Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Why

There is a common thread throughout all of my reasons.  That common thread is that I serve God because of who he is.  I serve God because he is amazing!  I serve God because he is unconditional.  I serve God because he is the perfect Father.  I serve God because he is personal.

The reality is that when we are asked “Why do you serve God?” or even “Why do you believe in God” people are too often looking for Janet Jackson faith, “What have you done for me lately”.  When we engage God on the basis of this type of faith it carries us far from the Hupomone faith of Scripture.  We are tossed on the waves of circumstance and appearance.  We become subject to the very thing that Paul warns about in Ephesians 4:14, As a result we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by the craftiness of scheming;

Joseph is a great example of a man whose faith relied not on the circumstances that he found himself in but in who God is.  Abraham followed the directions of God by faith in who God is.  Paul tells us that it was that faith that God recognized as righteousness.  This is a good thing because Abraham like so many of us slipped up on more than one occasion!  When Moses asked God who should I tell the Israelites you are, his answer was “‘I who I am; Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you'” Genesis3:14.  This is not to say that God does not remind us from time to time all that he has done from the creation of the world throughout the history of mankind (Psalm 106 for example). However when the rubber meets the road faith requires us to choose him, simply because he Is.  When we rely on circumstances and appearances our faith becomes mechanical.  We run the risk of falling into the trap of tradition that God condemns through Isaiah, “Then the Lord said, ‘Because this people draw near with their words, and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,…'” Isaiah 29:13

God wants us to love and serve him because of who he is.  He is not a gumball machine that we put our Quarter of Faith into and out pops the thing that we desire.  We need to desire him.  This has been a long learned lesson for me.  We are so invested in things and circumstances.  But what happens when things and circumstances go bad.  It is only when we serve him because of who he is that we can stand with Job and say:

“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him…” Job 13:15

Job understood that circumstances did not define his relationship with God.  His relationship with God was defined by who God is!  I serve God because he is God and because he is God I know who I am.

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.  Romans 8:15-17

 

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Why

The question was actually posed to me some time ago by a young German woman. I had befriended her and her husband in an online game that I was playing. She quickly became aware of my faith and one day as we chatted about life she abruptly posed this question.

Why do you serve God? What does he do for you?

My mind quickly went to all the theologically correct answers that I had learned over the years but quickly discarded them. First of all I don’t think her English was up to taking in a bunch of “Christianese” (and my German was certainly not up to conveying anything other than hello and thank you). Secondly my guess is that perhaps somewhere she had already heard the platitudes. She was looking for something more intimate, more personal. She really wanted to know , why did Sam Guidry (or Flamefanner as my gaming friends know me) choose to serve this god. I gave her an answer. I do not even recall what it was, however it set me to thinking and so I give you:

Five Reasons that I serve God

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

Reason #2: God has engaged me without condition

In a world that is conditional, God is unconditional.  We often talk of God’s unconditional love but I think that sometimes we envision a schizophrenic god who has many aspects and that he changes from aspect to aspect based on what we do. I serve God because he exists unconditionally. What I mean by that is that there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to change the way that God is or the way that God interacts with creation. This means that no matter how screwed up I got or acted, no matter how fast I ran from Him, He still is God. I cannot manipulate a single change in His being through prayer, through sin or any other behavior or attitude that I can conceive of. Uh oh, does that mean it is useless for me to pray or that it doesn’t matter what I do? With Paul I say “May it never be!” (Romans 6:2) Paul continues on to say, “How shall we who die to sin live in it”. Of course this is Paul’s answer to the questions, “Should we sin more that grace may increase?”, however the real question being asked is can we manipulate God by our behavior? How does Paul answer it? It is not about God, it is about us!

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask.  Matthew 7:11

God provides for His children not because we ask, he does so because it is in His unconditional nature to do so.  The barrier to receiving good gifts is not that we need to manipulate God into giving them, it is that we need to position ourselves to receive them.  When we allow the Great Unconditional to impact the conditional  we move into a relationship that opens us up to what God has for us.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,faithfulness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:23

For this reason we can say with Jeremiah and Thomas Chisholm, “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3:22-23, Great is thy Faithfulness. 1923)  No matter what circumstances I encounter, no matter what I do  God is my rock that I can count on to remain my heavenly Father.  It is with this great comfort that I can turn from trying to manipulate Him to maturing myself in the Faith.

For this reason also, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father… Colossians 1:9-12

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I am not sure what happened with my previous post but the photo I included caused most of the post not to be visible.  I have fixed that glitch and the whole post is now readable (I hope!) here

The fevers worsened.  We moved through Christmas and towards the New Year.  Sore throat spread to body aches and stomach pain.  These days so close to the day that everything changed are barely a blur in my memory.  I can remember little of what happened outside of the progression of the illness that we didn’t even know was there.  Even with the fevers and discomfort there was a blissful ignorance as to the journey that we were being called to embark on.  Just to put the whole piece into perspective, Nisa was born at 9:40 pm on December 16th.  The 17th is day one and we move on from there.  So we are looking at December 25th through January 1st.  As I review the various posts on Facebook I see faces of joy and innocence.  The fevers are a footnote to the joy of the season made even more joyful by the arrival of our miracle baby.  Allana even downplays the intensity of the fevers putting them at 102. By the night of the 31st they are spiking between 104 and 106, or maybe not wanting to worry her too much I fudge the numbers a little, I do not really remember..  A trip to the ER is only forestalled by the fact that the Ibuprofen is knocking them down into safer territory.  Still by New Years Day it was enough.  We called Allana’s OB office.  The doctor on call prescribes a heavy duty antibiotic and some anti nausea medicine to mitigate the side effects.  We start it right away, but of course she does not get better.  By January 2nd Allana is very sick.  The pain in her belly has gotten much worse.  We suspect a postpartum infection but don’t understand why the antibiotics do not help.  January 3rd is a Thursday.  We arrive at the OB office at 10:00 am and are ushered in to the examining room.  Our Nurse Practitioner listens patiently to the story, but as the physical exam progresses her demeanor changes.  There is an urgency to her motions as she feels the abnormal swelling in Allana’s belly, the tenderness and lumps at her joints.  I can feel my apprehension risings, but still there are so many pills, shots, treatments…a quick fix is in order…

“I have called the Flower Hospital, they are expecting her.”  What…we need to get some tests… “No we are admitting her.”  We have plans can it wait until Monday… “No, I want you there within 2 hours, go home settle the children and pick up what you need.  Once you are there they will begin running tests to see what is going on.”

FlowerJan3Well if you have to be in a hospital you might as well have a beautiful view and a beautiful woman to share it with.

It was only shortly after this picture was taken that I would hear the word “Leukemia” for the first time, mixed in with a couple of other potential causes for Allana’s test results.  If the fevers were the relentless clacking as the rollercoaster climbs the first rise, then this was the ominous pause before the first drop.  The ride would not stop for almost a year.  However while the emotions and physical aspects rode the speeding rails, God remained rock solid and faithful.  The outpouring of love from God’s people was incredible.  Even in the midst of the myriad of “spiritual” advisers who decried our lack of faith for continuing treatment or saw this as a sign of trouble in our walk with God; His love overwhelmed us. “Traveling deeper and deeper.  Closer closer to God”  Allana’s words would ring with truth in a way that neither of us could ever imagine.  Deeper and Deeper. Closer, closer to God…there was no where else to go.

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Good Morning!

So yes I have taken a break from writing while Allana was writing her “90 Day Faith Walk”.  I share some of the posts here but if you would like to do the whole “Walk” you can find it HERE.  Also her women’s group True Beauty is open for new members from April 26th until May 17th.  There is currently a waiting list but Allana will be adding additional members.  The group operates on Facebook and is by invitation only.  If you are interested you can email me for more information.

 

The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever .

So here is the reality of The Nineteen days.  We never know when we are living them out.  The Guidry’s are not really unique in this experience.  I would guess that everyone of you has walked through their own Nineteen Days, innocent of the storm that was just over the horizon.  The fact is that this was not my first journey through the Nineteen Days, but it is my first journey through them where I truly understood David’s heart as he penned this Psalm.  How we walk out the Nineteen Days is a function of this Psalm.  Sentence by sentence it is a guide written by a man who walked through his own Nineteen Days many times over.

David knew about enemies.  He faced them in a literal way that few of us have ever (and most of us will never) experience.  Whether it was the giant Goliath or his own son Absalom David’s life was filled with the turmoil that mortal enemies brings. We are unlikely to face an armored giant or have our son plot to steal everything we have but the enemies we face are just as real as those that assaulted David’s peace. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.  Other times ( and this phrase is a poetic restatement of the “Valley of the shadow of death”) the simple fact that we are God’s people in an ungodly world places us in the presence of our enemies.  God’s table provides sustenance and hospitality in the presence of those who hate him and us and it IS God’s table.  He does not call us to prepare our own tables in enemy territory.  He calls us to sit at his table under the covering of his hospitality.  Just as wisdom prepares a place for those who seek God in Proverbs 9, God has prepared this haven in the midst of turmoil.

There is the key phrase, “in the midst”, David says “In the presence”.  This is a concept that too many Christians just don’t get; that too many preachers and teachers ignore.  It is attractive to us, to just avoid the whole “valley of the shadow of death”.  Certainly if I pray right and have enough faith I can just stay on the mountaintop all the time!  When Allana was first diagnosed with cancer we had several very well meaning brothers and sisters in Christ who assumed that if we just prayed and had faith Allana would be instantly and miraculously healed.  Now don’t get me wrong I completely believe that God does heal!  I also believe that God intervened on many occasions throughout our journey through Cancer.  However when Allana and I prayed and sought God, especially following our first round of Chemotherapy, His answer was “I need you to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, My rod and My staff will comfort you.  I will prepare a table in the presence of your enemies.  You will dwell in My house forever.”  The fruit that has come from the walk in the valley has been truly amazing.  God has provided opportunity after opportunity for us to share Him with so many.  Here is the cool thing about the tradition of hospitality in the Old Testament times, strangers were welcome at the table.  The table that God has prepared for us “in the presence of mine enemies” is one that we are free to invite ALL to join.  It is not a table that we are supposed to wall off or cower under.  It is a place that is made for us to introduce our enemies to our most gracious (literally full of grace) host Jesus Christ our saviour and Lord.  Who will you invite to sit at God’s table?

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NisaHome

 

 

The frenzied posting, calling and emailing is over.  Nisa Faith has been announced to the world.  As we approached the day that we celebrate our Saviors birth, we finally get to truly celebrate Nisa’s coming.

D. A. Precious: And those cheeks! I’m so happy for you!
December 19, 2012 at 1:48am · Like

Allana Belrose Guidry: I know. They are getting lots of kisses
December 19, 2012 at 1:54am · Like · 2

Nisa’s cheeks are getting a lot of kisses.  Allana is feeling a little more tired than usual….but then she just had a baby and she is not as young as she used to be.

We were prepared for all of the life changes that a newborn brings.  Bassinet, Pack n Play, bottles, formula, car seat, diapers etc….  What we did not know was that God had also prepared us for the changes that most likely even on this day two years ago were beginning to take place in the depths of Allana’s bones (weird to type that and not mean it metaphorically).  Eleven years of growth through struggle as a family, as individuals and as children of the Living God was about to be tested in a way that we had not imagined even in our wildest nightmares.  Still even as we were prepared for Nisa’s arrival, God had prepared us for that which we could not have even begun to be ready for.  So many crossroads where God directed what seemed the long and windy path.  It seemed so foolish, as foolish as buying diapers and preparing a nursery for a baby that would never come.

Nisa was here, and the long and windy path would soon be clear.

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The frenzy of the night (Nisa was born at 9:40 pm) and the flush of the first day gives way to a wash of relief. The tensions of the past nine months; the fear at each ultrasound appointment; the waiting for the pronouncement that a new cycle of loss and grief would begin; they all fall away.Nisa Day 2

We joyfully prepare to bring Nisa home.  I am not sure that my words can express Day 2 any better than the twinkle in Allana’s eyes.  This Christmas gift is probably the best that we have ever received.  The whole family rejoices at the absence of that fateful “talk” with Robert, Sami and Chayla.  Each of us in our own way process the losses of the past in the joyous light of Nisa’s arrival.  We cannot help think of the siblings in heaven, from the Crashing resonation of Josiah’s passing to the unheralded passing of Ezra Matthew.   Day 2 becomes about rest, enjoyment and blessing.  The gathering storm is still beyond the horizon.  There is no sense of the deadly changes perhaps just beginning to take place.  Still what would come does not erase the joy and peace of Day 2.  It only serves to highlight it and to make me more thankful for God’s grace than ever.

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I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel.  Philippians 1:12

Hupomone

steadfastness, constancy, endurance;
in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings;
patiently, and steadfastly;
a patient, steadfast waiting for;
a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance

Hupomone living frees us from the circumstances of life.  We are no longer bound to react to circumstance after circumstance.  Instead as Brother Lawrence would say, we are free to “practice the presence of God”.  We are able to make our relationship with Him our total focus.  Nor can we make our circumstances the foundation of our faith, that too will distract from the singular purpose of pursuing God and results in a faith that is blown here and there by the situational waves of life. (Ephesians 4:14)

“Are they servants of Christ?- I speak as if insane- I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.  five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep….

2 Corinthians 11:23-26

Paul goes on to list the circumstances of his life as a missionary and even the intense times of communion with God as well as the “thorn in the flesh”.   Paul could boast in his hupomone lifestyle, that he endured all these things and was graced by intense visions from God.  In the end analysis Paul understood, perhaps along with the author of Ecclesiastes, that this too is vanity.  It is better to boast in weakness and recognize that the important thing is that the power of Christ dwells inside.  Paul understood that when he rejected circumstances as the guides and measure of his life and practiced the presence of Jesus Christ in every situation that whatever happened to him would “really serve to advance the cause of Christ.”  This is the result of the hupomone lifestyle.  It is the goal that transcends our individual personalities, situations, callings, theologies, denominations, socioeconomic status etc.

When we enter into the hupomone life we are freed not only from circumstances but from results as well.  It is a natural result of who we are as children of God and the natural excellence that occurs when we focus pursuing God.  This is the natural conclusion of Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called to His purpose.”  However we are not freed from the need to pursue all that we do with excellence.  Scripture calls for Christ followers over and over to reach for excellence.  I have actually heard intentional incompetence lauded as a way to encourage the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life.  This is directly contradicted in Scripture.

 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 2 Peter 1:5

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.                        1 Corinthians 10:31

The fact that we are freed from the constraints of results allows us to focus our pursuit of excellence where it belongs, on our relationship with Jesus Christ and our desire to bring our heavenly father glory.

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