Jehovah Jireh

I struggle with anxiety. There just seems to be this part of my mind that tries to work out six solutions to every possible situation so that I’m always prepared. I’m like the Bear Grylls of the social world. However, although they say life is what you make it, I’ve discovered that life also depends on the variables you can’t control, like the people that float into your life, or unforeseen circumstances. Admittedly, that’s never great for someone whose mind is hardwired to plan, and over-plan. Like buildings, we’re all created not just from one brick, but from many.
As a part of a course I’m doing, we’ve been challenged to read the entire Bible in one year, and today I had a read of Genesis 22. Famously quoted by both Christians and non Christians trying to make a point, the chapter recounts the story of a man named Abraham who has been asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. It’s one of those stories where all the interesting things seem to happen towards the end, including the climactic moment where Abraham is holding a knife to his only child’s throat and an angel calls out to him at the last minute- Hollywood quality stuff right there. But the part that struck me, which I admit I haven’t really concentrated on before today, is the part where Abraham is walking up the mountain with his son. 
(Genesis 22:7-8) 

Isaac said, “Father, we have the coals and the wood, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”

“My son,” Abraham answered, “God will provide the lamb.”
I can’t imagine the weight upon Abrahams shoulders. In a literal sense, he is carrying the coals and the knife he is going to use to kill his son (v6). In another sense, though, Isaac is the fulfilment of a promise from God. A promise that he would have a son, even at his age, and his offspring would spread across the world. Even God refers to this boy as “Isaac, the one you dearly love” in verse 2. When I was little, I was pretty sick for a while, and I remember very clearly my mother sobbing as my dad held her- Abraham knows he will have to return to his wife and tell her their miracle child is gone. He is walking towards the altar where he is going to sacrifice everything he has, and his son, walking beside him, innocently asks what they’re going to sacrifice. 
I think the worst part of having anxiety is when you micromanage for something and all of those plans get thrown out of the window. I forgot my games for Sunday school today- I have forgotten my plans at home before. And there is this weight that drops in your stomach, and your heart begins to race, and every chemical in the brain is torn between doing everything and doing nothing (neither of which are particularly productive). Freaking out or giving up. When you’ve worked hard at something, and something gets taken away from your perfect equation- I don’t know. I really don’t. 
The bible often tells us that someone questioned God, or told him it’s not possible, but none of that for Abraham. He doesn’t yell at a God that it’s not fair, he doesn’t cry or try and run away. And my mind can’t fathom that kind of faith. To walk up to an altar with everything precious to you, and calmly say that God will provide. 
As Abraham is about to sacrifice his son, an angel stops him, and he sees a ram and sacrifices that instead. He doesn’t have to go through with it, as God knows he was willing to, and he names the place “God will provide”. His reaction is just to reiterate that God will provide, and there is no other record of what he (or Isaac for that matter) does. Abraham says God will provide before and after, though. God provided him with a son, and a sacrifice, and then a different sacrifice- a faith that means you bend to the will of God no matter the consequences.
The biggest struggle for me with anxiety is when something doesn’t go the way I planned. It feels like everything is going to come crumbling down around me. But then I remember that no matter how many bricks I’m made of, God is my foundation and he’s solid. When things don’t go my way, he will provide. When he asks the impossible of me, he will provide. And I will trust him because there was a time- which everyone will come to face- when there was nothing I could do. There was absolutely nothing I could do about my own sin. No good deeds or plans or worrying could get me any closer to God, and he provided a sacrifice in my place. He also sacrificed his only son, and he did it for me. God didn’t just provide a sacrifice in the place of Isaac- he provides one for us. 
Jehovah Jireh

The Lord will provide.

  

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Missionary Dating

A while ago, I wrote a blog post on dating non Christians. Lately I’ve been hearing a few questions about “missionary dating”, however, so I figured I’d take the opportunity to expand on that a bit.
One of the most common reasons for dating someone who isn’t a Christian is the idea that through your relationship, you can bring them to Christ. However, there are a few reasons I don’t think this will ever really work. 
The main reason is that, by default, when you decide to take a relationship further from “just friends” to “boyfriend/girlfriend”, the focus shifts. You’re concentrating on each other, and in order to bring someone to Christ, it’s essential that they’re focusing on Him. This is just impossible when you’re a couple. My dad, when he was a young man with and had just become a Christian, fell for this chick. She seemed pretty sweet and agreed to start going to church with him, so they could hang out more. The problem lies therein- she was going to make him happy, hang out with him, and meet his friends- she wasn’t convinced to go to check out Christ. If someone wants to make someone else happy, they’ll endure anything, rather than experience it. This probably would have been clearer if he’d grown up in the technology age and looked over to see her on her phone during the sermon. When you’re dating someone, you’re focus is on them- you either are evaluating them for the long run (in which case, refer to my other blog post on why that will always be a struggle with someone who doesn’t share the most important aspect of your life), or you’re dating for fun, and non Christians really don’t seem to find going to church on a regular basis fun. The question will always be raised, why don’t we just go out on a Friday night like everyone else? 
When I first started dating a non Christian, I did the smartest thing I’ve ever done (super proud of it) and ignored the advice of every role model in my life. I ignored their warnings, concerns and general misgivings and completely trusted my own naive, and undeveloped understanding. Yea, “proud”. But I do remember what they said, and one of the questions stuck, although I kept trying to confine it to the “later” drawer of my mind to ponder. If I, or you, were standing on a chair, and holding hands with this person you’re dating, would it be easier for them to pull you down or you to pull them up? The second problem with missionary dating is that you’re trying to create stronger bonds with someone when what you’ve chosen to be the most important thing in the world to you disrupts the beautiful harmony. You’re disagreeing on Jesus- it’s like a vegan marrying Ron Swanson. A family friend of ours got married to a strongly atheist man. For forty years, he refused to go to church, they got into passionate arguments and when he got cancer, she couldn’t bring him to church and he didn’t want church in his house, so she lost a lot of connection with her church community. Her heart broke as she watched the love of her life deteriorate, not knowing if she’s meet him in heaven.  Church builds us up, and so a partner is meant to. The bible says you become one with whomever you marry- you should challenge and support each other in and towards Christ. What if this person that you allow yourself to grow the deepest type of love for doesn’t end up in heaven with you? What if they hold you back from all God has for you? Don’t just be thinking about another person- you can’t do anything for anyone if you’re not looking after your own needs first. You need to receive in order to give, and your husband or wife is meant to be a great source for that. 

So what is the solution to missionary dating? No missionary or no dating. You either have to completely accept that you are confining yourself to this life- that you can’t force a person to change and just sort of live with the awful life of loving someone who should ultimately come second to the one who loved you first and point you to Him, or you can just not date them. Being a friend, and not growing these lovey dovey feelings for a while helps keep objectivity, perspective. You should always have non Christian friends, bring them to church, tell them about Christ, but once you date and especially if you can’t take it and you break up, that opportunity for you to minister is lost. 

This final story is my own. I think the hardest part about dating a non Christian is that you should always be focused on God, and when you allow yourself to really fall for someone who wants to pull you away from that, it’s so much easier to fall than keep going, like having a small child wrapped around your leg while you’re trying to walk. I remember this one night we had just had a huge fight, and as we were sort of making up about it, he said he’d come to church just to make me happy. My youth was having a formal night the next night, so I invited him to that, and when I met him at the train station, I had my dress with me and make up on, and he was in at shirt and jeans. I thought, well it maybe he didn’t have time to get dolled up. I had so much hope that months of hard work, constant diligence, patience, love and direction towards Jesus was coming to term. Another thing a role model said to me is not to mistake our will for Gods plan. He literally looked at me and told me that he’d meant it at the time, but now we were fine, so… 

 He never did end up coming to church, possibly because I soon broke up with him. When I was late, and alone, I knew I couldn’t keep doing that. I couldn’t keep turning up to church alone. 

Don’t keep turning up to church alone.

Food for thought. 

missionary dating

Throw The First Stone

  

I recently heard Stephen Fry’s opinion of Gods justice based on the verse where Jesus defends an adulterer with the words “that of you which has not sinned, throw the first stone.” I don’t often listen to Fry as he is one of those people who will express his opinion in such a way that if he disagrees with you, you are bound to get your feathers ruffled. However, I have decided to dispute this particular opinion because I figure it is shared by other, less hostile people. 
Interestingly enough, I seem to have done more research than Fry on the background of this story. Of course, a seventeen year old knowing more theology than a celebrated atheist isn’t so bad when you consider he is trying to prove a point against who I believe to be a perfect and blameless God. That was always going to be hard. Fry’s qualm was basically that God cannot be a God of justice if Jesus were to defend a woman caught in sin with “you can stone her to death (the punishment of the day) if you haven’t done anything wrong”. Well, we’ve all done something wrong, and so the Jewish teachers walked away. As is the best way to breed ignorance, however, the idea was taken out of context and not further explored. 
First of all, God is a god of justice. It saddens me that our society tries to deal with this either by magnifying it or minimising it, while its just a fact of Holy existence. God is pure – we were given free will, which we use to do things that arent pure and so we are separated, like clean and unclean laundry. Some people (who call themselves Christians, which I will contain to describing as “laughable”) would emphasise this means that everyone is going to hell- they love merciless, sweeping generalisations- fire and brimstone garbage. This is forgetting that Gods justice means a fair trial, and further forgetting that God is omniscient so he knew we would all fall short (Romans 3:23). He therefore sent Jesus so we wouldn’t have to try to be good to be pure enough to be with God- just accept his gift of Jesus and apologise for what we’ve done (intro to Christianity in two sentences). 

This is where some (including a man that I actually really admire, Russell Brand), when faced with the opposing view, try to ignore Gods justice. This will never work as God makes it very clear he is just. God loves the world but will judge everyone’s heart in the end. It’s the solace for people who wonder what will happen to murderers and rapists in heaven, as well as bigots and hypocrites even within the church- God only accepts those who have repented in their hearts, because he knows (omniscience). And so were faced with a perfect, merciful and loving justice. It’s something we face with our parents, in our relationships and of course in court, and something we strive for. 
Then we get to the verse, which Fry insists means God isn’t a fair judge. 

First for a little context. Ironically, the Bible says (we’re in John 8) the Pharisees had brought this woman before Jesus to try and incriminate him. You’d think Fry would have avoided one of the instances Jesus rebukes intellectuals trying to use dogma to embarrass God. Jesus was known for his teaching and mercy to even those who didn’t seem to deserve it (does anyone?) , while God was seen for his strict justice, a great cop out for the Pharisees who lived to follow each of the 214 rules. They, like Fry, didn’t understand the concept of this “merciful justice” and were trying to test the man who claimed to be the Son of God and see how he would strike a balance. However, even in court today a judge without mercy is a terrible sight. It is at this point that Jesus bends over and begins writing in the dirt. While the Bible doesn’t specify what he wrote, and some commentators don’t believe it’s significant, I read one very interesting theory. Jesus doesn’t say much out loud, but in those moments, the Pharisees understand he isn’t just referring to any sin ever. The Pharisees had found and brought the woman to Jesus as she was caught, undeniably, in the midst of adultery. However, as Jesus may have quietly written on the ground, they couldn’t have been occupied with justice as they claimed because they had only brought the woman- where was the man? (It takes two to tango). The wrongdoing of this story isn’t just by the woman who Jesus seemingly defends, but the Pharisees who were trying to use anything to trap Jesus. Fry has taken the quote so out of context but summed it up so beautifully in that we cannot unmercifully judge our fellow human beings as we commit such sins ourself. 

In a cold way of thinking, there is just black and white fairness. But in Gods world, we use mercy. If something hurts someone else, consequences include punishment unless deemed sufficiently insignificant. The justice system is just that on a larger scale. If a person commits a murder, it is the job of the judge and jury to decide the effect this is to have on society and the punishment to discourage others. We expect them to have mercy in their judgement, and trust them, although none of them is perfect, to do so. We have a conscience for a reason- as we are made in the image of a just Creator, so we strive for fairness within our society. And so it is with God. Jesus was teaching the Pharisees that no one is exempt from Gods justice, not even them who had been willing to throw someone under the bus to prove him wrong. God is just but he exercises mercy as we would hope of any judge. 
To conclude, the woman didn’t get off scot free. Jesus looks up from drawing on the ground and asks if anyone threw anything- she replies no. He says to her, as he says to everyone who has sinned, “go on your way and from now on leave your life of sin.” God isn’t aiming to punish everyone. He gives everyone on Earth infinite chances until they finally stand before him and have to answer to whether or not they accepted him in their heart during their time on earth. As for Christianity and the justice system, it is important to remember that we must strive not just for love or for fairness but for both, as God does. 

  

Five Easy Ways To Help The World

While we all try here and there to make the world a better place, it can often seem an overwhelming task. However, there are simple ways one can incorporate into their every day that will benefit the planet without breaking the pocket.
1) Take stock of your every day.

Every time you peruse the supermarket, you are faced with a choice of a dozen brands for everything. The thing is, even if it’s hidden in a corner or easier to get online, most things these days have a “green” option and it’s not always more expensive. Leading the market for cleaning products are brands like “Earth“, concentrating on making working products that won’t harm the environment your drains flow to, but there are always nifty recipes online for ways to solve every day mess with homemade ingredients instead of harsh chemicals. It’s amazing what lemons and vinegar can do. There’s a new idea for every room of the house, as well, such as wooden toothbrushes which break down faster than plastic ones, or recycled toilet paper with longer rolls so less cardboard is wasted. If you’ve got the right mindset, shopping doesn’t change more than picking something with the right symbols on it.

  

2) Eat less meat. 

Increasingly covered in the media, the animals that are made into our meat products aren’t treated well due to a strong demand. When Australia eats enough pork for three pigs per person (!), it’s much easier to cram them into a tiny pen than to adhere to standards set by animal rights groups such as the RSPCA. Furthermore, so many animals bred isn’t great for the environment, increasing methane levels (a greenhouse gas), ruining natural vegetation and fauna populations and often bred unnaturally to keep up with demand using hormones which isn’t great for you or the animal. Plus, eating so much meat isn’t good for you anyway, leading to cholesterol, weight and heart problems. So, if going vegetarian doesn’t seem the right fit for you or your family, just eat a little less. Try “meatless Monday” for a while. I recently went vegetarian cold turkey (haha) and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I wasn’t hard on myself for accidentally eating a panacotta with some gelatin in it, but just started picking the vegetarian option when eating out and staying away from the butcher. When you next go shopping, don’t buy meat. Be creative with a new recipe, or try a new restaurant.

  

 
3) Be creative with gift giving.

What do you get the person who has everything? Easy. Something for someone else. With organisations such as World Vision, Oxfam and WWF offering things like sponsorship for a child or endangered animal, or to supply someone overseas with something and providing a gift card to give instead, it’s easy. When you sponsor an animal, you get a gift pack as well, so you don’t have to go to the empty handed. It’s a great way to ensure your present doesn’t gather dust in a drawer, and it flatters the person to know you considered a cause they treasure. 

  
Alternatively, get them a physical gift that doesn’t badly affect anyone. Make sure the clothes you’re buying aren’t made unethically, which is usually easily accomplished with a quick search on Google. Some jewellery or chocolate that profits a fair trade organisation, or beauty products that aren’t tested on animals. “Lush” hand makes their beauty items and offer gift packs. Same price, guilt free. 

  
4) Feel good when you look good.

Retail therapy is often given a bad wrap, but there are two simple ways to make sure the next time you go online or in store, you can have no regrets.

If you’re willing to spend big, make sure it’s on something that will last. Fight the growing mentality that things can be thrown away as easily as they’re bought. There is a great new blog starting out called “Buy Me Once“, which suggests things that can just be bought once such as Doc Martins or good quality jeans that have life time warrantees. If you’re going to splurge, do it on one thing that you’ll still be wearing in twenty years. Buy one thing you love and stick to it!

  
However, if you’re counting your pennies, you can still do something to help out. Go to a second hand store, such as Vinnies or the Salvos, and get yourself a whole new wardrobe that you can afford. Second hand means it’s helping the environment because you’re reusing, you’re helping to support a charity, what you’re buying is often unique (and vintage is very hipster), and there is always something there for everyone. You save money, and your money goes towards helping save people. 

  

5) Remember that every little bit helps.

If you can’t do everything, don’t do nothing. Turn off the lights in a room you’re not using, time your showers, buy eco-friendly things when they’re on special. Be vegan for one day, treat yourself to one “lifetime” thing. Don’t worry and don’t be overwhelmed if it seems like you can’t support every cause, and help every person because the very fact you are worrying about it means your heart is in the right place. Just don’t give up, and keep trying.