Monday, June 29, 2015

Retreating into the Word of God

Social justice issues interest me. I read a lot about world poverty, environmental responsibility, the LGBTQ community. I am a follower of Christ, and I am interested in these things the way my husband is interested in science articles--God wired us with a certain bent, and we are called to surrender to Him so that we can use our bent to build up His body (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-11). I had resolved to take a break from all my issues reading, however, because I have been growing weary. Retreat is sometimes necessary for renewal.

Then SCOTUS ruled on same-sex marriage, and my Facebook page lit up with rainbows and conservatives. I am so weary of the same Scriptures: the ones addressing homosexuality countered by Matthew 7:1, "Do not judge[insert exclamation mark, although the text has a comma]." I am constantly being told to "read my whole Bible," which I do. And frankly, right now, it is all that I want to read.

One of my favorite verses is Romans 12:1-2, which I memorized when I first became a Christian. Let me pause and say this: I chose to be a Christian. I don't believe we ever have a Christian nation. Our nation can enact laws that honor God, but we are not some blessed, chosen people as Americans, where as a group we safely position ourselves before the Almighty and everything is hunky-dory. I can hear some of you arguing--it will have to wait for another time.

I chose this path, which Jesus describes as narrow, which few find (Matthew 7:13-14). Christians will likely always be the minority in the culture in which we live. The Christian life is not easy, which is why we gather with other believers to be encouraged: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--a man's enemies will be the members of his own household'" (Matthew 10:34-36...another verse you don't hear quoted very often).

So I have been meditating on Romans 12:1-2. I am hungry for spiritual renewal, and this passage is foundational:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Paul is speaking to believers (not the world, not all Americans, but me, and those like me who have chosen to be disciples of Jesus). Because we have received God's mercy, paid for on the cross, where Christ physically suffered, we should give Him our bodies, even if it's physically uncomfortable. The second verse says that we should renew our minds.

Do you want to know God's will? Start with your body and your mind.

My body has been abused lately, in two specific ways: I drink too much coffee, and I have pushed myself beyond any slim imagining of rest. I have taken on too much work. I have never been good at resting, but this last semester, it is as if God let me pursue my own natural bent, and wow, am I messed up. I desperately need to learn about Sabbath, which is addressed in the Law, the Prophets, and the New Testament. The Christian life does not always look pleasant to outsiders because it involves discipline. It doesn't always look pleasant to the Christian--because it involves discipline. Ugh.

I need the discipline of drinking more water, instead of having coffee in the afternoon.

I need to rest, and I really have no idea what that looks like. Jeremiah 6:16 says, "This is what the Lord says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’" Ouch. Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline is my starting point for finding "the ancient paths" of my faith. Perhaps I will read the chapter on Solitude...but I seem to have given away my copy.

And the first step I need to take in renewing my mind is to not dislike the discipline so much. I want to draw closer to God; this is how to do it. Stop griping! Be glad that there is a way, a visible path, and start walking. Anyone who has dieted or started an exercise routine knows the first hurdle is the resolve to begin. That's me, resolving to change my thinking, to rejoice in God's way, to not give in to my own whiney-ness.

So this post is entirely for me. Those on my Facebook who are yelling at Christians to read our own Bible, the whole thing--well, here I am. This is what it looks like. And while I do not expect the world to see or understand me, I am grateful for those believers who are walking this same path. Thank you, brothers and sisters, for your encouragement and fellowship.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Game Over and the pillow fort

I am not one of those Christians who pours over Revelation and has a map on the wall about the end times. I have indeed studied Revelation, and I have opinions, but it is not one of my hobbies.

That said, I can't wait for Game Over. I have a greater sense of purpose than ever before in my life, and I am convinced that God has work for me still to do, but my heart is with Paul when he says, "I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more necessary [for one or two people] that I remain in the body" (Philippians 1:23-24).

Getting to see Jesus means that I can stop striving in half-darkness. 1 Corinthians 13 says that someday I will know as I am known, fully, face to face, not a dim glimpse in a foggy mirror. And I know that I will have failed him, come up short, but his love for me is compelling. I am not afraid to be found wanting--of course I will. That's why I am clothed in the righteousness of Christ; my own clothes are tattered.

I am like a child trying to keep a pillow fort together. When Jesus comes, I get to drop all of my blocks and attempts and run to him: "I am so glad you're here! I think I've really messed things up."

And he will set all things right: my heart, my thinking, the world, his church.

So, Lord, I'm going to get up again today, and I am going to try. And I will talk about you and seek your face and walk in your Spirit. But I am genuinely grateful that all of this is almost over. Come soon.

(The picture of the pillow fort I copied from Steve Ezra's blog. I didn't ask him; he's a Christian, so I hope he forgives me. This is me, bungling through life again. I also grabbed the sky photo from someone--I don't even have a credit for that one. Please come, Jesus. I am such a wreck.)