iGod

I like being in control.   I like the fact that there are online radio services like Pandora and Last.fm where I can choose what type of music I want to listen –  I can even vote on the music so it’s even more tailored to my preferences.  Our culture is geared towards customizing things just the way we want them.  Look at cell phones… there are tons of apps so you can do exactly what you want when you want it.  You can access a world of info in just a matter of seconds.  And if things aren’t fast enough for you, just wait a few months because things will get even faster.

So when I approach God with my thoughts on how things should be, should I be surprised when He doesn’t respond like I want?  The reality is that life isn’t about me.  Honestly, I want it to be about me.  I think most of us do.  After all, that’s where sin entered into the picture to begin with – Eve & Adam choosing what they wanted instead of what God wanted.

I’ve been reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  Chan dives in from the get-go and is quick to remind us that things aren’t about us and that all things are made for God’s purposes (Dan 4).  He highlights how big the universe is and how small we are in comparison.  He delves into the intricate design of a caterpillar.  He points out that God is the One who has made all these things and that, quite frankly, He gets to set the rules and the purpose of everything.

To be honest, I struggle with all of this sometimes.  I struggle with the whole idea of surrender.  Following Christ means letting go of what I want and of how I think things should go.  Scripture makes it clear that God can do greater things in my life than I can even imagine, so the issue isn’t about what I get in exchange.   The issue comes back to faith.  It comes back to pride.  It comes back to me embracing all that Christ is, wholeheartedly, setting what I want aside.

I am thankful that God is patient.  I’m thankful that He pursues me.  I’m thankful He took the first step.  He is the Mighty King and yet He knows how many hairs I have on my head.  He offers us the opportunity to experience joy for all of eternity.  He is the One thing that won’t be changing.

May His name be praised.

Trusting like Abraham

The reality of faith is one that is, ironically, scary.  To trust is to give up control to someone else.  When I trust myself, I plan & determine & try to control the outcome.  Faith in Christ means I don’t always know what He’s going to do, where He’s going to lead or how He’s going to provide.

We like faith when we’re comfortable.  It makes for a great story line.  But when we are called to enter that story line & to step out in faith, we get a different perspective.

Abraham is certainly one who sets a great example of trusting.   In Genesis 22 we see that He willingly trusted God with his only son Isaac, even when what God called him to seemed absolutely ridiculous.  And by this point in Abraham’s life, there was no questioning when it was God who was giving him direction.  I love Abraham’s faith, but what I love even more is how God provided.  God required a sacrifice and yet He ended up providing the sacrifice Himself…

11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

I often want God to send me an email with explicit instructions, yet it is usually after we’ve stepped out in faith that we see God come through.  More and more I realize that faith is often the place where I will completely fall on my face unless God steps in.  May we find Him faithful today.

Go where?

“Go to the land I will show you.”  “Follow me.”  Nothing more.  These are God’s invitation to Abraham (Gen 12) and the disciples (Matt 4).  Not much to go on is there?  How can I put together a pro/con list with that?  “But what about _______?”  “How about _______?”  The list could go on.  Shouldn’t God give me a little more direction to help me make an informed decision about following Him?

I fly on rare occasion.  I’ve never stopped and asked the pilot how the plane works.  I’ve never asked to get out & go look at the engines or to look around the cockpit to make sure everything is in working condition.  After all, what would I be able to determine?  I’ve never flown a plane other than on the computer when I was a kid.  So, why is it any different when God invites us to follow Him?  Why do we stop and question Him, as if He isn’t capable of doing what He’s promised to do?  The reality is that I/we often balk at God’s leading because it makes us uncomfortable, because it takes us somewhere other than where we want to go.

Christ sent out His followers with nothing except the clothes on their back (Matt 10).  He had promised them earlier that their needs would be provided for.  After all, doesn’t God feed the birds that neither reap nor sow?

So maybe the issue isn’t a faith issue as much as it is an issue of control.  For once we’re willing to give up control, the life of faith becomes much more likely.  And thankfully, Abraham, the disciples and many others have simply said “yes” when Christ called them to follow.  After all He is God.

It’s the small stuff

Ever notice how challenging it can be to trust God for the day to day, seemingly small things? In some regards, it’s “easy” to trust God for salvation. After all, that’s something that is beyond our five senses. We can grasp in our minds what is meant by our salvation, and yet, it still remains something of a mystery that is, on the other hand, so far beyond our grasp that it doesn’t really register.
However, consider the challenge of trusting God for our daily bread. I think the difficulty is trusting God to provide things that we feel we are capable of doing on our own (or should be able to do on our own). When we are told to trust God for our basic needs, that’s what stretches us. I don’t know about you, but what gets me is when God tells me to just wait for something that I can’t see and that I don’t have a deadline for. Part of me wants to scream out – just do something! But there are plenty of good reasons why He is God, chief among them is that He knows what He’s doing.
Take a look at Abraham – take your family and go to the land I’ll show you (paraphrase). How would you respond to that? My response…what? what do you mean the land you’ll show me? shouldn’t you at least let me google where we’re going so I know how to plan?
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what is unseen (another paraphrase – Heb 11:1). For Christ followers, ours is to go, trusting in His provision & resting in His love. One of these days I may actually get this. But until then, I’ll keep stumbling ahead.

Jesus who?

When you were a kid, did you get to see flannel board Jesus?  Or maybe you’ve seen Jesus and His disciples piously captured in stained glass?  For many of us, these were our first impressions of who Jesus is, a nice guy, who healed people, taught good things and wanted us to love our neighbor.   But in reality, there is so much more to this man who proclaimed Himself to be God.

Today, Christ is portrayed as a good teacher, someone who wants to help us be better people and who taught us to love other people.  Yet, when I read what He said about Himself, about people, and about what He requires of His followers, I am reminded that He is so much more than a “nice guy”.  After all, a nice, passive guy wouldn’t so infuriate the religious leaders that he would end up suffering the same punishment as the worst criminals.

I’ve been reading some of Josh McDowell’s writings and I’m seeing things for the first time all over again.  I’m being reminded that following Christ isn’t about making my life “better”.  Jesus is not a spiritual version of Tony Robbins.  Rather, He calls me to a life that isn’t about what I want but about what He wants.  As a whole, I think we’ve lost sight of the idea of God’s kingdom.  God’s form of government is a monarchy, not a democracy.  He has called us to a life of  “followership”.  So the question for me/us is this: do I really believe what He says about Himself?  and if I do, am I following Him?  Do I trust Him?  Do I obey Him?

Over the past year, I’ve been moved out of my comfort zone.  God has brought me to a place of truly needing to trust Him for a variety of things.  Things that have been a source of security have been removed.  And so I’ve been brought to a place of either trusting God (for real, practical things, not just in an esoteric, out there, religous kind of way).  And I struggle, because following means I’m not in control.  Following means that I may not know how things will be taken care of.  It means trusting & depending on God to do what He said He would do.  For either He is God, and therefore He will do what He said, or He isn’t, and I am a fool for following and believing.

Thankfully, God has always shown Himself faithful to His promises.   I do struggle between faith and doubt, often sliding from one edge to the other on any given day, but I’m holding on, for as Peter said in John 6:68-69 , “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. ”

I share all of this, not because I’m standing on the other side, fully accomplished in the following and trusting, but because I’m living in the middle of life, trying to better know who Christ is, trying to really understand what it means to follow in faith.  Thankfully Christ steps off of the Sunday school flannel boards and the stained glass windows and into the mess of real life.  I pray that you’ll find some encouragement in these rambles.

On a different note (pun intended)…I’ve been listening to “Your Love is Strong” by Jon Foreman (lead singer for Switchfoot).  It’s a great song that’s been challenging me (it’s based on Matthew 6).  You may want to check it out.