It’s now three months since I started this journey.
Along the way I’ve taken a number of steps to build my faith to ensure the medical profession’s prognosis is proven wrong. Doctors don’t have answers. They can offer no hope, but as I’ve discovered, and tried to share, God desires a different outcome to the one they have predicted and I’m looking forward to a complete healing and a powerful testimony of what God has done.
I will not die
And I will proclaim what the Lord has done (Ps 118)
The basic steps taken have been an increased engagement with scripture, a more consistent prayer life, and return to Christian fellowship. Every step has been productive.
Scripture: In three months I’ve read through the New Testament twice and have started a third time. I have also read most of the Old Testament, with half of Psalms left, as well as all of Numbers and Proverbs. I skipped the difficult Leviticus and Numbers earlier on to make sure my reading momentum was maintained when I needed it most, but have just completed Leviticus, a book I found surprisingly rewarding, in particular chapter 26.
Along the way I have taken a lot of notes in my Bible. For that I had bought a wide margined edition of the NIV that I’d seen reviewed in a Christian publication as well as a favoured reading bible (see here for details). I’ve loved the process of note taking, finding and recording connections between different books to build up a more complete understanding of what I’m reading.
While my first readings used the NIV and TNIV, for my third reading I’ve been using a New King James Version to see if it gives me a different perspective. I was able to find a single column “reader’s” edition that places chapter and verse numbers in the margins instead of within the text itself, where they can often disrupt reading by creating unnatural and unnecessary interruptions to the flow of scripture. With that feature it is similar to the TNIV that I’ve used as my reading bible to date. I also have other translations as references if I feel that something I’ve read needs a bit more clarity. I continue to transfer notes into the wide margin NIV as I read the NKJV.
Prayer: This perhaps had a slower start than bible reading. The initial breakthrough came after seeing a few YouTube videos about prayer binders – a kind of prayer journal created and used to give some kind of order and discipline to prayer time.
Gloria has really taken off with her prayer journal, initially enjoying the craft aspect of creating pages for various categories of prayer, she now has a daily prayer time in our “prayer closet” (craft room/ office) and often adds a second or third session during the day when she is led to pray more.
My own journal is divided into sections for Praise (where I have a few relevant Psalms), Repentance, Personal needs, Prayer for Gloria, Family Members, Friends (and enemies), MIssions and Ministries, Local Community… The different categories and the notes within help to keep prayer focused and make sure I don’t forget to pray for those who have asked for prayer – or I have promised to pray for.
At first I relied heavily on the journal, but recently, while it is still used, I’ve been praying more without it (adding to the use of the journal, not doing away with it). Like Gloria, I also find myself being led to go back to the “prayer closet” again later in the day.
Fellowship: This has perhaps been the most difficult step. We’d had problems with churches we’d previously attended, experiencing the opposite extremes of traditions. I didn’t know where we could go with few other options in our town.
But I found a small congregation meeting on Sunday afternoons. They are far from perfect, and in the past I wouldn’t have lasted more than a week or two before giving up on them, but it seemed clear that the Lord wants us there despite disagreeing with some of what they believe, and despite their clear devotion to some questionable “ministries”.
One thing the Lord drew to my attention was:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
This was not a suggestion or a request. Jesus makes it clear it is a command. I was also made aware of what “as I have loved you” meant – when I considered what Jesus tolerated from His disciples, from lack of faith, to some very wrong attitudes and thinking. If we are to love other believers in the same way as He loved His disciples, we’ll find ourselves having to overlook their shortcomings, and also have the hope they’ll overlook ours.