Sunday, April 19, 2015

to live is Christ

I was thinking this week about how there are many people who are angry and hateful toward Christians. Around the world, there are many who hate Christians and even are attempting to kill Christians.  I am sitting here in my comfortable American home and I do truly have freedoms to go to church or not, and worship how I choose. There is story after story, of attacks of Christian churches and  believers.  I follow the Voice of Martyrs and sometimes so thoroughly heartbroken but the severity of suffering.  I do not understand how anyone could be so harmful to another person.   There are beatings, killing, loss of family and persecution.

In the midst of all the suffering, there are also blaring stories of love. Love that can only come from God. There are those that are asking for supporters to pray for those attacking them, rather than for themselves. They want to see those hateful men, changed by the love of God.  They are displaying the very words of Jesus. "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;"(Matthew 5:43-48)  I am awed and humbled by these stories of forgiveness and love. I am in wonder as I read of people choosing to serve God in the face of great struggle and persecution. The only reason I can find in each of these testimonies is the truth of who God is. God has revealed himself to these people as the real source of love, joy, truth, peace. He has walked with these wonderful people to the very end in the midst of the most challenging of circumstances. Their faith is tested and faith wins.

I am also challenged to really look at my own walk with God and how I display my faith in God. I did not have to choose God with the knowledge of facing death for that choice.  For us in America, choosing to serve God can be an easy choice.  We can choose to serve God and make a few changes. We may change a few friends, go to church, read and study, worship and sing, but in reality, we have not faced challenges.
What I realized is living a "Christian life" has not really cost me much.  There is a price paid for many followers of Christ around the world.  We Christians in America have not faced the reality of the price paid for our sins. We do not understand what we truly owe.  I realize I live comfortably. I do not face making a decision to live for Christ that will lead to my death. We are so busy with living, making plans, and sometimes even debating what God's word really means that we have forgotten to really tend to the things of God. I do not even truly understand that God has asked for all of me, not just what is comfortable and convenient, but for every part of my being.

I love America.  I love our freedoms.  I love that we can still choose to live how we choose and worship how we choose.  I am however, sad about how much of God's will I have missed because I have been so comfortable with living the American dream. We have so much here that can distract from the true purpose God designed us for. I can tithe, give offerings, and serve as it is convenient.  I think of the story in Luke 21 where Jesus was in the temple.

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, 2 and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. 3 So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; 4 for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God,[a] but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

I question if maybe I have been giving just out of my abundance.  Not just with financial things, but with everything He has given me. Talents, knowledge, time, etc. Have I really given ALL to Him?
I think I already know the answer to this.  I am sure I have held back on many things.  I am sure there are times I should have acted on what He was speaking to my heart and I chose not to act.  I am sure there are times I have heard God ask me to speak to someone or pray for someone, and out of fear, or lack of compassion, I have chosen not to obey.   I truly wish I had realized that it was not just the other person missing out on a blessing, I have missed out on the joy of seeing God work, the peace of obedience, and the blessings of a pleased Father.  I have chosen to give only what I found was comfortable or when it was convenient.   I have assumed I was obedient, but the real obedience comes from living a life that is completely and fully trusting and relying of the Father for everything.  I mean everything.

My husband was reading Luke 9 the other day and the first six verses really hit my soul.

Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. 2 He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3 And He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece.
4 “Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5 And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”
6 So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

We have also been sent by God to share the Gospel.  We also have the promise that we do not need to take with us anything for He will provide.  We do not need to worry and fret over what we have need of because He already has a plan to provide everything.  It is a matter of trusting Him to fulfill His promise.

Matthew 6:25-34 Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

I know I have failed my Heavenly Father, the one who paid the ultimate price for me, as I have not trusted him completely.  I have not listened when he spoke to me to be His hands and feet, to reach out in love to a hurting soul.
I was truly reminded yesterday as we went out as a church body for outreach and ended the morning praying with a gentlemen.  Tears welled in his eyes as he reached out and allowed me to take his hand for prayer.  He was truly thankful for the offer.  I continued to pray for him for the rest of the day as I remembered that short moment.  I am eager for more of these moments.  I am eager to feel the presence of God moving as I pray for a hurting soul.  I am eager to see the peace that enters and fills up to the eyes of the person.  I am eager to be used of God as He sees fit.  I am even hoping to be able to say that even if it came down to it.  I would be willing to love a person who comes to attack or kill me.  I want to be sure that I would love them so much that I would pray for them rather than my own safety.  I hope that I would trust God so much that I can say just as Paul did "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21

I do pray that I can lay aside the weights that have so easily beset me and lulled me into a comfortable faith so I can give ALL, everything that I am and everything I have, to the only one who truly can use it the right way.
I no longer want my fear, my pride, my own understanding, to get in the way of allowing wonderous works of God to flow through me.  I want to lay it all down willingly for my Savior. I want to be willing and obedient without fear, with complete trust. I want to sing the old song, He is my everything, He is my all, He is my everything, both great and small.  He gave His life for me, Made everything new. He is my everything, none other will do, with a deeper conviction and new understanding.  I want to understand what it means to really belong to Him every moment of every day. I really have nothing with Him.  It really isn't mine anyway.  It really has no eternal value.  The only thing of eternal value is knowing Christ.  I want to truly know Him to the very end.

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