Monday, March 5, 2012

On My Heart Today

I heard a good sermon on Sunday. I won't repeat it all but I was captured by the message because the preacher compared God's Word to a mirror which God he has left for us. He said it isn't a  mirror for God to look into and see himself reflected but that God left his Word so that we can look into it and see ourselves reflected as believers.

Of course, the Word is much more than a mirror. It is God himself

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
1 John 1:1

But I like the idea that when I read, and learn from the Word of God, the attributes and characteristics of how God wants me to be, will be reflected back to me. I can then have a yardstick by which to know how my spiritual development is coming along as I press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus. (Phillipians 3:14).

The pastor also talked about the value of a soul.  He said the value of a thing is known by the price we pay for it. At least that is how westerners tend to value things in our mostly materialistic world.  Looking at human beings and human souls from this perspective, God shows us just how much value he places on us; in that, he was willing to send his only begotten Son to die for us so that we might live. What a thought! What a saviour! Sometimes, when I think these things it just really blows my mind (in a good way).

 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 
1 John 3:1 (KJV)

Children being ministered to in evangelistic outreach in a village in Kenya. Photo credit: Jonah, MOH

I accepted Christ at around the age of ten. I do not remember the exact date and time.  I didn't have anyone suggest I make a note of when it was I made the decision.  It was just a natural progression in my spiritual development.  My family were not church goers and I was one of the first Christians in my extended family who were mostly staunch Catholics.  They were Catholics but there was no real spiritual understanding and lifestyle to go along with it, save for a very, very few people.  People like my mother's mother, who died when my mother was just a toddler.  My own mother rejected Catholicism because she felt her mother died because of it (that's another story). For my Catholic friends and readers, please do not be offended. I am not bashing Catholicism here but only relating my family story.

Mom says that I always believed in God and spoke of God as if it was a natural thing and that I always wanted to go to church.  She did try to send me to church at a younger age but for various reasons I never did go that consistently.  Mostly due to lack of a ride.  But when I was around 9 I started going on a regular basis because someone came several times a week to take me to Sunday School, evening service and mid-week service, as well as for special services at holidays.   I can still remember how moved I would be by the Holy Spirit in those early days. How real God was to me as a child,and how close I felt his presence on so many occasions.

Like I said, I cannot say exactly when I accepted Christ as my personal saviour.  For the longest time I said the sinner's prayer, again and again when I felt I did something "bad".  I did not know exactly how this Christianity thing worked.  No one thought to explain it to me either. I didn't know that after you accept Christ and you find yourself sinning, you should ask for God's forgiveness and he will forgive you for Christianity is a process of growing and learning, with God's help, to become the person that God intends you to be.  I was about 10 years old when I formally accepted Jesus into my heart for the first time, and Sunday School and Bible Camp  helped to enrich my Christian understanding and development.

Pokot children. Photo credit: Jonah, MOH

I was from a poor family and it was difficult for me to learn proper views about money or should I say societal norms about money because different cultures view money in different ways. In my culture, we were taught that you always help out your family when you have more than they do. What is yours, is theirs, and so in turn, when you need help, perhaps someone will help you too.  In olden days, this teaching was excellent and did work until there was too much of  a cultural breakdown.  In a time of cultural breakdown, there will always be those without money.  Consequently, if you are one with a bit of money, you will always be on the giving side and it is highly unlikely that takers will end up giving to a giver when they are used to taking from her.  This can cause imbalance and lead to other issues.

As  I grew up, got an education and a good job I found out that I was also a spender. I often spent more money than I should have due to long working hours and the need for conveniences, like eating out. I also spent on recreation to get a break from my "thinking jobs" which often left me depleted because of long hours.  I was more of a book worm than an activity person so I liked to spend on little luxuries like books and magazines, coffees at nice shops, little extras at the grocery store, comfortable (usually means leather and expensive) shoes for work, gifts and vacations. Of course, I also had to help family and extended family as well as those that I felt God put in my path.  There was never much else left over.

Having and spending money was important to me because I no longer felt deprived. I spent it easily and the thoughts of savings, retirement and housing when they came to me were put aside due to lack of time and the idea that these were still a long way off.  It was well into my earning life before I finally committed to a registered retirement savings plan and ultimately purchased a condominium. With my new responsibilities I had to be more circumspect in how I spent money and who I gave it to.  Early into this process it also meant I had to deal with unmet cultural expectations of me, but I continued to do my best.  When early retirement came, I was so glad I had made steps toward a little more financial security.  But  had to become even more circumspect and take on new and different strategies for spending far less money. It took me several years to try and organize everything so I wasn't "bleeding" money.  I had to do a lot of scrimping and pruning so that I could continue meeting my bills, cultural and family expectations, and giving to God.

One thing that I thank God for during these challenging years, is for his help in holding lightly the things in the world which would try to distract me from doing what he wants.  God tells us that we are not to love the things of the world. I believe he tells us that because if we love the things of the world, we will find it difficult to fully commit or give to God's world, or God's kingdom. 

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 
 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
1 John 2: 15,16 (KJV)

Now knowing this verse to be true, doesn't make it any easier for me to deal with money challenges, but it does give me a guide post by which I am to live my life.

To be continued


Denise said...

Beautifully written.

From the Heart said...

Thank you for the beautiful prayers you left at The Lighthouse of Prayer.
I enjoyed reading your post.

Fred Alton said...

Great post, my friend. It seems to me that Loving God and Loving people is what your life has been about. In fact, I think that's what Jesus revealed as the two greatest commandments. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and strength!" being the first commandment. The second, He said, was like unto it, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

Joyful said...

Thank you, Denise. I struggled with writing my post. Sometimes they go all over the place and I have to focus, lol.

Joyful said...

Thank you too for your visit. I enjoyed reading and praying for the different needs.

Joyful said...

Thank you, Fred. Those are two of my favourite commandments ;-) I continue to have you on prayer list, friend. May God continue to strengthen you, grant you peace, health and joy in the journey.

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