For Our Own Good- 1 Corinthians 12:8-12

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

COMMENTARY

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge; To another faith; to another the gifts of healing; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.
We have thus far considered how we all have certain areas of weakness in the gospel. But let us consider the more positive side of that coin, which is that we all have certain areas of strength within the gospel as well. And even more encouragingly, those strengths tend to be designed to bolster and inspire our brothers’ and sisters’ weaknesses.
If we are going to fret about “why am I not strong in this aspect of the gospel,” we might as well also encourage ourselves with the question “why am I so capable in this other?”

But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
And I believe those two questions find their answer in each other. I am weak in this commandment, so that my sister may embolden me with her strength. And I am strong in this other, so that I may be a support to my brother that is weak.
Just a couple days ago, entirely outside the context of this study, I was thinking to myself how my wife and I are so much more capable as a couple than as separate individuals. I believe we are able to accomplish far more by not being equally capable in every sector. By both of us being fragmented, but then fitted together, we become something better than either of us.

An Invitation

I want to start off by acknowledging that there’s almost always “an angle” in the blogosphere. So many comments and likes are left only in the hope of receiving comments and likes back again in a sort of ego-exchange. And I’ll be perfectly honest, in my early days of blog-writing I did exactly the same thing.

But I do believe it is possible to do something nice just to be nice, and I do believe that a real sense of community can be built even in the virtual world. And so I’d like to extend an open-ended offer to all of my readers, inviting them to let me know if there’s anything I can help them out with.

This is not about wanting a cross-promotion, a guest appearance, or a testimonial. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s not like I have nearly enough influence to be useful in building your brand anyway, and I stopped caring about building my own brand a while ago.

So Wait, What Exactly Are You Offering Then?

There are other blogs where’ve I wished I could reach out and have a personal chat with the author, but have felt that that would be too forward. There are people who I’ve respected and would like the opinion of, but don’t want to burden them for their insights. There are people that I would like to work with, just to make something together for the fun of it, but then worried they’d think I was just trying to get something from them for free.

In short, with today’s culture most of us feel like we need to have an invitation to connect. So this is my blanket invitation. This is me saying that if you want to chat, I’d love to chat. If you want me to look at your stuff, I’ll gladly tell you what I think. If you want to try making something together, I’d love to see what we can do and you keep the intellectual property!

My only stipulation is that we approach this in the spirit of genuine friendship. I sincerely do want to help…but even more than that I just want to get to know you better.

My Interests

It’s an open-ended offer, and if you decide to reach out you don’t have to keep yourself constrained within the following categories and examples. But just to get your ideas flowing, here are a few of the things that I have at least some experience in.

SPIRITUALITY
I know, I know, never talk about religion or politics if you don’t want to ruin a friendship, but if you’re on this blog then you already know that this is a very large sector of my life. I’d love to have theological discussions (though never an argument!) with anyone who cares to.
Most of us carefully couch everything we say about religion in order to not say anything offensive, but we all need to find a place where we feel safe enough to talk about very real frustrations and confusions. We need a friend who understands that partially formed ideas are only partially formed ideas. The relationships I value most in life are the ones where I am able to say “hey, this might sound crazy, but what if God is actually like this…?” If that sounds interesting to you, I’d love to chat.

STORIES
I love writing, and I will always write. Never mind if I’m any good at it or not, I’ll always be trying! But we writer’s are notoriously reclusive. None of our work is good enough to share, because if we show it to someone else they might think its terrible, and then they’ll hate us forever by extension.
Well, let me tell you, I’ve read the work of people that I love dearly and it was astoundingly bad. Yet, in spite of all temptation to forever loathe them for coming up with such a monstrosity, I somehow was still able to respect them as a person. I know, crazy! Not even sure how I came by this ability, but so long as I have it feel free to make use of it for some honest, but kind, feedback!
Or tell me about the idea you’ve always wanted to get rolling, but would like a fellow creator along the journey. Or ask me about my own work, see if I have a starting point laying around that you could build off of. Or just start a conversation about our favorite stories by others.

TECHNOLOGY
By profession I am a software developer. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I can fix your computer or build your website…but, depending on your exact situation, maybe I can! If you want an opinion for what your next laptop or cell phone should be, let me know what you’re use-case is and I’ll try to help you find something that you can really love.
Or maybe you’ve wanted to learn a bit more about technology? Perhaps you want to find out what we mean by “its all just 1s and 0s,” or you’d like to setup your first coding environment, or you’re about to take the plunge and build your first PC…let me help, I’d love to.
Or ask me about the hobby projects I’ve been coding up on the side. Tell me about your little game idea that you’ve always wished someone would make. Perhaps you’re a programmer yourself? Why don’t we see if there’s an intersection of interests and make something together?

LIFE
If none of the above is striking a chord, then talk to me about how you’re afraid your new job is about to let you go. Or how your marriage is on the rocks. Or how you felt so proud of your son yesterday. Or how you’d like to go to therapy but don’t want to be labelled as having a problem. Or how you wish the world saw your autistic brother the same way that you do. Fact is, I’m a darn good listener, and I would be privileged to do just that.

CONTACT ME

And like I said, don’t feel like the ideas I threw out were the only one’s you can take me up on. Thought of something totally different that could be helpful for you? Great. I’d love to hear it.

To make things simple, you can just email me directly at abe.austin@gmail.com

If you don’t get a response, assume that it went to my spam. I promise I won’t ignore any reach-out that I receive. So if I don’t respond to your email within a day, then either send another or try using the Contact page of this site.

Okay, I think that about covers it.

If I’m being honest…I don’t actually expect anyone to reach out.

So prove me wrong.

I really would like to get to know you.

The Need for Refreshing- 2 Timothy 1:16, 2 Corinthians 7:13

The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:

Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all.

COMMENTARY

The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me
Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all
There are three people that live in my home, and I have learned how the mood of one can quickly affect the mood of all! Fortunately, it does not have to be that if one person is having a bad day that everyone else is dragged down. Instead it can be that if one person is having a good day that they lift everyone else up. It takes a little conscious effort to push the flow in a positive way, but each of us knows that this is our duty to do.
In other words we know that we must use our peaceful tranquility to refresh one another. When my wife was struggling through her first trimester my son and I tried to give her rest and peace. When I was struggling with a project at work my wife and son tried to make home a joyful respite. When our son was overwhelmed with fears of death my wife and I tried to soothe him with pledges of eternal love.
Even outside of the home I have a friend that has been through many of the same trials that I have. When I was feeling weighed down and hopeless he listened to my every fear and encouraged me. Later when it was his turn to feel broken I did the same for him.
As disciples, when we are in a good place we must bolster up those that are not. Then, we need to let them do the same for us later. We refresh each other, we save each other, we come to God together.

Peace in the Storm- 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, Alma 7:12

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

COMMENTARY

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
By definition, the most common storms we face will be the usual afflictions of life: sickness, death, betrayal, doubt, pain, wars, misunderstanding, ignorance, and vice. No matter our lifestyle these are unavoidable.As Paul himself describes in these verses, we are troubled, perplexed, persecuted, and cast down.
But Paul also asserts that we can be all of these things, yet still not overcome. We can be buffeted by the storm, but not overwhelmed by it. That sounds very encouraging. If the storm cannot be removed entirely, at least it can be limited from swamping us entirely. But hearing this promise one naturally has to ask “but why? And how?”

Always bearing the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in our body
And he will take upon him their infirmities, that he may know how to succor his people according to their infirmities

Paul anticipates that question, and in his very next verse points to the dying sacrifice of Jesus which buoys us up in life. It is that alone which holds the storms of life at a manageable level.
Thus if we were abandoned in this fallen world then these storms would overwhelm us. We might stand against them for a time, but eventually we would break and succumb. Each of us would become jaded, cynical, and faithless.
But for those that will accept his help, Jesus planted himself in that exact same storm alongside of us. He knows how the waves hit, and he knows how to bolster us where we would otherwise fall. The storm does have the power to destroy us, but it does not have the power to destroy us and Christ together.

Knit Our Hearts- Ecclesiastes 4:9-11, 12

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

COMMENTARY

For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow
A threefold cord is not quickly broken
A single strand does have some strength to it. That is why when it is weaved with another it is able to increase its power. But two cords woven as one has more than double the strength of each individually. Similarly, two oxen, when pulling together, are able to carry far more than a double load.
A man alone is in danger of falling to all manner of temptation and self-harm. This is why in addiction recovery they teach individuals to make connections to one another, to be accountable to each other at low times. Once one has a companion in the hard place, the likelihood of a relapse begins to plummet.
The bonding of two souls is one of the most enchanting mysteries I know of. Somehow the two retain perfect individuality, yet also become a single unit. No matter how big a number it is, it can only become greater by addition. Similarly, no matter how strong of an individual you are, you will always be greater with a companion.

The Family of God- Revelation 22:8-9, Hebrews 13:2, Matthew 17:3

And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.
Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

COMMENTARY

For I am thy fellowservant
Some have entertained angels unawares
There appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him

I wanted in this study to look at our brothers and sisters beyond the veil, to consider how they are included in our family unit. And really there isn’t too much to find. We really know very little about the work of angels, I suppose we have enough to worry about on this side.
What we do know is that they are the souls of those that once lived on the earth, that they are still among us today, and that they are concerned with our affairs. All of which means that the notion of death separating us from the cares of this world is deeply misguided. The living and the dead are still very much kin to one another, caught up in the same war between good and evil, and each called to support one another in that struggle.
My suspicion is that when we get to the other side we will be surprised at how integral our angel brothers and sisters have been to everyday life. I am sure their work is not only limited to those rare moments of miraculous manifestation, but rather that their time is filled with many invisible efforts that we have never noticed.

The Family of God- Question

The study I have just concluded, one based on the need to serve to one another, suggested a new topic to me. In that research it seemed evident that we are designed to be social. Our hearts yearn for a sense of community, to regard one another as brothers and sisters, and to support each other on a shared adventure.

The scriptures definitely support this idea of us all being members of one family under God, and the way of the hermit is not what our nature was designed for. Given that, I would like to study what the ties that bind us together are, how they are strengthened, and what blessings can only be obtained as a group.

Obviously some of us are supremely lonely. And sometimes we are by necessity, such as when our belief in God puts us at opposition to those around us. But even then we still believe in communion with God and angels, a group of believers that extends beyond the veil to support us. I’d like to explore this aspect of the gospel as well.

In the meantime, I’d be curious to hear what community of discipleship you’ve been able to build up around you. Aside from local church groups, how do you setup a network of faith to rely on? What ways have those communities lifted you to more than you could have ever accomplished on your own?

Our Dual Nature- Ether 12:27, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

COMMENTARY

I give unto men weakness that they may be humble
One thing about the garden of Eden is that once there, Adam and Eve really didn’t need God in their lives. They needed Him to create them and to plant a garden that would cater to their every need, but after that they lacked for nothing and could have continued forever with no further involvement from Him again.
But that isn’t how humanity was designed to live. We come from God, and so we have a hole in us that only He can fill. Each one of us is born with flaws, things that undermine our attempt to be entirely self-sufficient. No matter how firmly we deny it, we have weakness that are just too big for us to handle on our own. We need help.

Then will I make weak things become strong unto them
For when I am weak, then am I strong
But if there were no weakness, there could not be any strength. There is no value in a victory that was gained without opposition. No muscle grows without resistance. The man who has been beset by lust, but with God’s help has mastered his passions is strong in his fidelity because it takes strength to maintain it. The woman who is weighed down by shame but has embraced God’s message of inherent worth is powerful in her self-love because she puts effort into sustaining it.