Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Getting to the Heart of It

Today's REAP readings: Ezek 17-19, Rev 7

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” {Rev 7:9-10}

Nine months into the REAP reading plan, and I think it’s fair to say it’s been hard going. Up until August, I was (mostly) managing to keep up (though I did have a few days of catch ups), but this last month, I almost lost the plot. I’ve loved the stories in Samuel and Kings and all the others, but Isaiah and Jeremiah have been tough.

In some ways, I’m a perfectionistic personality type. In some ways. If you come to my house, on any given day, it will look much less than perfect, and I’m rarely dressed with complete class and style. (Like never!). But I do like things to go a certain way, and when it comes to any kind of plan, I am a strict rule follower. So falling behind in the readings, and finding it just about impossible to catch up, I was very disappointed with myself.

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Funnily enough, I think that’s the exact opposite of how God intended it.

At the same time that August saw me battling with long chapters of hard-at-times-to-decipher-prophecy, God was dealing with some issues of the heart that were also, at times, quite hard to work through. Hard, but really, really worthwhile.

And amongst that heart stuff was the desire to always succeed at everything, in an attempt to solidify my self worth. Because in my head I had quite convinced myself that any value I had as a human being, was of course related to what I do, instead of who I am. And being a person who can’t keep up with a bible plan, is not the quickest way to success.

Not in my head at least.

Thankfully, God has his screwed on right, and set about not only restoring my head but my heart to see myself the way He sees me. And the way He see’s me has little to do with if I’ve read every chapter of the prescribed reading each day, and much more to do with where my heart is in seeking Him.

Now I’m not belittling the reading of the Word; clearly a heart set on God’s own wants to spend as much time as possible knowing Him, and his word, and I do. I love the Bible. Love, love, love, love, love it.

God knows that. He’s not worried that I might suddenly decide I can give up studying the word to make myself feel better; that’s not going to happen.

But having said that, over the past month I have felt the grace of God cover me continually, every day the readings just became too hard. I was still reading the bible. Albeit it was more focusing on one scripture for a whole day, and then another, as God dealt with my heart and my insecurities, but I was still reading. And because what he was doing in me can only be described as major heart surgery, I felt His mercy every time I couldn’t find the time or head space to work out what Isaiah was trying to say this time.

Because part of my issue has been the ‘need to perform,’ this was a grace that said, ‘no you don’t. You don’t need to keep up constantly, and read 16 chapters in one day to catch up, just so you can say you’re caught up. That doesn’t do you any good apart from to fulfil some crazy idea that I expect it. I want your heart. If that means one verse a day, that’s enough for me.’

A crazily, liberating idea for someone like me.

Of course I’ve kept going with the REAP readings, though there have been a few more days where I only read one of the chapters instead of all of them, or I focus on one passage instead of trying to cram in multiple ones. It’s a great plan that has opened my eyes to so much I wouldn’t have seen before; I’ve loved contrasting different parts of the Bible and seeing things in a different light.

I’ve enjoyed the discipline and the order, two characteristics I know God also want’s to improve in me.

But His love is not dependent on how much I read, or how up to date I am either. He’s been reminding me again and again, that when it comes to Him, it’s never about what we do, but always about how our heart is fixed on Him.

And when our heart is fixed on Him, there isn’t anything He can’t do with it.

Want to hear more of Jess's journey? Join her blog at  www.essentiallyjess.com

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Are you spiritually confused?

Today's REAP Readings: Jer 52; Rev 1; Psalm 143, 144

LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy;in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land. Answer me quickly, LORD; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, LORD, for I hide myself in you.Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. For your name’s sake, LORD, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant. {Psalm 143}
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I've never been particularly gifted at prayer and there's certainly been times when I felt I just didn't have the right "Biblical" language to express my prayer in front of others.
Often felt a little foolish in this area of the Christian life...
But over the years and more recently this year my prayer life has changed, it's becoming much more personal, much deeper and a large part of that I believe is due to digging into God's word, taking time out to listen to the heartfelt prayers of David, Paul and others in the Scriptures and using them as a model for my own prayer life. But also just enjoying the time out to reflect on the Scriptures has opened my eyes to the fact that there are so many that haven't tasted the living word yet, that don't know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, that don't have a living, breathing relationship with their Creator and it burns the depths of my heart because I long for their eyes to see what I see. 
In a random (or not so random) conversation with a man on the street today that was trying to sell me something. I asked him whether he was a Christian like me, his response "I'm very spiritually confused at the moment".
And really isn't this the case for many?
And yet listen to David's prayer, he is someone that most definitely is not "spiritually confused", he knows without doubt that the God he pleads for mercy before is faithful and righteous. David has witnessed the works of God. He longs to be close again, for the morning to come and bring a reminder of God's unfailing love. He takes refuge in his Saviour, he prays "Teach me to do your will", "lead me" "preserve my life".
David trusts in the LORD, he understands he is sinful and in need for forgiveness, he longs to be restored to God,  he desires to live and serve Him alone, he desires to walk the way of the LORD.
If you're feeling "spiritually confused" today or just lacking the motivation to pray. Take a moment to reflect on David's prayer and claim it as your own.
And please pray for Tim, a lovely young man who's day most certainly lifted as I shared the solution to all our environmental problems "Jesus", in exchange for becoming a Greenpeace supporter!
Want to get more spiritual clarity? Come and REAP with us!