Pondering my faith low these many weeks during my travels, this came to me as advice to a dear friend who is struggling with her faith. With two small additions since sending it to her, I thought it could apply to me, to you, to all of us, and so I share it with you:
Merry Christmas to you! And a very happy new year! There will be challenges for sure, but you will rise above them and you will prosper!
Think of the great journey that lies ahead as one that leads to all good things. Continue to embrace your faith and faith will embrace you. When you cannot not carry it, you will find that it carries you. At first, you will be a student, and then, you will be a teacher. At first, you will teach, and one day you will become a master in the pattern of the Master.
Let go of the endeavors that are not working. In so doing, you will make room for the wondrous miracles to come. In the broadest sense, this is the leap of faith. Before you can refine the gold, you must first dig it out of the earth—nugget by nugget— and the rock that surrounds it. An arduous job for sure, but one you must undertake. The fear you have known is not God’s gift. This is God’s gift:
Isaiah 9:6 (Kings James Version)
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
(Photo credit-top of page-Cross on wood: Images72/Shutterstock)
In today’s America, if you are a Christian, you wonder whether or not you will be assassinated for your faith, or simply bludgeoned to death by the cudgel of the administrative state. All this under a leader who is supposedly a Christian….
Frankly, I am torn, because I have so many thoughts running through my head about which I could write. I know many have commented that last week’s blog was a powerful call to action. Afterward, I wrote a response to one of my friends, and I may include that response stripped of the name, in a future blog. Not this week, though. Jeremiah 7 is for another week. My poor little brain feels so overwhelmed with all I could write about….
Recently, I had the great fortune to pray with my friend Jenny, who is a pastor. (Pastors who are friends = four.) Quite out of the blue, she reached out to me last Friday, suggesting that she come to pray with me. Her entreaty was timely. We met Saturday morning at 11 am here at my house. Jenny and I prayed so long even Georgia, who is not fond of people, came out to see that what was up. So unusual. Jenny’s appearance was quite spur of the moment. Indeed, in a moment of discouragement, I had asked the Lord to show Himself to me. He sent Jenny. I asked Him again on Sunday and Daniel and Carol, friends whom I had met three years ago here on the island, appeared at the door Monday morning. “Knock, knock?” Having sequestered herself in a specially- fashioned hole on the underside of the box spring upon their arrival for dinner, Georgia reappeared later that evening while Daniel and I shared some of Carol’s homemade lasagna and garlic bread. I only mention her brief appearance, because Georgia is so very frightened of strangers.
(Kings James Version, Leviticus 25:55) I am the Lord your God [who brought your Siamese cat out from under the bed.]
Hey, a little biblically inspired humor never hurt anyone….
I am at a place in my spiritual journey, not where I question the work of the Lord, but the hearts and intentions of men. Daily. Jenny discussed her own struggles in preaching the Gospel. She taught; she preached: she did all to further God’s kingdom, but was anyone really listening? Was she making a difference? (Not that I would claim to be pastor.) She said early on that to feel isolated and powerless is part of spiritual growth. After all, we cannot force people to accept the Lord. Is that not what ISIS does?
She briefly related the story of Jesus’ journey to pray in solitude, which he undertook so often. Who can forget this:
(Matthew 13:22-23) And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
This passage comes just before Jesus walks on water and saves Peter from drowning. Interestingly, also in this passage, the Lord tested Peter’s faith:
(Matthew 13:29-30) And he said, come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
Prayer in solitude was how the Lord prepared Jesus for what came next. Jenny exuded the confidence that such is what the Lord is doing with me. Okay Lord, You have my attention.
(Isaiah 6:8) Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
As I tell you my story, I wish not to draw attention to myself, but to reassure those of you who might feel similarly, “Leave to thy God to order and provide; In ev’ry change he faithful will remain.” So say the words of the second verse of the wonderful hymn, “Be Still My Soul.”
What, if anything, is this mission God has for me? For any one of us? Jesus teaches if we follow him we can perform miracles:
(John 14:12) Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
When most people think of miracles, they think of big miracles: raising the dead, healing the sick or giving sight to the blind. I would submit to you humbly, our job on this earth is not to perform the great miracles, but the small ones: talking a despondent friend out of harming herself, turning an alcoholic away from a life in the bottle, helping an Alzheimer’s patient find the words to express himself, leading the Lord’s children back to His teachings, His house one by one.
As I prepared to write to you today, I thought, “What shall I write? It’s too late. I am tired.” But earlier this week I pondered this question; “What does it mean to be a Christian?” First and foremost, to be a Christian you must accept the divinity of Christ. If you cannot do that, you may adhere to some of Christ’s teachings, but you’re not a Christian. You say, “Now wait a minute….who do you think you are telling me that I am not a Christian?” Okay. If you follow Marin Luther King’s teachings to the letter, does that make you a Kingsman? Is there a difference between Christ and any other man with a spiritual underpinning? Yes. Divinity.
So I leave you as the Lord has left me: meditating on the word divinity: the divinity of Christ.
If I am to undertake the journey, I must accept without question or hesitation the divinity of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I feel that I am living in a time of manifest, engulfing evil. Not that I’ve studied him, but the Old Testament god Moloch comes to mind. Rampaging, burning everything in his path, mercilessly devouring sacrificed children. Daily in the Middle East, ISIS sacrifices Christian children, as well as those of other faiths. Yet the people in the West do not see it, or they simply turn their heads. We Americans, I would venture to say, are momentarily sun-blinded by our cell phones, our iPads, our Facebook friends. Every day, I ask, “Where is the outrage? Who stands against this in church?” At times, I feel like a voice screaming in the wilderness. I hear the trees move above me, their branches scraping the rushing wind, I even hear my own footfalls on the leaves. I walk the path God entreats, but where is my fellow man, my fellow Christian? When will he save his brother?
Tonight, I stood on a stile on south beach by the club, facing the southwest. The wind must have been blowing at least 25 to 30 knots. I thought of walking the beach around to the next beach access, but then I realized my cries for help, if such were uttered, would go unheard, die unanswered. My voice would carry only into the next breaking wave, then to be scattered with bits of blowing foam on the beach and into other turbulent breakers. As it was just twilight, I thought I would save my trek for a calmer day. Sound preparation in body, mind and spirit is the steel of valor.
I am thinking of one man in particular as I write this blog.
This, I reflect, is the year of cancer. Almost everyone whom I know has either had it, or has it, or is in the process of vanquishing it. One cruel, wily, often merciless opponent. Cancer killed my father and my best friend, Dusty. I never really understood the pain until my Aunt Jo Anne had suffered from metastatic breast cancer which resurfaced in her spine. She was brave, even on morphine, she was oh so brave. Like many who have endured radiation and chemotherapy, she had trouble eating. Food was tasteless to her and she, in particular, couldn’t stand the smell of turkey—too much like her chemotherapy said she, but she did love a tasty, tender filet mignon!
What of this cancer? This Dad killer, this Dusty killer? I pray about it. I pray for Jesus healing hands to rest upon the shoulders of those afflicted whom I know. I have even asked God if I could trade places with some of my friends, if I suspected they had it. When you love someone that much, you’ll give your life for them. I remember praying that prayer once for a girlfriend and minutes later almost choking on my lunch. It was as if God were testing me, saying, “Did you mean what you said? Never forget that I, Lord of all lords, King of all kings, can seize your life from you in an instant.”
As I think of this latest friend, a Marine’s marine and Vietnam vet who now struggles with Agent Orange-induced cancer, I am 700 miles away, powerless to help him. Many days I have pondered tactics: “What other treatments should he consider? What other courses of action? “When should I go to see him?” I have beseeched the Lord on his behalf, but no prayed-for-miracle has presented. The only thought I have over and over is this: “The Lord often saves his bravest warriors for his toughest battles.” If you knew my friend, you’d know this fits him to a T. I have seen this with my father, with Dusty, with Aunt Jo Anne, with Dana and many, many others. Some, like my dear friend Marie, have beaten cancer, this scoundrel, this wrecker of lives, at least three times. I have often wondered how she did it: Special DNA? Tough German stock? (Sorry P. C. zealots, you’ll find none of your free speech suicide pills here.) Bravest warriors? Toughest battles? I think back to the story of David. David and Goliath which I reread again today.
Goliath strode onto the battlefield supremely confident of his power, his prowess in battle. Heavily armored, he terrified the Israelites: (King James Version,1 Samuel 17:11) When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.
David came as a humble servant of the Lord:
(I Samuel 17:26) And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?
For the Lord had prepared him well for this day, this battle, unpretentious shepherd though he was. The Lord had prepared him well. He had fought both a lion and a bear to free a purloined lamb from their clutches:
(1 Samuel 17:36) Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.
David displayed the confidence of the Lord’s will with him such that Saul allowed him to go into battle to save the Israelites from certain slavery and servitude under the Philistines.
Think of it: the once mighty, now fearful king trusted the fate of his kingdom with a mere shepherd:
(1 Samuel 17:37)David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. David invoking the spirit of the Lord, together with his “sling” and his “five smooth stones” confronted Goliath using even the same language that Goliath had in describing what would be his end. In that instant, I can hear the subtext—David in effect saying, “I am your equal”:
(1 Samuel 17:45) I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
(1 Samuel 17:46)This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
So today, I think of my friend battling cancer and heart disease with “his sling” and his “five smooth stones,” the love and grace of the Lord, Jesus’ miraculous power to heal, which assured David victory against Goliath on the battlefield:
(1 Samuel 17:47) The Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands. My friend must summon the same courage David drew upon if he is to be victorious. In this last valiant effort, twirling the sling of the might of the Lord above his head, he must draw upon the exquisite power of the Holy Spirit with steadfast aim to lead him to sure victory.
As I reflect upon the cancer that threatens to take my friend from me, the Iran nuclear deal’s passage in the Senate this afternoon, the murderous wrath of ISIS and even the anniversary of the 911 attacks here in the United States and abroad, I humbly ask the Lord to confer upon my great friend, and also upon me, the courage of David knowing : (1 Samuel 17:47) …the battle is the Lord’s.”
As we all think back to the morning of September 11, 2001, mourning those whom we lost that day as well as those whom we have lost in other terror attacks, let us not forget that whether we like it or not and whether our leaders have the courage to admit it to us or not, we are at war with radical Islam and radical Islam is at war with us. We did not initiate this conflict. While we seek peace, we live in a world where jihadists who have made clear their intentions seek to impose a caliphate upon the entire world. Therefore, let us not shirk from the duty of defending ourselves, our Constitution and Judaeo-Christian way of life. To quote George W. Bush, whose words that day stand after any attack: “Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended.”
Herewith one of my favorite passages from the Bible which comes from King James Version, Ephesians 6:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints[.]
Though we mourn, we must remain vigilant, ready to answer the Lord’s call.
Almighty eternal Father! As I pass through this life, I humbly ask for three gifts: Strength, courage and wisdom: Strength that I may be victorious over any and all challenges set before me. Courage that I may press onward resolutely despite the odds. Wisdom’s guidance in all my endeavors, whether they bring me good fortune or ill, such that I may learn their lessons. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.