Sunday, February 17, 2008

On Tap for 2008: Deepening Waters

The title is in regards to my faith in Jesus Christ. It’s sad or embarrassing for me to say that I asked Christ into my life more than 25 years ago and yet it seems as if I’ve fallen below the line of where I began. I am no more mature in the faith than a new believer, it would seem. No More.

Those close to me know that I have been struggling the past few years though they may not know exactly with what I have been fighting. It wasn’t that I was losing faith in God, I never have. I don’t want anyone to misread that. In fact, it has been my faith in God that has kept me going no matter how low I felt or what I was going through; there were moments in which, without God, I most likely would have given in and given up. It’s not easy for me to explain how that goes without explaining further, for that part is very personal. I wouldn’t mind telling the story if asked, maybe, but I want to be careful and responsible for what I write on this journal always and this isn’t something I am comfortable putting on the net where anyone can read it. I am in general a very private person and certain things will remain private. I guess what I can say is that I knew God would not let me drown, I knew He was reaching out to lift me up. I knew He was with me; I was never alone and never abandoned. I needed to go through this struggle in order to come out stronger, and I believe that I have. God knows what I need.

The struggle, to put it simply, was with myself. I was losing confidence in myself. Without going into detail of that, I did a great many things wrong. After that, I wanted to punish myself; I am very tough on myself and I didn’t want to let up. Then it grabbed me the way it never had before; God is the ultimate judge, and He has given me forgiveness. Take it.

Another wrong was not grounding my faith, not building a foundation to stand on. I had grown up in the church but didn’t get a firm grasp around the teachings and so when I challenged myself, I failed, which leads me to what’s on tap for 2008 in this area of faith.

I have begun daily devotionals, daily prayers, and daily readings of the Bible.

So far, so good, though not perfect, but the habit is forming. I have tried to read through the Bible before but wouldn’t get past Leviticus. I’m not going to worry about grasping everything yet but simply to read through it. Since I will be reading the Bible the rest of my life, I am sure to know it more and more intimately as I go on, but for now the goal is to read.

For devotionals, I am reading from Blackaby and Blackaby’s Experiencing God Day-by-Day and R.T. and Louise Kendall’s Strength for Your Day. I don’t like recommending something until I’ve gone through it, but I mention them here in case you may be reading from either of the books also, I’d like to hear what you think of them, kind of as a book club would go through books. It would also be encouraging, I think, to go through something with someone or just to know that they are going through it. What the devotionals do is encourage me and teach me. Since I’m reading through the Bible, the devotionals also help me to read verses differently, get more out of the Bible. One usually does one devotional book at a time. Strength isn’t necessarily a devotional book but a collection of prayers from many sources, namely from Christian leaders. The book is in a daily format with one or two prayers a day and so I’m finding it easy to go through it alongside Experiencing.

Praying daily keeps me in touch with God. It starts my day off on a good note. So far, I have not heard God say anything to me specifically, but I’m listening for it and I know He’s listening to me. I think one thing that these prayer times do is to ensure that I am leaning on Him. I have the sense that it’s for me to know that I’m leaning on Him, ‘cause God doesn’t need me to tell Him that I’m dependent on Him, He already knows. And it isn’t like one day when I was struggling I had stopped praying altogether, no way. I prayed constantly! I prayed just about everyday, but now I am setting aside time that is devoted to being with God.

I am also back in church on a consistent basis. I went maybe twice last year. Going to church, for me, wasn’t a social event, I didn’t go to church to show my face or to be with my friends. That, at times, has been a problem for me. I suppose because it was social time for others and I am socially awkward but it seemed like others were trying to force me to be social. Does that make sense to you? Well, I know what I mean. I went to church because I wanted to grow in my faith, I was there for the learning. It isn’t much of a problem anymore. It is still a problem, but not so much as it once was and one that is not going to turn me away from going anymore because I know that if I let it be a problem and I don’t go, that comes from the devil. Now I resolve to go anyway. Have you heard that song that says, ‘Do it anyway?’ It’s been on my mind. Go to church anyway. I forget exactly what our pastor had said in the sermon, but it connected with me about the reason for going to church. Well, the pastor said it much better than I could explain. I’m getting the tape of it later so maybe I’ll transcribe that part another time, it was good. I try to make it a point always to pay attention in service.

I have been sensing lately that God wants me to be more involved within my church than I was before. I’m not only going for the learning and refreshment, but also going because I want to see the church grow and I believe God will have something for me to do there shortly. I’ve already been asked recently to help with the local youth. I turned it down for now because I am already committed to my first ADULT Bible study class that is at the same time as the youth class. I went to classes all the way through to high school, and then the post-high class which was for the young adults in college or who didn’t feel ready for the adult classes. I don’t know why I stayed in that class for so long. Not that it wasn’t a good class, but I had it in mind a long time ago to move on to the adult class, I can’t come up with a reason why I never did. Well, I’m doing it now. I’m in Uncle Mike and Uncle Don’s class, leading us through Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project. It’s deep, a lot of philosophical things, apologetics, and challenging points, but I love it all. I think it’s just what I needed.

What else? I-Tunes, yes. My brother got me a Nano in ’06? Just recently I’ve started to learn to be friends with I-Tunes. What does that have to do with faith? Well, I figured out how to download podcasts! Don’t look at me like I’m crazy, well, I am, but I’m kind of stuck between traditional things and modern things or something like that. The computer may be user-friendly but I’m still not. I know just enough of what I need to know and what I don’t know I figure out for myself or ask my brother who’s the computer genius of the family. Chances are that I’ve written this journal on a steno-book or on Word.

Anyways, podcasts, I am currently listening to Focus on the Family, Ryan Dobson’s KOR Kast, Truth for Life with Alistair Begg and Insight for Living with Chuck Swindoll. There are a few others also, but I’ve only got so much time and so the one’s I’ve listed here are ones that I try not to miss. I used to catch Focus and Insight here and there on the radio but then I’d miss parts and I hardly listen to the radio anymore and so it is definitely a blessing to be able to take the time to listen to them when I can. I listen to them while I’m doing yard work or sometimes for my Big D breaks or even during cardio-workouts. You get the point.

Well, I recommend all of the above programs. They are great encouragers, there’s often some humor in them along with a lot of content…and I would recommend them to non-believers also because they will get you to ask questions or maybe you already have questions and the answer may just be in the lesson that day, you never know. I have had questions answered by them.

I think I should also mention that among a lot of content on Christian beliefs, Ryan Dobson also talks about MMA and UFC, so if you’re into that, he talks about that every so often. I’ve been to a UFC fight, I think; I went with my former. All the guys did was hug, it looked like a hug-out match, it wasn’t even wrestling. I didn’t see punches or kicks. Maybe I need to see a better match, I don’t know. Is MMA biblical or okay for a Christian to be into, I don’t know. But I feel like if I criticize it, then maybe I need to find a way to justify football ‘cause I’m so into football now. Dad’s a Cowboys fan so I grew up on them. Anyways…and I’ve been looking for new and good music. Dobson often has music on his podcast and so I was reintroduced to Foo Fighters, I hadn’t listened to them in a long while; more on that some other time. So, content on the Christian life and MMA.

That’s what’s on tap for faith 2008. I talked about tithing in the earlier finances 2008 so here I’ll just say that I am still tithing. I don’t want you to read this as an ‘I’m holier than thou’ entry ‘cause I am so not. I have been misread in that way many times so let me say this; I wrote this because it is what I’m going through right now. This is me saying I need help, contrary to popular opinion, I am vulnerable and fallible, this is my record of recognition of being so. If I do or say something wrong, please, call me on it. I will take it in. My friends know that I call it as I see it, I don’t beat around bushes so I don’t expect the soft-serve treatments from anyone. Give it to me straight.

If you are not a believer, I care about why you are not because while I’ve grown up in the church and I am a Christian, I have had questions and looked for the answers regarding which faith or whose faith and am I making the right choice and such but each inquiry has only worked to solidify my faith in Jesus Christ. If you’re not a believer, I challenge you to think about why, really think about it. Do the answers you have make sense?

And don’t misread that my faith is ONLY based on the fact that I’m still alive. I think I said that in an earlier entry, that one way I know God is real is because I’m still alive, but I will add here that I know that God exists also because anything that I’ve studied, evolution, Buddhism and other faiths, things that don’t quite make sense like why cancer and such, it’s always led me back to God is the Truth. I have been accused many times by different people of THINKING too much. Science and Faith DO work together to proclaim the glory of God. My faith has not made me perfect, as evident in my struggles, God did not promise an easy life from here on out, but I have found no answers in any other. To go further on that I would have so much to say, so I’ll end this here for now. I’ll undoubtedly talk about faith subjects as they come, so I hope you stick around.

Okay, so in short, I am putting my trust in God and letting Jesus be my Lord. Confidence in myself, well, that’s nice to have and I have more of it when I depend on God because I have confidence in Him. All of that is to say, I feel more relaxed knowing that He’s in charge and that I am not. I am so glad that I am not God and that He is.

Note: Any time I write something on faith or my personal faith walk, it will be labeled under 'Deepening Waters.' Also, I took the picture, what do you think? Is it any good?

Mahalo for reading in!