Tag: stress

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.

Back to School God’s Way

As one of my friends on facebook posted, “Where has the summer gone?”  Yup, the new school year is upon us. And, if you are like me and most parents, this is a super stressful time for the whole family.  Supplies to buy, schedules to arrange, clothes to try on, orientations to attend, doctors appointments to schedule, and then to top it off, there is a ton of “change” to manage. “Will I make new friends?” “Wow, I am not sure I am ready for them to be growing up, and so fast” “Mom, I need to have _________, if I don’t I will be a nerd, and I just might hate your guts forever”

You know the routine, and could surely fill in your own back-to-school experiences. To be sure, it’s not easy reality to manage, anxiety levels are high, stress is growing, and the reality of change is not an easy pill to swallow.  So, how can we all manage this time of the year in ways that are sync with God?

Here are a few tips on riding the back-to-school wave with Grace.

1) Stay cool.

And by that I mean, don’t let this time of the year erode your sense of peace. In times of stress, it’s easy to get into a tailspin of short tempers, stress, and anxiety, often majoring in the minors, and minoring in the majors. Try to keep you perspective and rest in the reality that God is at work and will surely guide and provide your way through this stressful time. Your attitude towards “back-to-school” will set the temperature in your family for how everyone else handles it.  If you are calm, cool, and collected, chances are that will help minimize the overall stress level for the rest of the family. Remember, you are already perfect in Christ, you don’t have to perform perfectly nor does everything have to come together perfectly. Don’t miss the forest from the trees.  Enjoy this time, even the stress of it, one day, you will be wishing you could have these days back again.

2) Keep communication lines open and active.

“Back-to-school” is an important time to go above the call of duty to make sure everyone is talking, expressing, and communicating feelings and needs. Making sure to initiate conversations among family members will be critical. Repeatedly asking questions like, “So, how are you feeling about all this?” “Hey, is there anything we are forgetting?” “So, how are you handling things?” will be valuable tools before, during, and after the “back-to-school” whirlwind. So many negative situations can be prevented or diffused from becoming a problem if communication lines are open and active.

3) Speak out your faith for the new school year.

In addition to praying together, I think it’s incredibly valuable to speak out statements of faith over the “back-to-school” experience. When you and your family speak and hear declarations of faith, it releases God to work and uplifts everyone who hears them.  Statements like, “I believe this new year is going to be full of blessings and wonderful surprises from God” “Lord, I thank you that you have gifted my children with great minds that will excel in learning this year.”Jesus, I thank you in advance for working all things out for our good and your glory, covering my children with your protection and purposes” will have a supernatural effect on the “back-to-school” atmosphere of your family.   Asking your children, “What are you believing God for this new year in school?” is a great way to get things started.

4) Don’t get over-scheduled

There is a great temptation among American families to be over-scheduled with activities. And this is the time of the year when that destructive ball gets set into motion. Your value and worth as a parent and family is not in how many activities you are doing each week. You can have an after school event or activity scheduled for every day of the week for your children and completely miss out on the true essence and experience of family at the same time.  One of the worst mistakes we can make as parents is to raise performance-driven children who base their identities on the amount and level of their extra-curricular accomplishments.  Soccer, ballet, dance, football etc. are all great things for our children, as long as they are managed well.  Nothing can be more important than to teach our children how to prioritize their lives, placing faith, family, play, rest, and school at the top of the list.  Everyone has a plan for your children’s lives. Coaches, programs, sports, etc. are all craving the unrestrained and unrestricted time and commitment of your children. And trust me, they will take it all if you let them. The question is, “Are you going to teach your children when to say “yes” and when to say “no” to all the things soliciting their time, in ways that keep the main things in life the main thing?”

So, what would you add to this list?

Faith in Tough Times

Life is tough, not by God’s design nor doing, but because we live in a broken world.  Yet, God’s grace, favor, power, and provisions are sufficient to enable us to overcome tough times through our faith in Him. In fact, it just takes a little faith correctly placed in the expanse of God to provide us a sense of peace and assurance that nothing can topple.

Now the question you may be asking is, “But how? My circumstances seem so huge and my faith so tiny.”

Here are some things that are working for me…

1) Trust in the power of faith. 

When we are met with the reality of tough circumstances, it’s easy for us to go into “I need to do something” mode. No doubt, there may be actions that are required of us to move forward through tough times, but always first from a foundation of faith.

Unfortunately, we don’t often respond to adversity from a foundation of faith, but from a foundation of doing. Think about all the “steps” you have been taught on what you need to “do” to get past tough times. Steps that are often directed at doing something about your circumstances.

The deepest question God has for you regarding your circumstances is, “What are you going to believe about them?”  Satan’s question for you regarding your circumstances is, “What are you going to do about them?”  Why? Because “doing” doesn’t please God and can actually block His work in your circumstances. Faith, however, pleases God and releases Him to work on your behalf in the face of your circumstances.

Have you ever noticed, the more you try to overcome your circumstances, the more you become entrenched in them. You become stressed, worried, panicked and restless. Yet, the more you believe beyond your circumstances, the more you overcome them, all while carrying a sense of peace, assurance, and calm. Faith takes you to a place of overcoming through your tough times that your doing could never take you. Our natural impulses tell us, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  But God teaches, “when the going gets tough, the tough rest in belief.”

2) Look past what you see.

Faith means we don’t look to our circumstances (however real they are) for our sense of what our reality truly is.  In essence, we walk by faith and not by sight. It’s not about denying an existing reality, but focusing on a deeper, truer, more important heavenly reality.  The facts don’t always tell us the truth. Could the facts be that you have just been betrayed by your spouse and your marriage is in jeopardy?  Could the facts be that you have developed diabetes? Could the facts be that you are in a difficult financial situation that seems impossible to get beyond? Yes, yes, and yes. But that is not the truth about you, your present, nor your future.

For the truth, we must set our eyes on the truth of who we are, and what are heavenly reality is. In fact, the Bible says, “As He (Jesus) is, so are we in this world”  Our earthly reality is defined by our heavenly reality, not merely by what we can see.  The facts are overshadowed by the truth.  As Jesus is in heaven, we are in this world, even when everything we see says it isn’t so. This world is not your home, nor the reality of who you are.

For example…

The facts may be…  you are divorced and lonely, or in dead end job that you hate, or struggling with an addiction, or dealing with a past of failure, guilt and shame, or suffering from a health problem.

But the truth is… in Christ (as a believer),  you are perfectly loved and lovable, adored by your Heavenly father, and capable and worthy of healthy relationships. You lack no blessing in your life, with so much to give and offer to make a difference in this world. You are secure, whole, and complete in Him. In Christ, there is nothing wrong or lacking with you. You are His son (or daughter).  You are positioned at the right hand of God seated with Christ. Every addiction, temptation, and struggle is below your feet. In Christ, there is no more condemnation over your life, no punishment, guilt, or shame. You are a new creation, the old is gone, the new is in. It is no longer your nature to sin, and sin no longer defines you nor your future. Your body is completely healthy and whole, with strength and vitality.  As He is, so are you in this world!

In fact, as you place your faith in the truth about who you are in Christ and your reality in Him, it becomes a part of the facts of your life.  Through faith, addictions are overcome, relationships restored and new ones discovered, lives riddled with guilt and shame are given freedom, sickness and diseases are healed, insecurities rendered powerless, and on and on and on!  Praise Jesus!

Belief (not doing) is the currency of heaven, it’s how your reality there becomes a reality here. All your striving, doing, and performing ironically do nothing but steal, kill and destroy your peace, rest, and provisions as they take the focus off of Jesus and place it on you.

3) Focus on Jesus

Satan uses tough times to distract our eyes off Jesus, who we are in Him, and what we have in Him. Satan wants us on a roller coaster of doing, instead of a steady course of believing. When you know you are perfectly loved by Jesus and the truth of who you are and your standing with Christ, Satan is disarmed. When you are spinning your wheels trying to muscle your way through your challenges, Satan is empowered.

Satan loves to use legitimate worries to sow seeds of unrest in your life. Why? because to rest is to believe.  To rest in His grace, control, work, and purpose for your life are hallmarks of faith.

In Psalm 23, God invites us to sit at a table in the presence of our enemies. Imagine that, in the face of your toughest times, Jesus has the nerve to say, “Come, sit down.”  “What do you mean, sit down? Don’t you see what is going on? Sitting down is the last thing I need to be doing!”

What Jesus knows is that if we don’t sit down in faith at the table and focus on Jesus instead of our circumstances, we will be overcome.  His invitation is for our protection. The realty is, in tough times, there is much less to do, but everything to believe. The table Jesus sets is filled with things to believe in… His nature, His character, His Grace, His work, His power, His forgiveness.

Focus on Jesus, He is your deepest, most true reality.  No matter what the facts are in your life, that’s the Truth! As you rest in Him, He will show you what to do or not to do.

You need only, believe!

 

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.

 

 

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