If you read the title and thought "Oh dear, Daniel and Elise at it again!" rest assured this is not about a fight between me and Daniel, rather it is an internal battle with myself.
A week ago on Sunday I mentioned in my last post that I was really humbled to become more active and intentional in my relationships with others that I interact with by making Christ the center in my life and in relationships with others. (The last post was very much what my internal struggle with what the Great Commission is and how I should make that my life, I hope I got that point across.) But Christ also in that sermon humbled me to do something else more personal. I cannot remember what Garner said but it was about time, how we need to make time for things of Christ or something around those thoughts, and I thought "I am sitting around watching TV and bored at my house while I wait to go to Orlando because I know Orlando is going to be life changing but I am sitting around doing nothing. But wait, I have a whole stack of books from Crazy Love, to Mere Christianity that I take with me to college and I don't read them because I am spending all my "reading capacity" having to read books for classes. Okay, well I am doing nothing right now, I am bored, why not prepare my heart and grow in the Spirit right now? Why am I waiting for someone else to come and transform my spirit, why not read these wonderful books and have some discernment in life? Who is to say that I shall live past tomorrow? God is in control of my life and I am trying to make Him a priority, so why not glean everything I can from others (God mostly) to be built up to allow me more courage and strength and insight when the Spirit guides me to talk with others? So, the next day I went home, opened up all my boxes that I had brought home with me from college and started finding every book by a Christian author and I took them into our reading alcove and I started to get a little organized, which would I try and read before Orlando, which would I take with me, which would I wait til I returned home (but finish before college started). My thought is if I am trying to engross myself with the Lord in different ways (prayer, reading of the Word, reading from people like C.S. Lewis and Francis Chan) my life might become more centered on Christ because I am integrating him in many different parts of my life, so slowly these part will all be with Christ.
So, after organizing my books I remember mom talking about a few books she had read as of late and thought really astounding. I asked her if I could borrow a few (I had 2 in mind but ended up talking 5) and she was happy to let me borrow them! The first book I read (mind you, it also was the shortest) was Prodigal God by Timothy Keller. My mom was introduced to this book because my old youth pastor Lincoln was going to talk about it on a ski trip that my brother was going on and Lincoln had suggested that parents get the book to be able to know what was happening on the ski trip and be able to talk more with the kids when they came back. My mom read it and loved it a lot. Long story short, I read it and loved it.
Timothy Keller writes about the story of the Prodigal Son, but he explains how not only did the prodigal son stray, but so did the elder brother. The prodigal son portrays someone who goes out and lives a self gratifying life, but the elder brother sins because he is so consumed with following the rules and being good and self righteous. The self is present in both sins for each brother, self gratification for the prodigal son, self righteousness for the elder son. I had never heard about the elder son being at fault. Timothy does a beautiful job pointing out that Jesus in this passage in Luke is talking not only to sinners, but also the Pharisees, so the message was just as much for the sinners as the Pharisees.
I struggle (and I think others would agree) with feeling either like the prodigal son, pursuing things that I want and desire and then realizing how much I really need to go home, and God comes running like the father in the parable. But also I can be so determined to do right this time that I am trying to follow "the rules" and go to church, be involved in my bible study, etc. when that in itself will not really draw me closer to God because my heart is in trying to be the best and follow the rules thinking that God will see this and see good in that when in reality my heart at that time is not for God but really for myself and my salvation to be "pure." This book really made me step back and see this about me. I need to be really careful because I easily go back to both extremes instead of seeing the "perfect brother" which is Christ. Knowing that I sin when I put myself first but also not being so consumed with the rules and the "right" things to do because that is still sinning by putting myself first instead of God's Will and how he can use my life for that purpose. Not His Will in my life, but my life being used for His Will. This book really made me aware of the sibling rivalry that is waging a war inside me, the two sides of sinning so to speak, and I need to keep looking what Jesus says and what Jesus did in his life. So even while my intentions of reading all these amazing books is pure now, it will be very easy to think "Oh dear, I need to read something because I am doing nothing else today that is Christ like" the reading should be me building up my spiritual armor for Christ, not trying to add my name to the good Christian list, because in some way I will fail and I need to be open to that. I am slowly going to try to become the third brother, Jesus Christ.