God is easy to please

My yoke is easy to wear; my load is easy to bear.” ~Jesus

God is easier to please than humans.

You ever think of that?

For some, that may be difficult to grasp depending on one’s view of God, but I have come to realize that people expect more from us than God does–in a certain sense. And included in “people” is me. Sometimes I expect more of myself than God does. I tend to think I should do more than I’m capable of, but God knows intimately my limits and is like, “Slow down there, little camper.”

By “in a certain sense” I mean that though God desires to have all of me, which sounds daunting, He simply wants my heart–my trust, my sharing of experiences, my love, and yes, my obedience–but not a bunch of accomplishments or, thankfully, perfection. And when I think of how good, loving, powerful, wise, and sacrificial God is, as Jesus showed us, it’s a pleasure to give myself.

One day it hit me that doing my part, even in a worldly sense, is still only one seven billinonth of the total. Doesn’t sound so overwhelming when put like that. Heck, even if I’m really killing it for a whole week, I’m still probably only doing five seven billionths of the load. Problems seem to arise from the toxicity of comparison, and thinking we should do other people’s portions. We’re only called to do our own unique part, and that with God’s energy and assistance. Now for you ten-talent folks you’ve got a bit more responsibility than us two-talent friendos, but you’ve also been blessed with the ability to carry it out, so you don’t actually have more to do, per se, simply more to draw from that’s been gifted to you for Kingdom purposes.

Dallas Willard often said that God is more concerned about the person we’re becoming than in our accomplishments. That the gift God gets from our life is who we become. I couldn’t agree more. Now God can accomplish any task on His own (but apparently likes to work with us, which is cool). But you can almost say that God cannot make us become a certain kind of person, because then we would just be like a programmed device. Becoming a God loving person, more and more Spirit-filled, taking on the mind of Christ requires our choice and effort. I think this is done mostly by sitting at Jesus feet like Mary did, while her sister Martha was concerned about many things. Notice Jesus did not harshly reprimand Martha, for she was doing good things. I always envisioned Jesus smiling while he playfully told Martha, “You’re troubled about so many things. Just get over here and be with me already.” I believe all that we need to do and accomplish will, and indeed must, peacefully flow out of this feet-sitting.

The one thing

“…you are troubled and concerned about many things.” ~Luke 10:41

One of the very basic lies of the world is this:

You should really care about, and give lots of energy to, all these things that don’t have much, if any, relevance with your actual day to day life.

Now of course the lie isn’t packaged like that–all telegraphed and easy to sidestep, but that is the core of what’s going on.

We live in an age and culture of readily available information overload to a degree which we probably cannot even fathom. With this sensory assault tends to come a nonsensical pressure to care about more than we could ever have the capacity for in twenty lifetimes, let alone this one that we’re living now.

There’s only a relatively small amount of causes I can genuinely care about, indeed only a few I should care for, yea perhaps just one–according to Jesus–that I need to tend to, for it will take care of all the others.

When someone tells me, “Hey, three people were shot in Chicago!”, you know what the first thought I have is?

I need to go to Kroger today.

Because that’s my life and where I actually live. It’s not that I don’t care about the people up in Illinois, it’s just that I have quite a limited capacity, and most all of it, relationally speaking , is taken up already.

Funny, I was thinking through all of this at the laundromat about a week ago (story for another day), and I glance down at the newspaper beside me to see this headline: INDIANA BATS NEED SUMMER SAFE SPOT with the subheading of: GROWTH AROUND AIRPORT REDUCES ROOSTING SITES. Now, again, it’s not that I don’t care at all about the bats God made, but it just made me chuckle and wonder where I could possibly find the space to devote care to Indiana bats’ roosting sites.

For me, the priority every day is time with God, sitting at Jesus’s feet, listening to His Spirit. Then, I needs must work to be a decent husband, then a present father while our daughters are still in our home. After that, there’s a couple people we help who can’t help themselves. Also, a good practice I have found, is to pray for five or six of my closest people everyday, as well as a rotation of a few others. And of course there’s those many necessities like going to Kroger and doing laundry…All that to say, there’s not really quality space left over to devote to the plethora of things the world would have me devote myself to. My neurological reall estate is way too valuable to allow the world to manage it for me.

My encouragement to you today is to not allow the world to dictate what you devote your energy, especially your precious thought life, to. Always give God that wonderful privilege. If you listen, our Lord will direct your path, and it will always be in the way of righteousness.

Topic or Life

Christianity is not merely a topic to be discussed, but a Life to be lived and experienced.

Jesus did not say, “I’ve come to bring you a new topic of discussion so that you may talk about it excessively.

Rather, He said, “I’ve come so that you may have Life, and have it to the full.”

Imagine for a moment the ridiculosity of Jesus coming to earth, living the brilliant life of service and teaching that He did, dying that horrific death, rising from it—for the reason of giving us something to talk about. How sad would that be?

Now I don’t have an M. Div., but I’m pretty sure He went through all that so that we could actually share in His Divine Life and experience it in our real lives day to day.

Merely discussing it, for me, doesn’t do a lot to open myself up to the point of tangibly receiving that Divine Flow of supernatural life and energy. (Unless of course the conversation is about what God is doing in your life and teaching you, or how awesome God is. That’s pretty efficacious. But you know what I’m saying–simply talking about it, instead of sharing in it.)

But prayer, whether with others or alone, sure opens me up to that Divine Flow.

Sitting in listening silence, with nothing on my mind but God really does it for me.

Lectio Divina—the meditative reading of Scripture.

The Prayer of Examen.

Serving others.

Worship and praise.

Being in and observing nature with gratitude to God for it.

These are excellent ways to open one’s self up to receiving grace.

Discussions of Christianity as a subject typically leave you the same way you entered, if not a little emptier. They usually don’t stay with you and strengthen you in the moment when needed.

As Dallas Willard encouraged, we don’t merely need to teach what we ought to do, or what we should do, but we need to teach how to do what Jesus taught us.

Experience of the Divine Life, drawing upon the Spirit of Jesus, seems to come mainly through prayer and total abandoning trust in Jesus.

It is through prayer that God works directly on your soul, and not through theological rumination.

~Frederica Mathewes-Green

Heard Him Ourselves!

STAY! Just a little bit longer

John 4:39-42

Several Samaritans from that town believed in Jesus because of what the woman said in evidence about him: “He told me everything I did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them. And he stayed there two days.

Many more believed because of what he said.

“We believe, too,” they said to the woman, “but it’s no longer because of what you told us. We’ve heard him ourselves! We know that he really is the one! He’s the Savior of the world!”

This is the “aftermath” of Jesus’s encounter with the woman at the well. I love this. There’s a lot going on here.

It is one thing to believe. A very, very important thing that we do indeed believe. Yet it must be followed up with going directly to Jesus.

the Samaritans came to him

Many people believe in Jesus, but rarely if ever go to him with reckless intention.

To not only go, but to stay. To ask Jesus to hang out.

they asked him to stay with them

Stay. Abide. Remain. This Greek word (meno) has the connotation to lodge. To stay overnight. To shack up for a bit. To continue, dwell, endure, be present. To stay in a given place, state, relation, or expectancy. Stay in one’s company.

There’s no sense of hurry here. No rush. No checklist mentality. It’s more like what Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs sang long ago: “STAY! Just a little bit longer.”

And he stayed there two days.

I bet that was an incredible two days.

Because there’s something powerful about hearing of God’s work through someone’s story, but it’s a whole other deeper level when you hear directly from God yourself, amen?

We’ve heard him ourselves!

And this is what can so beautifully happen in the distraction-free, unobstructed time given unhurriedly to simply abiding in Christ for a while. When you take your overnight bag and stay, as opposed to doing a drive-by wave.

I believe Jesus loves it when we do this, and rewards us a hundredfold in it. And I have come to believe recently that the enemy’s number one goal, for us who believe, is to do whatever it takes to keep us from constant communion with our Father. Disrupt that, and you disrupt our supply line for spiritual Life.

One way I describe this “meno” is to have some amount of time everyday in which the only thing on your mind is God. This could be 4 minutes, or 40. Think about it though, just 4 minutes straight of nothing within your attention but God alone—that’s no small thing. So much competes for our awareness, that a relatively small amount of intensive focus can go a very long way throughout the day.

Remember, Christianity is not merely a topic to be discussed, but a Life to be experienced and lived.

Frustrations & Judgments

I have found that if I confess every single frustration and each judgmental thought, and give them over to Jesus in real time—as in, immediately when they arise—no matter how many I may have per hour, that my day is about two hundred times more peaceful than if I just let those frustrations and judgments stew inside of me like a toxin marinating in my bloodstream.

Good Friday-It Is Done For You

So much was done on the cross.

It is the high point of John’s gospel account.

How difficult to comprehend this act, this turning point of the universe….Unable to speak profoundly on this profundity, I resonate with these words recorded by Gabrielle Bossis as she heard them from Jesus in 1939:

When the love of the cross sinks deep into a person, he lives in a joy that the world can never know. For the world has only pleasures, but joy belongs to Me and Mine, My friend.

The cross–it is finished. About all we can do is let it sink in, deeper and deeper and deeper. And you will experience more and more and more Life. Then you will be unable to suppress a response to it.

Along these lines of being overwhelmed with the love of the cross, and pondering the fact that there’s so much we cannot do-because we would have to be God to do it, I’d like to share this “Prayer of Contentment” that has spoken to me in the unique season of life I have been in the last year and a half. I hope that something from it will be an inspiration for you too.

May I simply do whatever I can, each day, and be content and satisfied in that. Leaving what is unfinished in Your hands, trusting in You to complete what I am unable to. Tho I want to get to everything, I know that I cannot, nor should I because I’m not meant to. Thank You for seeing to running the universe, and for entrusting a very tiny but important portion of it to me that only I can do. Please keep me in my place, relying on You, doing what I’m made to do. All glory, praise, and honor to You for creating me as one of Your imagers. Clean the mirror of my soul that it may more and more clearly reflect who You are. Guide and instruct me to remove all obstacles blocking a clear reflection. All for the sake of Him who suffered and died for me, who knows me best, who knows best. Amen.

Lazy Effect

Proverbs 18:9

A lazy person is as bad as someone who destroys things.

When you are lazy, you affect so many besides yourself.

You rob others of blessing that YHWH would love to bestow upon others through you.

Sitting around, keeping to yourself, takes away from community, from relationships.

I bet the enemy loves this.

We are made to thrive & grow via relationships.

Encourage someone everyday. 

The power of this is immense.

written June 2013

Let’s Go Halfsies

Luke 9:62

“Nobody,” replied Jesus, “who begins to plough and then looks over his shoulder is fit for God’s kingdom.”

Those who half follow Jesus and half follow the world are of no use in the Kingdom of God.

They are not fit.

Those who halfway train for a marathon are not fit enough to run a marathon.

If you are not single-mindedly focused on following Jesus, then you are double-mindedly focused, and a double-minded person is unstable in every way of life.

In my experience as well as many I’ve talked to, being double-minded really sucks.

written May 2013

My Voice

Proverbs 9

…she [wisdom] calls from the highest places in the town….”Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”

The foolish woman is loud….calling to those who pass by….But they do not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

The way of life and the way of death call out to us everyday.

They will call to you today.

The less knowledge you have of the Holy One, the more difficult it will be to distinguish between these two voices.

Conversely, the deeper your knowledge of YHWH, the closer you are to Him, the clearer His voice becomes.
My sheep know my voice.

My sheep know my voice because they know me intimately, they can easily recognize it.
They’ve hung out with Me enough to hear my voice clearly even from a distance.
They can distinguish between the voice of wisdom and the voice of foolishness.

But to the untrained ear, to the one who rarely puts her or himself before Me, it is frighteningly difficult
to discern between the voice of wisdom and the voice of foolishness.

We have all witnessed this in ourselves and probably more clearly in others.
Someone feels justified in doing something foolish because they are fooled.

Listen exclusively to the superior voice of Jesus. May it drown out all other voices. Except for those who also listen intensely.

Written May & July 2013