Thursday, July 31, 2008

God for a Day

If I were God for a day/week/whatever, what changes would I make in my life?

As I think of this question, I have two reactions: one, is that it would be great to have all the power in the world. The other would be a fear of the damage I might cause. This question takes me back to the Jim Carey movie “Bruce Almighty.” Bruce thought it would be great to be God, but then realized the great responsibility that came with such great power, and how he messed everything up by granting everybody their requests. But of course the question limits the power to changing myself; what changes would I make in my life?

To answer this question presupposes that I have the knowledge of what is best for me. Of course we live our lives thinking that we know what is best. But as I have lived my life, and seen the mistakes I’ve made, I’ve come to understand that I don’t know what is best. So to be God for a day I would need to have the wisdom and insight to know what is best. I suppose that I would want to create in me a better capacity to love people unconditionally. As Christians, we want to love unconditionally, but it is oh so hard. Whenever we are wronged or taken advantage of, we want to put forth our anger to others. We might say we forgive someone, but we hold the grudge deep inside. So secondly, I’d change myself to be able to forgive for real.

I think that if I was able to make these changes, I could truly love, and encourage, and minister to others around me, and I would be able to help people experience the love of God. I know that many people long for true, unconditional love. How wonderful it would be to give them a taste of this.

This answer may not seem profound to some, but I think that love and forgiveness is at the core of who God made us to be, and is what allows us to have deep, meaningful, ongoing relationships.

How about you?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Taking It Easy

I am here on vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota with my wife and her family at a family reunion. The scenery is amazing! I love being with my family taking it easy. As I reflect on this time I am having, I think about how difficult it is to "take it easy" in life when we are not on vacation or in a place like the Black Hills. And I began to wonder how we can have this same "take it easy" attitude every day.
What is it that allows me to take it easy while on vacation? For one, there are no worries. We have set aside money for the trip and we have no definitive schedule. BUT, even on vacation, things don't always go as planned. My wife and her parents spent last night and all of today sick with the flu. NOT FUN! And yet, I still have this sense of taking it easy.
The apostle Paul I think says it best in Philippians 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious for anything, but with petition and prayer, make your requests to God, and the peace that surpasses all knowledge will guard your hearts and minds." What a wonderful thought: every day we can give our worries to God and have a take it easy attitude. Every day we can know that God's peace is there for us. Every day we can experience the life that God has for us to enjoy. We doubt it, but it is true; it is promised to us by God.
What is keeping you from this "take it easy" attitude. Maybe giving it over to God on a regular (and I mean even every minute of the day) basis will allow you to experience the beauty God has for you to enjoy this day and every day. What do you think?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Want vs. Need

When people see a church, they often think that it is there to meet a need that they have; churches are for helping people. And to a certain extent this is true. But this is not the only truth, or even the primary truth. Churches are there first and foremost to lead people to God and to help them become disciples of Christ.
This was actually an ongoing issue with Jesus while He was here on the earth. People would come to Jesus with a perceived need (to be healed) and Jesus wouldn't offer them healing at first. For example, in the Bible, in the New Testament, in the book of Matthew, chapter 9, some people brought a paralyzed man to Jesus. What was Jesus' initial response? Let's read it in verse 2: "When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, 'Take heart, son, your sins are forgiven.'" Jesus forgives the man of his sins.
In this passage we have the issue of want verses need. The man wanted to not be paralyzed any more. The man wanted to walk. The man wanted Jesus to heal him. But Jesus knew that his greater need was to be saved from his sin, so Jesus forgave the man of his sins. This doesn't go over too well with the people, and Jesus realizes that they don't understand, so to help them get to a place where they were open to having their need met, Jesus took care of the want and healed the man. With this, verse 8 tells us: "When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God..." In the end, God is glorified, and faith is strengthened.
In an article entitled "How Responding to People's Needs Hurts the Church," by Elizabeth I. Steele, she says: "This trivializes the church, its mission, and its outreach. It eviscerates the heart of the church’s message and cuts the church off from its identity as the people of Christ." When the church seeks to always meet the needs (which are usually wants) of people, it creates people who only think about taking, instead of developing disciples who want to give. Christ came to "serve and give His life as a ransom for many." As Christ's followers, the church should be about helping its people learn how to give of themselves. When this happens, the needs will be met all the more.
The church is called to create disciples, not sponges. What do you think?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Listening to God

Those who have the ability to hear have been given a great gift. It is easy to take this gift for granted. One way we take it for granted is by using selective hearing. Selective hearing is when we only hear what we want to hear. People do it all the time. Maybe they are in a discussion, and they are not listening to what the other person is saying because they are thinking about what they want to say. Or maybe they are distracted (like when I watch TV) and don't hear what their spouse is saying.
I know there are many times when I try and say something to my kids, and their answer is, "What?" even though I am standing right next to them. And then when I don't repeat what I said, and they think about it, they realize what I said.
Our hearing is really an amazing gift, because without it we would not be able to communicate. If you only talked, and didn't listen, there would be no communication. And yet this is what we do to God all the time, and we call it prayer.
When we come to God in prayer, we usually do all the talking. And most of the time our talking is just asking God for things, or asking God to do things. We don't take the time to "listen to God." And then we get discouraged when our life doesn't go the way we want it to.
Now granted, it takes practice learning how to listen to God, but it is possible. That why Jesus said in the Bible, in the gospel of John how He was the shepherd, and His sheep hear His voice. We can learn to hear (discern) the voice of God. Think about it this way, there are people who call you on the phone, and with hearing only one word from them you know who it is, because you know their voice.
When I pray, and I quiet the thoughts in my head, I will hear a "still small voice" speak to me. This is the voice of God. And as I have learned how to listen to it, I can be guided by God's speaking to me. Prayer is so much more wonderful now that I can listen to God; now that I can have full communication with God (talking AND listening).
I encourage you to practice listening to God. It will make a difference in your relationship with God, and it will make a difference in how you live your life. What do you think?