Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thoughts...

I know it's been a while... This semester has been busy! I'm learning more about languages (in Phonetics and Grammar classes), which has been challenging... and fun... sometimes. :) I continue to meet with Lisa; I pray that she will be drawn closer to our Father through our time together. Switching gears... I enjoyed housesitting for a staff friend for almost two months. Now--that may not seem like a big deal, but remember... That means a shower and a washer/dryer INSIDE! :) Thank you, Lord, for little blessings!
I am giving a 10 minute "speech" tomorrow, and I thought I would just post it here... It's a little rough, but it will give you some idea of what God has been showing me these past months. I know it's kinda long, so if words aren't your bag, scroll up for some pictures. :)


Good morning. Thank you for allowing me to share with you. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Esther Irwin, and I am training to be a missionary with New Tribes Mission. I have spent the last 10 months or so in Missouri, taking all kinds of classes—some spiritual in nature and others more hands on (like Tech Tips where I learned about soldering and solar panels and wiring). For those of you that know me well, you know that was a real stretch! But God is good, and He is always faithful to teach me things that I wouldn’t choose to learn on my own.

It’s hard to look at all I’ve learned and choose something to share with you all. Sometimes I feel that the busyness of classes and life in Missouri distracts me from what is most important—and that is cultivating my personal relationship with God. I get caught up with classes and the work program and local outreach and maintaining friendships… On and on it goes. And I find myself losing focus—even losing motivation at times.

I was really challenged in one of our chapels when our speaker talked about having an undivided heart. I was reminded (yet again!) that the reason I get off track and discouraged is because the affections of my heart are being pulled in a million directions. This morning I want to talk about fixing my affection on Christ and the truths of His Word.

In one of our classes, we were given this list of questions; they were called “x-ray” questions because answering them honestly gives a pretty accurate reflection of your heart. I just want to read them for you.

i) What am I preoccupied with?
ii) What is the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last thing on my mind at night?
iii) How would I complete this statement: "If only _____________, then I would be happy, fulfilled, and secure"?
iv) What do I want to preserve or avoid?
v) Where do I put my trust?
vi) What do I fear?
vii) When a certain desire is not met, do I feel frustration, anxiety, resentment, bitterness, anger, or depression?
viii) Is there something I desire so much that I am willing to disappoint or hurt others in order to have it?

Those are some pretty scary questions in my opinion. And answering them showed me how misguided my affections are. Do I truly desire to know God and obey Him above all else? Or am I being driven by other things—pleasing my friends, being entertained, checking off my “To Do” list?

When I think about an undivided heart, the first person that comes to mind is the apostle Paul. I have been studying Philippians this last semester, and it has been so challenging. Throughout the book, Paul’s desire to know Christ above all else is so evident. In chapter one, he says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” In chapter three, he says, “But whatever was to my profit I consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…” He goes on in chapter three to talk about life as if it were a race for a prize. He uses words like “straining” and “pressing on”; he wanted to run with urgency and with a clear purpose out in front—to know Christ and to be obedient to His instructions.

I like the word picture that Paul uses—that of a runner. I try to put myself in that position; I’m running in a race—not one of those in a stadium where you go around and around… but more of a cross-country race, maybe like a triathlon. I can’t see the finish line. I find myself in difficult circumstances; maybe the swimming or the biking isn’t my strong suit. I’m thirsty and exhausted, and at times I feel like quitting. I can’t see the path to the end, and I can’t imagine how I will make it… What am I going to do? Give up? Or will I keep going—one step at a time, remembering my training and focusing on what I know to be true? That perseverance and discipline will draw me closer and closer to the prize at the finish line?

I want to pause for a second and talk a little bit about those difficult circumstances and how they can affect me. Probably one of the most trying things for me this past year has been trusting God to show me what direction I should go in the future. I don’t have a really clear picture yet of how God wants to use me to reach tribal people with the gospel. I know that I want to be involved in the task, but the HOW eludes me… I think God is trying to show me that I need to simply trust Him day by day. I need to focus on one thing: knowing Him and abiding in His Word. As I walk with Him, He will be faithful to guide me in His timing.

Resting and not being anxious is a real struggle for me. Again, going back to Philippians, chapter four says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

One thing that struck me about these verses is that they say the PEACE of God will GUARD your HEARTS and MINDS. I know it’s kind of funny, but I really started getting this image of a Roman centurion (holding a spear, of course) standing outside my heart and mind—only allowing that which is true and right to enter and fighting off all the rest.

Chapter four goes on to tell us to think about that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, etc. And Paul tells us, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

There’s that PEACE thing again. I can’t help but notice that PEACE is directly tied in to what we dwell on and what we do. When we dwell on truth and reject lies, and when we put into practice that which God has commanded, we will experience peace—the peace of walking in fellowship with our Father.

I am so grateful for who God is; His character doesn’t change. In the midst of my struggles and my discouragements, He is constant. He is good, loving, faithful, patient… It is my prayer that I will be steadfastly fixed to those truths—no matter what circumstances I find myself in. And that, like Paul, I will run the race with an undivided heart—running to know Christ, but not JUST to know Him—also to be a “doer” of His Word.

Psalm 143:8 “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”

1 Comments:

Blogger Zhenya & Danyelle said...

Thank you, Esther, for sharing your heart. I think we all need to be reminded of the "race" we are in as Believers.

Thank you as well for the pictures and a better idea of what training/classes are like.

10:23 PM  

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