Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Front Lines

I believe that there are two realms. One is spiritual; we do not often, if ever, see it. One is the physical, which we are all aware of constantly. Both are important and created by God, but only one will last.

As humans, we are the only beings who constantly inhabit both realms. We are spirit beings walking around in bodies. (If this concept is hard for you then you should watch more fantasy.) The physical world derives its importance solely from its connection to the spiritual, largely through us.

There is a war going on in the spiritual realm, fought by spiritual beings. Like most wars, it is fought on many levels, and Biblically, I could point to a few different reasons it is occurring. That's not my goal at the moment.

I am interested, for now, in the ground the war is being fought over, which in fact, is us. We are where the fighting occurs and the prize for the winner. Interestingly, we are also (arguably) the most dangerous force involved.

Biblically, we have been given more power than the angels as sons of God whose spirits are indwelt by His Spirit. Practically, most of us don't have a clue. Those of us who are catching on still have much to learn. We get the idea that our duty in this war is to fear God and obey Him by generally doing good in this world and telling others about Him. These are worthy goals and things that I personally practice, more or less.

Ever since I was little my life goal was to live right in the middle of the most confused and hurting people I could find, build my house at the gates of hell as one poem talks about, and do good and tell people about Jesus. I have always been frustrated that I was stuck in wealthy America, in a house where everyone knew Christ, and only moved in circles where people had heard the truth. If I was willing to be sent to the front lines, why was I being kept on leave?

As I got older, both physically and spiritually, I was allowed to actually have a hand in the fighting here and there. I still dreamt of really being moved to the front lines when orders came to move to my sister's farm, which is, in my estimation, nowhere near the fighting. One day, I watched Hotel Rwanda. Now there was a picture of the front lines, terrifying, heartbreaking, desperate.

I knew that as I sat on my comfy couch entertaining myself with a movie, similar things continue to happen all over the world. My frustrations rose to God with these words, "Why can't I be there for them?"

"You are here for them." His response took me by surprise. Then He explained by putting pieces of the spiritual puzzle together in my mind in a way that I had never seen before. He reminded me that this is a spiritual war and as such is fought with spiritual weapons.

The weapon or power that trumps all others is to know God Himself. This is not just a requirement for fighting, it is the fighting. Doing every day with God is not only a blessed right as a child of His but is also a thing so powerful that it extends through the cosmos. In the spiritual realm, which is more real than the physical, my everyday choice to walk with God affects every person on the planet. The fact that it doesn't look or feel like it to me or them, doesn't change what is.

I'll admit it's not as glamorous as I had hoped for. It requires that I trust my Commander maybe more than I wanted to. It's totally counter intuitive.

On the other hand, who would complain about such power? How can I be upset that while I chafed at losing time to normality, I was actually already wielding the greatest weapon? How can I be disappointed that instead of traveling over the world, my actions have already reverberated to the farthest reaches of the spiritual realm?

I know that I am not the only Christian who has had this same frustration. I hope that this is encouraging. Tell me, does it ring true in your spirit?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Finding a Gift for the One Who Really Has Everything

This Christmas I had a few "Blinding Flash of the Obvious" moments about Christmas itself. First, it hit me as slightly odd for the first time that no matter how many Christmases go past we are always celebrating baby Jesus. I don't know what your family traditions are, but on my birthdays I have never had someone tell my birth story to everyone present, or even pulled out the photo albums of when I was a baby.

Not that this is good or bad, it just struck me as slightly odd. For me, this yearly celebration of a baby had helped me forget that I was in fact celebrating a person that I know. So, this year, I asked Him what He wanted for Christmas.

I know, He kinda owns the universe and all, but He also lets us give Him stuff periodically. Kind of like when Mom used to give us kids money (that Dad earned) so we could buy something for Dad. I kept my eyes open to hearing the answer as Christmas came and went. (Yes, I can hear with my eyes.)

A few days after Christmas, I was telling Cassie about how I was suddenly going to the Passion conference. A few months ago, I wasn't even interested but now I was very excited about an opportunity that God had practically forced on me. Cassie made a comment about how God was probably looking forward to that time of me worshiping Him too and I smiled about how refreshing her perspective is.

Later, God reminded me of what Cassie said. "Remember what you asked Me about Christmas? This is it."
"What is 'it' God?"
"You at the conference, that's what I want for Christmas."
"But that's cheating! You can't give me a gift for Christmas and then say that I gave it to You!"
I have never seen God's face but I know, somehow, when He talks to me what expression He is making. At this point He shrugged His shoulders and grinned and said, "You asked what I wanted for Christmas and that's what I wanted so I got it."

In spite of the complexities of giving gifts to God, it was special to be a part of His Christmas.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why Read the Bible?

You may have noticed my status update asking about Bible reading, or you may be one of those unfortunate souls who I have already asked you way too many questions about it in person or spent forever giving you background information. None the less, if you are a part of the body of Christ, and have some honest thoughts on the subject, I am dying to hear them. Here's the deal:

I spent a large portion of my growing up years trying to make a habit of reading the Bible and mostly failing miserably. I never thought too much about why I should read it, but looking back my motives ranged from ridiculous pride to defeating guilt.

I read the Bible because I didn't think God would really be inclined to hang out with me the rest of the day if I didn't read the Bible first. I read the Bible because I thought it was my only chance to maybe actually hear from and communicate with God. I read the Bible because I really wanted to remember all the things that I was supposed to be doing to keep God from being disappointed in me.

If you use your imagination, you can probably figure out that when I did get around to reading the Bible even the kindest loving verses were guilt inducers for me (God loves me that much and I can't even save15 minutes of my day just for Him?) and the rest terrified and confused me.

I came away with interpretations like this:
"I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
There is no excuse for my failure. It's my fault that I'm not trusting Christ enough. God expects me to be capable.
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." John 14:15
How can I say that I love God when I fail again and again? I want to love God. If only I could figure out how to love Him enough to keep His commandments.

If you are depressed by this method of interpreting the Bible, you should be. You don't know the half of it unless you've used this method yourself for over 10 years. If you're thinking I should probably get psychiatric help you're probably right. But that was then, what about now?

Now, God has re-written me from the inside out and re-started our relationship from square one. Now, I know that above all, God is good, He is in control and that He pours out grace upon grace. That He actually enjoys me, and that He is kind towards me.

BUT (and it's a big but)
I still don't know how to read the Bible through this new understanding of God.

For a long time, over a year, I left off trying to read the Bible on some sort of regular schedule. In fact, God told me to. This did not mean that I swore off having anything to do with the Bible ever again. Around the time that God told me to quit worrying about reading it every day, I had to teach a short devotional every day and therefore spent more time in the Bible then ever before.

He has already taken many verses, often one at a time, and re-programmed them in my mind. For instance the two I've already mentioned.
Philippians 4:13 no longer condemns me. Instead it brings me joy to realize that without Christ I am perfectly incapable, unless He does it, it will not be done. It leads me to a joyful complete trust instead of a cringing and hopeless repentance. God knows that I am incapable and He is not concerned by it, Christ is capable in me.

John 14:15 is in fact a promise. God has placed the heart of Jesus in me, which absolutely adores the Father and desires above all else to obey His commandments. I am no longer constantly fighting an uphill battle to do the opposite of what feels good to me (sin). My way is smooth and the road is straight, obedience is my only desire.

So, the other day, it was suddenly time to pick up my Bible again, but as I picked it up God brought all these questions to my mind.

Why did God write and preserve this book for so many centuries?
Why is it in my hands?
What am I to look for as I read it?
What am I to do with all the questions that surface as I read?
Why is it so important to keep reading this book?

I'm not asking these questions as a challenge, or in defiance. As I said before, I believe that God brought them up because He wants me to wrestle with them. There is nothing I love more than asking questions of God because I know a really good answer is coming. Maybe He's already given you the answers. Maybe He wants you to give them to me. Maybe He's inviting you to wrestle with the same questions.