What Is Holding You Back…

I utterly long to hear the Word preached in my own language…to be instructed in the way of hope…and to celebrate with believers in the sacrament of communion. How strange it seems now for me to leave my community of faith…my family…my niche, to go and live in a foreign land where I struggle to understand the culture and language, where “tromba spirits” are called to do good or to inflict harm, where strange medicine is thrown on your doorstep to persuade you to give the unknown person what they want or to reap sorrow on your home and family. Why is it that this is the very place in which we are called to live out our faith?

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We are called to strip away those precious pieces in our lives that so casually become our idols…money, health, alcohol, possessions, friends, even our children and family can become as idols to us. We are called to be so “bare to the bone” with longing…with desire…to deeply sense our need, so that nothing can stand in between “Christ in me”.

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Every Sunday I find a sermon to listen to and ask each member of the family to make an effort to listen to the teaching. Last Sunday, Tim Keller was preaching from 1 Peter 1:3-9, on being “born again” into a hope that is eternal. “You are His living hope, is Jesus yours?” he asked. I’m God’s living hope I thought to myself…that can’t be…here I am…feeling lonely, stripped of those precious pieces that I desperately long to have back, and yet, I remain…“His living hope”. How I struggle to make Him my utmost…my everything…my most precious and intimate relationship…my living hope…

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Keller said, “Suffering is the stripping away of those finite things.” Those things that in this life, you long to have, you live for, that you would put even before your Lord. I think of Abraham taking Isaac up to the land of Moriah to be sacrificed as a burnt offering to the Lord, and I cringe at the thought. The thought of God asking such a horrifying thing of Abraham and Abraham trying to figure out how he’s going to accomplish such a request from His Lord. And yet, I can only imagine that with great sorrow and suffering, Abraham made his way up the mountain and prepared the altar.

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Brothers and sisters, we are called to strip away those finite things that keep us from total and complete love of God. In some ways, I’m in a position where my “finite things” have been left behind in the departure from my homeland, but there are still more things that grapple for my allegiance…for my utmost love and adoration. I can only imagine that you find yourselves in a similar place…a place where your “finite things” are holding you back from utter intimacy with Christ, or things that you’re longing to hold onto more deeply than Him. Friends, let them go. Jesus talked to his Father, praying for another way, but “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6 ESV)

With love in Christ Jesus,

Rebe