Growing in God is something we hear a lot.
“I’m just growing in God.”
“Don’t forget to grow in God.”
“Always grow in God.”
But what does grow in God mean? What visual does that statement give you? I used to picture a sapling, growing into a tree. But lately I’ve had a different visual. Video Games. Hang on, don’t run away yet. Let me explain. Recently I was reminded of my short stint as an avid gamer, and that brought to mind this simili. I had a game for a time… actually I think it’s still in my closet, anyway- this game was a progressive story arc type. You know, you have an avitar and you follow the cheracter on different quests and so on. I recall the peace of the starter village. Old fashioned cabins, cathedrals and pretty brick bridges. You could walk and never see a monster all day. But as you leveled up the game obviously grew harder. Eventually I reached a level where I had to look up the hacks to pass it. Monsters were everywhere and they didn’t die no matter how hard you attacked them. The only way to win that level was to let your character lose all his or her strength, right before your avatar was down for the count you would get a bonus strength boost, and that was the only way to win. What do I mean by all this?
When we first become Christians it’s nice to go to church, maybe bake for a potluck, perhaps you will even read your Bible once in a blue moon. It’s nice and quiet with no work. But. That’s not how we are meant to stay. We are intended by God to level up. And as we level up things will get harder, because the devil wants to keep us low and weak. Say you keep going. Level after level. Praying every day, reading your Bible with conviction, volenteering at your Church and Church events, maybe even branching into missions work. With each level you grow, but with each level the monsters seem to increase. One day you find yourself in an abandoned town with monsters that refuse to die. Why? Because you are doing things right. Thay doesn’t make sense, does it? But the devil is fighting against you. Whatever that monster is. An illness, debt, a habit, or something less personal, like how the world has gone and the darkness and sin taking over. Everywhere you see the monsters. You have fought and fought and now you are on your last life. But don’t forget. As you were leveling up and growing, God was growing with you. Not that He was ever small, but maybe He was small inside you because you hadn’t let Him grow yet. Now you have been growing in God and God has been growing in you, so when your last life comes up blinking and your avatar gets fuzzy, don’t give up! Hold down the A and Y buttons and use your power boost to kill those monsters. In other words, use your trump card. Pray. Talk to God and use His power within you to win the battle and reach the final level. You are never fighting or growing alone, God is right there, you just need to reach for Him.
So go on friends. Level up. Grow with God.
Before we get started I want to make it clear that yes, I do know that a blood fuller has been proved to have nothing to do with the channeling of blood through the sword’s channel to cause the removal of the blade to be easier or for the target to die quicker. Instead the Fuller is meant to strenghthen and lighten the long blade so it doesn’t wobble like a plastic child’s sword, this was arguably first used in Japan’s Katana swords.
Now that we have covered the facts, I want to use the old myths for my imagery instead. The blood channel full and ready to strike. Weilding with passion and quickly removed to continue it’s defense.
The sword of the warrior, coated in blood and ready to strike again.
The blood channel, as a grizzly image of destruction and strength. Destruction of the enemy. Strength of the defender.
The Holy Spirit is misrepresented in many places these days. He is seen as a fluttering White butterfly, harmless, gentle, powerless. This is not accurate. Yes the Holy Spirit is gentle and unassuming -but- he is still the spirit of the Living God. When God sent his sword through Egypt did you see him as weak, harmless, or powerless? Of course not. He is the spirit of God. He is powerful. He is Ageless. And he is a warrior, and we forget that. We like to think of the Spirit as someone who encourages us and helps us with our gifts and helps us not do naughty things, which is true in part, but He is also bloodstained and ready for battle. He isn’t a pixie flying around causing magic to happen, He IS the powerhouse inside of us battling our demons with us. He isn’t floating around with a harp, he is walking boldly with his sword drawn, ready for battle. The devil is constantly attacking us, even in ways we don’t see, it’s the Holy Spirit in us who is battling for us. God called the sword of the Spirit a sword for a reason.
Going into battle in the days before guns and bombs your greatest weapon was usually your sword. Swords also had a certain claim that came with them, a claim to authority and power, not just anybody had a sword, usually only people a heritage whose background and bloodline gave them a title and a power. Sure some of your average people had swords too, but not high quality swords. Some swords even had a reputation of their own, one that the wielder inherited with the weapon. Our sword. Our Spirit, comes with His own reputation, the reputation of God and all He has done in the past long before the book of Acts. God mentions His Spirit and His Sword often. He has a reputation, but we don’t read the old Testament so we forget. Our sword also comes with a claim to Authority and power; the authority and Power of the Living God. And we have earned this sword not through our own works but through our heritage as children of God. Our bloodline has nothing to do with our DNA or our ancestry, our bloodline that grants us this power and authority in this earth is the bloodline flowing Down the Cross at Calvary and washing our feet in its Crimson Tide. Our sword is a weapon of power and authority. The spirit of God lives inside of us. Whom can harm us? And of whom shall we be afraid?
In a world full of Indigos and Wesleys, be a Fesic.
If you have ever watched or read Princess Bride (one my fave movies) you will know these three main characters. Indigo was obsessed with avenging his father’s murder, Westley was consumed by saving and reuniting with his love Buttercup, but what was Fesic’s motive? He was the giant. He used his strength many times to save these people. But why did he bother? He gave up everything. All his money went to Mad Max the healer to save Westley so he could help Indigo and rescue Buttercup. He risked his life attacking the prince’s palace. He even let them set his cloak on fire when storming the castle gate. Why? What was in it for him?
There was nothing in it for him. Indigo was his friend, Westley was in need of help. That was it. That was the only incentive he needed to give everything he had to them. It was a Christ like sacrificial love. Giving your all with nothing to gain.
Even for people we have known most of our lives it’s easy to feel that we have given a lot to them and deserve something in return. Loyalty maybe. Sacrifice on their part for us once in awhile. And when that doesn’t happen it makes us angry. Maybe that friend has even betrayed us in the past and yet we kept giving, but getting nothing back and nothing out of the deal has left a raw spot on our hearts. And yet. Christ keeps giving even though we have hated His people and have crucified Him. We have all been Paul on the road to Demascus at one point or another. Oh, we weren’t killing other Christians most likely, but we were hating them, we were angry, we were running from God, we were cursing Him for something at sometime, or even being mean because we saw ourselves as holy and other Christians as not. We have all ended up here, seeking Jesus because we have been knocked off our horse and now know we were wrong. But even in our cruelty we have been loved by Jesus.
Fesic didn’t expect anything for his sacrifice. He just knew it was the right thing to do.
Indigo might be cooler and Westley more glamorous, but Fesic was the true hero, like Frodo wouldn’t have made it without Sam in Lord of the Rings, Wesley and Indigo wouldn’t have made it without Fesic. Be a Fesic, be sacrificial for others and expect that your only reward is in Heaven with Jesus and that it will be greater then any reward here on earth.
As my mom once said: we are in the boat with Jesus. Our muscles are straining as we pull on the nets, we’re working hard and He’s there, and He’s calm. Our lives are in that boat with Him as we are called to follow Him, we are given nets to catch the fish with and we get tired and stressed because we are working hard with no resault. We repair the nets, we weave new nets, somedays we may even need to build the boat, but it all has purpose. Then when God’s time is right our nets fill to overflowing. So if you feel discouraged, don’t. Don’t get discouraged because God is in the boat with you.
God cares about so much!
We all get caught up in the master plan that we forget that He also cares about the little things, the day to day things that probably have no effect on the master plan at all. Like when you get a cold and ask to feel better, or when you plan to go to the park and pray that it doesn’t rain, or lose something and ask to find it. None of that matters for the big plan for your future! If you can’t walk in the park or don’t feel better from your cold makes no difference to the end resault of your life. You could spend your whole exisitance never finding your lost gold hoop earings and it wouldn’t change a thing in God’s master plan, but it matters to you so it matters to God. He care about more than your destiny, He cares about you.
Straining toward the cross and hoping for Heaven. I forget who said it, but I recall a pastor speaking on straining towards the cross and hoping for heaven. It’s such a beautiful image, and an image that we sometimes forget. We’re always straining towards the cross, because we can never actually reach it. We see the cross as lowly. We see Heaven as glorious. We think we’re straining towards heaven, but we as Christians are straining towards the cross, because without the cross you cannot reach heaven. You can’t skip the cross and get to the gates. We think because the cross is lowly it’s not something to be sought after, but the cross is the true Stairway to Heaven. Without those pieces of wood and those nails we have no hope. We must strain for the cross. And hope for heaven.
In C.S Lewis’s book ‘mere Christianity’ (which is a must read if you have questions about the Christian walk and life- but do remember that nothing you read can replace the Bible itself) he talks about love and asks us not to turn off the radio because we don’t want to go there. If you’re wondering, the book is made up of four of his radio talks, that’s why he doesn’t want the radio turned off. But it is so true. The second someone gets onto a platform and starts in on loving one another we often tend to tune them out, hang on before you tune me out as I go into this. I have the same problem. I turn off the radio too when it’s talks about loving thy neighbor. Not because I hate my neighbor, I’m actually very close with many of my physical neighbors, but let’s not get into all that- I tune them out because I find what we are preached is a little too… floating orbs and fluffy lamas if you get what I mean. As Christians we are not trying to get to a higher plane, we are not opening our chakras, we are not engaging our inner eye, and walking softly and only saying nice things is not the way to love one another. But I have heard pastors speak such things before. Love hurts, love is hard and love is an action. Remeber the old song ‘love is a battlefield’? It’s true. All love is. That’s why what CS Lewis said not only felt like something all people could connect to, but it was very solid and truly Christian, not something we’ve adopted for some reason from a cult group. He says, ‘if it’s hard to love someone don’t feel it, do it. It’s not a feeling of particular liking for that person, in fact you may dislike them very much and for a very good reason, but if your actions are love then any hate you have toward them will start to deminish.’ I’m paraphrasing because the chapter on love was long and the whole thing won’t fit here. Why does he speak so boldly about people you could easily hate being shown love through your actions? Because when he first did his talk on loving even your enemies he was verbally attacked by people for saying such things, why? Because the war had just ended and people felt great hate that was very justified, hate toward Hitler. They wanted to know how they could be asked to feel love for this man. So after Biblical study and discussion with many of the great Christian minds Lewis answered. You can’t. There is no way to feel love for someone so evil. But. If there was a chance for him to change and try and make up for the wrongs he caused (though he never could. My grandparents suffered through the war, my nana had minor PTSD because of being a child in the bomb shelters, and in those horrible moments she didn’t make it to the shelters and was simlpy saved by the grace of God from the falling explosions around her. Trust me. I have no pity for this man so don’t think that I’m saying he should have been given another chance or that we misjudged him or anything rediculous like that.) would you want him to change and become a better person? Or do you hate them so bad that you hope they are the evil of evil no matter what and burn for it? That’s a hard question. You see, the soft, love everyone in a cuddly do no harm sort of way could never face this. That kind of love that says we should all hold hands and say we’re sorry and then it’s all better couldn’t fix this. Pain is deep. And evil cannot be loved. And ‘sorry’ doesn’t erase all wrong. You cannot love a man like that. Not in the feeling sense. But can you pray that a man like Hitler would change? Can you ask God to fix his mind and make him a new person? Do you see him doing something good for a change and go ‘thank God he isn’t completely evil’? Yes? That’s love. If instead you hope he never changes, never realizes the horrors he’s caused and when he does something else horrible you go ‘good. He’s still evil. I can still hate him.’ That’s obviously not love.
And you know what? That’s hard too. Because there are some people who are so evil that you hope they stay evil so that they receive God’s judgement. I know there are because I have heard people say as much, I have felt this way at times too. Love is a battlefield, and most of the time you are battling yourself. Love also means calling people out when they are wrong. Reminding them of what sin is and that what they are doing is wrong. Not because it makes you feel good about yourself, and it should never be said in a condescending way, but if you love someone then you want them to do right because you want them to please God and you want them to go to heaven. If you don’t care about them, if you don’t love them, then when they sin it won’t bother you because you don’t care if they go to heaven or not. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to them, or you don’t actually know them personally, then pray for them. And hope that they pray for you too. Because we all sin and mess up. And we all need someone who loves us enough to tell us when we have messed up. Love isn’t a fluffy, easy, cuddly thing, love is suiting up and doing what is hard.
I hope people love me enough to pray for me when they notice a sin in my life that maybe I haven’t spotted. Or just in general. None of us are Christs. We are all people striving toward the cross and hoping for Heaven.
There is nothing wrong with loving the Bible from the place of a broken person trying to find the heart of God. You don’t have to perfect and then come to Jesus. Come to Him first and He will perfect you. You will never get to place where you are holy as Christ, you can’t, it isn’t possible. But that’s why we chase after God, because He is the only one who is perfect and Jesus is the only way into Heaven, our greatest works, even to give until we have nothing and to die for the sake of another is nothing without Jesus, it won’t get us anywhere without Him. We are all broken people, unable to measure up to the glory and ritchousness of God, but that doesn’t mean we should run away from Him, but instead run to Him. All He wants is a repentive heart that wants to change. A heart that knows it needs Him. A broken heart knows who the Healer is and is ready to be loved and fixed and made whole. Love Jesus in your brokenness and let Him love you into a whole new person.
Today my dog and I became lost while hiking. I was sure I knew where we were…until I didn’t. Down a trail overgrown with trees and weeds we ended up in a field. I thought I knew which field…but I didn’t. We walked and walked and all I could see was rolling crops and a shed and a tractor. I reasoned that a tractor meant life, but how far away was that life. We had two hours till dark and I knew I would rather be caught in the dark in that field then back down the trails where we get bears and cougars, and ghosts and monsters if my old camp leader is to believed. We had seen tracks that could easily have been a cougar earlier that day and though I figured it probably wouldn’t bother us I also knew that my JRT would make it his mission to catch said cougar if he saw it and that could be bad.
What’s my point in this story?
There were moments when I felt nervous. Moments when I was sure we might spend the night in that guys crops. However I never felt alone. I find hiking is where I talk to Jesus outloud. No one around. The beauty of creation filling my senses. I spent the time talking with Him and knew I was safe even if we spent the night out there. He knew that beyond the second grove of trees was a road that would take me to the main road and lead me back to camp, but I didn’t know that. I simply had an uncanny sense of peace as I walked with Him.
When you are lost and don’t know where the road is, trust Jesus, talk with Him, He knows the way home.
It’s so hard to tell people when you are not okay, and then have them giving their opinions or not fully understanding you hurts so much. But when you give it to Jesus- sit down for a moment and talk with Him, telling Him that it hurts, why it hurts and how much you need Him and His help- it doesn’t hurt more, it might hurt less, and now you have someone you can talk to about it who won’t judge or condem, and He actually can help where people cannot. Isn’t it funny how when you talk to people about your pain they give you a speel about how your Faith should be bigger, or you need to read your Bible more, or you should be praying like this- but when you come to God He just listens. He knows where you are at in the journey and how tired you are and how long you’ve been stuck in this same place. He knows how hard you are trying and how much it hurts. He doesn’t say ‘read more of your Bible, pray harder, grow your Faith until it hurts no more!’ He simply says, ‘come here. Let me hold you. I’ll take care of it all.’
Talk to Jesus. He’s waiting for your call.