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“Commit your works to the Lord,
And your thoughts will be established.”
This verse struck a chord with me Sunday. Lately (and throughout my life), I have asked God to reveal to me what I should be doing, or to give me ideas on how I can serve Him. A lot of times I feel lost on how I can use my abilities in ways to support projects that I care about.
If I were being completely honest, there are already opportunities for me to use my abilities to serve Jesus, but they just aren’t the opportunities that I want to take part in. Whether it’s pride, fright, or plain ole laziness, I let these chances go, all the while wondering why God isn’t revealing how I can serve Him in what I’m passionate about.
This brings to mind the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). The King gives his servants an amount of money to use based on their abilities. Two of the servants used the money wisely and were rewarded. The King says to each, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.” Unfortunately, I’m more like the third servant who squanders his chance, and the truth of this parable is that I am losing other opportunities to serve, maybe even in the projects that I care about.
God wants our commitment, not just our ideas. Without action, ideas tend to puff up and make us feel good about ourselves, like we are doing something, when we’re not doing anything at all. While our intentions may be good, God isn’t going to reward us with ideas on how to serve Him in big ways if we aren’t being faithful in the tasks He’s already given us. We’ve got the cart before the horse so to speak. God, though, has promised that if we commit our works to Him, He will establish our thoughts. He rewards our faithfulness and will establish our plans in ways we could never have imagined.
If art can inspire acts of good, it can also inspire evil and violence. To assume otherwise is both illogical and irresponsible.
The influence on a Christian’s life should flow in one direction – from Christ into the Christian’s life then into the world through all aspects of that Christian’s life. Unfortunately that life is often porous in both directions. Christ’s influence becomes muddled with the world’s. The Christian’s life then begins to send a mixed and muddied message to the world that reflects less of Christ’s influence.
I’ve seen this to be especially true when it comes to politics. Political ideologies become the primary influence while Christ and the gospel is used to support that ideology regardless of political affiliation. While this may offend some, politics has no place in the church. The body of Christ should be united under His banner and not divided along party lines. Furthermore, a Christian, especially a pastor, shouldn’t call for prayer for a politician in one breath and demean him in another. The church in America for far too long has been focused on winning political goals instead of having a single minded vision for the cause of Christ. We must lay down our political swords and pick up His Cross. That is the only message we should be carrying into the world.
Do not worry about tomorrow lest you miss the adventure that is today.
I was listening to a podcast from Ravi Zacharias today and something near the end struck a chord with me. It was nothing that I haven’t heard before, but it resonated with me in a way that it never had. I thought I might paraphrase it in a more direct manner:
“People can argue against your answers when proclaiming Christ, but live in such a way that they cannot argue against your life.”
One aspect of God that we must realize is that He is a God of planning (Jeremiah 29:11). He has plans and designs for our lives and the world. We too, being made in God’s likeness, make plans of our own. It’s part of our nature; however, here is where we generally begin to have problems. For many, we see our lives as being nice and ordered, and we see God’s plans as interference to our ordered life.
At least that is the case as long as our lives stay in the order we prescribe. When times of trouble arise, you can see a mass outreach for God, an outreach that is often short-lived as normality returns to life. God, though, doesn’t want us to turn to Him only when the world turns our life topsy-turvy. Unless we turn full control of our lives over to Him, nothing will ever be completely fixed. We’ll just find temporary patches to keep the machine running.
God wants more for us than temporary patches. He wants to turn life upside-down. You might even say that he wants to break the old machine and replace it with a new one. God did just that by breaking into the world through Jesus. In a profound act, God pierces creation and inserts His plan directly in our midst through the person of Jesus – the Son of Man, God made flesh.
God’s plan, though, started thousands of years before the incarnation of Jesus. God singled out a man, Abraham, and his descendants to be His people. God called the Israelites out of Egypt, and on Mt. Sinai, He made a covenant with them. He was calling them to be a peculiar people set apart for Him. He set down rules that would govern their society, and they were to keep these rules as part of the covenant. God implemented sacrifices that were to be made for peace and for atonement for sins.
But while the sacrifices were necessary, they were not what God wanted. He wanted righteousness, justice, and the love of His people (see Hosea 6:6, Proverbs 21:3, and Deuteronomy 6:5). Time and time again the Israelites failed to realize that God’s desire for more than their willingness to atone. He wanted their purity and the desire of their hearts.
Through Jesus, God made a definitive change to the covenant. “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28 NKJV).” Jesus instituted a new covenant. No longer would man have to continually make atonement for sins as God with His own blood made atonement. No longer could the focus be on sacrifice, for Christ made the final sacrifice. We are saved by grace through faith and not of works (Ephesians 2:8-9). In this new covenant, God has removed the requirement for us to atone allowing our attention to focus on our devotion to Him.
But, the coming to faith in Christ and the entrance of the Holy Spirit is only the beginning of the upheaval in the life of a believer. This is the new foundation of God’s plan in our lives. Now comes the arduous task of rebuilding or lives according to God’s design. Old, insufficient parts of our lives must be torn down so a more glorious structure can be built, one that is fit to house the Holy Spirit.
But even with the Spirit’s work in us, we are perfectly adept in ignoring God’s plan and continuing with our own. In the end, though, however we choose to direct our lives is mere straw and stubble compared to the materials God uses (1 Corinthians 3:11-17). When we finally realize that our plan is once again leading to a pitiful building, and we turn to the Carpenter to lead, he has to once again tear down our shoddy work and replace it with His workmanship. This is why God’s work in our lives is often so painful yet so…refreshing. Once we allow God to work in our lives, we can start to see the work of a master builder creating something beautiful out of us. Yes, it may seem that God wants to turn our world upside-down, but it only seems that way because we’re upside down to begin with. Once righted, we can see the beauty of His plan, and our continual submission will allow the work He started in us to be carried through to completion (Philippians 1:6).
We place a lot of focus on the big spiritual experiences in life, and if you’re like me, it’s easy to wonder why God isn’t using you in a mighty way to change the world for His kingdom. A lesson from Mark 14:3-9 is that we should never overlook the small things. Some who saw what the woman was doing ridiculed her and called it wasteful. Jesus, though, knew the significance of her actions, and while we don’t know the woman’s thoughts, it is clear that she had a tender love and passion for Christ.
This event echoes that of Jesus’ visit to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (Luke 10:38-42). While Martha was busy working, and seeing that Mary was not, she asked Jesus to send her to work. Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken from her.”
In our pursuit to serve, we cannot overlook devotion else our priorities are out of order. For instance, in John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love me keep my commandments.” In restoring Peter, 3 times Jesus says, “Do you love me,” before calling Peter to serve John 21:15-19.
Our service should not drive our devotion. In fact, it cannot. Service without devotion is empty. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, service without love is nothing, it profits nothing, and just creates a lot of noise (my paraphrase). Our love and passion for Christ should drive our service. Our full measure of devotion will then be in any act of service, regardless of size. Besides, if Christ can take a few loaves of bread and fish and feed thousands, or take a rag-tag band of disciples and turn them into a group of men who changed the world, He can take our ”meager” acts of love and multiply them beyond anything we can imagine.
As anyone who has bought or built a house knows, a strong foundation is essential to having a sound structure. A family is no different. In fact, the family foundation and structure is so important that God uses it to describe His relationship to us. Sometimes, though, it’s too easy to see these images as mere symbols for God’s love for us, when actually they are the ways God loves us. I’ve known of God’s love for me, but when I met Brittney, my wife, I came to know of His love in a deeply personal way that I have never experienced before. My love for her is a reflection of His love for me. I know that to truly pour my love into her, to love her in the way Paul talks about in Ephesians 5, that I must love Christ with all that I am. Only this way can I lift her up to Christ as a holy bride without blemish and love her the way she deserves to be loved.
One day when we have kids, they will look to us. The foundations that my wife and I have laid will be the foundations they begin their lives with. I pray that when they look at me, they will see the love of Christ reflected through me and come to know the passion of His love for us.