Monthly Archives: December 2019

The Compulsion to Micromanage

My friends, I’ve been struggling with my compulsion to micromanage everything.  I want tell God what needs to change in the world, in my life, in my friends’ lives.  I want to tell him what I think he needs to do.  I want to tell the people in my life what they can do to make the world better.  I want to fix things.

It’s hard, because  I have this vision of how things ought to be.  I see clearly what’s wrong, and what needs fixing. I don’t have this in every area.  But many times, I see what would help.  I realize that this is just my own perspective.  I don’t know everything.  But having this strong vision makes it hard for me to be quiet and still, instead of implementing steps towards what I see.

But there’s just this thing.  Sometimes my vision is a gift.  It helps me to lead and act in situations, when others dither.  But it’s also a hindrance, because it’s just one perspective, and there’s much more that I’m not seeing. And it can really drag me down, because I get frustrated when things don’t go according to this strong feeling of how they should go.

The main thing is, that I’m not trusting the story.  A lot of times I don’t even see what God is trying to do.  I’m just too wrapped up in my own narrative. And what’s happening around me doesn’t jibe with that narrative.

So I have to trust the story more.  I have to believe that God is working in just the right way, all around me.  He doesn’t need me mucking about trying to “fix” everything.  Sure, he needs me to act righteously and do good deeds.  He needs to work through me, and to love others through me.

But, and this is horrible, I tend to unconsciously think that I need to go around managing the world because it’s not being managed very well.  When the truth is that God does NOT need me to manage the world.

God’s not deficient in the way he runs the world.  He, who created everything, said, “It is good.”  He fashioned the world, and life, just as it is supposed to be, nothing more, nothing less. He has worked through history, through the lives of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, the Israelites . . . I could go on, and on.  In each of these stories, the individuals had to learn to trust the story, and that it was enough.  All of the troubles of life came about because they didn’t trust, because they thought God wasn’t doing his job well enough, so they needed to get in there and fix things.

Yikes.  I know it’s pride.  I feel like I need to just keep telling myself, over and over, “You don’t know better.”  I feel like I need to see each moment like a blank slate, instead of seeing my vision of how things should go.  I need to watch and see what God is putting on that blank slate, and learn more about him.

Those who have been reading this blog, know that we’ve been looking at the red-letter words of Jesus in the book of John.  Today’s verse is, Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. (John 5:22-23)

Jesus is supposed to make the judgments, not me. Of course, this is referring to the final judgment.  But it highlights how ridiculous it is that I put so much stock in my own opinion.  His opinion is the one that counts.

I said that I would be Jesus’s disciple.  That means that I should be constantly trying to learn from him.  My eyes should be on him, knowing that I don’t know everything, and watching for what he can teach me.

Instead, I’m a disciple of me.

Why would I do that, when no matter how much I manage, and move things around, I can’t save myself. . . or anyone else?

God gave Jesus the power of judgment so that people would honor him.  The whole point was that people wouldn’t look at Jesus like he’s a philosopher, but that they would think, “Uh, oh, this guy’s got power over our eternal destiny, so we’d better pay serious attention to him.”

I have to pay serious attention to Jesus and honor him.

I feel like, in this new year, I need to start all over and figure out what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus.  I need to listen for his voice in every situation, so I follow him, and not my own thinking or vision.  I need to seek input from others who are following him.

I think it will allow me to take a deep breath, and feel free, and find more joy and peace.

I’m eager to start this journey.  Who’s with me?

“Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” (Prov. 26:12)

Leave a comment

Filed under Having the Right Heart, Humility, John, Red Letter

The Amazing Gift of Life

christmas

For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He wishes. (John 5:21)

We can’t even begin to comprehend how incredible the power of life is. It’s  beyond miraculous that God brought animate existance out of nothing. Scientists can do some pretty amazing things these days.  But none of them can manipulate the elements in such a way to create life where there is none.

And Jesus had this power.  It drove the Jewish leaders crazy that Jesus made himself equal to God.  Here, Jesus told them the simple truth.  He could give life, just as God could.  It was a statement that rocked the world.

Below are some other verses from John that describe how Jesus has this power. The first two follow today’s red letter passage.

  • Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment. Indeed, he has crossed over from death to life. (V. 24)
  • Truly, truly, I tell you, the hour is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.  For as the Father has life in Himself, so also He has granted the Son to have life in Himself (v. 25-26)
  • The Spirit gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. (John 6:63)
  • I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10b)
  • Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies. (John 11:25)

Jesus had the power of life in three major ways.  He could create life.  (John 1:2)  He could heal, and raise the dead. ( (Matt 9:25 Luke 7:14 John 11:43) He could give people a new spiritual life, eternal life. (Col. 2:13)

So what does this mean for us? It means we come to Jesus as the source of what we so desperately need.  We remember that it’s more than reading our Bibles and attending church meetings.  “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40).

We come to Jesus to have life, when we’re feeling wooden and dull, like a wind up toy.

We come to Jesus to have life, when we’re dying inside for lack of hope.

We come to Jesus to have life, when we’re exhausted, and running out of steam.

We come to Jesus to have life, when we’re despondant, because sin is so powerful.

And Jesus gives us life, like a continuous spring, renewing us over and over again.

“Now we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this surpassingly great power is from God and not from us. We are pressed on all sides, but not crushed . . . We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body . . . Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (Selections from 2 Cor. 4)

It’s December.  Over the past year, God has done some amazing things in my life, as I wrote in my last blog.  Yet there are also ways I am mourning.  There are broken dreams.  It seems appropriate to reflect on this right now, as a cold rain pounds outside, and the wind whips the stark branches of my trees.  (It’s even worse, because our floor, which we thought was fixed, is seeping water through its new planks! )

Sometimes we have to accept that the dream, as we saw it, wasn’t meant to be.  Sometimes, when we hear the December wind howl, we need to let it blow through us, instead of filling up our spaces with presents and feasts.  We need to feel the loss and emptiness, so that we can come to Jesus with a pure longing for renewal.

Isn’t that what the winter is?  A time when life seems to die, only to come again in the spring?

Isn’t that why a Son was given to us, a babe that we celebrate at this time of year?  To show that when things seem bleak, there can be amazing hope?

The birth of Jesus is God’s everlasting illustration of life. It’s like he created animate existance all over again.  It’s that miraculous.

As this year draws to a close, let’s reflect, not only on our blessings over the past year, but also on our disappoinments.  They’re real.  We can grieve the loss.

But the loss can also open us up to the renewal.   We realize that we need the life.  We come to Jesus.

And he gives us what we need.  Because that’s who he is, and why he came.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Hope, John, Red Letter

Amazing, Astounding, Marvelous, Wonderful!

rays-2464986_1920

For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing, and he will show him greater works than these so that you will be amazed. (John 5:20)

This has been such an encouraging verse to study out.  We looked at the first part of it in my last blog.  Now, we’re looking at the part where it says that God will show Jesus greater works than these.  Greater works than what?  Than the healing of the man at the pool, which Jesus had just performed.

Jesus says that when his listeners see these greater works, they will be amazed.  So I looked up every place in the gospels where this same Greek word for amazed was used.  I found that people marveled when Jesus calmed the wind and the waves.  They were filled with wonder as they saw people receive sight who had never been able to see, people receive voice who had never been able to talk, people receive mobility who had never been able to walk.  Their jaws dropped when a man who was hopelessly possessed became in his right mind.  They were floored when he made a fig tree wither.  They were astounded at wisdom of Jesus, especially knowing that he hadn’t been formally taught.  They were so astonished when he cast out a demon from a mute man, and the man began to talk, that they said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”  

It’s really good for me to remember how amazing the works of God through Jesus were, because right now I’m surrounded with some really tough, heart breaking, life changing situations.  I want to say, “God, I’m praying, but I don’t know if you’re hearing me, or if you’ll act powerfully in these situations.”  But when I read this list of miraculous deeds, I know that God can still astound.

Because the last part of the verse says that God exerts his power so that we will be filled with wonder.  In other words, so that we will see that he is God, and there is no other, and subsequently glorify him.  God always seeks his own glory.  It’s just expressing the truth.  He’s the Almighty and All Powerful.  All glory is due him.

So God will seek to be glorified through today’s tough situations, one way or another.  And as I reflect on this, I start to recall all of the ways I can marvel at God right now.  I marvel that my life was orchestrated in such a way that I came to faith.  I marvel at the ways God worked in my marriage.  I marvel at how he allowed my husband to grow in his career and provide for us.  I marvel at how, even in the past year, I’ve healed in ways I never had before.  I marvel at the impact our church has had.  I marvel at lives I’ve seen change, and people I’ve seen come to faith.

And that reminds me of what Jesus says later in John,  “Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I am doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  (John 14:12)

Jesus promises that it isn’t only that God will show everyone greater things through the life of Jesus.  It’s also that God will show greater things through our lives, because Jesus is interceding for us.  I believe that my list of reasons to marvel is evidence of this.

So I can’t be despondent.  I have to open my eyes to who I serve and worship.  And who I serve is amazing.

I love that it’s the time of year when we think about how Jesus fulfilled the prophesies of his birth.  One of my favorite ones is in Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born. . .  His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

His name shall be Wonderful.  That very word suggests the surpassing, the miraculous, the incredible.

Wonderful is what God set in motion.

May we expect more, and be more at peace.

May we know that God will be glorified.

May we fall on our knees acknowledging what has been done, and what will yet be accomplished.

(Photo credit Pete Linforth)

Leave a comment

Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, John, Red Letter

The God Who Reveals

forest-4412721_1920

“The Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does.” (John 5:20a)

Why do we worry?  Often, it’s because we can’t see what God is doing, or even if he’s doing anything.

But in today’s red letter verse, Jesus said that God showed him all that he was doing.

And we think, “Man, that must have been nice.  Jesus was in the know.  He didn’t have to get all tied in knots, like we do.”

But what was it that Jesus saw God doing?  Did God literally show Jesus everything, so he knew exactly what God was doing at each point of time?

If we look Jesus’s life, we get the picture of someone who, by and large, was unaware of what might happen minute to minute.  One great example of this is when he was amazed at the faith of the centurion.  (Matt. 8:10)  He wasn’t expecting that.  He also didn’t seem to expect a crippled man to be lowered through the roof, or a woman to touch him in the crowd and be healed.

There were times when Jesus could see exactly how God was going to work.  When Lazarus was sick, Jesus knew that he would die and come back to life.  (John 11:4) Other times, though, I think that it wasn’t that Jesus saw with a clarity of what would happen, but that he saw with a clarity that God was present and engaged.  So Jesus could sleep in a boat during a storm, or face impossible situations like feeding 5,000 in a wasteland.  He could pray, and know he would receive what he needed, and thus live righteously and powerfully, and endure the trials of the cross.

So all of this brings us to the question, “Can we see like Jesus saw? How much is God showing us?”

The answer is super exciting, because our God is not remote, as are the gods others worship.  Our God wants us to know him.  He makes himself known.  He walked with Adam and Eve.  He interacted with Abraham.  He met Moses on the mountain, and gave him his will to pass on to his people. He showed himself to Elijah. He sent prophets who spoke his very words.

He gave us Jesus. That was the ultimate reveal.  “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:18)  Jesus said, “Everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you.”  (John 15:15b)

Isn’t this totally encouraging?  God shows us so much through his son.  And all we have to do is read the stories of Jesus to see how God operates.

Here are some other ways that God reveals himself:

  1. The scripture.  “The word of God is living and active.”  (Heb. 4:12) God gave us this incredible collection of scriptures that cause light bulbs to go off in our heads.  Whatever we’re struggling with, we can read or hear just the just the right verse, and it clicks.  It’s exactly what we need to hear.  The world makes a little more sense.  Everything doesn’t become clear all at once, but God definitely gives us glimpses that bring us peace and reassurance.
  2.  God’s works on earth.  “The Holy Spirit descended on [Jesus] in a bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.'” (Luke 3:22)  This verse is just one example of how Jesus saw God working. It wasn’t simply that it was Jesus’s nature to be faith filled.  He saw with spiritual eyes, and had a catalogue of ways God had acted that bolstered his faith.  Some of the ways occurred in the Old Testament.  But some, like the Holy Spirit coming on him and God’s voice being heard when he was baptized, happened during his lifetime.  We also can see with spiritual eyes, list times we’ve seen the supernatural at work in our lives, or around us, and this list can bolster our faith.
  3. The Spirit.But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”( John 16:13)  Jesus had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and as Christians, we have it as well.  In our prayers, we can be quiet and listen to the promptings of the Spirit.  We can listen for the voice of love, joy and peace, rather than the voice of fear and worry.  (See also I Cor. 2:12)
  4. In answer to prayer.  “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.” (Eph 1:18a)   God can open our eyes so we can see him more clearly.

And do you know what’s really cool?  We can see God in ways that those in the past weren’t able to.  Paul wrote, “This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people.”  (Col 1:26)   (See also Ephesians 3:3-6)

God has made so much of himself known.  So the next time you are tempted to worry, look for how God wants to show you all that he does.  Try at least one of the following:

  1. Read the Bible until something clicks.
  2. Write down something from the life of Jesus that can inspire you in your situation.
  3. List ways you have seen God work in the past.
  4. Pray, and make quiet space to listen to the Spirit. (If you’re hearing nothing, try writing down what you think God would write to you in a letter.)
  5. Pray for God to open your eyes to see better.

Remember that you may not be able to see exactly what God is doing, but you can have a clarity that God is with you, supporting and empowering you.

Take a deep breath and exhale.

God will help you see enough to walk with certainty through the things you can’t see.

(Photo Credit: DarkWorkX.)

Leave a comment

Filed under John, Knowing God, Red Letter, Uncategorized