This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
The Personal Legacy of Faith And Encouragement in Trials
"Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established" - Proverbs 16:3.
We live in times that often scoff at tradition and the past legacies of our forefathers, and we even tend at times to forget our own beginnings, opting instead for the present-day postmodernist mantra of "Change is Good!" Change is inevitable, yes, but not all change is good. Sometimes, we need to revisit ourselves to recall some aspects of our testimonies that have been forgotten, covered in dust by the fads and fashions of our times, and in doing so we might be surprised at what we do discover!
Over the years, I have had many prophetic words spoken over me - some of them have been just plain ridiculous and easy to dismiss, but I do believe some people have that gift and on rare occasions something the Lord speaks through another has an impact. Back around 2005, a Black Pentecostal friend by the name of Eric wrote me to tell me he had had a prophetic vision concerning me. In the vision, as I recall, I was in this dark cave - he said it was dark, lonely, and oppressive. However, I found a shovel in that cave and started digging, and as I did so I began to uncover indescribable wealth in precious stones and gold. This prophetic word had nothing to do with economic wealth - rather, what it was saying was that I would be going through some low period in my life (which did actually happen soon after) but in the adversity I was to dig for the "treasure" being obscured by the circumstance. Not long after that, I began to pick up on both my genealogical research and my own personal story, and as I did so over the next several years, it was indeed like a treasure of riches that I had uncovered. I share that, and will elaborate some on it, to tell you today that there is some encouraging news for your own circumstances, and maybe the circumstance itself was ordered by God in order for you to regain a lost focus of what He has called you to. Let us talk a little more about that.
The power of a personal testimony is not merely in the compilation of a "I-love-me" list of past accomplishments or spiritual blessings. As good as those are, they are also incomplete. The power of a testimony is in both a comprehensive record of the good and the bad. This is consistent as well with Scripture, because even the most righteous people we read about in Scripture had their imperfections and shortcomings - the ultimate testimony of Christ's redemption of mankind would not mean much if it didn't. I have told my story elsewhere, so I am not going to do a word-for-word regurgitation of it here, as many who have read my writing for some time may already know it well anyway. However, suffice to say, it took a lot - and I mean a LOT!!! - of disappointments, failures, and rejection in my life to get me where I am today. It also entailed a lot of personal accomplishment, spiritual blessing, and other positive things as well. In God's ultimate economy, it is both the positive and the negative he uses to shape us into that person he wants us to be, and although it may really beat us up at times, we are beaten-down maybe for a season but we are not kicked out.
Romans 8:28 reminds us that for those of us who are of the "household of faith," all things do work for good. Also, related to that is a declaration in Philippians 1:12 of the Apostle Paul that admits that the things which happened to him specifically (and us generally by extension) turn out as a means God uses to further the spread of his Gospel. We may not see that when the trials hit us upside the head, but this is why we need to be reassured that these trials are only temporary, and the bigger picture is something we should keep in focus. I know how hard that can be at times, because some of those trials are huge - losing a job, finding out you or a loved one has a terminal illness, facing opposition and attack from a society that is openly hostile to people like us, etc. And, I also know what it is like to be frustrated - God and I have had some really nasty fights with each other over the years, I am not happy to admit, and there have even been some occasions when my daily prayers had degenerated at times into a rant in which I have called God some nasty names, openly challenged him, etc. Let's be honest here - some of you have had those moments too, haven't you? It's OK - God knows we have human limitations, and at times we do reach them, and he is big enough to even take the verbal abuse we may heap upon him, and thanks be to God he is! If not, honestly, I probably would have had a lightning-bolt slice through my skull a long time ago! Some Biblical characters likewise have done this too, and we are talking exemplary people - Jacob wrestled what many believed was an early incarnation of Christ (see Genesis 32), Moses got ticked at God and whacked a rock in the desert (Numbers 20:11), Elijah got so despondent he laid under a tree in the desert to die (I Kings 19:4-18), and even Job questioned God's dealings with him. Bottom line is, if you do lose both patience and temper with God, you are in good company!
That being said, let me tell you the rest of the story in my case. Usually, after I have blown up at God in frustration, it is not long afterward that I feel the conviction of what I had done, and I do repent of my emotionally weak moment quickly. Let's face facts here - if you have been in the Church and have walked with God for as long as I have, you already have a lot invested in serving Him and the kingdom. Therefore, just the mere imagination of a life without Christ at this point on one's life is usually enough to make one realize that there are no alternatives - Jesus Christ is the answer, and perhaps our brief moment of emotional weakness or weak faith is an opportunity to remind us of that fact. Also, it is important to remember that when we reach a certain point, it means a breakthrough of some sort is on the horizon too - God is not one to impose on us limits he doesn't know we can handle, and we got to remember that ultimately he is in control of all of it. Nothing is ever permanent except God himself, and therefore whatever we are going through will ultimately end, and we will have restoration.
That is my word today for you, if any of this fits your situation at present, and there are some things to recap:
1. Recall your personal legacy, both good and bad - God used those things to make you who you are
2. Getting mad at God is human and it can happen - we are not all "holy minions," and we have limitations. When it happens though, just cool off, repent of anything you have said, and then move forward.
3. All things - the good, bad, and ugly - work together for our benefit, as it is God's plan for us to make us into the people we need to be.
4. Trials and tribulations are temporal, and they do not dictate the total course of your life - as a preacher named Mark Chironna once said, "Your present position does not dictate your future potential."
Hopefully that will be encouraging to some of you today reading this, and soon I am also going to be doing a practical teaching on dealing with opposition and rejection, as some of us know about that really well too. Both of these teachings should be taken together as a way of reminding you of God's love for each and every one of us, and that we are not defined by our circumstances. On that note, I will conclude and hope to see you all again soon. God bless!