35@35 #5: Introspection

introspection_by_badh13-d34c0vpTC's Guidelines and Principles for Life #5: "Introspection is the most valuable tool in spiritual and emotional development." It's hard to come face to face with your own shortcomings.

Realizing that I'm not a pinnacle of righteousness in a fallen world didn't fit well into the 'me against the world' narrative that I carried for many years.

The day, when I was a teenager, that I realized that I hated my dad and that if I was going to follow Jesus, I couldn't continue to do that...was hard.

I wasn't some victim, or some innocent bystander. I was doing something evil.

The day when, as a graduate student in seminary, I realized that my faith had become a façade rather a living relationship with God was also hard. Realizing that I had hiked halfway up a mountain only to discover it was the wrong mountain left me a choice:

Pretend that I was actually doing the right thing and keep going, or head back down and start over again.

But this post isn't about what to do when you discover your mistake, or your fault, or your sin or your wrong perception.

It's about getting to that moment of realization.

I love reading the Psalms. David is always exploding emotionally all over God, and instead of smiting David, or sending a prophet to tell David 'Shut up', God instead describes David as a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

One of the scariest, and yet most fulfilling, experiences I have in my life of faith is when, in the midst of























anything that I know isn't life giving seems to be filling my head or heart; and instead of trying to shoo those thoughts and feelings out of myself like a man with a weak flashlight in the midst of a rat and roach infested house, I invite God into that place with me.

I becoming willing to see the darkness, the brokeness, the evil within myself rather than try to pretend it doesn't exist.

In those moments, I see the amazing work of the Holy Spirit, who breathes life into areas that were crippled by shame or embarrassment.

I receive healing and forgiveness and strength and life, and those places that were holding me back suddenly become places that are drawing me closer to God.

My emotional life and my spiritual life starts bursting forth with rainbow colors where there was only bland grayness before.

That is the power of being willing to walk about in the walls of your own life in the presence of God.

That is why David was a man after God's own heart. Nothing was off limits to God from David's heart. Well, except in an incident regarding a woman named Bathsheba. David closed God off from those feelings, and it led to multiple deaths (Bathsheeba's husband, and the child conceived by David's adultery).

To David's credit, when he was confronted, he threw wide the gates to his heart and begged God to come back in. (Read Psalm 51 to hear David's turn to God in the aftermath of his sinful choices).

That's the awesomeness of introspection. It doesn't guarantee that you won't mess up. But it means to don't have to stay in a downward spiral until you hit the ground in a fiery explosion.

You don't have to live in a house of rats and roaches, hoping to use your light to keep them off you.

You can take back those places within yourself.

The man who I've been pointing to probably said it best:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Point out anything in me that offends you,and lead me along the path of everlasting life." (Psalm 139:23-24)

That which are ignored do not improve.

If we want healthy spirituality and healthy emotions, we will have to summon our courage and open the door to the basement of our lives. Down in that dark, unfamiliar area, we will find the opportunity to apply the grace and mercy that God so freely grants us. And in doing so, can begin to see change in our everyday lives.

May we be brave enough to fight the darkness in our lives rather than to ignore it, or run from it.



35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.

God's Timing

“During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the LORD. The LORD said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.”” (2 Samuel 21:1 ) I found this story to be fascinating. First, because it gives some insight to God’s frequently unusual timing (at least from our perspective).

God deals with things when he wants to. Sometimes it’s immediate (as with Joshua and the Israelites at Ai). But sometimes it’s later, even much later.

So God wanted to deal with this thing Saul did. But it’s long after Saul is dead and buried that God brings it up.

We don’t know when in David’s reign this famine occured. It seems quite possible that it was a decade or more after David was first crowned King of Judah.

I don’t have a clue why God waiting so long before dealing with this issue that he clearly found to be of critical importance. And perhaps that’s the point of this story. There is no way we can know why God does what he does, when he does it.

He brings things up when he chooses to, and we must simply be ready to deal with what he sends our way. We make our plans, but he directs our steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

The second thing I wonder about this situation is this: Did David only ask God’s input after 3 years had gone by? Or did he ask sooner and have to wait for years for an answer?

From the text, it seems that David delayed asking God until 3 years had gone by.

It makes me wonder if there are situations in my life that God wants to bring about healing or deliverance, but I’m busy trying to endure them.

I had some minor health problem that I had been living with, but recently realized I didn’t have to. So I prayed for healing and God did it. I had some of those situations going on for years.

All the while God was just waiting for me to ask.

In the end, God’s timing is going to remain a mystery to me. My job is to ask and trust. And perhaps most importantly, to listen. Because if I can’t know God’s timing, at least perhaps I can know his purpose

Saul vs. David

I think I figured out today why Saul ended up being rejected by God while David has an inheritance that will never end, thanks to his lineage leading up to the Messiah. In 1 Samuel 15, the prophet Samuel tells Saul to go to the Amalekites and destroy everything. People, livestock, “everything that belongs to them”.

I know, stuff like this is hard to hear. How could God order babies to be killed? He’s God and we’re not. Just accept that his reasons are good enough for him, so they’ll be good enough for us when we learn them. But back to Saul.

So Saul leads the army there and kills the people, but spares the king and the best of the livestock and “everything that was good.” So they only killed and destroyed what they didn’t want.

When Samuel returns to the camp, Saul speaks first: “God Bless you, Samuel! I did what God said!”

Samuel, not being an idiot, asks Saul why there’s livestock all around.

Saul is quick thinking: “Oh, um, we kept the good stuff. You know, to give it to God! We’re going to sacrifice it to him!”

Samuel has had enough. He tells Saul how he’s going to be rejected as king by God for his disobedience. Now check out Saul’s response:

“But I did obey the LORD…I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal. (v. 20-21)

He’s trying to justify his actions. “I did obey, and in the places where I didn’t obey, it was for a totally good reason!”

Samuel, in his reprimand, says the following: “To obey is better than sacrifice”

Saul then fesses up: ”I have sinned. I violated the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.”

It’s like Samuel was dealing with a child. He throws out excuse after excuse after excuse. In his admission, he even blames ‘the people’. Saul never accepts that it was his fault.

Now, let’s check out David.

The prophet Nathan comes to confront David about his affair with Bathsheba and killing husband Uriah. After telling David the story about the man with one lamb being wronged by the man with flocks of livestock, Nathan lowers the boom on David, telling him “You are the man!”

And here’s David’s response: “I have sinned against the LORD.”

That’s it. No ‘The devil made me do it.’ No ‘But I married her, so it’s all okay now!’ He makes no excuses. He doesn’t argue.

After Nathan leaves, David goes straight home, lays on the ground and fasts and prays for days.

And that’s when David wrote this:

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart,

O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:13-17)

David got it. That it was about obeying God and being open before him. That God isn’t out for stuff we can give him or ceremonies we can put on for him. He wants us. Our whole heart and soul and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5).

Saul didn’t get that. He thought if he gave God enough of the leftovers he would gladly take them. David knew that if he wasn’t putting God first, before everything else, it was meaningless.

In my life, I don’t want to go my own way, then argue that it was all really for God, so he should totally be happy with it. I want to give him my all and go from there.

I want to be like David, whose kingdom and ministry will never end because he made his kingdom and ministry the kingdom and ministry of God himself.