Friday, 26 August 2011

Facing My Doubt

This is my second morning sitting on our porch, reading my bible and praying.  I am being drawn out here where I can read God's word and pray.

God is doing something in me and I am restless.  Not only am I restless but I am a bit concerned about where all of this is going to lead.  Have you ever had that feeling?  I can't put down my bible and yet if I am honest with myself there is part of me that wants to put it down because I am afraid of what God will reveal.  You see deep down I like comfort.  I like my life.  I love my kids and my husband and my family.  I have been aware for some time now that the cost for me to follow Christ has not been high.  My parents did not disown me.  I do not fear for my life.  Our Canadian culture, although not joyfully receptive that I follow Christ, does not persecute me because of my profession of faith.  Our family has been free to leave our friends at a church we love in order to move to a new city to start a new church.  Really, in comparison to what others have had to give up in order to follow Jesus, the cost on my life has been minimal.  I love Jesus and my heart's desire is bring glory and honour to Him with my life but I have been wondering as of late if I like my life to look too much like the lives of others?

I am currently reading through Colossians.  Paul is imprisoned in Rome and although he had never met the people of Colossae they are on his heart and he writes them a letter that is speaking to my heart in so many ways.  The city of Colossae reminds me of my new home in Hamilton.  The mixture of backgrounds made that city an interesting cultural centre where all sorts of new ideas and doctrines were discussed, considered and encouraged.  I have found much of that same environment here.

Paul writes, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ."(Colossians 2:8)

I am really struggling with that scripture.  At first I thought, "Oh that is not me." but as I have pondered on the rest of the chapter I have realized that God is speaking very clearly to my heart.  By the time I got to the last three verses of the chapter I was beginning to see that I can very easily deceive myself in my relationship with Christ.

"If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”  (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence."  ~ Colossians 2:20-23

Ouch that hits home......things that appear and look good and wise to us are of no value?  How have I allowed the world and the expectations of our culture to creep into my relationship with Jesus?  What things do I do that make me look good by the world's standards or even by our Christian culture standards but really do not bring glory to Christ?  What would my faith look like outside of my Canadian culture? All these questions make me a bit nervous and I think David Platt, in his book Radical, really communicates my own fears best.

"I was now confronted with a startling reality: Jesus actually spurned the things that my church culture said were most important.  So what was I to do? I found myself faced with two big questions.  The first was simple.  Was I going to believe Jesus?  Was I going to embrace Jesus even though he said radical things that drove crowds away?  The second was more challenging.  Was I going to obey Jesus? My biggest fear, even now, is that I will hear Jesus words and walk away, content to settle for less than radical obedience to him." ~ David Platt

Yep,  David nails it.  My fear is to really examine if am I believing Jesus and am I obeying Him.  Not a lip service belief and response but a whole hearted absolute surrender to His Will in every aspect of my life all the time.  I want to be radical but I am not sure what that looks like exactly.  I want to live life here on earth always in response to Jesus.  I don't want to blend into the neighbourhood.  I don't want to cling to short-term treasures that I can't keep anyway.  I want every moment of my life to be invested in things that are eternal always keeping mind a mental picture of the day when I will stand before God giving an account of my stewardship of this life.  

So as I sit here I am praying that God will do the impossible and change my heart.  I can't do it.  I am just like the eleven disciples in verse 17 of Matthew 28.  "When they saw Him, They worshiped Him; but some were doubtful." And so, as I start my day, I am hanging on to Jesus' response to their worship and the last words that Matthew records:
"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

I Want to Be Fearless

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
~ Ephesians 6:12

I didn't notice the broken window or the glass on the ground in the backyard but as I gazed around our living room strewn with the contents of our drawers and shelves and cupboards,  I realized something wasn't right.  Somehow though my brain didn't put two and two together until Jason said to me, "We've been robbed."  What ensued from that point on was lots of emotions, lots of calming our youngest daughter down that the bad guy would not come back, lots of dealing with police and a finger-print expert and a great friend who fixed our window and lots of clean-up.

The next day I posted the above Ephesians scripture on Facebook.  My good friend Anita wrote back right away with this comment.  

"Stand firm girl....shield lifted high, helmet on and sword raised....."

I thought about that comment all day and realized that I had forgotten the context of the scripture that I had posted.  Yes, I had recognized that it was really not about the thief that invaded our house because our struggle is not against flesh and blood but there is more.   What I had neglected to make sure I remembered was,  how was I going to dress for the occasion!  Below is what I need so that I do not allow the enemy to use this to gain a foothold and to discourage me about our safety and security in our house and about our ministry here.   As I read God's words and allowed them to sink in I knew I did not want to go into this battle unprotected.
The Armor of God
 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. 
~ Ephesians 6:10-20

I have to admit that I am a pacifist at heart and I don't like weapons that shoot projectiles of any kind...guns, arrows....automatic nailers!  I don't like shoot 'em up games or knights that fight so it took me a long time to really connect to the whole battle armor imagery in this scripture.  But once I started to see it from a protective point of view that God wants to give us all the resources and tools that we needed to protect ourselves then I really began to dig into this treasure.  I love that the scripture says, "Put on the full armor of God..."  There are different pieces of equipment that I need and they all go together to protect me fully.   If I forget a piece I leave myself vulnerable.  If I am vulnerable I can not be fearless in God's purpose for my life.  I want to be fearless.

You may not have had somebody break into your house lately and steal your things but you may be going through something else that is difficult or is discouraging you.  Don't let it become a stronghold.  As my wise friend Anita says, 

"Stand firm girl....shield lifted high, helmet on and sword raised....."