Originally posted over at Livejournal, 30th September 2010
I’ve had an interesting last couple of weeks attending a course at our church. We’ve been doing the Willow Creek Network course, aiming to identify what my gifts are and explore where I might best use them in our church. Also, we’ve been considering what causes burn a hole in our cores. What is it that’s bursting to get out of us (not in an Alien way), but what is it that we think God is calling us to have a heart for and to DO .
Finally, last night, I faced what that is and managed to get it down on a piece of paper in a coherent sentence. Yup… This is the scary bit. It’s the bit in the baptismal service where Stephen asked me, just as he was about to push me under the water, if I was willing to follow God ‘wherever he asks you to go and whatever he asks you to do?’ Now, if you’re me you’re probably hoping like mad that it’s not go to Africa and feed the starving millions, because frankly, you can’t possibly deliver food aid without your hair straighteners.
Rest assured, if God wants you to go to Africa and feed the hungry he’ll put in you a heart’s desire to do that. He was never going to send me there and not because of a sad addiction to hair straighteners, either. No, God doesn’t want me in Africa; he doesn’t even want me in Andover. He wants me in Ampthill, which is rather fortunate because I already live here. Phew! Tell Cheesemans to hold the order for malaria tablets.
He doesn’t want me to feed the hungry in Ampthill – unless you’re counting 2 cats, a teenage daughter and a husband – I’ve got special dispensation for that. He doesn’t need me to go build houses in Harlington, put up emergency toilets in Toddington, evangelise in Eversholt or look after lepers in Lidlington, that well known leper colony 😉 . He’s got all that covered by people who have a heart for that work.
So what has he given me a heart for?
The Bible and what it means to be a Christian in Britain in the 21st Century. Ta da! I can tell you’re somewhat underwhelmed.
I’ll explain what I mean by the Bible bit. It’s not to smack people around the head with it – although I will admit there are times when a swift clunk around the head with an NIV would go a long way to releasing the irritation I feel with some people. No, God hasn’t given me a desire to shout at people and demand that they believe what I believe; he’s given me a heart for those who do already believe or are at least on the outskirts of it and want to know more.
My biggest irrititation and the one thing that I, Rachel Lewis would change right now is people who drift through their Christian lives believing that they don’t need to read the Bible for themselves; thinking that somehow, hearing a paragraph or two read by someone else on Sunday is enough.
The Bible is to be READ, by YOU. People die in places for possessing a Bible, people smuggle tracts between each other in underground churches and go to great lengths to get the Word of God out there. It’s a RADICAL book, it changes lives, it will change YOUR life!
In Britain today the most you might get for reading the Bible is a gentle ribbing, so the least you can do if you’re a Christian is to read it. Just read it. Then, when you’ve read it, read it again and again. Not only is it to be read, it is to be taken in, it is to be chewed up, swallowed, regirgitated, ruminated on, digested, thought about, talked about, argued over, written in, marked up, highlighted, prayed over and poured over until it finds its way into your innermost parts. It is the Word of God; he wrote it so that we could learn about him and that we can understand what he wants us to do. If you believe in God, if you call yourself a Christian what on earth exempts you from reading it or hearing it in its entireity for yourself? Did you get a special pass?
If you’re going to call yourself a Christian, not reading The Bible is the same as scrolling down the terms and conditions on a software update and simply clicking on the ‘I Agree‘ at the end. Do you KNOW what you’ve just agreed to? So Facebook’s terms and conditions mean that you may not own the rights to your own photographs, big deal. Signing up for Christianity means that God owns the rights to your soul; now that is a very big deal. Perhaps you should investigate what it is you’ve signed up to?
So it’s my ‘thing’ to encourage every believer to be digging deep into their Bibles and don’t give me any rubbish about it being boring and hard to read; there are a squillion different versions of it out there, you can find one that you like. Yes, we all know that Leviticus and Numbers are a bit of a tough sell, but you’re big girls and boys now, so deal with it and read the book. I promise you it’s got a kick-ass finish!
The other bit is the being a Christian in Britain in the 21st Century. I love looking at the culture that we live in and I love taking that and using it to illustrate how what we read in the Bible can be put into practice in our everyday lives. What does it mean in reality to submit to your husband? Yes, let’s not dodge the tough questions because dodging the toughies is just not on. Did we see Jesus wimping out of his crucifixion because he had a note from his Mum? No! Ok, so bad analogy, but you get my drift.
God’s also given me a heart for writing, but interestingly he’s had me on hiatus these last few months. I’ve really not been able to write until last night, when it was as if the clamps came off me and I could clearly see exactly what he wanted me to do for the first time. Write about it. Not to speak about it, not get irritated and moan at people about it, but write about it. I’ve not been able to write for weeks, every word has been an effort, but now… Wow!
I’ve had an inkling for a while about this but I couldn’t solidify it, I couldn’t pin it down and my lack of self esteem crippled me whenever I tried to do it. Then a few weeks ago I got my testimony out in a process that felt like it had been vomited out of me (this is coming out in much the same way), it’s just suddenly there and you’re not sure how on earth you’re managing to get it down in time.
Last night as we were coming to the end of the session, I read a Bible verse which appeared to be the trigger release mechanism. Joyce Meyer and other teachers talk about receiving a ‘word in due season‘; it means that when something applies to you right then and there it’s like the scripture resonates through you. Last night, this verse was having the same effect in me as Concorde taking off.
“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)
Throw off everything that hinders? That will be ousting twenty years of telling myself I’m no good at anything then. That will be using what I have and taking baby steps towards communicating what it is God wants me to do. I’ve got to start somewhere. I know how to work a blog, I can social network – see all that writing and tweeting is for something.
The sin that so easily entangles? Well let’s not dwell on my legion of sins just now, they are numerous and we’ll be discussing them in due course. Suffice to say we’re all a work in progress.
Run with perseverance the race marked out for us. To borrow from the title of a rather good Manic Street Preachers album…
This is my race, tell me yours.
Oh, and get a Bible. You’re going to need it.
Rachel J Lewis | 30th September 2010