Friday, May 22, 2015

To Obey is Better than Sacrifice

Recently, I've been pondering my impact upon the world and wondering how fruitful it has been. Not for pride or vanity's sake, but for the simple fact that I seem to live two lives. Online, I'm an outspoken Christian, full of vim and vigor, blogging and Facebooking about our glorious King. And yet at home in my personal life, I am more reserved and less in-your-face. Of course, I do sing fairly loud to my Christian music in the kitchen, but that's beside the point.

I took the issue to God and asked Him if I was doing it wrong. Are people confused when they read my fiery posts and then encounter shy little me in real life? Am I genuine in my beliefs?

Many in my life have denounced Christ, so for the most part, I stay quiet in my faith so as to respect their beliefs. I figure if they're interested, they'll ask or read my posts online. I have shared Christ and discussed doctrine with a few of them, but life goes on as it always has - the sun rises, the sun sets, and another day has passed.

I don't often make it to church every Sunday and I don't always give to the needy, but I try my hardest to live with my heart wide open. I teach my children about Christ and they witness first-hand my prayer life and how often I study. I buy many books on theology and sermons, as there's a drive in me to learn and know and share with others. This is likely why I have the outlet of posting online, because I don't have that outlet in my day-to-day.

The Lord has been showing me it is the state of the heart that truly matters to Him. A Christian life is marked with good works, however, to obey is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). How interesting to think we get so sidetracked into believing we must make sacrifices for God to be true Christians, yet our Lord says He cherishes obedience to His commands above our sacrifices. Why is that? Well, anyone can make a sacrifice. Consider the offerings of Cain and Abel. God accepted Abel's offering, but not Cain's. They both made a sacrifice, but it was only Abel who pleased God (Genesis 4:3-8). It is the one who has a heart of love for their God who will obey His commands (John 14:15). And what are Christ's Two Great Commands? Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:29-31).

I strive to obey Yeshua's Commands to my greatest ability. I know I often fail. But God sees every little detail of what I do for Him. I am reminded that the beauty the Lord God esteems is a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4). These are quite precious to Him, far above rubies (Proverbs 31:10).

It is my hope those around me would say a "quiet and gentle spirit" is who I am. Catch me around dinnertime, however, and it might be a different story! I am well-known for my evening grumblies. When the blood sugar is low, I stomp around the house like Godzilla. In fact, my kids and hubby affectionately call me Momzilla when hunger strikes. But as a rule, I don't like to be contrary. I hate conflicts. If you happen to be over when dinner is ready, grab a plate. If you need a place to sleep, here's a blanket. If you have a boo boo, bring it in for hugs and kisses. Heh, I'm a mom, what can I say? And I believe in the catch-and-release method whenever I find a bug in my kitchen. Why should I kill it when it's just looking for food?

I realized during prayer that what haunted me was the Great Commission. Christ told us to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). While I've been busy online, have I neglected my own personal mission field? That's when the Lord opened my eyes. We are to be lights for Christ in the world. As women, we are to teach our children and younger women in the Lord (Titus 2:3-4). If our spouses don't believe, we are to be of good conduct so as to win them without a word (1 Peter 3:1). Is this what I do?

All my children are believers and have a tender love for Jesus. Some may show it more than others, but being children, I wouldn't expect them to be as sold out as I am. It takes time to mature in the faith. Anyone who walks into my house cannot deny that a Christian lives here. My walls are adorned with Christ, Scripture verses are quoted in the planter, and random books on theology are scattered about. I blast my Christian music, either in my kitchen or in my car, and my afore-mentioned singing cannot be missed by anyone within a half mile radius. I never take off my cross necklace, and I even have Christian tattoos.

My real life is anything but hidden under a basket. God has shown me that having a quiet and gentle spirit does not mean one is neglecting the Great Commission, and the point of this post is to bring peace to those who might be in the same boat as I am. Ultimately, my goal is to disciple my children as well as make disciples online. I regularly speak to my older girls about marriage, motherhood, and the Messiah. (Oo, alliteration!) I am annotating my entire Bible in order to leave some wisdom for my son when I pass on. My 6 y/o knows more theology than your average baby Christian, as her penmanship lessons are Bible verses. I do honor the Great Commission in my home. This is where my efforts should be focused.

While my mind might be grieved that I don't do more, give more, or say more, the Lord has spoken to my heart and told me I'm exactly where He wants me to be. I don't live two lives, because my online presence is an overflow of what's already in my heart (John 7:38). My real life is likewise an overflow of my heart, as I train up my children in the way they should go. I do what I do online in order to share what I learn and study with others who are willing to listen. There is no double standard or hypocrisy in my beliefs. I am honoring Titus 2:3-4. Like Mary of Bethany, I am sitting at Yeshua's feet.

And in all honesty, the Lord works through me in the "works He's prepared in advance for me to do" (Ephesians 2:10). And this is what I believe it means to share the yoke of our lives with Yeshua. His yoke is easy and His burden is light because we simply shine -- we tell the world the Good News, and He takes care of the rest!

So be encouraged, my dear sisters in Christ. If you have a quiet and gentle spirit, do not be too hard on yourselves that you're not actively evangelizing or doing great and marvelous things for the Lord. If you have an obedient heart toward God's commands and a thirst for Yeshua Himself, He naturally works out of the overflow of your heart. We scatter the seed. The Holy Spirit waters and cultivates. If you train up your children to follow Christ, if you counsel your younger friends, family, or daughters in the issues of life and marriage from a Godly perspective, you are doing exactly what the Lord has called you to do. Cover everything you do with a blanket of prayer, and trust in the Lord with all your heart.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Narrow Way

I live between two extremes: absolute joy, and utter sorrow. It is an odd feeling, to be both joyful and melancholy at the same time. All the great theologians will tell you that in His presence is fullness of joy, and yet the closer we are to God, the more we weep over our sin. When we ponder His greatness, His goodness, His mercy, we are overcome with rejoicing in these great truths, yet we also become aware of a certain weight of awe that turns the eye inward and sees the unrighteousness that still stains our nature.

While Christ is our righteousness and God no longer charges sin to our account, until we are glorified in our new eternal bodies, until our salvation has fully come, we remain in this body of death. The Apostle Paul outlined this dichotomy in Romans 7, and we all still wrestle with our old man.

When God opened my eyes to my sin and bid me to return to Him a few years ago, I remember I asked Him to help me love Him like the Apostles. I wanted to know that deep, abiding love we only read about in Scripture. If the Shepherd was carrying me home from my long jaunt in the wilderness, I didn't want anything to lure me away again. I wanted my love for Yeshua to be genuine. I knew, even then, that there was something missing from mainstream Christianity - the fragrance of Christ.

I've always been an odd duck. Even as a child, I was the one doodling crosses in the margins of my history tests. I was the one listening to Christian music. I was the one praying in my backyard. I was the one who drew a giant Lion of Judah on my jean jacket in 9th grade. I was the one who decorated her room with Jesus posters. I guess you could say I've always been intense when it comes to God. And it was never due to another friend's influence, nor was it due to a religious family. It was fueled by...well, now that I know more doctrine and theology, it was likely fueled by God Himself. I honestly believe He allowed my wilderness period to grow me into the Christian I am now. I've always been zealous for Him. But now, I have a determination and a drive to know Him and seek Him like never before. 

However, I'm noticing that I'm still an odd duck.

Old friends who used to share my zeal have cooled. Current friends respect my beliefs but do not share them. Even other Christians seem to be content with the status quo. There are different levels of commitment, too. The "cultural Christian" was born into a religious family but not necessarily a believer themselves (which means they're not Christian). The "nominal Christian", who maybe made a decision to believe in Christ once upon a time but does nothing about it. The "Sunday Christian", who goes to church to keep up appearances, but that's about the end of it. The "small group Christian", who might be a bit more involved with the church activities and maybe reads a few Bible verses with the kids. Any more effort than this, and you're in "pastor territory".  Or maybe God's got a "calling" on your life. Perhaps - wow, you have the gift of wisdom!

I just shake my head.

What's the difference here? An insatiable PASSION to pursue God. That's it. Maybe God does have a calling on these people's lives. Perhaps they will become pastors with the gift of wisdom. But I tend to think rather than being a special case, this is the goal of every Christian's life - to know Him and make Him known.

Somehow, we've bought into the idea that those Christians who are serious about Christ fall into one of two camps. Either they're "Super Christians" like the Puritans and a few choice preachers from yesteryear, or they're "Jesus Freaks", those crazies who decorate their car with Jesus fish and religious bumper stickers. Since when has serving our God above and beyond the "norm" been considered a bad thing?

When has God given us permission to slack in our sanctification?

When has God become an accessory to our life rather than being our Life?

For me, when I returned to the Lord, I was like a racehorse who'd stumbled out the gate and trailed the pack. It didn't look like I'd be able to catch up with the others. But then, something happened. I began to study and read and make an active effort to pursue God and seek Him -- to know Him and share Him with others. It didn't take long before I sailed past the horses who once knew more than me as I bolted down the track. And then like Secretariat, the Holy Spirit has been widening my stride again, and again, and again, eating up the track until I'm so far ahead of everyone else they have no hope of catching me.

I'm not saying this to boast. Obviously there are more knowledgable Christians than me in the world. Many teachers and pastors have labored long years before the Lord and likely feel the same as I do. I speak of those who skate by in their beliefs, who do no study and pray minimal prayers. Why is there such a strong draw to chase God in some but not in others? I can only assume it's by God's grace. God blesses obedience. Perhaps it is the child of God who is willing to be used that the Lord uses mightily. The one thing I've always been willing to do is God's will. Even when I was a child, and even when I was in the wilderness. I prayed for it. Is that the secret to grazing on the sweet highland pastures rather than the barren lowland plains?

God can do much with a willing heart. You don't have to be rich, lovely, or even healthy. God can use you where you are. I'm fairly sure my prayer for God to help me love Him was a childlike plea for Yeshua to kickstart my sanctification. And boy, was He faithful to do it! Likely that prayer shall be perpetually answered throughout the whole of my life and I will never come to the end of it.

In chasing after God, I have found my ultimate Joy. Despite my circumstances, nothing can take it away, for my Joy is found in Christ alone; I cannot be separated from His love. However my sorrow is a godly sorrow, as I mourn and pray for my nominal brethren to know Christ richly and deeply. This narrow road is a lonely one, but I wouldn't choose any other path. If you cannot find the fragrance of Christ for yourself in this world, endeavor to be His fragrance to others. 

O beloved, imagine if every Christian treasured Christ above all things! How glorious His Church would be!