May 18, 2007

Waiting On God

One of the ways I try to be God is constant, furious activity inside and out. If my life were a car I would be a 66 GTO and I would burn the tires every time I took off and would redline the rpm (go as fast as possible!)

But God has hijacked my GTO and has driven me to a nice, quite roadside picnic area and parked. We are doing NOTHING but sitting there and He looks completely contended just to be with me. At first this drove me absolutely nuts!

I would say to myself, "I don't have time for this! There is way toooooooooo much to do!" He would look at me knowing my thoughts and place his hand on my shoulder and calm my anxious heart and thoughts. Without words He was saying, "Paul, all those things that you are hurrying about will be OK . . . just sit with me for a few minutes. Our time will satisfy you and renew your strength."

It made no sense to me (and if you are god of your life everything MUST make sense.) How could sitting still and waiting do ANYTHING? Yet I learned he was 100% correct. Here are some advantages of waiting that I have learned.

1. It reminds me that I don't have to be in CONTROL of my life and the lives of everyone else.

2. It invites me to be expectant. I am learning I don't have to plan and manage life. Instead I can wait for what God presents to me each day.

3. It allows me to put my roots of trust deep down into the life of God.

4. It protects my mind from distraction . . . I can keep my eyes continually on Jesus.

As you experiment with WAITING be patient with those around you who may not understand what you are doing. Our friends and family members have been taught a take-charge-make-it-happen attitude. So they may not grasp what you are trying to do. Look to our Father for how you should respond to them. Enjoy the easy yoke of waiting on God. Let me know what you think.

May 02, 2007

Baby Stepping to BIG

Who said spiritual growth and maturity are instant? Where did we get that idea from? All I know is that at some point I thought that after you start a relationship with Jesus you SHOULD be mature fast. It’s kind of like a young couple who births a new baby, enjoys it one day, goes to bed, then awakes the next morning to an 18 yr. old they send off to college. That type thinking is so whacked! No it is more than whacked . . . it is wrong . . . not biblical . . . inaccurate . . . CRAZY!

Again and again in the Scriptures we see growth and maturity pictured as a process that takes time. Hebrew 5:12-14 provides us with 3 images of this growth process: a baby vs. an adult, milk vs. meat, and a student vs. a teacher. 1 John 2:13 speaks of young men, fathers, and little children. We see the process of hard dirt being taken to field of 30-100 fold increase in Matthew 13. Israel progressed from Egypt to the Wilderness then to the Promised land . . . again a process.

To know Jesus is to be in process from LITTLE to BIG. There is no way to get to BIG other than “baby steps.” Each disciple of Jesus has the potential to move bit by bit into the image of Jesus (becoming BIG). Yet there is a huge barrier to anyone being encouraged to walk out their “baby steps.” The barrier is a lie that has become orthodox in our version of Christianity. The lie goes like this, “You have accepted Jesus so there is no place for sin or weakness.” WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!

Starting a relationship with actually Jesus creates problems. One problem is now you have the living Light of God residing in you exposing all the trash that once was hidden. Seeing all that sin and weakness will give you plenty of practice repenting. Another problem is you don’t know how to live as a disciple so you do what the rest of us do sin and fail . . . sin and fail . . . sin and fail.

The difference now is you can run to your Heavenly Father ever time you sin or fail and get a celebratory hug along with tons of acceptance for returning home. All you have to do with sin and failure is go home, period! You cannot add to this in any way.

After being hugged and accepted several hundred times you get stronger and you want to sin less. Amazingly sin begins to look pretty stupid compared to being in the embrace of God. With each baby step you more into union with Christ, into intimacy with the Trinity until there comes a time that you receive His love so well that it hurts when you are not marinating in it.
BUT this is a process. It is being with Jesus today, and then being with Jesus the next day. It is living in the present completely enveloped in His Presence.

So come and baby step to maturity with me. Put away the shame that screams “You should be bigger than you are!” Be the size you really are and take another step toward maturity. And after that step take another one. See how it gets easier as you go. Keep it up, you are doing real well.

Let me know what you think.

April 25, 2007

Designed to be BIG in Jesus

I’ve been reflecting on Isaiah 61:3 “For the Lord has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.” He pictures God’s people as a grove of “oak trees.” Why didn’t he say “squash plants” or “mesquite trees”?

My first thought is squash plants and mesquite tress are small and neither provides an accurate picture of our massive potential in Christ. Now this idea of BIGNESS is concerning because all of my evangelical life I have been proud of being small because God is the only one who can be BIG. So I have worked hard at developing a “small mentality” about all things. I have concluded that somehow I am more spiritual if I am small.

Yet just a cursory read through the Bible awakens me to followers of God that are really BIG. I think of people like Moses, Joseph, Esther, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Deborah, etc. Somehow I have gotten it all wrong . . . all backwards. I am designed to be BIG and this bigness is to glorify my Father in heaven. WOW, now that’s a new thought.

Let me offer you a few thoughts about how to identify someone who is NOT BIG.

Someone is not BIG when . . .
- he or she must impress you with his/her bigness.
- he or she is more concerned about being big than being close to God.
- he or she can’t affirm the bigness of others.
- he or she uses power to manipulate and/or control others.
- he or she can’t ask for help.
- he or she can’t receive correction.

I want to BIG and BENEVOLENT like Jesus not a self-centered, power-broker with narcissistic tendencies. Let me know your thoughts about this idea of being BIG.


April 11, 2007

Resting the Mind

Am I the only one with a “racing mind”? Do you know what I mean? It’s like the mind on speed. Thoughts enter uninvited at ight speed colliding with others thoughts. I desperately attempt to grab and hang onto one of them and then am quickly bombarded by fifty-hundred- millions (that’s a BUNCH) others. It is too much for the ole’ brain.

I notice that thoughts with a high threat valence really grab my mind. Thoughts like not making enough money, not succeeding, not being a good dad or husband, or not having enough money when I retire, all ravage the mind’s ability to focus.

I feel like Elijah in 1 Kings 18 where he is threatened by Jezeebel and heads for the hills in a panic. Once out of danger’s path he is exhausted and wants to die. A threatened-racing mind tends to think in extremes – relief is only possible by dying (so Elijah concludes).

In contrast to the “racing mind” is Isaiah’s “resting mind.” Look at what Isaiah said about arresting the racing mind.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3

The “resting mind” is fixed on God. Easy to say, RIGHT! Yet what a quantum leap from the reality I live in. Yet I know God is giving me something that will break me out of the prison of the “racing mind.” And that key is to “look to God.” And I assume that means looking away from me.

It seems that looking to me is what heightened the threat valence that then fires up thousands of latent racing thoughts and before I know it chaos reigns over my mind rather than Christ bringing rest to my mind.

Here are some things I am experimenting with the move from a racing to a resting mind.

1. I ask our Loving Father to give me the faith to believe Isa. 26:3. I do not try to generate faith on my own. Instead I cry out for Him to “increase my faith.

2. Next I begin the day with a bit of quietness and stillness that is intended to introduce my mind to rest before the day cranks up good and runs all over me. This may be just 5-10 minutes where I turn all of me toward God and surrender all of me I can to Him.

3. Lastly I’m intentionally turning my mind BACK to God all day. I don’t have the maturity to keep God in my mind all the time but I can keep turning my back to Him. Ps. 25 says, “My eyes are continually on the Lord . . .”. I fulfill this by repeatedly, consistently bringing God before my mind and praying simply, “Lead me Lord . . . guide me . . . teach me.”

Let me know what you think about these ideas.

April 06, 2007

"Hearing God"

"The sheep hear his (Jesus') voice." John 10:4

I am designed to hear God when He speaks to me. So how do I keep myself from hearing my Good Shepherd?

1. Toooooooooooooo Busy. In the past I tried to go Mach IV speed in a camel body and crashed the snot out of myself . . . no FUN (much less getting snot on everything!). I absolutely cannot have an intimate conversation with anyone if I'm going 100 mph. It can't be done! Yet all I know is one speed -- SUPER FAST! But SUPER FAST becomes a barrier to hearing the gentle voice of the Good Shepherd.

Countering Busyness. Here are some ideas to help slow the pace of life. Try scheduling time for a quiet walk or drive in the week. Don't have an agenda for the time. Just be present with God and yourself. Continue looking to God through out the time. Just watch for Him to speak or hug you. The first time you try this allow 15-30 minutes. Read Luke 10:38-42. Jot down the contrasts Jesus makes between Mary and Martha. Who are you the most like? What can you do to consistently sit at Jesus' feet?

Schedule periods of time to be with God without specific activities (Bible reading, intercessory prayer, etc.). Just sit with Him and be near Him. For most of us this is a bit new and strange. Like Dallas Willard says, "We need to be WITH Him to learn to be LIKE Him." Experiment with this making adjustments as needed.

Fast one week from one or two BUSYNESS activities. Try it for one week and see what happens. We must learn to create space for God.

2. I Talk Toooooooooooo Much! Yes, you heard me right! I hinder myself from hearing God because I am ALWAYS talking to me. I can get myself to be quiet on the outside long before I am quiet on the inside. I seem to be a chatter box inside. That really is one of my problems. I only listen to me and boy does it get me in trouble.

Countering Talkativeness. I offer you a few thoughts.

As you are with God notice how much you are dialoging with you. You don't have to correct it at first. Just notice all the talking you are doing and ask God to help you. Turn away from you to Him.

Picture a door in you mind. Open the door and see God standing there. Invite Him into your home and watch Him sit down across from you. Now wait for Him to say something. Just be attentive to Him . . . waiting and watching. His presence will satisfy you in wondrous ways.

Busyness and talkativeness are hindrances to hearing God. Give these practices a try and tell me what you think?