Thursday, 23 March 2017

Our eternal life and home

(originally journaled Oct. 21, 2016)

"We too, who are Christ's people, have vision of something beyond the difficulties and disappointments of this life. We are journeying toward fulfilment, completion, expansion of life. We, too, are 'going to the Father.' Much is dim concerning our home-country, but two things are clear. It is home, 'the Father's house.' It is the nearer presence of the Lord. We are all wayfarers, but the believer knows it and accepts it. He is a traveller, not a settler." -- R.C. Gillies

Over the period of my "great depression" somehow I lost sight of the promise of heaven. I even wondered if it was real, or if we are to simply accept spiritual heaven while we are here on earth--or what?

In the last few days I have been praying for a renewed--and even clearer--view of our eternal home and life. And today's devotional reading has really helped clear the clouds from my vision.

I've read, over the years, various descriptions of our heavenly home--scripture's descriptions, books like The Pilgrim's Progress, books and films and personal descriptions from those who briefly traveled to the other side, the story in The Shack of the narrator's daughter with Jesus--but they focus more on the "physical" attributes, although the description of Jesus in the meadow with the children (in The Shack) was more of a "personal encounter with Jesus" than most. I've also heard about people's dreams and visions of heaven.

But today's reading, with its focus on "the nearer presence of the Lord," of "going to the Father," of "journeying towards fulfilment, completion, expression of life," really spoke to me. That is what I long for. I don't know what it will be like in "physical" terms, but with
Father and Jesus and their Spirit... that's what I long for.

No more separation. No more fear of being cast out (which is something I struggle with, because of my failings and my sin... I know that I'm forgiven and I won't be cast out ... but the enemy uses it against me ... and I wonder about "unpardonable sin" and "denying Jesus" and "backsliding" and things like that.

Yet, You keep drawing me, so I must conclude that You are NOT giving up on me, and not casting me out :-) I am a child of the King, washed in the blood of Jesus--the blood that has separated me from the enemy's power, the blood that has destroyed his power and control!

Thank You, Lord.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Super-serious or joyful?

(originally journaled Oct. 16, 2016)

Melancholy "... discolours everything ... it deprives the soul of all its aspirations, enchains its powers, and produces a mental paralysis.... Melancholy clips [our] wings..."

This is true. While there are truly times of sadness and grief ... and yes, depression too ... ongoing melancholy does clip our spiritual wings. It is not "spiritual" to be glum and super-serious! And joy and gladness are results of life in Christ, not signs of shallowness, so long as their well-spring is our determination--our will--to focus on, to look to Jesus.

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus/ Look full in His wonderful face/ And the things of earth will grow strangely dim/ In the light of his glory and grace."

Friday, 17 March 2017

Brokenness

(originally journaled Oct. 15, 2016)

"Those who are broken in wealth, and broken in self-will, and broken in their ambitions, and broken in their beautiful ideals, and broken in worldly reputation, and broken in their afflictions, and broken ofttimes in health; those who are despised and seem utterly forlorn and helpless, the Holy Ghost is seizing upon, and using for God's glory...."

But it's still hard to get from broken physically and so on to broken in heart. Even being "broken in spirit" can sometimes lead people to resentment or unrelenting discouragement. I guess that's still pride at work?

Anyway, there has to be a perfect brokenness, a "contrite heart"--and why is that so hard for me to attain and maintain? Oh dear God, why is it so hard for me to let go? Why? What is wrong with me? Have You turned from me because for a time I seemed to turn from You? But You know my heart never really turned from You, even when my outer words and actions were ... ungodly? angry?

"Oh break my heart; but break it as a field / Is by the plough up-broken for the corn... / That life's eternal will may flash abroad ... / Be joys ... Thy victory singing. -- Thomas Toke Bunch

Monday, 13 March 2017

Broken and Contrite Hearts

(originally journaled Oct. 15, 2016)

"God uses most for His glory those people and things which are most perfectly broken. The sacrifices He accepts are broken and contrite hearts."

First thought: I wonder if "famous" Christian speakers and leaders have broken and contrite hearts. On the surface, their lives seem pretty "together" most of the time. But who knows what is happening in the background and in their hearts? God only, I suspect, and maybe a few people really close to them have an idea of it.

Second thought: I wonder if, in the end, whether it is actually the "famous" people who are most used of God and whose lives truly give Him glory. I'm sure He does not see and measure the way we do. On the one hand, a famous person with a broken and contrite heart can do much good and give the glory to God--but how hard it is, that that kind of position, to remain with a broken and contrite heart (even if it was true at first) and to stay humble and give God the glory. Kind of like what Jesus said about how hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

I suspect a lot of people most "used of God for His glory" are ones we'd never suspect or even notice. Of course, even then, pride is an awful temptation for every one of us. It sure is for me, I know that. I fall into it all the time--and sometimes (too often) feel resentful that we are to accept being humble, being "the least." I want to be recognised and applauded. I want to do great things--including for God.

We are told we need to do great things for God, be great soul winners, be great leaders in the church, be involved in great causes and projects. But Jesus calls us to be "the least of these," to be "servants," or even slavees. There's such a tension between Jesus' teaching and how we interpret it and apply it in a world that lauds the "winners," the "greatest."

Friday, 10 March 2017

New Paths

(originally journaled Oct. 6, 2016)

I have spent all day working on my Word Guild workshop presentation. It took a lot longer than I expected, but I believe that this is a "calling" from God to me. I've had so many "downs" and "doubts" and have felt so far from God, and such a failure in trying to write for Him.

I've done "secular" writing but somehow it never held the joy I used to get writing for the "My Church Journey" blog and for church newsletters, and my blog about God's caring during the "teen years" in our family, and writing on Christian homeschool groups and so on.

I've felt "dry" in my writing for a long time. But this new opportunity to speak, and especially this "Christian writing" opportunity, has really opened my eyes--and my heart, I hope!

"Nothing tests the Christian character more than to have some evil thing said about you. God gave us more of His Spirit, 'who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously."  This has been a great stumbling block for me -- being "reviled" - or more often, simply FEARING being reviled by the world. Lord, as I move into these new directions You seem to be placing in my path, help me to seek only Your approval. Thank You. Amen.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Devotions Discipline Meditations

(Originally journaled Sept. 23, 2016)

I'm wondering: I was brought up to have "discipline" in my "devotions." And there's value in that because I really do believe our "flesh" and "the enemy" are opposed to any communication/relationship we might have with You. And it seems like prayer and Bible and devotional readings are hard to maintain as a "habitual" thing to do. So no doubt having a "discipline" and a "plan" is helpful, especially for me, anyway, as it is easy for me to fall off my "devotional schedule."

But yesterday I was reading in "He Loves Me" that (sometimes at least) it is better to just set aside time to listen to Your still small voice. Because that is more about relationship building with You that a more "intellectual/ reasoning/ doctrinal/ dogmatic" approach often is. So maybe it's okay to just sit and listen sometimes? Or at least back off a tad from the "disciplined plan"?

I'm not very good at "just listening." I do try to pay attention to what's going on in my life, and in the word around me, and think about what You may be saying through those circumstances ... and also through the Bible reading and devotionals and my formal written prayers and all ... and I think I am hearing more (and even learning, trusting and obeying).

But I'm not so good at "meditating with a candle" or with music, or just sitting in silence and dimness, or even in silence outside in nature or whatever. I do have some worry about "meditation" I think--fear that has grown out of teachings against "mysticism" and "meditation" that "can open you up to evil forces." (Because I remember that kind of teaching ... not surprising, since I grew up in the 60s and early 70s when there was a lot of "eastern mysticism" going on, and drugs and all.)

But--if meditation is directed toward You, and I ask You to guide it and to speak to me through it? You'd honour that, wouldn't You? You communicate with us in a multitude of ways, don't You? And we are to listen for Your "still, small voice," right? And it can be hard to hear sometimes--not only in our busy everyday lives, but maybe also when we make our "devotions" so "disciplined" and "ordered" and "reasonable" and yes, even "safe," that we can't really hear what new thing You might be trying to say to us.  At least, that last bit seems to be what I'm hearing from You right now (and hopefully not from "my mind" or the enemy...)

(And maybe sometimes I do need to stop writing, too, and just be still and quiet from my side. And listen to Your side of the conversation.)

Thursday, 2 March 2017

That's Faith

I've been thinking about how there's never an "arrived" state in our walk with You, at least in this earthly lifetime (and maybe in eternity, as we spend ever more time in Your presence, yet continue to be the creatures, while You will always be the greatest, the Creator).

You keep pointing new things out every time I feel like I'm figuring one thing out. It isn't easy, this walk ... even with Your help and guidance. It's hard to let things go, things that are deeply entangled in myself, whether it is "the world" I'm trying to please (unfortunately) or whether it's entanglements of "Christian culture." Maybe even tougher are the things that are less obvious--like attitudes, honesty, etc. And then there are the aspects of me that have been part of my very "Christian identity" from birth, and I feel a great deal of guilt if I try to follow You in a different way than I was taught as a small child, even if I'm pretty sure You're asking me to ... because, after all (a voice in my head argues), wasn't the old way the right way, the godly way?

We, as Christians, need to realise we are really asking people to give up a lot, to turn their backs on their deepest beliefs and values and personal and group identity when we ask them to turn away from their religion to Christianity. If all we're asking is outer change--activities, etc.--it maybe isn't always that difficult. But if we want them to totally follow Jesus, at a deep heart and relationship level, it is a huge step.

I see just now why I have felt so angry at "traditional church" the last decade or so. I think I've felt betrayed--forced to believe in attitudes and behaviours (in total identity)--things that aren't necessarily so. If only it was totally wrong, it would be easier to separate from, but when it's tangled up, it's so much harder to see what is right and what isn't, and to disentangle from the wrong without damaging what is right--without throwing out the baby with the bathwater, as the old saying goes.

And then I wonder ... what if the old way IS right, after all? More guilt. And (oh my goodness), what if it has been my personal struggles with all this that have made Christian belief--and educational issues, too--so difficult for my children (and grandchildren)?

And it just now occurs to me ... what if this is common -- and passed down, in my situation, from my mom and from my grandpa ... I know, looking back, that they struggled, too, even though I consider them among my greatest Christian role models.

And why does the journey seem so much easier for people who see things in "black and white" ... and to "nominally and/or culturally Christian" folk? But as soon as I ask that, it occurs to me that they have a whole set of other difficulties of their own. We all do. It's part of being human (and yes, fallen).

Sometimes I wish--sort of, but mostly not--for the "good old days" when it was easy for me to accept the Bible stories at face value and not go any deeper with them. Faith of a child and all that. But it seems You want us to grow up. And that seems to include a different kind, a different depth of faith.

And anyway, whoever said that "faith" is believing "the stories" without question? Whoever said faith is "in the stories" at all? It isn't. It's in You. And in a way, that's harder. But in another way, it's also a lot easier. Talk about paradox.)

"To see HIM, and to be sure that His wisdom cannot err, His power cannot fail, His love can never change; to know that even His direst dealings with us are for our deepest spiritual gain.... Nothing else but seeing God in everything ... accomplishing His tender and wise purposes toward us" (HW Smith) "See God in all things, great and small, And give Him praise whate'er befall." (A.E. Finn)

That's faith.