19 May, 2017

The Gospel of Loving Yourself


Self-love is a widely accepted concept these days. I’ve heard many different strains of it – some decidedly not Christian, others quoting Bible verses to back up their points. I wasn’t sure where to stand on the subject, but things are becoming clearer as I’ve researched and thought about it. I want to share – not to be disagreeable, but because I believe in making informed decisions, rather than going along with whatever’s popular.

The biggest problem I found with self-love is it takes away the need for salvation, and ultimately the need for God. If we love and accept all the sinful parts of ourselves, why did Christ have to die for our sins?  If we become better through loving ourselves, why do we need the power and grace of God? If we are perfect in our imperfections, why follow Christ’s commands and grow in Him? If all power comes from within, why is there need for surrender? If we are enough in ourselves, why do we need God?


But the Bible says all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, (Isaiah 64:6), and all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) Jesus said, I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in Him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:5)

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9) The truth is, we can’t trust ourselves, we can’t better ourselves, and we can’t save ourselves.

Being self-centred is also the opposite of God’s ideal for living: Love…seeketh not her own. (1 Corinthians 13:5) Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another. (Romans 12:10)

God, the definition of perfect love, gave up everything so we could have salvation, and lives now to continue working salvation in us. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3:16) Ultimate love equals ultimate self-sacrifice. Self ‘love’ is the opposite. Ultimate self-love is sacrificing anything to gain what we want.

But, this isn’t to say the right attitude to have about ourselves is self-hate. The Bible is clear we’re created and redeemed and loved by God, and have infinite worth and value. 

So what is the antidote for self-love? How can we find self-esteem or self-acceptance apart from it? The answer is God, in resting in His love. Apart from God we can’t do anything; without Him, we’re nothing. But with Him all things are possible. Instead of trying to fill the holes inside with positive words and thoughts about ourselves, fill them with God’s truths. The truth that God promises to be with me, to satisfy my longings, to give me everything I ever need. The truth that when I fall, God extends His grace and forgiveness to me, and I’m never beyond His love. The truth that He gave up everything to be able to have me with Him forever in a perfect place, and He calls me His daughter, an heir of His kingdom.

There’s a natural law that whatever we focus on is what we become like. If we focus on ourselves, we’re never going to rise above ourselves. But if we focus on God, the Bible promises:  But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18) By the power of God, our fallen messed up selves will change to be more and more like our Maker. 

What could be better than loving ourselves? Being loved and accepted and treasured by the definition of love Himself, the all-powerful sustainer of the universe who personally loves you.

~

I know I haven’t begun to cover the different aspects of this extensive topic. I recommend this brilliant article which discusses a few other points: Did Jesus say I must 'love myself' first? Also, I want to be clear: this wasn’t written to target anyone specific, or as a response to any particular post. It’s something I’ve been personally chewing over for a while.

I hope you know I’m eager to hear what you think! How do you see self-love? Do you agree with what I’ve said? Please share your thoughts and findings! I’m still learning :)

10 May, 2017

Thoughts of Today





The brain is an amazing thing. I was thinking about some of the information my brain processes: what I’m learning about counselling, information and new skills for my job, interesting findings in Ezekiel, aspects of truth and love I’ve been studying in 2 John, research about a topic I’ve been pondering, and putting into action feedback my teacher gave me on my music. There’s the general planning of the week, deciding what to cook, talking about my family’s activities, and noticing the weather. And it still absorbs song lyrics, and replays them at random. How is that not incredible?! Information is coming from all different sources about all different topics, and my brain processes and remembers things. It applies them to circumstances and thoughts of the past and present, which affects my future thoughts and reactions. And for the most part, this is automated and subconscious. I can’t even comprehend it. 

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. Psalm 139:14
~

A few things I’ve observed recently: 

Things that make me closer to God
Prayer, conversational prayer
Reading or studying the Bible
Reading inspirational books
Choosing to think about Him
            Pondering what I’ve read in the Bible          
Looking for answers to hard questions
Talking to like-minded friends
Taking in creation/ being in nature
Doing something for others
Outreach
Counting my blessings

Things that make me further from God
Internet browsing (specifically Pinterest, YouTube, random irrelevant information, etc)
Storybooks, especially fast paced ones
Listening to music
Overeating
Worrying about the future
Small talk
Going to town/shopping
Thinking about other’s faults
Thinking about my inadequacies
Doing something I know is wrong
Compromising my standards
Not getting enough sleep 

Actually, I found this useful, because when I think about doing one of the activities mentioned, immediately my mind equates it with either taking from or towards God. 

~

I was reading something today, and I can’t remember where or what it was, but it reminded me: the glory of God is our number one priority. Not looking good, not having enough money, not satisfying our wants, not even enjoying life or doing something good for others. God’s glory comes first, and everything else finds its purpose in that. Really, the way to get the most out of life, satisfy our desires, and everything else, is by living for the glory of God.

I knew that (somewhere in the back recesses of my mind), but I haven’t been asking that question of my thoughts and desires and actions and plans. It’s powerful: if my life is all about the glory of God, it doesn’t matter a cent what direction my life takes or what people think. If I’m doing what God wants me to do to advance His glory, I have nothing to lose. The Almighty is on my side. Except, I’m actually on His side, and He’s already won the victory. 

~

What have you been thinking about these days? Have you observed anything particular draws you closer to God, or distracts you from Him? What are your thoughts on the complexity of our brains, or living for the glory of God? Let’s have a conversation! :)

04 May, 2017

Lessons from a Ninety Year Old

Last week, while canvassing, I had the privilege of meeting an amazing lady. She was ninety years old, and we had a great conversation. I was only at her place for a short time, but I learned a lot. I started jotting down the lessons she embodied, thinking I would only come up with half a dozen. But the list went on, and behind each point is a story.


Do talk to strangers
Take time for others
Give credit where credit is due
Don’t think too highly of yourself
Listen to your parents
Give
Value family and community
Stay upbeat – always look on the bright side
Find your purpose in serving
Work for your money
Be content with what you have
Say your prayers anyway
It’s okay for things to affect you
Don’t say you can’t
Cheekiness can be done well
You’re never too old
Don’t get out of your pyjamas unnecessarily
Relationships matter most
Don’t give up
The one thing to look for in a spouse is unselfishness
Take pride in your family
Be faithful until death does you part
Stories show character
We can always learn from somebody
The most important thing is love


I was talking to her for under an hour, but left feeling so blessed. If I had to sum up my perception of this lady’s life in a word, it would be the verb give. Almost every story she told demonstrated her self-sacrificing spirit, right down to the fact that she is currently looking after her husband who has Alzheimer’s. “He’s like a child,” she told me, “but I still love him.” And yet, she was so humble. I told her she was amazing and she said she was just an ordinary housemother. I told her she was an inspiration, and she looked at me and said, “Am I really?” then proceeded to tell me she was just doing her bit. 

While she was looking around the house for a donation for a book I was leaving with her, I noticed a plaque on her wall. It described how Jesus was so unassuming – he was born in a feed bin, he never travelled the world, he wasn’t heralded by leaders of the day. His presence was a gift, His ministry was denial, and His death ultimate self-sacrifice. And yet, He had the biggest impact on history.

When I commented on the message, this dear old lady promptly pulled the plaque off her wall and gave it to me. I can’t help but think that’s something Jesus would do.

18 April, 2017

Fight On

Life is a fight. We fight against our sinful tendencies; we have to “resist the devil” (James 4:7). “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against prinicipalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12) There are only two sides, and every choice we make is for one or the other. Even if we’re not choosing to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12), we’re still fighting. We’re fighting to get ahead. We’re fighting to be the best, to hold our heads, to live. We’re fighting the lies of our culture, or we’re fighting to conform to them. As I see it, no matter what walk of life you’re in, if you don’t fight you die.

I get sick of fighting. Doesn’t every warrior deserve a break? Must every single decision be for one side or the other? Does it have to be a lifelong battle? I know the victory is already won through Jesus’ death and resurrection, I know He gives us the power to overcome, I know if I surrender to Him He’ll fight for me. But I’m human, and I get overwhelmed.

Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite. I talk spiritual stuff on this blog – about God, and the joys of having Him teach me things. But my life isn’t all like that. I have times of feeling distant from God, and I can’t get anything out of the Bible, and my prayers don’t seem to go anywhere. I get tired of fighting. I want to slip into neutral and let life make its own decisions for once. I wish there wasn’t this internal struggle between my fleshly desires and God’s ideal.

I was having one such phase recently. A couple of nights ago, I reached for my Bible to read, but nothing seemed to sink in. I went to put it back, but something made me flip over to Psalms instead. I started with Psalm 42, and came to verse eight: “Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindess in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, my prayer unto the God of my life.” I read Psalm 57, noticing verse two: “I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.” I jumped to Psalm 138, especially verses seven and eight: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thy hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.” But I ended up in Micah chapter seven verse seven: “Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.”

Maybe that seems like a jumble, but my tired heart found comfort in the psalms, and latched onto that last phrase from Micah: my God will hear me. I lay in bed contemplating, going over each of the words until I was overwhelmed. My: it shows ownership. God is mine, and this means I am His. He claims me. God: this is the same God who created the cliffs and rich blue water I’ve lately been looking at, who made the moon and clouds I could see out the window. He made the universe, and He claims me. Will: it’s definite, it’s absolute; it leaves no room for doubts. Hear: He’ll listen, and He’ll understand. He’s got the whole world to worry about, and He understands me. He gets what’s behind all my frustrations and fears. He understands what I can’t even put into words. Me: little tiny me, one of billions, on this speck of a planet. God, the most majestic Creator, claims and understands me.

I don’t know how to explain it, but God was close. I realised my struggles, my fears, my frustration at not seeming to be able to get to Him, He understood. He knew everything I’d thought and done, and He still claimed me. He still wanted have a relationship with me. He created tons of stellar planets, landscapes, and people – most of whom have more to offer than I do. But He’s there for me. 

And He says the exact same thing to you. He understands what you’re going through, even when you’re distant from Him. He claims you even though He knows the times you’ve slipped. He chose you to have a personal relationship with Him. 

It’s still a battle. Our minds are always going to be a war zone. But He’s right there. His name is still Immanuel, God with us. Fight on, friends.

04 April, 2017

Your Questions Answered and Eucla Beach



At the end of my previous post I asked if anyone had any questions about my recent travels and participation in the canvassing program. You asked some great questions – thank-you! I like the variety of questions asked too, and it’s given me plenty to write about in this post, as you’ll see. :) 

What are you doing in Australia? I live in Australia! Obviously I could be clearer about this. :) But there was a ‘trip’ involved in being part of the canvassing program because I live on the eastern side of Australia, and it happened on the western side of Australia. And there’s about three to five days of driving in between, depending how many stops you make. All the photos I’ve shared this year were taken as we drove over. 


What is canvassing? The canvassing I did is going door-to-door with a selection of Christian books (including a healthy cookbook) which we leave on a donation basis. We also have a couple of DVDs, and a survey offering different free programs, such as depression recovery workshops, healthy cooking demonstrations, and personal Bible studies. The aim is to reach people, often through friendly discussion, and be able to leave them with some material that will point them to Christ. 

What is the canvassing program and what does it involve? The canvassing program was a five week program run by Eastward Missions, and it involved – canvassing! :) There were between eighteen and thirty of us (the team varied as locals joined for shorter amounts of time), and each day we had a schedule including worship, helping with the domestic and organisational side of things, training (learning how to approach people better and offer what we have in a positive way), and then time on the doors. Each night we’d have a testimony time where we shared experiences of the day. On the weekend, we’d split into a few different groups and go to local churches where we often shared testimonies from the week, and helped with musical items and other parts of the service. Some afternoons we also passed out tracts on the street. Everything was enjoyable, but there was time for extra fun over Christmas/New Year. We went for a quick trip to see more scenery, climb a mountain, go to the beach, and all the little moments in-between. But everything we did was with that ultimate purpose of reaching out to others, and that’s what made the time enjoyable and fellowship sweet. There is joy in service.  


Who did you go with and how did you get connected with them? I found out about the canvassing program through close friends. They have been attending canvassing programs for a few years, and after hearing their experiences I looked for an opportunity to attend one. The team was made up of young people from all over Australia, some of whom I was already friends with, and others I’d never met before. 

What drew you to be a part of the canvassing? For a long time, God has given me the desire to reach out to others. When I heard my friends talk about this canvassing thing, I saw it was a way of reaching people. I had opportunity to go canvassing for a few days the beginning of last year, and after that I was hooked. :) God’s work is exciting, friends!

What were some of the most amazing moments you had with your canvassing crew? We spent a lot of time travelling together, and I appreciated many of the conversations we had. Some were small talk, some were funny, and some were deep and spiritual. I remember one discussion about knowing God’s will for our lives, and the importance of reaching out to others – going and telling the world. Another time, one night, we shared personal testimonies; it was amazing to hear where everyone had come from and how God was working in their lives. New Year’s Eve we sat around and shared our blessings from the day, the program, and the year. After talking about God’s goodness and blessings, we watched fireworks over the ocean, along with crowds of noisy spectators. It was showy, but I spent the whole time comparing it to the sweet time of fellowship and thanksgiving we’d just had. The two didn’t meet up. It was hollow and unfulfilling, and reinforced in my mind that time spent worshipping God is always worth it.



Did you get to hold a koala bear or see a kangaroo? We saw a few kangaroos. But seeing as I live here, I see them all the time. When I woke up this morning there were some grazing in our front paddock! But on the other hand, I didn’t see a koala on the trip, and I’ve never seen one in the wild. 

What’s your favourite part of Australia? How can I say when I haven’t seen it all?! ;) I like the area where I live, because it’s home to me, but I also really like the Snowy Mountains. The parts of South and Western Australia I saw I liked too, and some parts of Victoria. But, aside from cities, there are few places in Australia I’ve been that I dislike.

Where did you sleep? For the program, a pastor and his wife graciously opened their home and property for us to stay. Three other girls and I shared a caravan not too far from the house, and that’s where we slept! While we were travelling, we’d go down a side road off the highway until we found a spot on the side free from shrubs, set up a few tents, or just sleep under the stars. 


Did you see any crazy answers to prayer while on your trip? It was like constantly living on answers to prayer. Every day on the doors (canvassing) was filled with much prayer, and so many answers. For example, one day I was having an unprofitable morning. People were slamming their doors before I could say anything. I was praying someone would give me time; hear me out even if they weren’t interested. Some doors later, I met a guy, and the first thing he did was come out his door and give me his full attention! He didn’t read, but we had a great discussion, and he asked questions like “How do you know for yourself that God is real?” I mentioned personal testimony; seeing Him work in my life. We talked on, and at the end he commented that maybe I was meant to turn up at his door and have that conversation. I shared about my prayers earlier, how he was the answer to my prayer, and that was even more proof to me that God was real. He seemed moved, and I feel sure he was going to think more about what we’d discussed. God used that one prayer in so many ways – to strengthen me, to reach the mind of that man, and to encourage others I shared the experience with. I’m pretty sure I had an obvious answer to pray every day, not to mention the times I didn’t take notice of, and all the encouragement I received from hearing other people’s answers to prayer at the end of each day.

Another thing that wasn’t a specific answer to prayer that I know of, but was a crazy awesome experience I’d only read about in books, was the conversion of a homeless guy some of the team met up with. To think one day he was an alcoholic at rock bottom, who by divine direction bumped into a few of our team, and after a long discussion, he chose Jesus as his Saviour. The next day, he’s sharing his testimony and praising God, and he’s out on the doors sharing the good news with others. Isn’t that incredible?!


What are some things you had to live without or some habits that you had to give up for the duration of your trip and how has God used that to grow you? I realised at the end of the time, I hadn’t read anything except my Bible, and a couple of chapters of a spiritual book. I’ve always read a lot of storybooks – fictional and true, and it was eye opening to see I didn’t miss them, and I was satisfied without them. It made me re-evaluate what I read and how much time I spent reading, and whether I should be making different decisions. I also spent far less time on the internet, and didn’t feel deprived of that either. Overall, it helped me see that material things are just that – material, and it’s people and eternal things that matter. 


What were some of the most fruitful conversations that you had? There were lots, including the one above, and the one in my previous post. One lady I met was a cleaner at the house, and said she didn’t have time. She wasn’t interested in the books, but we got talking, and she shared how she lost her son a few years ago, and was struggling. I don’t remember what my side of the conversation was, but I felt humbled she would share her story with me, and pray God used me somehow. She did take on of the books and said she would read it, so I hope that’s been able to minister to her. 

I had quite a few conversations with atheists. I like to hear where they’re coming from, and what brought them to their beliefs. I remember one conversation with a middle aged atheist guy. I listened to his views of things, and he was strong in his disapproval of the way society is, and how it wasn’t what it used to be. Lots of people express that, but this conversation went further when we discussed what made the difference, and where we get our morals and sense of right and wrong from. I was able to share I believe God has built a sense of right and wrong into us, and the downward shift in society is because people don’t live according to the Bible – whether they profess to be Christian or not. He seemed to appreciate my perspective, and he took a DVD which explores what God is like, and said he’d watch it.

While some conversations seem more fruitful than others; some result in being able to share the gospel and leave half a dozen books, and others you don’t get past the weather, I feel no conversation is wasted. I learned a lot listening to people from different walks of life and professions – what life used to be from a ninety-something year old grandma, what it’s like to have your identity stolen, what it’s like to come to a country and not know the language, what it’s like to struggle with addictions, how school is from a bunch of friendly primary schoolers, and why people left the church, or came to the church, or became Buddhist, or made up their own form of religion. I even met another couple of young people who were also doorknocking to rally support for a program in their community. I also believe from the other person’s perspective no conversation is wasted, because they might not be interested this time, but if we can give them a positive impression of Christianity, the next time they have an opportunity, they’ll be more open. 


What were some more things that you learned on your trip? I’ve being writing down points as I think of them: 

1. God works miracles
2. He can use anybody
3. Everybody has their place and purpose
4. Some things aren’t worth stressing over
5. People have it a lot worse than I do
6. A focus and purpose changes everything
7. Working together is an incredible thing
8. God answers prayer
9. So much I call necessary is superfluous
10. Negativity isn’t necessary
11. Home is people not places
12. Listening breaks down barriers.

What advice would you give to budding missionaries based on what you learned from canvassing? Firstly, there is nothing as satisfying as working for God, so don’t give up on your dreams, and don’t settle for less. Having similar minded friends is super encouraging and motivating – if you can, find mission minded friends, and discuss things. Challenge each other to do something. And, do whatever you can, and expect results. Start small, with just passing out one tract, for example. Ask God to bless your work, and He will. He promises His words won’t return to Him without accomplishing His purpose, so you can be sure every single thing you do for Him counts, even if you can’t see the results now. Don’t ever give up!

Are you going back, and if so, for how long? I think this question was meant about going back to Australia. But I’m going to take it to mean, would I go on a canvassing program again, and the answer is yes. Only next time, I’m going to try to convince others they need to come as well. :) 


Thanks again for your questions, and if you read this whole post, you’re a legend! If you want to know anything else, just ask in the comments. Thanks so much for your support and interest in my life. I appreciate it, and I hope something in this post could be a blessing to you! And do tell me what you’ve been learning or inspired by recently!

09 March, 2017

My Testimony and the Great Australian Bight










“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved no their lives unto the death.” Revelation 12:11

I believe personal testimonies are powerful – as the above verse says, they can be used to overcome Satan! I’ve been blessed hearing other people’s testimonies. Some have encouraged and inspired me; others have given me fresh understanding and insight. Many have illustrated God’s amazing recreating power. 

But I never felt I had a testimony to share. My life has been pretty simple. I’ve always known about God, and committing my life to Him has been more of a gradual process, rather than a road-to-Damascus experience. There’ve been tougher times, but no more than what many others have been through. God’s been there and He’s been good.

While traveling across Australia, a few of us shared our testimonies. When it came to my turn I said a few words, second guessed myself, and felt very small. Did I have a testimony? Should I have a testimony? Does the fact that I don’t mean I don’t have a relationship with God?

But a few weeks later, we were travelling again, and sharing testimonies once more. This time I had a testimony, and I was excited to share. During those weeks, I had remembered something.

When I was younger – maybe pre-teen, I don’t exactly remember – I had the dream of being a missionary. Africa seemed to be the place missionaries went, so I decided I wanted to go to Africa as a missionary. But when I prayed about it, God gave me the strongest impression that my work was here in my own country. There’s nothing wrong with being a missionary in Africa, but I believe God has different locations and types of work for everyone. And I believe He called me to work in my country. But the question in my mind since then has been, How? Sometimes it seems much harder to reach neighbours than foreign tribes.

Ever since I heard about canvassing, I wanted to try it. Ever since I tried it, I wanted to do more. But it wasn’t until halfway through the recent canvassing program I attended I realized: this was it. This was reaching out to people in my own country. This was something I could do. This was something I had already seen help and minister to people. This was something God had in mind for me all those years ago when He told me Australia was my field. Talk about feeling small! I was, and still am, in awe of the way God has worked that out. That’s what I was excited to share the second testimony-time we had travelling. And that’s why canvassing is important to me. 

I also want to add to my previous thoughts about my testimony: I met a lady while canvassing, who had questions about God because some of her family members were suffering with cancer, and at least one had already died from it. She wasn’t interested in what I had, because it was obviously religious. But then I said one line – one line I previously thought was insignificant. I said I’d lost a close family member to cancer and struggled with the same questions. Her attitude changed immediately. We were able to talk about God and discuss how He could allow tragedy, if He was good. I also mentioned a particular book – one I had with me – really helped me, and in the end she said she would get that book because if it had helped me maybe it would help her. I was blown away that God had used my story to reach someone. 

So, I want you to know that if God can use me, He can use you. If you feel like your story is nothing dramatic, it can still touch someone; someone will relate to it. Even if you feel like you have no testimony, as I did, God is still working in your life. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

~

Have you ever felt your testimony was insignificant? What do you think about the power of personal experience? How do you see God working in your life?

Also, I realise I haven’t given many details about my recent trip across Australia, the canvassing program, and what it was all about. In the next post I’m planning to answer any questions you have about it. So please ask me anything and everything you’d like to know in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer! (Thanks Ariel, for the inspiration to do this! I will definitely answer the questions you already asked! :)