Friday, 29 May 2015

When God tells you to rest

Ah, rest. That elusive concept that Jesus talks about a couple of times but I'll think about it later. I've got other things to do, God. You understand right?

I mean, I've got good, holy Christian things to do. Like helping lead the youth group every Friday night, and then there's all this admin stuff I said I'd do for the Christians on campus. Oh and I said I'd meet with that friend on campus, man they are going through a tough time right now. Prayer group is coming up this week. Wow there's so much going on around the world, gotta pray for all those people. And that family's moving house earlier in the day so I should be able to fit that in... I'm sure I'll have time to study in between. Gotta get those marks for His glory! 

On and on it went.

On and on.

And on.

Needless to say I eventually crashed. It wasn't pretty. 

And what am I doing now you ask? Weeeeeell... Much the same thing. 

But! I have cut back on some things (youth group and the admin stuff being the major ones). So God's getting me there and I'm starting to listen. Sometimes.

The truth is we're not superhuman. Disappointing I know. Sometimes we need to take a break, we need to rest, we need to say the dreaded 'n' word (*whispers* no...) and let the Holy Spirit minister to our weary souls. 

My dear 'friend' Perfectionism doesn't like letting people down and is desperate to get absolutely everything right, as she sees it. Thankfully, grace says differently. Grace says it's ok I'm not perfect, that I don't always get everything right. If I did I wouldn't need Jesus!! 

So let's listen to grace more often and tell Perfectionism to go away? 

Guess which way Perfectionism wants you to go??
Image via Pixabay

For further reading I highly recommend Solio Deo Gloria's post on 'The Cost of the Cape.' You can find it here.

Additionally, if this is something (perfectionism) you particularly struggle with (1) you are not alone and can read one of my post's on the topic here and (2) you may benefit from reading the Sandford's chapter on 'Performance Orientation' in their book Transformation of the Inner Man.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

God is Love

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres

If you remember, way back at the dawn of time (so March), I started this little series into the ever famous 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7. I've decided to finish up with verse seven rather than eight as the context of spritiual gifts versus love is probably another series in itself. 

So, here we are. The final installation of "serious bloggers have labels and blog series" (self-deprecating humour is my speciality).

Love always protects

I can say with absolute certainty that I do not always protect. According to this Pastor's blog post "protect" is more closely translated from the Greek as "bearing," meaning that it bears up under difficulty, and doesn't run away at the first sign of trouble.

I like to think of myself as a pretty loving person but there are days when I am tired and worn out and switch my phone off, log off Facebook and because I cannot bear helping another friend out. 

I found this photo when searching "introvert." I found it appropriate.
Nguyen Hung Vu under CC license
And that's ok. For my fellow introverts we need some people-free time otherwise terrible things happen (like, we get cranky). It's not ideal and certainly not a perfect picture of love but I do know that I can love others better when I'm feeling ok within myself.

Love always trust

This means putting our faith in relationships, in other people and loving them unconditionally. Yeah that's not me either. I'm great at loving people I like but loving my enemies? C'mon Jesus, let's be serious... (Spoilers: He's totally serious).

Sandro Kharazashvili
via WikiMedia Common
under CC license
Love always hopes

To love is to hope, to have faith in seemingly impossible
situations...And with seemingly impossible people. When people close to you are struggling sometimes they can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Sometimes we need to point them in the right direction, but that doesn't mean they're going to listen. They might want to sit in their dark tunnel for a while (see last week's post). This is difficult, we may become discouraged and start to lose hope too.

Love always perseveres

Similar to the situation above love calls us to persevere in difficult times. To persevere, to endure in faith and in hope. We bear all (protect), love unconditionally (trust), hold to our faith (hope) and we just keep going, keep slogging through and soldiering on (persevere).

That Pastor's post I mentioned earlier describes love as "tenancious" and I think that's a great way to sum up this verse: don't give up, don't give in. And how can I possibly do this? Because Jesus didn't up on me. No matter how many foolish things I do, how much I push and argue and run away He is always there. 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

"I am worn out from my groaning..."

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth

The last week has been difficult for me. I've had some really tough days and been very low. When you've been going well for a while it's a bit of shock to the system to suddenly be in "that place" again.

shattered.art66 under CC license

It's easy to beat yourself up and just heap more blame and negative thinking onto yourself. You get angry, you lash out at those around you. You cry. Or don't. Sometime the feelings choke you and the heaviness just sits there, with very little release through tears. Things are thrown, doors are slammed and you start to wonder how you ever deluded yourself that things were getting better.

I doubt anyone who reads the above is going to think I'm "delighting in evil." I wrote a post on my personal Facebook page about the celebration of death following the executions in Indonesia. That is a better example of taking delight in evil.

However I think we can develop a certain "addiction" to suffering. This is a generalised statement and should not to be twisted to blame others for their suffering. Have a read of the book of Job one time and you'll see how God feels about that (spoilers: it's not viewed kindly).

But we can almost enjoy dwelling in our suffering. In my post about idolatry I talked about how we typically get something out of the idol, hence why we continue to be loyal to something/one that is harmful.

Recovery is not a straightforward process and it's not uncommon to go through a continuous, near-maddening process of two steps forward, one step back.

But where does that step back lead?

To evil.

To the lies.

To the hurt and the pain part of us longs to cling to.

And the alternative?

The truth. Jesus. Love. Grace. Forgiveness.

But to get there we need to surrender and submit ourselves to God. And all of a sudden the lie so much sweeter, so much easier. But, and please trust me on this one, it is far better to submit yourself to God.

In situations of distress and temptation for Christians other believers often quote James 4: 7: "resist the devil and he will flee from you." This is truth we can rejoice in, "take heart! For I have overcome the world." (John 16: 33)

But sometimes we forget, or omit, the first part of that verse: "Submit yourself to God."

Adapted from original by Martin LaBar under CC license

So, this becomes a three step event:
1. Submit yourself to God
2. Resist the Devil
3. And he will flee from you

And as I have written on a note beside my bed:
1. Submit
2. Resist
----> Flee

My lesson for this week? Pain can be addictive. Like any 'drug' it is evil but we take a sort of twisted delight in it. But love says to rejoice in the truth. And the truth is is that I am loved, I am forgiven, and that Jesus is greater than my heart, than my feelings. And I can stay here in the mirey clay, in "that place" and He will still love me. Praise God.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Forgiveness in light of Indonesian executions

Love keeps no record of wrongs

For my Australian readers I don't have to say much more beyond "Andrew Chan" and you probably know where I'm heading with this. For those of you who have not had their newsfeeds inundated with updates on the Bali 9 I will explain briefly.

In 2005 Andrew Chan and Myurman Sukumaran were arrested in Indonesia as the ringleaders of a drug smuggling ring, dubbed the Bali 9. They and six others were were executed by firing squad earlier this week.

Responses have been mixed. Some fought tooth and nail to get clemency while others begged Indonesian officials to hurry up and shoot then already. And there were Christians and non-Christians on both sides. Considering both Chan and Sukumaran had come to Christ during their imprisonment the lack of compassion among some Christians was especially sad.

So what? Who cares, they're drug smugglers!

And the thief on the cross was no saint either but Jesus promised to see him in paradise. 

The reality of this world is that people are going to stuff up, they're going to hurt you and you're going to want to hurt them back. Then Jesus comes along and tells us he loves us anyway.

He doesn't care what you've done. His victory on the cross wiped away your sins and by the riches of God's glorious grace we are forgiven and free. Chan and Sukumaran came to realise this. As they stood waiting to be executed Chan led the men in singing Amazing Grace.

The author of Amazing Grace was a slave trader and a rapist. He came to know the truth about God's grace and love. However he still struggled with temptation, forcing himself on women and indulging his flesh. But God loved Him anyway. That's not to say we get off scott free and can do whatever feel like. That would be throwing God's gift of grace back in His face. That can only end badly. 

Andrew Chan and Myuraman Sukumaran did not get off scott free. They spent 10 years in prsion, were hated and scorned by their fellow citizens and I imagine they thought less than loving thoughts against their jailers at times. 

But they stood in God's grace, offered freely through His Son, in His love that keeps no record of wrongs. And if we are to love like Jesus loved we must to the same. 

"A new command I give to you: love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." 
(John 13: 34-35)