Month: January 2013

Learning to Rest

People who know me easily can describe me as a type “a”, hard working, go getter. I like to stay busy, tackle challenges, and get things done.  Recently, however, I have been learning how to rest. I have become more interested in effectiveness than mere activity in my life. In the Kingdom of God, activity does not necessarily equal accomplishment.

See, God works when we rest and rests when we work. No, we aren’t talking about laziness or irresponsibility.  In fact, when you learn to truly rest, you will see plenty of things to act on. Rather, we are talking about foundations from which we can become aligned with God’s movement. “Rest” is the foundation from which God works in and through your life.  “Work” is the foundation from which God rests from working in and through your life. In many ways, it really is that simple.

Many Christians make “faithfulness” and idol and their efforts foundational to their sense of self and significance.  They may never say it like that nor admit to this reality, but it is true. I know so, because I was one of them. As the saying goes, “It takes one to know one.” Like I once did,  they enjoy and feel a drug-like rush enter into the veins of their soul when people praise them for how hard they work and how much they seem to accomplish. Busy-ness is their bong, puffing themselves up, literally.  What they don’t realize is how much effectiveness and sustainability is leaking out of all their efforts.

It really is true, God rests when we work, and works when we rest. We find this kingdom truth in the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible.

Luke 10:38-42  As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feetlistening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

The Marthas of our Christian culture (and world at large) love to pridefully declare that without their hard work, nothing would get done. Even to the point of suggesting that people like Mary never get anything done. They wrongly interpret that Mary’s aren’t productive, go getters, who like to make things happen. We truly are living in the age of the performance-driven Christian.

At the heart, I believe this passage is about an issue of foundation, and what Jesus is teaching is for us to live from a foundation of rest.  It’s amazing how much God can do in and through us when we rest. It’s amazing how much can’t be done in and through us until we learn to rest.

In fact, the Bible says, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  Notice the order, it is God who firsts works (initiates, prompts) and then we act.  Not, we work and then God acts.  Rest means coming in tune with God’s working. When we work, we produce a static that blocks our spiritual senses to God’s working.  We end up doing a lot of things that don’t contribute to His purposes but ours. When we rest, we become completely in sync with God’s working in and around our lives waiting for His prompting and power to act.

For example, recently I felt God’s prompting to create an online prospectus for the Church I am starting. We will be presenting our ministry to people as a kindgom opportunity to which God may be calling them to contribute financially, and a website version of our prospectus could be a useful tool.  I began designing and working on the website paying specific attention to making sure I followed God’s promptings. In fact, any moments I felt a kind of stress and “uphill-ness” strike my spirit, I would make sure to take my hands off. I wasn’t adverse to working hard, but wanted to be aware of the difference between that and “hard work.”  When you are moving in the Spirit of God, working hard is a strong possibility, but having something become “hard work” should cause us to evaluate whether or not we are in fact, “in the Spirit of God.” This is a key awareness and distinction.

Every time I felt a sense of unrest and stress to my acting to complete the website, I stopped, trusting God to be at work.  Yet, soon after I was willing to stop, I found myself being energized to move forward. Things that would and should be difficult were free flowing and smooth. I finished it without stress nor fatigue in a short time.

What was most enlightening was when afterward I received a comment from a person who reviewed the online prospectus I created. His comment suggested that based on what was accomplished it seemed like I must have had to work extremely hard on it.  For sure, the website is thorough, involved, and created with excellence, but it was God who was at work to enable me to will and act according to His plan. There was nothing really extreme about anything that came from me towards the creation of the site.

It really is true, when we rest, God works. When we work, God rests.

Here are a few practical things that rest may mean for you…

Rest means…

1) Listening to when you become stressed.  Stress is a product of our acting where God is not working.

2) Following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. If God has not put it in you to do with a tangible power to do it, it may not be from Him.

3) Moving at the speed of God-  Yes, you can get ahead of God and behind God.  Never act where God has pulled the power plug out or put on the brakes, and never not act where God has given you the power and the “pressing” to do so.

4) Listening when things become “uphill”-  There is a key difference between working hard and hard working.  Be willing to work hard but be skeptical of hard working.

 

Looking forward to your thoughts.

 

 

The Secret Behind Your Inner Struggles

For many years, I lived a life where I was ruled by insecurity, worry, guilt, and failure. I was pouring a lot of effort into trying to be a better person, but with no real success.  Many inner (and outer) aspects of my life were a struggle at some level or another.  My thought life and self-talk were overly negative, my faith was riddled with doubts, and my character was lacking and cracking.

I am sure there were contributing factors, including a difficult childhood. Yet, the bottom line was, like many people, I became ruled by my inner struggles to the point they were allowed the power to define much of my life. Even worse, I didn’t realize the effect this was having… spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  I suspect a lot of people currently walk around like I did, where the outside might look all put together, but the inside… not so much.

When I was a boy, part of my chores during the summertime was to pick the prickle weeds from our 2 acre lawn. This task would take hours each weekend as the prickle weeds quickly grew back during the week.  One Saturday morning, my dad gently pulled me aside and instructed me to adjust my strategy and pick the prickle weeds out by their root, instead of justing cutting off what appeared on the surface. He suggested in a whisper, “This will keep you from having to do this every weekend because they won’t grow back”  He was right, taking a little more time to pick them from the root saved me a lot of time later.

We all have weeds in the lawn of our inner lives… pain, guilt, insecurity, failures, inadequacies, worry, fear, secrets, doubts etc.  Each and every day we spend hours of mental and emotionally energy trying to keep these weeds from showing up as we attempt to trim the surface of our lives. Yet, the same struggles keep growing back, hour after hour, day after day, week after week. Why? Because we never get to the root.

And yet, our heavenly father gently pulls us aside and says, “If you like, I can show you the root of your inner struggles and how they can be healed.”

Condemnation is the Root of your Struggles  

The deepest and most subtle card Satan can play to steal, kill, and destroy from your life is condemnation. Condemnation seeks to have you conclude that you are guilty as something or for something and that your circumstances or actions are doomed to or already determine a negative conclusion. Something is wrong with you and/or your actions that define you and/or your future as lacking in some way. Condemnation produces stress an causes us to feel like if there is any chance to move forward, we will need to perform our way out.  Yet, most of the time, condemnation cuts right to the chase and sends the message, “there is no way out, no matter what you do.”

Condemnation comes in almost limitless forms, and Satan loves to plant it in our spirits in often very subtle ways.

In fact, I am convinced that the reason why many men don’t attend church is because of Satan’s success at sowing in them a spirit of condemnation.  At home, their wives unknowingly take cues out of Satan’s play book as they send a subtle or not so subtle message that their husbands are behind spiritually and will never catch up to their expectations.  The message is quite clear no matter how it is packaged, they aren’t doing what they should be doing for their spouse, children, and family. Condemnation, condemnation, and more condemnation. Additionally, once they do come to church, they are given message after message of how their behavior doesn’t make the grade and they are failing as fathers, husbands, and men. And very likely, if they ever do finally come to church, the pastor greets them with a “Hey dude, where have you been? It’s been like years since you have been at church.”   For most men, they are insecure enough already, and Satan just loves to add on more and more messages of condemnation to cage them in.

Satan loves to take what is intended as constructive correction and shape it into condemnation through an inner thought life of insecurity and shame. And the messages of condemnation are everywhere in our culture for men and women alike to absorb.  It’s the look in their eye as they size you up, the model on the cover of a magazine that you can never live up to, it’s your employer who never seems satisfied with your work, it’s the correction that leads to you to concluding that you should be ashamed and filled with guilt, it’s the joy or rewarding of another that leaves you comparing and concluding yourself as less of a person.

Condemnation is the root, and  things like insecurity, stress, disease, pride, fear, anxiety, depression, religion, legalism, anger, impulsive decisions, perfectionism, performance, a critical spirit, rules, shame, and guilt are the fruit. All of the areas of your life where you find inner struggle can be traced back to a spirit or feeling of condemnation Satan has sowed in that or some connected area of your life.

The ultimate healing in your life is when God’s Grace is applied through faith to the deepest and widest areas of condemnation in your life. Grace is the ultimate game changer!

Condemnation blocks God’s Favor

God has extravagant, endless favor for your life. His mercy and transforming power are miraculous. That’s why one of the greatest costs of condemnation is that when you believe it about yourself, segments of yourself, or your circumstances, it blocks God’s favor. Why? Because the result of condemnation is disbelief, and God’s favor will not move in your life without your faith. A person who feels condemned is not going to truly believe in the love and Grace of God for their life.  They might go to church, sing the songs, say the prayers, and go through the motions, but they don’t truly believe in the loveliness of Jesus and His complete and thorough Grace for their life. Instead, they hold onto some portion of their performance (or bad performance) in life, works, and obedience (or disobedience) for their sense of security and identity. This blocks the release of God’s favor because they are putting their faith in themselves rather in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. As you believe it, you receive it, as you receive it, you live it.

The true, comprehensive graciousness of God releases us to truly put our entire faith in Jesus, and faith releases God to move in our lives. It doesn’t take a lot of faith, but it does take faith. Condemnation is the great faith-killer, that’s why it’s Satan most priced weapon to steal, kill, and destroy in your life.

Yet, God says, “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1. The job of the Holy Spirit in the non-believer’s life is to convict (not condemn) that person of their disbelief (or wrong belief) in Jesus. The job of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life is to convince that person of their righteousness in Christ.  God’s wants people to first get the identity of His Son Jesus right through faith, and then get their own identity right as forgiven, righteous children and sons of God, also through faith.

Condemnation Poisons your Identity

In the same way, condemnation poisons your identity. Satan knows if he can get you to believe the wrong things about yourself, he can easily get you to do the wrong things in life. An obedience problem is always first an identity problem. The Bible says, “as a man thinks, so he is.”  God wants you believe that in Christ you have everything and are everything, Satan wants you to believe you are nothing and lack everything.

Condemnation is the root of all insecurity and identity distortion.

What you believe about yourself can only be cured by what you believe about God and His work in and on behalf of your life. When you see and believe in the loveliness of Jesus and His Grace for your life you will see and believe in the loveliness of you. The quality of Jesus becomes the quality of you.

In fact, the bible states that, “if you are in Christ, you are a new creation.”  You’re sins, past, present and future, have all been forgiven. You are the righteousness of Christ, with nothing “wrong” with you.  You lack nothing and have every spiritual blessing. You are a partaker of the divine nature. Greater is He that lives in you than is in the world. You are no longer defined by your performance, but by the beauty of Jesus and His finishing work on the cross.  You stand with no condemnation in your life. Guilt and same need no longer to rule your heart and actions. You are totally complete in Christ.

Satan wants to reduce or completely take away your sense of who you truly are. His greatest weapon to do so is condemnation.

 

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