Saturday, September 30, 2017

To Whom Shall We Go?

"After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 
So Jesus said to the twelve, 'Do you want to go away as well?' Simon Peter answered him, 
'Lord, to whom shall we go?...'" John 6:68

The chosen twelve had just witnessed, first hand, the falling away of many so called disciples. These were followers who had seen the miraculous yet when Jesus' words became difficult to accept, they quickly disbanded, possibly moving on to the next "savior". And perceiving their thoughts, Jesus posed a legitimate question to his inner circle. Despite his feelings, Peter, always quick with an answer, responds, "Lord, to whom shall we go?".

How often the Christ follower is reminded that the path of true discipleship is both narrow and difficult. At times it feels as if we are being asked to bear more than is "our fair share" while others around us seem to be coasting from blessing to blessing. We're tempted, to raise our fists defiantly and shout, "Enough!". Yet, in the grand eternal scheme of things, what is the alternative? Any other route in this life may be easier and less intrusive, but in the end it will always fall short, leading to a dead end.

Peter's response is a wise one:

"...Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God." (Jn. 6:68, 69)

Even when we are asked to walk a path of grief and pain or to watch a dream shatter before our tear filled eyes, there is no better, safer alternative than to abide in the One who has called us. 

"And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up on the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day." (Jn. 6:39,40)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

CHALLENGES: An Essay written by Guest Blogger, Timothy P. Divelbiss

My son, Timothy*, recently wrote and submitted this essay for a website that publishes works by teens. We hope you enjoy his essay.  

Challenges by Timothy P. Divelbiss*

The effects of mental challenges are tremendously varied. There are people who are so afflicted that they need multiple accommodations to help them get through their life with a minimal of trouble. These are the ones that probably immediately come to mind when people think of the term “mentally challenged”.
But not all people with those challenges are like that. A good few are able to lead a very successful, normal life without a lot of side-effects of whatever affliction they might have.

I am one of those people.

Specifically, I have what is known as high-functioning Asperger’s Syndrome. That means that I do have some challenges, but for the most part, I’m pretty normal. In fact, if you were to take a quick look at me, you’d never know I had anything at all. Yes, I’d come across as a bit of a sci-fi nerd (a title I bear proudly), but other than that, I’m your average American 17-year old.
Of course, that’s just for the most part. I do have some challenges, as I said before. Sometimes I find it hard to focus on something when I could be doing other things. But I think the biggest curse Asperger’s brings is the simple fact that it’s there. It’s very presence is agitating to me. In a way, it’s a little like Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars franchise. He doesn’t have a huge impact on the main story. He’s just sort of there. But he always manages to cause some kind of trouble, for the characters and the fanbase. I know that’s an odd comparison, but it was the most imaginative one I could think of. Overall, it’s the simple fact that I will always be a little different from most other people that troubles me the most.

Now, I don’t spend every day suffering from that horror, and I certainly don’t go around blaming every mistake or sin I do on it. But every once in a while, I do experience a huge amount of stress and fear – fear for my future – because of it. Often times, it will be when I am having a particular rough time with, say, a Creative Writing assignment, and I’ll end up feeling very stressed out.

In times like that, I tend to feel downright hopeless. It suddenly seems as if my entire life is just one big, biological accident, and that I’ll never break through that barrier, and blah blah blah. But you can’t get anything done if you just wallow in self-pity right?

One thing that helps is to not be so hard on yourself. Very often I end up mentally berating myself for not trying hard enough and that I need to do better if I want to get anywhere and…no. Just, no. You shouldn’t beat yourself up like that. All it does is make you feel worse, and you’ll end up digging a deeper hole for yourself.

What you should do is keep on trying. It’s a given that you’ll make mistakes, but that’s okay. What’s important is that you know how to pick yourself up and try again. That’s the key to it all; being able to have enough confidence in yourself to try again and not give up until you achieve your goal.

Remember: just because you may have mental challenges doesn’t mean that you’re hopeless. In fact, you’re far from it. With a little confidence, and maybe some outside assistance, you can overcome almost any challenge that life throws at you.

*Timothy D. is a writer in training with a big imagination. As a person with mild Asperger's syndrome, he sometimes sees things differently than other people. Despite these challenges, he has some very awesome ideas that he's just dying to get out into the world. His stories are usually inspired by science and his own moral convictions. He is currently planning a novel about an alien invasion."  

Friday, August 18, 2017

Faithful Friends

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend..." Proverbs 27:6

In our house, we call them "spiritual black eyes". It's when a trusted friend delivers a powerful right hook of truth even while consoling and comforting. It seems counter intuitive to kick or punch a man (or woman) when they're down, but for me, a few short years ago, it was literally a life saving tactic.

I was reminiscing with a good friend about that just recently. Over the course of two years or so, I was knocked down and wounded through a series of events that occurred in the last place I ever thought possible. My faith was shaken. My faith in people almost non existent. For months, I carried around my imaginary torch and pitchfork, demanding holy justice for the mistreatment I suffered. I was angry, discouraged, and in a tremendous amount of pain.

On one particularly difficult day, I sat in the living room of my friend, rehashing the painful events yet again. Like she always does, she listened intently to what I was saying, even acknowledging and validating my feelings. But on this day, my friend decided to administer a different kind of "comfort". She decided to deliver the above mentioned spiritual right hook, squarely in the center of my self-pity. It threw me for a loop and I left that day feeling quite sore at my now "former friend". But by the time I got home, I realized that was just what I needed to pull me out of the pit I found myself in. It wasn't easy to hear her words, but the Lord used them to begin a much needed healing process. It truly was a life saving conversation and I wouldn't be here writing a post about it today had it not been for her courageous actions.

There's another verse that says, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother (or sister) is born in adversity." (Proverbs 17:17). This kind of love is not the love of this world. It's a love born of the Spirit of God. It's a love that manifests itself both in the embrace of a comforting word AND in the one-two punch of a much needed "attitude adjustment".

This kind of friendship doesn't happen overnight. It's cultivated over time. Trust is built and earned not automatically established. It's given as a gift from one person to another. 

A friendship like this is a gift from God. I prayed long and hard for the one I'm fortunate to have. I'm thankful for it. I'm thankful for her. 


Monday, June 12, 2017

In the Quarry of Character

"...only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel, or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built." 1 Kings 6:7

1 Kings 6 gives a very detailed account of the temple Solomon built to replace the portable tabernacle which was constructed in the time of Moses. In 1 Chronicles 28:12, we read that God gave Solomon's father, David, "...the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind...". It was a divinely inspired piece of architecture, built for the express purpose of glorifying God. It was a holy place, meant to inspire awe and reverence in the hearts of all who entered in and drawing them nearer to their Creator. 

Verse 7 is what inspired the page above. The stonework for the temple was fashioned and fitted at the quarries nearby, away from the building site. The work was done out of view and earshot so as not to detract from the holy focus of the temple.

God often does just that in the life of the Christ follower, fashioning our character out of the limelight. We are "temples of the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:19), hammered, chiseled, and dressed in the "quarries of character". With every blow of His hammer and every strike of His chisel, we are made ready to be presented as the holy house of the Living God. And even then, the beauty of the structure is not found in it's materials but in the One who resides in it.

" also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:5)

How often we pray for the power of Christ, to be used mightily, and to do great exploits for our God. But in our asking to be more like His Son, we must be willing to submit ourselves to that hammer and chisel that forges the godly character needed to achieve such feats.

"Consider Christ-like character to be of utmost importance. Character is everything. The fruitfulness of your work in the Kingdom will be determined by what you are. Seek after conformity to Christ and discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness." Paul Washer

Monday, May 15, 2017

Better Than New

"The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places."
Ernest Hemingway

In the Japanese culture, there is an art form known as Kintsugi ("golden joinery") or Kintsukuroi ("golden repair"). The process involves repairing broken pottery with a mix of lacquer and dusted gold, silver, or platinum, making, the piece "better than new" and aesthetically more beautiful than before. According to several articles*, the philosophy behind the technique is to acknowledge the history of the piece and to incorporate the breakages into the design rather than hide them.

It was this art form that came to mind as I was reading several scriptures on brokenness. Like most people, I've been heart broken by the actions of others and have also been guilty of the same. As I meditated on several verses (Ps. 34:18, Ps. 51:17, Ps. 147:3, etc.), I felt not only the Spirit's comfort but also His gentle discipline. The result of that precious time in God's Word is the page below. 

The page began with forgiveness. On the left, I wrote down every offense, hurt, 
or injustice I had not yet forgiven or let go of. On the right, I asked the Lord to search 
my own heart for offenses I have inflicted on others. The page was then covered in black...

Having filled and covered both pages, it was 
time to "blot out" the transgressions on both sides (Isa. 43:25), to forgive, 
and to receive the forgiveness that Christ paid for.  

White was the next layer...
"Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow..." (Isa. 1:18)

Next came the repair. 

What Forgiveness Is and Isn't

Forgiveness does not change the reality of one's hurt. It does, however, bring healing and the ability to move forward. 

Forgiveness does not always mean a restoration in relationship. Sometimes, the healthiest thing to do is to physically detach. But, more importantly, forgiveness releases us from the emotional chains that bind us and hold us back. 

Apart from scripture itself, two books that have helped me in this area are Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall and Wounded by God's People by Anne Graham Lotz. I refer back to both of them from time to time for "spiritual upkeep". 

The Beauty of Our Brokenness

Like the Kintsugi pottery, our cracks and fractures can tell the beautiful story of a broken vessel made more durable and more beautiful by the skilled hands of the Master. It's a story that so many need to hear. 

*More on the art of Kintsugi/Kintsukuroi: