Sunday, September 28, 2008

What I've Chosen

Over the course of the past year I experienced one of the most challenging periods of my life, which also happened to be one of the longest time periods that I remained challenged. There were many things that I was challenged with as a first year high school teacher, but in short, I was dealing with a very ungodly group of parents who consistently challenged my authority in and out of the classroom. I was astounded with the claims that they made against me and I was often left reeling after meetings with my administration trying to process the lies they had told about things that I had supposedly said or done. In addition to learning how to teach, I was now being forced to deal with a situation that I felt was very out of control and very unfair. I knew that God had a purpose in this situation but it wasn't clear which was very frustrating. In fact it wasn't clear until about eight weeks into my summer vacation. Through lots of prayer and reflection, as well as a series of conversations with a friend, it had become apparent that my difficulties with these parents were made even more difficult because I had allowed my job to become my god. Every decision I made, whether it be about spending my time or money, revolved around my commitment to my first year teaching job. This shift of focus from God to work compounded my feelings of being overwhelmed, dissatisfied and completely worn out. I had chosen to serve my job over serving my God.

It has been two months since God made me aware of my sin and my tendency to give everything over to my career. Since then God has helped me desire to lead a more balanced life that is centered on desiring and choosing God. This change in perspective has also reminded that my job is not my identity. I am once again confident that I am a daughter of the living God who has a purpose for every moment and situation of my life, no matter how challenging. I am thankful for this realization, as well as the changes that have accompanied it. It is my prayer now that I will live more consciencly in the reality of my relationship with Christ.

More to come later this week on not losing heart...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Faith vs. Knowledge

We studied an interesting character from the book of Judges at church on Sunday. In Judges chapter 11 we are introduced to Jephthah, an individual who is described as coming from a disfunctional family (his mother was a prostitute, yet he lived with his father and his family). The author then goes onto describe Jephthah's life which includes an interesting turn of events where he goes from a despised sibling to a powerful leader and warrior. If you read later in Hebrews 11, Jephthah is described as a man of faith which is an interesting legacy considering he sacrificed his daughter after a huge victory. What made Jephthah sacrifice his daughter? Didn't he know that we don't need to (literally) sacrifice anything to obtain God's favor or blessing? That's the whole reason Jesus came.

Jephthah's story was my pastor's illustration of the striking difference between faith and knowledge. Jephthah had a deep, strong faith in God however along with the rest of the Israelites at the time he was lacking a thorough understanding of God. Jephthah acted on his faith, knowing that God would allow for His victory but he made a costly mistake in promising to sacrifice whatever came out his door first upon his return home. Had Jephthah better understood God and his revealed word, he would not have made this promise to sacrifice.

Think about your own faith--what is deeper/greater? Your faith or your knowledge? Or are they fairly balanced? Is it because of your knowledge which comes from hearing God's word (Romans 10:17) that your faith is greater than without hearing God's word? I know that I have struggled with this concept in my own life. I believe in God but sometimes I am fairly unable to describe why, which constitutes a lack of understanding of God's word. The more I study the bible the better able I become to make connections between my life and God's teaching. I pray that you will desire just as much knowledge about God as you do faith in Him--I leave you this analogy to encourage you to do so:

Think about the ocean: the sand between your toes, the ocean mist, the sound of waves lapping at the sand. The moist air, intense sunsets, and seagulls begging for food. Now, think about studying a map of the ocean. Which is more of an experience that you would desire: being at the ocean or studying a map of it? The answer is pretty obvious--being at the ocean. Now this experience is sufficient for those who desire to dabble in the ocean from the seashore, however if you were to navigate the ocean it would benefit you far more if you had studied and knew the map inside and out. The same is true of our relationship with God. If you desire to know God at the edge, then the exhilirating experiences you have on occasion are sufficient. However, if you plan on navigating the rough waters of life then it would be in your best interest to study God's map for your life--His word.