Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dumb Things I Say to God

Sometimes I really say dumb things to God. Granted, we're in a committed relationship, so that's okay, but I usually learn something as a result.

I was wrestling with some things earlier this week and a friend asked me "Why?" I don't remember what specifically brought on the question, but in my head, I heard myself say, "because I feel like I'm going to let God down."


I know that doesn't make sense, but that was my gut reaction to the question of why I was wrestling with a particular problem.

As in any committed relationship, that's one of those "big things" that needs to be addressed.

I know that I feel that way about other relationships. I was "that girl" in school that wanted to do well just so I wouldn't let my teachers down. I want to go the extra mile so I won't let my family down or even people I work with. It's not like they pressure me into it. In fact, most people will continually tell me that they are proud of me no matter what.

So why do I feel that way with God?

With this being Holy Week, I've obviously been reading a lot of things on the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Kind of a big deal!

While I should be overwhelmed by the love of God, instead, I started to feel like I had to give God a good return on his investment. He invested so much in to me, I don't want to let him down!

Do you think I'm crazy yet? I know that "Christian answer" to all of this, but I had to really seek God on reminding me.

There are two things that I had to remind myself about:

1. It's about being moved to action, not following a command.

John Piper has an excellent devotional for Holy Week. In one section he says, "He loved us to the uttermost. And let us be so moved by this love that it becomes our own."

When we are in a relationship with him, we don't allow his investment to force us in to "debt repayment" (which is an entirely frustrating, futile activity). Instead, we serve him and show love to others because his love and devotion to us changes something in us! It makes us feel like we may burst if we don't show some love!

So what about when we feel ourselves starting to fall under the debt repayment plan? It's time to take another look at the original investment.

2. It's about dwelling in God, not working up to him

Again, this seems pretty basic, but we all need to be reminded about this!

John 15:1-4 says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me."

God invites us to dwell in him. He isn't after us to put forth effort into a journey to find him. He's already here.

When I begin feeling myself drained from serving other people, or I don't feel like showing love to other people, I have to take that as a sign that I need to focus on dwelling in God. Just like a branch can't bear fruit by itself, I can't can be filled with love for people or a desire to serve apart from Jesus!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Manipulating God

The story plays out similarly for all of us. God gives us a promise. He gives us a vision for something to come. We are happy, grateful even. And we wait.

And we wait....

And we wait....

"Did I really hear you, God?"


"I thought you told me to do this?"


"Please! How much longer do I have to wait?!"

Waiting on God can test our faith more than the most any other situation. In the same way, the way we react to God can tell us a lot about our relationship with him.

In Genesis 15, God spoke to Abram promising him descendants as numerous as the stars in addition to a son of his own.

You have to imagine that Abram (I'm just going to call him Abraham from now on) had to be pretty excited by this news. His wife, Sarah, was old and beyond child-bearing years, but God had promised!! 

And they waited.....

And they waited.....

They had to start to wonder if they had even heard God.

Sarah got tired of waiting. Instead, she took matters in to her own hands. She convinced Abraham to sleep with her maid, Hagar, thinking, "perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Sarah tried to manipulate God.

Hagar ends up having a son and there is some major tension (to say the least) between everybody. Abraham ends up sending Hagar and his son away to wander the desert and fend for themselves. As a result of Sarah's "impatience," multiple people suffered.

Just like Sarah, it can be tempting for us to "make it happen." We try to step ahead of God.Everything I ever write about only comes from walking through it myself and having God teach me something through it.

I have never been the most patient person. I have often used this as an excuse for my frustration in waiting for God.

In a particularly embarrassing scene between me and God, I had reached my breaking point. I was frustrated. I asked him how much longer he was going to make me wait.

I calmed down and told myself that I was just impatient by nature. In that moment, God told me there was more to my impatience than just "my nature."

The scary part about this whole exchange is how tempting it was to think about just making it happen myself. Simply put, it's tempting to think about how I could just "skip ahead."

To put it simply, this is not due to impatience. Instead, I see two reasons we try to step ahead of God.

1. We don't trust his promises

I don't know of one promise God has given that has seemed logical. What makes sense about telling a man with a barren wife that he will have as many decedents as the stars? It doesn't make sense, so we think we cannot trust it.

Proverbs 3:5 says it best, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."

We are not meant to understand everything, but simply trust in God.

The fact is, God was faithful to Sarah and Abraham. Despite their sin, God gave Sarah a son and Abraham did become the father of many nations.

2. We think we can do it better

This is just pure pride. We may not phrase it in so many words, but we often step ahead of God because we think we can do it better.

Maybe we think of it as taking initiative or "moving things along." Either way, our sinful pride causes us to forgo waiting and try to move God's hand. That's exactly what Sarah did! She didn't see the logic in God's plan so she found another way to build a family. She tried to force God's hand. Unfortunately, she only succeeded in causing pain.

I cannot think of anything more futile or horrifying than trying to manipulate God. Fortunately, he loves us more than we can possibly imagine. Just as God fulfilled his promise to Abraham despite his sin, God offers us forgiveness and grace through our sins.

God is not a cruel overlord torturing us by making us wait. Instead, we have to remember that he is a loving God. He delights in us.

I heard Francis Chan describe it like when you have the perfect gift for someone. You cannot wait to give it to them, but you wait until the perfect time. Maybe it's their birthday or anniversary. The gift is amazing and probably would be pretty great on any random Tuesday, but how much more amazing is the gift when it's paired with the perfect moment.

God created the entire universe. He sustains all of creation. He is the author of time. Do you trust him to know exactly when he should fulfill his promises? Do you trust him enough to wait on him?