"...in Jesus's name we pray, amen!"
When teaching children about Jesus, I try my best to maintain a balance. On one hand, they need to see Him as a saviour, and yet on the other hand they need to see that He is even more than that, He loves us and is with us in a very real and personal way, far more than just Someone who died for you long ago, or Someone Who was nice and said we could go to heaven.
I keep my own experience in mind.
One of the things I realized when I was seeking salvation was that I had a weird relationship with Christ. I knew He was supposed to be my Saviour and Friend, but He felt strangely distant and unreal. I ended my prayers in His name but I didn't really like to talk too much about Him otherwise. I think a visit to a more 'contemporary' church when I was little made a bad impression on me of people throwing Jesus' name around and getting all gushy and undignified (here you can probably tell the kind of baby I was; intense eyes, observing everything, silently judging you, silently disapproving. At least I was cute.)
After all, I always prayed to God. If anything God was the one I felt I had a real sort of friendship, or at least relationship with, a sort of strange mysterious friend whom you didn't really understand, and didn't really know, and weren't really sure how much they cared for you, but had always been there, and you found comfort from knowing they had always been there and would always be there. That is, when I wasn't thinking of Him as a Judge. Then that was scary.
I knew the Gospel, but Jesus still seemed rather superfluous to me--as it clearly would to someone who was not convicted of my own sin.
Even after I was converted, Christ remained rather distant--someone I was in awe of, and respected, and cared for, but not in a personal or intimate way; it was still at a stage where I felt I wouldn't dare. It was like claiming to be best friends with a national hero just because He had saved your life along with a ton of other people's during some crisis. Jesus, I loved You--respectfully, from a distance, with sincere and deep gratitude, but mostly awe.
It took me a while to see Him not only as a Saviour but as a Friend, in the realest sense of the word.
God had brought into my life a family who would become and stay dear friends even years later, despite being in different countries, despite not having seen each other since then, despite not even having regular correspondence. They were Americans who, unlike me, were very much in touch with Christ as a friend, and who often spoke of Him as such. They were an eye-opener to me, and their relationship with Jesus came to my mind afterwards many times over the years, forcing me to see that this was an area I lacked, this was something I needed to think about.
It took me years.
It took me books like Greg Gilbert's What is the Gospel and Steve DeWitt's Eyes Wide Open, it took me books like Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamzov and C.S Lewis's Narnia series which wrung and warmed my heart, and even the overwhelming evil in the world, a frightening glimpse of His absence--
to unfold knowledge, one leaf at a time, about Him. Not just 'knowledge'--Jesus Christ--Son of God--Saviour; like those impersonal words on your identity card; but real knowledge. Like memorizing your mother's smile. Lip synching the words to your favourite song. The little freckles on your best friend's hand, or that passage in a book you love so much it falls open naturally at that place.
And after knowledge, love followed, naturally, simply.
I often regret it took me so long to love Him as a friend. But love for Him should always be based on His relationship to us as our saviour. If we love Him only as a friend, it places Him on par with other things, in the same way we can have many friends; and puts us in danger of not seeing clearly how our relationship with Him is so different from a mere guardian angel-mortal friendship.
He is so much more.
Journal entry, 2-3-2015
To be honest I really don't have time to be journalling right now--my first mock exam is today and there's a stack of folders looking at me, waiting to be revised! I wish I could take my time to write my thoughts out, and pray about them, today.
As Search the Scriptures for Philippians 1:12-26 indicated, Paul's reaction to life and assessment of it was how it would enable or detract from loving, knowing, and serving Christ.
I need that.
Too easily I see life in terms of how it affects me physically and emotionally. When my peace is disturbed, when I'm stressed, dissatisfied, unhappy with someone, discouraged, helpless, the last thing I'm thinking about is how what I'm experiencing now will affect my relationship with Christ.
I just want it to stop hurting.
I wish I could see life in this way--its challenges, its uncertainties, its joys.
I wish I could see Christ in this way. Intimately connected to every detail and emotion and experience of my life.
This thought was echoed, though slightly modified, in a passage from Ken Sande's The Peacemaker (don't sigh. It's a pretty thick book, and I'm only about halfway through. It's probably boring for you seeing him tirelessly quoted here but really, it's far from boring reading for me. I believe that when you find yourself struggling with forgiveness and guilt it will be just as meaningful and significant to you. Thank God for book friends; who are always there, who transcend time and culture, who speak truth from the objective perspective of their pages, yet with a startlingly personal intimacy as direct as a wound.)
He says, '...I realized I could not consistently weave the gospel into my conversations with others until the gospel was woven deeply into my own heart. God showed me that I am a natural 'law speaker;' I bring judgment much more easily than I bring grace. When I saw this, I began praying for God to give me a major heart change, to make the gospel central to everything I think, say, and do...'
For Paul, someone who had indeed made the gospel 'central to everything I think, say, and do,' jail and rivalry didn't have any personal sting. He was even able to give thanks for them. This attitude kept him not only from discouragement and bitterness, but from self-pity, and even from pride; whether in himself or his hardship (yes, we're messed up that way.)
I want to be able to value Christ so much that He naturally comes first to my mind and heart whenever something happens, instead of being the after-thought--which sometimes only hits me years later in retrospect.
To see Him first in every shade and shaft of sun.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are