While the last 2 years have been the most spiritually life changing moments of my life, I believe that 2020 will continue this pattern. And while it is undeniable that there are very remarkable circumstances in my life circle that will make 2020 memorable, I also think that it is in my hands to set aside the time so that God is able to form me into his righteous child. He is forming me. Every day.
Our small group is currently reading a book called “To Hell with the Hustle” by Jefferson Bethke. The first chapter discusses his view that instead of “goals”, which have a definite end, we should instead consider “formations”. Formations are about the process of being formed. Isn’t this what God is doing throughout our lives? He doesn’t give us mini goals to accomplish so that he can praise us. Instead, he is using circumstances in our lives to change us and form us. It is through this process in us that he uses to point others to himself.
This begs the question- Are we giving God the time he desires to spend with us so that he can change us? How do we hear him if we do not read the words he has given to us? How do we ask for what we need if we do not spend time in prayer?
Now I am someone who is very much an advocate for short, frequent prayers and conversation to God throughout the day. God hears every prayer. Revelation 5: 8 is one of my favorite verses. “And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people”. I have referenced this before. I do believe all types of prayers are in the golden bowl...but do you think some are more aromatic? All are heard and just as important; but do the thoughtful, bold, unrushed prayers smell stronger? I am probably getting off-track and I don’t think it makes a difference if that thought lands anywhere contemplative. But I do think that it is important to give God some prayers that are unrushed. Do we set aside time during the day to really pray? Are you thinking that you don’t have the time to really pray? Can you ask yourself another question… Are you choosing to spend your “free” time in other ways? Now I am not suggesting that every unclaimed minute needs to be spent in prayer, however, if you’re like me- I can easily spend time on social media or watch Netflix without giving some time to God. Is it possible to discipline ourselves? Perhaps we don’t “allow” ourselves to watch that show or play that game on our phones until we have spoken with God for that day.
I think religion can seem like a bunch of rules. So I hesitated writing that last sentence in fear of misinterpretation. Jesus isn’t religion. We all know that he was often in opposition of the religious rulers of his time. But this really isn’t about rules or religion. This is about where are hearts are pointed towards. Proverbs 27:19 says “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” Does my life reflect rules and religion or does it resemble Jesus’ attitude and heart?
It’s amazing what God reveals to me as I open his word. I have had to keep a list of future blog posts because he continues to point things out. I’d like to share a few of those thoughts that came to me today.
James 2:22-24 says “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”
And then I read it again but inserted my name instead. “You see that her faith and her actions were working together, and her faith was made complete by what she did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, Andrea believed God, and it was credited to her as righteousness, and she was called God’s friend.”
Had you spoken to me 3 years ago, I would have told you that my faith was very important to me. And that was the truth and still is the truth. My faith was what gave me hope that my postpartum depression was all part of God’s plan for my life. My faith is what confirms that even when it hurts, his ways are higher than my ways.
But it wasn’t until I believed God and applied my faith in a difficult situation that started the transformation of righteousness. The act of obedience began the true transformation. Note that I said began. Complete righteousness isn’t completed until we are face to face with Jesus and he brings complete restoration to this world. But how astounding that we can start this process while we are still here, on this Earth!
Prior to this, I have never really considered myself “righteous”. And I am not implying a “self-righteous” attitude is the objective. The only one who is truly, morally superior is God. But I can’t deny that all throughout scripture, God uses the word righteous and makes it applicable and attainable for us now!
But perhaps the best part of starting the formation of righteousness is that are then called God’s friend! Can you imagine! I always think of calling Jesus my friend...in a he-has-to-be kind of way. For example, in high school, I wasn’t popular. I had friends but I definitely wasn’t in any “important” circles. So I picture myself calling someone popular my friend but perhaps they would not see me as their friend. I start to think of God like this. He is my friend because he has to be. But when I read this verse, I read that he wants to be my friend. Eek! Now that’s better than being part of any popularity contest!
I also had heard a sermon a while back that spoke of this one man who said God would talk to him frequently and that God would tell him his “secrets”. He would be at a restaurant that he had never been to before and God would tell him something about the waitress. The man would address the waitress and say something like “I know this seems strange, but I believe God is asking me to pray with you asking for healing with your kidney issue”. And sure enough, this waitress would actually have an issue with her kidney. So he said that he just went about life, listening to God and acting on what he heard him tell him. Can you imagine being so close to God that he tells you stuff like this? I would imagine getting close to God would be necessary to earn his trust for this type of conversation. It certainly makes you think doesn’t it?!
As I continued reading, James 5:16 reads “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”. So...if I am being made righteous through the acts of obedience that God calls me to; he says that my prayers are powerful and effective! Do I believe this? Do I take this seriously? Do I believe that my prayers are powerful? Do I pray as though I believe that they will come true? I have heard another person say “Do my prayers make God sweat?” Now one could argue that God probably doesn’t ever actually sweat, and nothing we could say or do as mere humans could make him feel intimidated or nervous...you get the picture. But are we limiting our prayers to mealtime “bless this food to my body” prayers?
Proverbs 28:1 says “The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Being made righteous through Jesus’ perfect sacrifice and obedience allows us to approach the throne of God with boldness. Do my prayers exhibit confidence and courage?
God is waiting to be more than just a check mark on your to-do list.
I’d like to challenge you.
Give God more time than what you have been giving him. If daily devotions have always been a struggle; then start with trying 2 days a week; giving God at least 1 hour each day. I have found that if I give God 10 minutes it’s like trying to see what he will send to me through a keyhole. But if I give him 1 or 2 hours in the morning before the rest of my house wakes up, it’s like I’m opening the entire door. I’m unrushed, unhurried and undistracted. He sees the opportunity and seizes it each and every morning. I think I shared with you the picture I had come to my mind once. It was Jesus sitting at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee and my cup next to his. Whenever I struggle to get out of bed in the morning and choose to sleep in; I picture Jesus sitting there...waiting for me...but I can’t get out of bed to hear what he has to say?! Maybe that image will speak to you too as it did to me.
I promise, God is waiting to pour into us, as his love and devotion to us are who he is. Will you give him more time? Will you get up and sit with him over a cup of coffee at the table? Just try it. Try it and see what he shows you in his word and how he answers your prayers. He is eager to give to all those who ask.
Love to you all friends.
As I have mentioned in an earlier post, our daughter loved the C.S. Lewis novel and movie, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We decided to continue the series and have now been reading Prince Caspian. Last night, we were watching the Prince Caspian movie made by Disney. I’d highly recommend this series as it is is highly imaginative but yet very realistic and true to the story of God and his desire to bring his justice and righteousness to this world.
So as I was watching this movie, I found myself pondering. To set the stage, the Narnians are in battle with the Telmarines. The Narnians are the good guys, the Telmarines are the bad guys. Throughout the movie, the youngest girl named Lucy wants to go find Aslan (a lion), the true king of the world, in order to have him help them in the fight. The older siblings put her off and think that if Aslan knows what is happening and if he was going to help, he would have already. As the plot thickens, the older siblings eventually come around and send Lucy to go find Aslan. Now, in case you want to watch the movie first; stop here. Watch it, and then continue reading. I tried to figure out a way to only give some of the story but I found that it lacked grasping the full picture. So there may be a few spoilers in here! If you have seen it already, know the story, or don’t mind a few spoilers; keep reading!
Imagine a huge battle. Good guys outnumbered 100 to 1. Weaponry, logistics, everything, is in the advantage of the enemy. Now, I know how Aslan is supposed to imitate Jesus/God/the Trinity in this film. However, I found myself thinking of him in human terms. I put God in the box. My box. I thought, “OK, if they find Aslan and bring him to this battle; what is 1 lion going to do? Even the fiercest lion wouldn’t be able to stand a chance against hundreds of thousands of soldiers outfitted with weapons too numerous to count.
I even knew better. I knew that Aslan represented more. I know that he is not confined to what we can think of. He does not see our hardships, pain and struggles and only work with the solutions that we think of. But how often do I do this in my life? “Here is my problem Lord, and I would like you to come fix it now and by the way- I have laid out exactly how I think you should fix it.”
If you have found yourself in this spot (like I have), I would like to challenge us to retrain our thought process. Don’t let your solution be the only option.
As the movie progresses, Lucy does find Aslan. She asks him why he didn’t come earlier as he did the time before. He replied “Things never happen the same way twice my dear one”. I think the lesson in this is that God is not predictable. We think we are being smart if we apply the same lessons we learned from another experience to a completely different scenario. Perhaps sometimes this isn’t so bad. We can and are supposed to learn from our experiences.
But do we think that God only knows 1 way to solve our problems? Do we wrongly anticipate the way we think God will respond to our needs? And what if he doesn’t respond at all? Do we feel abandoned? Do we base our beliefs in him on our feelings?
Prior to Aslan being found by Lucy, she had a dream. She had a dream that Aslan was calling to her in the woods. After she does find him, Aslan tells her “You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you”. How we easily forget that more than our desire for help and answers, God calls to us. He longs to be near us, to fill us with what we truly need. When I am in great need and cry out to him, I can’t imagine him wanting me even more than that. He calls us FIRST. Are we listening? Do we respond?
I am going to end with a portion of how the battle ended. Aslan returned to the battle with Lucy and the enemy army was on one end of a large bridge. Aslan and Lucy were on the other end. As the army approached and yelled “charge!”, Aslan AND Lucy stood calm and confident. Now, Aslan knows exactly who he is and how he was going to solve this issue. Lucy didn’t know how Aslan would act- BUT she knew he would. She could stand in confidence knowing that although a fierce army is only moments away from her demise, she knew it wouldn’t happen. She trusted that Aslan had the power and the wisdom to do what needed to be done, in the way it needed to be done. That was enough for her. Knowing WHO Aslan was, made her into WHO she was. Her confidence came from knowing and loving Aslan. Oh, can we do the same friends?
After the general yelled “charge!”, Aslan waited until the perfect moment and then let out a victorious “ROAR!”. All the men and animals stopped. They were silenced. Until the river started to flow faster. The river began raging and even took the form of a “being” with a face and arms that engulfed the bridge and all of the army. He also summoned the trees to fight. Which the 10 to 1 army reversed to 10 to a million as they fought in the woods. How foolish of me to think that the creator and ruler of the world wouldn’t be able to handle insurmountable odds.
So I will leave you with this challenge. When your battle seems too big, call on God... and let him do the rest. He doesn’t need your options, he only wants your heart.
It's good to be back friends.