Tag: commitment

The Grace-Driven Life : Overcoming a Culture of Stress

I don’t know if you have noticed, but life is filled with a lot of stress. Now more than ever. In fact, doctors report that most of the people they see have stressed related illnesses. 77% of Americans report having significant physical and psychological symptoms due to stress.

And you know what? Surprise, surprise, surveys show that the number one stressors are our jobs, money, health, and relationships. You may or may not want to add your mother-in-law to that list.

Obviously, part of the reason why we are under more stress than ever in human history is because of the pressures we experience externally. It’s harder now to make a living, raise a family, keep a job, and the list goes on and on. More people are fatigued, stressed, and discouraged in our culture than perhaps ever before.

Our American Culture of “Become Successful” 

But I believe there is a much deeper factor as to why we are so stressed out as a culture. The stress level in our lives comes from the foundation from which we are living, especially in America. For so long we have been taught that the foundation we need to have for our lives is to “be successful” “make something out of our lives” “achieve the impossible” “live the American dream” “Do more and become more than everybody else.”  It’s a foundation of doing, doing, doing. The motto for life that we have been taught to live is, “Become successful.”

So what’s the result? Our lives are filled with tons of pressure to succeed, to get ahead, to keep up with the Jones’s, to measure up to everybody else, make a name for yourself, and to meet certain bench marks for what it looks like to be “successful.” Because that’s how success is defined in our culture. Whoever is doing the most, has the most busy schedule, achieves the most, has the most stuff, and is getting ahead the most is deemed “successful.”

It’s a foundation from which we are living that says, “We gotta make something out of our lives; our identities, our value, and are worth are in the balance.”

And when things are tracking, we are seen as “successful,” life seems to be moving forward, the mortgage is getting paid, we are progressing in our careers, then we feel like life is good.  But when it’s not, when things don’t come together, when one of the 5,000 balls we are trying juggle on the road to success falls to the ground, when we miss the mark, we hit hard times, the unexpected happens, all bets are off, and our foundation begins to crumble.

It’s a performance-driven foundation of becoming successful. And our modern culture is largely based on living from this kind of foundation.

But the truth is, we are paying a very heavy price, in our health, relationships, emotional lives, and in our families.

In fact, as one writer identifies, “The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the 1950s.” -Tullian Tchividian

I mean, have you been to the over-the-counter drugs section of Walmart lately?  Tons of drugs, most designed to help us cope with what? Stress

Folks we gotta sound the alarm, “Houston, we have a problem!”  This foundation is killing us, our relationships, our health, our children.

This “performance-driven” “success driven” “gotta make something out of my life” foundation from which we are living is tearing apart our lives. And quite frankly, it’s pure evil.

Our Christian Culture of “Become Spiritually Successful” 

And sadly, our modern, Christian culture of church has actually, truth be told, done much more to contribute to the problem than to help it.

In fact, if we are honest, we have simply presented people a spiritual form of the American dream, and presented that the foundation of the Christian life is to “whatever it takes, be all you can be, and do all you can do for Jesus.” It’s all about becoming “spiritually successful.”

We have taught that the essence the Christian life is your Christian life. it’s all about you becoming spiritually successful.  “Sure, God does His part, but you need to do your part, to your fullest potential and divine design” “So, get Jesus and get busy.” “All in, and sold out, that’s what it’s all about.” Spiritual success.

The problem is, first of all, that mindset is really all about “you and your Christian life” and making sure you are doing and becoming enough for Jesus. It becomes all about some “divine purpose” you are supposed to discover and some “divine potential” you are supposed to fulfill.

Yet, the truth is, with that focus and with that foundation, no matter how well intended; your service, prayers, worship, benevolence, care giving, and sacrifice become means to this ultimate end… and what’s the ultimate end… you and your Christian life. Spiritual success. As good and spiritual as what you are doing for Jesus might seem, at the end of the day, the bottom line isn’t about being a source of help and aid, but furthering your spiritual success, or the appearance thereof. That’s the truth folks, like or not.

And second of all, living from this foundation of “becoming spiritually successful” is super stressful, I mean, have you ever wondered, when is enough, enough? When have you prayed enough, worshiped enough, repented enough, gone to church enough, given enough?  How do you know when the “big” thing you are doing for the Lord is big enough. What if you don’t discern your true spiritual gift mix? What if you miss your potential? How do I know if I am in God’s perfect will, what if I miss it? Am I spiritually mature enough, how do I know? How do you even know when you have become a “fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ?

I mean seriously, the clock is ticking, what if I don’t get mature enough in time? What if I don’t figure out what my divine purpose is? And if somehow you don’t. Oh snap. Heaven forbid, the Kingdom of God, people’s salvation, the changing of the world for Christ are all in the balance on whether you discover and live for your divine purpose or not. But, no pressure!

Lipstick on a Spiritual Pig

So, our American culture and world at large teaches, the foundation for your life, “Make something out of your life, make a name for yourself, be all you can be, and do all can do” In short, “become successful.”

Our Christian culture teaches, the foundation for your life, “You and Jesus make something out of your life, be all you can be, and do all you can do for Jesus, In short, “become spiritually successful”

And let me tell you, we can put all the spiritual lipstick we want on the pig of our Christian culture,, but there really isn’t any foundational difference between our secular culture and our Christian culture.

It’s a performance driven foundation, and the Christian life has become a spiritual veil to the performance-driven life.

What’s the motto, “become spiritually successful.”

In fact, can I just tell you straight up, if you think that the essence of the Christian life is you and your Christian life, that’s what it as all about, becoming spiritually successful, not only are you missing true life, you are missing the Christian life.

Golf Magazine and Sunday Mornings in America

The other day, I was looking through Golf Magazine, and noticed that every issue is basically the same things… tips and tricks, do’s and don’ts to improve your game. Each issue is the same; new products, strategies, insights, plans, and programs to help you achieve the perfect game.

I started to wonder, why do people keep reading it? It’s basically the same thing every month.

And then I realized it’s because each week golfers go play and try out new tips, strategies and products on the golf course only to become frustrated because where some might work here and there, most don’t work and leave them frustrated that there game isn’t as good as they want it to be. So, they come back from playing their rounds during the week, mostly frustrated, but also holding out hope that maybe there is some new inspiration,  some new trick, new teaching approach, new strategy, new product they haven’t tried yet that will make things all come together and they will finally  have the perfect game. Besides, there is always some new product, some new strategy, some new program, and something to work on in your game. Or, maybe they just need the inspiration to try harder, or be more committed.

And then I got to thinking, Golf Magazine isn’t much different than what happens in 99% of churches across America. We come, we sing, and then we are given tips, tricks, and strategies for how to be a better Christian, with new books to read, strategies to try, equipment to purchase, new sources of inspiration, conferences to attend, programs to participate in, all to improve your performance on the spiritual golf-course of life. Because, remember the foundation, “become spiritually successful”

And people keep coming back, mostly frustrated because as they try all the things they are supposed to be doing and not doing they can’t seem to keep it all together and furthermore, it’s not really working. The secretly conclude inside, all these other Christians must have some kind of special blessing from God, because unlike them, they can’t seem to keep all the spiritual tricks, tips, strategies, and do’s and don’ts all together, not even close.

But yet, they hold out hope, come back seeking to be energized by perhaps a new method, a new plan, and new strategy, new inspiration, or a new product they haven’t tried yet so that finally, one day they will fulfill what they have been taught is essence and purpose of their life, to “become spiritually successful.”

And maybe you are reading this and you are thinking, there has got to be something better than this, Jesus has to have something better in mind. Cause all of this chasing of success in America, and then this Christian mindset of chasing spiritual success has burned you out, frustrated you, and made you wonder, there has got to be something more.

I am here to tell you there is, because Jesus never meant for you to live from a foundation of a “become successful” performance-driven life, not matter how spiritual it might seem.  That’s all man created, it’s called religion.

What Jesus created you for, the life he wants for you is a Grace-driven life. When we live our lives from a foundation of Grace, it changes everything.

Here are six foundation changes of living The Grace-Driven life…

Change your Foundation, Change your Life

o.o1 The Foundation of Your Purpose in Life is to Receive Grace- 

See, one of the things that stresses us out is the idea that we have to figure our and live some kind of  divine purpose for our lives that is largely based on our performance. How do I know if I am living it, and what if I don’t” What if I miss the mark, or screw it up?

The good news is that the foundation of your purpose in life is not your performance, it’s Grace.

The foundation of your purpose in life is to receive Grace, rest in Grace, and allow God to give it through you.

In many ways, your part in God’s purpose in your life is to realize you have no part, other than to receive and believe, and watch God work through you.

God’s purpose for your life is not about what you do, it’s about what you receive, and God wants you to see your purpose as to receive and rest in His Grace.

In fact, contrary to popular teachings in our Christian culture, the purpose of your life is not to glorify Jesus in the sense of what you do or become by discovering and living some kind of divine purpose specifically for your life. The truth is, in Christ, you already glorify Him! Not because of what you are doing or not doing, but Who lives in you and what He has done and continues to do in and through you.

If anything about your life pleases Him, it is your faith, not your faithfulness.

Relax, stop stressing. Your purpose, rather, is first to receive. To receive His Grace and to rest in it. Trust it, believe in it.

God wants you feasting on the Grace, mercy, and favor of Jesus and His loveliness. Resting in His Grace involves experiencing it, and letting it flow through you by His Grace working through your life into the lives of others.

In fact, God promises to be the one to enable you to will and act according to His desires. He is the one who declares that He will carry out the good work He desires to accomplish through you. That’s his job and responsibility, not yours.

For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.-Philippians 2:13

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. -Philippians 1:6

Our part is to rest in the Grace we have received, and the Grace working through us to lead, prompt, and enable His desires to be accomplished through us.

This is an effortless, stressless process that is void of striving, pushing, or seeking to make things happen in and through our lives. In fact, the more we try to force it, author it, or render it, the less God’s Grace flows through us. When we work (strive, try, push, or force things in life) God rests, when we rest (allow His Grace to prompt, enable, and flow through us) God works. God says, “Fine, you want to control things, worry about things, force things, strive and try to make things happen, you want to live your life becoming successful, go ahead, I’ll be resting right over here while you do.” But when we rest, when we say, “God, you are in control, I trust that you are working, that you are the author and perfecter, that you will carry out the good work, that I am already complete, whole, sanctified and successful in you” God works and His power is released in and through our lives.

See, you don’t make something out of your life, Jesus has already made your life successful and whole by giving you His life.  You don’t have to make anything more of your life (because you can’t). Your job is to rest in and enjoy what God has and is making of you (because only He can). The foundation of your purpose is to receive Grace, rest in Grace, and give Grace.  

o.o2 The Foundation of Your progress in Life is to Grow in Grace

And see, this is where the Christian life can become so stressful and frustrating. Because for so long we have been taught that spiritual growth is about us, it comes through our spiritual efforts, and trying, and striving, all to become somebody in the future we aren’t now. And so what do we do? We try praying more, going to church more, do more good things and less bad things, giving more, serving more, all in effort to grow spiritually. Sure, we would say God helps us, but we have to get busy if we are going become “mature in Christ.”

The good news is this, the foundation of your progress as a Christian is in growing in Grace. It’s in you becoming more of who you already are. It’s not about becoming something you are not through spiritual improvement, it’s about becoming more of who you already are in Christ, through faith. It’s a journey of faith, believing in who you are in Christ, and letting your actions catch up to your identity.

And folks, this is a revolutionary, foundational change.

Because here again, this is an effortless, stress-less process. The harder you apply your own efforts to grow, the more you block the Spirit from growing you through His Grace. You’re turning to your own performance for your growth instead of believing in the performance of Jesus Christ.

Here is a revolutionary truth that will change your life. Get ready, here it is.  The work on your life is finished. There is nothing left to work on in your life. Stop trying to improve and work on what God has already finished.

When Jesus said on  the cross, “It is finished” He meant it. You have already been made holy, sanctified, given every spiritual blessing. You are already the righteousness of Christ, completely forgiven. It’s your faith that releases that into your actions and attitudes, not your efforts.

The Christian life isn’t about becoming something that you aren’t, it’s about your actions and attitudes catching up with your true identity. Paul in the Bible said it this way… we are to live up to what we have already attained.

We pray, we serve, we study, we worship not out of some effort to grow or to participate with God in becoming something we aren’t. We pray, study, worship, and serve, out of who we already are, complete, whole, sanctified in Christ.

Foundation of your spiritual progress in life is growing in Grace, becoming more of who you already are.

o.o3 The Foundation of Your influence in Life is to Be Grace.

We all want to change the world. We want to have influence. We all want to make a difference.

But what stresses us out and gets us in a never-ending mode of striving and trying is the foundation of our influence. Because for some many people, the foundation of our influence with people and the world becomes on how much we do and accomplish in life, that’s a super stressful thing.

Here again, when have you done enough, when have you accomplished enough? How many salvations, how many changed lives, how many good deeds, how many mission trips do you need on your spiritual belt buckle before you really qualify as a world-changer for Jesus?

We all want to change the world, be faithful, but what’s the foundation for that?

What God wants us to realize is that the foundation for having influence isn’t how much we do, but who we are in Christ. We are the change.

Grace is not a theology, doctrine, or fad. Grace is a person, Jesus. And the truth is, Jesus goes as us into the world. You are the change, you are Grace.

You know, people pray for revival, “God revive our nation, God revive our community, God revive our church.”  And then we think if we just pray longer, harder, get more passionate in worship, confess our sins, do more spiritual gymnastics, repent and all our stuff, God will bring revival. We just need to wrench it out of God’s hands through our more impassioned performance.

But the truth, you are the revival, God has already done the revival, and it’s you.

You are the revival that can influence the world. And it’s not wrapped up in what you do, it’s all on the foundation of who you are.

You are Grace in this world, because Grace is a person, Jesus. You are the big thing God has done and is doing in this world.

So just be the change, you are the change, and just by you doing life, you are going to change the world.

Grace is what changes the world, and in Christ, you are Grace.

o.o4 The Foundation of His will for Your Life is for you to Trust His Grace to Guide you.

I can’t tell you how many people, especially Christians are stressed out trying to figure out, is this God’s will for me, is this God’s perfect will for me, did I marry the right person, take the right job, buy the right car, how do I know, what if I don’t get it right, what if I make a mistake?

We make the whole foundation of God’s will for our life on not only what we are doing, but whether or not we are discerning the right things, the perfect thing, the exact thing.

And I am here today to tell you, you want to know what God’s will is?  Here it is… drum roll please. Do you what you want to do, do what you love, as long as it honors God, do it. That’s God’s will.

Trust that the Holy Spirit is going prompt you and lead you. Just let it happen, do what you want.

God is into you, He is into your life, He into what you are into.

God’s Grace wants you to enjoy your life and do what you love to do.

I mean, worse case scenario, no matter what you choose, God’s Grace is with you, He’s going to be with you, He is going to be your biggest fan, supporter and cheerleader in what you are doing. And He is going to use you, not matter what you do.

Stop stressing. Stop making this all about you.

God’s will for you is bigger than your discernment of some specific, exclusive perfect thing God may or may not desire.

In fact, it’s God’s responsibility to make His will known to you and see that it is carried out through you. That’s what Grace does.

Trust His Grace, live from that Grace to lead, prompt, and show you what to do.

Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Trust God to show it to you and even push you through it.

o.o5 The Foundation of Your contribution in Life is to give from Grace.

The Bible shows that God has Graced us with specific gifts and abilities.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. Romans 12:6a.

And we all want to contribute, to give, to experience the fulfillment of blessing others.

But so many people live their lives trying to be something that they aren’t, you know how stressful and difficult that is?

For example, God has not Graced me with the gifts to be a basketball player or a pole dancer. Ok, maybe I have a little pole dancer in me. But for sure, not basketball.  I don’t even have the desire, nor the gifts to do that. How frustrating and hard would that be for me to try to force and make that happen in my life because somewhere along the way I got this twisted idea that I need to or should do so.

God accepts you for who you are, the question is, do you accept you? Is His Grace sufficient for you. Are the things God has graced you with good enough for you?

So stop trying to be someone you are not. If God created you to be you and you aren’t willing to be you, than you are going to miss out on what God graced you with and so will many other people.    

o.o6 The Foundation of Your Posture in life is to Rest in Grace.

Relax, trust in God’s Grace.

Paul in the Bible says…   Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest. Hebrews 4:11a

If there is anything to be stressed about, it’s in making sure you stay living from a posture of rest. Why, because it’s the best way to live.

Doesn’t mean that you won’t have to work hard in your profession, have responsibilities, and have to put forth effort in your life. Rest isn’t laziness, irresponsibility, or complacency.  Yet, you don’t have to have a posture of stress, worry, performance, and striving in order to get the things in life that need to be done accomplished.

In fact, when we work, God’s rest, when we rest, God works.

God says,”If you want to be in control, force things, make things happen, chase success, and stress, I’ll be right over here resting while you do.” But when we say, “God, I trust you, you are in control, you will carry out the good work in me, you are faithful to will and act in me according to your purposes, you are the author and perfecter, I trust you to prompt me, lead me, you make all things work together for my good.” God works, His power is released into our lives and living.

In fact, notice the areas where you are the most blessed in your life, where things are flowing and clicking. Those are the areas where you rest the most and stress the least, aren’t they ? Yet, notice the areas that are strenuous, worrisome, lacking, uphill and covered with struggle. Those are the areas where you rest the least and stress the most, aren’t they?

Choose to change your foundations. You are already successful, spiritually and in every other way. You can do nothing to add or take away from your success. Jesus has qualified you for it, He has made you successful.

Now, go and enjoy your life. Live it, with Grace under your feet.

Choose the Grace driven life… where your purpose is to receive Grace, your progress is to grow in Grace, your influence is to be Grace, God’s will is to trust His Grace to guide you, your contribution is to give from Grace, and your posture in life is to rest in Grace.

Jesus came that you may have life, this is life, the Grace-driven life.

Developing Close Relationships

There is obviously bucket loads of things that can be said about the nuances of developing close relationships.  Most people want close relationships, but realize that it is an endeavor that can be easier said than done.  Here are some things that are helping me along my journey of learning to love the Master and master His love as I seek to develop close relationships.

Don’t have unhealthy expectations:  We should never turn to a human being to meet needs in us that only God can.  When we place that kind of pressure on our relationships, we sabotage the very thing we desire to build… close relationships.  No person can complete you, make you happy, heal your soul, nor be your sole strength and security. Leaning on others for how we should feel about ourselves is a classic example of where we turn to people to meet needs that only God can and should.  For certain, close relationships involve the blessings of giving and receiving  as we carry each others burdens and do life together. But understanding the limits of what we should expect and what we can experience in our earthly relationships, and turning to our relationship with Christ  first and foremost for our core needs is critical.  This enables us, ironically, to be free to love and be loved by another. We don’t try to fix nor be fixed, change, nor be changed, rescue, nor be rescued, complete, nor be completed by another. Rather, we can truly love and receive love.  Healthy expectations increase the potential for close relationships.

Discern to Develop: I find it interesting that Jesus had only a handful of people He developed close relationships with.  He was friendly and caring to the masses, but only had a handful of close relationships.  These relationships took time and investment. We see with Jesus that the essential ingredients of close relationships such as trust, honesty, and honor were developed over time, much of it spent together.  Peter, James, and John were among those whom Jesus drew close to Himself.  Were any of them perfect? No, hardly.  Yet we see in Jesus and the counsel of God’s Word, the value of being discerning of those whom we draw closely and to do so over time.

As an example from my own life, I have found 5 commonalities in the awesome people whom I have close relationships with.  I share these with you not to foster a “what’s in it for me” attitude toward developing close relationships. But rather to show the kind of mutually given dynamics that create an atmosphere where close relationships can develop. It’s in giving that we receive.

1) They are careful with my heart: I see in these people the presence of having my best interest at heart. It is truly humbling. They want to see me succeed and care about my well being. When I rejoice, they rejoice, when I mourn, they mourn with me.  They do not take advantage, use, manipulate, or disregard. They are not driven by agenda nor see me or our relationship as disposable or transitional.  They are not malicious, abrasive, nor shady, but rather humble, gentle, and encouraging.

2) They are open and honest: I see in the people a care about keeping things within the relationship well communicated and resolved. What a deep blessing this is. They assume the best and clear up the unknown. The speak the truth in love and avoid concealing issues in the shadows. They are people who assume the best and are willing to lovingly confront with the worst. They are real people, with real emotions, real faith, real flaws, and real lives. They are direct people who value good conversations where truth and truthfulness can flourish.

3) They freely invest their time and energy into the relationship:  I see in these people an undeserved joy in being with me and a sharing of many of my values. This is indeed gold for the soul.  I have found that the people I am closest with I spend the most time communicating with. These are people I don’t have to try to pull into my life and get them to take an interest in me, nor keep it. Their energy for me and our relationship is self-fueled.

4) They honor and respect the vision God has for my life: I see in these people the reality that though we may have our differences, they value what God is doing in my life and want to encourage and support what God is doing.  How good it is to have spiritual support and encouragement. The people closest to me have a thriving, growing relationship with Jesus and value His presence in our relationship.

5) They stay by my side:  I see in these people a knowledge of my strengths and my weaknesses, my failures and my successes, and yet they still desire to remain an intimate  part of my life. What a gift from above.  For them, the relationship goes beyond what they can do, gain, or accomplish with me or from me, but rather is anchored on the deep value they have placed on simply being together in life; emotionally, physically, and spiritually. These are loyal people, even when I am wrong or faltering. Their interest in me and my life remains in all seasons. They are gracious and forgiving, with an earned mutual trust that our deepest desire is to see God work in each others lives and to encourage and protect that, along with the relationship God has given us.

It suspect it would be rather difficult to develop a close relationship without the 5 things I mentioned above. If you have the sense that a person just isn’t willing to bring one of these 5 things to the table, they may not be a person where drawing close will be met with wholeness. Yet, even more importantly, in creating an relational atmosphere where closeness can develop, it is just as vital (if not more) to give these 5 things as it is to receive them. Do not expect to receive what you are not willing to give. Just as you would do well to look for these 5 aspects within the relationships you seek to draw close, you would do all the more benefit to make sure you are willing and able to give in these areas.

Pour Out Your Life  There are always risks involved with relationships. At first, when you are developing closeness with a person, the risks seems to increase. In truth, it actually does. Yet, once closeness is tested and established overtime, the greater risk  becomes not making the most of the relationship through your investment.  With the people who are closest to me, I feel little risk because I know those relationships are secure. It is indeed a mistake to pour yourself out too soon into a relationship, closeness can’t be rushed nor fabricated. Yet, it is equally a mistake not to pour yourself out to relationships that desire it and will steward it.

God calls us by His example to be the one to initiate this pouring out of our lives into people.  We love because God first loved us. Will it always be returned, received, or respected? No. But all the times it is abused, rejected, and disrespected are worth the sacred times when it takes root and grows into a lifeline of intimacy and togetherness imaged by the Trinity itself.   Does God want us to be careful with our lives and the sharing of such? Yes, absolutely. However, pouring you life out into people is never a waste for you. Love is it’s own reward. It can only be wasted by others.

Don’t expect to get a relational return without a relational investment. On the right soil, love gives birth to love, trust gives birth to trust, and pouring out gives birth to mutual blessing. Don’t focus on dry ground encounters, rekindle your hope for a harvest. Pour out your life.

 

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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