Thursday, August 7, 2008

Garments of Grace

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galations 5:22-23


Some weeks ago I joined some sisters for a time of prayer and fellowship. This was no ordinary meeting but one of which we hope will be the start of many praying for our city and nation. In the meeting one sister shared the vision of going into something new and taking off our old grubby garments we so often wear, and replacing them in faith with the new garments already purchased for us which we so often fail to put on. I'm not talking about physical items of clothing but the beautiful garments of grace as mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. It was quite an emotional time as we "put off" much of what would be classed as the old man's garments and in faith "put on" our new clothes (see Ephesians 4:22-24) I decided to commemorate that time by choosing a symbolic design to stitch on a Bible cover I am making for myself. It is a a beautiful yet simple design of the outline of an angel but with different patches of colours and patterns on it. I saw this as a perfect symbol of the different garments of grace.

I would also like to share something that happened to my friend the week she shared with us about putting on our garments of grace. Earlier in the week she was contemplating on the bus the fruits of the spirit as garments of many colours. The moment she was thinking this she looked up and saw a poster of a dove (symbolic of the Holy Spirit) with feathers of different colours!Unfortunately, too often our motives are self-centered rather than God-centered.

Encouraged by all of this, I bought Jerry Bridges' book The Fruitful Life to help in my study of these graces. As I began to read the first chapter I was so humbled! Before we even consider these aspects of godly character the reader is taken through a set of principles, one of which makes us question our motives. The author, Jerry Bridges, mentions that;

"Unfortunately, too often our motives are self-centered rather than God-centered. We want to maintain our reputation before others, or we want to feel good about ourselves. Or we may even seek to live a decent moral life or to do good deeds because such an ethics has been instilled in us from childhood. But that motivation is never related to God and thus is not acceptable to Him."

That just as we can dress outwardly to feel good about ourselves or look good (which in itself is not wrong) we can do the same with the graces. I was so completely humbled by this. You can read chapter one of the book here.

Also later in the chapter we see that just as "the power for Christlike character comes from Christ, the responsibility for developing and displaying that character is ours." Again, as with our outer garments which are readily available to us it is our responsibility to put them on. When we are obedient and do our part God does His in the most amazing and beautiful way. The power for Christlike character comes from Christ, the responsibility for developing and displaying that character is ours.

We are blessed to have garments provided for us for every situation. Some of us wear one better than the other. For example, as a mother, I may at times become flustered and frustrated with the children and need to change into my garment of long-suffering. Others though may be more comfortable in long-suffering than me but perhaps they feel a little uncomfortable in joy?

It's quite exciting to think that we as Christians are provided with the most beautiful wardrobe imaginable! Yet all too often we can neglect this wardrobe by talking of putting off and stopping there. We fail to bring in the balance by replacing what we have taken off (such as bitterness, rage, slander and so on) with the fruits of the Spirit, our garments. Put them on by faith and rejoice in the Lord even when we don't feel like it!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Shadowlands

This month's feature film is Shadowlands, the true story of C.S. Lewis and his fight to make sense of grief, loss, and suffering. Most of us know Lewis as the author of such books as Mere Christianity and The Chronicles of Narnia. But few know his struggle to open his heart to true love and real intimacy. Shadowlands surrounds the story of his marriage late in life to Joy Gresham, a woman who encourages him to love after being emotionally shut down for decades following the death of his mother.

STATS
Year: 1993 (Rated PG)
Richard Attenborough (director), William Nicholson (screenplay)
Starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.
Setting: England, 1950's.

Two Oscar nominations, including Best Actress (Winger) and Best Screenplay (Nicholson).

Content warning: None that I can see, however, the story is a real weeper and will touch your heart if you are someone who has ever experienced the fear of loving again after losing a loved one. Also, do not expect an overt gospel message in the film. Although there is only little mention of God, Christians will appreciate it nonetheless.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. The sin of pride. We often think pride is merely thinking highly of oneself. But pride also manifests itself in fear: we care about our own hearts and do everything to protect our own hearts from pain, often at the expense of withholding the very lives Jesus commanded us to give away.

2. Suffering yields fruit. God is close to us in our grief and pain. He does not want us to shut ourselves off from enjoying love, for fear of one day losing it.

3. Images of masculinity which lead to the erroneous belief that men should not cry or deal with their feelings.

4. Unconditional love. Joy Gresham displays many characteristics that were considered unbecoming to Jack's (C.S. Lewis) Oxford colleagues, yet he loved her in spite of any perceived uncouth behaviors she may have exhibited.

5. The need for children to have a strong father in their lives. Young Douglas (Gresham's son) learns more about true fatherhood from C.S. Lewis than his biological father.

6. THE LAST LINES OF THE FILM ARE VERY CONVICTING if God is calling you to tear down any walls you have built around your heart.

TRIVIA
This film is adapted from Nicholson's stage play by the same name and is inspired by Lewis' book, A Grief Observed. The trailer for this film can be viewed by clicking here.