Steadfast and Immovable

I’ve been writing the first part this post in my head for the last year, but until now I haven’t been ready to open up this part of my life. And honestly, the first part on it’s own would be a one sided story. It’s the second part that brings meaning and clarity for me– so don’t leave before you get the full picture.

 

Part 1

After a couple of months of not feeling well, seeing a few different physicians, and having a barrage of tests thrown at me, the week of my birthday in January 2015 I was diagnosed with Severe Ulcerative Colitis. Since my initial diagnosis my staging has been refined to Severe, Chronic, Left-Sided Ulcerative Colitis (UC). In short, UC is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that causes long-lasting inflammation and sores in your gut that manifests itself with a host of systems. There is no cure -just symptom management with the goal of extended remission of the disease.

 

Unfortunately, even with the best of physicians and going through nearly all the therapy options available, I have not been able to obtain remission. Which means I have been actively sick for nearly two years. I say this not for sympathy, but to set the stage. The thing about most IBDs is that from the outside you more times than not look OK despite the severity of your disease. And because you seem fine many people think you are just fine -when the reality is you are not.

 

In fact, severe UC significantly impacts the way you live your life, whether the casual onlooker recognizes it or not. You are extremely limited on the type of things you can engage in and with anything you do decide to take on you have to make very calculated accommodations. Even things like sitting through a service at church require the orchestration of medication doses and meal times. And when you have weighed the options and decided against something you tend to not want to explain  when someone questions why you are not involved. I often times find myself averting those confrontations by playing the disinterested card rather than being up front about it because the fear people – even those with whom I’m closest, are tired of hearing me “complain”. By doing this you come off disconnected and distant, not because you are but you are focusing so much on not being a burden. But the reality is, we want to be a part. We want to play with you. We want to come along for the ride, to hang out, to see that movie, to practice our shot, and a host of other things. When it comes down to it, we just want to be with the people we love, but the nature of our disease goes far beyond the physical, it ostracizes us socially, and strains even our closest relationships.

 

It is in this daily struggle that it can be easy to let your guard down and start to focus on yourself rather than the bigger picture, and that’s exactly where I’ve found myself stuck these last few weeks. This is why I’ve decided to write today. While living with UC is a significant part of my life, it would be devastating if at the end I looked back and it was the only part I focused on.

 

Part 2

So with any major life defining moment, whether acute or chronic, you have to decide how you will stand up in its wake.

 

Ryan and I have told our college guys often over the years, if you put yourself in a position to fail, more often than not – you will; and the flip side, if you put yourself in a position to succeed, more often than not – you will. The key to that proper positioning is knowing ahead of time, before the life defining moment, how you will respond. Knowing this requires you to know who you are and what you believe to be true.

 

In January of 2015 I was firmly planted in who I was and what I believed to be true. I believed I was a child of God and that He works out all things for the good of his glory – whether that meant answers for me or not. And I found great comfort in that, and was able to stand firmly in the wake of living with UC. I was in tune with the fact that my body was temporal and at the end of the day even the best I could conjure to experience in this transient life would only pale in comparison to the promise of the union that awaited me beyond this terrestrial state. And while I have had my moments over the last couple of years where my grasp on this reality was looser than it should be, I’ve have experienced GREAT PEACE in allowing God to shoulder the weight of this new normal on my behalf.

 

But guys; these last few months, specifically the last couple of weeks, have been rough! Anxiety, depression, fear, and insecurity – you name it and it has manifested itself in my life. There have been days that I have utterly failed and lost sight of that peace. I’ve learned though, in moments like these, I have to dig in even deeper and hold on even tighter to those truths I just mentioned. They do not change.

 

Lately I’ve had to tell myself often, the truth that pulled me through the beginning of this diagnosis is the same truth that will sustain me through the chronic reality of it.

 

One of the things that comes out of dealing with something like UC is that it puts the mortality of this earthly life and its entanglement in sin front and center every single day. And ironically, having a grasp on that makes depending on God a much easier pursuit.

 

I take great comfort in Paul’s writing when he reminds the Corinthians that this perishable and mortal body we have must put on the imperishable and immortal. When that happens, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:50-58)

 

The victory he mentions is not victory over illness, it is victory over mortality that sin has caused. And that anxiety, depression, fear, and insecurity I mentioned – that is sin, sin that will kill me if not kept in check. But through the grace of God and the daily positioning of Christ as head of my life, I can keep it in check and have VICTORY. And that victory paves the way for living a life that is FULL in Him, regardless of my circumstances.

 

My prayer is that whatever situations I find myself in over the course of this life, when the moments come and I try to shoulder the burdens on my own those moments would be short lived, and few and far between.

 

Would you pray for me during this journey with UC? Not just for physical relief but that I would be steadfast and immovable always abounding in the work of the Lord.

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Adversity

I was reminded this morning about something that was brought to my attention and that I subsequently read several months ago about adversity as I prepared for later this week. It was a wake up call for me then and continues to either encourage me or kick me in the butt about keeping my acknowledgement, confession and repentance of sin “up to date.”

I needed a kick this morning. 

I hope it means as much to you as it has to me.

Manley Beasley said…

If the adversity is due to a sin problem, God will shut everything off, because sin separates you from His fellowship. But if it is adversity for the purpose of enlargement, you will find your problems will run parallell with his blessings.

Check out Manley Besaley: Man of Faith -Instrument of Revival by Ron Owens. It’s a good read.

 

Monday’s Mention: Tips to getting the Most out of your Secondary Reading

I do a lot of reading, mostly secondary sources with other’s interpretation of specific themes from the Bible. With the myriad of texts available, I think it’s important to take a minute and offer a few (non-exhaustive) tips on secondary reading. While here I am specifically talking in relation to reading texts whose primary source is the Bible, these same tips can apply to any secondary text.

Keep the Primary Text On Hand:

First and foremost, have the primary text open and ready to use as reference to check for consistency and accuracy. This also gives you the opportunity to make markings and notes in your primary text, which brings us to the second tip.

Develop a marking system that is easy to use and remember:

Aside from key thoughts, there are also certain things you should look for within the text. Finding these key components allows you a better grasp the full depth of the text. Here is an example of the things we were taught to look for and my markings. Remember, first, you want to understand what is says, then and only then can you move on to finding it’s meaning.

Keep a Dictionary On Hand:

Next, you should always have a dictionary on hand and be ready to look up words that you aren’t 100% sure of their meaning. You should also be aware that if an author uses a word based on a definition that isn’t typically used, he often mentions his definition within the text or in a glossary at the end of the book. Getting on the same page, terminologically with the author is vital to getting accurately what the author is trying to convey.

Remember Human Errancy and Fallibility are VERY Possible:

As I mentioned before, the next thing you should keep in mind is that these texts are secondary and thus are interpretations of primary sources. The likelihood of totally agreeing is small and that is just fine. Don’t force it; you don’t have to agree on everything to gain insight from the text. That being said, read with discerning eyes and don’t just pass over things as disagreements. When you find something, be sure you know for certain what you believe and know how to defend it from the original text. If you seen any blatant contradictions to the primary text, I would discontinue my reading. Leaning to be a discerning reader is extremely important.

Read with Someone:

Now I’m not talking about book club style, you read a page I read a page. Just be reading it at the same time and be ready to discuss. Not only will reading with someone help your awareness of inconsistencies from the truth, it also provides you with accountability in actually finishing the text and provides for an additional perspective, which often aids in breaking down any biases you may have on any particular topic coming into the text.

Reading secondary texts it great, and can be very profitable; but I think it is very important to remember that you aren’t going to get anything out of these texts that you couldn’t glean from the primary source on your own. As someone once said (and I paraphrase,) “it’s far better to feast over Leviticus than it is to pine over thousands of text by the greatest minds.” Why? Because it’s the Word of God, not the words of man.

Monday’s Mention: One Word

I’ve recently been astounded by the gravity a single word can have on what you are trying to communicate. I wrote before about the power of our words, but can a single word really be that important? Yes, it can, without a doubt.

 It’s easy for us to relate to this, especially in our culture of instant communication through email and text. One word can send an unintended tone or completely different meaning altogether.

 In the English language we have broadly defined words that we are expected to use in expressing very specific things. I think one of the most widely used examples is love.

 You may love (storgē [i]) your parents or your children, you may love (érōs[ii]) your wife, you may love (philía[iii]) your best friend or you may love (agápē[iv]) that hamburger you just ate or the President of the United States. Each of these carry with it very different aspects of this thing we simply call love.

 In my recent study through a couple of Paul’s letters, two words have hit me over the head with their hidden depth. Two seemingly simple words: walk and united.  In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he uses quite frequently, the word walk. It is interesting because there are several different words used by Paul and we have translated them simply as walk… Some suggest the common idea of simply walking and others are more specific, like walking with purpose and that is how he describes how we are supposed to journey in battling the flesh, with purposed discipline.

 United is a word that has been translated from the Greek symphytoi, which literally means, grown together. It’s a botanical term that demands a picture of two grafted plants. When you take this expanded and specific definition and put it into the verses which speak to our oneness with Christ, it takes on a much deeper meaning and answers several questions that, united, doesn’t fully speak to.

 With these examples, it’s a matter of figuring out exactly which one is meant, or expounding to a greater, but more specific picture. With other instances, however, a word is substituted with one that carries with it an altogether completely different definition than intended by the writer, often times to make the text more comfortable to the reader. John Macarthur’s most recent book, Slave, speaks to this very issue. I’m looking forward to reading McArthur’s entire examination and when I do be sure I’ll review it here.

 With these things in mind, lets be diligent in our study of the Word. Let’s be careful to get the big picture. If you notice significant inconsistencies across translations, take it back to the Hebrew or Greek. Make sure you have a real understanding of what the text actually says, not just what you think it says after a surface glance. Walk, with discipline, in your study of the Word.

[i] Storge means “affection” in ancient and modern Greek. It is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring. Rarely used in ancient works, and then almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family.

[ii] Éros is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. The Modern Greek word “erotas” means “intimate love;” however, eros does not have to be sexual in nature. Eros can be interpreted as a love for someone whom you love more than the philia, love of friendship.

[iii] Philia means friendship or brotherly love in modern Greek. It is a dispassionate virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity.

[iv] Agápe means “love” (unconditional love) in modern day Greek. In Ancient Greek, it often refers to a general affection or deeper sense of “true love” rather than the attraction suggested by “eros“. Agape is also used in ancient texts to denote feelings for a good meal, one’s children, and the feelings for a spouse. It can be described as the feeling of being content or holding one in high regard.

Monday’s Mention: A Story

Leading up to Easter, our Pastor began asking for the body to start compiling personal stories of changed lives, gearing up for a series he began on Easter. New stories will be posted weekly for the duration of the series.

While there are many things that someone can argue about with you, no one can argue or deny YOUR story. That’s the beauty of the story. My story will go live on the site next week, but until then, here’s a teaser:

I had experienced grace, and there was much more that I could experience. I wanted to devote my life to growing in something that was personal, something that had real implication and worth—not just in something that I would never be able to relate to on a personal level. I decided then that something needed to change. I slowly relinquished the controlling clench I had gradually taken and allowed the Spirit to step out of the shadow of my knowledge, giving room for the relationship with the Life of the Word to take center stage.

You can read my story next week and see many other by clicking on the image below: