Oct31SatOctober 31, 2020
Sharon and I have taken time to do some day trips in the local area to find some hidden gems. We’ve gone to the usual places to find the fall colors like Hockley Valley and check out some local artisans and then we’ve also hit the more unusual spots like Shakespeare, Ontario. Well, there wasn’t much there other than the small pumpkins that we found and the little white ones that we were on the hunt for. We also have a lot of fun thrifting and one place that was always great fun is “Pay By The Pound” that just moved to New Hamburg from Elmira. It’s the place that Sharon with her amazing treasure hunter ways find amazing deals, but on this particular day, I found a hidden gem in the used book section. I picked up a book called “Authentic Faith” by Gary Thomas. It is a book that he wrote in 2002 on spiritual disciplines and man, it is challenging me to my very core!
I want to share some insights in this blog that have been inspired from reading his book that I am presently working through. I find myself highlighting thoughts, takeaways that I keep going back to and rereading because I really want to let it sink in much like the Word of God. He has distilled truths from the Father that are so pertinent for the season that I find myself in and I know many others are in.
A statement that really opens up his purpose for writing is,
In a broken and fallen world, we really only have two choices: mature friendship with God or radical disillusionment. He goes on to say, authentic Christianity majors on a powerful display of God’s presence, often through his people, in a world that is radically broken.
The first discipline I want to reflect on is the discipline of selflessness and learning to live beyond yourself. It is the art of checking our “hurry” at the door and learning to be fully present in the moment with others. It is inviting the Holy Spirit to take the lead in all of our conversations and everything we do. It is the rhythm of learning to live by God’s agenda and releasing my “own” agenda.
Philippians 2:3,4 challenges us to look not only to our own interests, but to the interests of others. It is the ability to lavish God’s love on others, the kind of empathy that is deeply rooted and invested in the health and well-being of others without the attitude of “adding up the cost” or somehow to derive attention to self in the process.
The discipline of waiting continues the journey into a depth of relationship with the LORD that learns to trust Him above all else, above what I’m seeing with my own eyes, above my own timeline, above my expectations. Can I really trust God that He is pursuing my children and my family harder and more deeply than I ever could? Can I believe that? Can I learn to have the long-term view that He is working all things out together for my good? If we don’t have this question settled in our heart then waiting can be debilitating and suck our soul dry. The discipline of waiting is marked by hope in God ( I spoke about this last month). Paul also speaks about the Christian life as a type of “groaning in anticipation”.
Insert song here…Man of Your Word by Maverick City (my current favorite worship playlist!)
An obvious point is that real growth takes time. As it relates to our own personal growth, he shares,
Faithful obedience over time weakens temptation’s allure. As we begin to find new ways to deal with stress or insecurity or other “sin triggers” in our lives.
The hope is that we learn to live without the sin which has often served to be that “spiritual narcotic” in our life. Christian classics speak of a soul sadness, that being the pursuit of a character trait that we have yet to fully possess. There are certainly stories of those who are miraculously delivered from sin sickness or addiction, but the ongoing story of strength is found in that moment by moment, daily leaning on the power of His abiding presence.
If you’re called to love, you’re called to wait. There is no love without patience, without waiting. Waiting is the oxygen of love, it is the virtue that gives love its sustaining power.
Waiting also can mean we move into a place of recreation, sport, pursuing physical health instead of soul-numbing activities like constantly scrolling news or a social media app on our phone. I have often met with God on a bike run, a run, a swim where I am totally captivated by the LORD of creation and my mind is cleared of the fog of negativity and messages that only fed fear.
The discipline of suffering isn’t one that is championed or spoken about too often and on this subject Gary Thomas hits the mark when he says,
This is a fallen world and terrible things happen in a fallen world. We dishonor our suffering sisters and brothers when we try to explain all of this away. The truth is that we are called to suffer with them, not as some think we are called to do- to try to cure them of their suffering. Paul tells us to ‘carry each other’s burdens’ not to try to explain the burden away in Galatians 6:2.
On the subject of pursuing holiness in the context of suffering, there is what the early classic Christian writers spoke of that is known as the ‘desert of detachment’. This subject really resonated with me. The desert is the place where I go to learn to live without whatever I thought I needed to “get me by”. It is the place without my ‘coping mechanism, that self- justifying behavior that I has been my “go to.” A coping mechanism is an immediate sinful behavior I have used as a way to either protect myself or fulfill my own need. It is where I have gone to in the place of allowing God to meet me in what is my deepest place of need. You fill in the blank as to what that need is, the need to be safe, to be in control, to be liked or the need to be right. We need to understand that often sin is taking a God given desire and choosing to short-circuit the process and meeting that need without Him.
However, the place I need to go is the desert of detachment where I learn to wait on God and trust Him.
Can I in that place trust God to really meet my needs, can I truly believe that His unfailing love is better than life itself?
Just learning to stop myself from sinning is not the end goal. It is the desert of detachment that I trust my Father to richly meet me in a profound way and here’s the lesson, there will often be a dip before there is a rise, it’s not automatic. It takes time to really see how He fills that need.
When resistance to sin becomes painful – when we honestly think that we can’t survive without that drink, that relationship, that way of coping – will we embrace the suffering, endure the spiritual torment, and remain faithful to God, or will we collapse, once again, into the soft prison of our addictions?
I know that the winter is coming and that can be a very difficult and challenging season for many people. My prayer is that you and I will wait on God like we never have before and experience the oasis that is His profound presence in the middle of a desert or dark night of our soul.