Catalyst

catalyst

Catalyst by Definition: One that precipitates a process or event, especially without being involved in or changed by the consequences: “A free press … has remained … a vital catalyst to an informed and responsible electorate” (Robert O’Neal).

In Chemistry: A substance, usually used in small amounts relative to the reactants, that modifies and increases the rate of a reaction without being consumed in the process.

Christians as Catalysts
Awhile back I read about a missionary. At the time I thought it a singularly depressing story. In twenty years spent among a people group she knew of only two people who accepted Christ and before she left to return to her home country both of those converts were dead. Was she a success or a failure?

I think too often we measure the work of God by what our eyes see or what we perceive with our finite minds. Another theme in the books I just finished reading was that of the catalyst, that substance in the middle of the equation which allowed for a different result that would have been attained otherwise. And I’ve started to ponder the ways in which Christians are catalysts.

When God asks us to do something we often obey without ever seeing the eternal results of our actions. Take the missionary referenced above. Who is to say whether just by living among those people and being a light she held back a greater spreading of darkness? Who is to say whether she was remembered by their village and her strange teachings pondered in the years after she left. Who is to say that when thirty years later missionaries went back to that people, the ground was softer and ready to plant because of her sacrifice? Only God sees the eternal plan of what He calls us to do.

I think that we as Christians are often the catalyst, the substance, the person that precipitates an otherwise unexpected result. God is at work and as He stands outside of time He sees how all the little pieces fit together. He sees the reactions caused by placing a light in this specific patch of darkness. And too often I think we measure ourselves by the wrong standard. We judge by how we view our actions, by what we perceive that we accomplished. But the question is not what did we do, but did we let God work through us, using us to open new possibilities in the lives of others. Did our presence give someone a choice to choose Christ where before the choice wasn’t even available to them? We offer the possibilities of new life and new hope and the work of God in the life of an individual or a family or a people group or nation. The results aren’t our calling. I believe our calling is to the creating of possibilities. I believe we are called to be catalysts.

Journey 3-1-07

shackles


“When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” Romans 6:20-22

I’ve been considering lately about who I have chosen to serve and how I fulfill that duty. Sometimes I forget the aspect of my life that leads Paul to compare me to a slave. I had a choice of masters and while I served sin I was free from the command of righteousness. But when I chose God, I chose to submit my life totally to his control just as a slave must submit totally to their master. We have only two choices for a master, the sinful nature that reigns if we chose to serve ourselves or the Lord and creator of the universe who loved us and gave His precious Son to pay our debts. I mentioned in my last update that I was learning how to better say, “I lay down my life.” This is the choice that I have made in choosing to serve the Righteous King. I lay down my life and He directs my steps.

Swearing Fealty to a King

Swearing Fealty

I love to read. The words on the page couple with my imagination make the story 1,000 times more real than any movie portrayal. Yet, I rarely read anything not written for the Christian market anymore. I simply grew tired of being entertained by stories containing images that I should not put into my mind. But recently I picked up a fantasy series from the secular market based on the recommendation of one of my favorite authors. And I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, it is one of the most compellingly written series that I have read in years.

My favorite type of book comes from the fantasy genre. In fantasy, the battle of good against evil looms larger than life and everyday events and common people transform into heroes in the middle of an epic tale. In a sense it compares strongly to the Christian life. We know that our battle is not against flesh and blood, that a war in the heavenlies exists around us and that our prayers and simple obedience (or disobedience) influence the outcome.

One theme from these books that caught my attention focused on the life and responsibilities of a man sworn to a king. Once the main character gave his word, he stood bound by it. The king possessed the power to tell him what to do, where to go, who to marry or not marry. All of the choices that an individual takes for granted were subject to that oath. Much like a solider today is deployed without being asked. He gave his every consent to go anywhere at any time when he enlisted. In the Scripture Paul uses the analogy of a solider to express this point. He also uses the analogy of the slave and the bond servant. When we chose Christ, we gave Him our very lives. Our lives no longer belong to us to direct, but we stand entirely in His service to do whatever He calls us to do.

Now for us it remains a good choice, for we have a Holy and Righteous King that will always choose what is best. Our difficulty lies in not always perceiving the entire plan from our viewpoint in time. We, in our sinful nature, often want to go our own way and choose our own course. But we no longer hold that right. We pledged our service to our King when we accepted His offer of life.

In the middle of the second book one quote stood out. It stated, “Sometimes, it would be much easier to die for one’s king than to give one’s life to him.” I struggle in this area of my Christian walk. I entertain no doubt of the depth of my convictions, of my love for my Lord and King. However, continually laying down my wants, desires and comforts in order to serve Him as He directs comes with both struggle and the discipline of time.

True Christianity through a relationship with Jesus Christ presents two sides. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Compared to the weight of the yoke of sin and the burden of death there exists no comparison. And we possess joy and peace and the comfort of a true friend to see us through life. There remains, however, the fact that we are called to carry our cross and I believe we too often overlook this facet of the Christian life. We gave our lives to a King and they are His to command. Whatever He wills, wherever He leads, we are compelled to follow His bidding by our oath and by our love for Him.

I love how novels often invite a new perspective into a common aspect of life. I appreciated a fresh look at this theme and the reminder of all that it entails for me as a follower of Jesus Christ.

The novels were The Farseer Series by Robin Hobb.

Confidence

Confidence in Belief

I read an essay today that I hadn’t read previously. I needed to wait an hour for an appointment so I planned on reading just to fill the time, but I quickly became engrossed in the material that the author presented.

This essay contrasted the difference between knowledge and belief, but the line of thinking that caught my attention was the reminder of why we as Christians believe what we do about God’s leading on our lives – why we can have confidence in God when things don’t seem to make “logical” sense. (Logical referring to provable scientific standards)

Read the essay if you get a chance, but here are some of the quotes that I am pondering. From the essay: On Obstinacy in Belief by C.S. Lewis:

“If human life is in fact ordered by a beneficent being whose knowledge of our real needs and of the way in which they can be satisfied infinitely exceeds our own, we must expect a priori that His operations will often appear to us far from being beneficent and far from wise, and that it will be our highest prudence to give Him our confidence in spite of this.”
“No man is our friend who believes in our good intentions only when they are proved.”
“You are no longer faced with an argument which demands your assent, but with a Person who demands your confidence.”

It’s worth reflecting on…

Journey 2-15-07

Balance beam

“Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths.” Psalm 25:4

I’ve been thinking about how walking the Christian life is like walking on a balance beam. The Bible calls it the narrow way, but sometimes I don’t realize how very narrow it is. If the path is wide enough for me to stride easily, then I am likely striding forward in my own strength. But if the path, the balance beam, is so narrow that I have to concentrate on every footstep, then I am reduced to depending on the leading of Christ to keep me from falling off of the side.

If I am going to stay on that narrow path then I must humble myself. I must be continuously seeking His heart, His will, His strength for every day. I must choose to be obedient in big choices and in little ones. Over the past few months I’ve found myself having to learn to get better at saying, “I lay down my life.” In my flesh I would prefer the easy road, the one that doesn’t require so much from me, the one without any risk. But the deeper desire of my heart is to press on toward the goal, trusting in His grace pick me up when I fall and in His faithfulness to complete His work in me.

Journey 2-8-07

“And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:2b-5

I have read these verses many times over the last two months and every time I have a different emotional response, a different perspective. I always love the first part, “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” Hope is always something to rejoice in. To have the certain hope that God will be glorified is a great comfort for the believer. But then it says that we rejoice in our sufferings. Now there have been times when God has enabled me to rejoice in my sufferings, but that isn’t my natural first response.

Oswald Chambers, in one of his devotionals said, “The great difficulty spiritually is to concentrate on God, and it is His blessing that make it difficult. Troubles nearly always make us look to God; His blessings are apt to make us look elsewhere.” Rouse yourself up and look to God. Build your hope on Him. No matter if there are a hundred and one things that press, resolutely exclude them all and look to Him.”

“Build your hope on Him.” Isn’t this what Romans chapter five is talking about? We go through hard times and sufferings with rejoicing because we are building our hope on Him. And how do we do it? How do we persevere with joy? I think it is exactly as Oswald Chambers stated, as Hebrews chapter eleven and 1 Peter 3:15 tells us. It is by fixing our eyes on Christ, by setting apart Christ as Lord in our lives. If we hope in Christ, we will not be disappointed! He has demonstrated His love to us “when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom 5:6b)

This is a love and a hope that can give joy and inspire perseverance in the middle of hardships.

Journey 1-24-07

Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate. He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.” Psalms 111:2-5

January is normally a time of reflection for me and this year I have been pondering many things. Some of the answers to my questions have shown me challenges to address and areas to grow in. Some questions don’t have answers; right now they just have wonderings. But a great many of the questions that I have been asking myself, that I have been asking the Lord, simply lead back to His works and His character.

God has given us His Word in which we discover His great works of old. We read of His redemption plan and the wonder of the cross. And God also works in our lives, moving in specific and mighty ways that we can look back at and take comfort in.

Life is full of questions. But often the only answer I really need is the reminder to dwell on the character of God, to dwell on His love, His mercy, His grace and His works on my behalf. When I dwell on these things, when I fix my eyes on the Lord, then the all of the unanswered questions, all of the unknowns, all the difficulties of life fade in His presence.

Journey 1-18-07

He went out, not knowing whither he went. Hebrews 11:8

This is the verse from the January 2nd devotional in My Utmost for His Highest. It has been five years since I last read through this devotional and I thought I would pick it up again this year. I am amazed at how God speaks to me in the things I have read so many times before.

The New Year always prompts evaluation of the past year and thoughts of what lies ahead. As I look back on more than a year in Hungary I see God growing me in so many ways. I am learning and being stretched in ways I never thought possible. And then I look ahead and wonder what the future holds. I really have no idea what God’s plan is for me over the next year. Then I read, “One of the difficulties in Christian work is this question – ‘What do you expect to do?’ You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing.” What a comforting thought! I don’t have to know the future: the when, where, what and how of the next year. I just have to know that God is in control, that He has a plan and that if I listen carefully He will direct me in the right way in His perfect timing.

Do you face unknowns in the year ahead? Rest in the thought that God designs the Master Plan and that He is working all things together for His glory. What a beautiful truth.

Journey 1-7-08

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:4-8

The turning of the calendar to a new year is always an opportunity for reflection. In the past year I encountered trials and blessings, sorrow and joys. Life’s lessons do not generally come easily. One of the things that I have found over and over again in my walk with God is that the closer He draws me to His amazing and holy presence, the more I realize what a sinful creature I am at the very core of my being. I think that especially now that I find myself out of my “comfort zone” I often see deeper into my true nature than I ever have the opportunity to see when life is easier. Praise God, He is SO FAITHFUL and he continues to mold me into the woman that He would have me to be.

In light of these reflections I couldn’t help but be stopped speechless by the reminder of Ephesians 1. I am holy and blameless in God’s sight, because of the blood. Though I am constantly humbled by my shortcomings and drawn to my knees by my weaknesses, God doesn’t see my failures or my sins. He sees me holy and blameless. He sees me through the blood: a reflection of His glorious Son.

Yesterday I heard a David Crowder song that I wasn’t familiar with. These are the words that caught my attention and reflected so beautifully the message of Ephesians 1.

“You make everything glorious
and i am Yours
what does that make me?”

So today I am reveling in the reminder that God sees me not as I am but as I will be. He sees His finished work in me. What an amazing realization to take into the New Year!