Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Renewing my mind

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind … Romans 12:2

I mentioned a while ago that my Pastor has chosen this verse and specifically the idea of transformation to be the key theme for this ministry year (Sept. to Sept.).  

To say that this theme resonated with me would not tell the whole story for when I starting this blog at the beginning of August, I felt at the time that I needed to undertake some spiritual disciplines in order to deepen my understanding of, my appreciation for, and my devotion to my faith.

Using some of the ideas found in holy scripture, I liken this undertaking to “retuning to my first love”, to “restoring the joy of my salvation”, and to the process of “working out my salvation with fear and trembling.”

Paul the apostle writes in his letters that the Christian life can be likened to a race that is meant to be run.  Now running has never been a strength of mine, give me a bicycle and I can ride for hours, but lace up some running shoes and I am panting by the first corner.  So I have to ask myself from a spiritual perspective how well am I running? 

The honest truth is that I stopped running a long time ago.  Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean to imply that I have abandoned the race, only that I stopped running at the first sign of cramps and I have been content to walk most of the way.  Oh every now and then I get encouraged to sprint a short distance, but inevitably I end up walking again.

The bible says “they that wait upon the Lord, renew their strength.”  Well to be frank it is a lot easier to just stop running when I am tired than it is to wait upon the Lord for strength.

So here I am today almost 4 months into the journey and what progress have I made?  To be honest I am probably moving at a swift walk.  If you have ever watched Olympic speed walking, you can envision how I see myself.  I am moving faster than I was four months ago, but my gait doesn’t look or feel natural and I am certainly not running with intensity.

Practically speaking I have regained consistency with respect to the reading of my bible.  On the prayer front however I only average one or two mornings a week of extended prayer.  This is an area I need to address.  I started out strong, praying 3-4 days a week back in August / Sept but then it slowly  got pushed aside for the pleasure of extra sleep.

I want to mention something else that I have done specific to the idea of renewing my mind.  A couple of weeks ago I attended with my dad a training day for “The Truth Project”  I was thoroughly impressed with this series of teachings designed specifically for the purpose of re-establishing a Christian worldview “within” the church. 

Turns out that most Christians don’t actually have have a Christian worldview.  They may understand who Jesus is and what he has done for them, but they don’t have a clue how to distinguish between the truth claims of the bible and the cultural norms that society views as sacred.  This is what a worldview is; it is a filter through which a person makes sense of the world around them.

I made reference to at least the core beliefs of my world view in a previous posting when I said the following:

1.  My nature is bent towards evil.

2.  I am hopeless to change.

3.  The human race is bent towards evil.

4.  We are hopeless to change.

Well if this is a filter through which I view the world, what ramifications does this have on the way I interpret cultural messages.  Let me give you an example.

I constantly hear that whether it is through the power of positive thinking or through mind over matter or though the latest trend that Oprah has hitched her wagon to that it is within me to achieve anything I desire.  That true happiness and peace can be achieved if only I am true to myself and I don’t let others hold me back.

Well my worldview tells me that this is a lie.

The problem with this is that it turns out my true self is not very nice.  Turns out that my true self is in conflict with God and my true self is not inclined to do the morally right thing if it is not in my best interest.  It is interesting how the world actually knows this very well and that is why self-love is almost seen as the pinnacle of human achievement.  Maslow used the term self-actualization, same thing.

My worldview tells me that only God can change my heart and give true happiness and peace.  It tells me that my old nature and its desires are detestable and that through Christ I now have a new nature with new desires which are no longer bent towards evil.

See how important a worldview is with respect to making sense of life.

So back to the task at hand, renewing my mind.  Since the training day I have been working my way through the 12 lessons.  I have made it through the first four and my desire is to begin a small group study in the new year to take other Christians through the material. 

Anyway one day at a time.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A word of thanks

What would be worth dying for? 

Would I die for my faith?  What about my family?  Perhaps the freedoms that I enjoy and most days of the year take for granted?

I ask the question because today is Remembrance day, and on this day it does my soul good to ponder it.

No one likes to think about death, certainly not me; but if I can’t answer this question today then I am not really living the other 364 days of the year.  More specifically if there is not something that I am willing to die for, then to what end am I living?

It is really as basic as that.  Life boils down to these kind of questions that have no scientific answers.  Yet an answer is still needed and until I find it I will not know lasting peace or security.

Thankfully I know the answer.  I would be willing to die for my faith.  I would be willing to die for my family.  I would be willing to die for the freedoms I enjoy.  And today, on Remembrance day I take a moment to think about the dedicated men and women of the Canadian Forces who discovered and are continuing to discover that some things are worth dying for. 

To them I simply say thank you.

But I know that words are not enough.  As the poet said:

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

So on this day I pledge to not break faith with those who have died fighting for my freedom.  I also pledge to not treat with distain those hard won freedoms.  And furthermore I pledge to not acquiesce to the demands of those who would seek to limit those freedoms in the name of political correctness. 

Vive la Canada libre!

Monday, November 08, 2010

My struggle

Like I said in my previous post actually living in obedience to God’s word is easier said than done.  If you have never read Romans chapter 7, make sure you do.  In this chapter Paul expresses the inner turmoil that each Christian faces.  He writes:

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Boy could I agree with that sentiment.  It is amazing how strong the desires of the flesh are.  In my spirit there is a desire to follow Christ with all of my heart, all of my soul, and all of my mind, but the flesh continues to mock me.  It taunts me by producing laziness instead of self-discipline, gluttony instead of restraint and impatience instead of perseverance.

Yet when I take time to ponder it in some measure I am thankful for this battle; for it confirms to me that I have God’s spirit abiding within me.

Furthermore if I loose a battle, I have hope in the continual work of God’s grace to pick me up, dust me off  and set me back on the straight and narrow.

Furthermore still I am confident that my faith in the future grace of God will ultimately guarantee my victory in this war!

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Favour of God

As a young child if there was one person that I desperately wanted to please it was my father.  Even today knowing that I have my father's favour gives me a high level of self-confidence that I otherwise wouldn't have.

When it comes to my heavenly Father, I won't deny that the same need exists within me.  I desperately need my heavenly Father to be pleased with me.

So what must I do to earn the favour of God?

Notice I didn't say love, I said favour.  Again just like my earthly father there is absolutely nothing I can do to earn the love of my heavenly Father.  It is unconditional and freely given.  How amazing is that!  Independent of my love towards Him, God loves me with a never ending love.

Now back to the question at hand.  How do I gain the favour of God?  What do I need to do to have God take pleasure in me?

It really is quite simple in principle, though as with most things in life, easier said than done.  I have my heavenly Father's favour when I live in obedience to his Word.  Consequently I loose his favour when I live in disobedience.

Let me diagram it for you as far as I understand it.

Favour from God is a result of obedience to God's Word, which is a result of faith in God's Word, which is a result of hearing God's Word

So through hearing God’s Word I came to faith in Jesus.

Now by obeying God’s Word I can receive God's favour on my life.