For the past couple of years, I’ve had the honor of walking in Christ with Rory Martin – husband, father, Christ follower. Over the past month or so, he’s shared with me a seismic shift in his perception of who God is… and who he isn’t. About a week ago, Rory woke up with so much on his heart and mind, he just wrote it down as fast as his fingers could type, added my email address, and hit “send”. What he wrote was exciting to hear – a breakthrough in his walk with Jesus. We talked about it some more and with a little editing, I’m honored to present his thoughts as this week’s Monday Morning Momentum Minute… (More like 5 minutes, if you read like me.) I hope you’ll find it worth a read and equally worth a “share”. in Christ,
— Is God My Friend?
Does the lack of an immediate, resounding “yes” surprise you? I mean what about John 15:14-15?!
Yes, Jesus tells the disciples they are no longer servants, but friends. This is a big deal and I don’t want to minimize it. The short response is “it all depends on what your definition of ‘friend’ is.” But, let me explain further, so we’re really clear.
Growing up, I was taught to have a personal relationship with God. I did. But, it wasn’t the God of the Bible. Instead, it was a version of that God I’d created in my own image. I fell in love with Jesus. Not holy, holy, holy God, “Buddy, Jesus”.
Whenever I sinned, I would find this lesser, buddy god telling me “it’s okay, we’ll just keep working on this together”. My “main man” would give me a very nice comfortable pat on the back and nod of the head towards my sin.
I could not have been more wrong.
You see, there is a reason Christ refers to God throughout scriptures as Abba…or father…not “buddy”, “the dude”, “big guy”, or even “brother”. Even though as a Christian you could argue if any one person who’s been on this planet could refer to God as a peer he could. But, He didn’t. In fact, read Phil. 2.6:
“although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped…”
Why? Christ wanted to impart the parental relationship we have with our father…God is our father, we are his children. Not his buddies or peers.
If Not A Buddy, What about “Consultant”?
Remember Jiminy Cricket? “Always let your conscience be your guide!” He was that one friend who didn’t give into peer pressure, didn’t look at you with rose colored glasses, and told you right from wrong. But, Jiminy was a cricket. His advice was worth taking, but surely it had a loophole in it if you were young enough, smart enough, and fast enough to outrun danger, right? Consultants give opinions, not laws of life and death, right?
Let’s see… Imagine you’re about to do something you know is wrong. Jiminy kindly reminds you “Hey, you know this is not good”. Sounds authoritative, but doesn’t have your knees knocking in holy fear. So, you do it anyway… Now, say you are in that same situation, but your dad is standing behind you. Fear factor up a little? Now, say you’re in that same situation and Adonai – owner of everything, Jehovah – relational and intimate God, Elohim – strong creator of everything, is standing behind you. Still feeling invincible?
God is near and intimate, unlike a servant and like a friend should be (1 John 3:1, Psalm 34:18, James 4:8). God freely gives the best wisdom like an advisor and conscience should (James 1:5). God’s truth speaks with great authority to those who can discern spiritual truth (John 10:27). But, there’s something far greater – holiness and love. May I illustrate?
After a serious error in judgment, one football player lies in a heap on the field, writhing in pain. You see his fist pound the turf, PT’s are surrounding him. You can sense the complete anguish in his face. His best friend Jiminy is in the stands thinking “Wow, buckaroo, that had to hurt! It’s okay, you’ll get better and we’ll work on this first thing tomorrow morning!”
But, in a crowd of 92,000 deathly quiet fans, there is another looking on… You can hear this one fan’s heart beating like a bass drum. This fan is the only one standing, eyes fixed on the player… so much so that the 92,000 have completely disappeared. He’s defining every second of movement, totally encompassed with the situation. With every ounce of his essence he is shouting inside…”GET UP!”… Dad.
Hate the Sin and the Sinner?
God is not Jiminy Cricket. He’s not your buddy. He personally invested Himself in your pain, your mistakes, failures, your sin. Contrary to popular belief and unlike the football player’s Dad, God hates the sin, but also hates the sinner:
Psalm 5:5 – “…you [God] hate all who do iniquity.”
It is only through Christ and our adoption to sonship that we can say “God is love”, our transfer from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light that we become beloved children of God, no longer hated by the master we’ve betrayed.
Today I challenge us (you and I), before we fall in our sin to don’t think “okay, the big guy knows I’m struggling with this”…but to know that our holy, wise, near, Heavenly Father is looking at us with the most passionate love and His heart is shouting…GET UP!
Be Encouraged So, the good news is – God is holy. The bad news is we’re not. Outside of Christ, we’re dirty, awful, objects of wrath. The better news is, that’s why God sent Jesus – not to give us good advice, be our buddy, take away all our troubles, and give us comfy chairs to sit in as the Titanic leaves port. Jesus died to save us from the worst problem ever – indwelling sin, which cannot stand in the presence of a holy god. Our trust in His sacrifice grants us not only saving grace, but sustaining grace – the power to live a godly life. (Titus 2:12) His grace is not just a fact, it’s the empowering force that helps us to do the impossible: live the Christian life in a Genesis 3 world. Thanks, Rory, for listening to the voice of the Lord. Thank you, Jesus, for your amazing sacrifice. Thank you, Father, for your incredible justice and for sending Christ in the first place. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for empowering us to do all you designed us to do and become all you designed us to be so that we can bring you more glory.
First Things First: The Flock is YOUR Problem You have a flock. Did you know that? If you have a pulse it means God still has work for you to do. Matthew Henry would suggest that such work is your flock. Implication: you’re in charge of it. If something goes wrong with it, it’s your problem. Worse, by practicing poor shepherding, you’re disqualifying yourself from a larger field and/or larger flock.
The Matthew Henry Complete Commentary intimates that Proverbs 27:23-27 applies to all lawful callings “whatever our business is, within doors or without”. So, if you and I are still here, we still have a calling and God refers to that calling as our “flock”. More specifically, the sheep in our flock represent the commitments we have made and the field on which they live and feed is akin to the capacity we have to sustain these commitments. You and I have been given both a flock and a field by God and will give an account for them.
Lately, I’ve been implementing, advocating to others, and coaching people the practice or regularly “playing self-executive”, meaning two things: A. Sit down and take a regular inventory of your commitments. Count… your… sheep. Poor stewardship of the flock disqualifies us for larger and better flocks such as new opportunities, promotions, and relationships. Are there excess sheep on your field hogging resources from more important/appropriate sheep? B. Examine… your… field. There is no excuse for taking our eyes off the sheep or the field. An inventory of the flock and an honest look at the field are crucial for being found faithful as a steward. Knowing your blind spots, gifts, weaknesses, and places where your ideas and commitments can falter or flourish are crucial pieces of wisdom we’re required to have in place as managers and stewards. Why You Need a Regular Inventory of Your Flock:
Helps us weigh where we have overstepped our call. Sometimes, we commit to things out of our own strength or desire rather than as God calls and nudges us. Prayerful and regular examination of our commitments opens us up to the Holy Spirit’s advice as to whether we have taken a sheep (or many sheep) into our pasture in error/own strength.
Gives a true reckoning of how many commitments we have. When we don’t have an exhaustive list (and I recommend a written list) of our commitments (sheep), it’s easy to take on new sheep only to find we’re out of room when a wandering few we already had come back to the pasture.
Opens your eyes to the missing sheep. Ever have that “I know I’m forgetting something” feeling? It’s because a sheep has wandered out of your view. Very often, the mere process of writing and praying through my list of commitments “sets off” a reminder of a related commitment I may not have written down before.
What you can’t see is killing you. Out of sight is not out of mind. When you know something has fallen through the cracks it creates a low-level “hum” in your conscious mind that serves as a reminder that you have unfinished business. Added to the current “noise” in your head and the fact that emergencies come up, what you don’t have your eyes on can paralyze you when flexibility is required or overwhelm your mind when your heart is out of check. Scripture warns us to “guard your heart”. But, a clear head is needed to guard it.
Exposes the danger of an unsustainable flock. The field can only support so many sheep for so long. Some of us are idle and have only a few sheep when we know God is calling us to do more. Others are doing only what God has called them to do – nothing more, nothing less. This is a fruitful life. Many of us are being conformed to the pattern of the world which blurs the lines between “it should be done”, “I can do it”, and “I must do it”, resulting in a flock so large that the grass will soon be gone and the sheep will be hungry. Your field is overflocked. God doesn’t want overcrowding – there’s a reason why Jabez prayed for larger “territory” – sheep multiply under God’s sovereignty and with little coaxing.
Helps us be emotionally neutral when we have to decline. Nobody wants to tell the boss, the organization, or the client “I can’t do that right now. I’m overcommitted.” These are all emotionally threatening situations that easily stir up worry and dread. But, if we can give those people an honest look at our “flock to field ratio” (commitments vs. capacity) it’s easier, when possible, to mutually decide what gets completed when: Boss says – “I need you to take on project G this week.” Rather than saying “I can’t”, show them the field & flock: “Boss, I know you value sheep A, B, C, D, E, and F. If I’m to take on sheep G, which sheep is it OK to leave unattended in the meantime?”
Having a record of our “flock to field ratio” can remind us of God’s faithfulness and His trust in us. Being faithful with our flock qualifies us for a larger field (though it does not guarantee a larger flock). The parable of the talents explains how the Master gave each of the servants assets in accordance with their abilities and showed how God treats those who shepherd His assets wisely vs. shepherding them poorly or out of fear. The Lord doesn’t take rewards from the most prolific steward and give them to the poor guy who didn’t take any chances. Much to the contrary: He casts out the lazy servant and gives what he had to the more able of the three. God is preparing us for Kingdom living – Life is more than a dress rehearsal: our performance here will impact the role we have in His eternal Kingdom. Every sheep is valuable, but overcommitment is not rewarded anymore than slothfulness.
We cannot move ahead to greater assignments without a faithful handling of what God has given us. Keep these 7 reasons in mind and FIND time to count your sheep… regularly. This Friday night (04.26.2013), I’ll be speaking for Echo Ministries at Stars and Strikes in Cumming, GA at 7:30 on this very topic, in detail. If you’ve been wondering why my inbox is at 0 so many times a week or you’d just love to be a better shepherd, come join us!
Is God “seeker friendly”? Depends on what the seeker seeks, right? “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all of your heart. (Jer. 29:13)” In that case, sure. Those who seek Him will clearly find Him. Rock on. Seeker friendly God.
That in mind, one of the hardest things to see in the mirror is the face of the false seeker – that is, self seeking behavior. The hardest to be honest with ourselves about is that which we think we’ve done selfishly but have really done out of service to self.
For example – I try to be a thoughtful gift giver. I like to give people things that are useful and that they want. Maybe you can relate? Who wants to give someone a shirt that’s two sizes too big, not the receiver’s favorite color, and give it two days late? No, most of us want to be thoughtful givers, too. Nobody wants to be “that guy“. We want to do something for someone, but we really have our own gain on the same dashboard!
Isn’t that the sneakiest bait-and-switch?! Isn’t self deception the most annoying form of deception?! “What a wretch am I?!”
Somewhere in the well of motivations from which impulses take root and grow into actions is a pure desire. But, the bait and switch happens when the pure desire is contaminated by the selfish desire, e.g., the desire to be perceived as thoughtful, to avoid being perceived as unthoughtful, or both. Being alert to the scam is crucial in escaping its sticky reach.
Try this: next holiday or birthday, measure your internal response when the receiver reacts to the revealed gift. How do you feel when they’re not 100% overjoyed at what you’ve given them? How do you feel when they’re utterly thrilled, surprised, and compliment your choice and timing? God will make you keenly aware of what bait and switch has gone on in your heart. So, what do you do with that? Who can cure the heart, which is wicked and beyond cure?! Glad you asked.
We live in a world that is broken and refuses to be healed, in imperfect, flawed bodies, with new hearts that know our old, familiar behaviors, yet are being renewed constantly against eternal opposition from an enemy who hates us and our Creator. That same creator will judge and reward everything we do that was done with a God seeking motive. But, then, have we simply traded one selfish motive for another? Am I giving to someone because I want something from God rather than from them? Only by the Spirit can our true motivation be revealed freeing us to give out of worship to God rather than out of selfish motive.
Twenty Seconds of Pain and Stretching
So, today, and everyday moving forward, will you join me in a potentially painful exercise of faith? Will you sit face to face with the mirror – God’s word – and stare into it around 1 Cor. 13.4-8? Will you read each line and pause in silence for 15 seconds after asking the Lord – “where am I falling short in this verse?” – especially at v. 5: “self-seeking”? I can promise you, if you have never heard from the Lord, this is a place where God (who is already omnipresent) “shows up”. The first time you do it, you will hear truth that is potentially painful to hear. You will be stretched in your faith and trust. But, the payoff of the exercise is somewhat self-serving: you will be grown in the area of dependence on the Lord for His motive. This is God seeking behavior. Pray that it springs out of a God seeking heart.
Picture This: We, He, and Thee
If you are a “we” who has placed your full faith solely in the atoning sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, then “we” serve a God who has a will for us. Obedience to and abiding dependence on Him. We believe He communicates His will through His word and His indwelling Spirit, given to us when we place our faith in Christ. We also believe we are both simultaneously free from condemnation by Him and subject to conviction of our wrongdoing so that we may repent and be transformed by the renewing of our minds and to be conformed to His Son’s servant-like image. Can you imagine what it would be like if we were in unity of that spirit?
Will you join us? Be a we, serving He instead of “thee”.