Am I Worthy?

She meant well, I am sure.
And in some ways her message sounded really good.

It was an online devotional and the topic was our worth.
Our value.
Our worthiness.
And where we find it.

Her message and mine are for the same audience – those who have chosen to say “yes” to God’s call to be a Christ-follower. If you have not done that, this devotional doesn’t apply to you.
But if you have, please keep reading.
This message is so important.
Because we get it so badly wrong most of the time.

She hit the first part of her message out of the park.
Exhorting us to not find our identity or our value in appearance, talents, or gifts.

But then she blew it.

She said that my worth, our worth, is found in how well we love and obey God.

And, oh, that sounds so good in some ways!
After all, the Bible does call us to holiness.
To right living.
To righteousness.

And in a world – and yes, in a global Church – that is getting holiness so badly wrong, it sounds good to say, “Your value comes from how well you follow the Master.”

Jesus did say things like “Turn the other cheek” and “Love your enemies”.
And He meant every word.

Paul did exhort us to put off a whole bunch of bad stuff and to put on a whole bunch of good. (Colossians 3)
He did challenge the Church over and over again to be holy.
To deal strongly and directly with sin.
Even while loving the person sinning.

And God even says, “Be holy as I am holy.”

The standard is high – very, very high.

But here’s the thing:
Keeping God’s standard is not where I find my worth.
My value does not come from how much I love God.
Or how well I obey Him.
My value does not come from keeping the rules.
Or living righteously.
It does not come from getting it right more times than I get it wrong.
From giving unselfishly.
From loving others.
Or even from how well I love God.

YES, I should do all those things.
Strive for them.
As Paul put it to the Galatians, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.”

BUT.
That is NOT where I find my worth.

How well I live for God does not define my value.
The sum total of my good deeds does not give me my worth.
Even how well I obey doesn’t add to my worthiness in the eyes of God.

My value, my worth, and my worthiness have absolutely nothing to do with me.

My value is found in ONE place and one place alone.
God.
God made me.
And then He chose me.
Sought me out.
And called me to be His kid.

He redeemed me.
And He clothed me in HIS righteousness.
Because ALL of mine is filthy rags. (Isaiah 64)
Before Christ.
And even after.
If it is MY righteousness, mustered up from some sense of adding value, making God love me, being good enough to be His kid, then it is garbage.

My worth does not come from how I live.
How I love Him.
How much I obey.
How well I follow the rules.

My value comes from Him.
And only from Him.

He calls me Child.
Princess.
Beloved.
Redeemed.
Forgiven.
Loved.
Daughter.
Friend.

And He called me those things from the moment I chose to follow Him.
They aren’t earned titles.
They were bestowed.

Not because I am good.
But because He is.

Not because of my righteousness.
But because of His.

Not because of my response.
But because of His character.

And that right there?
His choosing me…
His loving me so wholly…
So completely…
So utterly without condition….

THAT drives me to want to please Him!
To love Him as He loves me.
To serve Him.
To demonstrate to Him just how awesome I know He is.
To share this unconditional, matchless grace with everyone I meet.
To bring honor to His name by my actions.
To shine His reputation by how I respond.
To love the people He loves.
To serve as Jesus served.
To make my life match the model Jesus lived.

So then my actions will become more and more like the standards set forth in the Word.
But not because I am trying to be worthy.
(I am incapable of that.)
Not because I need to earn His favor.
(I can’t do that either.)
Not because I am striving to be more fully loved by Him.
(That is impossible.)
And not because I want to please other people who love Him.
(Also impossible.)

But solely out of my gratitude.
My joy in being forgiven.
Set free.
Deeply and dearly loved.

The more I see God for Who He is, Who He has revealed Himself to be in Scripture, the more I realize that I am NOT holy. NOT righteous. NOT worthy of His love.

But the more I see God for Who He is, the more I realize how much He loves me.
In spite of me.
And that every good thing I have ever done or ever will do is only because of Him.
So my response is the only one that I can give – deep, heartfelt gratitude and love for Him, which is expressed by doing the things that please Him.

If you are attempting to find your worth in any other way, believe me, it won’t work.
It doesn’t matter if you are doing life your own way in rebellion against God or if you’re trying to be the very best religious follower you can be – both will leave you empty.
Your value has NOTHING to do with you.
Not your appearance.
Not your personality.
Not your actions.
Or your inactions.

Your value is astronomically high.
Because the God of the Universe calls you His own.
Because the Creator of all things calls you valuable.
Because the King of All Kings laid down His life for you.

Do you believe that?
If you do, it will change your life.
How you respond.
What you choose to do.
And not do.

But it will never change your worth.
Because you cannot be more loved than you were from the very beginning.
He loved you fully and completely before you answered His call.
He cannot love you more than He did then – and He will not love you less.
So will you live a life of love in response to His love? If you do, it will change the world!

Advertisements

A Tale of Three Warnings

A Tale of Three Warnings

I was warned.
But I didn’t listen.

It was Saturday morning and I was headed up to Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. to visit a wee little friend.
Although I have been to the hospital many times, I still like to put it in my GPS just so I have a heads up about what turns to take.
And, of course, the GPS always provides several ways for me to go.
None of them are pretty.
So I usually pick the one that I know best.
It is somewhat familiar territory so I feel like I have the best chance of getting in and out of the city unscathed.

But Saturday morning, the GPS didn’t give me three options as it normally does.
It only gave me one.
My least favorite option of the three because it involves the Capital Beltway, which always feels to me like a game of Russian Roulette with cars instead of guns.
I knew there was a marathon happening in the city on Saturday.
But I thought, “Oh, it will clear out before I get there. Runs happen early in the day. I’ll be fine.”

I opted to ignore the GPS and go my own way.
All seemed well.
As I smugly thought, “See, this isn’t so bad.”

And it wasn’t.
At first.
So when the GPS announced part way there that it had a faster route even on this known way, I hit “Ignore.”
After all, sticking with the familiar was much safer.
I knew what lay ahead.
I knew what lane to be in and when to be in it.
What turns to take.
And I was only a few miles away.
So how bad could it be?

Until we stopped dead in the 395 tunnel under the city streets.
Five lanes of brake lights at that point.

And again, the GPS tried to redirect me.
There was a ramp out of the tunnel onto an unfamiliar street.
However, I was three lanes away from that ramp – and the traffic on it was already a string of brake lights as well.
So I decided it was easier – better – to stay where I was.
Stick with the known rather than risk the unknown.
After all, how bad could it be?

I was less than two miles from the hospital.
And it took me the better part of an hour to go those two miles.
Two stinking miles.
SO. FRUSTRATING.

As I sat in the tunnel, breathing in exhaust from hundreds of other vehicles creeping along with me, I was very, very frustrated.
Yes, with traffic.
But mostly with myself.
Why did I decide I knew better than the GPS?
THREE TIMES I decided I knew better.
Even though it is a “real time” device.
With a bird’s eye view.
Containing knowledge I did not have.
A perspective I could not see.

Did I make it to the hospital?
Sure.
But I could have saved myself A LOT of time and trouble along the way.
If only I had heeded the guidance system and its warnings.

——

As a believer, a Christ-follower, you and I have an amazing “GPS” device for life.
In fact, we have two!
The Holy Spirit of God lives inside.
And the Living Word of God.

The Word, the Bible, is like a road map, telling us in advance the best ways to go.
What to avoid.
What to embrace.
How to live.
Over and over again, I see studies published that confirm what God has always said.
Like, couples who live together before marriage struggle more after marriage.
Or children grow best in intact, nuclear families.
Forgiveness benefits the forgiver.
And we do best when we don’t try to carry around stress.

All of these are things that God said long ago in the Bible.
And all have been confirmed by social scientists.
Imagine that!

But here is the thing – not only do we have the best way to live mapped out for us in His Word, we are also equipped with a real-time, eye-in-the-sky, all-knowing Guidance System in our souls.
The Holy Spirit.
Indwelling every Christ-follower.
Willing and able to direct us in the very best ways to go.

I don’t know another person’s heart, motives, or thinking.
I know what they show me – but only God sees the heart.
And so I have to trust the Holy Spirit to guide me.
First by applying the principles of Scripture to the situation.
Then asking Him for His wisdom, which He has promised to give. (James 1)
And then by letting Him “speak” to my heart through nudges, whispers, repeated confirmations, circumstances, wise council of godly people, Bible verses – so many ways.
And when all those things line up with Scripture, when they are repeated or even when I just have a deep peace in my soul about what I am “hearing”, I know His voice.
I know He is guiding.
And I know I need to obey.
Even when what He is asking me to do seems risky. Or even foolish.
Even when it is off the path I normally would take.

But here’s the thing.
So often I don’t hear Him.
Because I choose to not listen.
Or I hear Him, but I still choose to go my own way.
Or worse yet, the world’s way.
Listening to the voice of culture rather than The Voice of Truth.
The whispers of my feelings rather than the call to love for the sake of Love Himself.

Just like the streets of D.C., I am often on unfamiliar ground.
I don’t know what I don’t know.
And it feels risky to obey those promptings at times.
So I often choose to stick with the familiar.
The known.
The seemingly safe.
My way instead of His way.

And every single time that I do, I end up regretting it.
He is good and so I still end up getting to wherever it is He needs me to be.
But it takes longer.
I end up frustrated along the way.
Damaged.
Or at the very least, disturbed.
Making a tough situation worse because I thought I knew better.
Instead of resting in His love, trusting His heart, and walking in obedience to Him.

King David, who knew a thing or two about ignoring God, going his own way and reaping the consequences, wrote this in Psalm 32:
“The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.””

My rewrite and my prayer for you and me:
“The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like Kathy who ignores the GPS,
who ends up frustrated and stuck because she thinks she knows best.”

This week, may we spend time studying the Map that is the Word of God.
Getting to know His voice.
Yielding to His prompting.
Following His lead.

It’s the only safe way to live!

The Next Chapter: Destination Guatemala

So this chapter of my story begins when I was a little girl.

Every night my Dad read to my sister and me from a biography or autobiography of a hero of the faith. Sometimes they were people like Corrie ten Boom, who survived the Holocaust and went on to do amazing things for God in the second half of her life. But often the stories were those of missionaries, people like Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, who pioneered the giving of the Gospel to the Auca people of Ecuador. Jim, who laid down his life for the sake of love, famously said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Out of this reading time and through the influence of other godly men and women I met as a child, I developed a deep love for world missions. I came to understand that Jesus meant for us to take the gospel wherever our feet take us – and that for some, our feet are destined to travel far and wide. All of us have been given the charge by Jesus: “Go into ALL the world…and make disciples…” Some go to the furthest places; others send them there; all Christ-followers are intended to be a part of this Ultimate Assignment.

As a pre-teen, I came to understand that I have been given both the natural ability to teach and the spiritual gift of teaching. I often call it “the spiritual gift of kid”. At the time I thought that meant that I would be a school teacher for the duration of my working life. I had no idea all of the ways God could use that “gift of kid” outside of the classroom walls. But one of the deep dreams of my heart that started at age 12 was to teach missionary kids. I truly thought that I would teach in the American public school system until I got fired for sharing my faith and then I would go live and work at a school for missionary children somewhere in the world.

Because here’s the thing: I could go be a missionary anywhere in the world and make an impact of some sort. But by teaching the kids of missionaries, I am multiplying my impact. Instead of me being involved in one work, in one field in that place, I am positively impacting 20 or 25 works because I am teaching 20 or 25 kids. And I love how exponential that is!

Fast-forwarding through my life… God closed the door to classroom teaching in a completely different way than I ever dreamed He would. He did it 16 years ago so that I would accept the assignment of being the Director of Children’s Ministries at South Potomac Church. It has been a job that I cannot believe they pay me to do most of the time. And God has done amazing things in our children’s ministry over these years.

But the thing I am most grateful for is what He has done in me. Philippians 1:6 says that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on until the day Christ returns.” And He has been faithful in the work He has done in my life as I have walked with Him. He has changed me from the inside out time and again. He still has plenty of work to do, too. But this past fall, He used a book and a friend to reveal to me that I have been listening to some lies of the enemy in my life since my early 20’s. As I let go of the lies and started reveling in “the Voice of Truth”, God started doing some other amazing things.

This particular chapter started in early January. I was sitting at a restaurant in Guatemala with some friends, enjoying my vacation. Someone said something about me working in Guatemala and I replied with my typical smart mouth, saying something like, “That could only happen if everyone here spoke English.” My almost-50-year-old brain has struggled to learn Spanish and keeps mixing it up with Japanese, the language I learned in my 20’s. I didn’t think much of it at the time – it just seemed like a bad joke in the midst of some silliness.

About two weeks after that, I was talking with a friend about a responsibility that was sitting heavily on my shoulders. It was one of the many things that made me feel like I could not leave the area for an extended period of time without there being major negative consequences. All of a sudden, she looked at me and said, “What if our Bible study group took on that responsibility?” I was amazed – and am very grateful that they have followed through.

The very next day, I was having lunch with another friend who was a children’s pastor in her past. She had asked to meet and one of her main reasons was to tell me that she and her husband had decided to start attending South Potomac, my church. She asked if there was any way for them to be involved in ministry and I assured her there was.

That was a Friday. As I sat and had my time with the Lord the following morning, it struck me that for the first time in 16 years I am knee-deep with awesome volunteers in our children’s ministry. Among them, I have three people who are all more than qualified to do my job. I thought, “Any one of these ladies could do this job alone – but if all three do it, no one has to carry a very large burden.” I then wondered aloud to the Lord, “Is there a place in Guatemala where I could serve, using my gifts and abilities, that wouldn’t require fluency in Spanish?” I want to become fluent – but I know I am nowhere near that yet. I also know that living there will help me to become fluent. So I did a Google search for teaching English as a second language in Guatemala – and instead found a school for missionary kids, located in Guatemala City.

That started the next steps in the process – finding out if this was God’s direction or my own hare-brained scheme.
The first hurdle? The school website said they require a minimum two-year commitment. So I wrote and said, “I can only do a year if I come, would that be OK?” And they said, “Yes.”

Next hurdle? My teaching certificate expired ten years ago. So I asked, “Is that OK?” And they said, “Yes, for one year.”

I then asked my assistant, Tashia, for her permission to go. My leaving for a year saddles her with more than she is currently carrying. And she said, “Yes, you can go.”

And one by one, I talked to the stakeholders in my life, asking for permission to set down my responsibilities here for a year.
And one by one, they said, “Yes”.

Until finally it was time to ask the elders of my church for a year’s Sabbatical and the permission to go do this crazy adventure.
And they said, “Yes”.

So I officially applied to the school and have been hired for the next school year. I don’t know yet what grade I will be teaching. I do know that I will be living at the school in a dorm with other single female teachers. And I know I have to report to work on August 1st. I am sorting through the thousand and one details that have to come together as this happens. And God is providing every step of the way. He has given me sign after sign that this is right. This is of Him. And this is the next chapter.

Many, many people have asked, “Are you coming back?” And my answer is, “That is my plan.” I can only teach a year without doing something (like grad school) about that expired certificate. I have familial and financial ties here that will pull me back. But even more, I do not feel like God has released me from my job at South Potomac for good. Of course, He is always welcome to do whatever He wants in my life and He can change my itinerary whenever He chooses. That is part of the great adventure that is following Him!

So, there it is. My official “telling the internet” of my plans. If you are a Christ-follower and a person who prays, I would love for you to pray for me, for South Potomac, and for the kids who are going to be “mine” next school year. I will continue to post here on this blog throughout the year. If you don’t want to miss any posts you can sign up with your e-mail so that you get notified when they come. If you want more detailed monthly updates with specific requests, let me know and I will add you to that e-mail list.

And yes, I am raising financial support for this as well. I need about $4,000 to cover summer and outgoing expenses and then I will need $2400 each month to cover my expenses here in the US and there in Guatemala. All giving can be done through my church, http://www.southpotomac.org and is, of course, tax deductible. But I truly need your prayer support more than I need your money.

I am looking forward to what God does over the next 5 months as I prepare to go, as well as how He is going to show up during the year I am gone. I know that this is not always going to be easy or fun. There will be hurdles, spiritual warfare and situations that bring me to my knees. But I am excited to follow the Good Shepherd wherever He leads, knowing that obedience to Him is the best way to thank Him for all He has done.

Destination: Guatemala!

Sacrifices…

I am currently reading Leviticus, the book of laws that God gave the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land. As I read it, I find that I am so grateful!
I am thankful that I do not have to travel to a certain location, like the Tabernacle, in order to be forgiven.
I am grateful that I don’t have to bring a sheep, a ram, a bull or some pigeons to be made right with God.
And that I don’t have to talk to Him through a priest.
I am thankful that I live under grace and not under The Law.
And I am grateful that Emmanuel, God with us, became The Way to God the Father so that the Holy Spirit of the Living God can live inside of me, making my body His temple and my heart His home.

But as I think about the sacrifices and offerings the Israelite were required to bring to God, I am reminded that there are still sacrifices to be made.
Still items to be brought daily, in an act of worship, before the Living God.
Not because He needs them.
Or because He needs me.
But because He is worth them.
Worthy of any sacrifice I can bring.

Here are three daily sacrifices that the Words says bring Him great delight:

First, a sacrifice of praise.
Sometimes, praise springs up naturally in my heart and to my lips.
A beautiful sunrise
A snuggly baby
A scene of beauty
Or an act of kindness

These things can all trigger me to say, “Wow, God, that’s awesome! You do such good work! YOU are so awesome!”

Those things are not a sacrifice of praise.

But when things aren’t going my way…
When I am tired – physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually…
When someone disappoints me, again…
When God disappoints me, again…
When I do not understand His ways…
When I do not like the answer He gives…

That is when I must bring Him a sacrifice of praise.
You see, a sacrifice must cost me something in order to be a sacrifice.

And in this case, it often costs me things I don’t want to pay.
Like my control of a situation
Or my need to understand
My need to be understood
My pride
Or my selfishness

In order to praise God IN ALL THINGS, I must lay down myself.
I must lay those things down.
And I must yield to His higher ways.
I must submit to the idea that He is God and I am not.
And I must choose to remember that He is good. Even when He is not who I think He should be, He is good.
Even when His timetable does not match mine, He is good.
Even when He seems far, far away, He is good.

A sacrifice of praise forces me to lay down my need to control, my need to be right, my need to be needed, my need to be vindicated.
Because it puts God back in first place where He belongs.
Not because I understand Him.
Not because we are on the same page.
Not because He has done something I like.
But because He is good.
Because He deserves it.
Because He is worth it.
Worth laying down me to focus on Him.

Which leads to the next sacrifice – the sacrifice of obedience.

I don’t actually like a lot of what Jesus said.
I want to explain it away.
Make it say something slightly – or even vastly – different.
Like, instead of “Love your enemies” I want it to say, “Pray for fire and brimstone to come down on your enemies.”
Instead of “Pray for those who hurt you” I want it to say, “You can ignore, shut off and distance yourself from those who hurt you.”
Instead of “Forgive as you have been forgiven” I want it to say, “You deserve to hold a grudge because they hurt you.”

But regardless of how I feel about any of it, what He said, He said.
And He said, “Obedience = Love”.
He said, “If you love me, you will obey me.”
He said, “If you follow me, you will live as I live.”
He said, “If you say you love me but don’t live this way, you don’t really love me.”

So, for HIS sake, I will bring a sacrifice of obedience.

Which once again means laying down my pride.
My selfishness.
My right to be angry.
My right to be vindicated.
My right to be heard, understood, loved, needed, appreciated.
The list goes on and on.

But when I lay down me and obey Him, I am bringing something far more valuable than a lamb.
Something far more valuable than any material thing I can bring.

Which brings me to the third sacrifice.

The sacrifice of priority. The giving over of first place.

Whose kingdom will I look after first?
His? Or mine?
Whose agenda will I choose?
His? Or mine?
Whose reputation will I seek to exalt?
His? Or mine?

Who will I make a priority?
Those I like? Or those He loves?
Who will I seek to glorify?
Him? Or me?
Who will I live for?
Him? Or me?

Again, this takes laying down myself. And blocking my ears to the messages I constantly hear all around me – and even in me.

“If I don’t look after me, who will?”
“Gotta take care of number one!”
“I am enough.”
“Make a name for yourself.”
“You can do it!”
“If you believe it, you can achieve it.”
“Dig down deep in yourself and you will find all you need.”

In contrast to what the Bible says:

“God, You alone are my supply.”
“God, I will make You number one in my finances, my time, my talent.”
“God, I am not enough. But You are everything I need.”
“God, I want to live for Your name, Your glory, Your fame. They don’t need to know my name – they need to know YOURS.”
“God, I can do nothing without You and everything in You.”
“God, I believe YOU can do anything. Please do what You will.”
“God, I am empty and unable to meet my own needs. But You can supply all that I need – starting with my need to lay down me and lift You high.”

Three sacrifices.
Or really, just one.

Paul begged the believers at Rome to get this.
He said, “I beg you to lay down yourself on the altar. You can only do it by God’s mercy. But do it. It is the only reasonable response to what God has done for you. And here’s the secret – when you do it, when you lay yourself down, God shows up in big ways. He’ll change you from the inside, out. He’ll transform the way you think. He’ll show you all you need to know to keep following Him – all the best ways to live. You really can trust Him!” (Romans 12:1-2, in Kathy-phrase)

So glad I don’t have to be a sheepherder or a cattle farmer to be a Christ-follower.
I don’t need a pasture full of lambs, rams and cows to follow Him.

But I do need to bring a daily sacrifice.
Of praise.
Of obedience.
Of priorities.

I am prone to climbing off the altar.
But I know from experience that it is the only place to find real life.
Real joy.
Real adventure.
Real abundance.

So once again, today, I lay me down.
So I can lift Him high.
Will you join me?

You? Or Me? On Following God’s Own Fool…

Who is more important, me or you?
Whose feelings should matter the most to me, mine or yours?
Who should I look after, you or me?
When it comes down to it, who goes first, you or me?
Who gets the last piece of that yummy thing, you or me?
Who gets first choice from the delicious feast, me or you?

When you get praised and I don’t, who is more important, you or me?
When you get the raise and I don’t, am I happy for you or sad for me?
When you succeed where I have failed, how do I react? Is it about you or me?

When I love you but you don’t love me back, what do I do?
When I put you first but you put me last, what do I do?
When I pray for you but you revile me, what do I do?

The world screams, “You have to take care of you. After all, if you don’t, who will?”
Jesus said, “If you want to be great in the Kingdom of God, learn to be a servant of all.”

The world shouts, “You have rights! Stand up for yourself! Stand up for your rights!”
Jesus “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped or asserted [as if He did not already possess it, or was afraid of losing it]; but emptied Himself by assuming the form of a bond-servant.” A human. An innocent criminal, sentenced to death on my behalf.

The world says, “Don’t give too much! They’ll take advantage of you.”
Jesus said, “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also [for the Lord repays the offender]. And whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.”

The world says, “You only have to love those who are lovely – those who look like you, think like you, act like you.”
Jesus said, “I say to you, love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven… For if you love [only] those who love you, what reward do you have?”

Impossible stuff.
I can’t put your needs ahead of my own.
I might lose out if I do that.

I can’t love you more than I love me.
They’ll say I’m weak if I do that.

I can’t “consider your interests ahead of my own”.
I won’t get what I need in that equation.

After all, I have to look out for me, right?

But what if…

What if God meant it when He said He would supply my needs?
What if He meant it when He said that He would vindicate me?
What if God takes the job of being my Shepherd incredibly seriously?
What if my life rests on His reputation and not my own?
What if I decided to risk loving as He loves?
What if His power really is at work in me, giving me the strength to do the impossible?

Will He really have my back?
Will He really take care of me?
Will He really be my shield and my defender?
Will He really fight for me?

Or is He a liar?

The way I live…
The way I love…
The way I give…
Those are my answers to that question, is God a liar?
The choices I make and actively live out declare what I believe far more than my words ever will.

Do I believe God and therefore live His way, even when it is risky?
Or do I only say I believe?

Do I trust Him to keep His promises, even when everything in me screams I should protect myself?
Or is that just lip service?

For me, it comes down to this:
I have been greatly loved.
Completely forgiven.
And thoroughly gifted.

Therefore, I am going to:
Live fully, trusting God for the outcomes.
Love boldly, risking rejection, pain and hurt.
And celebrate joyfully all the glory He gets in the end.

The world will call me foolish for that.
But I will choose to follow “God’s Own Fool”, as Michael Card sings.
Here are the lyrics and a link to the song.
May you and I choose to “believe the unbelievable and come be a fool as well”.

God’s Own Fool
Michael Card

Seems I’ve imagined Him all of my life
As the wisest of all of mankind
But if God’s Holy wisdom is foolish to men
He must have seemed out of His mind

For even His family said He was mad
And the priests said a demon’s to blame
But God in the form of this angry young man
Could not have seemed perfectly sane

When we in our foolishness thought we were wise
He played the fool and He opened our eyes
When we in our weakness believed we were strong
He became helpless to show we were wrong

And so we follow God’s own fool
For only the foolish can tell-
Believe the unbelievable
And come be a fool as well

So come lose your life for a carpenter’s son
For a madman who died for a dream
And you’ll have the faith His first followers had
And you’ll feel the weight of the beam

So surrender the hunger to say you must know
Have the courage to say I believe
For the power of paradox opens your eyes
And blinds those who say they can see

So we follow God’s own Fool
For only the foolish can tell
Believe the unbelievable,
And come be a fool as well

On Shrek, Shearing and The Shepherd

Do you know the story of Shrek the sheep?

He gained fame in 2004 when he was finally shorn after six years. Sheep are usually shorn annually but Shrek had avoided capture by hiding out in caves in his native New Zealand. By the time they finally caught him and sheared him, he yielded 60 pounds of wool, enough to create 20 large men’s suits.

All that wool could not have been comfortable! In fact, it was dangerous. If a sheep falls over on its back (or is “cast down”) and cannot get up, it is only a matter of minutes before dangerous gases build up in their stomachs and kill them. Shrek’s overly large burden of wool would have made it impossible for him to get up if he was ever “cast down”. By the time he was caught, the wool had covered his eyes as well. It is amazing that he evaded predators, natural dangers inherent to sheep like being cast down and even injuries during his six-year rebellion.

All because he did not want to be shorn.

Now, not all sheep are like Shrek. Some breeds naturally shed their fleece if they are not shorn. But a Merino’s fleece just keeps growing and growing. It makes them fantastic wool producers – but terrible rebels.

I love that throughout Scripture God uses living object lessons to help us to understand Himself and the very best ways to live. One of the most common in the Word is the picture that we are sheep and He is the Good Shepherd. I have been “chewing” on Psalm 23, “The Shepherd’s Psalm”, for the last few weeks. As I was thinking through the many, many ways that we are like sheep, it occurred to me that one of the only things sheep are really good for is shearing. They are not designed to be beasts of burden or any kind of hauling animal. (And that is a blog post for another day – how we tend to think we are oxen or horses or donkeys, designed to carry all of our burdens ourselves, when that was never the plan…)

But back to sheep. And specifically, Shrek the sheep. And how we are just like him.

We don’t like to let go, do we?
Whether it is resources or talents or time, we much prefer to hoard what we have been given.
But, just like Shrek, the more we hoard, the less freedom we have.
The more burdened we are.
And we miss the blessing of blessing others.

The theory is that Shrek hid out to avoid the possible pain of shearing. And I am sure that those 20 minutes under the clippers are not fun for any sheep. They may be painful if the shearer nicks the skin. And I am sure it is frightening to be held in place while a strange buzzing thing comes after you. But the freedom that comes on the other side! The weight that is lifted – that has to be an amazing feeling.

Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) He also told instructed the disciples regarding sharing the gospel, “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) The principle is taught over and over again in Scripture. Your best life is not achieved by hoarding the blessings, whatever they are. Your time, talent and treasure do not get multiplied by hoarding. Instead, they grow best and are best used when they are freely shared under the direction of your Good Shepherd.

You see, Shrek could not stop himself from producing wool. It’s what Merino sheep are wired to do.

As a Christ-follower, the fruit of the Spirit should be popping up in your life as you follow Him. And the blessings of grace should be more and more evident as you live more and more in the eternal perspective. It’s what Christ-followers are wired to do.

If Shrek had submitted himself to the shepherd, his life would have been richer, fuller and much, much easier. The weight of the wool would have been lifted. And others would have been blessed sooner because he willingly submitted to the shears.

As a Christ-follower, if you will submit yourself to the Shepherd, your life will be fuller, richer and much, much easier. Yes, the shearer will come. The clippers may even nick you. And you will not always understand the Shepherd’s ways. But if you will trust Him, He has promised to lead you. To protect you. To guide you in the best possible paths for your life.

Which includes showing you how to use the resources of time, talent and treasure that He has given you in ways that will benefit so many more people than just yourself. There will be tough stuff that comes up, for sure. Jesus promised that it would! He said, “In this world you WILL have trouble.” But He followed that with the promise: “But be encouraged – I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) You will still be a sheep facing the shearer. You will still have moments of fear and confusion. And you will not always love the process. But you will always, always have the Shepherd with you, comforting you, guiding you, guarding you, and providing for you. So you can let go of the wool. You can let go of the rebellion. The hiding. And protecting yourself. If you will simply yield.

And when you do?
Who knows what the 60 pounds of wool you have been hoarding can do to change the world!
Take the risk – trust the Shepherd.
Ask Him to shear you of what you have been hoarding – and feel the freedom that will bring. He is worth the risk!

———
If you want to read more about Shrek, check out this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrek_(sheep)

If you want to know more about the picture of the sheep and the Good Shepherd that the Bible presents – including the idea of being “cast down” check out the book “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by W. Phillip Keller.

W.A.I.T.

I hate waiting.
Waiting in line.
Waiting at a traffic light.
Waiting to hear news, good or bad.

Those are all inconvenient, annoying waits.

But then there is the big one:
Waiting on God.

I want to know.
And I want to know now.
What is the answer?
How are You going to move?
What is my next step?
Where?
When?
How?
What if?

Waiting. I must admit, sometimes I do it better than others.
And when I do it well, it is all about my focus.
What has my undivided attention?
Am I staring fixedly at whatever it is I am waiting for?
Or are my eyes locked onto the God who loves me?

When I focus on what I am waiting for, I am concentrating on a perceived lack in my life.
Something I am convinced I need. Or something I just know will make me happy.
Something He is not doing. Or something I want Him to stop allowing to happen.

But when I focus on HIM, the waiting gets much, much easier.
I remember that He is for me and not against me.
That He is the God who fights for me.
And the God who “works for those who wait for Him.” (Isaiah 64)
I remember that He loved me enough, long before I was born, to provide The Way for Him to be my Provider. My Protector. My Sustainer. My Strength. And the Grace to wait.

So here is my decision:
I am going to wait well.
Because waiting well is a choice.
Just like so many other things in life.

And to help me to know how to wait well, God gave me this acronym:

As I wait, I will be WILLING.
Willing for God to be God.
Willing to let Him have His way.
Willing to marinate in His Word instead of my feelings.
Willing to choose to “walk by faith and not by sight”.
Or, put another way, willing to walk with HIM as my focus, as my “sight” rather than my circumstances.

As I wait, I will be AVAILABLE.
Holding my plans loosely.
Laying down my desires daily on His altar. Saying, without fear, “Your will be done.”
Trusting that His plans, ways, and desires for me far outweigh the glory of my own.
An automatic “Yes” in both words and actions to whatever He is prompting me to do.
And an automatic stopping of whatever He is telling me to stop doing.

As I wait, I will be INTENTIONAL.
I will intentionally take every thought captive to Christ.
I will intentionally choose to not worry and fret.
I will intentionally choose to not try to solve the situation on my own.
And I will act with intention in my prayer life. My reading life. My downtime life. And my serving life. Every part of my life.
Putting Him first.
Cheerfully living in the now instead of the not yet.
Cheerfully accepting that this is where He has me.
And intentionally letting Him use me here.
Even in the waiting room.

And finally, as I wait, I will choose to TRUST.
That is all of the above summed up in one word.
And it is all found in One Word.
The Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1)

Because that Word waited on God as well.
Jesus trusted His Father to guide Him.
He prayed all the time, consistently going off to be alone with the Father.
He waited God’s timing on when to start His earthly ministry.
He waited on God to lead Him to His disciples.
And He waited until just the right time to die on the cross.
And even in that, He waited for three days before He was resurrected.

If Jesus, the Son of God, and God Incarnate, could choose to wait on His Father, how much more should I?

If Jesus “entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly” (I Peter 2) even as people insulted and mocked him, nailing Him to a cross, how much more can I entrust myself to that same Father?

If Jesus trusts the time of His return to His Father (Matthew 24), how much more can I trust the timing of my life to that same incredible Dad?

Do I want the answers to ALL of my questions NOW?
Of course I do!

But since that is not going to happen, I can choose to be miserable, trying to figure it all out, trying to make it happen, trying to manipulate the timing and control the outcome.
In other words, I can choose to be my own god, worshiping at the altar of my desires, bound by the limitations of my human insight and my own paltry strength.

Or I can W.A.I.T.

I can choose to live out:

Willing
Accepting
Intentional
Trust

In the God who made me.
Who adores me.
And Who has promised to never leave me or forsake me.
To work all things together for my good and His glory.
And to finish what He started in my life.

I want to wait well.
Will you W.A.I.T. with me?