I can’t begin to imagine the intense hurt Our Saviour must feel when He looks upon our world and sees the heresy of His Birthday. It brings tears to my eyes to think of it.
Australia, my home, is a country founded on Christian principles. Our public holidays, spread throughout the year, reflect a hint of our initial patriotism to Christ and the Cross. Sure, we recognise that ‘religious’ people do their part at keeping the traditional meaning of Christmas alive. But many in our community barely even mention the Name and Birth, or Death and Resurrection of the precious life and blood given to us, for us, on those unparalleled occasions.
We are a multicultural country, and have welcomed in practices and beliefs from nations far and wide. It is something we pride ourselves on, opening our arms to the world, defending the persecuted, providing sanctuary for those in despair, accepting the differences of cultures and customs. Cultures which we have established laws to protect, to protect their rights to worship and practice their faith in a country not founded in those beliefs. While somewhere along the way, our attention given to the truth of our own beliefs has all but been wiped out!
“Everyone has a right to their own set of beliefs and traditions” I hear you say, and I agree completely. But if taking time off work over Easter and Christmas is the highlight of your year then there is only one person you can thank for that! Jesus/Yeshua/Christ! If we forget to recognise and appreciate that truth, then those days are at risk of being morphed into practices void of the very principles that make our country great. Freedom, acceptance, equality, provision, justice, safety, health and opportunity are just some of the blessings this country stands on, and yet too many are conveniently forgetting that it was Christ who gave up everything, and came to this planet full of selfish hearts, to give us those very concepts!!
Have we all become so mindless that we fail to see the subtle ways the enemy has poisoned our celebrations of victory over him?! The enemy is the one determined to divide, destroy and defile, and Yeshua is the one who came determined to set a path for us towards unity, restoration and integrity. We are the ones who must chose to ignore, or believe, every lie ever told about our Beautiful Saviour and His Father, we are the ones who get to choose to take a good hard look at ourselves and ask ourselves what we really stand for. Do we believe in the principles of freedom, safety, provision, justice, equality, opportunity and healing?? Or do we believe in maxing out the credit card to buy chocolates and gadgets designed to attract our children’s attention while allowing disconnection, misbehaviour and social crippling to thrive from those very gifts? Is getting drunk more important than giving praise? Is excess and indulgence our fall-back position or is it the knowledge that Christ is the only answer to this world’s problems?
“And even now in your Holy feasts to God, you don’t think of me, but only of the food and fellowship and fun” Zechariah 7:6 (LBP)
It is one thing to reject the Lord, and that is a choice He gave us. However, if the Australian Government all of a sudden decided that those days off were cancelled, or only permitted to those who professed belief in the Lord Jesus, would it then become a belief worth fighting for?
My Dad was the main one who taught me how to know God, and how to let His Son’s love into my heart so it can shine out from within. We were estranged for many years and only reconnected when I was in my early 20’s. As we began to rebuild our relationship, Dad answered the multitude of questions I threw at him, but I did not simply swallow all his answers whole or unchallenged. I challenged every thing he tried to teach me. I must admit his logic was thorough and convincing and it gave me a foundation for the faith I had not really tried to develop since I was a child.
While Dad taught me how to get to know God, his words fell on the soft soil of my faith which had been there all along. The truth is that my faith was developed along the journey which life has taken me, through difficult times where I have learned hard lessons about myself, lessons which brought me humility. Humility brought me a softer and open heart, an open heart brought me encounters with God, miraculous encounters which called me to trust in Him.
All the times when I have trusted God, needing as much faith as I can muster, He has fulfilled every promise He has ever made to me. Promised outcomes brought me more love and appreciation for Him than I can explain. That love and trust brought me to want to know Him and be closer to Him, to try to understand how I may please Him. This understanding brought me under the guidance of His will. My willingness, mixed with His strength helped move me in obedience to His guidance, and that has brought me to the place of faith where I now stand.
As is common in most faith-walks, many people in my life, family, friends and acquaintances alike, have challenged my faith in one way or another. Countless times I have had to choose between keeping their approval and companionship, or staying strong in my faith and risk it all…
Standing up for my faith doesn’t always involve a debate about religion, it also arises during challenges of life and questions of morals.
I spent many years in my youth blaming others for everything that was going wrong in my life, and I allowed my anger and disgust in someone elses behaviour to permit me to respond or react anyway I saw fit, because it was THEIR fault not mine! This attitude only caused me less peace in my life and more of my own undesirable behaviour.
Luckily for me, my Dad was willing to risk my affection for him by telling me when I was out of line with God. At first I rejected his words and defended against the discomfort I felt, but he was patient and forgiving, and extremely humble. He stuck by me and stayed true, and over time I became very grateful for his loving honesty and help. I wish more than anything that he was still here to do that, although if I slow down and listen, in time I can usually hear a voice in my heart when I need to be pulled back into line.
These days I try hard to be less about blaming others and more about looking at myself and searching my faith for guidance of how I can handle the situation in God’s way. Therefore, this is also what I encourage others to do when we are discussing how they can deal with the challenges life throws their way.
It is sometimes uncomfortable and can cause tension when we are called to stand up for faith and not sit quietly as faithless anarchy flows out around us.
“Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at them, lest I dismay thee before them” Jer 1:17 (ASV)
Sometimes it is hard to know when to speak up against something and speak out in faith, or to give grace and not risk offending others. Words of faith are powerful and need to be shared with much responsibility and restraint. It is careless to rub our faith in the face of one whose faith has not yet reached the same level of understanding. Patient, steadfast standing in faith, and a willingness to share the truth as it has been revealed, gains much ground for God. Whereas boasting of our knowledge, criticising, and undermining the obedience of one who has not yet come to understand the freedom of faith, rather than the restrictions of the laws, are all detrimental to the budding flower in the early stages of faith.
“Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” Romans 14:13 (KJV)
In times of challenge where I have been required to stand strong in faith or choose to keep in favour with a person, I think of my Dad and how his truth, while hard to swallow, kept me on the narrow path. I recall the persecution God’s Son willingly took for our salvation and I feel compelled to stand along side Him in faith. I try not to focus on the fear that I may become out of favour with someone. I have found that people are often disloyal and unloving, they break promises they have made, they can turn on you after years of relationship, they can change how they feel about you at any given moment, from loving and accepting you one day, then belittling and hating you the next, regardless of whether you have stood strong in faith or not.
However God knows, He sees all the times we stand strong, it matters more to Him than anyone here in this place.
So I will always strive to choose my faith. People come and go but the Lord stays with me day and night. He is loyal and faithful to me and in return I do my best to be loyal and faithful to Him. My Loving Father God has never, and will never turn on me, I hope and pray I continue to have the strength of faith to never turn on Him either!