July 5, 2016

Preparing for the Day

Happy Tuesday! It is the day after the big celebration, and I am sitting here at my desk with my two companions trying to write this blog post. Ike, my constant companion and fur-buddy is bent on sleeping on the keyboard this morning. Winston, my other fur-buddy (who is always so polite, btw) is sitting next to me on the printer. I love the fact that they want to be close to me, but sometimes they get too close and it is impossible for me to get anything done. Oh! My life with cats...

In other news, I slept poorly last night. I had weird and unpleasant dreams all night, and I woke up at 4 a.m. to the sound of Ike pounding on my parent's bedroom door. Then at 8 a.m., I heard the phone ring without anyone picking it up. My parents were listening to the FBI Director's announcement that the U.S. Government will not seek charges against Hillary Clinton for her "careless" attitude toward secure and sensitive emails. In all, I woke up rather roughly. I feel fine, better than fine, really. I am not tired, praise the Lord, and I am ready to tackle today's to-do list with gusto. I am also feeling content, at rest and at peace, in my decision to remain in education. In fact, I am more at ease today regarding my future and the plans the Lord has for me than I have been in a long while. I am not sure why, other than to say that making a decision (finally) has probably helped a lot. More so, I guess it is the realization that I am where I belong and that no matter what I have tried to do in the past to change or alter my course, I seem to be "stuck" (in a good way). It is like I have been put in this place with barriers all around me. No matter how hard I push or pull, I cannot shift what is around me. I am stuck, in place, unable to move. No doubt this is the Lord's design for my life, at the least, for this time in my life. If I cannot make things change, then certainly there is a reason why it is so.

I believe that the Lord has me in this place for a reason. I am here, at this point in time, doing what He has provided, and there is nothing I can do to alter that fact. I have applied numerous times for jobs in both industry and education, and nothing has come to pass. I have applied to jobs that were local (in Phoenix) as well as jobs that were in other cities and states. I have had one interview (in person) and that was with UHC in Phoenix. I have had several interviews for online teaching positions, and I have been hired to teach at OCU provisionally (I complete the hiring process with this mentoring course that begins mid-July). I have not heard back from CCU nor Regent University. I am guessing that I have been added to the adjunct pool of candidates at this time, but not selected to interview further. At this point in time, I have three schools where I can teach consistently. Two are local and one is online. I am thinking that the Lord feels this is enough for me, what with my dissertation research beginning to heat up and all. Until He removes those barriers around me, I have to stand still, I have to be still. I have to do the work He has assigned to me. I cannot take on extra work or do every job "I think" is best. No, I must trust Him to provide, and I must rest in His provision each day.

Planning, Preparing, and Performing

I wish I could say that I feel confident that I have my life figured out, but that would be far from the truth. I think it is funny how yesterday I was so bold, so confident, so completely at peace with everything, and today, I am feeling good, but a bit pressured (pinched). How can this be? How can you go from being sky-high positive to feeling a bit pricked? In only 24 hours. In just one night. Sigh! I am guessing it is because my enemy is seeking to hurt me today. Yes, my enemy would like to deflate my balloon as quickly as possible in order to cause me as much pain as he can muster. If he can make me panic, lose my focus, or become so preoccupied with other "unknowns" then he can successfully defeat me and keep me from accomplishing what the Lord has in mind for me. He will settle just to keep me feeling unwell or off-kilter, if that is all that he can do, so that I don't experience all the blessing, the goodness, and the peace God wants and has planned today. I am determined to not let that happen. I am determined to not give my peace away. In truth, I am the one who allows the thief to enter in and steal my joy. I am the one who gives way, who refuses to stand guard, and in doing so, I allow that thief to come right in and sit down. He mocks me, makes fun of me, condemns me, and I sit there and take it. I let it happen. I know better. I know what to do, yet I don't always do it. Instead, I let some time pass before I kick his sorry can to the curb. I let some time linger while I listen to him harass me. I shouldn't do this. The WORD clearly says not to do it, yet still I do.

Well, not anymore. No, not anymore. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I am angry with my enemy for his crafty ways and for the insults he throws at me. I am tired of taking it, and that means that I am ready to stand up and tell him to get lost. Yes, I am ready to stand my ground and be victorious. I am a champion, a victor, and an overcoming achiever. I stand in the blood of Jesus, armed with the full amor of God, and I am able to defend myself with the very words of God. James 4:7 (NLT) says, "So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Furthermore, in Deuteronomy 28:7, we are reminded that for those under the blessing of covenant, "The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways." I love this verse of Scripture because it reminds me that it is the Lord who does battle with the enemy. I am called to stand on the battle line, but the Lord is the One who goes before me.

Jennifer LeClaire, a news editor at Charisma Magazine, wrote a great blog post on the seven ways the devil flees from Christians who stand against him. In this short article (with video), she clearly outlines the steps the believer in Christ must take to be able to stand in victory when the enemy pursues and attempts to overtake them. In reading this post today, I realized that I often do not do what Scripture says I should do. I tend to do some of these things, but not all of them. Lately, my enemy has sought to needle me, to claim common ground (or a forum whereby two parties are on equal footing). It is up to me to refuse him access, yet like I said previously, I often allow myself to be cornered. If I stay in the corner too long, I end up pretty bruised and bloody. In short, if I don't want to be beaten down, I need to get out of that corner and stand my ground!

In defeating the enemy, LeClaire (2014) says the believer in Christ must remember and do these seven things:
  1. Diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God
  2. Repent before you engage in battle
  3. Know that God is on your side
  4. War from a position of victory
  5. Praise your way through
  6. Take up your armor
  7. Pray always and be watchful
I find that I tend to skip right to number 6. I recite Ephesians 6 and put on my armor, all without spending time listening, heeding and obeying God first. Furthermore, I forget what James says completely, that in order for the devil to flee, we must first humble ourselves before God. This means we must acknowledge any sin in our life. All unconfessed sin, whether committed willingly or in ignorance gives the enemy a foothold to stand before God as our accuser. Therefore, we must confess our sins, repent of them, and with humility seek God's forgiveness BEFORE we do battle. Likewise, I often do not feel like praising God or even thanking Him for His help, His provision, His goodness, when I am being pelted by my enemy. No, praise is the last thing I think of to do. In fact, praise is the first thing I should do, right after humbling myself before God. If I praise Him, I give Him the proper acknowledgement, and I set my mind aright so that I remember who He is and who I am not. In this way, I realize that my strength, my victory, and my ability to withstand the trial or temptation belongs to Him alone. He is the One who sees me through and not anything created or emanating from my human flesh. If I would only remember this list (may it be so, Lord, may it be so) before engaging the enemy in battle, how much more victory would I experience and enjoy? I think the whole campaign would take on a victorious overtone, and I would see the mighty hand of the Lord as He moves, maneuvers, and majestically overwhelms and defeats the enemy at every single turn.

Compromise? Or Not!

Today, I am thinking about compromise and what that means to me. The dictionary defines compromise as an "agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions" (Dictionary.com). Moreover, a compromise is often considered to be a "settlement of differences by arbitration" (Merriam-Webster). Arbitration is a legal process, a form of mediation whereby a decision is made by an independent third party or arbiter. Merriam-Webster defines arbitration as "settling an argument or disagreement in which the people or groups on both sides present their opinions and ideas to a third person or group." An arbiter is a person who is knowledgeable in the matter or who has the authority to settle a dispute. In the Old Testament, Moses was appointed as arbiter for the nation of Israel. Later on, God permitted Moses to select "judges" who would serve in this capacity so that Moses could have a rest (Exodus 18). Moses' role was to decide between the two parties, and to order resolution that was equitable and fair.  In this way, he mediated between the parties, and concessions were made in order to come to an agreement (a compromise). Likewise, Christ Jesus is our Arbiter because of the New Covenant. Jesus serves as our Mediator (Hebrews 9:15; 1 Timothy 2:5), and we receive the promised reconciliation (eternal life) as part of the mediating covenant in His shed blood.

Whenever we engage in compromise, we make concessions about certain things, wants or needs. We decide what we are willing to let go of or give up in order to receive reconciliation. In marriage disputes, a mediator may be the person who negotiates the treaty between spouses. A neutral third party will engage in discussion and draw up terms that are mutually satisfying to each party. The key is that each party has to give way. True mediation is never one-sided. This would not be a compromise then. So when we compromise, we are agreeing to give the other party some ground, something to satisfy their wants or needs. In a similar way, the other party gives to us something as well. We each make concessions, an agreement is formed, and the dispute is settled. Compromise, thus, is a good thing when it comes to argumentation and especially when reconciliation or restoration are the end-goal.

In today's world, however, compromise is seen as a weakness rather than a strength. If we consider the definition again, we see that the process of compromise is actually neither weak nor strong; rather, it is a sign of intelligent and responsible, nay rational, communication skill. Arbitration, therefore, is critical to the success of difficult disputes, and trusting the arbiter with the role of deciding the outcome requires a measure of reliance upon the individual. One must believe the arbiter is worthy, has the authority, possesses the knowledge and the skill to be responsible in making a final decision.

As I think about compromise today, I recall how often I was unwilling to make concessions in order to settle a dispute. I stood my ground, proud and unwavering, and I refused to give way. I felt I was entitled to everything I wanted because, after all, I had been the victim (the hurt party) in the disagreement. I was feeling "worthy," and I wanted restitution to be made to me. I wanted to feel better, to have reparation made for all the hurt, the pain, and the suffering. I wanted justice, fairness, and my rightful share. Yet, in arbitration matters, there is always concession.

Concession is an interesting term. In general, it is pejorative, which simply means it possesses a negative connotation. Merriam-Webster defines the term, concede, as meaning "to admit that you have been defeated and stop trying to win" as in a dispute or argument. It is giving in or up your position, your stance, your unwillingness to have your way. When we concede something, we typically give up because we realize that to continue to fight is futile or hopeless. This is especially true when we believe we can no longer win the argument or defeat the enemy. We concede to the other party, and in doing so, we let them win.

In a Biblical sense, we concede to God every time we acknowledge something as true (when we believed otherwise). In short, when we submit to God, humble ourselves, we are conceding that as God, He knows better than we do. The dictionary says that concession occurs when we, "accept as true, valid, or accurate" something we believed. We make a concession when we give way or give over to God, and we agree with His point of view on matters. Concession is part of the process of humbling ourselves before a Righteous and Holy God. When we admit we are wrong in some matter, we are conceding to the truth of the Law, we are acknowledging that our position in which we held to be true was really false. We admit our wrong-doing, we humbly confess our error, and we concede our right of way.

In the Old Testament, a covenant agreement was often used to certify a compromise between two parties. If the parties wanted to come to an agreement, they would issue a covenant between them, usually by some formal mark such as a pile of stones. This was a way to remember that the disagreement was officially terminated. Each side was to keep their covenant agreement, and in this way, the land (often in land disputes) would return to peace.

In the New Testament, a New Covenant was made between God and His people. The mediator of that New Covenant was Jesus Christ. As believers in Christ Jesus, we are partners in the resolution of the dispute between God and man. We are recipients of the blessing that comes as part of the New Covenant and our reward is peace with God and eternal life in Christ Jesus.

How often do I want my own way? Nary a moment goes by when I do not request, nay demand, my rights. I am often self-righteous, which means "having or showing a strong belief that your own actions, opinions, etc., are right and other people's are wrong" (Merriam-Webster). As a self-righteous person, I often believe that I know what is best for me as well as what is best for others. I think I know it all, and yes, I have been called a "know it all" many times in my life. I think I am not acting self-righteously, but rather that I am acting justly or rationally. I rely on my own judgement, and my own interpretation of events or circumstances to justify my views or opinions. In sum, I think my ideas, my thoughts, my opinions are best.

My stubbornness and my refusal to give way is an indictment against me. As a Christ-follower, I must be humble and not seek my own way. I must trust God, and obey the voice of the Lord in all matters (in Word and in Spirit). I must not seek to win, to always get my own way. Yet, my flesh desires my own way more than God's way time and time again. It is difficult to remain humble, to always remember to humble myself before Almighty God, but the Bible clearly tells us that God desires this from His children. James 4:6 (NLT) says, "But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, "God opposes the proud but favors the humble." This is why humility is so vital when we seek to please God. We must remember that to win His favor (which was already won in Christ Jesus), we are to BE humble. Humble simply is "not thinking of yourself as better than other people," and in that way, we are acknowledging that we are not special or unique or wonderful when compared with others. We are not arrogant or assertive, but instead, we give deference to others. Merriam-Webster defines that act of humility as "reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission." Thus, when considering what it means to concede or compromise, humility plays an important part in the process. We cannot concede to God or to others if we are haughty, arrogant, and seeking our own way.

My Response Today

What then is my response today? I know myself well. I know that often I refuse to give way out of stubborn refusal to accept another party's position of authority or knowledge. I stand my ground, proudly taking my own views, ideas, and opinions as being superior. Moreover, as I take this arrogant position, I am seeking my own way, to win the argument, and in this measure, I am unwilling to concede EVEN when I know better, even when I am confronted with the truth.

If it is my desire to walk humbly with my God (Micah 6:8), then I must recognize that the first step in putting on humility is acknowledging that God is always right. He is the final judge and jury, the ARBITER who knows best. I cannot contend with Him for I will not win my case. I will not win any argument against His Holiness and His Righteousness. Yet, I try. I do. Silly me. I try so often to plead my cause, my case, and to win the argument. He stands unmovable. He will not relent or give way. He is always right for it is in His nature to be RIGHTEOUS.

More so, as I come to terms with my own failing, I realize that much of my struggle in life has been due to the fact that I am not willing to give way, to give in, or to compromise. As a Christ-follower, I am determine to change this behavior today. I am determined to begin to walk in such a way that I give way, regularly, always. Of course, my flesh is weak. But, praise be to God, the Spirit is so strong and so willing.

Therefore, today I choose to give way. I choose to concede to God this fact: that He knows what is best for me. This time, I am taking the stand, choosing to say that I am promising to stop arguing with Him about every little detail, about every small thing, and instead, I am choosing to accept His judgement and His determination on all matters. Why? Simply because He is the AUTHOR AND FINISHER of my faith. He knows me best, knows what is best, and has my best in mind. Always. Every day. Until the end of this age. Selah! 

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