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.

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.

You’re not as good as anyone thinks

If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be copyI care a lot what people think of me, which is why this quote by Spurgeon hit home so much. When you care what people think, much of your pride can get tied up in having a good reputation.

How often do we find ourselves annoyed, angry or even crushed when we discover that somebody thinks badly of us? It reflects a lot about how we view ourselves.

First, we are all prone to believe that we are, on balance, good people (and we defy anyone to suggest otherwise.)

Second, we value so much what others think that we work hard at portraying an image of ourselves that is even better than what we know ourselves to be.

We are quite happy for people to think more highly of us than they ought, but are indignant if they think less of us.

Spurgeon flings aside our flimsy façade and dashes our misplaced pride. Someone thinks badly of you? Don’t be angry, they’ve got it wrong. You’re actually far worse.

Don’t we forget that this is such a key aspect of the Gospel? Yes we have incredible value, but our standards for measuring our own ‘goodness,’ aren’t even close to the mark. In fact, we fall so far short of the actual standard that it is only by a phenomenal act of grace that we have attained any righteousness at all.

Truly we are not as good as we, or as anyone, thinks. But Jesus is far better, and, praise God, he’s got us covered.

 

 

Turn off your lights so you can see

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Do you ever wonder what a person from 200 years ago would think if you just plonked them down in the middle of one of our cities?

Sometimes as I’m driving along I’m struck by the absurdity of the world I live in – a world that would surely be incomprehensible to people only three or four generations before me.

The concrete jungles that fall like a perfectly normal backdrop for our existence have, in reality, only existed in the last 100 years.

As we march forward, proudly carrying the greatest of human progress, I wonder if we have failed to stop and look for what we can no longer see. We’ve replaced so much of what is natural for what is artificial and many of us have lost God in the process.

It does not astound me that atheism’s unprecedented growth has coincided with the industrial revolution. Humanity cannot find God in his creation because they are blinded by the glory of their own creation. As I drive through the city my vision is dominated by cars and roads and buildings and power lines and paths and lights and planes and clothes and shoes and fences and windows… and suddenly man is the creator.

If only we would turn off our fluorescent bulbs for a second, we might be able to see beyond ourselves; to see that before we had covered the earth with our creations, far superior creations existed, and they must have come from somewhere.

My faith is not my own

little-girl-in-amusement-park-free-photo_385-86I had my mind blown the other night as I was talking to a friend and wrestling with the question that many Christians ask themselves at some point in their lives: ‘How do I know that I have believed?’
Was it when I was 5 and prayed a prayer to ask Jesus into my heart?

Was it when I was 12 and cried out to God because I was afraid of hell?

Was it when I was 22 and saw deep into my heart and recognised its sinfulness?

 

See the thing is, I feel that my comprehension of the gospel is so much greater now and it makes me wonder how I ever could have understood enough to have saving faith at age 5. I mean, I’d never even heard words like propitiation or atonement, and I couldn’t fully comprehend death or resurrection or depravity or righteousness. So how did I believe in things I knew nothing of?

 

The penny dropped last night. My faith is not my own. It is a gift from God. My saving faith at age 5 was not incomplete. It was not reliant on further revelation or deeper knowledge. As God’s gift to me it contained within it the fullness of that which is required for salvation. It was all there. I just didn’t understand it all yet.

 

If faith and belief were reliant on full comprehension then none of us could ever attain it.

Why has God made Himself known to us?

a-sky-full-of-stars_426-19320899Have you ever really thought about the fact that God does not need anything beyond himself? This wowed me this week.
Not only is God completely self-sufficient, but He is completely happy in and of Himself.

He does not need our love
He does not need our approval
He does not need our company, or companionship or wealth or knowledge or advice or help.

He is the very definition of complete.

So why are we here? Why has He made Himself known to us? Why does He desire for us to know Him?

I think it is because creating and giving are completely within His nature. He created, because He is a creative God, and when He looked at His creation, He knew that knowing, loving and being in relationship with Him were the greatest and most fulfilling things that He could ever offer us.

So He wooed, He spoke, He gave and He loved, so that we could experience fullness of joy in Him.

God creates because He is a creator. He gives because He is a giver. He loves because He is a lover. We love because He first loved us.

The Gift of Death

The gift of death is, paradoxically, the gift of life.

One of my beautiful students asked me the other day, why God would create such beautiful people, only to let them die.

garden_of_edenIt’s a fair question, but it’s one limited by lack of information, because if we understand the fullness of the Bible, we can understand the gift of death.

When Adam and Eve were in the garden they were free to eat from the Tree of Life. They were going to live forever in the bliss and beauty of what God had created.

The right to eat from the Tree of Life was only taken from them after they sinned. Because living forever under the curse of sin was never God’s plan for anyone.

Adam and Eve both died a physical death, but it was not a tragic one. Physical death was one of the gifts that God gave them, along with the redemptive death and resurrection of His Son, in order for them to enter into eternal life.

Death can be a great tragedy, but only when it takes a person who refuses to accept God’s gift of life. For those who have life, it is the beautiful gateway out of an existence marred by sin.

Ducks Don’t Need Satellites

smallThere’s a song I really like by Kate Miller-Heidke called ‘Ducks Don’t Need Satellites.’ Weird name for a song I know, and the lyrics don’t do much to redeem it from obscurity, but despite that, or maybe because of it, it really resonates with me.

She croons that ‘ducks don’t need satellites… they probably don’t know they’re up there… they most likely think the sky ends blue.’

When I need to pray about something that is really weighing on me, I take a walk down by the river near my house. I sit on a footbridge and look out at the water and the trees and the ever-present ducks.

While my life is in turmoil, theirs never is. They are not bored, or lazy; they’re busy but it’s a calm rhythmic type of busy. I look at them, and I wonder if, somewhere in the simplicity of their minds, they believe in God

Matthew 6 says  to ‘look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.’

I feel a sense of calm as I look at the ducks, who are provided for daily by a God they likely have no capacity to conceive of. I see the trees which stand tall and strong, roots deep in the earth, nourished by a system set up by their creator… and it makes me wonder if we might be better off if we didn’t need satellites either.