No FB

We’re in the season of Lent right now. It started Mar 5 this year and will end at Easter. It is a period of 40 days (not including Sundays) leading up to Easter (which is on the first Sunday after the full moon, after the Spring Equinox). Lent is a time to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before He began His ministry. There He was tempted by the devil three times but He overcame by the power and Word of God. I haven’t studied this but I feel it also points to an even greater temptation He felt…to NOT go to the cross. At the height of this very human feeling, the night before He was betrayed and led to the cross, He pleaded with God to take the cup (of God’s wrath) from Him, but still said “Not as I will, but as You will.” Words are insufficient in describing that kind of submission and obedience and trust in the Father.

Back to Lent…Christian observers of Lent originally fasted from any kind of rich foods (i.e. wine, meat, fat, sugar) for 40 days to commemorate Jesus’ period of fasting in the desert. This, in a way, lead to some serious binging of rich foods the day before Lent started…which brings us modern day festivals like Mardi Gras. I think the spirit of Lent is kinda lost in that….but anyways, we were encouraged by our pastor to observe Lent by giving up something that takes up undue attention and time in our lives so that we can make more room for God. To give something up so that God can fill it in with more of Himself. To break holds that things or people or practices might have in our lives so that we can have a better hold on God.

This year, I’ve chosen to give up Facebook. I’ve given this up in past Lenten seasons as well but I haven’t been as thoughtful about filling the time that would otherwise be used Facebooking with things of God. This time, I aim to pray for someone or pray over a situation every time I have the inclination to check Facebook. I must say…I pray a lot more now. Ha. But it’s been really good. There is less anxiousness through the day when I’m lifting everything to God in prayer. In submission and trust in God. I really want to keep this habit up even after Lent is over. Prayer is so critical to a life of faith. It is more powerful than any human word or action. It reaches out to and taps into the power of the Creator of the Universe! And because really, Facebook is SUCH a waste of time in comparison!

“Christian morals are for Christians only”

That was the view presented at our discipleship group a few Sundays ago. And I think I agree with it….that people who claim to be followers of Christ should quite naturally be the ones compelled to follow His commands, example and teaching. Because only those who have the Holy Spirit will be capable of recognizing what is in line with His teaching or not, and only they have the power to live it out as God transform them from the inside out. So the ones who aren’t followers, who don’t have the Holy Spirit, well why should they be held to Christ’s standard?

The Western world developed on Judeo-Christian principles and back then, it can safely be assumed that everyone believed in God and followed Biblical teaching. Encouraging, upholding, rebuking each other in accordance to the Word was part of the community norm. Times have definitely changed and believers are in the minority…but somehow, we keep trying to push the “Christian way” onto everyone else…and it comes across as judgmental, unloving and ungracious. Which is totally not lined up with who Jesus or God is.

I don’t believe Biblical principles and instructions are to be blindly followed by Christians just for the sake of following them though. I believe most Biblical principles have very solid reasons to be followed for our own physiological, emotional and spiritual well-being. Granted some of those benefits primarily applied to that period of history or that area of the world….but many are still relevant and applicable today. Taking the time to look deeper into why God may have laid down certain boundaries will result in a deeper understanding and appreciation for those boundaries. While we look at our decisions and actions within the tiny context of the world immediately around us (i.e. “I’m not hurting anyone that immediately comes to mind), God sees the WHOLE PICTURE and works His boundaries for the benefit of all, the environment included. So I think those principles that benefit us physiologically and emotionally CAN be shared even with those who do not follow Christ. Spiritual boundaries/benefits are harder to express and share….even though a lot of physical/emotional boundaries are tied to spiritual well-being too. But hey, if asked, be prepared to answer in gentleness and respect!

So, my take-away from that discussion…be loving, compassionate and gracious to all. Celebrate what’s meaningful in the lives of all whom we care about; mourn with each other; walk with and talk with them for as long as you are welcomed. If asked your opinion on something, then share honestly and openly, have discussion, but don’t expect any kind of compliance to your thoughts, and respect each other regardless. If someone won’t accept you then just shake the dust off your feet and move on. (And I might add, this goes both ways…those who are secular shouldn’t be forcing their values onto others who seek to live as Christ taught either.)

Thoughts on this? I know I’ve just scratched the surface.

Christmas

As usual, the frenzied shopping and all things North American Christmassy is of little interest to me…though I’ll admit I want to hopefully find some good Boxing Day deals afterwards. What I’ve been thinking of this season are the key characters in the Christmas Story: Mary and Joseph

(Image not mine)Mary…a teenager, betrothed (which is a mix between engaged and married such that you don’t live with your betrothed but you need a divorce to call off the wedding) to Joseph, gets a visit from the angel Gabriel and is told she’s pregnant by the Spirit of God and her son will be the Savior of the World. Don’t know about you…but that’s kind of a lot to take in. I’d have some questions…like, can you tell my Dad and fiance what you told me? Because it’s hard to see how this will go down well when they find out I’m carrying someone else’s baby…out of wedlock. In a strict and highly religious community. But no, Mary’s reply to the angel is “May it be done to me as you have said.” What. Incredible. Faith. So calm!

Joseph…a young carpenter, probably just building his trade and business. As a religious man, if you found out your betrothed is pregnant by someone else, you have the right to bring her out to be publicly stoned to death for adultery or at the very least, a large dose of public humiliation and divorce. But he was also a righteous man who didn’t want to subject Mary to public disgrace so he thought to divorce her quietly. Then the angel told him in a dream to not be afraid to take Mary has his wife. And so….he takes her as his wife…even though in the community, they’d very likely be subject to gossip and ridicule. Maybe it’ll even hurt his business. It’ll definitely affect his social standing. But he wasn’t afraid. What courage!

We have the faith of Mary. The courage of Joseph. And overall, the obedience of both. They both have a deep trust in God and are willing to lay aside any personal pride to submit to His calling. No wonder God chose them. And to be entrusted with the raising up of Jesus, their own eventual Messiah? Wow….hard to wrap the head around what an incredible experience and privilege that is!

I hope and pray for myself and everyone around me that we’ll grow in faith, courage and obedience this season and into the New Year. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Trophies…just trophies

(Image not mine)

I feel like I haven’t been living with very much vision for my life. I feel like I should be setting bigger goals and then going about attaining them. In the workplace, I would like to be a Director one day. I wouldn’t want to be any higher in the ladder than that…but I do want to go about two levels higher than where I’m at. I would also like to own multiple properties…a relatively stable investment with long term growth. And tax shelter. I want to travel to every continent. See the world. I want to paint again. Dance. Be physically fit and reach my goal weight.

If I want these things, then maybe I need to set smaller goals that lead to the big one and go about achieving each step right? Maybe I need to be more proactive about looking for career building opportunities. Maybe I need to just make myself get that gym membership or sign up for classes. Maybe I should start looking for a little condo apartment to invest in for rental income. Didn’t someone say once, “The best way to get something done is to just do it“?

I shared this with Skywalker.

Why do these things matter? Why do you want them?

Well, it’s nice to be able to say I’ve been a good steward of resources and be able to produce fruits of my labor. It adds to security too. And I’d feel more accomplished. I might not save the world from disease, but for myself, I would have something to show.

Do those things really add security though?

Good point. No. My security is in Christ alone. All those things could be wiped with another economic crash or natural disaster. It’s happened before and it will certainly happen again.

Would your collection of trophies last in Heaven? Not that the things you mentioned are bad, but that’s what the world goes after. It’s all going to go through the fire…will it matter then?

Probably not. And now I feel a little sheepish. I know I’m to build eternal things, reach for the treasure that is in Heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. Yet the pull of going after those things have seeped into my being. The pull of collecting trophies. Trophies that will feed my pride. Trophies that could become my idols. I have to admit, they’re just trophies at the end of the day. Thank you Skywalker for speaking Truth into those rambled thoughts!

It’s a hard balance…we ARE to be resourceful and good stewards of our material wealth. We ARE to grow whatever we’ve been given…whether much or little. But not just material things….spiritual things as well. Do I have goals for that? Am I looking for ways to spread God’s love and compassion? What eternal things am I building? (Though really, I know I’m not the one building…God is.) Those are the questions that are probably of greater importance in the light of eternity. But it’s also not as tangible…and that is what I struggle with. I can’t “see” results. I suppose that also minimizes the temptation to be proud over what *I* accomplished. A life of faith is totally not about works, but it’s not easy either. So I blunder forward, praying for direction and discernment. Anyone else going through this?

Power as we don’t know it

(Image not mine)

“Don’t rejoice because the spirits submit to you, rejoice because your name is written in the Book.” – Luke 10:20

It was a sermon on Power; our speaker was Justin Tse. I would recommend listening to the whole thing here as I’m just going to touch on the bit that clung to my mind and made me think. The context around the verse above speaks of the disciples getting sent out on their first missions trip. They come back to Jesus with exciting testimonies of the power they had in casting out demons and healing. And then Jesus said, “Don’t rejoice because the spirits submit to you, rejoice because your name is written in the Book.”

Rejoice because your name is written in the Book.

I feel like it’s the key secret to something that our Teachers have forgotten to tell us about. When we think of spiritual power, we think of putting on our armour and swinging spiritual swords that cut bone and marrow, and being courageous and going about things with all our heart, mind and strength. We’re going to absolutely crush Satan’s minions and any other enemy by the strength we have in Christ! Woohoo!!

But I’m not thinking about how my name is in the Book. That I am God’s.
Yet Jesus said THAT is what we’re to rejoice in.

Through Justin’s message, God was challenging me whether I focus on having the “power” to defeat Satan…rather than on loving and being loved by God. Jesus’ power wasn’t in overthrowing the Romans, but was in humbly submitting to the cross, in displaying compassion to broken people…and through that, He overcame the grip of death. His POWER was in submitting to DEATH. I know it’s usually said that His power was in overcoming death in resurrection….but I’m seeing that it really starts by submitting and trusting that being in God’s Book and being loved by Him is sufficient. Afterall, it’s in God’s kindness that we are led to repentence…He didn’t fight us to the ground in order to convince us of our sins (though I don’t doubt God can do that if He deems necessary. Take Saul/Paul’s conversion for example.) In turn we’re called to express that kind of “power” by living out humility, hospitality, graciousness and compassion.

If the Israelites had wanted Jesus to liberate them from the Romans, but Jesus did something far greater by libertating the world from the grips of sin, then maybe my prayers for “power” to overcome the negative/unfair/uncomfortable situations in my life are FAR TOO SMALL.

If we play into Satan’s type of “power”…trying to fight and win and gain…then we lose to him. I think of the Beatitudes. It’s not a power this world understands. It’s completely counter intuitive.

At the end of the message we were asked, “What do you pray for?
What indeed. I thought of the times I asked for wisdom to know what to say to someone I was in disagreement with. Or the times I asked for strength to persevere through what seemed an unjust circumstance. Those are good things….but what if I prayed for a heart of compassion to know how to love them instead? What if my prayers were not about how to come out on top…but how I can lift someone up? My mind boggles.

I still haven’t sorted out my thoughts around this…but for now, I rejoice that my name is in the Book, and that I don’t have to understand fully.