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the Manna | September 2012

Inadequacy


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the Manna | September 2012

Columns

21 | Up To The Task

07 | Signals 09 | On the Air

22 | Open Mics And Fragile Egos

Features 14 | Charlie-In-A-Box Syndrome Dismantling the misfit mentality.

16 | Caricature Development Recognizing the Pharisee within.

18 | The Weakness Question

Stay in Touch

Achieving our divine potential.

Can our inadequacy actually be freeing?

25 | Satisfaction Guaranteed Do we approach God with a consumer mindset?

27 | Erased Freed by skillful hands.

29 | When God is Silent The challenge of trust.

We actually can’t do everything.

wolc.org | readthemanna.org | September 2012

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the Manna | A Publication of Maranatha, Inc. Editor-In-Chief: Debbie Byrd Creative Director: Joe Willey Contributing Writers: Andy Berges, Keyanna Butts, Josh Millwood, Brittney Switala, B.A. Timmons & Karen Tull Media Client Liaisons: Lonnie Diskin & Randall Stapleton

Frequently Asked Questions Who We Are The Manna is published by Maranatha, Inc., a Christcentered ministry called to proclaim the Good News of faith and life in Jesus Christ through various forms of media, as God directs, until He returns. “Maranatha” (mer-a-nath´-a) is an Aramaic word found in I Corinthians 16:22. It is translated, “Our Lord, come!” Joy! 102.5 WOLC is also part of Maranatha, Inc. Its call letters stand for “Watch, Our Lord Cometh.” Maranatha!

Disclaimer Non-ministry advertisers are not required to subscribe to the “Statement of Faith” printed at right; nor are their businesses and products necessarily endorsed by the Manna, Joy! 102.5 WOLC, or Maranatha, Inc., whose viewpoints are not necessarily represented by the opinions or statements of persons interviewed in this magazine; nor are the viewpoints of its advertisers.

Statement of Faith We Believe… that the Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible and authoritative source of Christian doctrine and precept; that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; that the only hope for man is to believe in Jesus Christ, the virgin-born Son of God, who died to take upon Himself the punishment for the sin of mankind, and who rose from the dead so that by receiving Him as Savior and Lord, man is redeemed by His blood; that Jesus Christ in person will return to Earth in power and glory; that the Holy Spirit indwells those who have received Christ, for the purpose of enabling them to live righteous and godly lives; and that the Church is the Body of Christ and is comprised of all those who, through belief in Christ, have been spiritually regenerated by the indwelling Holy Spirit. The twin mission of the Church is worldwide evangelization, and nurture and discipline of Christians.

Manna and Joy! 102.5 WOLC P. O. Box 130, Princess Anne, MD 21853 Voice: 410-543-9652 Fax: 410-651-9652 Manna e-mail: info@readthemanna.org Joy! 102.5 e-mail: wolc@wolc.org ©2012 Maranatha, Inc. May not be reproduced without written consent of Maranatha, Inc. Photos: iStockphoto and Thinkstock

Maranatha Media | Home of Joy! 102.5 and the Manna


Signals Inadequacy Several years ago, sitting around the table at one of our Maranatha Board meetings, long-time Board member Don Andrews shared a perspective that I’ve cherished ever since. Up to that point, I had served many secular, governmental boards and committees—and had served on many secular boards and committees myself. Individual members of secular boards, perhaps especially elected ones, want to believe they have all the answers. They don’t want to show their weak side. Sitting at that meeting that day, Don shared his heart—he said that he came to meetings with a deep sense of inadequacy. But he realized that as the individual board members came together to consider and discuss various topics there was a transition in perspective. As a group of men, sincerely seeking the Lord’s guidance and direction, the Board found its adequacy. It was a humble moment. Inadequacy in self—adequacy in Christ. In this issue, our writers explore the concept of inadequacy. Karen Tull speaks to the feelings of inadequacy many feel, or as she puts it, the “I suck” syndrome - and the transition that occurs when one starts to view oneself from God’s perspective. Brittney Switala addresses the feelings of inadequacy that might stop a person from taking risks, like public speaking, as opposed to the freedom that is found in comprehending that God uses our inadequacies to his purposes. Each of us have strengths and weaknesses. We might think of our weaknesses as inadequacies. But are they, really? Or

could we consider it a strength that we actually know what our weakness is? Keyanna Butts explores this, especially as it applies to Gen Y’ers, but it really applies to each of us. On a different slant, Josh Millwood takes an interesting look at the Pharisees and their sin—and how Christ died not only for us and our sins but for them as well. It’s easy to be consumed by feelings of inadequacy. Or, as writer Andy Berges suggests, we can stand on our relationship with Christ, finding sufficiency only in Him, and accomplish much! Throughout Scripture the Lord encourages us to be strong, courageous even. He prompts us to not give up! To turn our eyes to Him and find our adequacy in Him as He, and only He, is sufficient. He tells us that all things are possible for the one that believes in Him. He tells us to stand fast! And that, in Him, we will find confidence and assurance and strength. In the Old Testament, Joshua tells us, “Every promise has been fulfilled, not one has failed.” That truth extends to the New Testament—and it extends forever. God’s promises are true— they are never broken or forgotten. In Him, we each find our adequacy. Debbie Byrd is General Manager of Maranatha, Inc., a ministry that includes Joy! 102.5 and the Manna.

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On the Air Awaken Dan and Lauren Smith are a husband and wife singer/songwriter duo from the Lancaster/Reading, Pennsylvania, area. They are worship leaders at Reading City Church, a churchthey helped plant in 2010 and where Dan also serves as an elder. Dan and Lauren have been writing and recording music as well as worship-leading together for 10 years since they first met at Eastern University. They have released 4 independent acoustic/folk albums between 2002 and 2009, and just recently they recorded their first Contemporary Christian worship album The Revive Project in Nashville with producer Stephen Gause. The 2010 census declared Reading, Pennsylvania, to be the poorest city in the entire United States, with most of its population living below the poverty line. The Revive Project is a not-for-profit album designed to bring music of life, love, and revival to a broken city and to help meet the physical needs of the poor, hungry, and forgotten. All sales proceeds go back to non-profits serving Reading.

Dan and Lauren hope that their music and passion for the city will inspire others in their region to seek out ways to serve Reading. For everyone else, they hope their actions and message are an inspiration and call to awaken to the needs of our local neighborhoods and communities. To learn more about Dan & Lauren Smith and their new single “Awaken (Let The Whole World Sing),� visit their website at www.thesmithfactory.com and be sure to listen for this great new song on Joy! 102.5. Rodney Baylous is Program Director of Joy! 102.5. Visit www.wolc.org.

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CharlieIn-A-Box Syndrome By Karen Tull

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s a college student, I went to a Christian retreat one weekend with other undergraduates from area schools. The spiritual theme was centered around facing our fears, and the keynote speaker had us divide up into discussion groups according to our particular insecurities, with each group having its own somewhat comical labeling. One such group was titled “I Suck.” I headed over there. We were a sizable gathering. There looked to be an equal number of men and women, many of us wearing our respective school gear. I remember scanning the group and noting that quite a few were students at Johns Hopkins University. Here sat evidently very intelligent people—most likely up-and-coming doctors, lawyers, engineers, and physicists—on the road to success, at least from a worldly perspective. And yet, in some way or another, they still felt like they didn’t measure up. One student shared that no matter what she accomplished academically, until she lost weight she would never meet her mother’s approval. Failed attempts at getting healthier, coupled with constant criticism from her parents, left her feeling defeated. Others shared their stories and while each was different, they boiled down to one thing: We were all in a rut. Have you assessed yourself and come up short? Perhaps you’ve been viewing yourself through the lens of someone else’s negative assessment. Maybe you feel like you departed to the Island of Misfit Toys a long time ago and that’s where you’ve been living ever since. “I can’t do that—it’s just not my personality.” “I’ll never be able to change.” “I won’t ever be good enough.” “I’ll only end up disappointing everyone.” These are the lies of the misfit mentality, a pattern of thought that spills into every aspect of life, from work to relationships. The results are often self-pity, self-loathing, withdrawal, isola-

tion, destructive behavior, and the avoidance of risk at all costs, thereby curbing creativity. Is there any hope of breaking out of this prison? Yes. But it will be hard, especially since this debilitating perspective has simply become a way of life for many of us. In his book The Search For Significance, author Robert McGee writes, “A change in our behavior requires a release from our old self-concept, which is often founded in failure and the expectations of others. We need to learn how to relate to ourselves in a new way. To accomplish this, we must begin to base our self-worth on God’s opinion of us and trust in His Spirit to accomplish change in our lives. Then, and only then, can we overcome Satan’s deception that holds sway over our self-perception and behavior.” To see past the lies we’re living in, we first have to recognize who we are—who we really are. If you’re reading this—you exist. If you exist, you exist because you were created by God. Since you were created by Him, you have value and purpose. He knows who you are. You were born in His mind before you were born on Earth. You are His idea and His handiwork (Ephesians 2:10). I once heard it said that if God had a wallet, your picture would be in it. As parents gush over their children, He would gush over you. (Yes, even knowing all your faults and failures.) As pastor and author Tim Keller puts it, “He saw your heart to the bottom and loved you to the skies.” He cared so much that He sent His Son to redeem us. Let’s face it. We’re all in the same boat—sinners incapable of saving ourselves. Each of us is inept if not for Christ, and not one of us is worthy enough to be saved by Him. Forgiveness is truly a gift. But if we were worth dying for, then we have worth indeed. And if the God of the universe has stamped us with His approval through Christ, what can possibly hold us back?

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Development By Josh Millwood

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n the Gospels, Jesus often faced off against a familiar foe, the Pharisees. They are penned as a “brood of vipers” who are against God, and goodness, and they hate babies, and steal money from widows, and probably have oily, curly mustaches, which they twirl while laughing maniacally. Sometimes it seems like the Pharisees are the comic relief. Imagine them with exaggerated features, humped backs and, of course, pointed goatees. Their foibles are used to spotlight the mastery of wisdom that Jesus possesses. Each time they try to trap Christ with ancient law or hypothetical situations, Jesus cuts to the chase, embarrasses them in front of the crowd, and they slink off into the corner while the laugh track mocks them. If it weren’t for the fact that their conniving put Jesus on a cross, they would be relegated to minor characters in the Salvation story. Every great story has a great villain. But the Pharisees are not the villains in the Salvation story. We are. Or rather, our sin is. The Pharisees were a product of generations of Jewish letter-of-the-law-keepers just trying to do what they were taught was right. As children in Hebrew school, they either had the right parents or showed a natural talent for bookkeeping. They received the best education and spent day and night studying the works of Moses, the prophets, and the Pharisees who had come before them. Just like today’s seminary students look to the works of Calvin, Lewis, and Chesterton for wisdom, the Pharisees of Jesus’s age would have studied the works of hundreds of years’ worth of theological debate, study, and wisdom. It’s not an exact parallel, of course. Christian theologians have the benefit of the Holy

Spirit for discernment. The Pharisees had a long history of simply not getting what God (YHWH) was trying to say. The Pharisees were playing the cards they were dealt. But they were playing, while Jesus showed up to end the game. They were trapped by their intellectualism and history. In some ways, that they were instigators of the Messiah instead of recognizers wasn’t even their fault. The system had been set up by God so that salvation could be had. It was known from before sin entered the world. Jesus had to die. God used the selfish, blind, but probably wellmeaning religious leaders to accomplish this salvation. And not just salvation for the Jews, but for us all. Current pop culture loves to generate sympathy for the bad guy. It wasn’t really their fault, right? Just like Judas, the Pharisees had a part to play in a story written by the Creator—but they are still guilty of heinous crimes against creation. Just like we are accountable for our sins, they, too, made choices that put Jesus on the cross. I hope that some came to faith in Christ after His resurrection because I greatly identify with the plight of the religious leaders confronted by the presence of Jesus. Jesus was simply not what they expected. They were expectant, but for something other than the Kingdom of God. We are all a little bit of a Pharisee. We are apt to think we know better, lack grace and try to manipulate God to see things our way. Jesus was absolutely disgusted by the Pharisees. He called them names and cursed their existence. That is God’s reaction to sin. It makes Him angry. But He didn’t resent the Pharisees for their sin. He died for them. He died for us.

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The Weakness Question By Keyanna Butts

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ere we go again, another national newspaper reporting the “spoiled,” “impatient,” and “entitled” mentality of Generation Y’ers (people under 30). According to the Wall Street Journal, companies are jumping through hoops to meet the demands of these young professionals who want faster promotions, flexible work hours, and more benefits. Such benefits include unlimited paid vacations and the ability to leave the office early to continue their work at a Starbucks. Now, if you’re a baby boomer, you’re probably thinking those requests are a bit outrageous for a person just breaking into the workforce and that these “young’ins” need to earn their rank like everybody else. I’m one of the few Generation Y’ers who agrees with you. Last September, I wrote about the entitled attitude of this (my) generation. I blamed it on social institutions that have ingrained the philosophy that we are the greatest generation and conditioned us to believe we are the best this world has to offer, thus infusing us with pride. One year later, here I am again reading another news story about “myself” (i.e. generation), and once more, trying to make sense of our narcissistic mentality. I still believe that social institutions have indoctrinated

us with a grandiose view of ourselves. But now, I’ve recognized another problem that breeds the pretentious attitudes of Generation Y’ers. The problem is that very rarely, if ever, do we have to look at our weaknesses. Let me share a personal experience I had during a job interview. The HR rep asked me a question that I had never been asked before in an interview. She asked me, “What are your weaknesses?” I was totally caught off guard. This had to be a trick question. The whole point of an interview is to highlight my strengths and skills and show the employer what a great asset I would be to the company. Exposing my weaknesses would only abate my qualifications and ruin my chances for the position. Unfortunately, the only thing worse than answering the question was not answering the question. So, I confessed. Shamefully, I told the HR rep that one of my weaknesses is writing. I explained to her that articles that may take the average person 20 minutes to draft, would take me an hour. Walking out of the interview, I knew I had blown my chances. They would never give a person who suffers from writers’ block a position in the PR department. Shockingly, a few days later I received a call saying I

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was hired. I had the opportunity to ask the HR rep what set me apart from the hundreds of other prospects. She explained that I was one of the few applicants who answered the “weakness question” genuinely. Other applicants responded with “I don’t know,” “I have to think about it,” or my personal favorite, “There’s really nothing I can’t do.” Because there is so much hype about all the things Generation Y’ers can do, we become blinded to the reality that there are thousands of things we can’t do. Our inability to recognize and honestly confess our incapabilities causes ourselves and others to believe that we are invincible, a superhero of some sort, and thus companies should bend over backwards to accommodate us…and they do. But even Superman had a weakness. So employers, here’s the truth about us Generation Y’ers: Behind those glossy, 12-point font résumés that scream “tech-savvy,” “summa cum laude,” and “great communication skills,” are inadequacies and weaknesses. We don’t know it all. We are not perfect. And although we may be able to make your company a Facebook page, we do not know everything about computers. Generation Y’ers, let’s be honest. With all the praise and admiration we receive, it’s easy to disregard and even

forget our flaws. But if we don’t look at our weaknesses, how will we be able to see the areas that need improving? Or, do we even care about improving our weaknesses? (I’ll leave that for another article…) When and if we acknowledge our inadequacies, God is able to become stronger in our lives. As Paul explained, “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NLV). Generation Y’ers, let’s take time to look at our weaknesses. Let’s be like Paul and confess our flaws, understanding that when we are weak, Christ is strong. By the way, it took me four hours to write this article. ____________ Wall Street Journal Article http://finance.yahoo.com/news/more-firms-bow-togeneration-y-s-demands.html

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Up To The Task By Andy Berges

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hroughout our lives, we will be confronted with an abundance of challenging tasks that God has called upon us to perform. On many of these occasions, we will feel that we do not have what it takes to successfully accomplish them. No one is exempt from feelings of inadequacy. Inadequacy is a destructive feeling that we must overcome. Surrendering to it will have a devastating impact on not only our lives, but the lives of our loved ones. While it is not sinful for us to experience these feelings, using them as an excuse when encountering life’s challenges is. The negative effects decrease our self-confidence and are generated within us in a number of ways, from unpleasant childhoods and hurting others, to unsuccessful careers, marriages, and family relationships. Everyone will periodically doubt themselves and God during their lives. Even the Bible consists of numerous people who lacked faith due to misgivings about themselves and His power. One such person was Moses. When God chooses Moses and commands him to go to Pharaoh to lead the oppressed Israelites out of Egypt, he doesn’t want the job. Because of his inadequate feelings, he gives God a list of excuses as to why he is not qualified. Moses says to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God replies, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain” (Exodus 3:11-12). All of us can certainly relate to Moses’s lack of confidence and the excuses he gives God. But, we should absorb the valuable lessons from the story and recognize that God will always be with us, just as He was with Moses. When we are faced with trying circumstances, we have the choice of either trusting that God will provide us

the needed strength or focus on our menacing feelings by listening to God’s adversary and doubting His ability. Unfortunately, many people are living their lives cautiously because they fear they are not competent enough to achieve what God has asked them to do. Rather than being obedient to and trustful of Him, they constantly make excuses as to why they should not be. As a result of playing it safe, we deprive ourselves of many joyous opportunities that God has planned for us. Whenever we sense the debilitating feelings of inadequacy creeping in, we must remember to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). Satan is our biggest enemy and the most powerful weapons he uses against us are psychological. He exploits our weaknesses and utilizes them to his advantage in order to manipulatively immobilize us. He thrives on inducing fear within us in order to make us feel inadequate. Satan fully understands that by inflicting us with despair, discouragement and depression he will achieve victory and defeat Christians by preventing them from recognizing their divine potential. We must always uphold our faith in God and combat the paralyzing thoughts that sabotage our lives. God is omniscient. He knows exactly what we can and cannot do. He empowers us to be successful when we are faced with challenging tasks that we may have otherwise felt were beyond our capabilities. God encourages us to transform our dreams into realities. As we continue to worship Him and believe that He will always provide us strength when we need it, we will repeatedly overcome our fears. We must always keep Philippians 4:13 in our minds: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

wolc.org | readthemanna.org | September 2012

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bserving inadequacy play itself out is painful—kind of like watching a comedian who can’t get a laugh. The other day I saw an episode of the show “Last Comic Standing.” A large man lumbered on stage carrying a rag to mop his face. He drilled the audience with a stream of one-liners. Some of them made sense. Others, he told members of the audience, “You’ll figure out tomorrow.” The sheer peppering of gags and his groping for a response proved so unnerving I could not watch his whole routine. He turned to insulting the audience as a cover for his unrefined skills. Inadequacy is something we are trained to hide or minimize to avoid embarrassment. I found these instructions posted on a website for fledgling instructors: “Never apologize! Not for having rain-smeared posters, a forgotten picture, or having to teach at the last minute. The apologies make the learners uncomfortable by starting the class off on a negative note. They feel embarrassed for you and wish they were not there to witness your embarrassment! From there on, everything tends to go wrong. Do not set yourself up for failure. Never, never apologize!” Inadequacy is a feeling of being “less than.” Sometimes it is a legitimately-earned feeling. I’ve felt inadequate when I was sloppy in preparation (without excuse) or when I was given a project I had to “fake” ©2010:HealthSouth:441521

©2010:HealthSouth:441521

because I really hadn’t been trained to do it properly. We hate to be labeled inadequate by others and yet at times we freely label ourselves that way. Sometimes it is easier to remove yourself from a situation where failure is possible to avoid displaying weakness to peers and enemies. In the Bible, Moses struggled to believe he could be the leader God knew he could be. In the Exodus account we read how Moses grew up in Egyptian luxury as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He was wellrespected until a murderous choice got him kicked out of the land he knew and loved. Living in exile and herding sheep, Moses had nothing but time to ponder that momentary lapse of reason. I imagine him thinking, “If only I had talked to Pharaoh years ago, maybe he would have treated the Jews with more civility. If only I hadn’t killed that slave driver I would have still had a position of respect and influence.” His wandering in another territory lasted for years to the point that he had established a new land and family before God brought the Jews in Egypt back on Moses’s radar. As we remember well from our childhood Sunday School days, God got Moses’s attention by talking to him in a bush that was on fire but would not burn out. There he called Moses out from his sheepraising to go back and rescue God’s chosen people. Though many times he may have


Open Mics and Fragile Egos By Brittney Switala

envisioned speaking up to Pharaoh, it just seemed too late. Here he was, 80-yearsold, living in a foreign land. In spite of God’s glowing confidence (quite literally), Moses’s fear crippled him. He even went so far as to tell God, “Pardon me, but please send someone else.” He was sure his speaking skills were inadequate to take on the very role God gave him—to lead the Jews from slavery to the Promised Land. Moses did reluctantly take the job, but only with the promise that his brother Aaron would be the main speaker. Moses seemingly had little reason to feel incapable, and yet he did. Whether it’s Moses, a comedian, or a teacher, one thing each of these individuals had in common was an issue related to public speaking, which just happens to be the #2 fear in the world, right behind fear of snakes. People are going to goof up, but no one wants to do it with the microphone on, so to speak. It kind of reminds me of my first day on the radio. It was 1997 and I was sitting at a microphone situated on a table covered in orange shag carpet. The community events theme music started as I waited for my manager to point in my direction. In front of me was a little metal box containing a set of index cards with details about local concerts, potlucks and bazaars. My hands were sweaty, my voice trembled, and I read through the cards as quickly as I could. I

was sure it had been the longest 60 seconds of my life. I knew it was possible thousands of people were listening to me and that fact was daunting. The scariest thing for me at that moment was the possibility I could mispronounce the name of someone’s bingo group! Private goof-ups aren’t as painful as those that are broadcast. Frailties revealed in the company of friends and family are often minimized while those exposed to the public may lead to our rejection. Perhaps it is that fear that most often keeps us from boldly and openly sharing our faith. To share the hope of Jesus is threatening to our sense of self-preservation. There is risk of rejection and a chance for debate so deep they make us wish we had seminary training. It is in these times that seeing ourselves as completely broken and inadequate is totally freeing. No one is going to be argued into the Kingdom through oratory skills. It is not our speaking prowess that is at work leading someone to Christ, and yet when we do open ourselves up to the risk of being used, the Holy Spirit’s power works through us. What a beautiful and strange truth. When we feel our words are awkward and even our witness rejected, God uses our inadequacy to remind us of His total sufficiency.

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Satisfaction Guaranteed By Karen Tull

B

ill decides to order his wife a special cake for their upcoming anniversary. He calls the local bakery and places his order two weeks in advance. When he goes to pick up the cake on the morning of his anniversary, the bakery owner tells him they evidently lost his order. Bill is furious—his plan has been derailed. He knows plenty of other people who frequent the bakery and give it rave reviews, but he is empty-handed and disgusted. Bill says to the owner that he will never be back. Who could blame him? As customers, we expect to get exactly what we ask for, when we want it, and with the least personal expense. And if our expectations aren’t met, we go elsewhere. That’s just what being an everyday consumer looks like. The problem is, many of us transfer this consumer mentality over to our relationships, especially our relationship with God. We read in Scripture that we can “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6) and “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16), and be given “the desires of our hearts” if we delight in Him (Psalm 37:4). And so we go to Him with our wants and ask that He bring them about for us. But what happens when we don’t get what we want? Like Bill, maybe we get angry. Author Stuart Briscoe says, “We’ve got a problem here. We know we’re supposed to believe verses like this. We’ve got them underlined in our Bibles until the ink bleeds through to the maps. But many of us, if we are honest, would say that behind our smiling exterior is a heart that’s frustrated because of unfulfilled desires.” With that frustration comes the temptation to go elsewhere to have our desires met. God didn’t deliver, so

now we’re going to go about it on our own terms. This will invariably lead us to making bad decisions that cause turmoil in our lives. “At such times God’s people must challenge their own heart’s devotion and review their convictions,” continues Briscoe. “They must remind themselves that godliness is the right way to live, with its own temporal and eternal rewards. God will not forsake us. Godly living is ultimately the best way to go.” Scripture tells us that the young Israelites Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, exiled and chosen to be in the service of the King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, were faced with the ultimatum of rejecting God and worshipping a pagan god or being burned alive. They chose loyalty to God—regardless of what He would do (or not do) for them. “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). Most of us will never have to face such a decision, and yet we’re still disloyal. We look to worldly ways to find satisfaction, but never find it. Has “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all” not already given us everything? We’re either going to trust God with our lives or not. Briscoe concludes, “Take delight in the Lord, understanding that He then will begin to work on changing your desires and fulfilling your longings. Then you won’t be demanding your own meager desires but will be open and ready for His greater good for you.” wolc.org | readthemanna.org | September 2012

25


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Erased By Jill Carratini

F

ather Greg Boyle is in the business of erasing the past. A Jesuit priest who is the founder and director of “Homeboy Industries” in East Los Angeles, Father Boyle has put together a team of physicians trained in the laser technology of tattoo removal. The team is part of a program that takes the tattoos of ex-gang members and wipes the slate clean. For many, it is as crucial a service as it is merciful. Gang-related tattoos prevent many former gang members from getting jobs or advancing in work. For others, the markings critically impinge on mental health or put them in serious danger on the streets. There is no fee or community service required to receive the tattoo removal offered by Homeboy Industries. It is strictly a gift—a gift that is perhaps a modern look at Christ washing the feet of his friends. Currently, there is a waiting list of over a thousand names. For those involved, the spiritual imagery is often compelling. The seeming permanence of a gang tattoo fosters the attitude that the gang’s claim is also permanent. It is a mark of ownership as much as identity. The emotional consequence is that it seems a part of you that can never be shaken. I suspect some of us have felt like this with past mistakes, actions whose mark we cannot shake off, decisions embedded into our existence like permanent tattoos on bodies longing to forget. It’s not hard to see how profound the erasing of such marks could be in the life of a former gang member. The life marked by Christ is similarly altered. Like former gang members who have had the marks of a former life removed, so our sins are blotted out by Christ. They are remembered no longer. To those holding on to the scarred markings of former sin God would say: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins

no more” (Isaiah 43:25). Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow. Like the unmarked ex-gang members among us, we are made into something new. One of the curious things about the growing list of people interested in laser tattoo removal is that Father Boyle is straightforward about the procedure. The process of tattoo removal is extremely painful. Patients describe the laser procedure as feeling like hot grease on their skin. And yet the list grows, each name representing a life that longs to be free and is willing to endure the pain to seize it. Followers of the Christian faith have described God’s work in our lives as the “refiner’s fire.” Removing the impurities we have embedded into our lives is at times quite uncomfortable. But like a child that trusts her mother enough to endure the pain of having a splinter removed or the young man who undergoes the burning process of removing a gang tattoo, we are freed by skillful hands. The Great Physician is sometimes a surgeon. But when we look at God through the refining fires of God’s presence, we know that it was well worth putting our name on the list (whether it was our doing or God’s in the first place). “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” At his table, we are made new. Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia Erased by Jill Carattini, A Slice of Infinity, No. 2739, originally printed June 6, 2012 (www.rzim.org). Used by permission of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. wolc.org | readthemanna.org | September 2012

27


When God is Silent By B.A. Timmons

I

knew from the beginning that there would be a risk of injury in training for a half-marathon and a marathon. So, I have been diligent to keep a watchful eye for shin splints, which come from increasing mileage too

fast. Friday involved an 8-mile run. At about mile 6, I noticed some soreness in the back of my left calf. But it was tolerable, and I attributed it to muscle soreness. No big reason for concern. We helped some friends move on Saturday, and I did a short 3-mile run on Sunday. Monday was a scheduled day off. Tuesday, after a cup of coffee, I set out on an easy 3 miles. The song “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman was stuck in my head. (I had just been discussing a 3-beat drum part with the worship leader of our church and had the song in my mind.) At the end of the first mile, the soreness in the back of my calf started to increase and it quickly elevated to the intensity of a cramp and brought me to a wincing stop. I debated as to whether it was actually a cramp. Cramps are usually accompanied by a sensation of the muscle tightening and pulling. There was none of that. It let up some, and I hobbled along, thinking I could walk it off. When I was certain it wasn’t a cramp but most likely a pull, I did what all good Christians do and began to talk to the Lord about my injured leg. “Lord, this is a good thing I’m doing, isn’t it? I just pondered on the idea that my

body is made for distance running. And I’m doing it. But apparently I screwed up, and I would appreciate it if you would take care of this leg, even though I brought this injury on myself.” Prayer is often an effort to convince God why He should do what you want Him to do, and to get rescued from your own questionable decisions. Nothing much happened. I kept walking through the second mile and was able to run gingerly most of the last. A quick self-diagnosis via the all-knowing Internet revealed that I most likely have a “grade 1 calf strain.” Full recovery takes approximately two weeks.” Running that last mile—not smart. While I was trying to walk off the pain, the whole question of why God answers some prayers and not others came to mind. Admittedly, this particular situation rates in the negative numbers on the scale of importance, but the principle is true nonetheless. I knew the answer to why God did not heal my leg instantaneously, but sometimes the answer isn’t so clear. The crux of the problem is that God appears to be reluctant to intervene into the natural course of events. He lets lots of things just happen. In this case, when I run too much too soon, I risk injury. Anyone would say that the appropriate response from God in that situation would be to let me get what I deserve. But that is not a hard, fast rule. Sometimes God does

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intervene despite a lack of good sense. Perhaps the best example of this is what Christians call salvation. We believe that even though we have failed and will continue to fail as the human beings we were created to be, we are nevertheless forgiven and put to good use because we accept the work of Christ. There are endless stories of men and women who, had they continued on the path they were on, would have led lives of waste and destruction. God stepped into their situations and changed the natural course of events. These people will tell you that it was not a superhuman effort on their parts to alter the course of their lives; rather, they cried out to God and were snatched off one path and put on another. Even in these situations, one often finds that his life is changed in some areas, yet he continues to struggle. A very common situation that most have experienced is a request for God to alter the natural course of an everyday situation—difficult financial circumstances, trouble in a relationship, issues our children experience. We ask God

for help. Sometimes He does; sometimes He seems to ignore our petition. Many have testimonies of events in which God apparently intervened and altered the natural course. These are often situations that could possibly be attributed to good luck or coincidence, but the believer attributes them to the hand of God. They are situations which, had God left them untouched, would have progressed naturally in an entirely different direction. The problem arises because we don’t know when God will intervene and when He won’t. This is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects about faith. The real test comes when God is silent. We picture ourselves being God and we come up with a totally different approach than His. The believer has a choice. What God does and does not do is His prerogative. And the essence of faith is that the believer chooses to accept that premise. Of course, he occasionally questions God’s choices. That’s only human, and certainly God understands that. But in the end, faith says, “I don’t know what God knows. But I’ll trust that He knows what He is doing. And I will trust Him to make me rest in His decision.”

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