Friday, August 28, 2015

Here's what engagement looks like

Here's what engagement looks like.

It begins with an openness, a willingness to share. It’s exactly how Simone Weil wrote in Waiting for God. Everyone is waiting to be asked, “How are you doing?” That simple question is the invitation the key to unlocking the heart.

There are tons of communication techniques to choose from, but it all boils down to asking: “How are you doing?” 

Asking that question with no hidden agenda. Asking that question because we mean it. Asking that question because we genuinely care about the others’ situation. Asking that question because we have God's heart towards that person in mind and we want to see the other brought into relationship.

Putting aside our own desires and needs for the other is the hallmark of other-centered communication. 

It sounds easy to do but the fact is, in Western culture in the present day, it’s about the hardest thing to accomplish. Most of us spend our day totally immersed in our own world, in our own thoughts. We are so focused on our own thoughts that most of the time it doesn’t occur to us to think of others. And when a thought towards another comes, it’s usually self-centered.

Self-centered living, to a large degree, is living out of a place of fear, and that fear leaves no room for others. It leaves no room for genuine sharing. And leaves a person feeling empty and meaningless. 

Other-centered people are by far the happiest because they're fulfilled. Remember the old song “People who need people?” And the refrain, “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” That’s actually very true on a spiritual level.

To be aware of others. To be focused on others. To be engaged with others. That’s living a full life. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

God's kindness initiates a powerful chain of events

Did you ever wonder why it’s God's kindness that leads people to repentance, to changing their mind, to turning from sin towards God?

From the moment that our spiritual ancestors turned their backs on God, from the moment they decided that being in intimate relationship wasn’t enough, God was at work reconciling. God's response was towards them, God's heart was towards them, God's desire was for restoration.

God's word says that "never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13.5)

That’s an accurate summation of God's heart towards us. God's word also says that God's desire is that not one should perish. Not one. God's heart beats forgiveness. God's heart is filled with desire to see people brought into relationship.

God is an inclusive being.

God's son said that he was the good shepherd who looks out for his sheep. A good shepherd is diligent, watchful and keeps the safety of each member of the flock in mind at all times. God's son also said that his sheep know his voice, and he knows their voice. That speaks to deep relationship – going beyond the superficial. Going beyond business as usual. Going beyond the perfunctory

What is the world’s standard for kindness? Nowadays, kindness is seen as weakness. If you are kind to someone then you aren’t looking out for yourself and at some point, the person you are being kind to might take advantage. Kindness isn’t seen as being practical. If you are being kind to someone that’s energy being misspent.

When you think about it, there could be a lot of things that would lead a person to repent. 

God's sheer strength, God's power could instill a holy fear. God's position as creator of the universe could demand repentance. But ultimately repentance, a change of heart, a change of mind, has to be an act of free will. A person who is sinning, who has chosen to back away from relationship, has to decide to turn back. They can’t be forced to do it. Fear alone doesn’t cause repentance. Neither does guilt.

God's kindness initiates a powerful chain of events. God's kindness elicits love and that love brings about genuine change of heart. Be encouraged! God's heart is filled with kindness towards us.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

God's mercy, grace and love are new every morning

It’s morning. A fresh beginning.
God's word says that God's mercy is new every morning. That means we can start the day with a fresh slate, it’s been wiped clean of the past. Everything that happened previously to today doesn’t count in God's book. We are made clean. God's forgiveness is absolute and there are no strings attached to it. No toxic guilt from the past. As long as we have come to God and confessed, God doesn’t remember those sins at all.
Mercy is linked to grace and that grace is unmerited favor. So the good news is, if we are in relationship with God, and we’ve confessed our sins, we’re forgiven. If we aren’t in relationship, it only takes acknowledgement and receiving God (repentance) and then we’re forgiven as well.

Pretty good news, overall, wouldn’t you say? That simple sentence that people greet each other with at the start of each day: Good morning. It really, truly is!
God is always at work in the lives of everyone on earth. God's not limited by religion, dogma, philosophy, experience, geography, governments or economics. God can go straight to the heart. That’s what God's aiming for. Relationship. Intimacy.

Paul once wrote, “who can separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8.35 NLT) He said, "Does it mean God no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted or hungry or destitute?"
Of course all of these things had happened to Paul in his own life so he was speaking out of his own personal experience. He was not offering a 'pie in the sky, someday' sort of portrait of life. And he wasn't denying that there is suffering and pain in life.
But, he went on to say, "No power in the sky above or in the earth below - indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God..."
Too often there is a tendency to ignore the strength of God's love and in our minds we disable the powerful truth of it by believing that there are things that are stronger than God. So Paul's statement gets altered to read: Who can separate us from the love of Christ?... Poverty, political oppression, gender inequality, social structure…”

But when we speak out those things we are giving the things of this earth way more power than they actually have. We are, in essence, saying that Paul got it wrong. That God has it wrong. That evil triumphs over good. That hate trumps love.

But that has never been the case.
The fact is that God is at work in the earth. God is at work in each of us. God is at work in the lives of the very people that we so often count as lost. In God there is always hope. In God there is always salvation. In God there is always the promise of intimacy.

God's love is simply that strong!

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Getting to God's Will

There’s a difference between asking for help, asking for God to bless you, asking God for guidance and asking for God's will to be manifest.
Asking for generic help is ok, but it isn’t always predicated on much of a relationship.

Then there’s asking for blessing. Joseph asked Jacob to bless his sons. He understood the power behind the blessing and its importance. Joseph also had a reverence for his dad and they had relationship. The Bible describes their relationship as a close one. Jacob loved his son and favored him and Joseph loved his father back. They had an intimate relationship. So much so in fact that the other 11 sons of  Jacob were jealous.

Asking for guidance is predicated on relationship as well. It also involves trust and hope. If we’re not in relationship with someone to the point of trusting them, we probably aren’t going to ask them for guidance. We usually don’t ask guidance from people we don't know. We are much more inclined to actually follow the advice of someone that we trust.  And there is hope involved in believing that the guidance given will be helpful and that the person we are seeking guidance from has our best interest at heart. All of this is based on relationship that goes deeper than a casual “can you help me?”

Finally, asking for God's will to be done actually goes farther than asking for guidance.
When we ask for God's will to be done in our life we are actually giving over our own preference to God's. At the point of asking for God's will to be done, we are going beyond guidance to letting go of control. We are making an active decision to defer our own wishes and inclinations to God's. That is deep trust and hope. That sort of relationship is based on deepest love, even intimacy.

A person doesn’t let go of their free will and defer to the other without intimacy between them. It involves submission and submission doesn’t come easily. The cost of laying down our will is giving up our rights. In western culture, especially at this moment in time, there is huge pressure to hold on to our rights.
God's son was the perfect expression of someone who lived out God's will in his life.

God's son lived out “greater love than this...”
God's son went past asking what could be done, past asking God to bless him, to seeking guidance to doing God's will. Every aspect of Jesus' life was covered in deep love.

Today let's be encouraged to press in to deeper relationship! To get beyond asking for help to doing God's will!

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Sometimes it seems as if God's grace is wasted on the wrong people.

Yesterday afternoon I went for a walk and while I was out it began to rain. Slowly at first. In fact I came back home a little wet but far from saturated. Then about ten minutes after I got home, the downpour came! And the rain came pouring straight down, in sheets, at some points shifting with the wind.
It was torrential.

Everything that was caught in that rainstorm was soaked. There was no way for the dryness to contend against it. Every part of the earth received what was coming down. It was full and strong and it influenced every bit of the ground.
This morning the street outside my front window is clean. It was swept clean by the power of that water rushing down from the sky. Any plant caught in that liquid explosion was saturated; even the weeds, making them extremely easy to pull out.

In short, everything living that received the rain was affected by it.
That’s how God's grace works. God doesn't have favorites and God doesn’t coddle. There are no gold row seats that get you a ringside spot in God's presence. In fact God's word says something about God's rain falling on the just and the unjust. It seems like a contradiction, doesn’t it? Why should a just person get as soaked as someone who isn’t?

Because it’s grace.

And God's grace is undeserved and unmerited favor. It’s favor purely for favor’s sake. It’s not determined by outward actions and it’s not always connected with what is going on deep within someone's heart.

In terms of human understanding God's grace can be illogical, provocative and totally arbitrary. And there are times when it can seem as if  God's grace is wasted on the wrong people.
But it never is.

That's because God's grace is an invitation to relationship. It’s free. And despite outward appearances, it’s always intentional.

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Judge Not...

Jesus said, "Do not judge others and you will not be judged..."  (Matt. 7:1).
When we judge others, we are actually judging ourselves. We are judging ourselves by comparing ourselves to others and coming up lacking. We are selling ourselves short. And we are robbing others of the opportunity to get to know us.
That’s the insidious thing about judging. It harms the person we are judging but it also harms us as well by cutting ourselves off from relationship. And part of that cutting off involves cutting our own self off from a deeper understanding of who we are.

Judging makes forgiveness impossible.
Unforgiveness locks us in an emotional prison towards the person we won’t forgive; it also locks us up from the deepest part of who we are. So, when we judge someone it not only harms the person we are judging, but it also harms us. It keeps us narrow-minded, unloving and unkind. It’s the very opposite of love.

The solution to all of this is to seek God when judgment comes creeping back into our thoughts. Seek God by confessing it, asking God to remove it and bring the opposite towards that person and our own self. Ask God to bring blessing to that person, to help us understand them, and to heal them and ourselves.
As we get into this habit of dealing with judgment, we will see mercy and grace and forgiveness flowing.


Friday, August 21, 2015

When the Search becomes an Adventure!

Seeking comes from motivation.

When there’s a sufficient reason the search becomes an adventure.

When the heart is aligned with the spirit it hears the cry of the soul and follows. Often times the challenge is that the heart is going after things that the soul doesn’t desire. There’s a disconnect that happens and the interference from the world causes communication that is coming from the earth instead of from heaven.

Motivation comes from relationship. A shaky relationship that hasn’t much foundation to it can’t support seeking for very long. The seeking becomes distracted by the cares of the day, or worry, or fear. A relationship that isn’t based on love doesn’t encourage seeking.

Why would you seek after something that you don’t care about?

On the other hand, seeking comes naturally in a relationship that’s based on deep love. The love nurtures a desire to know the other in a more complete way, and that in turn brings a desire to spend time with the other and to seek them out.

There will always be distraction in life, but a heart and spirit that are aligned with the soul overcome the distraction so that the seeking becomes stronger and the relationship deepens.

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