Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's JUST Obedience

The Experiencing God lesson today talked about how God reveals to us what He's going to do, not what He wants us to do for Him. Interestingly enough, Jada (my sister in Memphis in pharmacy school) called last night and we talked about a sermon she had just heard about how God doesn't need us. He will accomplish His purposes regardless of whether we say yes to Him or not. It is our greatest joy to take part. I don't want to diminish in any way the fact that He loves us and passionately pursues us, but we need to make clear that He does that FOR OUR GOOD. Not because He's a weak, needy lover like what we see portrayed in movies and literature. His Name WILL be made way or another.

Now back to my original direction with seems like our ticket to involvement in what God's doing in this world is faith. The more tickets we have, the more we get to take part in. Faith seems scary to us because it is, in fact, trusting in things unseen. But hear me now, faith is NOT trusting in our ability to be obedient. Did you get that? We are NOT trusting in our ability to get it right. We are trusting in the sovereign Creator of the universe that started this thing and is intricately involved in holding it all together (Col. 1:17). Another point that Henry Blackaby makes earlier on is that how we respond when God invites us to join in His work says more about what we believe about God than it does anything else. Read that sentence a couple of times until it sinks in. Sure, there's a reflex reaction to doubt self. But He wasn't depending on us. So we shouldn't be. He knows what He's going to do. Get that? Going to do. He is so gracious to ask us to join Him in the work. And THAT'S where our joy is found.

Father, forgive our self-dependence. Forgive our American dream of working hard enough to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Forgive our Oprah-mentality of self-help and inner strength. Forgive our incredible blindness and failure to hope in an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God who loves us more than we can know. Forgive us for denying Who You are. Remind us of Your power. Show us the difference between what we dream of doing for You and what YOU want to do in and through us.

Remind us that faith is safe in an all=powerful God. It WILL come to fruition in our lives. Do not let our focus and our goal be in the production of fruit, but in growing deeper and falling more headlong in love with our Father who has loved us from the beginning. So grow our faith to pray for, expect, and see God-sized activity in our lives. I'm tired of mediocre.

Remind us that when we say yes, and You begin to do God-sized things, it won't be due at all to any good in us or any gifts we have to offer. It's just obedience.

Not to diverge too much, but Dietrich Bonhoeffer explains in Cost of Discipleship about how to reconcile Jesus's commands in the Sermon on the Mount about not letting the right hand know what the left is doing (Matt. 6) and then letting your light shine before men (Matt. 5:16). Seems contradictory, right? The gist is Christ is the plumbline. We don't measure up. Anything we do in obedience to Him (which will produce things that only God can do in a life) is just that: obedience. But to a lost world depending only on the ability of man, they WILL seem extraordinary. So it's fine to "Go big, or go home." Just make sure everyone knows Who was and will always be responsible for it. We're just doing what we've been told (and it's awesome to be a part), and that's JUST obedience.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

God is good...

ALL THE TIME. You know where I'm going with this... I was with my girls (E-Randle, A-Graves, and Kirst) having our Bible study time at Origin 23, and I was going through a timeline of spiritual markers in my life. Part of our assignment this week was to document times where God has spoken His will or made clear His purpose for us in ministry. As I was sharing mine, Amanda keeps looking over my head with this look of fear on her face. Finally, I stopped to ask what was wrong, and she explained that the college and singles minister for one of the local churches was standing right behind me, partially listening in as I explained that the common themes in God's calling on my life had been evangelism, discipleship, and community.

The rest of the story is that for a couple of weeks now I have had this idea on my heart for a regional gathering of young adults (singles). Most of the people I know here go to smaller churches that just don't have enough people or resources to facilitate a ministry focused on the needs of this group. In Memphis and Nashville we had multiple options for such a gathering (e.g. The Loop, Metro, Kairos, etc.). So why not get a group of people that I already know together for music, a message, and tons of fellowship for the edification of believers from college to mid-30s? I mentioned it to Rob, our small group pastor at Discovery. His response: Sounds great! Go for it. Not exactly what I expected (or wanted) to hear. So the more I've prayed, the more God has ignited this flame in me for this to come to fruition. Not only that, but my girls here have said they were in. Whatever God led us to, they would help. Since then I've been praying, looking, listening, and waiting expectantly for the next step.

After she tells me who this guy is and that he was almost trying to hear my conversation, my heart started racing. I didn't know what to do or what this meant. So I asked the girls to pray as I submitted the whole situation to God. After "amen" I went over to the group (he was meeting with the worship leader and another guy) to introduce myself and kinda share my vision. I got his email address, and it was done. He sounded excited, and I emailed him this morning. How crazy is that?

Why is it that I still get so surprised that God will work out His purposes? Maybe the real surprise (and sublime) part is that He calls us to be part of the plan!

Monday, August 25, 2008


This was the topic of Pastor Rob's sermon today (or yesterday) at church. He started a two-part series on singleness. A group of us actually did a little skit to help kick things off (written and directed by my dear friend Erin Randle, the lyrical wordsmith). We all went over to his house earlier this week to discuss issues that we single people frequently encounter. It (and the skit) was funny to go over all the phrases single people have thrown at them. Here were some of the examples:

  1. You'll find him (or her) as soon you stop looking and/or when you least expect it. Do you have a 12-step program to get someone to "not looking" or "least expecting"? What about us observant folks? Are we just ruled out forever? And what does that even mean or imply? I don't (nor do any of my friends) sit around and pine for some person to complete my life.
  2. Are you dating anyone? Do you have a boyfriend? Why not? Don't even get me started on this one. How do I begin to address this? The obligatory courtesy laugh usually ensues.
  3. Maybe there's something God has for you to do before then. Where are you not plugged in? This is where I feel like building a resume would be most appropriate, documenting all my "spiritual activity" like some scoreboard that proves my eligibility as a member of a godly dating relationship.
  4. Just keep running the race on the path God has for you. Eventually you'll look to the left or right and see someone running right beside you. Then you just link up to run the race together. While this is a beautiful picture of how a love story God writes might go, it's kinda silly. Most of the single people I know ARE running the race the best way we know how. It's not like we've stopped, sat down for a second, and decided to scavenge our immediate surroundings for any and all possible dating prospects. Most of us are doing the dang thing. And enjoying it as we go!
  5. Maybe your expectations are too high. You should ease up on guys. Expecting a boy to love Jesus before I would date him is NOT an excessive expectation. It's sensible. It saves him money and both of us time in the grand scheme of things. If we don't have the most basic part of my life in common, then where would we even start? I'm not willing to chase that rabbit. Waste of time.

Things are really good right now. I can't remember a time when my life felt this full. Now that I've been able to shank the school/residency monkey-on-your-back syndrome, my life is MINE again. I'm in an amazing Bible study with 3 girls who love Jesus and love me. I'm plugged in to a beautiful little church full of people fully-devoted to encountering God and equipping others to do the same. I really like my job and the people that I work with. I get true fulfillment by using my education/training to help others to the best of my ability. And more than all these things, God has shown Himself to be active in my life. He's inspiring my heart for new ministries; He's linking it with others to walk this journey with; and He's drawing me to know Him more.

So for this season, I am eternally grateful. I know I will look back and see this is as a fruitful, sweet time in my life. I praise God for showing this to me in the midst of it.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Square Pegs round holes. Frequently used phrase, I know. I think of Jill Philip's album every time I hear it. But it's the best cliche to describe how I feel in this recent phase of growth/life/whatever you want to call this process of sanctification. I'm a redeemed soul built for glory submerged in this fallen world. And it feels like that. Nothing fits. I don't fit. Please note at this point that my redemption/salvation/justification was and is due to no merit of my own. That's clear. (Eph. 2:8-9, Romans 3:10) I'm not saying, "Woe is me because I'm better than my environment".

But I don't fit here. And I don't think I'm supposed to. There are times where this life feels better than other times, but as I'm going through this Experiencing God study with my girls, I'm really having to wrestle through some Truths. I went into it expecting God to just show up and make my heart light after the first week. Well, that specific event hasn't happened yet. I know He's at work. He's been at work (Phil. 1:6) ; that's what this whole study is about.

Here recently the focus has been on my personal relationship with Him. That's a tough one. It has honed in on the basics: He LOVES me. He asks me to LOVE Him back. It's that simple. So why is that the hardest part? Why do I think in my heart that His love is no better than mine? Why do I struggle trusting Him, as if everything's not in His hands to begin with (Col. 1:17)? Why do I hesitate to hand Him the hope of my heart?

Honestly, I'm a little gun-shy. My hope constantly disappoints. But why? Oh, that's because I've placed it in events, or people, or changes, or results, or control. Why does my heart not understand that He's the only safe place for my hope, for my heart?

Because, let's be honest, I'm not going to be cheerleader-happy very consistently on this earth. And I'm learning just today that what He asks me to do is not "be happy", but rest in the discontentment. Rest in the knowing that He IS Who He says He is. He will do what He said He will do. THAT, and that alone, is the only safe, secure place for my hope. It's the only place my heart fits.