Christianity 201

March 17, 2011

Extreme Makeover — Soul Edition

No specific text today, but you’ve already taken care of that already, right?  I wanted to use this anyway because I really liked what it said.  This is by Murray Wittke who blogs at All The Days of my Life, where it appeared earlier this month under the title Soul Surgery.

They call it medical tourism or vacation makeovers.  This unique sector of the travel industry involves flabby, saggy, and droopy adults being pampered in exotic and sunny destinations while they recover from tummy tucks and surgery to lift and tighten the neck, face, brow, and breasts.  Just imagine with me, a Mediterranean Villa nestled on a hillside with a spectacular view of the ocean and overlooking groves of Orange trees.  There’s a warm breeze blowing and there in your own private garden, on a deck chair beside a pool, you’re relaxing in the sunshine.  Hidden from view no one sees the surgical tape, the black eyes, the puffy face, or the bruises. You simply return from vacation to a chorus of compliments from friends and family about  How good you’re looking!

Recently I’ve had a similar experience, my own vacation makeover, but in a lot colder location.  This winter I’ve spent a total of five weeks away in Fort Saint John at a counseling course undergoing what I can only refer to as Soul Surgery.  I’ve returned looking much the same on the outside but very different on the inside.  I admit there’s still some puffiness around my eyes and my heart feels a bit tender but the surgery went well and I’m healing fast.  I now have a much healthier heart.  From now on my friends and family are going to be seeing a brand new me!

It’s hard to get a man to go to the doctor and I’ll confess I’m one of those men.  In November I went to the first module of a counseling course for my initial two week checkup.  I was aware of a few signs in my life that suggested there might be problems somewhere below the surface, but like many men I did a good job of minimizing their significance.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before or maybe even said it yourself  “Hey don’t worry about me, it doesn’t hurt that much, I’m fine… really!” You know the routine, stiff upper lip, be a man, just suck it up and soldier on, and then get busy helping people with real difficulties.

My visit revealed I was not as healthy as I thought I was.  I actually needed some serious work done in my heart.  I discovered there was painful infection lodged throughout my past.  Through the five weeks of the course I came to clearly see how my reaction to the pain in my heart was negatively affecting my current behavior and relationships.  I was not only living with pain but I was also guilty of unconsciously hurting others.

My surgery began with writing out and then talking about the difficult and painful stories from throughout my life.  I discovered some deep wounds that I’ve carried for many years.  Then with my friends helping me I set to work examining my style of relating to other people.  What I found out was not pleasant.  I had to acknowledge and accept some difficult truths about myself.  I had to honestly face the truth of how in my pain, my negative behavior had hurt others, especially those I love.  I then began the hard work of forgiving others for what was done to me, and the even harder work of forgiving myself.

Shame and sorrow are very real emotions but I came to realize that I could not stay there forever.  In hope I kept moving forward, but I’ve been surprised at how difficult dislodging longstanding infection of the heart can be.  Lastly I committed myself to the task of asking forgiveness from those I have hurt or negatively affected over the years.  This will take some time but it must be done.

I’m thankful for the loving support and encouragement of my fellow travelers, teachers, and counselors.  I’m grateful I have not had to go through Soul Surgery alone.  He who is called Wonderful Counselor has been with me and guided this whole process, and I realize He is not finished with me yet.

If you’ve noticed a bruise on your soul that refuses to heal, or a pain in your heart that won’t go away, or even a pattern of behavior that keeps causing you problems don’t ignore it and don’t keep putting it off, ask for help.  Life can be much better, trust me I know first hand.  I went and had my pain looked at, had the surgery,  and now that I’m feeling much better I’m looking forward to helping others find relief from the pain in their heart.  I like the sound of that, Murray Wittke Soul Surgeon.  Here’s to Healthy Hearts!

~Murray Wittke

November 11, 2010

Told To Be In The World, Though Not Of It

Today’s post is from Trent Griffith, senior pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in Granger, IN.   It appeared on his blog in March of this year, and is also repeated in the Our Journey devotional booklet this month as the reading for November 17th.   Trent and his wife Andrea served for 15 years as conference speakers with Life Action Ministries.

John 17:16-18 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

“Come quick, Dad! You have to change the radio station. Their singing about dancing naked!” That was the exclamation of my six-year old daughter who recognized our home was being invaded by an influence that was not consistent with the values we hold as family.

The Bible has a very specific name for that influence—“the world.” What is “the world”? It is a prevailing system of beliefs that stands in opposition to the authority and of God and His word, which reduces life to the reason and impulses of the human mind yet fueled by demonic spiritual forces. Jesus used the word eighteen times in his prayer for his followers recorded in John 17. He knew the influence of the world would tempt us to stray into unbelief and disobedience. Knowing this, Jesus prayed for our protection before he departed physically from the earth.

Christians are those who have been called out of the world to live a life distinct from the world. Our values, attitudes, and lifestyle should stand in contrast to the world. We are continually being sanctified (or set apart) from a world that doesn’t understand why we live to please a God we cannot see with our eyes. As we are sanctified by his world we should expect the world to hate us just like it hated Him.

But sanctification is not so much about getting out of the world as much as God getting the world out of us. Jesus specifically says “I do not ask that you take them out of the world.” (John 17:15) In fact, he prays, “I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18) Why? Those whom Jesus has called out of the world are sent back in for the purpose of calling more out…to be sent back in. There is a cyclical balance to living as a “called out”, “sent in” follower of Jesus.

We are not to be of the world but we are to be in the world. We are to separate, but also penetrate. We to should spend time alone with God but also spend time conversing with godless people about God.

Why does God leave us in the world? He has sent us in to a world to show them that knowing Jesus is more fulfilling and brings more joy than anything the world has to offer…even dancing naked.

• Does the world hate you? If not, why not?
• In what practical ways do you need to separate yourself form the world?
• In what practical ways do you need to embrace the call to be sent in to the world?

– Trent Griffith

Green letter Bible? Occasionally — not every time — on this blog you’ll see scriptures in green. To me it serves as a reminder that God’s word is life!

November 6, 2010

We Interrupt This Devotional —

I wish I had time to write original material everyday; but the process of discovering other Bible study and devotional bloggers is an adventure in itself.   Zach — today’s writer — pastors Concordia Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Texas.   This post appeared last week under the title:  Being Interrupted: A Lesson from Augustine.

I am most definitely a “Type A” personality.  I like to plan, organize, and execute – preferably in a deliberate, linear, and flawless manner.  Yet, as anyone who has walked this earth for more than a second knows, life does not always proceed in a deliberate and linear manner.  And it certainly does not proceed flawlessly!  Interruptions, accidents, and personal catastrophes make life an adventure in which you never know what the next chapter will bring.

Perhaps it is my penchant for planning that makes me appreciate so much this quote from Augustine:

But I am annoyed because of the demands that are thrust on me…arriving unannounced, from here, there, and everywhere.  They interrupt and hold up all other things that we have so neatly lined up in order.  They never seem to stop. (Peter Robert Lamont Brown, Augustine of Hippo:  A Biography, 468)

I can honestly say that I know how Augustine feels.  For when I get things “neatly lined up in order” and am then “interrupted,” I get “annoyed.”

But should I get annoyed?  I suppose a little bit of a human annoyance is inevitable.  And yet, I can’t help but remember the attitude of my Lord when He got interrupted:

Then Jesus took His disciples with Him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed Him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. (Luke 9:10-11)

Jesus desires to withdraw His disciples to get a little bit of rest and relaxation with His disciples.  But then, He gets interrupted.  Crowds, eager to hear Him teach and have their ills healed, follow Him so that He cannot get a moment’s rest.  They arrive “unannounced from here, there, and everywhere.”  They interrupt Him.

How does Jesus respond to this crowd’s insensitive interruption?  He welcomes them (cf. verse 11).  The Greek word for “welcomed” is apadechomai, meaning, “to accept,” or “to receive.”  Interestingly, this word is sometimes used to describe the forgiveness of sins (e.g. Genesis 50:17 LXX).  Thus, Jesus welcomes the crowd, and in His welcome, there is forgiveness.  And this too is our hope:  That in Christ, we are welcomed in spite of sin because we are forgiven of our sin.

Augustine pens his candid admission of being annoyed by interruptions as he is trying to write his greatest work, The City of God. And so it is understandable that, while working on such a weighty tome, he would be annoyed by the delays.  After all, his task is vital!  But so are his interruptions.  For a man named Vincentius Victor is interrupting Augustine, questioning him on his view of man’s soul.  And a man’s soul is a big deal – not only as the subject of theological debate, but in the eyes of God.  And so, Augustine takes a break from his work on The City of God to answer Victor.

Like Jesus, do we welcome those who interrupt us?  Yes, what we are working on at the time may be important, but the interruption may be just as important.  Moreover, how do we respond to interruptions?  With annoyance in our hearts or with the welcoming spirit of our Lord?  Although interruptions are bound to annoy us, especially if you’re a “Type A” personality like me, it is worth it to see some interruptions not simply as glitches in your plans, but as divine appointments for your soul.  So welcome an interruption today!  After all, the interruption may just be the most important – and even the best – part of your day.