Monday, August 29, 2011

Working "With God" Instead of "For God"

Much of modern Christianity pictures God as a kind employer who pays well in the next life as long as we do His work in this life. Rarely is God pictured as the loving Father He really is who loves us without condition. God does not have requirements of us. God offers relationship to us. All good works flow from that loving relationship. God does not burden us by forcing us to work for Him. God loves us until we desire to work WITH Him.

Jesus said to His disciples, "I WILL make you fishers of men." He did not say, "Ok, you've met me. Here are a list of my commands. Now get to work!" Jesus built relationships with His disciples. They walked with Him, watching Him work, watching Him show love and compassion. Before He left this earth He gave them His Spirit and promised to be with with them always.

The Christian life isn't about "doing great things for God." It is about walking with God and listening to Him. As you walk with Him He will show you needs and direct you how to love.

Jesus didn't boast "I kept all the commands Father ever wrote down." Jesus said, "I can do nothing by myself. I only do what I see my Father doing. Whatever my Father does, I do also. My Father loves me and shows me all he does. By myself I can do nothing. I seek not to please myself but him who sent me." (John 5:19-20,30)

That is precisely how we are to live, by watching what God is doing and joining in. You are a son or daughter of God. What Jesus said in John 5 applies to how you live your life.

"I can do nothing by myself ... By myself I can do nothing."
That means to do nothing alone, to always work with God. All other work is fruitless. This means that Jesus always worked TOGETHER with the Father and the Father was His chosen source of strength.

"I only do what I see my Father doing. Whatever my Father does, I do also. My Father loves me and shows me all he does."
Watch God, He will show you what to do because He loves you. You don't need to fear your own ignorance or strive to discover His purposes. Trust that He loves you. Know He is always with you. The more you trust Him the more you will recognize what He is showing you.

"I seek not to please myself but him who sent me."
Jesus' relationship with His Father was fully established. When we have a close relationship with God we too will be able to say what Jesus said. This cannot be truthfully said without knowing God's love for you. We want to please God because He pleases us. That is a loving relationship! God loves us until we desire to work with Him. Working with God is a loving relationship! We don't work for God as if He is a rule making employer. We work with Him like we are in His family because we are! As sons and daughters we work with our Father and our oldest brother Jesus!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Variations on Psalm 23:6

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life. (Psalm 23:6 NLT)

Lord, your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. (Psalm 23:6 MSG)

I am sure that your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. (Psalm 23:6 NIRV)

Lord, your kindness and love will always be with me each day of my life and I will live with you forever. (Psalm 23:6)

I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life; and I will be at home with you as long as I live. (Psalm 23:6)

All the days of my life only your love and goodness and kindness pursue me, and my home is forever with you Lord. (Psalm 23:6)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How God Prepared Me for My Dad's Death

My dad died unexpectedly on August 15. That day he died I was listening to podcasts that had these words below. God was giving me understanding and comfort just before the tragedy had become known.

Notes from Podcasts
  • Our trust is not in the outcome of our circumstances. It is in Christ Jesus and we know that His grace is sufficient for whatever life might hurl at us.
  • True trust is not trusting in an outcome or an answer. It is trusting that God is good, God is loving, God is with me, and if I need to know something He will let me know.
  • When you go through pain just cling to God.
  • You can only grow in love when you grow in knowing that you are loved by God.
  • The most important question is "How much do you know that God loves you?"
  • We don't have to understand why things happen. We just have to know that it happened and God is there in the midst of it sharing and showing His love.
  • There is a loving God who stands above everything that happens in this life. Whether we can understand or not understand why things happen the one thing we can know is that God is in the midst of it. Where is God in the midst of tragedy? He is there to comfort, to sustain people, to meet their need right where they are.
    Here is a link to the "Grace in Suffering" Podcast
Below are things I personally wrote on that day from thought, as responses to others, or spurred from podcasts. God was working through me to give comfort to myself. I looked back on these after I got word of his death. The chances of me listening to the Grace in Suffering podcast on that day are mathematically very low. God worked for months through my feelings, preferences, workload, mental and physical condition, listening speed, discoveries, and interactions to have me hear that on the day my dad died. I think I am more comforted by the fact that God worked so intricately to prepare me than I am by even the words themselves.

Notes I Wrote
  • I don't doubt that I know God as my father anymore than I doubt I know my biological father.
  • Drawing near to God means we experience His love and thus we become more loving to others which ultimately fulfills the law anyway.
  • I was never successful at loving until I realized I was loved. I was never successful at trusting until I stopped trying. I was never successful at doing until I started being. I was never successful at living until I let Life live for me.
  • I feel more perfect because of His righteousness given to me, more significant because of His power to work through me. I do feel less capable and less confident in myself because I know those are His qualities and not mine. I don't feel more miserable as a Christian because I don't measure up because I know God threw away the measuring stick to give me a hug.
  • Trust is putting your security in God. Saying "I'm going to do what you want God and I know it will be good for me"
  • People don't always need answers. Sometimes they just need love, compassion, and comfort. You can show people that God cares by showing them that you care.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Contentment and Disappointment

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11-13)

I can be content through Christ who strengthens me! Scriptures tell us in Philippians 4 what a great thing it is to be content but most of the way churches and preachers try to motivate is by discontentment. "You're not doing enough. You need to get out of your comfort zone. You should never be satisfied with your walk in God." God doesn't want you to be discontent. He wants you to be satisfied with Him and to rest in Him. The secret of contentment is Christ's strength working through you!

"I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10)
"Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content." (1 Timothy 6:8)
"Be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere men do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)
"Already you are satisfied! You already have all you need. You already have more access to God than you can handle!" (1 Corinthians 4:8)

When God doesn't do what we expect we need to voice our disappointments to Him. If we don't we are going to put up a barrier between us and God. That barrier is us not caring to listen to Him because He let us down by not giving us what we wanted when we wanted it.

When God disappoints our desires we distance ourselves from Him and we "take back control" of our lives without going to Him for input. The reality is that we never actually yielded control to God because we were set on using God to get our desires met in our time frame instead of trying to follow God's desires for us in His timing. God's desires for us are better than our desires for ourselves. His timing is better for us than ours also. He loves us more than we love ourselves. While it may not be as easy and comfortable as what we want God knows what is best for us and when it is best for us.

Disappointments happen when your appointments fail. Disappointment is defined as "the state of being depressed or discouraged by the failure of one's hopes or expectations." When you don't get what you want you are disappointed. When you expect a gift at Christmas and don't get it you are disappointed. We treat God like Christmas morning. We expect things of Him and if we don't get what we want we are disappointed and sometimes like children we throw a fit. "It is Christmas day! You have to give me what I want today! Now is the time!"

But gifts are better when they are a surprise. You appreciate them more at a day and time when you don't expect them. God has already given us much much more than any of us realize. And God is always giving to us. His love is self-giving. His Spirit is a breath that only breathes out. God will give us freedom we never dreamed of and things we never knew we wanted.

I'm a participant in the gifts of God today. God doesn't give me on any given day everything I want the way I want it. We can be like the child who doesn't get the one present he wants most so he is ungrateful and doesn't enjoy the many presents he did get. When my focus is on what I want instead of what God is giving me I will be frustrated.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:31, "What I'm trying to get you to do is to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving."
There is a great change in the heart of a person when they no longer have the fruitless tension of trying to get. Instead they have the relaxed sense of "I'm going to participate today in what God gives me, so God what are you giving me today?" That changes the whole nature of the relationship from anxiety and pressure and manipulation to "I'm really buddied up with Papa and my God has the best ideas about everything. So I'm not convincing Him to do things my way. I'm looking for the way He is doing things and joining in them." It is good to discover an attitude that says, "How do I live in the gifts of God instead of the need of myself?"

Romans 8:32 says, "God who didn't spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how would he not also with Christ freely give us all things?"
God gave us the ultimate treasure of the universe, Jesus, so is there anything greater than Jesus that God has got for me? How do I come to the awareness of the value of what He has given?