Monday, October 30, 2006

deal or no deal…?

The new weekend series Joe has raised some fascinating questions for me. I would have loved to talk more about this: How would you know if you were in God’s perfect will? No kidding. Here’s a transcript of that part of the message:

“How would you know if you were in His will? The reason to ask is obvious: do you have an assumed picture of what God’s plan for you would look like? Do you think Joseph did?—maybe all of his brothers would be bowing down to him?

How would you know you were in God’s perfect will? Would it mean that life’s circumstances would all be good? Some single people might say they’d be married; some married people might say they’d be single. Would we have more money? Would we have a different job? Would we be happier? Would we feel differently? These are heartfelt questions…I’m not trivializing this. It’s just that when we start thinking about God’s plan for our lives, we can carry a lot of assumptions into it.”

This has really gotten me thinking. What would the internal trigger be—emotionally, intellectually or spiritually—to let you know you were now in “the perfect will of God”? At one level you might say like Paul in his Roman letter: “Who can fight His will?” Sounds pretty fatalistic. If no one can resist God’s will, then no one is ever out of His will. Then again, why are we told to pray “Let Your will be done on earth, like it is in heaven”?

This is obviously a bigger question for bigger theological grey matter than mine…let the Calvin/Arminius games begin. But one thing is for sure: we have to learn to see a bigger picture.

Laurie Beth Jones writes in her little book Jesus CEO:
“One day a man bought a stallion, and all of his friends said, ‘That’s good.’ The next day the stallion ran away, and all of his friends said, ‘That’s bad.’ Two weeks later the stallion returned with a herd of mares. His friends said, ‘That’s good.’ The next day his son broke his shoulder when the stallion threw him off. The friends said, ‘That’s bad.’ The next month war broke out. Because the boy was injured, he could not go to war. The friends said, ‘That’s good.’ The story could go on and on with people judging events as being bad or good when actually all the events are connected and have an impact on each other.”

It’s always been interesting to me that the sheep who were separated from the goats in Matthew 25 never had a clue they were serving Jesus when they took care of the poor, the incarcerated and the stranger. Did they not know how centered they were in the will of God?

In the end, it seems to me like it’s all about two things that are more important than clarity: surrender and love.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

size matters...but not how you think...

It was a blast finishing up The Call series. The baptisms were amazing…over 60 people wanting to shout their response to The Call. Along with making the mosaics (holy artwork...), it was a great chaotic weekend.

I wish I would have had more time to unpack the evolutionary process of God’s call. I wanted to spend more time talking about how surrendered obedience is usually done in very small steps. I remember when the little book Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff came out; I wondered if it was actually just the opposite: go ahead and sweat the Small Stuff…because the Big Stuff is usually way out of your control anyway.

I think we all want the long touchdown pass or the grand slam at the bottom of the ninth. But moving the ball ten yards at a time or advancing the base runner will do the job just fine.

As Jesus put it: “Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won’t be faithful in large ones. (Luke 16:10a New Living Translation). The small things are incredibly important.

Think of these Bible stories: the widow’s two small copper coins…a little boy’s two small fish…faith as small as a mustard seed…the small gate and the narrow road. Or as God spoke to the prophet Zechariah: “The people should not think that small beginnings are unimportant.” (Zechariah 4:10a New Century Version)

It's small things done with great love.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

come out with your hands up

A couple of weeks ago on the weekend, I talked about three levels of surrender: surrender for survival, surrender for service and then lastly--and this is the Big One--the surrender of self, or self-denial. I'm believing (er...hoping) that's a process.

I said:

This last deepest step is the third surrender step: self-denial. We die to ourselves. This, as Jesus said, is when we pick up our cross and follow Him. And remember, a guy on the cross isn’t planning his future. There are no five-year-plans, no options, no keep-the-motor-running…I-may-back-out. It's "Come and die with me."

Paul, the bull-headed, strong-willed, my-way-or-the-highway zealot who found himself knocked down by the power of God, would years later write about that process in himself when he said: I have been crucified with Christ: and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the real life I now have within this body is a result of my trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 Living Bible).

Later in that same letter, he again reminds them what his game plan is: As for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in all the attractive things of the world was killed long ago, and the world’s interest in me is also long dead. (Galatians 6:14 Living Bible). That’s hefty. Paul is saying, "Not only do I not have any interest in this world, the world could care less about me. I’m a nobody…and I’m totally okay with that…because I’m dead. I’m only alive to Christ. I made the deepest surrender years ago."

If I would have had more time, I would have liked to unpack that a bit more personally. I don't feel like I'm anywhere near that...which is odd to say because if someone asked me if I was sold out to Jesus, I'd be quick to say "yes". But I'm not so sure. I still happen to care what people think of me. I still want to be noticed (in selective contexts!). I still want to be comfortable. In other words, I still have a long way to go.

But I'm afraid I even use that for an excuse.

Your thoughts?