• Posted on July 06, 2011

about every day deliverance

 

Luckily, most of the people who surround me now have not seen the worst parts of me. And by “worst” I specifically mean that girl who is suicidal, depressed, addicted, and miserable. Almost four years ago, I was changed by Christ in one instant. Literally one moment that radically altered every decision I’ve made since then. I have not had a drink of alcohol in those four years. That, in case you were wondering, is a big deal.

Many people ask how I quit. They want to know if I went to AA. Yeah, actually, I went to one AA meeting a couple years before I quit. I decided the people in that group were nothing like me. A few months later I was drinking more on a regular basis than I had in my life. I fully believe AA or a similar program is what some addicts need to get back on track. It just wasn’t for me.

What happened then, you know, is I was delivered. It sounds really big-tent-revival of me to say that, but it’s true. Or, it would be more accurate to say (although incredibly passive grammatically), I am being delivered. It’s not done yet. I experienced a one-time, instant realization about seeking Christ. I did not experience a one-time, instant deliverance from my alcohol addiction.

It’s an every day deliverance.

At least once a week I consider having a drink. We used to live in a dry county, so the temptation was usually overcome by the laziness to drive out to county lines and purchase alcohol. Now I pass three different displays of alcohol walking to the dairy section in Wal-Mart. And I think, “Surely by now, I’m okay. Surely by now I could have a beer now and then and be fine.”

But I don’t, I haven’t, and God-willing, I won’t.

Smoking is another addiction with a grip on me. I go in stages of smoking for several months, quitting for several months, picking it up again, quitting again, ad nauseam. It’s not sinful for me to smoke any more than it is for me to drink, but neither are particularly wise choices. (Feel free to insert some 1 Corinthians verses here.)

How about depression? Just the mention of depression and faith is enough to set some people over the edge, feeling judged or condemned. Even in high school, I was crushed when a bold, Baptist classmate brazenly announced, “Real Christians won’t get depressed.”

Did that cause me to question my salvation? It sure as hell did. Did it cause me to sink deeper into depression? Yep, that too.

I appreciate his well-meaning statement, but it’s simply not true. Some of the darkest times in my life have been in the past four years. Periods of depression still overcome me for days, weeks, or even months at a time. But I know that’s a result of a skewed, selfish perspective. (This is where some of you will want to attack me. Go ahead, but just know it won’t give you any more relief in your own depression.) That said, I struggle with depression more than anything else in this list. And I know there’s periods of depression in my future just waiting for me to find them there, already weeping and wailing and welcoming me in.

Thankfully, however, I’ve already been delivered from that forthcoming doom. Because I already have the one thing that brings me through it and will continue to bring me through it. It’s hope. It’s hope in my freedom.

So here’s what I mean by delivered, and maybe I should have said this up front: I don’t mean that these things won’t still attack me. I don’t mean that the enemy won’t still try to break me with them. I don’t mean that my own sinful nature won’t try to use them to self-destruct me, that I’ll never feel depressed or turn to a cigarette when I’m stressed instead of prayer or pass a case of beer and considering having “just one” because I’ve done really good these past four years and deserve to relax now and then.

These things still follow me, but I am free from them. In the words of the great Jennifer Connelly in The Labyrinth, “You have no power of me.”

It’s that freakin’ hope, man. That hope that my God is big and capable and willing to keep me free from the chains I keep shackling to my wrists and ankles. I know I need deliverance, and I have hope that his deliverance is from past to present to future. That even if I need deliverance every moment of every day, he’ll carry me through it.

What kind of deliverance do you experience in your life? How has hope for deliverance carried you out of depression, addiction, or another dark place?

 

  • Posted on July 04, 2011

about the verbal blueprints

 

I have a confession to make. I hope I don’t get stoned or struck by lightning for saying this, but I have to be honest: part of the Bible is very, very boring. I’m not just talking Leviticus, because pretty much everyone is in agreement on that one. I’m also not talking about all the “begat” passages, as the one at the beginning of Matthew has special meaning to me and hopefully to all Christians.

Specifically I’m referencing all the verbal blueprint passages. Like in Genesis 6:14-16 where God gives Noah exact instructions on how to build the ark. Or Exodus 25-40 when God tells Moses in explicit detail how to build the tabernacle and its furnishings, including the Ark of the Covenant. And then, of course, it details exactly how the builders built the tabernacle and its furnishings. As far as I can tell, the two accounts are identical. If I were Moses, I would have saved some papyrus or stone tablets and just written, “So the builders did exactly as God instructed,” or something like that.

Then we get to 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles, where again there’s intricate details on how Solomon built the temple. And a good chunk of 1 Chronicles that outlines specific duties for people within the temple. Honestly, I skim through a lot of it. I try to force meaning out of it occasionally and end up with some sort of life application about how God has specific plans for us. Blah, blah.

Our family devotional last week addressed the tedious tabernacle building instructions. It said, “God gave such specific instructions because this Tabernacle was much more than a meeting place. Every aspect of it said something about our need for God and the way those needs are provided for in Jesus.”

Okay, that’s an interesting perspective. Noah’s ark, you know, served a purpose in protecting what would be left of all humans, so that’s pretty important. And the temple Solomon built was a pretty big deal as well, not to mention the layers upon layers of symbolism. But then again, why do we get every specific description in the Bible? Why did God think it so important to include pages and pages and chapters and chapters in excruciating detail for items we’ll likely never have to build?

I think he wanted to give us some examples. I think he wanted us to know that he’d give us the same kind of instructions for things in our own lives intended to glorify him. And I think he wants us to see that, no matter how boring or tedious or monotonous the building will be, the end will justify the means. Every time.

That may look like a career he’s told you to build that will glorify him. Or maybe it will look like a family he wants you to build. Or maybe it will look like a missionary position overseas setting up house churches. Or maybe it’s a song or a blog or a book he wants you to write.

Maybe you have no idea what God wants you to build. Maybe he’s already trying to show you or maybe he’s not ready to reveal those plans just yet. Here’s a crazy idea: why not ask him?

I’ve mentioned the Chazown project before, and I continue to encourage people to check it out, no matter where they are in their walk with Christ. Through the Chazown initiative, I finally saw and understood some of God’s blueprint for my own life. Parts of it have been nauseatingly specific and parts of it have been horrifyingly vague, but so far, it’s all been dead on.

And here’s the kicker: if you’re going to build something to glorify God, why wouldn’t you do it the way he’s instructed? If you’re “building” your life to bring him praise, why on earth would you ever think it was a good idea to build it your own way? What if Moses had said, “These plans are great and all, God, but I think I’ll make the tabernacle my own way.” All that symbolism and foreshadowing and precious meaning leading to Christ would have been nonexistent. Not to mention, they probably would have all been burnt up or fallen into a hole in the earth somewhere along the way.

What has God asked you to build in your life? What instructions has he given? What instructions do you wish he’d give you?

  • Posted on July 01, 2011

about proof

 

In our culture, someone’s always trying to convince you of something. No matter what you call yourself or buy for yourself, an antagonist will always arrive, armed for an argument, and ready to point out exactly why your choice is wrong and his is right.

Whether Christian or atheist, Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, blue collar or white collar, a fan of homeschool or public school, Pepsi or Coke, Ford or Chevy, Mac or PC, chocolate or vanilla, iPhone or Android, Yankees or Rangers, dogs or cats, people think their way is the best way. And of course they think that; it would be stupid not to, or why choose it in the first place? The problem is not a preference of decisions. The problem is the way people act on those decisions.

Most people–and I know this is a sweeping generalization, but hell, it’s everywhere–really, really want you to acknowledge how their side is better and should win everything. And I’m not talking a decent conversation. People want to argue or debate or insult their way to victory. And the horrible tragedy of it all is that doesn’t work.

Let’s use ice cream as an example, because it’s the safest. I do love some chocolate ice cream. Girl comes up and says, “Hey, you’re eating chocolate. You should switch to vanilla.”

I say, “No thanks, I’m happy with my chocolate.”

Girl says, “You’re a big fat loser. Chocolate makes you fatter, don’t you know that? You’re an idiot and a lameface. I’d rather be caught by the paparazzi, swimming naked in a pool full of vanilla ice cream than to be seen with chocolate anywhere near me.”

You know what I’d say? Well, I shouldn’t type it here, but you can trust it’s in at least one Mumford song. I might even smear my chocolate ice cream on her face before I walked away.

You think that sounds stupid, but oh, how true it is.

Whether it’s a matter of politics or personal preference, people are very rarely going to be swayed by those insulting, degrading, and argumentative comments. In the grand scheme of things, only one of those choices above really matters. And if arguing and insulting won’t sway a person on any of the lesser decisions, how can we possibly expect them to be swayed on the greatest decision? How can we possibly think condemning, judgmental comments will amazingly resonate with unbelievers, leading them to fall on their faces in repentance before Jesus?

Have I done that? Absolutely. I don’t exclude myself from the sweeping generalizations on my blog. But I do have a challenge, for all of us:

Prove it.

If you’re successfully living out whatever you think is worth living for, you won’t have to argue to convince someone your way is the best way. In fact, you probably won’t have to say a word.

There I am, eating chocolate ice cream. Girl walks by, eating some vanilla. She’s completely oblivious to anyone or anything around her, because all she can see is vanilla ice cream. She’s beaming and has some ice cream on her chin and in her hair but doesn’t care. She savors every bite. It’s obviously the most delicious food on the whole planet. And I want that kind of joy when I eat ice cream. You bet your britches next time I’m ordering vanilla. Chocolate may be good, but vanilla might be the one thing I’ve been missing my whole life.

As for Christ, he’s worth way more than ice cream. What that means is we have to seek first his kingdom. We have to “prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (Matthew 3:8).

I know I’ve been called to write and advise and lead people to a deeper understanding of Christ, and none of that is in contradiction with this. (It’s more my equivalent of, “Hey, you know this vanilla is incredible. You should try it sometime and see how you like it. Taste and see that it is good.”)

I do struggle with the argumentative aspects of faith, especially when confronted with false prophets. That’s one of my biggest stumbling blocks–understanding how to respond in a Christlike way to people spreading lies about him. When I figure that one out, I’ll let you know.

For now, what I know is if I really believe what I say I believe, I have to prove it. I have to live it out first and be prepared to explain it second.

Have you ever been burned by someone condemning your choices? On the other side, have you ever driven someone away from Christ by your actions, rather than drawing him in? Are there things in your life you would have tried or considered, had it not been for an overzealous follower?