God’s Pleasure

In reading Ephesians we see that it was God’s pleasure to adopt us as sons in Christ (1:5) and if that was not enough He then gives us an inheritance (1:11). God did not adopt us to just rescue us and place us in the back of the room to be quiet. We can get caught up in the day-to-day of life and think that now that I am saved I need to stay in line or walk the walk. While this is true to an extent because we should be changed the problem like so many things in life is the intent. If the intent is “being good” or “being good enough” then we will fall because we cannot be good or good enough. Instead, the intent should be on being in fellowship. Christianity is a relational religion. What I mean by that is Christ is in us (Col 3:3) and we in Him. God adopted us to give us the greatest inheritance of all which is a relationship with Him.

Looking back at Abraham, who is the father all who believe (Rom 4:11), God told him in Gen 15:1 that He would be his reward and in 17:7 that He would be his God. What an amazing inheritance we have that Yahweh the creator and sustainer of heaven and earth is our God and Father. We have a God that desires intimacy with us and is in us. This encourages me so much because it means I do not walk this walk alone but I walk it faith with God. What a difference that makes.

Think of like when you are learning to ride a bike. After the training wheels come off your parents (or whoever is teaching you) holds on to you while you ride. You are riding the bike but the one teaching is actually keeping you up. In the same way, God is holding on to you. Yes, you are riding the bike but God is holding on to you. You do not have to, as if you could, try to walk this walk alone. God who sustains the universe is sustaining you right now.

Just a thought,
Mike
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Why does God allow suffering

 

There is a song called Hurricane by Jimmy Needham that has always resonated with me because in the song he sings “I need you like a hurricane… to tear my walls down.” The song is about needing God to come into our lives and remove the walls we have built up. The walls as I see it represent anything from the places in our lives we have blocked God off from to the protections we place around our sins and insecurities. We all have walls we have built and whether we realize it or not only God tear down those walls.

In chapter Ten of Spiritual Friends Kelleman goes over five possible purposes of suffering and while the topic has long been discussed by many I do find three suggestions by Kelleman to be important to the conversation. Kelleman’s first suggestion that “in suffering, God is drawing us to Himself” is of interest because we do not often think of suffering as something that can draw us to someone.[1] Typically suffering pushes us away from something or someone yet when we stop to think that God is a Father we should be able to adjust our perspective of how we relate to the one allowing us to suffer. When faced with a situation that is causing or has caused suffering we find that God, the omnipotent and omniscient One, is the only one we can turn to give us help in our time of need. I do not want to seem as if I am making light of suffering but regardless of the situation, God is the only one who can give us peace.

We generally view things and look at life as Kelleman says “with eyeballs only” however God’s peace is not meant for the eyes but for the soul.[2] We see struggles and suffering but we feel defeat. God could, being all powerful as He is, change the circumstances but how much better is it that He gives us Himself in the midst of the suffering (Deut 31:6). Rather than miraculously make everything better, God chooses to make us new in the process which brings up Kelleman’s second point that “God is conforming us to the image of His Son.”[3] These two ideas, that God is pulling us in and changing us, are virtually inseparable.

By the very nature of the relationship the closer we get to the Father the more we develop Christlikeness. This is because it is God’s desire to make us more like the Son (Rom 8:29). Part of suffering and drawing near to God is the removal of walls that block us from submitting to His lordship. Once those walls are removed new construction can take place and we are transformed into something new. In suffering, we become more than a six-million-dollar man because we are not just better, stronger, and faster, instead, we are new.

Lastly, Kelleman says that “in suffering, God is demonstrating just how needy we are for Him” and again to sound like a broken record this follows the first point because the closer we get to God the more we should realize that we are weak.[4] If the goal is to be more like the Son, then suffering shows us how we need God to make that happen. Additionally, it shows us that we are not nearly as strong as we imagine we are. Suffering reveals our frailty.

As my wife and I continue to foster two boys my twelve-year-old daughter is starting to think herself a mother because she can point out right and wrong to the boys. She has a higher understanding of this then they do. For some reason made the connection that “I know more than they, so I am like mom” and this is a mistake on her behalf. This a mistake because she does not know nearly as much as she thinks she does. She is protected from dealing with the real issues that parents face. However, as she decides and shows she wants more responsibility we allow her to be privy to and involved in certain things. She quickly becomes overwhelmed and realizes that she needs us to be the parents. She cannot be a parent on her own, nor should she be. We allow her to suffer a bit in order to teach her that she needs us to be the ones in charge so that she can be a child.

God, in suffering, allows us to be children even though the goal is maturity. In suffering, we see that we need Him because we are weak. In suffering God makes us more like Christ because intimacy changes who you are from the inside out. In suffering, God pulls us into Himself to reveal a Fathers’ heart. What we often need is the thing we most often avoid, we need God to be a hurricane and tear down the walls we build.

 

[1] Robert W. Kellemen, Spiritual Friends: A Methodology of Soul Care and Spiritual Direction, (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 2005), 200

[2] Ibid 201

[3] Kelleman, 200

[4] Ibid., 200

But Now

Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds because of your evil actions. But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him. – Col 1:21-22

The main thing that sticks out to me in this verse is “But Now.” But now is powerful because it transitions from what was to what is. Those in Christ used to be alienated but now they are not. They used to be far from God but now they are not. They used to be enemies with God but now they are not. The but now transitions and I love transitions. The problem is transitions are not always smooth and we have to remember that.

People coming to Christ, those who have recently come, and even those who are deepening their walk are transitioning. They are in the but now phase and honestly, we are all in the but now phase. The but now phase is where we spend our entire Christian walk because we are constantly in a place of growing and changing. We are, or at least we should be, constantly growing in Christ and learning what it means to walk in the new man. Because of this, we need to have grace for another and support each other.

As I have said before I love analogies so here is one comparing the life of a Christian to a child. When a baby is born, it can do nothing on its own. It needs constant support and nurturing from the parents. Everything is new and different so we don’t get mad when they cry or need feeding. Instead, we understand that are weak and fragile so we treat them accordingly. As they grow they start the but now process. They begin to speak and we expect them to learn to articulate their wants and needs. We do not expect full sentences or even proper words but attempts. As they become toddlers they should be better are communicating and becoming more independent but they are still learning. We expect more from them but only what is appropriate for their age and intelligence. This continues as a toddler moves into childhood and then teenage years. We have constant expectations and desires for growth but they are always in a but now transition.

You and I are always in a but now transition too. We do not reach full maturity on this side of heaven. Paul says that we press on towards the goal because we have not reached it yet (Phil 3:13-14). We are always in a but now transition moving towards Christlikeness. The beautiful part is that the Bible says that Jesus has reconciled us. This means we move from a position of acceptance and not to a place of acceptance. The starting point makes all the difference in the world. We start in Christ, move in Christ, and finish in Christ. We have acceptance and will be presented holy, faultless, and blameless to the Father in Christ, we just need to walk in it.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

My Fear of Rejection

I think I am going to be completely honest with you today. No masks, no abstracts, and no blaming. Just pure honesty. In the past few years that I have come to realize that I have a fear of rejection. Previously I just felt unwanted so I would not attach myself to people. My relationships were not casual but they were not deep either. I would not allow people to get close enough to reject me, and anytime I thought someone might reject me I would strike first. My relationships with older men were the hardest because I wanted to have a father but knowing the damage they could do I kept mostly to female company. When I finally let down my guard and sought an older male’s guidance and leadership he let me down and it took a few years to recover.

Recently, I found that a major issue that was holding me back in ministry and life, in general, was that I was waiting on permission from a father figure. Because all my previous attempts at approval had ended like the Hindenburg landing I felt stuck and all the platitudes in the world about how God qualifies the called could not help me. I realized that while I desired male approval I had made myself into a man that other men did not feel they needed to approve of. What I mean by this is other men felt that I was “all set” or that I did not need anything from anyone. I had unwittingly created a persona that I was a man’s, man. So here I am, a man’s man who needs nothing but feels like a scrawny sixteen-year-old who craves approval. I became a contradiction.

It was not until my wife and I felt God’s clear call to plant a church that I realized I had a serious issue. Every book I have read says that if you are called to ministry then those in church leadership need to confirm or approve. My greatest fear had been realized. I now had to ask for approval from another man but that meant I had to be vulnerable. I had to take my dream, which is really an expression of myself, hand it to someone else and ask them not to crush it. After six months of deliberation, I finally did this and felt sick until the appointment. The meeting went well and I was confirmed, however, after the initial high of not bring rejected wore off I found myself not feeling much better than I did before.

I have found through prayer, Bible reading, and worship that my fear of rejection has caused me to seek man’s approval and value it over God’s election. I am now stuck between a fear of rejection from man and a desire to receive blessing and approval from God based on His grace and goodness because of Christ. How do I navigate between the two when my fear of rejection causes me to not allow people to get close to me? Do I simply allow them in without expecting or seeking validation from them? Do I not expect people to hurt me? I find that my fear of rejection has caused me to expect people to hurt me which brings up additional issues.

If I am not expecting people to hurt me or fearing their rejection how do I navigate those relationships? What am I supposed to expect in a friendship or mentor relationship? Is the purpose of these relationships simply two people both growing and traveling life together? I find that in needing God to heal me of my fear of rejection I also then need to better learn what it is to be in relationships with people. I have built my relationships, partly with an expectation of rejection and this causes me to be performance based. If I am not going to expect rejection, then it follows that I should not be performance based either but I do not know how to do anything else.

I find that I am now not only in a place of needing healing but instruction as well. I need to be healed of the pain of being rejected when I was younger which I have been working through but this idea trust-based relationships is new to me. How do I let people in when I fear their rejection and constantly fall back on my performance-based mindset? How do I move forward when I think I can perform well enough to make people want me? Maybe confession is the key here. Maybe I confide in my closest friends and become naked before them bearing my soul? I have heard it said that the best thing that could happen to you is for your deepest fears to be broadcast on the news so they are out in the open and while I am not so sure this is a good idea I think it does have a ring of truth to it. What if I am honest, actually and truly honest with my closest friends that I fear rejection and fear that I am not good enough for them?

James writes that we should confess our sins and pray for each other. I think this is partly because once they are out there they cannot be put back in the secret place. Once we expose ourselves we can move forward to a place of healing but only once we are honest. I am afraid. That is my default state. Maybe in order to move forward to a place of healing I need, to be honest about that.

Submission and Worship

Abraham put himself in a position of submission before God and God spoke to him.

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I love that Abraham put himself in a position of submission. When we see God for who He is our only response can be submission. When we see that His love is great, when we see that His righteousness is great, and when we see that His holiness is great our only response can be submission because we see that we are not but that He is.

Worship is partly an act of submission to God. When we think worship we typically think singing or even monetary offerings but worship is submitting to God and acknowledging that He is great. There are so many ways we can worship God and honestly I would rather not list some here because I don’t want to stifle your creativity but instead inspire you to find ways to worship God today.

I would encourage everyone to take some time to read something in your Bibles. Pick two or three chapters and read them straight through with a prayerful heart and just see what God would say to you. Then respond with worship to Him. I am sure He will speak to you on how you can worship Him. The important thing is that you submit to Him and acknowledge His greatness today.

How marvelous God’s greatness,
How glorious His might!
To this the world bears witness
In wonders day and night.
In form of flower and snowflake,
In morn’s resplendent birth,
In afterglow at even,
In sky and sea and earth.

– Valdimar Briem

Just a thought,

Mike