Thursday, May 28

God's Will....not dependent on ours....

"I am the vine, you are the branches. The one who abides in me while I abide in him produces much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5 ISV)

I've rejoined the Men's group that I had originally quit to answer the need in the Awana's program (children's ministry at The River). They are studying the book by Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King called "Experiencing God: Knowing and doing the Will of God." This study was previously done by the women's group that my friend Cherie attended and in which I saw steady, definable growth by her in her walk. She asked me what I hoped to discover taking such a 'basic' course, a compliment to my spiritual knowledge I guess. I told her, this is the only way to establish relationships that will enable me to create my own bible study group, at least by church philosophy. I finally received the study book and started on it to 'catch up' to the group.

We equate spiritual strength and vitality with wisdom. The wisdom that is reflected in a 'spiritual' walk...i.e. church attendance, social repentance and the shadowy land of 'good fruit'. If you struggle, well it must be because you're not repentant, not being spiritual or -horror of all horrors, unsaved. God is good, and promises the world for us...prosperity, victory and happiness. Therefore, you're not taking ahold of God's promises if you're none of those things. The poor of this world must not be following God, the defeated of the world must not know God's grace and those who aren't happy must not be realizing the joy of the LORD. If we pray for God's will in our lives, and are met with silence…then we must either not be willing to listen or praying the 'right' prayer. We must have a 12-step, an action plan or the vision of a grand campus in which all the ministries we are enticed by can be gathered into one location….or we must not be in God's will for our lives. As I've been told in my quest to answer the call God's placed upon me…one that I thought was simply to function as a 'mouthpiece' for Him….but is so much more (and nothing like I would believe it would/should be); God will provide, if you are indeed anointed to His calling.

Blackaby/King's book is an opportunity for me to slack the sails and let the ship slow down a bit…so that God, walking with me in the midst of this journey, can get a few paces ahead so that I can see the fullness of what He has given me of Himself so far. The authors hit you right in the eyes in the first few pages: "What is God's will for my life? -- is not the right question. I think the right question is, What is God's will?" Dr. Gaines S. Dobbins, a seminary professor the author learned under, is quoted. "If you ask the wrong question, you are going to get the wrong answer." If we want to know God's will, we cannot conform it to the narrow view of our life but must look at God's will and bring ourselves into conformance with it so we can experience God.

Most Christians want instant solutions to the problems they present to their congregational friends, pastor and fellow believers. A child's death should be experienced in the context of the unknown, rather than sitting in the sorrow and grief. A financial burden, well…financial stewardship must be implemented or else assistance won't be forthcoming. The recurrence of sin; you must not be accountable enough or must not be truly repentant. Few stand reflective of the example set by Jesus and what one of my mentors, Scott Engelman, calls a "wise elder". A Christian with passionate convictions about God, His people and this life that come from biblical revelation who moves in wise, powerful and sensitive ways into other people's lives with a godly vision of spiritual maturity with implications of possible continuing struggles with the problems experienced in those lives. The focus is always on God, not our lives or the life problems of others, but what God is doing and how experiences, circumstances and spiritual maturity will look are being used for God's purpose and plan. "What is God doing?" Scott would say. As Blackaby/King ask, are we as the body of Christ, ready to go forward without a clear idea of what God's will ultimately will look like? Or do we require a step-by-step description of what going forward in God's will ultimately will look like? One way relies on God's eyesight, the other our own.

God calls us to an intimate and personal relationship with Him, not for our own gratification or prosperity, but solely for the purposes to which we were created, purposed and are designed for by His own hand. Through the experience of being in the Word, living a life absent of agenda (i.e. this is what I need to be comfortable now) and pursuing God, we find ourselves confronted with our selfishness and protective old nature..coaxed into demanding recognition by the enemy who's only avenue left for our disillusionment is to demand God give us His promises in the context of our own reality. The children never die, finances are always on track and God sends us only where we want to go with a itinerary of what is going to be accomplished.

We want to live our lives under God's protection in the ways we can look without effort for His hand in it. We subject our will to His, as long as it is convenient and we know what He will do with it.

Leonardo da Vinci, who is known as an excellent painter, sculptor, poet, architect, engineer, city planner, scientist, inventor, anatomist, military genius, and philosopher said:

"Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power of judgment…Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller, and more of it can be taken in at a glance, and lack of harmony or proportion more readily seen."

Sometimes in that pursuit of knowing God, we have to stop and take stock of what we've learned….in essence, allow God to get a bit ahead of us (not out of sight, but where we can see the fullness of what He's shown us so far). The corrupted old nature still sways and pulls us, redeemed sinners, into paths and degrees of error that can only be realized when we stop and check for a course correction. Granted, if we only kept our eyes on the compass….i.e. God….we wouldn't have to fear such deviations….but we don't, even the 'most' spiritual of us and only a few degrees of error, over time, can lead to disastrous course variations in our journey towards home and the pursuit of God.

It is when we are still in the water, the sails limp upon the masthead and the waves rocking the deck beneath our feet (whether gently or violently) is when we approach our understanding of God, and that intimate relationship, the closest. And we realize that some of the tasks, the assignments and even directions that God beckoned us to join Him in don't seem logical or even worthwhile when He first spoke but in the fullness of the journey, we can see the wisdom of His plan. Too many times, though, we refuse to go without a logical explanation detailing the design and wisdom of God. We speak our dogma with such requirement, we seek out our teachers who can espouse it in our language and 'correct' our scriptural understanding to fit God's word into our demandedness.

Abraham, having the fulfilled promise God made him in Isaac, was told by God to take him to "a mountain" in the Moriah region so he could be a burnt offering. God didn't even tell Abraham which mountain, only that it would be 'one….I will tell you about." (Genesis 22:2) Abraham didn't have the guarantee that things would end the way they did….God didn't provide such information to him. Obedience without cost is easy and empty, for there is no faith engaged in such obedience that doesn't require us to believe in the illogical. So much of the 'basics' are easily understood, but when we get into the depth and width of God….the logic is hidden from us, just over the horizon.

It is when God calls us to join Him in the impossible, the incalculable and the unknowable that obedience becomes a walk of faith….a willingness to walk into the furnace that kills even the tenders….to journey the desert for forty years following a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night…or even to journey into the darkness and sorrow of our past to give witness and voice to that which we would deny and are certain means death. Obedience born of faith that seems illogical, that carries impossibly heavy cost (even the cost of a promise God has given) or is so beyond what we consider to be our 'calling' is were God walks closest to us because we live through that faith….a faith that believes God can kill all our dreams, remove all our promises and blessings but that He also has the power to resurrect them, restore them and fulfill them.

We have to face that which is our most deepest fear, journey back into the timeless pain of a chaotic and troubling childhood to face those giants that stand in the way of God's victorious mercy. Why doesn't God just heal us without that accounting? Without reliance upon God to face those giants, we will equip ourselves with the armor of our choosing and find ourselves ill-fitted to journey alongside our brethren in their struggles. We become counterproductive to the cause of the Kingdom and ineffective in the Potter's hands.

Paul tells us that we should 'rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us." (Romans 5:3-5) In the times to come, whether facing the giants of our past, dealing with the human tendency of self in our dealings inside and outside the family of God or even growing closer to God in the intimate relationship of His will and our lives; we will need faith tested that has persevered to the point of unshakeable and undeniable hope. For in the end of all things, hope is all we have left.

God calls us to bring our garbage to Him for disposal. To be burned in the righteousness of His forgiveness, cleansed by His grace and redeemed by His mercy. Not so that we can live a life prosperous by the standards of the world; wealth, health and glory but so that we can more clearly see a God who defies all understanding and is more powerful that the most complex of our problems. So that we can reflect to a darkened world a light that is unworldly, simplistic and clear by living a life that is illogical in the face of our wounds, our situations and our circumstances.

In a kingdom long ago, there was a murder committed in the light of day. A King killed his beloved son, the literal image-bearer of his face to whom he found displeasure for the apparent handicaps of his wisdom, knowledge and vitality. No justification could or has been given for this murdering, no accounting has been given for its commission. One of the perpetrators of this dastardly deed has walked into the ultimate judgment and another still wanders the worldly hallways of dark freedom….yet the crime must be attributed and assignment of guilt given. God mourns the loss of that beloved son and wants to bring resurrection, restoration and purposed joy to the corpse of that son that still wanders the world….

An illogical trip into the darkness of my childhood is where God whispers to me to go; to journey into the void created and to find that beloved son, without a promise of victory and a proclamation of healing…..but I have faith that God can take me into that place and that He can resurrect that lost child for the promotion of His glory.

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