within us.  Also, as I’ve walked this last month and a half, I’ve realized how everything in Christ is interconnected, and walking in faith touches on so many other topics.  So, as has been said so often, life is about the journey, and as this is, after all, a blog, I will have to share the journey as I go, as my understanding is ever-changing.  So, on to faith!

I concluded my last post on faith by stating, in so many words, that faith starts with belief, quoting Genesis 15:6.  I will pick up from there, as it is a good starting point.

Kenneth Hagan once said, or so I am told he said, “Faith begins where the will of God is known”.  Although I don’t follow all of what Kenneth Hagan taught, and actually haven’t read much of what he taught, I love this statement.  In order to walk in faith we must know the will of God.  Knowing His will may come through our study of scripture.  Eric at “A Pilgim’s Progress” is a great example of this.  After spending a number of years as a pastor in a Southern Baptist church, his study of scripture led him to believe that his position was unscriptural, and he took a step of faith, obeyed his convictions and quit that job.  Other times, we may be led by the Holy Spirit within us to do a certain thing, or the Lord may speak to us through a brother or sister.  In some cases, our understanding may be imperfect, and we may act on something that we thought was of Him, only to find out later that it was not.  These are growing pains, as at some point in our lives we must step out in faith and begin trying to walk in His direction.  We will not always be right, but He will always be gracious to us as we learn to walk (much like a little baby, who makes missteps, falls down and stumbles into things).  The bottom line is that our walk of faith must start with knowing, or believing we know, His will.

Once we come to this point, the next step is to act.  Now, here is where a lot of people, myself included, get tripped up.  On more than one occasion I have seen His will, and in my haste to see it come to pass ran willy nilly in trying to carry it out, and failed to seek the “how” to go along with the “what”.  The results have been miserable, with much wasted time and much wasted energy, and on at least one occasion, much heartache that wouldn’t have been necessary had I been more patient and diligent.

So, having sought His will in WHAT to do, and having sought His will in HOW to do it, we then must step out in faith, and do what we must in the natural to see that plan or that thing come to pass.  For Eric, again using him as an example, he had to take the step of faith and quit his job.  For me, acting meant I started a business, and later another.  We obviously have to do our part to accomplish what He directs.

Now, here comes the hard part, at least for me.  Usually, once we take that step of faith, and do as the Lord directed, the enemy will come and attempt to distract us or discourage us.  (My apologies to those who find references to Satan as “the enemy” to be comical, naive or immature.  I do feel very strongly that Satan works hard against those that are attempting to walk out the will of God in their lives.  Although there can be normal hard times that are not a product of “enemy action”, I firmly believe that he specifically attacks us in attempts to dissuade us from walking.)  All manner of things may go wrong, once we step out of the proverbial boat and try to walk on the proverbial waves.  Peter, in this respect, is a great example for us.  Peter succeeded, in that he did what no other mortal man has ever done, he walked on water.  Peter only failed because he allowed his faith in Jesus to be overcome by his perception of his surroundings, by the “waves boisterous”.  This brings me to my next point:  we must see the word of God (and this will not always be the bible, per se, but sometimes rather the words He has given us internally) as the ultimate authority and the ultimate truth.  The truth of the word of God must be more real to us than what we perceive with our natural senses.

OK, so this is where the rubber meets the road.  This is the meat of what I want to share, and I touched on this some in Part 2. There is a tendency, especially in those from the Word of Faith movement, to feel like our faith has to be rock solid at all times, and to not have adequate faith is to fail, or to make a “Plan B” shows a lack of faith.  And with that failure comes a fair amount of shame, because “you didn’t have enough faith”.  There is also a tendency to think we can “muster up” faith when we need it.  For instance, if I read enough scripture (because after all, “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God), pray long or loud enough or listen to enough tapes I can suddenly increase my faith to accomplish the seeming impossible right now!  Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, this is not the case.  From my limited, but growing, experience with this, sometimes when we step out in faith, our faith may not actually be sufficient to complete the task, at that time.  As such, we may experience a period of time where things look rocky (like Peter and the waves), where we aren’t seeing the fullness of what we expected to see.  It is in these times that doubt tries to creep in, and tell us that we missed God, or that we don’t have enough faith, or that we’re stupid for having tried such a thing.  It is in these times also that we must keep His words before us, and trust that He won’t fail us.  It is in these times that we must stand.

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.          (Ephesians 6:13)

As I’ve stated before, I love Hebrews 11, the whole chapter.  These saints saw something in their hearts that they NEVER saw with their physical eyes, and yet they believed until the day they died. Hebrews 11, starting with verse 13, says:

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.14For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.  15And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

Unlike these Old Testament saints, we are the heirs of the promises, the ones who have seen and will see their fulfillment.  But like these saints, we must approach the Lord with the same tenacity, with the same refusal to go back, with the same refusal to NOT settle for anything but what He has promised.  The Kingdom of God operates on the principle of faith, and if we don’t learn to walk in that we will never approach the glory, individually or corporately, that He calls us to.

Well, this at least catches things up some.  I will hopefully write the next installment this weekend, giving my personal testimony in this regard, and giving some practical guidance on how this is lived out in our daily lives.

God bless!

I Am NOT Reformed

Posted on 08. Jan, 2011 by in The Purpose of God, Uncategorized

OK, now that I’ve gotten everyone’s attention, let’s get on with the post.

First, this post is not intended to bring offense.  It is a point of discussion based on my own beliefs and observations, and is intended to be just that, a discussion.  There are two dear brothers whom I highly respect, although have never met, who openly profess “allegiance” (my word) to the tenets of the Reformed movement, Arthur at “Voice of One Crying Out…” and Eric at A Pilgrim’s Progress.  Both have been very open in discussing their observations of the shortcomings or mistakes of the Reformed movement, so by no means do I feel they are one-sided.  As such, I feel that my discussion on this topic will not be taken wrongly.  So, on to the discussion.

I have two points that I want to make, but before I do that I want to give a caveat.  I do not have the intellectual mind to discuss the finer points of Calvinism vs. Arminianism.  I can’t quote scripture in support of one or the other, and that is not really my point.  Minds much greater than mine have argued these points ad nauseum, so I can’t hope to offer anything new in that vein.  I also want to say that I don’t identify myself with either side.  I think both sides have merit, and I think, paradoxically, that both are right!  So, again, on to it.

1.  I am always amazed at the loyalty expressed by Reformed people for Reformed theology.  Although the brothers I mentioned above do not have a blind loyalty by any means, there is still a strong devotion to the “5 solas” and the 5 Points of Calvinism.  Now, I don’t condemn this loyalty.  I guess the question in my mind is one of unity.  If I identify myself as reformed, do I risk alienating my Arminian brethren?  Or, if I identify myself as Arminian do I risk alienating my Reformed brethren?  Is any one theological system anything, in light of the greater importance of Christ?  Or, put a different way, do I want to identify myself by any other identifier than a follower of Christ?  Now let me stress again, I do not write this to be offensive.  I am sure Eric, Arthur and other Reformed believers have responses to my questions, and that is why I ask these questions.  My interest lies in the fact that I’ve not come across many similar allegiances in those that are walking outside of traditional Christianity, and so I thought I’d bring it up.

2.  God, and thus the bible, is full of seeming paradoxes.  I say seeming because I am sure they are not paradoxes at all, but appear that way to me with my limited understanding of His nature, and limited understanding of eternity.  For example, on the one hand God commanded the Isrealites to kill every man, woman and child when the Isrealites crossed into and conquered Canaan.  Failure to comply had serious consequences.  On the other hand, “For God so loved the world….”.  My natural mind can not comprehend that this is one and the same God, but it is.  How can the same God be full of vengeance and full of supreme love at the same time?  Well, He just can!  Likewise, how do you make sense of the arguments for Calvinism and Arminianism?  Both can point to scriptures that support their view, and both can outline why the other side is interpreting their scriptures wrong.  Could it be that both are right?  Can it be that man has the ability to make a choice, but is only able to make that choice by the grace of God?  I know it sounds contradictory, but I believe that something akin to this is the truth.  Let me discuss why I say this (see next paragraph).

The longer I live the more I see that God has a purpose in the earth.  That purpose is more than to live together in eternal harmony, or to barely escape the end times until we get raptured.  The purpose of God is to build His city, His people, in the earth.  His purpose is to express His glory in the person of Christ, and he’s chosen to use us to accomplish that.  I also believe that He has chosen to use man to bring about the final and ultimate defeat of the enemy, or said differently, the final and ultimate reign of Christ on the earth.  “‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.'”  I believe His work is to establish Himself as the unquestioned God of this earth (I won’t go into more detail here, so as to not get bogged down too much).  So, if God has a specific purpose in the earth, and He chooses to use man to accomplish it, the fine points of Arminianism and Calvinism come into play, regarding man’s ability to make a choice in His service to God.  If Calvinism is right, God would have His plan, He would choose the people He wanted to accomplish it, He would call those people into service and they would accomplish the task at hand.  Would such a plan take 2000 years?  On the other hand, if God calls many, but we have the choice to follow or not, then we can see why the process has taken so long, because man often doesn’t do as God directs.  Here is what I believe:  I believe God calls men (men and women) to do tasks in His kingdom.  Man can choose to do those tasks or not do those tasks.  As long as man continues to miss the boat, so to speak, there is a continuous merry-go-round-type cycle that goes on, where man goes around and around on the same track, until he finally decides to follow the directions of God, and moves onto the next step, or season.  In this process God is supremely patient.  I also believe that, in the end, the will of God is irresistible.  He WILL accomplish His work.  The timeframe in which it is accomplished, however, is partially up to man, because God has chosen us to accomplish His will.  As a specific example, if God’s grace and will were completely irresistible then why did the New Testament church degenerate into what we see today?

Well, I’m going to cut this off before it gets any longer.  I invite my Reformed friends to respond, as once again all I seek here is an open discussion.  I want to reiterate that neither Arthur nor Eric has ever made their Reformed theology a quarreling point with others, as far as I have read.  I have never seen them make it a point of dissension or division, and neither do I seek to do this.  Again I would stress that I agree with much of Reformed theology, so my goal is not to slander or malign it, or those that hold to it.

Another Little Van Norden

Posted on 30. Dec, 2010 by in Uncategorized

Well, another long silence! And the outlook isn’t
good as far as doing much writing soon. For those that don’t
know, my wife and I had a baby in December 17. His name is
Evan James, and he was 7# 9 oz. He is doing well, and mama is
well, but sleep is harder to come by! The Lord continues to
grow a lot on the inside of me, and I imagine I’ll have a lot to
write about soon enough, and maybe time to do it! Please continue
to pray for Dan and Stephanie from “The Ekklesia in Southern
Maine”, as well as for Eric and his family at “A Pilgrim’s
Progress”. Both could use our support as they walk out their
faith. Here’s a few pictures:

On Faith – Volume 2

Posted on 14. Oct, 2010 by in Faith

This is finally the follow-up post on my initial writing on faith, On Faith – Volume 1.

I’ll start with a recap, taken from the end of the first post:

So, the crux of the post is this:  faith is an important part of our Christian walk, and faith is a bi-product of our Christian walk.  We use our faith to walk in Christ, and like a muscle, the more we use it the more it grows.  As a charismatic I felt condemned if I didn’t have enough faith.  Now I understand that there are things I will stand in faith for, but haven’t walked in Christ long enough to grow into that level of faith, and so I may not see the final manifestation of what I prayed for.  This is no cause for guilt or condemnation, it just is what it is.  The longer I walk the more I will grow in faith, and the greater works He can do in and through me.

So, as I asked in the first post, why is faith important?

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek    Him.”    – Hebrews 11:6

The Father has instituted His kingdom on the earth, and that Kingdom has principles and laws.  Just as the laws of physics control how we interact with our environment, so do the laws of the Kingdom affect or control how we interact with God.  One very important law in His kingdom is what I will call the law of faith.  God is moved by faith.  As Hebrews said, it is impossible to please God without faith, and all the things God has promised are only accessed through faith.  So, if we don’t understand faith, we will not grow to our full potential as citizens of the Kingdom of God.  In fact, Ephesians 2:8-9, among other passages, makes it clear that we are only saved through faith.

The book of Hebrews lists many “Heroes of the Faith”.  My favorite, the one that has been most instructive and exemplary in my life, is Abraham.  The life of Abraham is the example I have followed in my pursuit of God for the last 2-3 years, specifically his faith regarding the promise of a son.  I’ll provide a timeline first.

Genesis 12:4 – Abram was 75 years old when he departed Haran and set out to Canaan.

Genesis 13:15-16 – God’s first promise to Abram regarding descendants, in general.  No specific promise of a son at this point.

Genesis 15:4-6 – God’s second promise of offspring for Abram.  God promised Abram he would have an heir, and this would likely imply the future birth of a son (my assumption based on my limited knowledge of customs of that time).  Still no specific mention of Sarai.   Although one would likely assume the promised offspring would be from Sarai, Abram apparently did not assume that later.  It is at this point that Abraham “believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness”.  (my paraphrase)  Interestingly the NASB says “believed in him”, i.e. the Lord.  I don’t know if there is a Greek word corresponding to “in” or not.  Maybe it doesn’t matter.

Genesis 16:1-4 – Abram had been in the land of Canaan 10 years (so he was at least 85 years old).  At this point Sarai gets impatient for descendents, and talks Abram into having a child with one of her maid-servants, Hagar.  You know the rest of the story.  This, in my opinion, is Abram’s attempt to “help God out” in achieving the promise sooner.  The outcome is not what was desired.

Genesis 17:15-19 – Abram is 99 years old.  God once again promises offspring, but now specifically saying it will be a son, born of Sarai (now to be called Sarah), and he is to be called Isaac.  Interestingly, Abram (now Abraham) now seems to doubt God’s promise, saying in verse 17:  “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old?  And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”  Abraham even tries to convince God to accept Ishmael as the promised son, and God says “no”.

Genesis 18:10 – the Lord personally appears to Abraham, informing him that the promised son will be born within the next year.

Genesis 21 – Isaac is finally born to Abraham, at 100 years of age.

The above passages paint a vivid picture of the highs and lows of Abraham’s faith, specifically regarding the promise that he would be the father of many nations.  Genesis 15:6 gives the basis of faith, the starting point:  Abraham believed.  This is where we must start.  We first must believe that Jesus is the son of God, and that he died for our sins.  After that, we have to continue believing, trusting Him for everything in our lives.  This forms the foundation for walking in faith.

I didn’t anticipate this topic taking 3 posts, but I also didn’t anticipate going into so much detail into Abraham’s journey of faith.  I think it will be useful in the end, so I included it.  I will have to finish this series at a later date.  Stay tuned!

Transitions…

Posted on 07. Oct, 2010 by in Seasons

Well, I got the CME’s done, and am still licensed to practice medicine.  Now I am trying to dig myself out from the avalanche that fell while I wasn’t  paying attention!  Charts, messages, paperwork, financial management issues, the list goes on.

“Lord, I don’t have time to get these things done, and I am having trouble finding time to spend with you, studying your word.”

That was my mindset until several days ago, while listening to a Hillsong United song, “Savior, King”.  Awesome powerful song, if you want to listen to it.

The pertinent part is in the first verse, and says the following:

“And let the poor, stand and confess, that my portion is Him, and I’m more than blessed”.

I have listened to this song many times in the last few weeks.  In fact, if you haven’t heard Hillsong United’s “The I Heart Revolution” you should check it out.  Very powerful music, and the Lord has done much in my heart lately through this music.  Anyway, I’ve heard this song, and taken note of the above lyrics, but that night it just hit me like a ton of bricks.  The busy-ness in my life will always be there, and will always prevent me from seeking Him, and His kingdom.  Before I explain I want to step back a bit.

After leaving the church I went through a long period of time where I was not allowed to study the bible.  My problem was that I always approached it intellectually, trying to figure things out.  God had to take me through a period of cleansing, so that I could approach His word from a standpoint of weakness, so that He could reveal truth to me.  Once I did begin to feel the stirring to read, I often times found myself busy doing the things required to accomplish the works I felt (and still feel) He had instructed me to do (starting two kingdom-oriented business).  At that time, not studying was permitted by the Holy Spirit, and He continued to lead me further day by day into Christ.  Lately, for the past few months, I’ve had an understanding that He is calling me into even greater commitment, and understanding that, to complete the season He has me in now will take greater dedication and greater sacrifice than the previous season.  So, having understood that for several months, the lyrics above finally cemented what He had been working in my heart, and I finally understood.

You see, I’ve been busy doing His work, doing what He has instructed me to do.  But this one thing I’ve learned:  doing things for God, even things that He’s instructed us to do, is no excuse to not SEEK Him.  Hearing those words “My portion is Him” made me realize that all the trappings of the works He’s had me do are meaningless if I am not pursuing Christ actively.  Those works will lose their power if I don’t keep them His, and keep them in their place.  The work can never take the place of the one who called us to the work.

I now understand that I must seek Christ first and foremost.  I MUST KNOW Christ.  He is my portion.  He is my inheritance.  He is my reward and my prize.  He is all that I ever wanted, and all that I’ll ever need.  I have vocalized an understanding of the central importance of Christ in the past, but now am beginning to really understand just how central He is.  Christ is everything!

The next step and latest step in the process has been reading Philippians 3.  Philippians 3:7-11 especially.  Paul talks about how all things are rubbish compared to the value of knowing Christ, and I meditate on that frequently now.  Verse 8 says “and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ”.  To me this means that if I am not counting all things as rubbish, I will not gain Christ.  Even my beloved coffee must be considered rubbish, as I fear it holds an unhealthy place in my life (I  imagine I will one day drink again, but for now I feel I am to give it up).

So, this is where I am….transitioning.  The day where this all came to a head was a difficult day.  I was stirred by the Holy Spirit to approach my life differently, but was still controlled by the daily demands, and the two were not co-existing well.  Once I set down and talked things out with my wife, the Spirit took the greater prominence, and the pressure eased.  I am still journeying in this manner, but the understanding gained is crucial as I now begin walking it out.

A Partial Reason for My Silence

Posted on 23. Sep, 2010 by in Uncategorized

As if the every day busy-ness of life isn’t enough, I am now trying to get 23.5 continuing education hours over the next week, so I can renew my license!  This is where faith comes in, because without faith that God will see me through this I would be REALLY nervous right now.  Some day, I promise, I will finish the series on Faith.  Some day.

Change of Mindset

Posted on 19. Sep, 2010 by in Faith, Seasons, The Purpose of God

I recently posted something on my facebook profile, and I thought it was important to post it here, because to me it is a major issue for Christians today.  In reality, it is probably not a black and white issue, but more like a scale, where we can tend towards one or the other, and move either way as we mature or digress.  Anyway, here is the statement:

We need a change in mindset. We need to allow God to shape and order our lives in accordance with His eternal purpose, instead of trying to incorporate God into our life as it is. He is calling us to so much more than we can even imagine, but we have to open our hearts to that greater calling, and be willing to go where the grass doesn’t appear green.

I want to give some background behind this statement, and how it has applied to my life:

Three years ago I was working as an employed doctor, in a hospital owned practice, employed by an organization that was more concerned about money than patient care.  I became frustrated, and finally tired of fighting the system and decided that something had to change.  I had multiple options, and at one point decided to quit Family Medicine altogether, and work full-time in the ER.  It would pay better, require less hours, and thus result in a better quality of life for me and my family.  There was a part of me that didn’t want to do that, because the thing I love most about medicine is the relational aspect of it, and you lose this in the Emergency Room.

During this time, my wife and I sought direction from the Lord.  I wanted my life to be in line with His plan, and this was obviously a major life decision.  One night, while we were lounging in our jacuzzi tub, the answer came.  I was to take part of the building we had just procured for our other business, and turn it into a clinic and practice out of that.  Doing this would mean I would have to work without call coverage, and basically be on call 24/7.  It would also require that I not only work full-time for the clinic, but that I would also have to work full-time in the ER, in order to pay the bills.  In November of 2007 I started working in the ER in Dodge City, KS, after not working in any ER for almost 2 1/2 years.  In January I quit my job and by late February my clinic was open.  It has been 2 1/2 years now since the opening.  I still do not draw a salary, I still work in the ER, but my clinic is growing and we are nearing the fruition of our hard work.  Now, the point here is not to brag about how hard I work, as I am only able to do it by His grace, and there were many other reasons He had me take this path (one of which was to reveal and overcome what turned out to be a pretty severe anxiety problem.  God is efficient in His working!).  The point I am making is that I could’ve taken the path that made sense from a natural perspective.  I could’ve made more money and had more time with my family by changing to ER work exclusively.  However, the Lord had other plans, and thus I embarked on what has been the greatest journey of my life.  During this time I learned a lot about myself, learned a lot about Him, and have learned more about faith than I ever thought I would.  I will, by the way, get to Part 2 on faith, hopefully soon.  The journey has been lonely to a certain extent, because the positions I have taken on issues in the community pertaining to healthcare have been unpopular, so we have been at odds with the powers that be, and even had lies spread about us in the community.  It turned out that the right path was the harder path, small surprise given what we see from Christ’s example.

So, this brings me to my statement.  The Lord brought me to a jump-off point in my walk with Him.  He brought me to a place where I had to make a decision to follow His direction, or to choose to follow conventional wisdom and do what seemed right to me.  By His grace I chose to follow Him, in a way radically different than I had ever followed Him before.  It required continued, implicit trust in His plan and provision, and it is the best decision I ever made, apart from my decision to follow Him in the first place.  Previously I had been comfortable in my life.  I lived it as I thought best, and although there was a general sense of wanting to follow His direction, I still, to a certain extent, incorporated Him into the life I had built.  I believe God is calling us to forsake everything for His calling.  This may result in job changes, or loss of friends (even Christian friends), but we HAVE to be willing to forsake all for the sake of Him, and His eternal purposes.  Since making the jump He has used my wife and I to build a foundation of the kingdom in our community, and I sense in my spirit that major changes are in store for us, and our community, all by His grace and working.

Like Paul stated, I do not count myself has having fully achieved the fullness of this idea.  There are still parts of my life that are not given over, and I have made some major mistakes in the past 3 years, some of which I will financially pay for for the next 4-5 years, and have paid for emotionally for the past 2 years.  These mistakes were made because I didn’t, in these areas, endeavor to seek His specific direction, and instead did what seemed right to me.  He is gracious, however, and has provided for me and my family in spite of these things.

I believe that life is cyclical.  The Lord has a direction He wants us to go, and if we miss it, He will cycle us back to give us a chance again, and again, and again!  He is so patient!  I encourage all of us to have our spiritual ears attuned to when He may be bringing us to a jumping off point, and have the courage to trust Him to take the jump.

After the Worship Conference – Sept. 3

Posted on 03. Sep, 2010 by in The Body, The Purpose of God

Like I said in yesterday’s post, since attending the conference there is something stirring on the inside of me.  As stated, I haven’t fully processed all of it to know exactly where He is leading me or showing me.  What I do understand is that there is an even greater purpose than becoming like Christ.  We are certainly to grow into maturity in Christ, but as we do that, what changes?  Once we are matured in Christ, and have achieved the fulness of Him, what happens then?

I now more clearly understand that God has a purpose in the earth.  I have mentally assented this point for some time, and understood it in a limited fashion in my spirit for a shorter period of time.  Now, however, I more fully see that there is a grand plan.  On the cross Jesus secured His victory over the enemy.  The whole world legally belongs to Christ, but for whatever reason He has allowed Satan to maintain control.  I can not give chapter and verse at this point, but I believe He has done this, because he wants to work out that victory in the earth through us.  He has chosen to use us in His master plan, only we haven’t cooperated.  We’ve been too busy playing church to get busy with the work of the kingdom.  From Paul’s writing I believe he thought that the end of this age would come in his lifetime, or shortly after.  I do not think he anticipated it taking 2000 plus years, and I don’t think it needs to have taken this long.  Satan is cunning, however, and has consistently thwarted the plans of God, and we, God’s instrument on the earth, have let him.  I see through this how very patient God is.  He could’ve wrapped this thing up Himself, but he had chosen, from the foundation of the earth, to use us in His eternal purpose, to bring about the defeat of the enemy.  It is time for the church, the body of Christ, to get SERIOUS about our place in the kingdom.  It is time that we let the trappings of this life fall to the side, and focus our minds and hearts fully on Him.  2 Chronicles 16:9 says:

“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”

Psalm 149 says:

1Praise the LORD!
Sing to the LORD a new song,
And His praise in the congregation of the godly ones.
2Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
Let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King.
3Let them praise His name with dancing;
Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre.
4For the LORD takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.
5Let the godly ones exult in glory;
Let them sing for joy on their beds.
6Let the high praises of God be in their mouth,
And a two-edged sword in their hand,
7To execute vengeance on the nations
And punishment on the peoples,
8To bind their kings with chains
And their nobles with fetters of iron,
9To execute on them the judgment written;
This is an honor for all His godly ones.

Praise the LORD!

I do not believe that the nations mentioned in this Psalm are physical nations.  Ephesians 6:10-12 makes it clear who our enemies are.  I think we need to see this more as a war, and in Ephesians 6 Paul seems to treat it as such.

I am speaking to myself in this post.  There is so much in Him that we don’t understand, and I think part of the problem is that we don’t see the big picture.  We need to understand that God has a purpose in the earth, and the ultimate purpose is to supplant the kingdom of Satan with the Kingdom of God.  The more I see the truth of His ultimate purpose, the less this world means to me, and the more willing I am to forsake all and follow Him.  It really is THAT simple, if we can just see it!

So, here’s the summary of all my thoughts for these two posts.  We need to practice a model of mutual edification in the body, as we’ve discussed before.  We have to go beyond that, however, and commit ourselves fully to His purposes, being willing to give up all we have to see that purpose accomplished.  I am not implying that I have arrived in this respect, because I have not.  However, I believe that the more we die to ourselves, and allow His purposes to reign in our lives, the more we will accomplish towards His purposes, and the closer we will be to the end of the age.  As one brother said at the end of the conference, “Let’s get this thing wrapped up!”  We can’t do it apart from Christ, but Christ has chosen NOT to do it apart from us!  The ball is in our court, I believe.

As always, I welcome comments or criticisms of my thoughts here.  I do not claim to have it all figured out, and I find definite value in what the Lord is showing others.  Thanks to Alan and Dan for their active questioning, as these two posts mentioned previously sparked some of this in my heart.

Peace to all of you

Mark

Community is Hard Work

Posted on 02. Sep, 2010 by in Community, The Body

I love blogging, both the act of blogging, because it helps me develop my thought processes more clearly, but also reading others blogs, because it exposes me to the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit has planted in others.   I just finished reading a post by Keith Giles, at Subversive1.  If you haven’t read Keith’s blog, check it out.  He really has great things to say, and the post linked to below is no exception.

subversive1: THE MINISTRY OF ROBERT HIGGINS TO ME.

In this post Keith talks about his service to a gentleman named Robert, that has cancer, and it brought to mind something I’ve been kicking around in my head for awhile (there’s a lot of space up there).

I talk plenty about community.  I long for community.  I love relationships and desire to develop relationships in Christ.

….sometimes.

You see, I find that my flesh gets in the way of my experience of community, because I am either selfish, and don’t want to share those I am close to with others, or I am afraid to reach out for fear of rejection, or I would just rather be alone and not mess with other people.  I know, it sounds awful, and it is.

Something else I noticed at the worship conference I attended is how difficult it is for the body to relate to one another.  I think there is an instinctive lack of trust in others, at least there is in me.  I am quick to think the wrong thing of others’ actions, and am afraid that others will think wrong of mine.  Its like we’re all trying to dance together, but can’t get in the same rhythm, so we just keep stepping all over each other.  I think it will take some serious commitment to community to break through these barriers, and this is why Keith’s post spoke to me.  Keith has gone to great lengths to serve another human.  Interestingly he finds that the longer he serves the easier it becomes.  I think serving others changes us, and brings about maturity, because, as Keith notes, in serving Robert, Keith has learned a lot about himself and about Christ.

In dealing with my own difficulties with relationships and community, I find the source to be from my childhood (a very freudian thing to say, but true), where I decided at some point to not rely on others, and just take care of myself.  I have struggled with this, and prayed for understanding and deliverance, but the problem has remained.  While going to get groceries for lunch at the conference, the Lord spoke something to me.  He said (not audibly) that I just have to do it.  I can not let my insecurities stand in the way.  I have to approach, love and serve others, and as I do, that barrier inside me will be destroyed.  But, as it so often is, the next step is mine!  It also helped just to understand the shift that took place so many years ago, to be self-reliant, because that is an untenable position in the body, and in my conscious mind I strive to have my full reliance in Him.  I see in this an opportunity to trust Him more, and that is what I want.

Thanks for bearing with my ramblings.