Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Devote and destroy

When the walls of Jericho fell (Joshua 6:20&21) the Israelites rushed in a devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed it totally.

In re-reading an old journal entry I found a note: devoted, "the Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them."

Devoted. Never has that word seemed so scary.

We say we have devoted our lives to God, but have we really?

Devotion means destroying our former selves and lives completely. That's why it can feel so scary to be completely submitted. Not because we don't think God has good plans for us, but because we know along the way there will be a lot that is uncovered and destroyed before God fulfills his plans in us. And we can be pretty certain that it's rarely going to be a painless process. Especially since many of us have spent a lifetime building a walled fortress far more imposing than Jericho around our hearts.

How much are we trying to cover and hide with walls as if God can't see through them? Yet still pretending we are fully devoted to God.

But you know what, those walls come down relatively easily if we let God have his way. A job that seemed impossible - destroying Jericho - the Israelites did by simply walking around the city. They didn't have to go in fighting and battering - they simply had to show a bit of commitment, and ignore the inevitable thoughts of "this is stupid, everyone is laughing at us" and let God have his way. Sure it took a while, but compared to what it would have taken the human way to defeat that city, marching was nothing.

Then when everything was laid bare, they had to destroy it completely. Spare nothing.

Leave no vestige of your old life or sinful nature behind to sprout again like noxious weeds. Devote it. Destroy it.

Then what you will have left is the promised land. A clean and pure heart. No obstacles or distractions between you and God.

It IS worth the pain.

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Parents are custodians of Gods children

I was running a bible study with some young people and talking about how God is beyond our understanding. And that's a good thing, because it means we didn't create him and we should be glad about that. If our God was created by us we'd end up with a god like the ancient Greeks and Romans, whose gods were just as flawed as humans, but with a whole lot more power with which to cause trouble. Anything we create is going to be less than us because it has to be within the realms of our understanding for us to create it.

But that's not actually the topic this blog post is about, because it was a question that one of the girls asked me that made me think. She asked "is everything we create less than ourselves - what about children?"

It's a good question, and one that raises the issue this post is actually about. Because that supposes that we do actually create children. That they are a product of our own effort.

Children are obviously not less than us otherwise every generation would get progressively dumber and less capable, and that's not the case.

But that's because we don't create our children. We may use the biological processes of our bodies to bring them forth. But we didn't create those biological processes that make that possible. We didn't create the genetic material. We don't pick and choose the characteristics and personalities and gifts and abilities of our children (though some would like to and are trying to - but that can only end badly).

God created us. He set up the natural process to make children possible. And HE knit us together in our mothers womb. Basically mothers are the carriers of God's creation.

We don't own our children. We are the custodians of God's children.

That doesn't mean I'm saying parents aren't important. God chose you to be the parent of your children for a reason, and that is a special thing. But it also doesn't mean parents have the right to their children to do whatever they like. We are given an important responsibility to bring up the children we are given to know God, their heavenly father and creator.

I think many people think they have rights as parents, more than they think they have responsibilities and custodianship of a person who ultimately belongs to God. And this leads to parents feeling their children owe them something, that as parents they deserve certain things and can demand certain things simply because they are the parent. Discipline is for the benefit of the child, not because the parent is angry or frustrated at how inconvenient the child is being.

We don't create our children, we are blessed with them according to Gods goodness. And so as God's children, whether they are biologically ours or not all children are our responsibility to care for and raise up for God - the church's responsibility as God's family.

Western society is particularly bad at remember this community, and at thinking of everything we have as solely our possessions. We need to consciously remember to think of children as gifts from God; we are meant to be the stewards and custodians of gifts from God, not the owners. Those gifts still belong to God even while we are looking after them.

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.
-Ephesians 6:1-4

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Loud surrender

My surrender isn't always quiet and peaceful, hands raised in worship, tears of joy on my face. That is beautiful and lovely.

But I don't always feel quiet and peaceful inside. And I think God gets that.

Sometimes I forget that he created me and sees everything. So I try to put on a face, and say the things that are politically correct. Like, "God, I know I'm meant to be patient and at peace, and so that's what I'm going to do. Here I am, patient and at peace."

When really I'm boiling over inside. I'm a hurricane of emotions. I forget that God doesn't want my polite platitudes. He's not fooled. He can already see what's inside and he's saying "why are you trying to hold on to that all by yourself. Let it go. Give it to me."

So lately I've been consciously making the choice to say to God exactly what's on my mind, not just what I think should be on my mind. If I'm mad, I'll tell him. If I'm frustrated, I'll tell him. If I can't understand what is going on, I'll tell him. Even if I'm mad at him, even if I'm frustrated at him, even if I don't understand what he's doing. I tell him all that. He knows it anyway, do I think I'm hiding it from him?

So my surrender is sometimes loud and physical. If I'm by myself it might be outwardly like that, but mostly it's in my head, in my spirit. Sometimes to surrender I have to bash down a wall in my heart first.

God is big. He can take our little fists beating against his chest. And better that he takes it all than we let it out on someone else, or hold it all inside until we implode. And he holds on to us, so we can't hurt ourselves, and when we've let it all out we can just rest in his arms.

I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?" Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 42:9-11).

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Girls...who run the world? Um...God.

According to Beyonce, girls rule the world. She's been singing about it for years - women taking care of themselves.

Don't get me wrong - I like Beyonce. I think she's pretty cool, and she's definitely got a lot of talent and intelligence. And You'll probably catch me singing along to 'who run this motha' with the rest of them.

But I fear Beyonce is an example of how our world view can seem right, but still be skewed from God's view.

I am glad that women are recognising that we cannot expect men to provide all the perfect love, identity, protection and security we desire. Putting the sole onus on men to be everything and the centre of our lives is unfair and misplaced - it can only lead to confusion and disappointment.

But then where do we turn. It is from ourselves that we find all these things? Do we rely on ourselves? Do we put ourselves at the centre?

I think the only outcome of that is more confusion and disappointment.

The world turns from one way to another, and another, and another. Constantly searching for just the right model for a perfect, happy, successful life. The problem with all those ways, though they may not seem bad in themselves, is that none of those ways is God.

If we put anything other than Him at the centre of our lives, then that becomes our god. And a god of our own creation is going to be just a s flawed as we are - especially because it is often ourselves that we are putting at the centre.

Beyonce is a strong woman, and I hope the influence she has over other women who need encouragement is a good one. But dont look to the world for the definition of what a woman should be. Even if it seems good, if it's not God, it leads nowhere.

I hope Christian women can remember to provide an even stronger image of life to those who are seeking. One of a loving God where all our security and identity was created and the only place it can again be restored to us. Not by rejecting men and relying on ourselves - but by putting aside ourselves and relying on God.

Colossians 3:1-4
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New 'wear it' Wednesday

This is a whole different kind if Wear It Wednesday, taken from the kind of wear it when something you've done that is wrong or embarrassing is put on display and you have to "wear it".

Appropriately, the urban dictionary informs me, the term also has a meaning to do with drinking - being drunk or hungover.

Appropriate because I used to drink. I used to bringe drink, which is a big part of the reason why I don't drink alcohol at all anymore.

The first reason is because I don't actually like the taste. But that obviously isn't a big enough reason in itself, because I still used to do it.

From year 11 until early in my fourth year of uni, I used to binge drink. In high school it was once every weekend that I could get away with it. By the end, while I was studying in England and traveling in Europe it was as many nights a week as I could get away with.

I was a mess. Frequently I would drink until I was sick, or at least until I made a complete fool of myself. I felt desperate. I thought I wanted to feel something, to feel belonging, to make everything easy and fun - but in reality I wanted to feel nothing. I wanted to feel nothing because that's all I truly believed there was - nothing really worth having. Or nothing real that I was worthy of having.

And so I drank until oblivion would let me forget for a while that I was desperate.

Even though my time living in England has some of the best memories of my life, it was also my lowest point.

It shows you the amazing capability we have as humans to cope and function in a sort of half life, and fool ourselves that it is full.

The saddest thing is that nobody noticed my despair. Nobody did anything about my drinking,, other than to make sure I got home safely. Nobody did anything, because it was normal. I was just another drunk girl who needed to be put in a taxi home. My friends may have found it annoying those times they had to look after me, but that was it. It was normal.

Imagine if I came to church so drunk I couldn't walk straight. I'm pretty sure there'd be a reaction. Depending on the church and the people, it might be a judgmental, unloving reaction - or it might not - but either way there would be a reaction.

And shouldn't there be? Shouldn't it make you think "What is happening in this persons life, their heart, their soul, that they have ended up this way? They need to know the love and freedom that is available! Dont let them miss out and struggle on a minute longer! Love them!"

The thing is, those people don't come into our churches. I didn't. At my worst point I hadn't been to church for years, and even though I was starting to admit to myself I still did believe in God, I wouldn't have set foot in a church. I couldn't. I felt too ashamed. I felt like I would be judged and rejected for my failures.

Maybe I wouldn't have been - there are many welcoming loving churches out there. But there are manny desperate people out there who feel the church is the last place they will find love and acceptance.

So for the first time - because normally I avoid telling people (Christians) the truth about those years of my life - I'm wearing it.

The urban dictionary says wearing it is about being humiliated. Fortunately for me, I know longer feel shame about it. Fortunately for all of us, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

Because Jesus already 'wore it'. Everything. All our sins. Every. Single. One.

There is no fear or shame, but love, mercy, grace and forgiveness.

And a desperate world out there who needs what we've got.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The joy of the Lord is my strength

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
-Nehemiah 8:10

This is even from the old testament - you know that bit of the bible that we tend to think of as the 'harsher' God.

God is the same yesterday, today and forever.

The joy of the Lord is your strength. Not - God will give you joy if you a strong and stick it out.

His joy is your strength. Rejoice in Him.

Monday, August 8, 2011

God doesnt care about the rules.

Really think about it... Why does God care about sin? Is it because it is just another thing we are screwing up?

I think sometimes we think that's what it's all about. God doesn't want us to sin because he wants us to be good little children who obey the rules.

True, God is perfect and holy - to be God he has to be totally removed from sin. But if you think about it, thats exactly why he doesn't want us to sin - because then we remove ourselves from him.

He's not angry at us because we broke his rules - he is heart broken, and emploring us to come back, to stop turning away. Because he knows how much we are hurting ourselves.

And that's why I think God doesn't care about rules. What he is interested in, rather than us doing all the right things, is us knowing Him. He knows the love and forgiveness he is pouring out on us constantly and he knows that we miss out on that when we sin. Not because God withholds is love like a vindictive teacher who wants to punish a frustrating student.

But because he longs to give love and we are refusing to receive it.

If we realised that everything God has told us about how to live life, the right and wrong things to do, is all there to point us to the way to live in a close relationship with Him - if we looked at it like that, rather than thinking of it as a whole bunch of rules and expectations God burdened us with - we'd be so much better off. The greatest commandment is love God. If you need a rule to live by, aim for that one.

If we could do this, others would start seeing the love that Christianity is meant to be all about.

We wouldn't rank sins anymore, we wouldn't put ourselves above others. We'd be humble and see that whether our sins are telling a 'little white lie' or murdering - it's all a choice to turn away from God. It's all causing us to miss out on the big, crazy, consuming love of God.

That's why God doesn't care about rules like we think he does. He cares about love. A love that consumes and changes us from the inside out. It is all a gift. The biggest, most radical, amazing gift you've ever be offered.

Receive it!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Sabbath is for us

Mark 2:27 "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."

Sometimes we look at 'the Sabbath' as some rule God has given us that we have to live up to or else we aren't being holy.

You know what, you can relax. You'll never be holy enough anyway.

And here is Jesus telling us something we often forget - the Sabbath was made for us. God knew out lives would be hectic and busy and full of responsibility and stuff to get done, and that we'd need rest; time to get closer to Him. So he said to us "take a break. Rest in me."

Might you feel differently about 'keeping the Sabbath' if you looked at it as God's gift to you? His permission to take it easy!

Monday, August 1, 2011

We don't just have bigger weapons

Sometimes I think we look out our authority in Jesus like we just have the bigger weapon. Like the demons have little guns, but we have a bigger one.

Or in the words of Crocodile Dundee we say
"You call that a knife?" and think we've pulled out our big Jesus sized knife to the enemies switch blade.

But I don't think that's good enough. That still leaves room for someone to have a bigger weapon. Even if we had a bazooka to their water pistol, it leaves room for someone to come along with a tank.

Or someone to use the weapon better than us. We might have the giant knife, but we're still afraid they slip in there and get us in the ribs.

In Mark 3:11 it says Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”

They fell down before him and cried out. They recognised him instantly. They didn't wait for him to say anything to them, to pull the God card. They saw him and recognised him as the son of God. As the ultimate authority under which they have no power. None. It doesn't matter what weapons they thought they had, what they thought they could get away with, as soon as they saw Jesus they knew they had already lost.

And you know what, Jesus is in us. We now have the authority too. And that's not just a bigger weapon than the enemy, that's the absolute assurance that God has already won and the devil has no power. And he knows it.

He just doesn't want you to.