Monday, August 31, 2015

The Thing About Fasting

So, I haven't always understood or been a big fan of fasting. Hence the name of my blog - Beautiful thorns. When given the choice, I usually choose comfort. The Lord in his goodness and mercy however has lovingly given me "thorns" so I can progress in my spiritual life and be more transformed into his image. I am learning however that it is better to fall on the rock and be broken than have the rock fall on us and be crushed - Luke 20:18.

I am starting to get the whole notion and importance of fasting as I am trying to be more obedient to a life of penance I believe the Lord is calling me to. Let me tell you though, fasting is not for the faint of heart! It causes all the junk and impurities in our heart to come to the surface more quickly, things you didn't even know were there! Satan likes to then play on those weaknesses and try to get us to lose heart. Should we be surprised at this - Jesus was even tempted in the desert - Matthew 4:1-11. If we persevere however, I think we come out ahead.

I guess that explains why I have been in a funk lately...Tom and I have been doing a 40 day fast for Tom's job situation and for us to come into the things God has for us. I believe it is the fasting that has caused all kinds of emotions, doubts, insecurities, and fears to rise up in my own heart. I know however that if I can persevere through it, I will grow in my spiritual walk with the Lord and it will be fruitful. I think being aware of what is going on is half the battle. I also think this is causing me to be a fan of fasting. I am finally getting it!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Funks of Life

I don't know if anyone else can relate, but sometimes I find myself in a funk. I usually try to avoid giving into negative thoughts but this week the negativity has gotten the best of me. 

It has been really hard for me to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I am having a hard time seeing how God is going to fulfill the desires of our heart, especially as my body is wracked with pain and fatigue, causing me to be irritable with my children. My thoughts say, "Gosh, I can't even be faithful in the little things!" We also have some very pressing financial needs and Tom for the past 10 years has been driving a 3 to 4 hour a day commute to a very stressful job that he doesn't exactly enjoy and causes him to miss out on a lot of family time. I probably need to be thankful that at least his job mostly pays the bills.

One thing that has brought me out of the funks in the past and is working to bring me out of the current funk is the thought that, "I am going to feel really silly when the Lord finally comes through for us!". I am trying very hard to keep my eyes on Jesus and believe in his promises. I would love to hear from my readers! Please share some faith building stories of how you have persevered through tough times and the Lord was faithful to his promises...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Two Sides of the Same Coin

I have often been bewildered by different extremes you find in society. You see it in religious circles and in the world. You see it among Catholics and Protestants. 

In Catholic circles, one extreme group of people is called the "rad trads". The "rad trads" are ultra-traditionalists who are more Catholic than the Pope. They believe in following rules and regulations, the letter of the law but often miss the mark and forget about love. Oftentimes they do not have a correct understanding of the true nature of God and what He is really like.

The other extreme Catholic group are the liberals who reject church doctrine. This group throws themselves into social justice and the plight of the poor but they often fail to believe in moral absolutes. They also miss the mark when it comes to giving people Jesus because they haven't learned the art of being still and receiving his love for themselves before going out and serving others.

In Protestant circles, you have the Fundamentalists who are like the Catholic "rad trads". They are very legalistic and take everything in scripture literally even if it is not meant to be taken literally. They tend to take a stand on insignificant details that don't matter to faith but forget about love. 

The other extreme group Protestants fall into is the "cheap grace" group. This term was coined by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This group of Protestants focus on a form of grace, but a grace that is separate from the Cross of Christ. A grace without repentance. A grace where everything is accepted in the name of "love". They often view people striving to be obedient to God as foolish and legalistic. The type of "grace" they have bought into however isn't true grace and it isn't true love.

In the world you often see these extremes in politics. There are the "progressives" and the "conservatives". 

These extremes try to separate justice from mercy and mercy from justice. However, you can not have one without the other. Both extremes are missing it. They are two sides of the same coin and they are not founded on the Cross of Jesus or rooted in true love! The different extremes try to separate sacrifice from love but true love requires sacrifice and true sacrifice is founded in love.

This tendency to go from one extreme to another is human nature. It all started with the Fall of Adam. Through the Fall, we lost our center and our souls became fragmented. We lost our focus on God and became distracted. This is when people started to choose the good over the best. They started to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil instead of eating from the tree of life in the middle of the garden. We started to do things our way, apart from God. We also lost control over our passions. Paul says we do what we don't want to do and we don't do what we want to do (Romans 7:15-20). In order to justify our passions, we now try to separate truth from love and love from truth and we find ourselves opposing God. 

So, the question is, how do we get back to our original state, the way we were originally intended to be? How do we keep from extremes and become fully integrated, fully human, and once again focused on God? Our only hope is Jesus!

Jesus set the example. He is the way and he showed us the way. He was always centered on God the Father. He carried his cross and laid down his life. Through him, truth and love kissed. 

We are also called to center our lives on God through the cross of Christ and be willing to lay our lives down out of love for Him. 

The way we can center our lives on Christ is by growing in intimacy with him. The ways we grow in intimacy with him is to learn to rest and abide in him (John 15:4); seek his face (Psalm 105); and eat from the tree of life which is Jesus himself (John 6:51).  When we do these things and allow him to consume us, we realize we can do nothing apart from him. We recognize more fully that we need him! He is the true bread that came down from heaven. We discover that Jesus alone can satisfy the longing in our hearts, integrate us and transform us into his image. Once we realize this, it is easier to keep Him at the center of our being. 

Only Jesus can keep us from seeking extremes which are not rooted in anything real.