Friday, January 11, 2013

Happy Birthday to me! I'm 4 years old today!

Today is the four year anniversary of the day I died.  No physically of course, but spiritually.  Four years ago today, I was baptized.

It was the day that I died to myself, died to my sin, and was born again into my eternal life with Christ.  I, as a new creation, am four years old today, and I celebrate that!

I had grown up in the Catholic church, and not just the Catholics that treat it like a culture more than an actual relationship.  I grew up die hard Catholic.  My parents had statues everywhere, I had a holy water font in my bedroom, I said the rosary often and prayed all kinds of crazy prayers to all kinds of crazy saints.  We went to mass every weekend and every holy day of obligation.  I knew the basics of the Bible, and Catholic theology inside and out.

When I was a baby, some priest ticked me off by pouring water on my head.  When I was six, I had to go in a scary box and tell a priest all my "sins".  At seven I had to dress up in a white dress and eat Jesus and drink his blood.  At age 12, the Archbishop got my forehead all oily and my spiritual name became Rebekkah.  I even went to Catechism conferences and considered becoming a nun at one point.

The problem was...I didn't have a clue who Jesus was.  I didn't know Jesus the Christ from Jesus, the guy at the Mexican restaurant down the road that always waits on our table.

I didn't come "alive in Christ" until that cold day in January 2009 when I confessed Christ as my Savior and came up out of the water, clean and new.

So today, I thought I would look back and remember the things that made the most impact on me becoming  more Christlike over the past four years.

1.  Baptism.

I had spent the first 29 years of my life gathering fire wood.  Baptism was when it all burst into flames.

That was when fire lit in my soul and it's been a raging inferno ever since.  Nothing before my baptism even comes close to being as spiritually connected to the Lord as the most simple and mundane things do now.  Yes, God was definitely working on me before baptism, but it was nothing like the work He has done on me since.

I think what makes baptism one of the more catalytic components of a walk with Christ is that in the moment that you are being dunked, the heart, the spirit, the spiritual, the social and the physical all come together in one moment of public declaration.  There is nothing magical about the water.  It's just the way Jesus did it.  If there was something magical about being dunked in water, why aren't people setting up baptismal fonts on street corners and trying to convince people to take a dunk?  The physical act means nothing if the heart, spirit, spiritual and social aspects aren't present.  But when they are, watch out!  The person will never be the same.

2.  Service

The best thing a new Christian can do is begin to serve.  Just as infants are only focused on themselves and their own needs, new Christians can become stuck in the infant stage where they are only worried about their own needs and their own spirit.  The first major step of maturation is when you begin to serve in a capacity where the focus is not on you, but on your relationship with Christ and then your relationship with other people.  The faster you realize that to be a Christian, you need to be involved in a community, most likely a church, and this growing and stretching requires other people to happen, the faster you will get in the right mind frame to become more and more like Christ.

For me, the service that did the most to help me was working with teens.  My heart ached for them.  Even the ones that were being raised by Christian parents were being tempted left and right with the evils of the world.  They were looking for help, for guidance and for an anchor and the more passionately I ached for them, the more passionately I pursued Christ, because the only way I could even come close to serving them the way they needed to be served was to wholly devote myself to Him.

3.  Learning to fight Spiritual Warfare.

The sobering truth of Christianity is that while the Christian walk alone is difficult, there is an Enemy fighting us at all sides for our death.  I've written a book about what I've learned scripturally and from experience about Spiritual Warfare, so I'll keep this short, but the Satan is real and he wants to steal your life.  He wants to kill you, steal you and destroy you.  Satan is not some metaphor or some creature that only torments people who don't know Christ.  He is real and the more of a threat you are to him, the stronger he will fight you.

When I meet Christians that balk at the idea that Satan is real and actively trying to destroy us, it makes me sad because one of two things is going on.  Either they aren't doing a whole lot to make a difference in the kingdom of God so they don't think Satan exists because he doesn't waste his time on them or they have bought into the lie that all the Satan and demon talk is for crazy Pentecostals and no normal Christian believes in that stuff.

The truth is we are constantly under attack from Satan and until we fully grasp the implications of this battle we are in, we will hit a spiritual ceiling that we can't break through.  And shame on all the Christians afraid to talk about it for fear of ticking people off or scaring people away.  Grow a pair and preach the truth!  There are people being devoured left and right by the "roaring lion" while preachers and other Christian teachers are standing back, watching it happen without explaining what is going on and how to stop it, because they are afraid that people might look at them like they are crazy.  Jesus sounded like a raving lunatic, but one day when we are standing face to face with Him, we are going to realize that none of that mattered.  The souls we bring to Him do matter, though.

4.  Finding my identity and not letting what other people think change it.

In today's devotional in My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers, Chambers says, "if we obey God it is going to cost other people more than it is going to cost us...we have simply to obey and leave all consequences with Him."  Not everyone will like who God makes you to be.  There were people in my past who didn't like who God made me into and there were other Christians that didn't feel as though who God was making me fit their idea of a "perfect Christian woman".  When I sacrificed who God was molding me into in order to appease either group, the consequences were swift and heavy.  The depression and hopelessness I felt were brutal.  The isolation I experienced was immense.  The emptiness was unbearable.

I no longer care if non-believers get annoyed with me talking about Christianity.  I no longer care if someone is offended by me being an outspoken and intelligent Christian woman.  I could care less if you don't think I should teach or write or lead because of my gender or any other reason.  I don't care if you don't like my friendship style, my approach to evangelism, or where I focus my time.  I'm not here to please you.  I'm here to do the bidding of my Lord.  If you can't deal with where God leads me, that isn't my problem.  As long as I stay as closely connected and obedient to the Lord as I can be, I'm going to do what I believe He is telling me to do and I have no reason to care about your unsolicited opinion on my life.

I don't say those things to be mean or hateful, but to remind us to seek who God really is and not try to squish Him down into some box we've created for Him to fit into.  We are each fearfully and wonderfully made, and for those of us who love Him and are called according to His purposes, even our faults are being used for the good of His Kingdom.  Cheer each other on as we become more and more the person the Lord created us to be.  Be open minded about who God calls and what He wants for us.  None of us has it all figured out and anyone that pretends they do either doesn't have a clue or isn't connected to the Lord.

God took the time and energy to make you the individual you are.  Become that person more and more everyday and you'll make bigger and bigger impacts on His Kingdom.

I have grown and changed almost beyond recognition in the past four years.  I pray that I do the same in the next four years and that eventually my identity is so close to Christ's that you no longer see me.  Instead, you'll only see Him!

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