Monday, January 28, 2013

Peniel - God's Antidote for Positive Thinking

Wisdom has built her house,
She has hewn out her seven pillars;
She has slaughtered her meat,
She has mixed her wine,
She has also furnished her table.
She has sent out her maidens,
She cries out from the highest places of
the city,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
As for him who lacks understanding, she
says to him,
“Come, eat of my bread
And drink of the wine I have mixed.
Forsake foolishness and live,
And go in the way of understanding...."
Proverbs 9:1-6
         So I exhausted myself and my brain thinking positively.
           There was so much more I could have relied upon, so much peace and power available to me.
            I had disadvantaged myself because I didn’t know Scripture, and I really didn’t know how to talk to God. I’d been too busy absorbing the feel-good, secular wisdom smorgasbord. Because I didn’t know God’s word – hadn’t embraced it as my own to guide my life – I was easily led astray, buying and swallowing the charade along with so much of the world.
            Admittedly, with some pride, I considered myself to be a well-educated, university-graduated, pseudo-intellectual, seldom stopping to consider that this highly promoted philosophy might be woefully lacking, or false. After all, the professors who had taught me were intelligent; many published books on their specialty. They were experts in their fields. As an underclassman, I’d been intimidated by them; I dutifully ingested everything they said – hook, line and sinker. Had they sunk me beyond sustainable life, into unrecoverable depths?
            Now I felt duped and confused, and not just because my red blood cell count was so low. I abhor being lied to or led astray. And I’m often deficient in patience, so I wanted answers, and I wanted them fast. Desperate, I needed them right now! The answers to life; the answers to my pain; the answers to – everything!  
            One half of my brain knew I needed the Bible’s words; the other half questioned if the bulk of it had anything to say to me personally. I’d opened it on several occasions in a good-intentioned attempt to read it cover-to-cover, and failed miserably. I’d struggle, move to another section, and then eventually lose momentum due to frustration. Even small Bible studies at church didn’t motivate me to open my Bible – too much – to really study it between gatherings.
            In high school I’d read through the Gospels and other sections of the New Testament, without memorizing any passages. To make matters worse, many in our present church considered the Old Testament to be little more than a historical perspective on a group of nomadic, warring people. If their assessment were true, what did that Jewish history have to do with me? So many people told me it was really just written by a bunch of men and wasn’t really relevant for anyone today.
            I guess I approached reading the Bible in the same manner as when I considered reading classics like War and Peace. When I had the patience and time to wade through its voluminous binding, I’d do so. In my heart and nagging conscience, I knew I needed to read the entire Bible. Sometime. But there never seemed to be enough of that precious commodity. Until that time suddenly materialized, I was content to obtain my information second-hand.
            Ironically, foolishly, I was willing to put the fate of my life – and eternal soul – into the hands of others. I was unwilling to do my own homework.
            I was, essentially, a spiritually lazy, two-timing Christian, willing to follow the secular world in its promise of quick, earthly fulfillment, and then running to God to seek His wisdom and intervention in the tough issues of life. Being stuck in a hospital bed – precariously balanced between life and death – was definitely one of those tough issues.
            Worn out psychologically, I finally gave up the positive thinking and abandoned myself to God for help.
            In His infinite love and mercy, He answered my meager, halting prayers. Not in a manner I would have chosen, but in a way that would violently sift the sand upon which I’d built my life. First He’d teach me that He, not I, was the center of the universe, and then He’d replace my bloated, contrary heart with a new, contrite one. After breaking my will, my mind, and my heart He’d raise up a transformed woman from the ashes.
            Like Jacob wrestling in the wilderness with God – demanding that God bless him on his own terms – I was on the threshold of the Peniel of my life: the juncture when you see the face of God; where God blesses you on His terms and sometimes finds it necessary to cripple you before bestowing that cherished, priceless blessing. He uses many methods of disciplining His children and bending them to yield to His will. Indeed, He sometimes finds it necessary to use extreme situations and measures to bring you into the presence of His healing power and transforming grace.
            Being confined to bed – my life hanging by a thread, my mind near collapse from loneliness, boredom, and fear – was bad, but it was going to get oh, so much worse.
            God would allow me to be crushed – spiritually, emotionally, physically. The requirement for healing would be complete and unconditional surrender before life-changing transformation commenced.
            I couldn’t escape it; and I wasn’t going to like His tactics or the process one bit.

NEXT WEEK: The end of life begins…

Before I go this week, let me leave you with what are known as the Four Deadly Questions, written by apologist Dr. Jeff Myers of Summit Ministries. Think carefully. How would you answer them? (Not someone else. You.) Be honest. In your answering, you may find you’ve been living life dangerously and taken too much for granted…

1. What do you mean by that?
            How do you define your terms? Can you define them? (It is often said that he who defines the terms wins the argument.)

2. Where do you get your information?
            Is your source reliable? Where did they get their information? Is it fact or opinion? (Don’t be fooled by the confident and self-assured.)

3. How do you know it’s true?
            Transfer the burden of proof to the other person. Where, or on what or who is your “faith” placed? (If someone pronounces arrogantly, sagely, “No one can know truth,” you need to ask, “How do you know that’s true?” They’re usually the ones who adamantly claim that it’s true that no one can know “truth,” and there isn’t any “truth” to know anyway! It might sound romantic and deep in a college philosophy class, but it won’t get you too far in math!) The underlying question here really is, “Why should I believe you?”

4. What if you’re wrong?
            Have you been living a life of illusion…?     

Thanks for joining me. 

Until next week!