Become what you believe

It has been a while since I’ve written…life got crazy busy, but more than that I didn’t hear God was calling me to write anything for a while.  Therefore, I didn’t. This morning, however, while talking with Him,  He said that I should write today.  So here I am…with you guys!

I went back and re-read my last two blog entries, mainly focusing on the entry where I was about to enter worship school.  How in the world was that was three years ago?!  Since that entry I’ve had two life changing events happen: worship school and a trip to Israel.  At the conclusion of both people have asked me how it was.  It is SO difficult to answer that question when something has been so monumental in your development, when it has changed the course of your life.  I usually just chickened out and said, “It was really good.”  Haha!  That’s like saying the Grand Canyon is “pretty big,” or Hawaii is “really pretty.”  However, I’m not chickening out on you.

While I couldn’t possibly put all the details of both of those experiences in a blog post and keep it at a length that anyone sane would read, I will tell you the thing that sticks out right now.  The most life changing thing about both events was that God used both of those to define who I am and clarify who He is.  He spoke life into me both places by removing the lies I was believing about myself and Him….and replacing them with His truth.

At worship school I began to realize two things about myself:

1 – I could step onto the stage to lead His people because of Him, because of the promise that His spirit is in me and can do great things.  I was freed from the broken record repeating in my head that said, “You can’t do this.”  It was true – I couldn’t do it, but now I believed it when God said He could and would.   What a relief!

2- I also began to speak God’s truth to myself before I led worship.  I would remind myself that God ALREADY loves me deeply.  He is ALREADY well pleased with me.  Jesus’ work on the cross assures me of this. When I began to meditate on this, to take a moment and remind myself of this, things began to change.  I could let go of the results.  I could fully surrender to what He wanted to do (and to that high note I was afraid of, lol!)  It wasn’t that I thought things would go amazingly every time, in fact they didn’t.  BUT, it was that I could rest securely in his love for me.  I didn’t come up with this, but I first heard it at worship school: I went from trying to earn approval, to leading from a place of approval. That has made all the difference.

In Israel I experienced God and his Holy Spirit like I haven’t in a long time.  On our trip, the Holy Spirit wasn’t just talked about with flowery words…or mentioned in prayers.  The Holy Spirit was there.  The Spirit did miraculous things and spoke in undeniable ways.  Spoke to ME in undeniable ways.  I hadn’t even really realized it, but somewhere in my walk I had lost my childlike faith.  I had come to believe that the Holy Spirit of the Bible – the one who healed the blind, arranged divine encounters, and raised the dead to life – was no longer in operation.  In fact the first time the Spirit showed up on the trip I was afraid.  I had not had such an encounter in so long that I forgot what it was like.  I came home renewed – KNOWING that the Holy Spirit of the Bible is alive and still in the business of the miraculous!

I leave you with this – in the Message version of the Bible, in Matthew 9, Jesus has just raised a girl back to life.  Two blind men follow Him into His house begging to be healed. Before Jesus heals them He asks them if they really believe He can do this.  They reply that they do.  He heals them with the declaration, “Become what you believe.”  And they were healed.

Become what you believe.

What do we believe…about ourselves?  About God?

 

Romans 12:2a tells us “Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Paul is confirming this – that we become what we believe.  What do you believe about yourself?  Does it line up with what God believes about you? What do you believe about God? Is this consistent with God’s character revealed in His Bible?

God we pray today that you would allow us (make us!) take a moment to reflect on this question – “what do I believe?”  And we ask that your Spirit speak boldly, undeniably into our lives…whether audibly, through your word, or even another person.  God show us the lies we believe and replace them with truth.  We want to become like you Lord! Amen.

And of course, I leave you with a song:

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Send Your Rain

lake-lure-fire-f5dfc

(picture by a fantastic photographer – Cathy Anderson)

Recently, my family was driving to visit relatives.  As we drove we saw the most devastatingly beautiful views of one of the fires that is burning in NC.  I was brainstorming song ideas for the next song that was due for Ten Thousand Fathers (the worship school I attend) (https://worship.school) and also contemplating the aftermath of the election.  As I looked at the smoke filling the sky, the Holy Spirit showed me the parallel between these fires that are burning and our current culture.  Most of NC is in a drought, and therefore the fires can be started with the smallest spark.  Once they start they are hard to stop, and they can devastate the homes of both animals and people.

Our culture is currently characterized by unrest – a perfect storm fed by social media, the most controversial election in my lifetime, and many social justice issues.  Those of us that claim to be christians are usually either spewing judgmental words or are silent.  It is hard to find individuals acting like Christ in the midst of the cultural fires that are burning.  It hit me that these fires begin so quickly for us because our souls are dried out.  It only takes a spark to light us on fire…and that fire is devastating to our homes and our communities.

My prayer in this song is that God would not only send literal rain, but rain for the soul…a spiritual awakening.  Those of us that are Christ followers MUST make sure we are being watered by the Father each day…so that when the sparks come (and they always do), we will not be quick to burn with anger.  Instead we will be filled with living water that we can then offer to the one that threw the spark.

“If the skies are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and if they pray toward this Temple and acknowledge your name and turn from their sins because you have punished them, 27then hear from heaven and forgive the sins of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them to follow the right path, and send rain on your land that you have given to your people as their special possession.” 2 Chronicles 6:26-27

 

Lyrics:

VERSE 1
Fires all around, all around, all around.
I watch the burning down, burning down, burning down.
Fires all around, all around, all around.
CHORUS
Send your rain Lord
See this pain God
Send your rain Lord
Heal this land God
VERSE 2
Smoke is sneaking in, can’t see, can’t see
Fallin to my knees, can’t breathe, can’t breathe
Smoke is sneaking in, can’t see. can’t see
BRIDGE
Our souls dried out, prey of fire, moral rot
We throw the sparks that claim our homes and hearts.

 

Link to the song:

Send Your Rain

The Next Step

 

132___walk_on_water__by_bittersweetvenom

About two months ago, I was spending some time with God in the Bible.  He was once again affirming a call to serve Him through music.  (You can read more about how I got to this point here if you missed it.)  Immediately after that time, I felt a Holy Spirit nudge to look up a worship leader I had seen lead worship four or five years ago, Aaron Keyes.  He had made an impression on me because of his humble and authentic posture while leading, along with his obvious love of God’s word.   When I got to his webpage, I discovered that he leads a worship school.  I had looked up various worship schools prior to this, while trying to figure out how to pursue this seemingly elusive calling.  All of the schools I had looked up either weren’t a fit for me (because they had a different way of thinking about leading worship than I do) or I simply couldn’t do them.  (Being a 34 year old wife and mother, makes it pretty impossible to go live at a school for an extended amount of time.)  However, I saw that this school is very different.  This school, 10,000 Fathers, requires four 6 month tracks.  Each track begins with a week of live teaching in Atlanta, and is then followed by six months of distance education and coaching.  Another great thing about this school is that it marries several other passions that I have in addition to music.  Previous to discovering 10,000 Fathers, I couldn’t understand how they all fit together in God’s plan for me.  The first is a heart to teach, specifically God’s word.  You can probably tell, but I love understanding how God’s word applies to my life and yours, and then sharing it’s life-giving truth.  The second  is a passion for developing people.  When I was on staff at our local church, God taught me what it looked like to identify someone with a gifting that the church body needed, and then walk with them as they learned how to step into their role.  It was one of the most rewarding things I ever did.  Amazingly, this school focuses on all three: music, teaching & discipleship.  Crazy, right?  Their goal is not to just train excellent musicians, but to train worship leaders who can lead music, teach through it, and disciple others to do the same.

As amazing as the school sounded, I realized that I would only get into this school if it was God’s will for me.  This became very clear when I saw the application requested a link to your personal album or EP.  I am not yet able to proficiently play an instrument, much less an album.  Haha! However, I decided to place my confidence in His will…not my abilities.

At least until I got my acceptance letter…

I was SO beyond excited when I read it.  I kept telling my husband that this couldn’t be real.  Of course, it was real, and it really sank in when I read the due dates for the tuition.  There’s nothing like money to shock you back into reality.  After having a mini freak out session, I scolded myself for so quickly forgetting that the God of the universe loves me with a never-failing love and has always provided for me and my family.   In Matthew 14:30-33, Peter had a freak out session too.  He was in the midst of walking on water when he realized what he doing, and how he couldn’t do what he was doing.  Sound familiar?

“Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”
Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”
The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!””

 

Peter almost didn’t make it…but a shift in his gaze and focus, along with Jesus’ strong hand allowed him to continue taking steps toward Jesus.  Steps of faith aren’t steps of faith if there isn’t churning water beneath us, threatening to swallow us.  Steps of faith aren’t steps of faith if the steps always make sense to our human minds.  This worship school…is a step of faith.  I am under-qualified and under-funded.  Yet my God has called me to take a step.  Can you relate?

This is where we need friends who love us and love God.   In Exodus 17:10-13, Moses had a simple, yet impossible task.  Some foreigners had decided to wage war against his people.  God told him that as long as Moses held his arms up, his people, the Israelites would win the battle.  When he dropped his arms they began losing.  Even He-man (any 80’s children out there?) would find it impossible to hold his arms up all day.  That’s where community comes in.  God could have given Moses super human strength to hold his own arms up, but He didn’t.  Instead he gave him two friends to help him complete the task.

So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.”

Would you consider holding my arms up?  How could I or those around you hold your arms up?  While there is a way to contribute financially if you feel led to do so, the thing I desire most is your prayers.  To have your prayers surrounding and sustaining me and my family as we take this step, would be such a precious gift.  And…if you would trust me with it, I would feel honored to return the kindness and pray for you and the steps you are being led to take.

To pray alongside me & my family:  email me at starbygrace@gmail.com.  I will send out brief, regular emails, giving you specific ways you can pray for us, along with updates about my journey.

To give a financial gift:  You can mail a check to the school itself with my name in the memo line. (10,000 Fathers, 1977 Miramar Way, Snellville GA 30078)             

I leave you with the very popular, “Oceans.” This song captures the scary yet beautiful process that following God can be.  Let’s both decide to keep our eyes above the waters and rest in His embrace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it’s more than you can handle…

carrying-too-much

Have you had a well-meaning person try to encourage you in the midst of some difficult life circumstances by telling you, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  They may even follow it up with a, “…so He must think a lot of you to put all of this on you.”

Wait.  What??  That sounds kinda messed up to me.  Are you telling me that I’m supposed to handle this all by myself?  And feel special because of it?

No. No, we’re not…not if we are Christ-followers.  It’s a lie that sounds close to the truth, which makes it the most dangerous type of lie.

(I think most people are likely getting this confused with the verse, 1 Cor 10:13, that promises we won’t be tempted beyond what we can bear.  However, these are not the same things.)

We know it’s a lie because over and over in the scriptures God reacts contrary to this statement.  When the central character in the story finds themselves in some impossible circumstances, and they cry out to God, He is faithful to help them.  He proves himself to be our rescuer over and over again.

Abraham & Sara – They couldn’t have a child and the weight of that was too much for them.  God divinely allowed Sara to become pregnant far past the child bearing age, and even used that child to begin a nation.

Moses – Moses was given the impossible task of convincing Pharaoh to let God’s people go.  Moses obediently went, but God did the convincing for him through a series of plagues.  As a result, God was glorified in Egypt.  Moses then found himself leading a nation of people down a dead end street with angry Egyptians close behind them.  God, again, made a way when there wasn’t one.  In one of the most famous stories of the Bible, God parted the Red Sea and let His people go through.  Remembering these great acts of God bolstered the faith of His people for years, decades, and centuries to come.

Jesus & His disciples – After Jesus had been teaching a crowd of people, He told his disciples to feed them.  There were at least 5,000 people in attendance, probably more.  The story resolves when the disciples find the only food among the crowd (some fishes & loaves) and bring it to Jesus.  Jesus provides the meal that day by multiplying the food so that everyone in the crowd has enough to eat…plus leftovers!

In each of these stories, God simply asked his children to trust him, not handle it.  He KNEW they couldn’t handle their situation on their own.  In fact, He often allows us to be in situations like this in order to show us just how much He can be trusted, how deeply He loves us, and how He is ever-faithful.  In the process He is glorified and His kingdom is advanced.

The fishes and loaves story used to frustrate me so much.  I couldn’t understand why Jesus would ask his disciples to do something that He knew they couldn’t do.  It almost seemed cruel.  Sometime recently, while reading the story again, God showed me that Jesus was teaching his followers.  He was showing them that when He asked them to do something impossible like this, that their part was only to step forward in obedience…He would handle the rest (the impossible part.)

It’s the same with you and me.  Today I find myself elated to have been accepted to an incredible worship school, 10,000 Fathers.  This is the next step on an amazing journey God has me on, which you can read about here if you missed it.  The problem is that the school costs money.  (Who would’ve thought, right? Lol!)  At this point in time, Chip & I are as tight financially as we’ve ever been.  I’ve exhausted the possibilities I can think of, and feel like I’m at a dead end…but I think God has it this way on purpose.  Yesterday I read this during my time with God:

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”  James 1:2-4

In the fishes & loaves story, it would have been much easier for Jesus to have just magicked some food out of thin air to feed the people with rather than involving the disciples in the process.  It may have saved the disciples some time of feeling troubled, because the situation was more than they could handle.  However, Jesus knew that their immediate happiness wasn’t as important as eternal things like their faith and their relationship with the object of their faith (Him).  He allowed them to be in a place where they could feel troubled, just like I think He is allowing me to be…and maybe allowing you to be.  Is it fun?  Nah, I don’t think I’d call it fun.  BUT, could it possibly be an “opportunity for great joy” as the verse above says? Yes, I think it can if we allow it.

Yesterday, after reading the verses from James, I read Psalm 116 (Message version).

“1-6I love God because he listened to me,
listened as I begged for mercy.
He listened so intently
as I laid out my case before him.
Death stared me in the face,
hell was hard on my heels.
Up against it, I didn’t know which way to turn;
then I called out to God for help:
“Please, God!” I cried out.
“Save my life!”
God is gracious—it is he who makes things right,
our most compassionate God.
God takes the side of the helpless;
when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me.
7-8I said to myself, “Relax and rest.
God has showered you with blessings.
Soul, you’ve been rescued from death;
Eye, you’ve been rescued from tears;
And you, Foot, were kept from stumbling.”
9-11I’m striding in the presence of God,
alive in the land of the living!
I stayed faithful, though bedeviled,
and despite a ton of bad luck,
Despite giving up on the human race,
saying, “They’re all liars and cheats.”
12-19What can I give back to God
for the blessings he’s poured out on me?
I’ll lift high the cup of salvation—a toast to God!
I’ll pray in the name of God;
I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do,
and I’ll do it together with his people.
When they arrive at the gates of death,
God welcomes those who love him.
Oh, God, here I am, your servant,
your faithful servant: set me free for your service!
I’m ready to offer the thanksgiving sacrifice
and pray in the name of God.
I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do,
and I’ll do it in company with his people,
In the place of worship, in God’s house,
in Jerusalem, God’s city.
Hallelujah!”

 

We can have great joy in the midst of our impossible circumstances: money troubles, relational issues, health problems, sin struggles, or worse.  We can have great joy because we know:

We DO NOT have to handle this on our own.  

God will handle it much better than we ever could.

While handling our troubles, God will refine us in the process and we will come out of them bearing more resemblance to His son.

 

…and THAT is something to find great joy in.

 

Praying you, me, and our troubles know who is handling things today,

Lindsey

Pointing fingers

blindlight

The other day I was driving up a hill close to my house.  As I reached the top of it, I was shocked to discover I couldn’t see anything.  The sun was sitting just above the hilltop and had suddenly blinded me with its intense light.  After shieldeding my eyes, I looked around to see that everything around me looked black in the presence of the sun.  I knew for a fact that my car was a quirky shade of sea foam green, not black.  However, I couldn’t have proved it to you in that moment.  The car beside of me could’ve been a brilliant shade of white, but it too looked as dark as night.

This is how ALL of our lives look when compared with the brilliant holiness of God.  Perhaps your car, your life, has been unmarred by any of the “big” sins.  Maybe it’s even a 9 on a holiness scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most holy.  Let’s say the car, the life, beside you is pretty dirty…pretty dark and covered by sins of the “worst” kind.  It’s so covered that we’d give it a 1 on our holiness scale.  However, when we put both cars, both lives, in the midst of the blinding sun, or God’s unfathomable holiness, both lives look dark… even black.  Our perception changes so drastically because of a presence that blows our (made up) holiness scale to bits.

In this context, can you see how silly it would be to start arguing about who was the better car, the better person?  Yet, this is what we are tempted to do too often in our culture.  Social media allows every action performed, every cup sold, every item stocked, every theme park day hosted, to be scrutinized and picked apart.  We believe the lie that it is our responsibility to call out each person, company, or store when they fall short.  We point fingers, and secretly feel better about ourselves because we aren’t as bad as “them.”

God says when we do this, we are totally missing the point.  He tells us:

“But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.  God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.” Romans 3:21-26 (The Message)

We’ve all messed up.  Me, you, the friend you unfriended, Target, Starbucks, and even the most magical place on Earth.  In the light of God’s holiness, love, and redemption, Christ-followers are called to represent Him to the whole messed up world.  Jesus was both truth and love.  Therefore, we are called to stand firm for the truths spelled out in the Bible, BUT we are also supposed to live a life of love.  Is this hard? Ummm….YES!  I’d even say it’s impossible to do unless we are following the one who calls us to this high standard, while allowing our steps to be directed by His Holy Spirit.  This kind of life is a life that speaks louder than any Facebook status or blog post.  This kind of life speaks truths that can be heard, because it is delivered in love.

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.  If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.  If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”  1 Cor 13:1-7 (The Message)

Today, let’s you and I resolve to live out of a place of thankfulness for what God has done, to speak from a place of love, and to walk only where He leads us.

 

What do we deserve?

stagnantpoolb&w

A few years back found me teaching a class of high school seniors.  I enjoyed this class more than most that I taught, and was able to get to know these students fairly well.  These were “good” kids, from “good” families, and they were easy to like.  However, one day, towards the end of the year, I was shocked by their attitudes.  I was making an announcement about scholarships and the importance of applying for all they were eligible for.  I remember they all looked back at me with blank stares.  When I pressed further, I realized they were looking at me like that because none (NONE?!?!) of them had filled out a single scholarship application form.  When I recovered from my shock enough to ask them why, they all agreed it was because their parents had assured them that they would pay for their college education.

I would guess if you and I could have a conversation about this story we’d probably express equal amounts of disappointment in a generation that felt this way.  We may even reminisce about our hard work that got us through college.  What we probably wouldn’t talk about is our role in the story.  In C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, he would argue that we are the reason the generation below us is the way they are – that we’ve subconsciously handed down our values to the next .  Could it be possible that this is, at least in part, our  fault?

To think through this question, I’d first want to determine what bothered me so much about my students’ reaction.  In processing this story for several years, I’ve come to the conclusion that what disturbed me was the students’ obvious attitude of entitlement.  I think there were most likely two contributing factors to this attitude.  The first is that the kids most likely took their college education for granted.  In generations past, going to college was a privilege.  Now it is something that is expected.  The second factor is that I doubt the children fully understood what it would cost their parents to pay for their college education.  Sure, it may cost some parents less than others, depending on their life’s circumstances, but the fact remains that it would cost every parent something.

As I type the previous paragraph, I realize that it is not only the students living in the land of entitlement, but I confess I live there as well.  It might be where you find yourself too.  Entitlement wasn’t pretty on those students, and it isn’t pretty on me or you.  Entitlement is disgusting and much like a tornado, leaves a pathway of silent destruction in its wake.

Why do I struggle with this entitlement?  Why do you?  Why does our whole American culture?  Entitlement is bred in a life of comfort and ease.  If you’re reading this, you are most likely an American, and will probably agree that our nation has enjoyed riches unparalleled.  You would probably never call yourself rich because, without fail, we all know someone who has a larger income than we do.  We’d call them rich, not us.  But you are.  I am.  We are.  The National Retail Federation estimates that last year Americans spent $350 million dollars on Halloween costumes…for our pets.  So we can all agree now, right?  I fuss when my Diet Coke isn’t cold enough.  I buy two bottles of shampoo so I can leave one in each bathroom…because walking back and forth would be too much trouble.  (What?!)  It’s not hard to see we live lives of comfort and ease.

This comfort and ease isn’t bad in and of itself.  The problem is that this type of lifestyle can quickly leads us to feel entitled.  We feel entitled to have a house, and not just any old house.  (Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, please!)  We feel entitled to have the latest style in clothing.  We feel entitled to do what we want with our bodies, when we want.  We even feel entitled to the next breath of air.  Like the high school students expected their college education, we expect certain things out of life.  Actually, we expect a lot of things, and without them we find it hard to be happy.

More importantly, when we go through life entitled, we find it hard to worship our God and creator, even if we claim to know Him.  You see, we no longer think of him as our savior.  No, WE are now are own saviors.  We can save ourselves.  That’s the American dream, right?  Pull yourself up by your boot straps, work hard enough, and make it happen…for yourself.  We have insurance for our insurance because we are self-reliant.  We do not have need of God.  We forget exactly WHO He is, and WHO we are.

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.”  Romans 1:21

In Revelations, John is writing the words of God to several different churches, each with its own accomplishments and struggles.  In Revelation 2:9, God tells the church in Smyrna that,

“I know your afflictions and poverty – yet you are rich!”  

In contrast, while speaking to the church in Laodicea, God says,

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” Revelations 3:15-18

Much like us today, the church in Laodicea enjoyed immense riches, along with prestigious medical advancement and a strong clothing industry.  These church people that God is talking to, had everything they needed.  Although they said they were God’s people, it was obvious from their lukewarm lives that they were not.

What will it take to move us out of this stagnant, entitled, complacency, where there is no life to be found?  Will our church have to be persecuted like the Chinese church, in order to realize our immense need for God and experience new life?  Will we have to endure personal hardships that make us realize just how human and frail we are, and therefore cry out to the almighty God?  Or will we choose in this moment to humble ourselves and ask God to forgive us and help us change.

He can, and He will.  He wants nothing more than for us to realize just how much you cost Him.  How much I cost Him.  I believe if those students had realized the second or third jobs their parents would have to work to pay their way through school, it would’ve changed their thoughts and actions.  God wants us to realize how much it cost Him to pay the price for our sin, not to be vindicated, but to invoke change in us.  Once we realize the depth of our sin, we realize the depth of His love.  We cannot help but be filled with gratitude because God gave the life of his son to save ours.

Gratitude is the enemy of entitlement.

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.  Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:19-20

Dear Caffeine Addict,

coffeecups

Which is it for you?  Soda?  Coffee?  Energy drinks?  Organic, all-natural, energy-increasing vitamins?

Mine is soda.  As a first year teacher many years ago, I remember going through cases and cases of diet Mt. Dew.  In fact I’m not sure why I didn’t turn into a lovely shade of yellowish-green?  In all seriousness, I drank because I had a problem.  I was a workaholic.  More caffeine = more work.

I have come a long way in my relationship with work by God’s grace, but I will probably always be tempted to overwork.  Ironically enough, I struggled with this the most when I worked for the church.  In my case, I think I overworked because of how much I loved my job.  This was work that I was (and still am) deeply passionate about.  This was work where I got to see God’s “kingdom come” daily.  Please don’t mishear me – no one required me to overwork.  In fact, several people in leadership often encouraged me to take time off when needed.  The fault was all mine.  I wouldn’t have admitted it then, but I see now how I thought it all depended on me, therefore I couldn’t put the work down.

It’s not hard to see that this is a common struggle in our culture, especially among church pastors & staff, teachers, and non-profit workers.  There are so many scary stories about people that overworked and paid dearly for it, whether through health issues, broken relationships, or eventually watching even their passion for their job be swallowed by exhaustion.

The temptation then is to declare work evil, and refuse to have anything to do with it.  The problem with that is that the Bible actually says work is good.  In Genesis 2:15 it says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” This was before sin had entered the picture.  There was no curse yet.  God and people were in a beautiful, unbroken, and intimate relationship.  Yet, there was work.  Tim Keller says that the problem isn’t the presence of work, but the absence of rest.  

So what does the Bible says about rest?  The idea of a Sabbath day, or a day of rest, isn’t a response to our busy culture.  The idea of a Sabbath day has existed as long as creation has.  We might first think of the commandment to remember the Sabbath from Exodus 20:8-11.   The Bible says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” 

In that verse we see that even before Moses existed, in Genesis, God created the world and He rested.  God doesn’t need to rest, He’s God!  I wonder if He was modeling this concept for us, and showing us that rest is good. There was also a rule for the farmers in the Old Testament.  They weren’t allowed to harvest to the boundaries of their fields.  One reason for this was to put limits on their productivity.  (Limit productivity?  Horror of horrors!) Later on, in Luke 6:5 of the New Testament, Jesus says he is Lord of the Sabbath.  In this chapter, at first glance, it seems that Jesus is disregarding the Sabbath, because He isn’t keeping the Pharisees’ rules about the Sabbath.  What He is actually saying though, is that He made the Sabbath; He made the day of rest.  He is all about the restorative work of the Sabbath.  The Sabbath isn’t a rule to keep, to drive us crazy, and make us feel guilty when we cut our grass on Sunday.  God gave us the Sabbath, not as a rule to follow…but He gave it to us because He knew we needed it.

If rest is a good thing, then why don’t we do it?  Keller says there are trends in our culture today that make rest difficult.

1-Our jobs are less secure than they once were.

2- People at the top of a company used to make 20-30 times more than those below them.  Now, they make closer to 100 times more than those under them.  With a huge salary comes the expectation to work a huge amount of time.  Those at the bottom of the company may have to get an additional job or two to make ends meet, so everyone is working more hours.

3-Technology now allows us to work anywhere.  As a result we end up working everywhere.   

4- In cultures past, our value was obtained from your family.  In our present culture, our value comes from our professional success.

Each of these trends promotes subtle lies.  They tell us that we provide for ourselves, and encourage us to be self-reliant.   They tell us that if we have a large salary, a high position, a significant amount of professional success, then we are valuable.  They tell us that productivity and progress are the ultimate good to be pursued.  The Bible tells us that God and His kingdom is what we should pursue, and that God alone is our provider.

Even when we dig out those lies and replace them with God’s truths, it is still hard to rest. Judith Shulevitz says, there’s an idea that to rest is to physically stop working, but there is more to it.  While that is part of it, we are more than just physical beings.  Along with physical rest, we need SOUL rest.  Although we may stop working, our inner being is still not sure that we are okay.  We are unsure of our value or that we matter.  To allow our soul to rest we have to remind ourselves WHO God is and WHO that makes us.

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  What does that mean that his yoke is easy and his burden is light?  In John 6:29, Jesus answered the crowd who asked how to do the work God required (the kind mentioned in the previous verse).  He said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

As Keller said, it comes down to this: You can only put your ‘doing’ down if you are absolutely satisfied with your ‘doing.’  We, as flawed human beings, are going to have flawed work.  We will always feel the need to continue to work.  However, Hebrews 4 says that to be a Christ-follower means you look at your life and work the way Jesus looked at His life and work…the way God looked at His work.  God looked at His creation in Genesis and declared it was good.  You are part of that creation.  He looks at you and declares you good.  Everything that needs doing, has been done.

So…remind yourself that you are not God, that God has done all that needs doing, and that you are more than okay.  You are beloved and treasured child of God who is declared righteous, not by your work, but by Jesus’ on the cross.  

Take a faithful step towards God, and schedule some time to rest.

Letting Go (acoustic version):