Tuesday, May 31, 2016

YET I will rejoice    ** Play this song it's one of my faves

As I am in the last month of my Bible School (SBS) I have been thinking upon the change it has had on my life, how things are different and what I have learned. Upon reflection it's been one of the hardest things I've ever done yet I'm glad I've done it. I have gained truths that I can hang onto for the rest of my life; I came with questions and I'm going to leave with so many more. 

The main thing that's happened is having a huge perspective change. The simple truth of God's goodness and character is not determined by our circumstances. We still have to be faithful every day, choosing to follow God everyday. Salvation is a process and a journey and a daily decision. Sickness is bound to happen, yet we should stay faithful. We will hear teachings that sound appealing but are false yet we should still stay humble and discerning. Thinking that Christianity provides a pain-free life is not only unbiblical, it is destructive to faith and discourages people, thinking they've been abandoned by God. I cannot stress this point enough, because until this understanding and revelation is received, one will always be confused without hope at all suffering

We will experience loss, heart break, confusion, depression, anxiety, illness, joy, peace, freedom, gratitude, prosperity and love. Is the Lord any different in each season? Perhaps we need a perspective change from our own selfish desires to the wonder of the cross and the gift of eternal life. No other religion exists where God gives himself as a sacrifice for humans to atone for their selfishness and make a way for humans to be forgiven and redeemed. It is unique and selfless and doesn't logically make sense. and through that sacrifice we can 'approach the throne of grace with boldness so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need' Hebrews 4:16. I think that we have lost sight of God's holiness and the fear of the Lord has been diluted amongst the comfort of immediate gratification and distractions. I've learned that I should pray less for comfort but rather for strength and endurance in the midst of hurt. I've learned it's more about our attitude and character in situations rather than the circumstance itself. Pressure can create diamonds. Don't give up.

All of my losses have shown me that all I have is the Lord <3

But how does one apply the words of the Bible to today, I hear you say... Through this school we have to apply each book to our lives in a certain way, because that is how there is transformation. God's grace is sufficient- and that grace enables us to take responsibility and act on what we claim to believe. These are some of my most frequent applications:

1. Pray for others more / as much as I pray for myself. I see that as I pray for others I get a new compassion for them and my heart changes from my own problems and I'm able to shift my focus, putting things into perspective. Prayer changes things and only in the past few weeks did I actually realise that it does.

2. Be thankful. Especially on days when nothing seems right, gratitude shows me that there is always something to be thankful for. It's not about comparison and guilt tripping myself into thinking I have things better than others therefore I should be happier and more successful // vice versa. Rather thankfulness should lead to contentment and generosity.

3. Ask how others are doing. When I feel lonely and sad etc. it's natural to go into self-pity mode. One of my applications early on was to ask people how they are whenever I feel sad, because the reality is everyone feels somewhat lonely and is in need of that question. This is practicing that 'selfless love' stuff. Though I'm still definitely learning to ask that question more often because I'm terrible at it (sorry y'all).

4. Forgiveness. There is one verse in 2 Timothy 4:16 that changed my outlook to this. Paul is in prison and about to die, and he says, 'At my first defence no-one came to my support but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them!'. When I read that I really was so challenged, because he had been through the worst stuff yet still extended grace and mercy to his 'friends' who left in his time of need. Forgiveness is a process. A wise woman once told me that 'the willingness to forgive is the hardest and first step'. The Holy Spirit definitely does a lot we cannot fathom to help us on that journey. But one way I have practically been able to forgive people, is to pray for them. This is obviously really hard, especially depending on the depths of hurt, but praying for the person that hurt you will soften your heart towards them, helping you forgive, and things change in prayer. *Science* has shown that forgiveness starts the process of the brain healing's itself. It's terribly hard and I'm still in the process of it atm and fighting it often, but I know this to be truth

I'm sharing those because it's so easy to have the concept of holiness and growth and transformation in our minds but lets be real, no-one really knows what that looks like. The practical step is often the hardest step to take to make a change in our lives. Changing mindsets and hearts doesn't have to be complex, often its the simple changes that can transform a life.

So here are my messy and random thoughts for the day, much reflecting my brain and current mental state. As you can probably tell I could talk about this topic forever but I will end it here. Only a few more books left, ending with Revelation, and then I will be coming home. I'm so thankful for the Lord and his provision to carry me through this school despite the mountains and valleys that have happened. Also, I am getting severe headaches / migraines that make no sense, yet as Paul would say, they are the thorn in my flesh and they are keeping me reliant on God. So if you want you could pray for healing and / or the grace to be patient through them... that would be cool

Now, as Paul would say again,

The Lord be with you

Grace and peace to all of you <3

CSBS class of 2015-2016 with founders Ron and Judy Smith :) 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Does God really work good for all?

'We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose' Romans 8:28

This verse is used all the time. People quote it. They believe that if a person is in Jesus, then God must work all things for good towards him, because all things that come from Jesus are good things. This is true, but there is more to it. If a person doesn't have the right understanding then this verse can actually cause a lot of damage because what happens when a Christian is sick, suffering and heart broken? Does that reflect a person's faith and relationship with God? God works all things for those who love him, according to his purpose. It is interesting, because in this passage that Paul writes to the Romans, and they all would have gone through immense suffering. The Christians in Rome had just previously been displaced, there was dissension between the people. Paul had gone through trial, suffering and persecution continually. Yet Paul states that God works for good for those who love God. God's purpose for Paul was to reach the Gentiles... and through that process, Paul was pretty beaten up. Does that mean God lost control and wasn't watching over Paul whilst he was going through suffering to preach the gospel? Deffo not. Yet Paul saw something beyond his present life, and he knew that whatever he went through in this life was relative compared to the future hope and goodness that is promised. Looking to other people in the Bible; Jeremiah and Ezekiel both had extremely hard lives without seeing much results from their faithfulness. Moses had to lead a bunch of complaining, ungrateful Israelites through the desert for 40 years. and ultimately Jesus went through all suffering, the most painful kind (though he did rise again ! yay!). Does that mean that God hated those people, or left them because they lived through unceasing pain? nope !!! 
Through SBS one of the most helpful things I have learned is that the time we are living in is still a broken time. People are still selfish. The promise for eternal life is here through Jesus, yet he hasn't come again yet and so we are still stuck here until he comes back / until we die. He has given us the power through the Holy Spirit to have authority, yet it isn't the fullness of what it will be. And therefore we are stuck in a time called the 'age of tension'. That is why some people are healed of sickness and other's aren't. That is why there are tragedies and traumas and sufferings happening. It's not because God has lost control. It's because the world is fallen, ultimately that people are choosing their own selfishness over love for the next person. And so, then that shows that no matter the circumstances, God's love and power isn't defined by them. That has given me so much peace!! That no matter the pain, heart break or confusion, God's love isn't defined by that. He is constant and doesn't change and that's a good thing!! 
Anyways.. I think this verse can be used all the time, to make us feel better. We think that if we are Christians, God must make everything happy and positive in our lives, because it's promised here right?! Well not really. God's purpose often looks different than we think, but also God's goodness looks different to what we think. In this verse we often think that God's goodness means physical and material blessings. Really this statement is something so much deeper. And to see that one must have the understanding that God's goodness is different to our sinful and selfish version of goodness. (And pls don't think I'm trying to say that lives suck and God doesn't want to give good things because that's not what I'm saying. But rather we need to get the right perspective, expectations and understanding of what the Bible is really saying). God's goodness is the eternal love he has for us, it's the sacrifice of himself for our selfishness and it's the resurrection into eternal life he has promised for all people who believe in him. When one really understands that goodness, it changes everything. 
I have had that realisation only recently. I finally understood, and physically felt the weight of my sin. It was horrible. And by sin I mean all of my selfishness, my past failures, my possible future failures. It was to the point of wanting punishment because I knew how much of a wretch I was. I'd hurt people and that was wrong. Learning about how Jesus died and took on that punishment so that we don't have to really did blow me away. It didn't seem fair or right, because he took on what wasn't deserved, and we who did deserve punishment get to be free. It's taken me a while / still is taking me a while to accept and understand it. And that friends is the beauty and wonder of the gospel !!!!! There is literally nothing that can be done to attain it. No works, no meditation, no self-punishment, nothing except faith in Jesus can make one free and make one clean !!!! It's so simple and so pure but also so complex and to continually understand more of the beauty of it is amazing ! 
Needless to say, my conclusion with Romans 8:28 is that God's gifts of goodness, the hope of eternal glory, is what God works together for us. He may call us all to different areas of life, some comfortable, and some not necessarily nice. He may call some people to other nations to be missionaries, or others to be stay at home parents, or others to work at businesses. No occupation is superior to another. Yet in the midst of it, during bad days, don't fear God's abandonment, because you think that this verse means that it must be good since you're in Christ. No; there will be good days and wonderful blessings because God is generous. However, the good that he gives is salvation and eternal life. This really is good ! And if you don't see it as that good or enough then I implore you to ask for revelation to see the beauty of the gospel. It really is life changing! 
Through this understanding, I see that ... 'neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else' (Romans 8:38-39) ... can separate us from the love of God. That neither good days or bad days can separate us. Our circumstances don't define who God is. Life is still hard because this world is still broken, but God didn't fail and he hasn't lost control. Rather, people are still selfish and bitter. Realising this has brought so much peace as I don't have to keep working to attain good things but all good things have already come through Jesus. So yes, God does work for good for all who love Him, who are called according to his purpose. Yet this promise is so much more than this life, so much more than material blessings and having a comfortable and happy life. This promise is pointing towards the future eternal life, and that no matter that the 'purpose' is for each of us, he still offers that 'good' to us in the midst of it.