Category Archives: abiding

The Number 1 Lie About Doing "MORE" for God

Painful Lies
    On October 26th, we staged our fourth local performance of a one man show called “That Day”, about a man who receives his rewards at the judgment seat of Christ as promised in 2 Cor. 5.10. As I listened to feedback from those who witnessed the performance and read through comment cards, I was struck by the number of times I heard people say “I realized tonight that I could be doing more for God.

     It was painful lie to hear.

As “Dan Matthewson”, Aarron describes his experience
at the judgement seat of Christ in “That Day“.

     They weren’t lying – they sincerely want to do more for God. It was only painful to hear because most people have been brainwashed into thinking one of their greatest problems is that they’re not doing enough (at least in American culture). 
     The lie is: “You’re not doing enough.” The truth is, God is not the God of “enough”. God’s will for us is that we do His will for us. It’s not about doing all of the tasks on our list – it’s about doing only the things that God has ordained for us to do. The truth is often that we’re doing too much – that we’ve heaped extra things on our plate out of guilt or fear (guilty, and guilty as charged), things that are good, but not the things assigned to us in a particular season. 

What Do You Call an Underachiever?
     Most people would refer to that person as “lazy”. And, they’re probably right. But, someone who consistently does less than what is required is in violation of God’s order and commands, specifically whem it comes to the first command given in the garden – “take dominion”, but also references such as Col. 3.23. Ultimately, God calls underachieving sin.

What Do You Call an Overachiever?

     The painful truth is, God doesn’t discriminate when it comes to eternal rewards – “I desire obedience, not sacrifice”. When someone does more than what’s called for, it’s often labeled “overachiever” or “zealous”. But, can we be honest? All time is spent doing something. If we’re spending it doing something God hasn’t called us to do, we’re using time He set aside for us to do something else He ordained for us to do. What does God call an overachiever? Same thing he calls all who do iniquity: wicked, sinner.


In Their Defense
     I understood what the commenters were saying – most of the people at “That Day” had a massive epiphany while watching the show: that God is watching us, recording our every deed, word, and private thought. Even better than that, He’s not doing so to shame us, punish us, or squash us for being lowly worms. He’s promised us rewards. So, their desire to do more of the things God was calling them to do naturally increased. Good for them and glory to God.

“Right” vs. More

God wants us to “do the right thing”… all the time.
This is abiding… Not sprinting on a never
ending treadmill.

     Ultimately, God desires us to walk in obedience, “by the Spirit”, in His ways, not to the left nor to the right, obeying all of His commands and statues, because they bring life. He wants us to “do the right thing”… all the time. This is abiding. This is total surrender, total obedience. Not sprinting on a never ending treadmill.
 

     But, in a Genesis 3 world, we’re assured both that we’ll never do this perfectly and we’re not given license to stray from the path for “good reason”. There is no “good reason” for disobedience. It’s still disobedience. The litmus test for all of our actions is: “is this what God is calling me to do right now.” The pivotal matter is not that we do more, rather that we do more of the right things – not merely good things, but the things God has specifically ordained for us to do at this time.

May God teach us to use our time to do all He designed us to do, nothing more and othing less.

in Christ,

AP

The Trouble with Men

“When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?(Acts 3:12)”

Control Issues:
     I’m a bit of a control freak. I’m a guy who likes to fix things. How about you? Know someone like me?

     No excuses, but here’s some background – due to some traumatic events experienced in my childhood that led to the subsequent divorce of my parents when I was still young, I developed a coping skill called “peacemaker”. It doesn’t qualify me to negotiate a permanent ceasefire between Palestine and Israel, it just means I lean toward fixing things, tend toward wanting everyone to bury their hatchets, and in my flesh have a very hard time letting things rest when interpersonal matters aren’t quickly reconciled. Not my favorite “all about me” conversation, you know? Ever spot these places where you try to control outcomes? Read along…

     When there’s a great deal of uncertainty – financially, relationally, raising three toddlers and a prodigal teen (or, as we call it “2013”) – I, in the flesh, have spent much energy trying to manage outcomes, maintain peace, juggle other peoples’ troubles, and tie up loose ends that aren’t mine to tie up. By the grace of God, I’m in discipleship ministry, which means for I living, I’m required to pastor and counsel other men to “trust God” and “live by the Spirit”. It’s hard to tell another guy “the Bible says we need to abide in Christ and deny ourselves” and then face the fact that I just failed to do the same 2 days or even 20 minutes ago. It’s a great set of checks and balances God has “installed” in my life to stop me in my tracks when I’m trying to manage outcomes. Praise God.

     Last week, my bride and I got more than a little “sideways” with each other. It was a tense 48 hours where I know, have counseled other men, and have been counseled myself to leave her alone to “let her process what’s eating” her rather than suit up in my Home Depot apron and try to fix her every problem… Most guys naturally lean away from grace and into performance in this situation anyway. How about you?

     Instead of taking advantage of multiple opportunities to give her some space, I got “manly” and repeatedly poked my head in and see how she was doing and offer up some unsolicited advice… Bad idea. Especially if you don’t like getting your fingers bitten. Worse if you’re poking a turtle and thinking you’ll get it to come out of its shell sooner. At one point, I finally obeyed God and sat down to dig through the Word for some peace and counsel.

Thus Sayeth the Lord?
     “Acts 3”. I heard the Lord prompting me there. Knowing that chapter pretty well, I resisted thinking – “that’s about Peter and John and boldly sharing your faith despite the consequences… That has nothing to do with what I’m going through right now.” Certain I had rebuked the voice of Satan, I reluctantly read the story of how the two disciples had come across a crippled guy begging for money. Instead of cash, they gave him a miracle, which landed them in the pokey overnight.


     But, this time, the story was a little different. When you spend more energy than God has called you to spend fixing up broken relationships, juggling other peoples’ problems for them, and tying up loose ends that aren’t yours to tie, you begin to take a lot of credit for any coincidentally peaceful outcomes. You begin to think you made the crippled beggar walk.


     Yet God, who is rich in mercy, was kind enough to remind me that the peace we’d been experiencing in our home, our ministry, and our marriage up to that point was not because by my “power of godliness [I’d] made this man [relationship/family/business/department] walk”. Listening to God when He leads you to scripture is vital. 

Back to the Right Path
     My pride could only stand in the way of the truth for so long. I confessed to Cristine that I had to just “let her go” and trust that God would bring her back around on His timing. I had said things to her earlier in anger and fear that a husband should never say to his wife. I was sure that the kind of retaliatory damage I’d inflicted would take at least 48 hours to process and there was a good chance she wouldn’t talk to me for a large chunk of that time.


     Yet, less than 48 minutes later, having surrendered her over to God, our crippled relationship was walking, dancing, and fully healed – without any help from Mr. Home Depot!

     Today, I urge you, beg you, exhort you – seek the Lord in this matter. Ask Him where you’re taking too much credit for those relationships, accomplishments, etc. around you that are working. Repent and hand them back to His more than capable hands. If they walk again, it is for His glory. If they stay crippled – it is for His glory, too, but you will grow in your dependence on Him. I want you to know the same awesome gratitude I had when God turned this around for me. But, it can only come by His power and in His mighty name.

Abiding with you,

AP

4 Math Mistakes Your Faith Must Avoid

The Love/Hate of Math:
     You either love math or you hate it, right?
 
     Most of us never pay any attention to how much math is really involved with our lives. In any decision, we’re doing math – something is more important than “>” something else. Simple math. “If these three things don’t get completed by noon, they will add up to trouble with my supervisor and impact my annual review and subsequent raise…” Complex math. If I tell Tom the whole truth about this, he’ll think x which means he’ll do y and tell Renee z and then she’ll never call me again… Relationship algebra.

     I’ve met a lot of people who say they hate math, but I don’t think I’ve met more than a handful that don’t like to make good decisions. Math is the process by which we get to any desired result through weighing priorities, predicting outcomes, hoping for the best, etc. Whether we realize it or not, we all have a certain love for math. Always calculating something, planning the next thing, dreaming, wishing, praying… Math, math, mathing away.

     Recently, I was thinking about “commit your way” and “He who called you is faithful and He will bring it to pass”…

     There’s math there. Did you spot it? It’s like what happens when we add a hundred complex numbers together but multiply them by zero: everything we did before the zero is wiped away, or impacted by the zero. In math, the zero is called a factor. In life God is the factor that impacts all of our busy work, calculating, and… mathing around.

We all run the risk of making four critical mistakes as we make our figuring:

  1. We assume we have more time, resources, talent, influence… (presuming on God)
  2. We assign too much value to the power evil instead of the power of God to accomplish His plans (fear & worry).
  3. We assign too little value to the consequences and implications of the evil inherent in a Genesis 3 world and get angry or disappointed with God when things don’t work out. (blind faith/prosperity gospel)
    3a. We rely too heavily on the result looking like our picture rather than God’s. (outcome management)
  4. We spend too much effort avoiding pain or gaining pleasure, resulting in white knuckle gripping the wheel to arrive at our destination… (walking by the flesh instead of the spirit)


     In all of these mistakes, we commit one debilitating sin: factoring out God.

Three A’s on the Next Math Test:
Authority – If God is truly sovereign, here’s the impact:
     God is painting on a canvas the size of the universe stretched across eternity and is sovereign over it all, eternally. Therefore, our perspective is vastly limited and we must constantly factor in His authority over it all: Job was keen to accept both good and bad from God’s hand, more importantly he recognized it as God’s hand. (See Job 2:10)

     However, considering that power and authority are only given for purposes of the giver and those in our authority helps us to hold on to outcomes a bit more loosely. Deciding and acting with this factor in mind can self correct our math throughout the process. In Charles Stanley’s words: “God takes full responsibility for the life fully surrendered to Him.” Minimizing or maximizing what time we do/don’t have, resources, talents, etc., ceases to be an issue, freeing us to exist in the zone of relying on God to provide resources, influence, and “sun stood still” moments (see Joshua 10:13). 

     Further, keeping God’s sovereignty front and center keeps us focused on the fact that He is our prize, He is our judge and will ultimately reward us for all we have done, regardless of temporal outcomes. See 2 Cor. 5:10. God is not limited by time, will not be defined by temporal victories/defeats, and ultimately assigns the absolute value to all things done “under the sun” whether they appear good or bad in the eyes of man.

     Consider right now the impact this has on all of our worrying, complaining, and anger and outcome management. No, I’m not going to expand on that – this is your assignment. Go, do it. 🙂

Abiding – If we are truly surrendered to Him, full time, here’s the impact:
     Remaining in God effectively means we’re safe from the lures of the sinful nature. That’s it. If we’re connected to Jesus, we’re by default not gratifying the flesh (as in #4 above). This is a crucial factor in every decision we make. A friend and mentor of mine tells me that all business will naturally reach the same conclusion as long as ego, greed, and agenda are kept out of the room. Abiding in Christ is like Febreeze for the stench of these three. God becomes less a factor and more the math itself.
 
Availability – If our plans are guided by the Spirit, here’s how the math flows:
     God presents a project or outcome and we set out for it. Circumstances as we see them change and that outcome is no longer possible. When we’re available to God (via abiding) we not only hear the “audible” that God called after the huddle, we’re able to recognize that the outcome we were chasing was not the point… the process was the point. God is not a god of events – He is our sanctifier. Thus, He is a god of processes. Being available to God’s purposes, plans, and processes vs. outcomes saves us from shame, guilt, regret, and disappointment.

Homework:
     Where are you in most danger of making these critical math mistakes? Which are your pet math mess ups?