January 26, 2016

God's Love > Self-Doubt

I used to be so empowered. I look over my oldest blog posts and see how self-assured I was. The things I was writing and the verses I was claiming, they took a lot of guts. The fact I was leading a Bible study at 15 for girls my own age, and went on a month long mission trip to a foreign country with strangers. The whole time I felt self-assured enough to help lead Bible studies there and to keep and teach my belief system in the face of my team members' controversial beliefs. It was a lot for a 15 year old who hadn't exactly been away from home much.

I examine myself now and realize insecurities are not something you leave behind when you are in middle school. Oh no, it's a lifetime battle.

This summer I came face to face with a part of me I had never before, the side of me that was unequipped and unable. Usually when God has me undertake an assignment of His I may begin unequipped but He eventually gives me what I need to do it. Maybe some ability or some wisdom. This didn't happen one week at camp. It was during our Angel Tree week when we have only children of prisoners come to camp.

Angel Tree is one of our challenging weeks because the children come from some of the toughest home situations. They do not often show it, but you can tell because they simply refuse to let you love them. They do not want to let you get close and it breaks your heart. They act out in order to accomplish this goal. The boys fight and the girls both fight and cause drama. The girls I had in my cabin did both, but mostly caused drama. They spread rumors and lies about each other that were simply so hurtful to both the campers and us counselors (if we took it personally, which I did).

I went into Angel Tree thinking I was so discerning and would realizing any time they were doing this and if not, God would help. This is not what happened. I had to overly rely on other workers who had come with the kids, more than I perceived other cabins had to. I played right into each of their games, and felt so foolish. A week of it had me convinced I could never work with inner city kids again, nor could I minister to those with more difficult histories. That and I was convinced I was simply an idiot who should never work with kids again. My mind just saw the real me, a broken person who was nothing and who always messed up. Guess I had never really messed up in ministry before or needed a lot of help. And my brain ran away with the tiny bit of self doubt the girls caused me to have and spiraled into so many doubts and insecurities I had never had before. Past mistakes were remembered and piled up into a crippling pile of evidence for the way I was feeling.

What followed was a semester of serious doubt. I almost quit all of my ministries. I stopped ministering to friends.

God would not let this continue for long. It took a lot, but God began showing through the one ministry I continued, my 8th grade small group, that He could still speak through me. He could still use me to love.

The final push toward walking in victory was (surprise!) the Passion Conference. At it I felt one of the main truths they wanted us to gain was to live in victory. It culminated with Christine Caine's final session in which she spoke on how we need to be like Joshua 1 people and not Numbers 13 people. The Israelites in Numbers 13 would not take the land because they saw how difficult it was and how insufficient they were and so were crippled by fear. But Joshua 1 Israelites chose to be strong and courageous in Christ. She spoke on how we can live in victory and freedom because God is bigger than what people have done and said, and bigger than what we have done.

Christ is in me. He goes before me, watches my back behind me, and comforts and encourages me beside me. He even equips me through the Holy Spirit inside me. Even more, He loves me. So He lovingly brings me to His will doing nothing to destroy me, but to cause me joy and peace.

Yes, that week at camp is one of my worst experiences. And I might be tempted to doubt God's power because He didn't provide for me or live up to His promises. I can tell you He did though, I just lost sight of it. He provided wise women to sort through the drama for me, He enabled me to gain the girls respect when they were not emotional about drama (which was a majority of the time), and He let me lead one of the girls to the Lord and give assurance of salvation to many of the girls. Self-doubt is a big influence to have made me loose sight of all of these provisions from God.

Through all of the self doubt I had I had grown to hate myself. What a terrible decision. To hate what God had made? To hate how God made me? To say God had made mistakes in me? To do so is to claim God is not wise or loving. Yes, I am a sinner who needs God's equipping for everything, but I have Christ's blood permanently flowing though my veins. I am a new creation who is not weak and foolish anymore. I can say no to sin, I can live through the Spirit, I can claim God's promises. I am a part of the royal priesthood and holy nation, part of the light and not the dark. Never the dark. I am not defeated. That is contrary to my new nature. My new nature is to be victorious.

But how do we live in this new nature? It is truly simple. Let the truth be bigger than the lies. Surround yourself with the truth of Scripture. Through songs, following Christian Instagram users, studying scriptures, going to bible studies. Let God's Word be a significant part of your life so that the writing of Joshua 1:8 are true for you: "Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." This was another reason Joshua 1 Israelites took the promised land, they meditated on scripture. Then the lies of their heart upon seeing the difficulty of the task was not bigger than the truth of God. 

On Facebook, my favorite author Ted Dekker wrote an analogy teaching what it looks like to be a Christian who does not live in victory and in the strength of God's promises. It would be like Clark Kent forgetting he is Superman. He lives a lie each day unaware or forgetful of just what he can do. He does not get to do the world saving he was meant to do. He does not get the privilege of living in that victory. 

After Passion I decided to combat those lies. I had always known that was what I should do, but I never did it. It was only after the precious story Christine Caine told about her daughter's first day of Kindergarten did I realize just how powerful it was. When Caine's daughter was little her dad always told her that she was beautiful, smart and loved every day. But the first day of Kindergarten a bully decided to pick on the daughter. He stole her pencil and said she was stupid, ugly and that he hated her. The daughter replied confidently saying, "that's not true, my dad say's I'm beautiful and smart."

Isn't that just how we are to be? When tempted to say no one loves us, or that we will never amount to anything to just declare, "I'm loved by God! He will fulfill His purpose for me!" But we must know the scripture to be able to declare the scripture. I've started on a simple way to fill my mind with God's promises. When I read the Bible or am at church I simply write down any and all promises that are for me, or anything that describe me in Christ. I put a heart by it and review it every quiet time until it's permanent in my mind. I also try to use it throughout the day. That is meditating on it. To meditate is to consider and ponder. Easy to do if you need it enough. Easy to do if you ask God to help you do it. 


January 18, 2016

A Christian's View of Philosophy 1301

Earlier this winter break I decided to sit down and write a letter to my philosophy professor. I had always wanted to avoid taking a philosophy class. Not because I feared loosing my faith (though I have heard too many stories where this is the case), but because it hurts my heart to be surrounded by teaching so far removed from the Bible. But as I researched prerequisites for nursing schools it seems philosophy is needed in a majority of them, so my choice was made for me. I had to take philosophy.

Through the whole class I knew I needed to do something for my professor. I had a few chances to say my perspective but never was able to fully explain what I knew I needed to tell him. After the class was over I knew what I needed to do: write a letter fully explaining how my view differed from his. But this was not to be some letter full of facts and debates. No, it needed to be loving. The reason I believe my professor could benefit from a letter was he truly needs love. The life the man leads is sad. He is nearing the end of his life and believes no one truly loves anyone unselfishly. He attempts to give meaning to his life though teaching, but none of his students respect him.

My goal of the letter was to show him a person who truly loves him, and to capture his attention through academics.

I pray that this letter can help you too. This is not just a letter to the professor but also a letter to you, especially if you do not know about the precious love God has for you. If you do know His love, I pray this helps you in any conversation you have with those in philosophy.

I also pray that if you are in a philosophy class this helps you get through. Philosophy classes are tricky. Philosophers sound very wise and can confuse Christian students easily if they are not careful to compare the teachings to the Bible. I was blessed to have studied verses and Christian teachings to help me, but many Christian students are not as blessed. I hope this letter can help you gain some Christian perspective in philosophy and inspires you to places where you can research and strengthen your faith.


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Professor,

I am writing this letter to you because I care. Philosophy is a study unlike many, but it is connected to a study I care very much about: theology. As I went through your class I made up my mind to not argue much because that would just cause undue stress for those in the class. If asked, I spoke up for my thoughts, but only if asked. Other times I spoke up when my views would not be easily found on google or social media. I believe often when Christians stand up for their beliefs in class everyone’s heart is hardened against them because students do not truly care about other’s views, especially views that are constantly ridiculed on social media. They just want to go home early and if I start a debate, they have to stay in class longer. But I know you desire to hear others’ views.

I am writing this letter to you because I care for your views. I noticed that many times over the course of the class my worldview did not match up with yours, and did not match up with your claims about the Christian worldview. For example, views on morality. You had said Christians view that one must follow laws set by another person, God, and they’d better follow them or else. That was close to the view before Christ, the Jews had to follow the whole law to the T, or else judgment and punishment came.  However, God wrote in ways for them to be pardoned from that judgment. God made the law to show that following the law to the T was just not possible. The Jews constantly messed up. One need only look at one of the historical accounts in the Bible, the book of Judges. No sooner did a good leader of the Jews die, the Jews would break God’s law in major ways. Then, God would save them from His punishment through another leader to show His grace. But the Jews would repeat the cycle and break the law again. This cycle repeated many times showing that people cannot keep God’s law. The apostle Paul wrote to the churches that God’s law was put into place not because we must keep it or else, but to make us aware of how immoral we are (Romans 7:7). God knows we cannot keep it, He wrote into His laws ways to gain His grace and forgiveness. The book of Hebrews sums up God’s view of how forgiveness is reached by stating that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22). God wrote the animal sacrificial system into the law because He knew the Jews would break it. This way was imperfect because the Jews had to constantly sacrifice animals. But God counted them as righteous and moral because they attempted to follow that system of forgiveness. So, that is how the Jews reached heaven and were not punished for breaking the law.

Now, that was the old system. The new system that I and my fellow Christians are under is a perfect system with a once and for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I need only have that one sacrifice for my breaking of the law because Christ was my perfect sacrifice. Why? Jesus Christ was God in flesh, therefore the only one capable of not breaking God’s law, because God is perfect. God set up a life for a life system. My breaking of the law deserves someone, or something, to be punished. In the old way, an animal had to be punished. In the new way, Christ was killed. Then it is truly a life for a life. I no longer must follow the law or else. My whole punishment for breaking the law was taken away because of the perfect sacrifice. I will never have the punishment again because it was so perfect. But why is the law still there then? Just because I have no punishment does not mean it is not wrong. It still goes against what God has revealed to us would mess life up. To go against God’s law is like going against instructions to build furniture. Life does not work out if I go against it. God made me. He knows how I should best live. For example, one of the 10 commandments says to not commit adultery. Included in the original Hebrew word is fornication. Thus, I should not have sex before marriage. This is not easy to accept in my culture. A study performed in 1995 by Robert T. Michel and colleges, and presented in the book Sex in America, reported that those who wait until marriage to have sex report more sexual satisfaction (124-125). It is my view God knows this, and made His law accordingly. This is a difficult topic to come to grips with. We, in our rebelliousness do not want to be told what to do. This is the whole cause for that cycle of law breaking the Jews always went through. It took me much time to accept this idea and to let go of what I thought was best for me. What helped was considering a fish. A fish needs to stay in its boundaries of the water. Although freedom means it could go outside of the water, is that really best for it? It would die. God made the rules He did not to stifle humanity, but to give us a happy life. Many view God as a mean old man up in heaven dictating life. I counter that with this story of a fish. God loves humanity and wants us to be happy. So, in a nutshell, God gave a moral code to the followed so we can know what would give us a happy life. It was not given as a stingy set of rules to be followed or else. God gave a way for forgiveness. But that leads me to another teaching of yours that I would like to write about, your views on love.

I found the Grandfather’s letter to be very insightful. I do find that there is a selfishness to love. I love because a need is fulfilled. I’ve gotten into relationship drama because of this very fact. I was friends with a guy but the needs he fulfilled in my life led to feelings being developed. However, I believe there is one other type of love. This love is summed up best in one of the many Greek variants of love: agape. I think all of the other Greek words for love fit the love the grandfather wrote about, agape does not. Agape love is will over emotion. It is often described as sacrificial love or love without conditions. It needs nothing from the other person. It considers not itself, but the other person. It is a lot like Kant’s categorical imperative. It is doing what is right because it is right regardless of feeling or what one might get out of it. It is the love of a husband staying with and caring for his wife with cancer. He cannot gain anything from his wife. They cannot have sex, she cannot cook or care for him, and she is perhaps even unkind. She cannot talk to him about the arts because she is too tired. Why does he stay with her? Why is he at the hospital holding her hand? Is it because he has a need to nurture? He has kids he could nurture. Also, there is a point one has done all the nurture one can do. At this point, I argue that he had enough fulfillment of that desire a long time ago. The reward is not meeting the amount of work. Another could fulfill that need a lot easier. Perhaps he should get a cat or another wife. The only other explanation is he has agape love.

Agape love is the love God has for us. Some argue that God made mankind because He was lonely. He only loves us because we fulfill His desire. I say he could have traded us in for a new model easily. He has angels. He could have easily given up on us and washed His hands of our rebelliousness. Yet, God works everyday in mankind’s life. I see it everyday. I am a member of one of Lone Star’s clubs, Cru. Cru is a club of Christians at Lone Star that meets every Tuesday and Wednesday. What I hear about some of the members’ lives does not make sense. For example, one man was into drugs, alcohol, and partying before learning about God. Academics and study skills do not come naturally to him, nor has it been easy for him to learn- he’s struggling to make it through his Associates. Yet, he is one of our leaders. He is now living a life that God would very much approve of and he can understand theological concepts that are as difficult to understand as philosophy. His life is evidence that God is at work right now in mankind. He is not absent. He has not traded us in for some other model that did not make the same mistakes we did in some other world, nor has He given up on us. Because of His love, He has not abandoned us. I am not too na├»ve to think that it often seems like God has abandoned the world. I watch the news and the evidence is there. How could a loving God allow the world to be bad? Why does He not intervene? Why does He not intervene in our personal life to prevent death and mourning? At one time, mankind was free from the inability to follow God’s moral code. At one time we were all perfect. There was no death. Life was not corrupt. However, God gave us free will. By free will I mean the ability to choose right and wrong. To be presented with the choice to do a bad deed, but to choose not to do it. I know we have free will because I choose everyday to not do wrong actions. Yes, my choice is influenced by teachings I know previously, the type of day I’m having and the way my brain presents the choices, but I choose whether or not to listen. Even Eagleman said executive decisions are made by the consciousness. I highly doubt a man’s choice to rape a girl was made by his subconscious. Influenced, yes, but not made for him. God gave free will. Why? Robotic worshipers show no love to their maker. With that free will our representatives, Adam and Eve, showed that we would all choose to go against God if given the choice. I say representatives because we would each do the same if given the opportunity. They represented what we would do. Thus, we were punished to have a rebellious nature because of the choice of Adam and Eve. An illustration is to say that no one needs to teach a baby selfishness. Psychology agrees that kids start out bad or antisocial as psychology terms it. They must be taught to think of others and to have self control. God did not design it this way. He designed us to be in our nature good. But our representatives messed that up. Now, things that God did not design to happen occur: wars, death, sickness, etc. And they come to all, regardless of being a Christian or not, regardless of living in God’s moral code or not. Now, death is the natural course of life. Each is allotted a time to die. Now, people fight. All the chaos caused by them is due to their own rebelliousness against God’s ways. Now, natural disasters occur. When death was brought by our representatives, other punishments were as well. One of which was that the earth steadily gets worse and worse. One could be mad at God for even punishing Adam and Eve to begin with. But God is just. He must punish those who go against his moral code. We are in fact undeserving that God would even think to make a way of forgiveness and second chance. Yes, God’s act of making a way for forgiveness shows that He in fact loves us despite the need for punishment. In the book of Romans it says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) Christ died not because of some selfish desire, but because God did not give up on us and wanted to make a way through our choice to mess life up.

A reason I was convinced to write this letter to you was I want you to know about this unselfish love. To live in a world where people only love you for selfishness is a life I would not want to live. Often, a mistake is made about the whole goal of Christ’s death. Many assume it was only to keep mankind from eternal punishment in hell. While this was accomplished, it is not the main goal. God’s main goal was for us to know His love. He did what He did so that mankind would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him. He knows we have a need for love (Acts 7:27). We each have a God-shaped hole. That is the reason for the appetites and desires you speak on so much that control and ruin our lives. That is why we have sex with so many people, and try to numb our senses through drugs and alcohol.
That is why we yearn for academic and business success. None of these things satisfy and they never will. But Christ Jesus has said, "If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37). Our breaking of the law prevents us from coming to Christ, but that is why His sacrifice was so significant. It opened up the way for us to come to Him, to be truly satisfied, and experience God’s love. Heaven is nice, to not be tired ever again and to never hurt again is wonderful, but the best thing is to be with God. To not have even the physical realm separate you from the one who loves you more than life itself. That is what I look forward to after death.

All of these things rest, however, on the belief in the existence of God and that Jesus Christ is God in flesh. The teaching that Jesus Christ is merely an enlightened man does not fit. A consideration of Jewish culture and belief leads to the elimination of that option for him. In C.S. Lewis’ book, Mere Christianity, Lewis states three options are available: liar, lunatic, or God. He says, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God.” Jesus Christ’s teachings led to his death. That is lunatic. Who would die for a lie? In addition, to lead so many to certain death would be the wickedest thing a person could do. Unless he was mad. A moral teacher of that day would not have said what he said, especially if he wanted to stay alive amidst people who killed people for lying about God or claiming to be God. The Jews were extremely sensitive to that matter. What did Jesus have to gain from doing this? Yet, Jesus did exist, archaeology confirms this as do eyewitness accounts stated in the Bible, and he did claim overtly to be God. One could argue the Bible is not accurate on such things. However, I have studied this, as have others. The conclusions on the authenticity of the Bible strongly support its truthfulness and accuracy. I will not discuss the evidence here. If you would like to know more I suggest reading More Than A Carpenter by Josh McDowell. This has been the most straight forward and thorough apologetic book I have read. It presents compelling arguments for the fact that Jesus Christ is indeed the Christ. That he was not merely enlightened, but that he was the enlightener. God Himself who took on flesh and made His dwelling among men. God’s way of revealing himself to mankind because He loves us.

I write this letter to you because of that love. The Bible says I can love because God first loved me. I am convinced of this love. I have nothing to gain from writing to you. I sit here during my Christmas break devoting time to writing all of this out. I could be reading a good book or on the internet, but I chose to write to you instead. Why? God loves you, and because of this I choose to show this love to you. I have listened to you for a semester observing what you possibly believe and set your life on. I want you to know of the different way that I have found. One I believe to be more satisfying. Jesus Christ came that we may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10). He came for us to be able to live a life with God. To have a relationship with our Creator who loves us with agape love. I am praying for you that you will one day accept this love and this life. All it requires is to turn your mind around and accept these ideas about God, His love, His plan, His justice, and His way for your life. In the book of Acts it says, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20).

On the other hand if you do not want this life, simply take this letter academically. I hope it gives you insight into a Christian’s view of philosophy.

Sincerely,
Brooke


January 13, 2016

Spiritual Gifts, Passion Conference and Blogging Again

It's been almost two years since my last post. Way too long of a break, but a necessary break. I've been hard at work with college classes in the school year and camp in the summer. This led to bumping down this blog to my last priority. In addition, I did not find God leading me to ever post. However, I desire to begin blogging again.

Recently I've been struggling to find exactly what I can do to serve God. Not many ministries are opening up to me, nor are many readily available to my schedule. Blogging seems to be the one ministry that is flexible to my schedule (a bit too flexible which is why I never get around to it, but if I can just keep the commitment that should be fixed). It also goes along with what I've been realizing are close to my spiritual gifting. It's always a struggle to figure out spiritual gifts, but I know mine is along the lines of knowledge, exhortation, teaching, evangelism etc. This blog can hone in on all of that. I found that these might be along the lines of my spiritual gift because of a letter I wrote recently to a college professor of mine. I'm saving the letter for another blog post, but the experience of writing it was great. Just the act of being used by God to pen down exactly what He wanted me to say was extremely uplifting- just how I've been told utilizing your spiritual gift is supposed to feel. It's supposed to feel like you are being useful and the act is supposed to be more of a personal blessing than any other kind of act.

As much as it scares me to begin writing on this blog again I know I need to do it. My school schedule will be rough and dedicating time to this will be a sacrifice. I pray I can keep it up. I made the mistake of researching how to get a blog noticed. This too is scary. With so many blogs out there I fear that this one will never get noticed or cause any impact in any lives. Who wants to read what I have to say? And if they did, how could they ever find it? But I know God does not lay a work or desire on someone's heart for no reason.
It was a weekend ago that I finally said yes to this desire God was laying on my heart. All these fears had been overwhelming the desire, but I said no more. Last weekend, I was able to go to the Passion Conference here in Houston. The Passion Conference is dedicated to causing young adults (18-25) to realize that life is not about them, but that they must pursue a passion for God's glory to be revealed on earth. They gather together some of the best speakers and musicians to accomplish this purpose. I love the passion each leader of the conference has. My three years going to Passion have been some of the most refreshing, thought-provoking, and life changing times I have ever been in. This year was the best. I don't say that lightly. I have never felt such victory, grace, or empowerment through Christ as I had this year. From all the truth spoken over the conference through the songs and though the speakers, I came away saying no more to fear, hesitation, doubts or insecurities. Yes, I've been still struggling with them. The plan was to start blogging right away. But I've said yes to fighting them with scripture and being more dedicated to learning the scriptures to fight them with.
The most impactful and relevant thing I heard that week regarding my fears about this blog were what Christine Caine said about serving God in small or anonymous places. In learning to serve God you start small. Why? This is where character is learned. Especially with gifts that do with teaching the Bible, it would be easy to let character slide and to let pride, insecurities and other temptations take over. But in the places of anonymous service the strength to withstand is developed. This is my plan through this blog. Yes, not many people may be influenced or reached through it, but I will be influenced. I will learn discipline to write, I will develop writing habits and style, I will have to study God's word more to know what to write. In the meantime, some will be reached I pray, and I give all glory to God for that because He will have to give me much strength to continue writing once school starts up.