How About That Apostle Paul!

I did a bit of reading in Romans today. I usually feel more than a little intimidated when I read Paul’s soaring epistles. His letters read like he lived his life continuously trembling with excitement over what God is doing in the earth. Meanwhile, I am usually underwhelmed. That is, God’s promises hit me in a surreal way, or on worse days, as preposterous.
Surrounded by the ugliness in the world that so easily shouts down the good that is going on behind the scenes, it’s sometimes a stretch just to get a glimpse of God’s love, let alone exult in “these great and precious promises” (2 Peter) that give His children all of heaven and earth on a platter.

A pastor I know, Ron Wenning, once said that Christians should go around with silly grins on their faces. If they’re not, he said, it’s an indication of unbelief. I’m sure he didn’t mean to imply that the Christian with strong faith floats through life in a state of euphoria. But joy is something we can have much of the time. Joy, as opposed to happiness, is not a reaction to circumstances but a resolute reflection on the overarching provision of God in the face of often adverse conditions.

I’ve been in something of a funk recently. My inward cravings have been enormous, particularly since lately my work schedule has me doing little more than working and sleeping with a bit of time for errands, etc. (not exactly a buffet for the soul), and I’ve been irrationally trying to find satisfaction in carnal things: food, sleep, flirting with the wrong sorts of girls at work, taking in questionable movies, music, etc. But the more time passes in my life, the emptier these things seem to me, the more futile the idea of trying to make a banquet out of a junk-food diet. I’m like the cow in the Far Side cartoon who, while grazing with his friends, all of a sudden stops and declares, “Hey, this is just grass. We’re eating grass!”

As unpleasant as this process is, I’m grateful for my God-given awareness. I’ve finally reached the point where I know too much to keep playing in the dirt. It can’t even hold my attention anymore. And when I do become momentarily entranced, here comes the Lord, knocking down my sand castles with waves of fresh, clean water. Such monumental patience our Lord has.

About Douglas Abbott

I am a freelance writer by trade, philosopher and comedian by accident of birth. I am an assiduous observer of humanity and endlessly fascinated with people, the common elements that make us human, what motivates people and the fingerprint of God in all of us. I enjoy exploring the universe in my search for meaning, beauty and friendship. My writing is an extension of all these things and something I did for fun long before I ever got paid. My hope is that the reader will find in this portfolio a pleasing and inspiring literary hodgepodge. Good reading!
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5 Responses to How About That Apostle Paul!

  1. Mark Hulings says:

    i have called it in the past “the flat tire syndrome” . I have played in the mud, got dirty and went to God to get “cleaned-up”. But one day you realize, its dirt, its mud and i am done with it. but as weak people as we are, circumstances tries to pull us back into the mud pit to do some more wrestling, ( oh and this is not the kind with scantly clothed folks!) it is with our sin, our deepest darkest….. It is like belief, you believe or you dont, simple black and white study. Going through a “mud” stage here, but only dipping my hands in it, and wipeing it on my clothes. but still the dirt remains. We need to acknowledge the fact that we are weak, cause through Christ we are strong. and with that realization we cant really make anymore excuses, and say iv’e fixed the flat, its time to get back on the road, and dont look in the mirror, cause it is behind you now, keep on keepin on…M

  2. seth says:

    Great picture of the cows in the Far Side cartoon! I love that. I remember Paul Newman talking about his wife and someone asked him how he could stay happily married after so many years and he said, “Why go out for hamburger when you’ve steak at home?”

    • Loved your comments, Seth. Glad you’re visiting the blog from time to time. It gives me a real charge to know you’re taking in my “muses.” Hope they are a blessing to you.

  3. Don says:

    I think we just need to find ways to rethink life, God, ourselves – until God shows up and acts upon our lives. I think that many of our conclusions we have arrived at either from Bible study or something we heard from a studied theologian, are incomplete and cannot be the basis for our faith. Cult followers have faith – Muslims who blow themselves up have faith – but faith in man’s teachings about spiritual things. We need to have a real interruption by the God who exists – the God who showed up in the Bible stories must show up in our lives for us to have the kind of changed life promised in the Word. We Christians say we cling to the Word, we stand on the Word, but do we really know the Word? Have we seen the living Word show up and perform or are we the performers, thinking that being faithful means acting like we believe when our hearts really do not. I believe that our inward cravings are a need for the reality of God and cannot be quenched by a good spiritual philosophy or lots of extra self discipline. We have mistakenly created a rule that the best Christian is one who is thirsty but goes the longest without taking a drink. Perhaps true Christianity means to stop trying to be good and let God be good in and to us, yet I cannot let him in if I do not recognize my true need for him and if I keep trying to keep apearances up by striving to touch not, taste not, handle not, which Paul tells the Colossians are rules that have no power in restraining the sensual man. He goes on to say that we are dead and we can only keep looking at him and seeing ourselves risen with him. True freedom is ours when we accept God’s embrace and acceptance of us as friends, especially in our imperfection. As long as we base our “righteousness” on our ability to “do right” instead of on His love for us and on what he did to make us righteousness already in spite of our behavior that has not yet changed because our hearts are not yet mended but he is working on us – as long as we try to please him with our will power instead of by letting him change our hearts (a never ending process from glory to glory), we will continue to be disapointed in ourselves and feel like we are incomplete and depressed. We need not ask the question how can he still love me when I am such a loser, instead we are able to rejoice in the fact that he just does because he is love and he keeps his promises and his covenant. He does care for you so cast all of your care upon Him. He will not love us any more if we don’t lust or don’t lie, and he won’t love us any less if we do. If our change does not take place in the heart then it is really not change at all, but rather a type of behavioralism based on our strong will and eventually that becomes worn down and we find ourselves doing what we tried so hard not to do, but it was in our hearts and minds to do it so we just give up. Perhaps that is the best place to be – giving up, surrendering to His love to let His Spirit take over the job of living righteously in us. Paul struggled and asked who would deliver him from the war between doing what he didn’t want to do and not doing what he wanted to do. His answer was not “thank God for my own will power,” but rather ” O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. In the new testament of His blood, the leper comes to Christ and is made clean. Just come to him in your mess, don’t try to clean up first. Let him clean you up and transform you from the inside out by accepting his love. He will give you strength, you do not have to live on your own.

  4. Don, I’m e-mailing this to you in case you don’t check for a reply on the blog. I loved your discussion here. It was a thorough and encouraging reminder that all we have and hope for comes from God, “who gives generously to all without finding fault” (James 1). We are all unsightly beggars who have been sought out and rescued a wealthy King. His palace never runs out of room, and His embrace is for all of us. I so enjoy seeing your comments, my friend.

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