Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Jesus invites us to be his disciples. If we choose to accept his loving invitation, we must understand that there are certain conditions to be fulfilled. One of them is a willingness to accept the cross. Is this a once-for-all taking up of one particular burden? I don't think so. It seems to me that my "cross" is each particular occasion when I am given the chance to "die"--that is, to offer up my own will whenever it crosses Christ's. This happens very often. A disagreement with my husband can cause an argument and harsh words, even if the matter is ridiculously small--"When are you going to get that dashboard light fixed in the car?" I have already mentioned the light three times. It may be time to keep my mouth shut, but I don't want to keep my mouth shut. Here, then, is a chance to die. A decision which affects both of us may be a fairly big one, but we find ourselves on two sides of the fence. One of us, then, must "die."
It is never easy for me. Shall I make excuses for myself (that's the way I am; it's my personality; it's the way I was raised; I'm tired; I can't hack it; it doesn't turn me on; you don't understand)--or shall I pick up this cross?
Perhaps my illustration seems to trivialize the cross of Christ. His was so unimaginably greater. What cross could I possibly take up which would be analogous? Just here is the lesson for me: when Jesus took up his cross, He was saying yes with all his being to the will of the Father. If I am unwilling to say yes in even a very little thing, how shall I accept a more painful thing? What sort of practice does it take for a disciple to learn to follow the Crucified? A friend hurts us, a plan goes awry, an effort fails--small things indeed. But then cancer strikes, a daughter marries unwisely, a business folds, a wife abandons her home and family. The call still comes to us: Take up your cross and come with Me. With You, Lord? Yes, with Me. Will You give me strength and show me the way? That was my promise--is it my custom to break promises?
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
To hold onto something with a desperate grip is not the way to die. Death is a painful process, and restoratives offered to the dying wretch bound to his wheel only prolong his agony. There are times when the thing to do is simply to die. I am thinking, of course, of dying to the self. We clutch so tenaciously to our rights, hopes, ambitions, something to which God has perhaps said a plain no. If would-be comforters offer us consolation and sympathy, if they assist us to strengthen our grasp when it should be loosened, they do not love us as God loves us. The way into life is death, and if we refuse it we are refusing Him who showed us that way and no other. The love which is strong as death is not only willing to save the beloved, it is willing to seem, if necessary, pitiless, insensitive, unloving, if that is what will help the beloved to die--that is, to be released from the bondage of self, which is death, and thus enter the gateway of life.
Archbishop Fenelon wrote to the countess of Montberon, "You want to die, but to die without any pain.... You must give all or nothing when God asks it. If you have not the courage to give at least let Him take."
Monday, April 20, 2009
Sometimes when I was a child my mother or father would say, "Shut your eyes and hold out your hand." That was the promise of some lovely surprise. I trusted them, so I shut my eyes instantly and held out my hand. Whatever they were going to give me I was ready to take. So it should be in our trust of our heavenly Father. Faith is the willingness to receive whatever He wants to give, or the willingness not to have what He does not want to give.
I am content to be and have what in Thy heart I am meant to be and have.
--(George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul)
From the greatest of all gifts, salvation in Christ, to the material blessings of any ordinary day (hot water, a pair of legs that work, a cup of coffee, a job to do and strength to do it), every good gift comes down from the Father of Lights. Every one of them is to be received gladly and, like gifts people give us, with thanks.
Sometimes we want things we were not meant to have. Because He loves us, the Father says no. Faith trusts that no. Faith is willing not to have what God is not willing to give. Furthermore, faith does not insist upon an explanation. It is enough to know his promise to give what is good--He knows so much more about that than we do.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Last weekend (March 28th) there was a Voice of the Martyrs conference in Mississauga, Ontario. We were immensely blessed to hear from Mr. Kim Sung Min, who shared his story. It was a very powerful story to hear, and the church where the conference took place recorded his speech. So I want to link to it here, in hopes that you'll get a chance to listen to it yourself!
Here is some information from The Voice of the Martyrs blog about Mr. Kim:
Kim Sung Min, a former propaganda officer for the North Korean Army, is now fighting for the freedom and faith of his home country.
Once a diehard socialist, Mr. Kim became disillusioned when he saw the lack of freedom and opportunity in North Korea while serving in the military. After defecting, being arrested and escaping again, Mr. Kim began spreading a new message of hope and liberty.
Mr. Kim’s eyes were opened to the modern-day Holocaust that was going on around him in North Korea, where Christianity is illegal and even failing to keep a portrait of Kim Jong-Il clean can mean being sent to a political prison camp. Like thousands of other North Koreans, he defected to China. But his newfound Christian faith compelled him to spread that message of hope to his fellow North Koreans. So, he became a prominent freedom fighter and advocate for religious freedom for North Korea.
Mr. Kim founded Free North Korean Radio and now is leading another effort—training North Korean exiles through Underground University to return to their homeland to serve and grow the North Korean church. Mr. Kim serves as Dean of Underground University in Seoul, South Korea — a joint project of Seoul USA and The Voice of the Martyrs-Canada.