Friday, December 4, 2009

Enemy Occupied Territory

What a weird 7 days. Walking from the joys of Thanksgiving on Thursday to the funeral on Friday of a precious godly lady who lived her 81 years with love and honor, then learning of someone else's need for emergency brain surgery. Seeing these who want to live and learning of another who took his own life in another part of the state. Watching Tiger Woods' poor choices revealed and imagining the grief and self-doubt experienced by his beautiful wife. Reading these statistics from Darrin Patrick, pastor of The Journey church:
  • 1500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
  • 50% of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.
  • 80% of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
  • 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first 5 years.
  • 70% percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • Almost 40% polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
  • 70% said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.
  • 80% of pastors' spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
  • 80% of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
  • The majority of pastor's wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.
Put all these together and the collision of them confirms 1 Peter 5:8 that I must stay alert. (Watching) out for (my) great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity describes it as living in "enemy-occupied territory."

But, rather than dwelling on these attacks, I must return to last Thursday, when I was thankful for so much about my life. I'm thankful to be the wife of a godly man who was committed to purity before I met him and is committed to it now. I'm thankful for examples of faithfulness (that 81-year-old lady was married 57 years to her life's love), who prove it is possible to live in victory over our enemy. I'm thankful to be in ministry with people who love and affirm the calling of God on my life, not only as a minister's wife and Bible study writer but as a person. I'm thankful that the worst health issues I have are a propensity toward sinus infections and a gimpy knee every now and then.

But I will stay alert, too. Not become comfortable and complacent in my thanksgiving. It doesn't mean I have to live as though the devil is lurking behind every tree, but it does mean I live with the understanding and expectation that in this world, (I) will have trouble (John 16:33). All the while remembering that Jesus has warned us of this so we might have peace, knowing with assurance he has overcome [defeated, overpowered, subjugated, mastered, conquered, vanquished] the world (John 16:32-33). We may be living in enemy-occupied territory, but it still belongs to the Creator. Alleluia.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas Lite

We're doing Christmas lite this year. While the first assumption is that we're spending less, that isn't actually true; we're just spending more wisely. Things we actually need, not a bunch of fluff so there's lots of boxes and bags under the tree. We're also doing Christmas lite in two other ways:

  • We're not doing much decorating since we're trying to sell the house. I don't want or need to unpack all the Christmas ornaments and decorations only to pack them back up again to move them. Although it's a little sad, I'm already looking forward to decorating next year, because I'll have really missed seeing some of the items that are precious and dear for sentimental reasons. (Of course, that assumes we'll have sold the house by Christmas next year. Please, God.) We've got the tree up, the creche, the advent candles, a few decorative pillows, and some garland on the mantel with our stockings, but not much more. My International Santa Claus collection is staying in the attic, along with the snow village and lots of odds and ends. No exterior illumination, just a wreath on the door. Oddly enough, this bare-bones, lite version of decorating is still comforting. It's still "filling" without being "overstuffed." I guess, if anything, it's whet my appetite for more. Exactly where I need to be.
  • Like Darin preached on Sunday, we're also fasting a few things individually to make ourselves spiritually hungry for more. I've never been one to neglect the real "reason for the season," but I do want Christ to reveal more of himself and his purposes in me. What does that mean? What does it look like? I haven't a clue. But keeping the Advent season "lite" is deepening my desire to be filled, not by the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas, but by Christ Himself. Will I receive some great revelation? I don't know. But I just might discover new depths in the love my best Friend and Father has for me. And that's more filling and satisfying than anything in the world.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mulling It Over

Wow. The whole month of November flew by without a single post. I'd make excuses about the holidays and being out of town (which I was for @ a week), but the reality is I've been trying to gather my thoughts into a cohesive whole. I'm still not there, yet, (nor am I likely to ever be!) but with large portions of my Christmas shopping now done, I'm beginning to see daylight glimmer in the recesses of my mind.

Along with the personal thoughts of the meaning of life as I know it, I've also been mulling over a couple passages of scripture:
1 John 2:16 - For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
I don't have any great breakthrough theological insights into either, but here's a couple thoughts I thunk. It's widely known that women deal more in feelings and emotions, and men are controlled strongly by their sight. I think it's interesting John includes worldly things which affect both genders in his verse. Women are definitely affected by our flesh, what we feel to be true. By the same token, men's decisions are frequently controlled by what they see to be reality. The fact is, illusions are all around us - male or female - and our fleshly desires or visions may be leading us away from the Father. Then, of course, all humanity struggles with the "boastful pride of life." I'm not saying women are never led astray by their eyes and men don't submit to their feelings, it's just a general observation about our general temptations.

I read through all of Paul's letter to the Philippians recently and was struck by how we sometimes cheapen 4:13. Certainly this verse is applicable in all circumstances in which we need strength or courage, but look again at the circumstances in which he finds himself strengthened by God: with humble means, hungry, suffering need (v.12). Yet in those desperate straits, Paul has learned contentment and has found the strength for sheer survival in Christ. He's not talking about strength to put up with a slow line in the grocery store; he's talking about not having money to even go to the grocery store. He's not talking about strength to endure 10 minutes worth of commercials during his favorite show; he's talking about not even having a place to sleep at night. Paul had perspective I hope to one day obtain and emulate. He knew what mattered. He knew truth and reality. He knew Christ.

Philippians 3:10 - I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.