I'm titling this blog entry to correspond with the book we are studying in our housegroup through the 40 days of Lent. Most people in the group have done the study in the past and I think I read the book about 10 years ago but for some reason I'm getting so much more out of it doing it with a group of folks that are committed to reading it and committed to encouraging eachother through a Facebook discussion group. I'll summarize what we've read so far in terms of what it's meant to me and what God is teaching me through it.
When we first arrived in Germany I felt so on fire for God and excited about our ministry here. I was having my quiet time every day, praying for our supporters every day and memorizing German scripture verses. I had committed to not getting on my computer until I had my quiet time each day whether I "felt" like it or not. Some days it was really hard to hear from God and sometimes I felt so incredibly close to Him but I noticed that those days where I took the time and made the effort I had a lot of peace, joy and I felt really on fire for God.
Then we started school and we were getting up reallllllly early and rushing around trying to get everything done and so my quiet times started to fall until after we got home but then when we got home we were hungry and tired and just wanted to relax and so several days I missed my quiet time all together. I would still pray and talk to God but the more days that went by where God wasn't first in my day the more down, unpeaceful and discouraged I became.
Then came this study. We made a commitment to do the study with our housegroup and Alan and I started three days early and then re-did those three days with the rest of the group. As I allowed Gods word and the truths in this book sink into my heart I again began to feel hope and peace and much less discouraged. It's been twelve days now and I haven't missed a day studying the chapter, reading Gods word and praying He will reveal himself to me more and more each day. For a while there when I wasn't sticking close to God the devil and my flesh had a hay day on my spirit and on our marriage. How silly we are to think that we are not at war each day with a very real and live enemy bent on destroying us. How forgetful we become that our flesh is still at work to pull us away from God and toward the world.
The things so far that have really stood out to me in the book are:
Ch 2: You are not an accident - "If there was no God, we would all be "accidents," the result of astronomical random chance in the universe... your life would have no purpose or meaning or significance. There would be no right or wrong, and no hope beyond your brief years here on earth. But there is a God who made you for a reason, and your life has profound meaning! We discover that meaning and purpose only when we make God the reference point in our lives."
Ch 3: What drives your life? I felt convicted that at times I have been driven by guilt, resentment or anger and by fear. I no longer feel driven by material things and while I appreciate and need others approval it's not a driving force in my life. I want a focused life. Focused like light through a laser beam - able to cut through metal. I want a life focused on Christ and his purpose for my life. Am I there yet? No but I do believe in the past several years that when the big choices and big decisions have come up I have passed the test. It's the little stuff that seems to trip me up. Life here on this earth is truly a test. I love how Warren puts it though when he says we will have a final exam before we enter eternity but because God wants us to pass this test he has given us the two questions in advance. The first is "What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?" It's not about your religious background or doctinal views - it's about whether or not you accepted what Jesus did for you and did you learn to love and trust him. This first question determines where we will spend eternity. The second question will be "What did you do with what I gave you?" What did you do with the gifts, talents, opportunities, energy, relationships and resources God gave you? This second question determines what you do in eternity - what God will put you in charge of, what rewards you will receive and eternity is a LONG time! Why we focus so much on the here and now when we have eternity to look forward to is a really good question.
Ch 4: Made to Last Forever: "If your time on earth were all there is to your life, I would suggest you start living it up immediately. You could forget being good and ethical, and you wouldn't have to worry about any consequences of your actions. You could indulge yourself in total self-centeredness because your actions would have no long-term repercussions. But -- and this makes all the difference -- death is not the end of you! Death is not your termination, but your transition into eternity, so there are eternal consequences to everything you do on earth. Every act of our lives strikes some chord that will vibrate in eternity."
Ch 6: Life is a temporary assignment: "Repeatedly the Bible compares life on earth to temporary living in a foreign country. This is not your permanent home or final destination. You're just pssing through, just visiting earth." Just like Alan and I are foreigners in Germany and life here sometimes is really tough and lonely and frustrating, we are also foreigners on this earth and things aren't how we'd have them to be. They aren't supposed to be. This is a fallen world and it's not our home.
These are just some of the things that have really touched me so far reading this book. I am grateful for a group of believers that have struggles just like Alan and I do but that are so encouraging to us and that show us through their successes and failures, hopes and short-comings that we are not alone and that God is still a God of forgiveness and love. He takes pleasure in US! We make God smile when we live for Him - when we live to bring him glory. He is deserving of the very best we have to offer but when we screw up, he doesn't condemn us. He doesn't accuse us. He doesn't stop loving us. He helps us up, brushes us off and encourages us to try again. I love that.