“I Will Give You A New Self Instead”

This quote is shaking up my view of redemption. In his essay, “is Christianity Hard or Easy?,” C.S. Lewis really turns the tables on American cultural Christianity and shows us what’s keeping is rooted in sin.

“The ordinary idea which we all have is that…we have a natural self with various desires and interests…and we know something called “morality” or “decent behavior” has a claim on the self…. We are all hoping that when all the demands of morality and society have been met, the poor natural self will still have some chance, some time, to get on with its own life and do what it likes. In fact, we are very like an honest man paying his taxes. He pays them, but he does hope that there will be enough left over for him to live on…

The Christian way is different—both harder and easier. Christ says, “Give me ALL. I don’t want just this much of your time and this much of your money and this much of your work—so that your natural self can have the rest. I want you. Not your things. I have come not to torture your natural self…I will give you a new self instead. Hand over the whole natural self—ALL the desires, not just the ones you think wicked but the ones you think innocent—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead…

The almost impossibly hard thing is to hand over your whole self to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is remain what we call “ourselves”—our personal happiness centered on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, despite this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you cannot do. If I am a grass field—all the cutting will keep the grass less but won’t produce wheat. If I want wheat…I must be plowed up and re-sown.”

Dang. That makes a lot of sense. Why are we letting our old selves be “tortured” when we can be plowed up and be created wholly new?

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Changes (Just Keep Swimming)

A lot has (and hasn’t) happened in the last few weeks. I figured it’s time to give y’all an update, despite the fact that everything could change tomorrow…or today, for that matter. This is where Anna is at as of 6/16/14, 6:30 pm.

Way back in March, I applied to work with Cru in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. As you prob know, I was accepted on the condition that we came up with enough people for a team. Well, we did’t. I’m still the only one who has applied for this particular location. So that won’t be happening.

This hasn’t ever happened before, and Cru is currently talking with other teams in South Africa to see if I can be placed with one of them. If not, we’ll start talking about possibilities (just possibilities at this point) of re-interning in the US somewhere. But it looks like I’m not going to hear anything soon.

At the same time, I applied for an international relief and development internship with Samaritan’s Purse. This 5 month internship is my dream but only has 13 spots for 200+ applicants to fill. I’ve had an interview but because of the huge number of applicants, once again I’m not going to hear anything soon.

So what am I doing next year? Whatever God wants me to do. I’m currently in limbo, just waiting to hear back from Cru or Samaritans Purse. Because I was originally supposed to be going to Port Elizabeth next year, I didn’t get a summer assignment from Cru aside from raising funds for the trip. Which I can’t exactly do now that it’s not going.

So I’m kind of on indefinite vacation (yay?). It’s weird. It’s uncomfortable. I can’t move out of my apartment because I might be in Davis next year. I can’t raise funds because I might not be working for Cru next year. I can’t really go anywhere because at any point I could be told what I’m doing next and then I will need to start preparing. I can’t look for a different job because these are both two very good options and I haven’t been told “no” to either. I can’t even tell you what I’m doing or where I’ll be next week!

I’m not a naturally patient person, and I don’t rest well. I like to be productive, useful, moving and working. It freaks me out to have time to rest- my friends know how I tend to plan up all my “free” days so I have stuff to do. So I have more than a little growth to do in trusting the Lord and waiting on His timing and guidance.

But this I call to mind- and therefore I have hope! The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to those who seek Him. It is GOOD that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:21-26

This verse has really encouraged me to wait quietly. Trust in His steadfast love should result in a quiet rest of the soul, even when waiting. What else do we need aside from the Father’s constant love and provision?

So for now, I’m going to pull a Dory and just keep swimming ahead as God leads…

Songs of Truth and Life for Lent

I have been falling in LOVE with hymns recently. They are some of the deepest, most heartfelt songs of truth I’ve ever heard. The simple melodies play in my head throughout the day, reminding me of the hope and life I have in Christ.

Just check out these lyrics from one of my favorite hymns, “Before the Throne of God Above”:

“When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.”

This was written by Charitie Bancroft 150 years ago. Yes, that’s right, 150 YEARS AGO! And every word is just as true and meaningful today. Who wouldn’t want these sweet words drifting through their house while cleaning, implanting themselves in their heart while working, whispering to them as they drift off to sleep?

One of my favorite bands, Page CXVI, brings a modern twist to old hymns. The trio has been leading worship together for years and decided to put together some albums of hymns with the goal of “making them accessible and known again.” I love the story behind their name; it refers to the page in a loved copy of C.S. Lewis’  allegorical The Magician’s Nephew in which Aslan (the character representing God) sings the earth into existence. Hence the fantastic logo.

They are currently working on a church calendar project, recording 4 albums in one year that go along with the liturgical calendar. They’ve released a fantastic new collection today called “Lent to Maundy Thursday,” featuring seven hymns to prepare our hearts for Easter. I recieved the pre-released album and have been listening to it over and over, delighting in the simple melodies and sweet words. “Behold the Throne of God Above” is remixed, keeping the original words but adding a fresh melody line. “Fast From, Feast On” gets to the heart behind Lent. It’s a reminder that it’s not about self control but about refocusing ourselves on what will truly give us more life and contentment than anything else.

You can buy it on their website,  http://www.pagecxvi.com, for $7 or you can find it on iTunes.  If you’d like to listen to it online for free, check out  https://soundcloud.com/pagecxvi/sets/lent-to-maundy-thursday to stream the entire album.

A glorious mess

You know that feeling when there’s stuff everywhere and the dishes are in the sink and you’ve got three people texting you about “urgent” matters and you can’t find matching socks? Those days when you have so much on your mind that you can’t concentrate on what’s right in front of you, when you are up all night trying to figure out what you’re doing with your life, when you randomly start crying because you burned the toast again- or maybe because you’re simply exhausted? That’s my entire life right now. I’m kind of a mess.

I’ve always identified myself with what I do. When I’m getting to know a person, it’s all about what I do. “I’m an intern with Cru, I lead Bible studies, I attend a community group, I play guitar, I live with an international students, ect.” Which sounds like a natural thing until I realized this week that there’s more to me than what I do. ShockingSeriously though, I’ve never considered that before. My life is so performance-focused, all about doing the right things, pleasing the right people, excelling and succeeding. But having an identity rooted in performance is becoming extremely problematic.

I had FINALLY found something that I could do well- agriculture. But this year, God directed me to intern with Cru. Leadership and ministry do NOT come naturally to me. It is a struggle every single day, and it’s not getting any easier. The learning curve is huge and most of it is “learn as you go.” Which is synonymous to “learn by making mistakes.” So as a performance-based person, every time something doesn’t go well CRASH goes my identity. I am “good” and “acceptable” when I am on time, prepared, and confident. I am “bad” and “worthless” when things don’t go as planned. And I don’t think I’ve had a single day this quarter where things went as planned.

But guess what? God doesn’t value or love me because of my performance. He loves me because He CHOOSES to love me. His very NATURE is love. It would go against His nature to stop loving me. How awesome is that?! And if God loves me, nothing else really matters.  Read Ephesians 1:3-12 (The Message version really brings it home for me. Sometimes I need it in my language; emphases are mine).

3-6 How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

11-12 It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

God has designed me for glorious living. That means living in a way that gives glory to God, not necessarily in a perfect way. In fact, my failures force me to remind myself of the Gospel and of God’s surpassing grace. I think that gives God a LOT of glory!

So, identity. My identity is in Christ. It’s okay that I have no idea what I’m doing with my life. It’s okay if I am late to the Bible study I’m leading because I forgot to eat dinner. It’s okay if I am horribly confused by what an identity outside of performance is. Because I know who I am in Christ. I am beloved and valued, worth more than any amount of money. I can’t disappoint Him- Christ’s already paid for my failures. I can’t do anything to make Him love me any less.

And I’m going on a personality hunt 🙂 a friend pointed out that after work each day, I get a chance to  start to live my life. I get to discover who I am and what I enjoy. Anyone want to come along on the ride? It’s gonna be a mess- but  a glorious mess!

What a One-Legged Skeleton Taught Me About Worship

What a One-Legged Skeleton Taught Me About Worship

Meet my friend the dead saint. Somewhere along the road he lost a leg, but then he got bedazzled and placed in his own little altar in a church in Germany, where people pray to him hoping he’ll talk God into letting them go to heaven.

WHAT?!!  Crazy but true. People are worshiping this dude. In a cathedral. I started digging through the Bible to figure out what kind of temple God really desires. Surely it’s not this!

Originally, God told Moses to build a tabernacle, or a portable tent temple, for Him to dwell in while the Israelites did circles in the desert. His instructions were clear that it should be made of only the best material (Exodus 26). This was to reflect his power and holiness, and He wanted all the nations to know of His glory.

Solomon builds God a permanent temple in Jerusalem. This was their only access to the presence of God at that time. The beauty of the temple was like that of the tabernacle. But it didn’t take long to mess things up. In 1&2 Kings, we see that within one generation idols pull people out of the temple. Then Egypt raids the temple, kings build it back up to make it “better” than other cities’ temples, attacker are paid off with temple riches, false idols are brought into the temple itself, and finally Babylon conquers Israel and destroys it. Whew.

Despite the efforts of multiple kings to rebuild the temple and bring it back to its original purpose and condition, the temple was defiled FAST. You can see this trend has continued throughout time in the histories of Europe’s cathedrals. I had the privilege of walking around a number of them this summer and was appalled at what I heard.

The cathedral above in Ulm was originally started to glorify God; the people put their own money into building it. But it turned into an idol as they thought to seek fame by building the tower to be the highest in the world. Others on the Romantic Road in Germany are gilded and gorgeous but people in that time were poor and hungry, and the priests took from them to build their own glory.

Then there’s the relics. We went to one museum that talked about how relics were treasures of more worth than gold because possession and worship of them were seen as a source of salvation. I hit a point this week where I could not stand to see a single relic more. I love this clip from the movie Luther (if you haven’t seen this movie yet, it is FANTASTIC)

1 Corinthians 3:16
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”

What are you worshiping in the temple of your heart? Are you worshiping something created- your house, success at your job, your group of friends, actors, politicians? Where is your church directing your worship- the worship band’s abilities or the snazzy programs? What consumes your thoughts, recieves your money, takes your breath away?

If I’m honest with myself, I’ve got a lot of relics and idols in the temple of my heart. It’s a little overwhelming until I realize that I can’t fix it by myself. But with the Holy Spirit working in me,I can start to focus my eyes more on God and less on my idols. I’ve been  studying the attributes of God and keep finding that He is much more able to truly satisfy my desires than my idols.  My friends can’t fill my desire to be fully known and fully loves. My job won’t fill my desire for purpose. And no matter how much I study, I won’t fill my desire for truth until I seek God.

Today I stepped foot in a cathedral that was drastically different. Every sign I read pointed to the gospel. There were no relics, and the stained glass depicted bible stories rather than legend. Strasbourg gets it. It’s not about the art or the famous dead dudes. It’s not about us. It’s about Christ.

Mud Pies

Thought I’d share with you some pieces of one of my favorite essays today.

 

 The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with
it the suggestion not primarily of securing
good things for others, but of going
without them ourselves, as if our
abstinence and not their happiness was the
important point. I do not think this is the
Christian virtue of Love. The New
Testament has lots to say about self-denial,
but not about self-denial as an end in itself.
We are told to deny ourselves and to take
up our crosses in order that we may follow
Christ; and nearly every description of
what we shall ultimately find if we do so
contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks
in most modern minds the notion that to
desire our own good and earnestly to hope
for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I
submit that this notion has crept in from
Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the
Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the
unblushing promises of reward and the
staggering nature of the rewards promised
in the Gospels, it would seem that Our
Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but
too weak. We are half-hearted creatures,
fooling about with drink and sex and
ambition when infinite joy is offered us,
like an ignorant child who wants to go on
making mud pies in a slum because he
cannot imagine what is meant by the offer
of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily
pleased…

 

Image

 

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Image

“he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea…”

These things (drink, beauty, ambition, ect) …are good images of what we
really desire; but if they are mistaken for
the thing itself they turn into dumb idols,
breaking the hearts of their worshippers.
For they are not the thing itself; they are
only the scent of a flower we have not
found, the echo of a tune we have not
heard, news from a country we have never
yet visited. Do you think I am trying to
weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember
your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking
enchantments as well as for inducing them.
And you and I have need of the strongest
spell that can be found to wake us from
the evil enchantment of worldliness which
has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred
years. Almost our whole education has
been directed to silencing this shy,
persistent, inner voice; almost all our
modem philosophies have been devised to
convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth.

Figure out who it is yet? This is C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia books! His writings on Christianity are just as enchanting, and I love this essay because it speaks of the delight we were created for and yearn for, and assures us that, though we will not find it here on Earth, we will find it in Christ. You can read the rest here for FREE (yes, really): http://www.verber.com/mark/xian/weight-of-glory.pdf .

Also in regard to the pictures- God’s been moving my heart to feel more compassion than I ever have for the poor and helpless, especially children. He has convicted me about my OWN finances and reminded me that it is a COMMAND, not a suggestion, to give to “such as these”.