Thursday, 24 February 2011

The truth we keep forgetting

“We live as if doing for Jesus is more important than being with Jesus. We work as though everything depends on us rather than everything depending on God.” James Lawrence

God loves you.

No really, God loves you.

Not the you, you want to be. Not the you, you pretend that you are. God loves the real you.

The flawed, messed up version. The you that sometimes gets things really right & sometimes completely wrong.

God loves you.

There is no more fundamental truth. And from personal & pastoral experience I suggest that there is no truth less easily believed or so easily forgotten.

God loves you.

When we lose sight of this we begin to work for God’s love, rather than from God’s love.

You are a child of the living God... not because you are worthy or have earned His favour anymore than you earned the right to be born. You are adopted into His family because of the love of God the Father, Christ’s generous self-giving & the work of God’s Spirit.

Your identity is not rooted in what you do, but in relationship with Him. You are significant because you are made by God, because you are loved by God & because God has great plans for your life.

Chew over the following passage & savour its goodness deep within.

“It wasn't so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat.

It's a wonder God didn't lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” Ephesians 2v1-10

Stuck... Unstuck. Polluted... Cleaned up. Sin-dead... Alive in Christ. Deeply loved... Deeply loved.

God loves you!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Cuppa Soup Faith in the Fast Lane

"Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him.” Oswald Chambers

My devotional life is more like a cuppa soup than a four-course banquet. Like a ready meal it’s fast, temporarily satisfying, but provides neither the nutrients needed, nor the time to digest its goodness.

Do I understand the importance of time with God & “feeding on His Word”? Of course.

Do I not enjoy this time or benefit from it? Absolutely not; it’s great & is the bedrock of my life.

So what’s my problem? I have allowed other people & things to set the agenda of my day, week & month (the ultimate form of laziness) and have embraced overbusyness & people pleasing above living out the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:37-38).

I suspect that I am not alone in these struggles.

Our society places a high value on busyness. We wear it like a badge of honour (“How are you? How are things?” “I’m busy”) as if to be unbusy means to be lazy or unworthy. We hate to wait at traffic lights & smile at the checkout lady (whilst “mentally maiming” her) if she chats too long to the customer in front. There are never enough hours in the day or days in the week & other people’s priorities our adjudged frivolous by comparison to our “higher calling.”

The problem with busyness is that it leads to hurry... and hurry leads to not noticing others around us or missing the voice of God speaking into our lives.

Overbusyness has infiltrated church life. We rush from meeting to meeting, programme to programme... We meet with people, but aren’t fully present... We spend much time serving God, but invest so little hanging out with God.

I suspect this has its roots in an identity crisis; that we have placed too much emphasis on what we do, and too little on who we are. We have allowed our sense of significance to depend on what we achieve & on how others evaluate our achievements. So we press on, working, working, working to please people & receive their acceptance; craving the buzz that the compliment or word of affirmation brings.

Yet this is an identity that can only deliver momentary satisfaction & ever elusive feelings of love, joy, hope & contentment. We struggle to separate who we are from what we do. We do more of the work of God, but it destroys the work of God in us. It’s not long before a spiritual life once well connected & flourishing for Jesus, becomes dull, dead, empty & languishing.

Thankfully there is an alternative... hopefully see you soon to explore it.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Losing My First Love

"It is easily lost. It is not so easily found.
I knew it, but I'd forgotten.
I believed it, passionately. I still lost it.

I am extremely fortunate. I love my work. I have a great church where I am given appropriate amounts of responsibility, encouraged to develop areas in which I am gifted & allowed to make loads of mistakes. I am constantly growing, learning, being stretched & stimulated.

On the surface all is well. I love my work, I love God, I love sharing the Good News of Jesus with others, but underneath is a different story.

It was so subtle I didn't even realise it was happening; slowly the way I was doing the work of Christ was destroying the work of Christ in me. I didn't stop praying, I didn't stop believing in God, I didn't succumb to escapist sin. I simply lost my first love. Year by year the busyness of work, the fun of ministry, the changing circumstances of my personal life, the painful experiences & the emotional exhaustion slowly focused my attention elsewhere.

While my head was full of new & exciting ideas, my heart grew cool. While I led others to a place of finding new life in Jesus, my life in Jesus was decidedly stale.

I could give a thousand reasons why this took place, but I won't."

These are not my words... but I guess they could be. They come from James Lawrence the author of Growing Leaders - a book written to help the local church to raise up & nurture leadership.

Over this next blog series, I'll be using his ideas & my personal experience to reflect on how as Christians we can lose our sense of call/direction and how we might better live by Jesus words. If you find it interesting/useful, why not leave a comment.

Jesus said to His followers, "I am the Vine; you are the branches. When you're joined with me, & I with you, the relation intimate & organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up & thrown on the bonfire." John 15v5-6