journal. If you didn’t know, I work at a Christian book warehouse. It’s lowkey havoc on my weak muscles, but I’m serving the Lord (bless us all who work in minimum wage, blue-collar, or retail/food. the world needs us all, yet we are sorely forgotten! Be assured, God plays no favorites and knows the fruit of your labors!). OM Ships International is a neat Christian organization that serves Jesus by assembling ambassadors for Christ, placing them on a ship (currently sailing the Logos Hope), and shipping them (I love that SO much, Reader! I made myself laugh) to the least reached people groups. The members on board get to provide books and resources (glasses, devices for water purification, etc.) all over the globe. They are the saints who are working hard to ensure everyone on Earth has the chance to know the name of Jesus at least once!
My job isn’t quite as interesting, but my boss assures me it’s just as vital (although sometimes I hardly think it’s in any manner glamorous). I work for Biblestore OM Ships (a ministry inside a ministry, I guess?). Here on the “Internet” Team, I pick books people have ordered online, pack them, and ship them. It’s hard work; anyone on the team will tell you. We work from 8-4 with a thirty minute lunch break, and every second is spent on those orders or sorting the new books we get in from publishers. The money from this allows the warehouse to function- sort, ship, and repeat. We also sort and send books to the ship. So all in all, we all work for the same purpose- spreading God’s Word and knowledge. This mission has been an excellent one to pursue the past two summers, and something I can rest in despite my aching feet.
Working at a Christian place definitely has its perks. As fellow believers, we gather before lunch and pray for the ship, the warehouse, the least reached people groups. We spend time in prayer for each other, prayer for the world around us. It’s an excellent reminder of whose you are each and every day. It’s an excellent reminder that I am saved by grace at a high cost.
It’s the people I get to work with that are totally awesome, too! I get to meet lots of people from the ships who come to help us work for a few months (or half a year thanks to miss rona). Last year, I met several people moving to and from the ship. Things are a bit slow now, but it’s always wonderful to meet people from everywhere, people of all ages (some even students headed back to Uni in the fall (hopefully)). Sometimes there’s a large language barrier, yet we make it work. Last year, we had a few lovely folks come to work in the sort area who spoke Spanish and not one bit of English. I ate lunch with them every day, sitting with them beside a friend who moved back to Switzerland at the end of my first stint at the warehouse (a fellow German speaker! which was wonderful, Reader!). One day, we were munching on our salads and sandwiches, and I noticed a little butterfly pupa hanging from the pavilion ceiling.
“Looks like we’ll have a butterfly soon!” I exclaimed.
The faces of the Spanish speakers lit up at the word, looking up at the pupa delightedly. “Ah! Mariposa!” They shouted, at last the language barrier surpassed. I knew the word from the Barbie movies of the same name (funny how all that works, isn’t it?), but it was so wonderful to finally understand each other despite that barrier. Isn’t it awesome how God’s creation brings us all together, under the same sky- have you noticed no matter where you are, the sky never changes, Reader? It’s always that same bright blue under all the clouds. I think that’s rather like God. He’s never changing, that vivid bright blue, and storms of life blow in, obstructing His view to make Him seem like He isn’t there. Then one day, the clouds slowly part and out streams that blue in heavenly light, never changing, never failing.
Being surrounded by plenty of Christian resources urges me onward in my walk. It was yesterday, after having spent time reviewing the tail end of Philippians 1, and packing an order when I began to ponder the title you clicked.
The warehouse has lots of books for brand new believers, whether you took up your cross to follow Christ as a youngster or as an adult. It’s the books about the people who grew up in the church that always interest me. I’ve been going to church since I exited the womb and my mom felt safe to have me in a nursery with other screaming, squirming babies. I’ve grown up “knowing” the gospel, having been fully informed on the Good News. I know all the Sunday School answers, I know the books of the Bible. I know it.
It’s this mentality, though, that got me in trouble as I matured. I took God for granted. He was the big man upstairs we always talked about on Sundays and we left behind for a week, returning to praise him once more after seven days of pretending He didn’t exist or forgetting about Him (I frowned typing that one because it hurt).
It was always a big thing in my youth group that you were firm in your salvation. You should remember that one moment, that turning point, in which you realized you were broken and needed a saviour, one who paid the ultimate price just for you. As Christians who grew up in the church, it’s easy to say “oh, I’ve been saved my whole life,” which, I’m sorry dear Reader, holds no validity.
And I feel your pain. I was saved at a very young age. As far as I can remember, I’ve always been aware of God and walking with Him, but it wasn’t until high school when I rededicated my life to Christ and decided to follow him in my brokenness. Some may say or think that I wasn’t completely saved that first time, and for that I say I believe I was, but it is only God who knows. I also try not to “fret over spilled milk,” as the major point is that I am ransomed and set free in Him today, and after that broken “come-to-Jesus” moment in my little camp dorm room at Methodist University Creed Camp in 2015, I can say today I am set free.
It’s sometimes that we feel our testimonies are invalid because of this. Many of my friends (my brother, David Mark, and my best friend, Carrie Irick) share the same deal. We were all saved at a young age. We all stepped out in our child mindsets and knew, in our innocence, that there was something more and there was someOne who cared enough to send the ultimate sacrificial lamb. This doesn’t make our testimony any weaker or uninteresting, but it does pose us a unique challenge.
I think the daily grind of a Christian walk was ignored to me because I like check lists. It was easy for me to check the box off of going to church on Sunday, listening like a good girl and then going to eat lunch with my family at Ryan’s (may it rest in peace). I’ve often battled the ideas of check-list beliefs almost as some fervent Catholics do their rituals. If we’re not careful, following the rules can become more of an idol or for me, a comfort. And here, I believed if I was completing my checklist, if I was keeping the rules, knowing all the answers on Sundays, well- I’d make it into Heaven, and God would be pleased by me.
I adopted a false sense of casual Christianity. I kept such legalistic values on Sundays and picked and choose which ones I adopted in middle school. On Sunday, I wore my pretty dress, did my hair, did my make up, sang pretty church songs, offered all the right answers and then on Monday, I headed back to school. I swore like a sailor, lied about things I believed in, and I camouflaged myself. Reader, be warned. There is no such thing as a “secret agent Christian.” Thoughts such as these breed dissatisfaction and casual Christianity.
As Christians raised in the church since birth, we must take every precaution not to become casual. The Bible, the living Word of God, can quickly become bedtime stories we were told as a babe, fantastical tales meant in someway to get us to behave or sit still in church. Reader, it’s none of the sort! Don’t let the ways of this world convince you to conform.
The thing is we must be undeniably ourselves, ourselves in Jesus Christ. When asked what’s the best advice to give high school seniors headed to college, I always suggest one truth: be you, you in Christ. In the wise words of my grandmother (aptly nicknamed “Giddy”) and my youth pastor, Izzy Markle: Remember whose you are.
This is easier said than done. I spent a majority of my life running from my identity as a daughter of the one true King. I spent a majority of my short twenty years in seasons in which I ignored God and chased the shadows of the world. Goodness, I still do! Maintaining a consistent quiet time and prayer life is a huge struggle, and I’m sad to say I’m not as consistent as I should be, but frequently, God uses my own failings to keep His perfect law to chase away my shameful pride and chase me back to Him.
Reader, never forget how much you’ve been broken for Jesus, and never forget how much you are loved and forgiven despite it all. A large part of my story revolves around the way I was broken. I knew about God; I knew who He claimed to be and what He’d done. But, Reader, I’d grown casual. Come my sophomore year of high school, I was struggling with loneliness. I was using the legalist aspects of my faith to hurt the people around me. I was battling thoughts of self harm, thoughts consumed by anxiety.
It wasn’t until camp that I really began to understand the workings of God through that painful year of school (and though I know there are things that happened that I will never understand, I am glad of it). I was roped into going to camp by my church friends. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of going: any time I tried to talk to God, I came up empty. Anytime I felt Him near, I shuddered away with shame that I couldn’t even talk to Him. I felt dirty, sinful. I felt disgusted with myself.
I went into it all ashamed and broken. I wanted my childhood self back. I wanted to feel kind again. I wanted to ooze the love I’d once felt. Sitting in the cool auditorium of Methodist University the first night, worship hit different. People around me rose their hands heavenward, unafraid. What must it feel like to be unafraid? I thought. For once, I couldn’t camouflage myself, and I actually heard the words I sang. That year, we sang “Child of God” many times, and hearing those words made me feel belonged.
It was the message that truly pointed me to Him. From what I recall, the speaker shared Jesus’s story again, but again, something lifted in my heart. Apart from all the distractions, I heard. My eyes were opened. I heard about God, who sent His only son to be born humbly as a man. He lead a perfect life, and in the end, he became the perfect sacrificial lamb. He died on the cross to atone for my sins. (Reader, it took all I had not to cry in the room). I was reminded of my redemption. My own personal redemption arc! I was forgiven all of my wrong doing and sin- cleansed pure as snow- all because a perfect man, a perfect God, died just. for. me.
That night in my dorm room, I reflected. I felt something bigger for once. Something bigger than the trivial challenges of school. Something bigger than my gross sin and problems. I prayed for God to open my heart, to make me more like Him, and He’s been teaching me something ever since, sending people, events, things my way to remind me He’s here and He is alive.
Despite this vigor, I often forget the cost of my salvation. I forget I was bought with a price. I live a life trying to blend in, trying to fit in. Don’t ever forget that you are broken but made whole by a savior. When we go on, God breaks us more and more for him. He prunes the vine in order for us to grow (John 15:2, NLT). In C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, there’s this awesome quote about the more we grow in the love of Christ and set aside our sinful pride, the more ugly sin we find. Reader, the deeper we dig, the more ugly we find, and the more ugly we find, the more we turn towards the only One who can give us help.
“When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less.”C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
We’ve been spending a lot of time in my church group talking through Philippians, and Paul shares a similar message to the church at Philippi that I mean to get at here, Reader. The church at Philippi was doing a pretty good job, but Paul aimed to remind them of whose they are. He aimed to remind them about their salvation and identity. He aimed to remind them about where they find joy!
Theres a particular passage (Philippians 1:27-30) that covers the aspect of living a whole, disruptive-witness, in no way casual life. Paul reminds them they are “citizens of heaven.”
“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, where I come to see you again or only hear about you, I will know you are standing together in one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.Philippians 1:27 NLT
Paul aims to remind the Philippians that their identity isn’t in the earthly. It isn’t that they’re Roman citizens. It isn’t the earthly country in which they live, the things they possess. It’s the King and the Kingdom, our Father in heaven, who loves us more than we can comprehend. Paul teaches that we are practically not of this world. Hebrews describes us believers as “strangers and exiles on Earth.” We’re just passing though looking for our homeland. Reader, all that matters in the eternal, the transcendent. We ought to live united as one with other believers, trying to spread the gospel to any with ears to hear.
Paul calls us to live lives set apart. Casual Christianity is something Paul would have cringed at (it’s become a running gag in my bible study groups to joke about Paul being the exact opposite of a people pleaser). If you’re looking for sympathy, Peter might be more your guy (bless him, I think Peter and I would be good friends). Jokes aside, Paul suggests you live your life unapologetically for Christ, the one willing to die to save you. He encourages the church that their togetherness allows them to stand firm, know their joy, live their hope, to be set apart and to pass it on. As my friend Allie once said: we’re just beggars telling other beggars where to find bread.
Reader, what an honor it is to spread the news of God- His wonderful love for us and all of the others on the face of this Earth made in His image! Still, there’s another privilege that comes from living wholly for Christ rather than casually. Suffering.
I know, Reader, I know. Suffering isn’t what you’d think would be a blessing, but remember what I said about how He prunes the vine? One of my close friends, Zane, put it this way in a metaphor too good to pass up sharing. What a pleasure it is Reader, an honor, to suffer for our God. Like guards posted forever at a tomb suffering storm, hot weather, rain, snow, and shine- all for His glory and honor! Living a real faith has a cost. We can’t camouflage ourselves into the mold society suggests we fit.
The journey isn’t always easy. Reader, it isn’t even safe. But oh, my Lord, my God, Creator, Maker, and all- it is good. There’s a passage in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe that sums it up perfectly. One of the children, weary from their journey, asks if Aslan, the symbol of Christ in the novel, is safe and can protect them from harms way-
“‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’
‘I’m longing to see him,’ said Peter, ‘even if I do feel frightened when it comes to the point.’
‘That’s right, Son of Adam,’ said Mr. Beaver, bringing his paw down on the table with a crash that made all the cups and saucers rattle.”C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
How like the real world this is! Reader, God doesn’t promise us life will be safe and sunshiny after we’re saved. In fact, I think He suggests the opposite. To keep His law and live for Him is a major challenge, but it’s all for good. Keeping God’s law and living as Christ would reveals to us how imperfect we are, it ensues suffering. Therefore, in the wise words of Paul, let us not live casual lives but strive to keep living in a manner worthy of Christ, pointing people to the gospel in all we do, showing each and every one our love and God’s love in us.
On the opposite side, don’t get caught up in the legalism. It’s the opposite trap of mine, and it’s just as prideful. Sometimes, we can get caught up in living for God in a checklist type way, crossing off laws and things we do right. It’s easy to say I read my Bible today (check!), I prayed today (check!), I’m good! Trying to live too hard on the rules is bad, too. Reader, they’re meant to be broken- the law shows us how broken we are, and again, how much we need Him (are you getting the theme now?).
Understand your need for Him, and don’t forget it. Don’t live in pride for anything but the person of God. Not the law. Not your pride. Not fitting into society. Live for God; love His Good News. And share it unapologetically!
Reader, let’s live real. Let’s live our hope like we’ve no fear, as God is on our side. Count it all joy this week as he shapes you like a potter shapes clay in his hands, and live unapologetically Christ.
-E. H. Taylor
Biblestore OM Ships for discount Bibles and Christian resources: biblestore.com
Cornerstone Baptist Church for locals looking for a church to visit: exit137.org
C.S. Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
C. S. Lewis – Mere Christianity