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.

The reason for the wind

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One of my Facebook friends recently posted, “I really hate the wind. And what obvious purpose does it even serve?!”

I don’t hate the wind, but for those who do, I can see it is a legitimate question. The fact is though, that wind serves a very important purpose for trees. While it may appear that the wind mostly batters trees, they actually need it. Experiments have been done that show that trees grown in controlled, wind-free environments are weak and underdeveloped. The wind forces trees to spread their roots deep into the ground, strengthening them and enabling them to draw out water and nutrients.

It’s such a great metaphor for human life. How often have I lamented the things that I hate in my life; the things that hurt or make me feel weak or battered? How often do I miss the fact that it is these very things, subject in themselves to the hand of the Almighty, that are causing me to grow deep and strengthen and mature?

It is not wrong to grieve over pain, but we must not feel overcome by it. It can be viewed as a beautiful, strengthening device.

I love these lyrics from David Crowder: “He is jealous for me. Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.”

There is beauty and mercy and love, even in pain. You are stronger than you think, and it’s probably the wind that got you there.

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Before the Throne… so many have been struck down.

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I sometimes have difficulty reconciling the God of the Old Testament, with the God I know. I’ve just read about this horrible string of events in Samuel:

  • Israel was defeated in battle
  • The Ark of the Lord was captured by the Philistines
  • Eli the priest and his two sons died.
  • The Philistine god Dagon was found bowing and broken before the Ark
  • They were tormented with tumours and ‘the Lord’s hand was heavy upon them.’
  • Cities were thrown into panic and they decided to send the Ark back.
  • On its return to Israel, seventy men were killed when they looked into the Ark.

Imagine the people’s fear as they said ‘Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up to from here?’

I was meditating on this question as I turned my music on and was captivated by these words:

“Before the Throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea, a great High Priest whose name is love, who ever lives and pleads for me… I know that while in Heaven He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart.”

The fearsome God of Israel is no less the God of today, but while nations trembled and many died in his presence, we are invited into his very Throne room finding no condemnation, only grace.

The contrast is dramatic. How radically has Jesus Christ transformed the way we may relate to God!

What is ‘life?’

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The other day I was driving along and a large brown planetree leaf fluttered down from its branch at the exact moment that my car drove past. Its detachment from the tree punctuated the end of its life and its final voyage was disrupted by the whoosh of my car as it was swept upwards away from my windscreen, changing direction, finding another place to settle.

A lot of my weird, profound thoughts happen while driving. Driving under a falling leaf is nothing extraordinary, but for some reason, on this day, I was struck with a question about the nature of life.

The leaf was dead. It was once alive. I looked at a flourishing gum tree and wondered, ‘what is it that makes it alive?’ ‘What is life?’

Sure, we know how to distinguish death from life, animate from inanimate, but do we actually know anything about life?

I looked it up in a dictionary. Life is a condition, a distinguishing phenomena, a state.

I think that’s code for ‘we have no idea.’ We know a lot, but we don’t know that. We can create a lot, but we can’t create that.

For the Christian, it’s profound, but not so difficult to understand. Life is the unique, breathed out, creative power of God. He gives it, and he takes it away, and we just exist within it and watch.

 

 

 

 

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.

We all want the power

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There’s this great verse in Philippians 3 where Paul says “ I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection…” If you’re like me, your heart has a similar craving to Paul’s. Oh to truly know Christ in such a deep way that we daily experience the amazing power that flows through Him. A power that not only changes lives but that conquers death.

The idea of this kind of power is intoxicating, and, dare I say, very human.

See, Philippians 3:10 is a verse that, perhaps more than any other in Scripture, I like to leave incomplete. I like to pretend that that’s what it really says. Yes! I want to know Christ. Yes! I want to know the power of his resurrection. Stop.

But the verse doesn’t stop, and it is dangerous for us to pretend that it does. It continues: “…and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

Wow. We all want the power, but let’s be honest, we don’t want it God’s way. God’s way says “my power is made perfect in weakness” (2Cor 12:9). It is in sharing in the sufferings, yes, even in the death of Jesus that we can truly know the power that has been bought through His resurrection.

We must not despise the suffering that God allows in our lives, nor suppose that we can truly know Him or experience His power apart from it.

On building castles in the sand

US12_SUN0991.jpgI’ve always had a good imagination. Not that cool, creative dragons and unicorns kind of imagination, that could help me to be some kind of literary genius, but the sort of tragic kind. The kind that found me sitting on the floor of my room as a kid and suddenly realizing I was crying my eyes out because I’d imagined my parents had just died in a car accident and I was all alone.

As I’ve become older I’ve realized that my imagination combined with my slight control-freakish nature finds me lapsing regularly into fantasy. Imagining future scenarios and how I would act and what I would say and what-would-I-do-if-this-happened-and-they-said-this etc. etc.

God spoke to me about this recently. I’d worked myself into a bit of a state over something that was almost entirely in my head and all of a sudden God showed me what I was doing:

You’re building a castle in the sand, Sarah, and you’re planning on living in it.

That’s exactly (metaphorically) what I was doing. The scenarios in my head had little grounding in reality. I was constructing a falsified world, one that would be swept away with the next tide… and I’d been planning on living in it.

Following the apostle Paul’s instructions to think only on ‘whatever is true’ is something I find insanely hard, but I know it’s something I need to work on.

The moment God can’t wait to show me

Do you ever daydream about what it will be like to meet Jesus face to face? About what he’ll look like, and how you’ll react, and how you’ll feel?

Sometimes I do.

Do you think God does? I mean, does he imagine what it will be like to meet me?

I found myself pondering this question the other day, and what I got out of it is gold. Full of creative license, yes, but I still think true to God’s character, and therefore gold.happy-boy-1434104

See, God doesn’t have to imagine it. He’s outside time, so he can see it. He can visit that moment whenever he wants, and you know what? I bet he absolutely cannot wait to show it to me.

I mean, God knows me. He knows me inside out, but I bet he’s just chafing at the bit for me to know him. I reckon he’s like a parent, who just bought the most epic present for their kid, and who can’t wait to see their face on Christmas morning.

I think it fills him with the most bubbling joy. Just even the thought of how, in that moment, all my pain and sadness and the weight of this life will suddenly be blown away and that I, with one look into his face, will be consumed with the deepest fulfillment and most tremendous joy just because I’m meeting him… I think he gets the biggest kick out of that.

I bet he can’t wait to show it to me.

Why was the blood of animal sacrifice a ‘pleasing aroma to the LORD?’

blood sacrificeI’m reading Leviticus. It’s tough going. There are rules and regulations listed in extreme detail, and a lot of directives involving the blood, fat, meat and regularity of animal sacrifices.

My housemate told me that she loves reading the Old Testament because of what it teaches her about God’s character, so I’ve been really focusing on what I can learn about who God is.

He seems to like blood.

The picture of God as presented in Leviticus appears demanding and somewhat brutal. How can the God I know and love have been so keen on the constant offerings of blood and flesh, to the point where he considers it a ‘pleasing aroma?’ It seems sadistic.

So I’ve been praying and meditating, and last week God gave me something powerful: It shows his abhorrence to sin.

So often I just ignore sin in my life. But God really hates it. He cannot abide it. There is absolutely nothing good or worthwhile in sin.

God doesn’t like death either. He created a world without it. But death has in it one redeeming feature that sin doesn’t have. Justice.

In the disgusting brutality of the shedding of blood, there was something good: The pleasing aroma of justice, which covered the stench of sin.

God was willing to endure the death of animals, and even of His own son, so that the sin of humanity could be washed away. It was not the smell of death that pleased God, but the smell of atonement.