In this week’s episode I share an interesting idea about how we all stand on the shoulders of giants, an interesting article about how Christians can deal with anxiety, and […]
In this week’s episode I share an interesting idea about how we all stand on the shoulders of giants, an interesting article about how Christians can deal with anxiety, and continue our interesting study of Pilgrims Progress by exploring more of the sixth chapter when Christian meets the lions.
Hello, today is Friday, June 4th, 2021, and welcome to the THIRTY-FIFTH episode of “Of Interest”. My name is Al Descheneau, also known on Twitch as Christian Ninja where, every week, from Sunday to Thursday at noon Easter Standard Time, we’re working together to build an open, encouraging and meaningful online family through gaming, real talk, and God’s Truth. You can find the link to my streams, videos, books, and podcasts, at http://www.ArtoftheChristianNinja.com.
In this week’s episode I’m going to share an an interesting idea about how we all stand on the shoulders of giants an interesting article about how Christians can deal with Anxiety, and continue our interesting study of Pilgrims Progress by exploring more of the sixth chapter where Christian meets the lions.
Hey everyone! How are you doing today? Thank you for taking the time to give this podcast a listen – I think this is going be an interesting episode, but let me just do a couple announcements before we get started.
The first thing is that, believe it or not, I’ve actually got XtianNinja Merch where I’ve put my logo and little emote characters on coffee mugs, shirts, mousepads, and whatnot. I had a professional artist do them up, and they are insanely cute. It’s a fun way to support the podcast and let folks know that you’re a listener. I’ll put the link in the description.
And second, I just want to say how amazing this Thursday was for me. When God called me to start this ministry, I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew is that I was going to give it my all and trust that God would grow what He asked me to plant – and He really has. I’m only been streaming since March, and on this past Thursday I had the biggest stream I’ve ever had. I had more viewers, more visits, more chatting, more followers and more subs than I’ve ever seen. I set a goal to have 150 followers and 15 subscribers by the end of My – and, even though we’re a little bit into June, I’ve just gotten to 125 followers and 14 subscribers. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but to me, that’s huge! Plus, during that stream I was able to record a devotional message that will be played at a church that has asked me to speak virtually, and also record a segment that will be turned into a YouTube video!
Plus, the Discord Chat Server, which is really the heart of our online community becauyse that’s where we can connect with each other anytime, has grown to 34 members who are sharing everything from vacation pictures to hobbies to bible-study note and prayer requests – and many of the members have no affiliation to a church at all. Chatting on that server really does feel like being part of a loving community – and that’s the whole goal.
It’s been really amazing to witness what God has done in such a short period of time – and a big part of that has been Him working through you to lend me support in so many ways. So, thank you and praise God!
Ok, and let’s get on with the show.
An Interesting Idea – WE all stand on the shoulders of giants – food, tech, everything.
It occurred to me this week, especially after the Thursday devotional I wrote about how our lives make ripples that affect everyone around us – that no matter what we’ve done, we are all standing on the shoulders of giants.
That phrase, “standing on the shoulders of giants” has been traced back all the way to the 12th century French philosopher Bernard of Chartres. It seems that the story goes that this philosopher was wandering around the fairly newly built Chartres cathedral and saw on the south wall, some large stained glass windows with the images of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel depicted as large men, with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, made a little smaller, and sitting on their shoulders. It’s very worth googling to see the picture.
But, for him, thought this was obviously a theological concept, he brought it into his own area of expertise, philosophy, as he considered how his own understanding of the world was so dependant on all the philosophers that came before – like how Plato had such an influence on St Augustine and so on, up through the ages. He used to compare himself and his contemporaries to dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He noted that they might see more and farther than those who came before, but it’s not because they had better vision or stood taller – it was because these giants had used their strength to lift these little ones up to such a great height.
Isaac Newton, 500 years later, brought this expression into English when he said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
And that’s the thing I’ve been thinking about lately – and really, have told my kids and everyone else – for a long time. Whenever we think ourselves so great or smart or successful or powerful or whatever – we really need to take a minute to thinking about all the giants we’ve needed to get us where we are.
For example, say you’re good at computers. People compliment you on how you can fix them, manipulate them, program them, or whatever – and it’s tempting to think that you’re better than others because you have that knowledge or skillset. But, ask yourself, who’s shoulders are you standing on?
Do you know how to build an operating system from scratch? Do you know how to solder components onto the mother board? Do you know how to design the circuits? Could you build a monitor so that you can see what you’re doing? The mouse you hold in your hand – someone designed that! And go even farther – who figured out silicone microprocessors? It was some engineers in the 1970s. Who discovered silicon? That was a Swedish dude from 1824. And who taught that Swedish dude science? And who encouraged him to go into the sciences in the first place? And who raised him to be a studious person? Who fed him? Who kept him alive when he was a child?
Or if you play guitar. You might be the next Jimmy Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn – better than everyone else around you by far – but whose shoulders are you standing on? Who taught you? Who inspired you? Or, who invented, the humbucker, amplification, speakers, and the distortion pedal? Or nylon stings and the pickup? Or for that matter, who invented how to write music onto a sheet of paper so others could play the song too? Incidentally, that was a guy named Guido and he did it 1000 years ago.
I don’t think it matters what we do – whether we’re an artist, farmer, mechanic, businessman, or engineer – there isn’t a single one of us that does anything on our own – and 99.999% wouldn’t be able to figure out almost everything we take for granted in our lives.
That’s the thought that I keep in my mind whenever I start thinking a little too highly of myself. That I wouldn’t be anywhere if it wasn’t for the thousands of people, the thousands of giants that have taught me what I know, built what I use, and created what I could never even imagine in the first place.
And all of this thanksgiving for those giants must find its completion, not in the works of man, but in the person of God – the ultimate Creator, the perfect Inventor, the greatest of all Giants, who, in His grace and mercy, has chosen to make us in His image, allowing us to have just the tiniest taste of His beauty, glory, and power.
This week’s Interesting Article is entitled, “Living Faithfully with Anxiety” and it’s by Aaron Garriott, on TableTalkMagazine.com.
Now, ironically, the moment some of you heard that I was going to talk about a Christian perspective on Anxiety – you immediately got anxious – because in your experience, every time a Christian leader talks about mental health issues, it’s always the same thing: Anxiety (or worry) is a sin. You don’t have enough faith. If just tried harder, got some exercise, changed your diet, blah blah blah, you’d be better.
I promise I won’t say any of that. People who say worry is a sin are wrong. These are the same people that refuse the say the word worry, but are always “Concerned” for people, “burdened” about situations, feel “uneasy” about something that might happen. I have news for them – those are all literally just other words for worry – so not only are they biblically wrong, but also hypocrites.
People who say that you can get over anxiety by “having enough faith” are also wrong. If your anxiety is a medical condition, then unless a miracle happens, it’s not going away if you pray, serve, and read your bible more. And, if your anxiety is about something that you should actually be anxious about – like if you’re not sure whether or not you put your campfire out all the way – or if someone you love who is serving in the military — or on a dangerous mission — or your wayward teen or alcoholic parent – or “hey look, there’s a giant snarling dog running and barking at me, with foam all around it’s mouth and someone yelling “Oh no! He’s loose! Watch out! He’ll kill you!” — then it would be wrong not to be anxious! That fight or flight response is a good thing!
Yes, in the sermon on the mount Jesus said “Do not worry about your life, your food, your clothes, the future, or persecutions”, but those are all about whether or not you, personally, trust God with the most fundamental parts of your life – or does Satan have a foothold in your life because you’re afraid God might not provide when you need it. But, knowing what you know about the life of Christ, would you ever say that Jesus was never concerned for people, burdened by situations, overwhelmed by difficult circumstance? Of course he was – and that was a good thing.
Just like Paul always feels “anxious” about the churches he planted and Timothy is commended for having “genuine concern” for the Philippians. That’s the Greek word for worry, the same one Jesus uses in the Sermon on the Mount. In 1 Corinthians 7:32-34 Paul talks about how good it is that single people are “anxious about the things of the Lord” – same word as Jesus used.
Some anxiety is good and healthy – some is bad and unhealthy. That’s what the Bible says.
So, you’re not going to hear any of that just try harder, have more faith, get some fresh air nonsense from me – or from this article.
It begins by talking about how ubiquitous anxiety is – how everyone has it. Sometimes they have an incredible amount of it that lands them in the hospital – or a mental illness that makes their brain chemistry go all wonky and they always feel it – others only get it once in a blue moon – but everyone gets it. The question is, what are Christian supposed to do about it?
The article has a few helpful points:
First, it’s important to acknowledge that we are fallen, physical creatures and that part of our problem is that this world is full of sin and our bodies are subject to corruption. As he says in the article, “When it comes to conditions such as anxiety and melancholy, research clearly suggests that some people have a greater tendency toward cognitive disruptions and misfiring brain circuits.”
Acknowledging that is an important step. It releases us from the guilt of feeling like we are faithless creatures because we have feelings we can’t control. Feeling guilty about that would be the same as a person who was born deaf, feeling guilty that they can’t hear things. It’s not a sin, it’s not because you sinned, it’s just something that happens because the world is still feeling the effects of the curse.
Second, he points out that when a Christian is battling anxiety, they need to realize that sometimes they can be their own worst enemy. Sometimes it’s not mental illness or demonic oppression or anything external – sometimes the bad feelings come because of our own choices. Not sleeping, eating garbage, letting your environment fall apart, drinking too much, or even being in the habit of letting unhealthy thinking or emotions take over instead of trying to use a little bit of brain power to see of those thoughts and feelings are valid.
To this, the author reminds us that the Bible is pretty clear that every individual Christian has a responsibility to use some discipline and clear thinking to give our bodies and brains a fighting chance.
Third, he reminds us that feelings in and of themselves aren’t bad, and the goal isn’t necessarily to try to change or get rid of our feelings. After all, you don’t want to never feel anxious ever again – that’s going to cause problems too. Anyone who has had experience with anti-anxiety medication will tell you that it’s a double edged sword. Sure, you don’t have as many symptoms and you’re not always on the edge of a panic attack – but as the anxiety goes away other things start to happen. Like, you spend more money on dumb stuff because you’re not as worried about the budget – or you drink more alcohol — or eat more calories – or start missing deadlines at work.
So, the goal isn’t to get rid of the emotions – the goal is to let that feeling draw you closer to God, and then honor Him by moving forward with whatever strength He gives. Sure, we feel the emotion, get the sweats, get the adrenaline shakes – but, in faith, we acknowledge our weakness, rest in God, realize we’re not in control, use all that cognitive behaviour therapy stuff we’ve learned, go through all the pieces of the armour of God to remind ourselves of the truth, do whatever practical things that help us get through it, and then… after the attack subsides – or as we come back down to our usual levels – we choose to take another step of obedience in whatever direction God has been telling us to – even though we really don’t feel like it – knowing that God has been with us the whole time and will continue to be with each step.
I’ll leave the rest of the article for you to read – because there’s still lots there – but I would love to hear your thoughts about it during my Livestream Q&A this Sunday at 12pm Eastern Standard Time. Send me some comments and questions in advance through the website, or record your voice through the Speakpipe page. Or, you can always show up and do it live. I hope you do come. It’s always an interesting time.
The last part of these podcasts is an “Interesting Study” on the classic book, “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan. Remember, there’s a link to this book – for free – on my blog if you want to read along. This week we’re looking at the Chapter 6 when Christian passes the lions near the Beautiful Palace.
I guess the obvious question here is, what are these lions all about, right? So Christian dropped his scroll and had to run back down the hill, back to the place where he fell asleep, and it took him so long that it was dark by the time he got to the top of the hill. And what did he see waiting at the top of the Hill of Difficulty? Two big, scary lions – right next to a very beautiful place where he could take refuge for the time. But, to get to the door – he had to face the lions. Those where the lions that had chased away Timorous and Mistrust – and almost had Christian turn back too.
But what are they there for? Well, the Porter at the door, after calling Christian a big chicken, says, “Fear not the lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith where it is, and for discovery of those that have none.”
The lions are a test of faith – a trial to separate the faithful and the unfaithful. We already know that one of the issues with the Straight and Narrow path is that folks have been known to jump the wall, or just wander onto the path without actually going through the Wicket Gate of Salvation, or coming to the Cross, or Meeting Jesus, or Getting their clothes changed, and their seal, and their scroll. Sometimes there are people who call themselves pilgrims, think they are pilgrims, who even believe they are saved, but are merely religious pretenders. They don’t actually believe in Jesus. They don’t trust and obey God. Now, they say they do… Sometimes they even preach the sermon, teach Sunday school, and are deacons in the church — but after climbing the hill of difficulty, when things have gone badly for them for a while, and they are tired, worn out, and sick of the darkness – they meet these lions, and it’s the last straw. They throw up their hands and say to themselves, “Forget it! And give up the whole faith. ”
I did a little digging around to see what folks thought these lions were. Some thought that the lions represented the threat of civil government and the state church that were oppressing and jailing people who professed the true gospel, like Bunyan. The lions were a test as to whether one would continue to obey the word of God and face the consequences – or would cave to the king and corrupt church.
Charles Spurgeon thought the lions represented the difficulties of joining a church. As in, facing the difficulties of officially identifying yourself with a certain group of believers. The Palace Beautiful is a church, but standing in the way of becoming part of the fellowship was the test as to whether or not this person believed in God and would submit to Watchman’s words to just stay in the middle of the road – which presumably is the preacher or elders of the church.
Thomas Scott thought the lions represented a person publically declaring their faith in Jesus. Passing between the lions held the same trepidation as someone coming out as a Christian to their family and friends.
One interesting note is that later in the book we find out that when Christian’s partner Faithful went through this same gate, the lions were asleep and he skipped the Beautiful Palace altogether. Meaning, I suppose, that for some people, in a different situation, different family, different country, it’s easier to declare your faith and live as a Christian than for others.
Regardless, I think the takeaway for today is to simply put ourselves in Christian’s position and ask ourselves if we would walk through the lions or not.
Sometimes we’re presented with a difficult choice. We know what we’re supposed to do, and we know that there’s a ton of risk. Maybe it’s declaring your faith in public. Maybe is confessing a sin you know is going to get you in trouble. Maybe it’s choosing to put yourself out there and build some new relationships. Maybe you’ve been lying about something and if you start telling the truth there will be a lot of consequences.
The question is, knowing what God has asked you to do, knowing it’s the right thing to do — will you walk between the lions, take the risk, and trust that doing the right thing, obeying God, obeying His word, regardless of the consequences?
Or – will you turn back. Will you say, I know what God wants, I know the right thing to do, but I don’t trust that God’s way is best. I’m more afraid of the consequences than I am of God, and I can’t do it. It’s easier to just turn away from God, turn away from the promise of peace on the other side, because facing those lions is too much.
Take some time to chew on that over the next few days and then let me, or someone else, know what you’ve decided.
And that’s it for today.
Thank you so much for listening, and I hope you heard something interesting.
Remember, you can find more episodes, and links to my social media, the new private Discord server, and a bunch of other good stuff (like my free books) on the website at ArtoftheChristianNinja.com.
If you want to follow along with what I’m doing, this podcast comes out on Fridays, and I livestream on Twitch from Sunday to Thursday at 12pm Easter Standard time at http://www.Twitch.tv/XtianNinja. On Thursdays I give a little devotional message and on Sundays we do an Ask Me Anything. I’d love it if you dropped by.
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Thank you again, have a great week, and I’ll talk to you on Sunday.