Day 1

As part of my devotional time today, I was reading an Oswald Chambers piece. In it, I found this:

A worker without this solemn dominant note of concentration on God is apt to get his work on his neck; there is no margin of body, mind or spirit free, consequently he becomes spent out and crushed. There is no freedom, no delight in life; nerves, mind and heart are so crushingly burdened that God’s blessing cannot rest. But the other side is just as true – when once the concentration is on God, all the margins of life are free and under the dominance of God alone. There is no responsibility on you for the work; the only responsibility you have is to keep in living constant touch with God, and to see that you allow nothing to hinder your co-operation with Him.

That is so totally where I am right now.  I’ve always found an almost eery conjunction of the Oswald Chambers devotions and the struggles I happen to be facing when I read them.

Right now, I am just completely exhausted. I’m beyond tired, and into the realm of no-kidding chronic fatigue bordering on exhaustion.  My body is starting to crumble because of it.  This is part of what has driven me to make some radical changes in my life.  I simply cannot continue doing what I am doing and survive.  Not survive as in keep my head above water, but survive as in staying alive.

I’m not ready to leave yet, so, Lord willing, I need to do the things that will keep me around to watch my kids grow up.  A big part of that is taking better care of myself both physically, emotionally AND spiritually.

40 Days & 40 Nights

As part of my spiritual journey, one which has ebbed and flowed at various times during my life, sometimes burning with intensity, other times smouldering with barely a flicker of flame or a wisp of smoke, I have decided to commit to a 40 day fast. 

I have come to realize that I have been putting other things in my life before God.  Now I intent to LAY them before God.  After a bit of introspection, I have identified the following three things that have become stumbling blocks or dependencies in my life:

1) Caffeine.  I put waaay too much time and effort into maintaining a level of caffeination that my body can simply no longer tolerate.   I lurch from cup of coffee to soda to coffee to “get me through the day.”  It has become my stumbling block, and I’m depending on IT when I should be depending on God.  So, for the next 40 days, no caffeine.

2)  Sugar.  Processed, nasty sugar.  I have identified some ongoing health issues, probably Candida or some variant of Celiac’s Disease, and sugar is a fermenting, yeast producing nasty that my body can do without.  And since I’ve discovered that I am a “comfort eater,” I tend to put back a lot of sugary sweets during times of stress.  Which these days is most of the time.  Again, it is my crutch, my dependency, my replacement for the work of God in my life, so for the next 40 days, it goes.

3)  Blogging.  What used to be fun has devolved into pounding out negative, critical screeds replete with the very kind of huffy-puffy indignation and self-indulgent posturing one would expect from a DailyKos’r or HuffPo columnist. And that’s not me.  At least, I certainly don’t WANT it to be me.  It has begun to take away time from work, my family, and any hope I might have of quality devotional time.  So not only will I not be blogging myself, I will not be reading or commenting on other blogs.  I need to go cold turkey.  I doubt I’ll ever quit entirely, but I need to get myself back on track, and find my muse, so to speak.  So for the next 40 days, no blogging.

prayerI once had a strong and growing web ministry via my writings.  I was touching peoples’ lives and bringing them the message of Hope to be found in Jesus Christ.  I was repeatedly blessed by emails from people who read something that God had given me, and it had spoken to some struggle or challenge that they had been facing in their own life.   How exciting, and how humbling!

Problem is, I haven’t been doing that for quite some time now.

It is what I have always felt I’ve been called to do.  I may never plant a church, become a missionary, or preach from a pulpit, but I believe God has gifted me to use my writing to touch hearts and souls, to shine the light of Christ in those dark corners we fear, or hope, no one else knows about.  But God knows, and he uses every tool at his disposal to reach into those places and do the work that needs to be done.  I like to think that at times I’ve been an instrument in his hands, helping to heal what was hurt, repair what was broken, perhaps bringing reconciliation where before there was only estrangement.

I want to begin to do that again.

So, since sundown last night, to use the Judaic model, I began my fast.  40 days, committed to the Lord, to reclaim that which has been lost, or at least buried.  To re-energize my Walk, and to rekindle the flames of ministry which I have let die.

My hope, and my prayer, is that as God teaches me, leads me, and guides me through this time, that I can share those lessons and struggles here in such a way that others can be blessed by them as well. 

So, off we go!

In Christ,
~~Steve Berven~~

I’ve Fallen, and I Can’t Get Up

There are days when even the staunchest Believer stumbles.  A moment of anger, a sudden flush of jealousy, a harsh word, or a quick second-glance at the magazine cover that becomes a quick shuffle through the pages…

What happens when the stumble becomes a fall?  When the magazine comes home hidden in the briefcase, when that website you accidentally stumbled across while Googling ends up in the Bookmarks, and you find yourself going back again and again?

You don’t just stumble…you face plant. You hit so hard, and have stayed down for so long, that now you’re not sure if you can’t get yourself back up.  You’ve nursed that hurt, that anger for so long that it’s taken on a life of its own.  It slowly poisons your mood, your attitude, your spiritual walk, creeping its way into every aspect of your life and damaging all of your relationships, not just the one with whom you are so angry. 

You can’t forgive them.  Or, you can’t forgive yourself.  What do you do?

It’s not what you do.  It’s where you go.  You go back to God.  You drop your pride, you unclench your fists, you shine a light on the lie that says that you can do this all yourself. 

The magazine, the Internet, the self-righteous anger, or the carefully nursed hurts are all symptoms of the same disease.  The name of the disease?

Selfishness.

You addiction to pornography?  It has its root in the fact that you want what you want, and that you’re willing to sacrifice your walk with God, healthy relationships, your job, even your health to see and feel what you want to, when you want to.  Even though everybody says it’s wrong, you know what you want, and you’ll do what you have to do to get it.  Selfishness.

That anger?  That clenched fist and bitter root of unforgiveness?  At its core is a selfish desire for the other person to admit that they are wrong…FIRST.  You will only forgive once they repent.  You will only reconnect once they agree to see the error of their ways.  Naturally, this is so much easier than first having to face the error of your ways.  You want what you want, and you want it like you want it, and you’re just going to stay mad until you get it!  Selfishness.

We want what we want.  It is human nature.  That’s why God’s Word tells us to set aside earthly things.  Matthew 5:23-24 tells us,

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

How do we, with a straight face, come before God to ask for his blessing, when we are ourselves unwilling to give a blessing to others?  When we harden our hearts against someone, in anger, in hurt, in self-righteous indignation or judgemental condemnation, we close our hearts to the blessing of the Lord.  FIRST go and be reconciled.  THEN offer your gift.   We have to give up whatever it is we are harboring in our heart, before there can be room for God to move in.

If sometimes it seems like we can’t get back up, when we try and try to forgive, or abstain, or accept the apology, but fail, the root cause of the problem may very well lie in the fact that we are still so much more interested in getting our way, than in living the Lord’s way.

The two are incompatible.  We need to make a choice.  Is living God’s Word more important than winning the argument?  Is coming to our knees before God, more important than forcing someone else to their knees before us?

In Luke 18:22, Jesus tells the rich man,

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Not because Jesus was interested in the man’s money, but because Jesus knew that the man was chosing money over God.  He was being selfish…and THAT was the root at which Jesus was trying to get.  He forced the man to make a choice….take this thing to which you are clinging, take this thing with which you are replacing ME…and give it up.

For some of us it isn’t money.  For some of us it’s shopping, or gambling, or drugs, or anger, jealousy, pornography or our own carefully nurtured martyr complex.   Regardless, they are all taking the place of God in our lives.  And Jesus is calling us to make that choice — it’s them or me, because you can’t have both.

So if you’ve fallen, and you can’t seem to get back on your feet, maybe you first need to take a hard look at what it is in your life that is tying your hands, weighing you down, and coming between you and God.  James 3:16-17 tells us,

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.  But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

When you finally let go of whatever it is you are holding on to, you’ll find that you suddenly have a free hand to reach out for God to reach down and help you back up.

I’m all about the free stuff!

A Boomer In the Pew” is one year old today. What do you know, it’s my birfday today, too!  Or rebirthday, or something.  Anyway.

As such he’s offering a FREE ESV Bible, both to celebrate his birthday by thanking his readers, and, by drumming up MORE readers by appealing to the avaricious nature of mooches like me.  Which, like, you know, I’m totally okay with.  Which.  Whatever.

So, anyway.  This post is my entry in his drawing, and since he’s probably the only one who will see it….”HI Booomer!!”

The Requisite Link.

A New Beginning

Several years ago I started my own devotional website, an early predecessor to the blog world, sending out devotionals by email as well as posting them online.  And then I sort of, well, didn’t anymore.

Now technology has evolved, and instead of websites we have blogs, and instead of email subscription lists we have RSS feeds.  So, I’m feeling the desire to revitalize this effort, and begin getting back into the devotional/Bible study business.  Very likely sprinkled with a bit of social commentary, but at it’s core, examining the Bible and its application to our lives, hopefully put into terms that are easy to understand and apply in your daily walk.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.