The Bible tells us that there is ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (Ephesians 4:5).
I have been baptised in water by the Holy Spirit, but during my months in India, I believe I have experienced a new baptism.
Now, before you think me a heretic, let me clear some things up.
I don’t wish to contradict scripture and claim that I’ve experienced some kind of ‘second’ baptism, so perhaps I should not describe it as a new baptism at all. What I am talking about is not anything separate as such, perhaps only separate in terms of time, but I am talking about a kind of a ‘re-living’ of the one baptism that I received in Christ.
What is the Bible Marathon?
For those of you who are unaware, the Bible Marathon is a challenge from my godfather that I took up for the first time in 2013:
read the whole Bible starting on January 1st, in canonical order, front to back, as fast as you can!
Last year I completed the marathon in 66 days – equivalent to reading one book a day (read about it here). This year due to my months of travelling and adapting to a different rhythm of life of India, it took me a whole 104 days. Nevertheless, it was even more impacting this year than it was last.
What a brilliant way to start the year by reading through the entire scripture!
Might I challenge you to try it out? (I promise it’s not as hard as it sounds)
What theme stuck out to me the most?
So last year when I completed the Bible Marathon, I was so amazed that I had time to read so much each day. If you read my reflections by clicking the link above, you will see that God taught me a huge lesson that my time belongs to Him, and that in surrendering our lives to the author of time, anything is possible.
One theme that I didn’t mention in the post but one that lingered in my mind (particularly after reading through the Old Testament), was the way that the Jews feared God (or in most cases didn’t but should have). I’m not talking about the kind of fear you might have for spiders (in my case) or of a bully or a demanding boss, I’m not even talking about the kind of fear with which we fear death. I’m talking about the kind of fear that recognises God’s power and majesty, His kingship over all of creation. This kind of fear is a choice, to live under this ‘fear’ means recognising that my life is not my own, this ‘fear’ means recognising El Roi, “the God Who Sees” (Genesis 16:13). When I finished The Bible Marathon in 2013, I remember thinking to myself “I don’t think I fear God… I know He loves me, but He seems more like my buddy than the ruler of the universe…”. I prayed that God might show me His power, I wanted to see Him for the king He really is, I wanted to fear God.
A prayer answered…
This year I read the Bible through a different lens. Travelling around the foreign land of India and struggling to find myself, the scriptures were my daily bread and sustained me through the trials. I’ve been sick more than I ever have in my life, I got headlice, and then bed bugs, and then I suffered with a severe stomach infection when I feared for my life dehydrating in bed. On top of all that is the daily struggle of being a westerner in very traditional eastern city, and even more difficult being a woman in a severely patriarchal culture. Coming here meant I lost all of the things I love; my food, my home, my friends, my social life… my freedom.
Losing the things I love was something I had expected, but nevertheless, nothing could have prepared me for how that consequently stripped me of my identity. Everything that made up my life, my likes and dislikes, my hobbies, who I spent my time with, where I went for fun, all of that had gone and I felt I’d lost myself. Annie was no more, but instead was an empty vessel feeling small and insignificant. Coming to India killed me, Annie died here. But this morbid notion is good news…
One of the most challenging verses I read during The Bible Marathon was this:
those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
I couldn’t read past this verse, I read it over and over and let the truth sink into me. I’ll confess, I cried a little before spending a long time in prayer drawing near to the Lord in my time of intimate Geist-tanz – my mind and spirit becoming one with God’s.
I finally understood what it meant!
of Fear & Love…
Therefore, fear the LORD and worship Him in sincerity and truth
Fearing the Lord is not about quivering like an ant under a magnifying glass, constantly watching my back incase God decides to punish me like a merciless 10 year old boy. To fear the Lord is to draw near to Him while accepting His power and majesty over all of creation. I am part of that creation. This means that God is Lord over me and over my life. It is my choice as to whether I surrender it to Him, or whether I hold onto it for myself. I used to believe that this was a once-and-for-all choice, that it only mattered for my salvation. But it is so much MORE than that…
My daily life holds decisions. True that my debt has been paid, my sin has been erased, and I have been washed clean by the atoning blood of our Lord Jesus. But my life continues… so what shall I do with it? I could work my way up the career ladder, get a great income to pay for a beautiful house, a car or two, holidays in exotic places. I could live for all the things that make me happy. Sure I’m still saved, but then do I really “have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10), a gift offered as part of our inheritance as we accept our new Father. I could put my hope in so much more than that. I could surrender each and every day of my life to the Lord, and in doing so, draw into the most intimate relationship with my creator as I take hold of what He offers me in His generous and loving hands. It might look like the hard path, but walking in His will is the closest we can be to Him in this life. Walking with Him in ‘fear’ of the Lord means that we don’t have to fear ANYTHING else; freedom belongs to the one who has been adopted by the true king. As if that isn’t beautiful enough, walking with Him will lead to an eternity in His perfected kingdom.
I died to self, I lost myself in India, Annie was no more.
But I found myself in Christ, in His purpose for me, as He filled me with His presence I was made new.
My empty carcass is being re-created in the image of God with each breath of His truth that I inhale as I read.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Let’s see what the Lord will teach me next year…