Monday, January 21, 2013

all of my heart this time

I have had to fight for purity. And I’m not just talking about sexual purity. God has called Christians to be a people set apart, but in so many areas of our lives, we seek to be as much like the world as we can be without technically sinning.
But the thing is, that very thinking is full of fallacy.
If we really want to be like Christ, if we really want to be His followers, then we should not be thinking about how much we can get away with, but rather, how much like Christ we can be.
I grew up in the 1990s, at the height of the “WWJD?” craze. “What would Jesus do?” seemed to be the answer to every question that I asked. But it hasn’t been until the recent years of my life that I’ve really bothered to ask, “Whoa. What would Jesus do in this situation?”
I tend towards introversion. I really like my alone time. I really like to sit in the quiet in the mornings and read my Bible and pray and worship. I really like to spend my evenings reading or playing my ukulele. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, if Jesus lived in a house with 8 other people, would He hole up by himself all of the time?
I’m guessing not. Because the Jesus that I read about, the Jesus that I know, goes out of His way to help others. Once, when He appeared to His disciples while they were fishing, He not only abundantly blessed their catch, but He made them breakfast (John 21). When a great crowd followed Jesus across the Sea of Galilee, He didn’t react in frustration, but rather, He performed a miracle in order to feed them while He taught them (John 6).
So what would Jesus do? The extreme. He didn’t just teach the crowd of 5,000; He fed them. He didn’t just bless His disciples’ fishing trip; He greeted them on the shore with a flame-broiled breakfast. I shouldn’t hide away all of the time, and I shouldn’t only spend time with my family. I should seek to serve them. Christ would. He wouldn’t just sit at the table and chat; He’d probably whip up a round of omelets while He was at it.
Max Lucado said: “Christianity, in its purest form, is nothing more than seeing Jesus. Christian service, in its purest form, is nothing more than imitating him who we see. To see his Majesty and to imitate him: that is the sum of Christianity.”
So what is a pure heart? It is a heart that sees Jesus and strives to imitate His actions instead of acting in selfish motives. Of course having a pure heart isn’t easy. Our very flesh, along with the influences of the world and attacks from the Enemy, seek to destroy our purity.
But purity, especially in the form of a pure heart, is God’s original design for us. That’s why He says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). That’s why He says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). It’s God’s intention for us to seek His kingdom first, to love others as much as we love ourselves, to do the very things that Jesus says.
There is a reward for having a pure heart. All of the fighting for it, all of the frustration, all of the striving to be like Christ, it is completely worth it, because in the Psalms it says:
“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart…” (Psalm 24: 3-4).

Monday, January 14, 2013

a little power outage

There is power in prayer.
I’ve heard that my whole life.
But since becoming a missionary and embarking on a lifestyle of faith, I have learned more and more about the power of prayer.
Franchesca Woodman, a powerful woman of God who taught my DTS a few times, once told us how, before she purchases anything, she asks God if she can. At first, I thought she was going a little bit overboard. But then, I was challenged to do it myself, and while I felt a little bit ridiculous sometimes, it was amazing to see how God blessed me.
Prayer isn’t all about bringing requests to God. It’s not a wish list or anything. But if we truly believe that God is a loving Father, wouldn’t we ask Him for what we need? Goodness knows I rarely hesitated to ask my parents for things while growing up (and even now, sometimes), so why would I stop myself from asking my Heavenly Father?
Recently, my trousers started to show signs of wear. The seams started coming out, the dye washed out, and the fabric got thin in places. I knew that I needed new trousers, but I also knew that I didn’t have the money to go buy new trousers just because I wanted them.
So I started to pray.
I asked God for trousers, and I found a sale at Gap over Christmas holidays. Luckily, I remembered to pray before I went into Gap to look. God said no. It sucked at the time, because I had Christmas money from family members that would just about cover the trousers, but I obeyed. A few days later, I was with my friends, and we ran into another shop that had trousers that I loved. I looked at the price tag, and I prayed. I got a no again. This happened several times.
Earlier today, my grandparents and I were out in Knightsbridge, and we passed Gap. They were in final reductions of their sale, and my grandparents and I stepped in. They had the trousers I’d seen at Christmas, and they were 75% off. My grandparents proceeded to buy me not one, but three pairs of trousers.
Don’t get me wrong; this does not happen every time that I pray. And it’s a kind of silly example, but nonetheless, I think it’s pretty clear. Sometimes it’s a challenge to live by faith and not draw a salary. Sometimes I get frustrated that I can’t just buy the things I want. But sometimes, when I actually tell God about my needs, He guides me into greater blessings than I would ever have received if I had tried to make my wishes come true in my own power.
God’s pretty awesome. If He can bless me with something as trivial as trousers, I can’t even imagine how incredibly I’ll see Him work in the areas in my life that are more uncertain.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

the vastness of my Father's love for me

One thing that I have been remiss in doing is sharing with you what has been happening in my heart in the past seven months. And tonight, as I listen to my grandparents snore across the room, I think it’s about time to talk about it.
One of the most significant things that I have learned during my time here in London is about the love of God. During my Discipleship Training School, we had a teaching on the Father Heart of God, and the speaker said that it is something that we all know in our heads, but that most people don’t know in their hearts. And while I knew that statement was true about me, I didn’t know how to change it.
So I started to pray.
Ephesians 3:17b-19 says, “…and I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
The love of God surpasses knowledge. It is greater than my head can handle – so great that only my heart can seek to speak its language. To know the love of God is how I can be filled with the fullness of God. Of course the Enemy doesn’t want me to understand it. Of course my flesh rebels at the first taste of it.
Of course my Spirit longs for it.
The love of God can make me cry like nothing else can – I have learned that over numerous worship sessions with YWAM, when the love of God blankets me so heavily that I fall to my knees and sob. I have felt it in the middle of the night, when I wake up from nightmares and know that my Father is the one calming my racing heart and watching the very thoughts that form in my sleep. I have seen it when my mind doubts and God uses unexpected expressions of affection from my housemates on the days that I am the lowest.
C.S. Lewis said, “God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that he might love and perfect them.”
God does not need us to carry out His plan, yet He loves us so much that He created us and gave us the opportunity to be loved by Him. He gives us the opportunity to be loved by Him daily, all day, if we’ll take the time to sit in His presence and let Him love us. If we’ll take the time to notice the notes of love that He drops into our lives.
My housemates who don’t touch people hug me. That’s the tangible love of God my Father for me. My friends send me surprises from around the world, even when I don’t have time to talk to them. My Father even spoils me! I can ride a bicycle around London and shout praises to God as I wheel around His creation, I can play a ukulele badly and improvise songs of adoration, I can sit in the quiet stillness of the morning and breathe deeply as I feel my Father’s calming and complete adoration of me. That’s the love of my Father – the fact that I can know even a corner of His creative heart and love for me.
God’s love does not wax or wane with my works.
God’s love does not disappear when I don’t take the time to treasure it.
God’s love does delight my soul and make my heart ache so much that I could cry from the happiness of starting to know what it is to be absolutely loved.