The Western dream… no servitude

I was in year 12 when I first heard about ‘The American Dream.’ We were studying Of Mice and Men and my teacher was explaining George and Lennie’s pursuit of land to call their own as the ultimate American dream.

This goal has become the veritable ‘pot at the end of the rainbow’ for much of western society; to own a piece of land has become both the American and Australian dream. We may have masters at work, but at home we are slaves to no one. Even our political systems are built on the premise that the common man does not serve the leader, but the leader serves the common man.

As a result, one of the greatest challenges I face is that of servitude to God. No longer does my generation feel any real duty to ‘King and Country.’ In fact, if I’m honest, the concept of truly living my life in servitude to anyone seems foreign to me.

There are many who have laid down their lives for our liberty, and for that I am grateful, but I am afraid that it has created a dangerous illusion. I struggle to lay down my life in full servitude to God, because I have been falsely led to believe that my life is my own. Not only to I fail to see that I am a slave to sin or self, but I have lost all comprehension of the honour it is to serve a great master.

But I’ve been patient for a long time!

573785_35739861950403bcce628b84f7b54513_largeDoes anyone else have things that they’ve been praying about for a long time?

For ten years I prayed that God would heal me from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. For even longer I’ve had a desire to get married. For a lifetime I’ve been praying for unsaved family members.

Sometimes God answers prayer quickly, but sometimes, as I found yet again the other day, the Still Small Voice says to me ‘Sarah, be patient and trust me.’

I must confess, I responded with an indignant lament: ‘But God, I’ve BEEN patient… for a really long time!’

It felt like a valid point. How could God still ask for patience when I had already waited so long. And therein I discovered my error. Patience and waiting are not the same thing. It was quite possible that I could have waited for something for ten years and yet never actually been patient.

I looked the word up:

Patient: bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger or the like.

It turns out that patience is an attribute that still needs great cultivation in my life.

It’s funny how God reminded me to be patient and trust. For the Christian, the two must go together. How can I bear hardship and delay with great fortitude and calm? Because I know that my God, who holds and ordains all things, can be trusted to bring me that which is good, in His perfect time.

Gratitude and a busted microwave

When I was a teenager, my parents’ microwave broke. It seems odd to me now, but I distinctly remember feeling surprised when my dad went out that weekend and bought a new one.

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I imagine I’d reached the age where I realized that things cost money, and perhaps begun to have my eyes opened to the fact that there were lots of things that some people couldn’t afford.

A microwave seemed like a big expense, and when dad came home with a new one, I realized, probably for the first time, that my parents were rich. Not filthy rich, perhaps, but comfortable rich. I remember saying to dad, ‘Wow, it’s pretty amazing that you can just go out and buy a new microwave. Some people couldn’t do that.’

I’ve been reminded of this many times over the years when I face unexpected expenses. Last Friday my car wouldn’t start. Within an hour the RAA had come and I had a new battery. The $170 was an expense that was very inconvenient and I felt like getting annoyed, but then I remembered to be grateful.

I will still eat this week. I will still pay my mortgage and I still bought the shoes I needed. Many people can’t do that. I have to remember that any time I receive a bill I can afford to pay, it is a time to be grateful.

When people are more credible than God

16729706_10154591992678143_339497224_nIn our world, if it can be sold, there’s someone selling it and a celebrity promoting it. The marketing machine of our culture is so normal to us that we rarely stop to reflect how mad we’ve gone.

This was highlighted to me the other day when I saw this article from My Christian Daily: “Prince Harry – Do good in your local church.”

I can almost see the frenzied Christian excitement as Prince Harry, a real celebrity, endorsed the church ‘brand.’

On one level it makes me roll my eyes, on another it causes me deep concern.

First, we need to be far more discerning about whom we follow. Are Christians really holding Prince Harry up as an example of someone from whom we should take life guidance? If not, then we shouldn’t grab on to one little thing he says that happens to suit our purpose and promote the heck out of it.

Second, and more importantly, why is it such a big deal when a celebrity says something that God already said? Does that really confirm it as good advice? The Bible is the word of our creator. It is unsurpassed in wisdom and power and truth. Bono, or Lady Gaga or Bear Grylls or Prince Harry cannot come close to adding to the credibility of anything that God himself has said.

The Bible stands alone. I will celebrate if they submit to it, but I will never need them to endorse it.

The privilege of an invitation

Do you remember what it was like to be 6 years old and invited to a birthday party? You’d receive a brightly coloured fill-in-the-blanks invitation that told you where and when and came with the unspoken promise of cake and party bags!

kid-with-a-party-hat-and-party-blower_1187-171The invitation carried with it much more though, than details and the promise of fun, it told you something even more special: You were chosen.

At some point, when your little 6-year-old friend sat down to write their birthday list, they put your name on it. It was a privilege to be invited.

I wonder how our generation has lost that sense of privilege. Is it that we have so many more friends and receive dozens of invitations? Is it that Facebook culture has introduced the ability to haphazardly invite all 756 of your ‘friends’ at once? Is that why we don’t want to commit until we know whether we’ll feel like it on the day?

I think it’s sad. I know when I invite people to something, it’s because of all the people I know, I chose them. I know that there are times when being invited can feel like more of a burden than a privilege, but I try to remind myself that, irrespective of who it is from, an invitation is always a privilege. An invitation means they thought of me, and they chose me.

Let’s not take being chosen for granted.

Don’t take your convictions for granted

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How do we fall so far?

I was sitting in my Pastor Carl’s office a few months back talking about some things I was struggling with. In the midst of it all, I told him that I’d be willing to give anything up for Jesus. Wisely, he heard my words as more habitual than real, the remnant shadow of past genuine conviction.

“You need to cultivate that, Sarah,” he said. “Don’t take it for granted. Convictions must be nurtured, or they become empty words.”

It reminded me of another conversation, with another pastor, Andy, several years before. I was grieving the fact that several Christian leaders, who I’d long looked up to, who had trained me and nurtured me and developed me in my faith, had drifted away from their convictions. Instead of the passionate faith-filled people they once were, they are living their lives like cold coals, far from the fire in which they had once burnt so brightly.

“How does this happen?” I lamented.

“They lost sight” Andy said, “They stopped watching the Lamb.” (This is a reference to a song- the lyrics are here).

I do not believe that true salvation can ever be lost, but it is a certain tragedy that our love can grow cold, in the very midst of noble sounding platitudes.

I must not assume that a fire that once burned bright will continue that way without careful tending. Today, afresh, I must commit to holding only to Jesus, with a willingness to let all else go.

What I discovered about drinking the blood

Single Glass Of Wine

Knowing the God of the Bible, it is no surprise to me that His book is unparalleled in its elegance. The symbolism and imagery is astoundingly sophisticated considering the time period over which it was written and the number of different pens put to parchment.

One of the strongest symbols in the bible is that of blood. It is the blood of a living being that carries its life, and it is innocent blood that must be shed to cover guilt.

Two compelling pictures of blood impacted me in a new way recently, as I received a fresh understanding of the significance of the communion drink.

The first communion occurred at Passover time, drawing a direct connection to that night when the Israelites, enslaved in Egypt, painted the blood of a lamb over their doors so that they might be saved from the angel of death. This blood acted as an external covering that protected them from the wrath of God.

Jesus does something amazing when he institutes the new covenant. No longer are we to paint this blood covering on the outside, but we are to consume it. The blood of the new covenant transforms us from the inside out. As we drink the cup, we willingly take into ourselves the symbol of the atonement. This metaphor of Jesus’ blood enters our digestive system and is absorbed into our own bloodstream. In this profound image we are not just covered by the blood, we are transformed by it.

Don’t ban the books! (thank goodness many people don’t read)

It’s 12.10am on a school night and I won’t sleep for a while. I feel a tight, choking feeling in my body as though I want to vomit, but not from my stomach, from my mind. I just read something that I can’t unread, and therefore saw something I can’t unsee.

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Books have a long history as sacred vehicles that transcend mortality and carry the human intellect from one generation to the next. What could have been lost from the past is not lost, because we have books. Their sacred position in society means that their destruction is a mark of corruption. The burning of books has symbolised tyranny and the banning of books is the oppression of ideas.

Censorship, when it comes to books, is a dirty word, but tonight I am wondering this: if we outlaw child pornography, criminalizing even its possession, then how can we allow it to exist in books?

I haven’t read the controversial Lolita, but after what I did read tonight, hidden unsuspectingly at the three-quarter mark of my novel, I fear for those who want this kind of content uncensored.

There is great evil in the world and we must be aware of it, but to read the first-person narrative of someone utterly perverse causes you to momentarily adopt their perversion.

I cannot call for the banning of the books, but tonight, I’m glad that not so many people read. I fear for a society that has that filth in their heads.

Why no one should have been shocked that Trump won.

This last week has been the most fascinating week in international politics that I’ve seen. Donald Trump, the guy we all laughed about, actually won.man-with-mouth-taped-shut

The fallout has been extraordinary. Opinions and emotions run high as the western world teeters on the brink. The unthinkable has happened, and suddenly the future is unpredictable.

On the radio after the election, I heard an American assert his belief that everyone was shocked. Even the Trump supporters weren’t expecting a victory. I found myself wondering: how could this happen?

It’s not the first time. People were shocked over Brexit, and continue to be shocked over our own Australian election results. Surely these things should be predictable?

I see one key reason why they’re not: people convey different opinions in the quiet safety of the polling booth, from those they’re willing to own on the street.

The leftist ‘majority’ is consistently stunned when votes swing to the right; they’re left floundering, wondering how the results could be wrong. Well maybe they’re not wrong. Maybe those of the right-wing persuasion aren’t saying what they think, or maybe the media isn’t reporting it.

Maybe a whole portion of our society is being shut up (because they’re not P.C.) and it’s creating an illusion of consensus that just isn’t right. The thing about democracy, though, is that this silent multitude still gets to vote, and they’re shocking the world when they do.

The shock shouldn’t have happened, because, had we listened, we would’ve known it was coming.

When we’ll concede salvation, but not honour

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As Christians, we know that God saves those who don’t deserve it. It is often with joy (and sometimes indignation) that we will admit that a person could live the most awful life, committing the most heinous of sins, and still be offered forgiveness and salvation on their death beds.

Many life-long Christians, some of whom the world would consider to be morally flawless, will even concede that they are no more deserving of salvation than the murderer or adulterer or even the paedophile.

Honour, though? That is something different.

I’ve been thinking about Paul. Here is a man, who was one of the chief persecutors of Christians, and yet became the best known, and most honoured of the apostles.

What of those precious saints that he once tortured or killed? Stephen’s name we know, but most others we don’t. Sure, they are honoured in heaven, but on earth it is not their names that have gone down in history, but the name of their tormentor.

Sometimes God saves those who are least deserving, and then brings them honour in this life above those who it seems have been faithful all along. The truly righteous person will not resent this. They will be so consumed by the glory and will of God that they care not who brings the Word, or who receives the honour, as long as Christ is preached.

May I learn to honour others above myself, and Jesus above all.