God’s will: I’ve had it backwards all this time.

I’m working my way through a good book titled Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung, and it’s all about his unconventional methodology behind discerning God’s will for your life.  SWEET!  I really want to know God’s will for my life, and I REALLY like things that are unconventional.  So I saddled up and started reading.  And what a HUGE disappointment!  There is no magic bullet in discerning God’s will.  In fact, I’ve been going about it all wrong all these years.  Well, “backward” would be more accurate than “wrong.”

I’ve always felt like the smaller details of my life would fall into place once I finally grasped my major life calling from God.  I don’t really struggle with the huge things in life.  My struggle is in the daily details.  My sins, my rebellions, are in the small daily diversions which are so available to us these days.  And I am a sucker for all of them.  I won’t stand before God with three or four major life rebellions to account for.  I’ll stand before Him with a list of thousands of things I either did or didn’t do that were sinful.  But every one of them on their own seemed genuinely inconsequential.

But once I receive my calling from God, that will all be over.  Because then my life will be in alignment and these things which draw my attention away from God will lose their luster, their magnetic power over me.  In other words, once the BIG thing is in place… all the little things will take care of themselves.

So apparently I needed this book Just Do Something to finally realize how completely insane this perspective is.  Trust me, even as I write this it sounds nuts to put these words on screen.  But literally until about twenty minutes ago, this was my thinking.  If only the huge driving force that I’m supposed to adhere to in life would simply be revealed, then my minor rebellions, my little failures to walk with God, will be no longer.  I’ll be so frickin’ inspired that my struggles will simply dissolve!  My near addiction to these little rebellions will be overpowered by a passion that consumes me… the passion to pursue my newly discovered WILL OF GOD IN MY LIFE!  (Read that last part with a dramatic booming voice, okay?)

Is this how anything works?  Of course not.  It makes so  MUCH MORE SENSE for God to say, “I will be patient and wait for you to follow me in all of these little things you do before I reveal to you the main purpose for which you’ve been created.”  Of course that makes more sense!  So much more sense that I’m literally embarrassed to have had to write the paragraphs preceding this one.

Why on earth would God send me on the very largest mission for which I’ve been created when I can’t string together 70 solid minutes of obedience to Him in the smallest details of my life?  Why would I expect Him to, either?  And isn’t there a MASSIVE sense of arrogance and entitlement in my prior understanding?  “Hey God, I know I basically ignore you at every opportunity I get… but that’s kinda on you, isn’t it?  Hook me up with a sweet calling and then I’ll stop treating you like a doormat.  Bueno?  Great.  Now hop to it pal.  Jeopardy is on soon.”

Wow.  That’s an only slightly exaggerated version of the inside of my head until about a half hour ago.  It’s shameful.  Thank God (literally) that he loves us as much as He does.

I spend the last couple of weeks of each year praying and asking for a single word to guide me through the coming year. It’s something I picked up from Brian Hardin of the One Year Daily Audio Bible years ago.  The word I got this year is, “Execute.”  I’m an idea guy.  But in my process of coming up with huge ideas, I really don’t execute on the basics that are the foundation of any genuinely meaningful life.  Last year my word was, “Achieve” and I ran the Chicago Marathon.  It almost killed me.  But I did it.  However, I did it in the worst possible way.  I failed to train properly.  I failed to eat properly.  I did what I usually do: I winged it.  I half-assed it.  And through sheer will and determination I finished that marathon.  I injured my left ankle and both feet doing so, though, due to my lack of preparation.  So my word for this year is, “Execute.”

How do you execute?  There are a hundred things happening in my life that point to the fact that execution is about the daily little things that add up to a major accomplishment.  These daily disciplines are missing from my life.  I am not going to understand the will of God in my life that I might receive SOMEDAY until I respect Him enough to execute on the small daily things He has ALREADY told me to do.

No, I don’t know if God wants me to quit my job and become a pastor.  I haven’t received that major life direction yet from God.  But God did speak to me about the smaller things.  He spoke to you too.  Through scripture.  It’s easy to forget, as we’re waiting for the loud booming voice from heaven, that the voice of God is probably sitting on a shelf in our living room right now.  Real, tangible, useful direction from God on how to answer his calling in our lives.  We call them spiritual disciplines.  Prayer.  Worship.  Sacrifice.  Charity.  And the Bible is full of them.  Have you ever seen one of those funny billboards, “If you’ve been waiting for a sign… this is a sign.”  Well similarly, if you’ve been waiting to “hear from God” on how to live your life, then why not go ahead and read the book He gave on how to live our lives?

So I suppose I actually have received my calling from God.  It’s written in the dozens of books of the Bible that I’ve read over and over… but haven’t really followed.  I look forward to spending the next year executing on these small daily things that God has already called me to do.  Execute on these little daily things.  Subject my life to God in all these little ways.  All this time I’ve been praying about surrendering to God and haven’t even taken the smallest of steps like changing up my morning routine.  “Oh… you mean surrendering to God is more than just a passionate well-spoken prayer?  I actually have to change tangible things in my daily life?  Who knew??”

So that’s how my 2017 started.  It’s amazing what happens when you take a few hours away from TV and internet.

God bless you all!  And Happy New Year.

J

Epiphany Denied

My deal is that I’m constantly trying to improve myself.  Seems great.  Except that I’m all about the books and podcasts and blogs and Instagram motivational pictures, and all that stuff.  But I’m a little light on the actual… improvement.  I know what I need to do.  I just don’t do it.  I came to the firm conclusion that I just don’t want to change.  I was listening to Tony Robbins and he made an excellent point.  Change doesn’t actually take a long time.  Preparation for change takes a long time.  It takes years of fighting with diets without losing any weight.  Because you don’t really follow them.  But at some point, in an instant moment, you just finally decide that you’re going to get healthy.  And you do.  And it wasn’t the years of working on change that did it.  It was the instantaneous decision that this time it was for real and you really were going to pursue your health.

So my assumption was that this invariably was the result of an epiphany moment.  That moment when suddenly everything in your life became crystal clear.  You saw your true purpose and the clear path to pursue it.  Your calling in life is revealed to you.  And motivation is no longer an issue because you’ve had this epiphany.  And from that moment on, everything was different.  Smooth sailing.  Almost effortless because your goals and mission and purpose were suddenly aligned.

Oh, and that’s not something you create.  It’s something that happens TO YOU.  And it comes from God.  So I would pray for it.  A lot.  And I would hear stories about other people having these epiphany moments.  And I’d wish I could have one.  And I’d pray for one.  A lot.

And I wouldn’t get one.  Like… ever.  Nope.  No epiphany moment.  No swinging wide the floodgates of change.  Nothing.

Epiphany denied.

I was sitting in church a couple of weeks ago and it hit me.  I’m never going to get one.  Other people get one because it’s right for them.  God knows them perfectly and knows they will change their lives based on that epiphany.  But he knows me too.  And he knows that he could toss an epiphany at me and I’d squander it.  I’m not saying that to be down on myself.  It doesn’t make me a bad person.  It just means I’m not someone who instantly turns their life around on a dime because of an epiphany event.  So why would God give one to me?

So I figured God has stuck me into this life that I’m in and has given me a healthy dose of dissatisfaction.  Not because my life is bad.  But because I know I could bring more to my life and those around me than I do.  That type of dissatisfaction.  It’s a healthy type of dissatisfaction.  And I have a lot of it.  But I just never seem to take the action needed satisfy it.

Work is an excellent example.  I have a great job, but I don’t make my production goals on a daily basis.  Often I miss them by a lot.  In prior jobs I would excel to a point based on people liking me.  (Who wouldn’t??  I’m fantastic.)  But at some point the extent to which people like you fades into the background and you need to produce.  And I wouldn’t produce.  And it would be time to move on.  I’d be smart enough to see it coming and I’d bail and look for a new job and I’d get one, and often a better one.  I moved up and up and up.  And finally I was fired from a sales job because I just wasn’t hitting my production.  It finally caught up to me.  So I left an entire industry this time and went to law school.  And I did well.  But after a while the production slid, but I was able to hide again and I pulled through with decent grades.  On to being a lawyer.

And then I get this job as a lawyer.  The same one I have now.  Ten years.  That’s a long time for a guy who has production issues.  Why hasn’t this one blown up yet?  Even though year after year I’ve missed my mark?  Because my employer has made the decision to stick with me.  And I’ve given them plenty of reasons to bail on me.  But they just refuse.  To be honest, there have been times that I wish they would have fired me.  Because then I could replace my anger with myself around production with anger at them for firing me.  And I could hide from it again.  Start fresh.  Again.

But they just won’t do it.  Even worse, they keep giving me greater incentive to stay.  Better benefits.  Good raises.  What is the deal?

And I have figured it out.  This is the ultimate denial of an epiphany, and a denial of my ability to hide my weakness on production.  None of my excuses work any more.  And running on personality alone ran dry years ago.  It’s been a decade.  And they’ve turned the heat up.  I have to produce this year.  Time is up.  And I am.  I’m finally producing the quality and quantity of work that I’ve been capable of all along.

So why go through all this personal story.  The point I guess I’m trying to make is that God knows us better than we know ourselves.  When I was asking for an epiphany I didn’t really want one.  It would be more accurate to say that I just wanted God to solve this production issue for me.  I’d rather not develop myself.  Let’s just have God wave his wand and fix me all up.  Nothing required from me before.

I know God pretty well and that just not usually how he works.  At least not in my life.  My struggle and journey to solve this central problem in my life has taught me everything about myself.  It’s actually forced me to accept that there are things that are RIGHT about me, where I normally prefer to just focus on everything that is wrong.  It was the equivalent of God being the best friend that shoves you out onto the dance floor in high school because he knows you can dance if you’ll just quit talking yourself out of it.

Not really super organized thoughts or lessons on this post, I suppose.  But I’m feeling grateful for a God who denies us the very thing we want the most because he knows us better than we know ourselves.  And I’m thankful that I don’t leave work feeling like crap about myself every day.  This life is a pretty good life.  I suppose that’s about all that’s on my mind today.

Thanks for reading.  Go be a hero, okay?

Tried reading the Bible. Didn’t work.

So I made this commitment to start reading the Bible every day, and I gotta be honest and say it didn’t work.  None of the changes I was expecting in my life happened.

____________________

Isn’t that how we sometimes see reading the Bible?  Do this, read a certain number of chapters every day, or follow this reading plan, and the things you want changed in your life will change.  You’ll crave sweets less, you’ll be less tempted by sin, etc.  It’s a chore that we engage in for the purpose of producing change in our lives.

And even if we read the Bible for the proper purpose of building a relationship with God, well damnit that’s taking too long also!  I mean goodness sakes I’ve been at this for DAYS ON END and I’m still not hearing from God, not getting the guidance I was expecting, no still small voice.

Now that’s our expectation of God.  But is this even a realistic expectation for other human beings?  “Hey I tell you what, I talked to this lady on the phone like four times this week and still no marriage proposal.  What gives?”  We don’t think that way about other people.  But we kinda do think that way about God.

If anything, we need to be MORE patient with God.  Right?  Look at how patient God is with us.  He tends to take his time doing things.  Before Christ was born, it was hundreds of years of silence from God without a single prophet.  That’s a lot of time!  But it’s not to God.  So the seven months of daily prayer and scripture it will take us to even begin to see some type of relationship starting to form might be exactly what God wants.  Because he knows how long it takes us to get the crap cleared out of our heads in order to be in a position to build genuine fellowship with him.  God knows what he’s doing.

So I wrote this post partially to be tongue-in-cheek but there was an ounce of reality in it.  I seriously did get irritated at God for not seeing the signs of a developing relationship after literally a few days of genuinely trying to build one.  And I though, “Well God must be saying, ‘I’ve been waiting 43 years for you, ya screwball!'”  But I’m not sure God uses harsh vulgarities like “screwball.”

Anyway, my point is this.  You and I are simply not going to see a robust meaningful relationship spring forth after spending 8 minutes reading scripture and praying three whole days in a row.  But we need to stick with it.  Continue, even when it feels like we’re just sitting there reading a book, or praying to the bed sheets.  God has been patient with us for all the years we’ve been alive without spending this time with him.  It’s only fair for us to be patient with God, especially since the only reason we’re being made to wait is that God sees the perfect timing coming up some day in our future.  We can trust him on that.

JDV

Crap. I’m on repeat.

So I was skimming through some posts from years past over the weekend and something hit me.  I’m on repeat.  I’m writing about the same crap today that I was writing about three years ago.  I even saw a post about how important it is to take care of yourself, and that I was going to start doing so, and I weighed 30 pounds LESS when I wrote that post.

I read posts about talking to God, reading the Bible, and all sorts of other wonderful things to do to grow spiritually, etc. etc.  And then a few months later I’d write a similar post.  Why?  Because I still wasn’t doing any of the crap I said I was going to do the first time I wrote about it.

Grrr!

I feel like I’m at a point where I need to start producing actual change in my life or any credibility I have writing this blog goes out the window.

“Hey did you see those super insightful posts about changing your life and your faith that Jim Voigt wrote?”

“Yeah.  Wow his life must be super transformed.”

“Oh well not really.  He just writes about it.  He doesn’t actually change his own life, silly.  It’s the internet after all!”

So I don’t want that to be me.  If I’m going to write about being on a journey, I’d better start… journeying.  My life should start looking different than it looks today.

Thinking about it that way kinda puts some pressure on.  But you rarely ever get anywhere in life sitting by the warm cozy fire of your comfort zone.

JDV

My leaking cup can’t runneth over.

“My cup runneth over.”  We know the verse from Psalms.  But is it true?  I have this theory that my cup is actually leaking like crazy.  Let me explain.

Sitting in church I got this image in my head.  An image of God pouring himself out into “my cup”, as the verse says.  But it’s not running over.  It’s leaking like crazy.  God can’t keep up with the leaking and my cup remains empty.  But what he brings I’m not accepting.  Yes, there is emptiness in my life, but I’m not going to God to fill it.  I’ve got a million other options out there to fill my cup.  And they’re all toxic.  Literally burning holes through this metaphorical cup of mine so that every time I fill my wants and needs with anything other than God the holes just get bigger, and leak faster, and I seek to fill them faster and faster and I can’t keep up either.

We’re all looking to fill our cups somehow.  And we don’t even need to leave the couch to do it.  We’re filled up by TV, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter.  Heck, who needs a drug addiction anymore?  Fill it faster!  It’s leaking.  Fill it faster!  And maybe for you it is way beyond TV and social media.  Maybe you’re drinking, using drugs, addicted to sex, pornography.

The supply of things to fill your cup is absolutely endless.  And the greater our need, the more toxins we pour in.  We’re convinced that if we just keep turning up the intensity of what we pour into that cup that we’ll satisfy that need, fill that cup.  But the more toxic we go, the bigger the holes get.  And we find ourselves distant from God.  God must just sit there looking at us with sadness, knowing how easy it would be to fill that cup with one single pour of clean, pure water that washes away all of the toxins and begins healing us.  So why do we reject this pure water for our cups?  Why do we keep trying harder and harder to pour faster the very things we know are causing bigger and bigger leaks?

I’ve got this long list of things I need to get done before accepting that pure water from God.  We’re trying to patch up this cup ourselves and plug the holes so THEN we can go get that refreshing pure water and cleanse.  And there is Christ, standing there with his hand out and a beautiful, fresh, perfect cup just waiting to hand it to us.  But I have such a hard time just taking it because I haven’t earned it.  It’s hard for me to get past that.

So now what?  Do we close our eyes and say, “Yea Lord on High I beseech thee accept my life into thy hands… blah blah blah.”  Trust me, I’ve done the dramatic “give my life to God” speech a thousand times.  After a few days or a few weeks, my life went back to the way it was.  Pour, pour, pour.  Faster, faster, faster.  More toxic by the day.  What to do?

I’m going to do exactly what I’d do if I wanted to build a real, lasting relationship with any person I might meet.  I’ll talk to God every day.  And I’ll focus on just regular conversation.  Not some formula, and not while I’m falling asleep on my pillow.  I actually like the whole praying on my knees thing because it helps me focus.  My mind races all over the place, but not as much while I’m on my knees.  So I’ll do that.  And at first it will seem weird, or ineffective, but I’ll stay at it.

And I’ll read God’s book.  Right now I don’t hear from God very often.  There is a lot of competing noise in my head so that still small voice gets drowned out pretty easily.  But I can hear from God by reading his word, and I’ll do that too.  No magic pills here.  This is pretty simple nuts and bolts type stuff.  I’ll do it, and bring you along for the ride.  Hope you bring me along on your ride too.

Have a good night, all.  I’ll see you next week.

Photo credit: http://www.gailperry.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/leaky-bucket.jpg

 

A different Christmas story.

An angel appeared to the Lord with a concern about the Lord’s people. The Lord met with him to address his concerns. “Lord, I have seen that they have cold hearts and cannot forgive. What should we do?”

“I’ve also seen this,” said the Lord. “We will send them a messenger to teach them to forgive even the worst of betrayals.”

“Yes Lord. I will choose a messenger from among the strongest, wisest and brightest.”

But the Lord said, “No do not look to their strength and wisdom. If we chose that way, then it would only make them work harder to gain strength and wisdom on their own. I love them as they are, in all their weakness. Look instead into their hearts. Choose Joseph, the smallest of his brothers, and allow his brothers to betray him deeply. Then I will give him a heart of forgiveness years later and the people will learn that I grant to them the power to forgive and they will never forget.”

The angel did as the Lord said, but later became concerned again. “Lord, I see that the people are in captivity and are frightened because they lack the strength or cunning to free themselves.”

“I’ve also seen this,” said the Lord. “We will send a messenger to persuade their oppressors and free them from captivity. He will also deliver to them my law.”

“Yes Lord. I will choose the most gifted speaker and powerful advocate.”

But the Lord said, “No do not look at their ability to speak and the power of their words. Look instead to their heart. Choose Moses, who struggles with his speech. And send his brother Aaron with him since he also struggles with his confidence. Then I will give him words to speak, and confidence to deliver my messages to his oppressors. And the people will know that I love them, and that I will replace their weakness with strength through me and they will never forget.”

The angel did as the Lord said, but later became concerned again. “Lord, I see that the people are afraid of the enemies that surround them and that they will not be able to enter the land you’ve promised to them.”

“I’ve also seen this,” said the Lord. “We will send a messenger to teach them that their victories are won only through me because I love them.”

“Yes Lord. I will choose the most gifted military leaders to send them into battle, and equip them with the most powerful weapons ever known to man.”

But the Lord said, “No, do not choose their most gifted military leaders, and do not equip them with any weapons at all. Instead, look to the heart of their leaders and choose Joshua to lead them to war with nothing but trumpets, and then they will know that I love them and will deliver them to victory by means they would never have imagined on their own and they will never forget.”

The angel did as the Lord said, but later became concerned again. “Lord, your people face an incredible army with the fiercest of all warriors known to man. They are frozen in fear.”

“I’ve also seen this,” said the Lord. “We will send a messenger to them to tell them that they can rely on me to deliver victory over even the most powerful of warriors.”

“Yes Lord. I will choose the most powerful warrior among your people and adorn him with the best weapons and armor to ensure his victory.”

But the Lord said, “No do not choose the most powerful warrior, but instead choose a man with a good heart. We will choose David, a mere shepherd boy and the smallest of his brothers, and send him into battle without so much as a single piece of armor and the slightest of weapons. That way, the people will know that I love them and will deliver them from even their fiercest of their enemies in ways they would never imagine, and they will never forget.”

The angel did as the Lord said, but the people did forget. Time and again the angel went to the Lord and the Lord would send the least likely of messengers to the people so that they knew the Lord loved them as they were and did not seek out the greatest among them, but instead sought those with the greatest heart. But the people continued to forget, and the angel went to the Lord because the people had fallen into the deepest sin the angel had ever seen.

“Lord I am without any words and do not even know what to pray for. You have shown them your love so many times and yet they are steeped in sin. Is there anything left to do but punish them severely for their sins? I fear this is the only thing you can do that they will not forget.”

The Lord thought for a time and his face fell into sadness. He said to the angel, “You are right that they must answer for their sins. But their sins are too great and I promised before that I would never destroy them outright. We will instead have one man answer for all of their sins so that the world may see it.”

The angel accepted the Lord’s command and said, “Yes Lord. I will choose the most sinful from among them and bring him before the keepers of the law so that he might be publicly punished and put to death for the world to see. And then they will not forget.”

But the Lord said, “Is it you who has forgotten as well? Do not choose the most sinful among them, but instead look to their heart. We will instead send one who is entirely without sin and has the purest of hearts.”

“Lord forgive me but I do not see even one who is entirely without sin and with a pure heart.”

The Lord’s face fell further into sadness as he turned to his right and stared intently for a moment. When he turned back to the angel his face was wet with tears. The angel pleaded, “Lord no. Forgive me but it cannot be. It simply cannot be.”

“Make way for him,” said the Lord.

The angel fell into sadness and said, “Lord if it is your will then let it be so. But I beg that you please allow me to prepare an arrival fit for a king so that the people will see the magnitude of your sacrifice for them.”

But instead, the Lord instructed the angel to prepare the way of the most humble of births in the harshest of conditions so that the people would see that he loved them not for their grandeur but in their most broken condition. This way, the people would never forget.

The angel did as the Lord said, and called for a census to be taken such that the birth might take place where the Lord had commanded.

And to this day, many of the people have still not forgotten.

Have you?

Photo credit: https://ellynbaker.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/crying-angel.jpg

Dude! That’s quite a list!

Because I possess infinite wisdom and boundless maturity, I actually wrote those words (Dude!  That’s quite a list!) in my Bible a few weeks ago.  Our pastor was teaching about pursuing God.  I wrote in a previous post that I was going to stop sitting around praying for transformation and start actually pursuing it.  You know… like working on it.  So I did.

Step one for me was reading the Bible.  Yeah, I know.  I write a frickin’ blog about faith stuff and I don’t even really read the Bible that often.  But in fairness, this blog is way more often about what a screw-up I am than how awesome I am at being a Christian.  If you’re looking for awesome, don’t worry.  There are tons of self-proclaimed experts out there who write blogs about how awesome they are at being Christian.  This isn’t one of them.

Anyhoo… I digress.  So my pastor was going to be out of town coming up and I was supposed to fill in and teach.  That’s coming up in June 3, so obviously I’ll see all of you there (don’t let that pesky ocean between us stop you Paul).  I actually prayed about where to stop (gasp!  me seeking guidance for anything is a minor miracle) and got a pretty clear word: James.  Ironically, I then dove into my standard practice of over-thinking everything and wondered if God was saying MY name or leading me to read the book of James.  Then I decided I was being a moron and wasting time and just picked up the Bible and started reading the book of James.

My commitment was to read every day.  I wanted to give my sermon on June 3 about things I learned when I spent three solid weeks pursuing God every day in practical ways.  Mainly, reading the Bible every day and praying every day.  I’d never done it consistently before and I figured there would be some lessons in it that I could share.

Well as the kids say… NAILED IT.  Yeah I got some lessons.  And I found a big list of reasons to pursue like never before.  I figured I’d shares that list here.  You know.. because I’m a giving sort of dude.

Being honest, I kind of approached this with a, “What’s in it for me” perspective.  God wired us up to expect something in return if we do something.  So I would assume that pursuing God would produce a result I would like.  This is kind of the seeds of the “prosperity gospel” where people tell you that if you pray for a new house you’ll get a new house, or whatever.  That’s a little simplistic for God, so what would God tell me that I would get if I pursued him?

Here’s the list, and it comes from the notes to James 5:16 in the NIV Fire Bible (page 2433 if you have it):

For those who are in a right relationship with God, and who continually rely on him to do what is right, their prayers will:

  1. bring them near to God (Hebrews 7:25)
  2. open the way to a spirit-filled life (Luke 11:13)
  3. bring them power for ministry (Acts 1:8)
  4. bring them power for Christian devotion (Ephesians 1:19)
  5. build them up spiritually (Jude 1:20)
  6. give them insight into Christ’s provision for them (Ephesians 1:16-19)
  7. help them overcome Satan (Daniel 10:12-13)
  8. clarify God’s purposes for them (Psalm 32:6-8)
  9. enable them to receive spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1)
  10. bring them into a closer companionship with God (Matthew 6:9)
  11. bring them grace, mercy and peace (Phillipians 4:6-7)
  12. bring others who are spiritually lost into a relationship with Christ (v 20)
  13. bring them wisdom, revelation, and knowledge of Christ (Ephesians 1:16-17)
  14. bring them healing (v 15)
  15. bring them rescue from trouble (Psalm 34:4-7)
  16. honor God with praise and thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4)
  17. make Christ’s presence more real to them (Revelation 3:20)
  18. ensure them of their final salvation and of Christ’s intercession (7:25)

So now you can see why I would write the mature sophisticated phrase, “Dude!  That’s quite a list!”

So go grab your Bible and pursue God hard.  It turns out, the return on your effort is extraordinary.  And then go be awesome.  You were made to be.

Later all.

I’ve stopped praying for transformation.

I’ve spent a lot of my time praying for transformation over the years, and I’m just not gonna do it anymore.  Not because I think the prayer is pointless.  But because I realized what I was actually praying for.  It wasn’t transformation.  I was praying for a free pass.

See, I just prayed, “God please transform my life.”  Blah blah blah.  Something like that.  Different variations of that.  But here’s the translation of what was really going on inside my head and my heart:

“Dear Lord!  Please transform me!  And, like, do it in a way that requires nothing from me.  Cool?”

I was praying for God to do all the work.  I was defining transformation as some event that takes place in my life at some point in time when God decides it’s the right time.  Everything before that sucked.  And everything after that was super cool and awesome.

But that’s not what the Bible says about transformation.  The Bible talks about PURSUING your calling.  PURSUING God.  PURSUING your gifts of the spirit.  The very use of the word PURSUING indicates that this is something that both TAKES TIME and REQUIRES EFFORT FROM ME.

So here’s my new prayer.  “God.  I want to be transformed.  You know where I am today, and you know your vision for where you want me to go.  Please show me what you need from me in order to be transformed.  And give me the strength, courage, and focus to pursue it until you give me something new to pursue.”

That’s a little better.  It has me actively looking for opportunities to serve God.  To stick my neck out in ways I hadn’t before.  To be active.  It touches on the whole “faith without works is dead” thing.  I gets me out of my “sit on the couch until God FINALLY transforms me” thing.  Because that kinda wasn’t getting it done.

So dude!  Quit praying for transformation, and start asking God what you need to do to PURSUE it.

Bueno?

Later all.  Go be awesome.  It’s almost like you were built to be or something, ya nut.

Oh and the photo?  No, not me.  That dude is way hotter than me, and has a bigger TV.  Check it out for yourself: http://talkfeed.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/couchpotatofinal.jpg

Double-minded man. Prayer is hard for me.

I came across this term “double-minded man” in reading the first few sentences of the Book of James.  This nails me 100%.  The opening lines talk about the need to fully believe that your prayers will be answered by God according to his wisdom.  And then in James’ blunt fashion, he says that anyone who prays but doesn’t expect God to fulfill those prayers is a double-minded man.  Pursuing God, but still stuck here in the world.  At least that’s my take on it.

So let’s talk about believing in prayer.  This is tough.  Dude, you can hold your hands up in the air, fall to your knees, or whatever you like to get your prayers as impactful as possible.  But it’s all a bit of window-dressing, isn’t it?  Am I the only one who thinks it’s pretty darn tough to 100%, zero doubt, fully believe that my prayers are going to be answered?

Jesus did well with this (duh!).  I think he was the opposite of me.  I struggle to know what it would be like to 100% fully believe (in all honesty and not just trying to be “good at prayer”) in the power of my prayers.  I think Jesus would be the opposite.  I think he would have a hard time understanding someone who prayed to God on a regular basis but who, if being completely honest, was only very HOPEFUL that his prayers would be answered.  Not CONFIDENT.  I think he’d look at me and tell me I’m weird.  You know, that guy way of saying it where an insult isn’t really an insult.

Why is this hard for me?  Well the answer is actually really simple.  I just don’t pray enough.  And I don’t spend enough time reading the Bible.  I have this expectation that I’ll sit down to pray and just be amazing at it.  But I’ve never in my life been amazing at something the first time I did it.  Or the tenth time I did it.  Or the hundredth time.

And for something as complicated as prayer, it should take a while to get good at it, right?  I mean we have tough stuff going on.  Is that voice I’m hearing my own?  Or God?  Silencing my own head might actually be harder than hearing from God.  And I think I’ve heard from God at least twice.  Powerful experiences, both.  But there is a chance that every one of those times I wondered “was that God or what that my own head?” that perhaps it really was God?  If so, I’ve heard from God a lot.

I’m rambling a little bit.  Not unlike the way I pray.  I’m still all over the place.  Kind of like a conversation you might have with a 6 year old.  Halfway through you are thinking, “How did we end up talking about THIS?”

So… simple fix.  Just pray more.  And pray about regular stuff.  Stuff actually happening in my life.  I need to stop saying what I think God wants to hear when I pray a just talk to God about what’s up.  What am I thankful for?  What is stressing me out at work?  What does He want from me?  These are things I think about all the time but they never make it into my prayers.  Never on the “approved list”…

So no more approved list.  Just conversation.  Respectful conversation.  With a God who is so completely nuts that He actually wants to hear from a weirdo like me on a daily basis.

Good night all.

Broken no more.

We hear it all the time. Christ loves you even though you’re broken. And it’s true. And it’s life altering. And important. So important. It changes everything. We don’t need to be perfect to approach God.  He is a forgiving, loving God.  Even when we are broken.

The end.

NO!  NOT THE END!

Five years ago, I needed to hear and understand that God loved me even though I was a mess.  That fact changed my life. Or did it?  Did I spend so much time obsessing over God’s grace in light of my brokenness that I completely missed that I’m not broken anymore?  Am I missing my calling because I’m still delighting in the fact that God loves me despite my brokenness?  Or more honestly, did I simply never expect to not be broken anymore?  Am I satisfied to be broken but loved?  Or is there something else?  Do I ever stop being broken?  What happens then?

God’s acceptance became my crutch. It was my witness. “God loves you if you’re broken bro.  Here’s my story of brokenness.”  And that’s a good witness. But it’s only half a witness.

Being accepted and loved by God even through your brokenness is NOT THE FINISH LINE.  It’s the starting line of a race you may not even have realized you were in.  I sure didn’t.

What kind of father finds their broken child, hugs them, BUT THEN LEAVES THEM BROKEN?  Not my heavenly father. It is occurring to me for the first time tonight, since I’m a little dumb, that God put me back together for a reason. That he accepted me while broken, but didn’t leave me that way. He put me back together and stood my unbroken body on a frickin’ launching pad.

I’m not perfect. But I sure as hell ain’t the the broken down dude that God scooped up and loved those now several years ago.  I’ve been saying it all wrong.

“God loves me even though I’m broken.”

Wrong.

“God loves me even though I used to be broken.”

Yeah. That.

I gotta quit feeling like a still-broken shell of a man. God found me. Repaired me. And why?  To send me out to battle.  To push me head first into a dying world.

No.  I declare today that I am no longer broken. And I am no longer wallowing in my self pity of brokenness that God repaired in his grace.

I’m ready. Ready to enter the world that God called me to, and built me for. Broken no more. Ready to serve.

Are you still broken?

Are you sure?