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!