Allowing Like God
One of the most famous Biblical stories is that of the “prodigal son” found in Luke 15. Many people have heard the story or some variation of it. There was a man with two sons, the younger son asks the father to receive his inheritance early. The father agrees and then the younger son takes his inheritance goes to another land and squanders his money on a reckless life. The son looses it all, a famine hits, and he gets a job feeding pigs. One day while he is feeding the pigs, he looks at their slop and is so hungry he wishes he could eat it. At that time he remembers that those who work for his father eat and live better than he does. So, he decides to go home and beg his father to let him be one of his servants. As he approaches his father’s home, his father sees him, runs and embraces him, and throws a huge party to celebrate that his son has come home. There is more to the story because the older brother gets pretty mad, but let’s focus on the father and the younger son for now. Here is what I have really been struggling with.
“And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them.”. Luke 15:12
So why did the father say yes? Surely he could see this was not going anywhere good, it was not normal, and everyone would be impacted by it. It is clear in this story that the father figure represents God and what has really been challenging to me is this portion of God’s response. I know I really struggle allowing like God. The father says yes to his son, knowing full well this was odd and probably not going to go well. He allows his son the opportunity to fail and grow.
As a father of young children this is extremely applicable. Do I allow my children to fail, learn, grow, and sometimes succeed? It takes more work, you might lose time, you might worry, you might lose some money along the way. I have learned, that I typically learn and grow more by seeing my mistakes or the mistakes of others. There is much truth that we all know, but until we have experiences it is all just information, and most of the time it takes at least a few mistakes until we are able to transfer that information to real life decisions. It is like a graduating college student ready to take on the word, they have learned tons, but will have to learn exponentially more through experience to figure out what to do with that information. This is what God allows, He allows us to fail and succeed as we battle through life getting to know him and his ways better.
Now, here is the really hard part. Kids, that is any easy connection, it is the analogy given in the story. What about others? I have always struggled in ministry to let things and people go, to allow like God. I have numerous times robbed friends of important learning opportunities by not allowing, whether it is fixing something at the last minute, giving input that was not requested, or whatever. Also, I have personally struggled with not allowing or letting go when others make decisions or choices that I do not agree with. When I should say, here you go and look out over the ridge for an opportunity to love, receive, and guide, instead, I take the opposite approach of God and say, fine have it your way.
As I consider all of this I think it is wrapped up in having self-sufficiency instead of God-sufficiency. Why is it hard for me to allow? I have to then lose some control, which I don’t have anyway, and trust another. Why is it important to allow, because it makes me give up control, it humbles, it builds trust, and it helps me to truly love.
Do I love others enough to allow and give them opportunities to grow? Do I develop a loving heart by looking to graciously accept or do I look with a judging heart that takes some twisted joy in others failures? Do I let go of some control and allow myself to potentially be inconvenienced and learn to place my sufficiency in God and be humbled? Do I allow others and learn to increase both my trust in others and in God? What will I allow, will I allow like God?
I am extremely enjoying taking my time slowly through the book of Matthew where I continue to find some amazing realities about Jesus, humility, and faith.
By this point most people know that Jesus was a Jesus person living in Israel. Many time, however, most people do not realize that Jesus’ ministry was predominately to the Jewish people. Since Christianity has become so westernized and associated with the west we assume Jesus spent much of his time with the Romans. This is simply not true. Right smack in the middle of the story of Jesus’ life we find this encounter.
“When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.”
(Matthew 8:5–13 ESV)
I find this encounter incredible for a few reasons. This was all initiated by a Centurion. A centurion is a roman soldier who would be responsible for about 100 other soldiers. He is clearly a part of the Roman army and very likely working to earn his Roman citizenship. As a result, he would obey the rules of law of Rome and not the Jewish people. Yet, he potentially risks his respect by seeking out a Jewish Rabbi to ask for help.
Here we find the next thing that is striking to me, the centurion seeks out Jesus himself. Now this might make sense if his only son was sick and dying, but no, he seeks out Jesus because his servant is dying. This man was in charge of about 100 soldiers, surely he could have sent just about anyone to go speak on behalf of his servant. However, he comes himself calling out to Jesus in a term of respect saying, “Lord”. This shows a great deal of humility for a leader in the Roman army, and a great deal of sacrifice for a servant he clearly had affection for.
Not only did I find this interesting but Jesus did also, he responds immediately to go heal him, yet, many times in the gospels he does not respond this way. Then we see even greater, humility, faith, and understanding of authority. This man knows he is undeserving of having Jesus help him or even enter his home, and he has faith that Jesus can heal just as he created, by simply speaking it to be. He understood Jesus as God and that he is in control of all things. That he simply must give the word and it shall be done. What a great reminder to all of us who struggle with understanding authority and have no military experience to better understand. This man sees Jesus as the great general of the world, only needing to speak the word and have his orders carried out. Oh how great it would be to understand that truth better. God has spoken out his orders and I am thankful to serve as his soldier, now I go and carry out his orders (will) for him.
Now even Jesus makes a big deal out of these. Here are his disciples who have been following him around and watching him do amazing things, and this Roman Centurion has more faith than them. I know the feeling at times when I listen to my little Dylan and Drew, the stun me at times when I realize they have so much more faith then I do. They do not worry, they simply trust. When we do family devotionals or talk about how we are to live they simply take their orders and try to carry them out. They are still in basic training and have to be corrected often, but aren’t we all.
Oh if only I, a Jewish Christian disciple could have the faith of a Roman Centurion. If only I were so humble, so trusting, such a servant maybe I would have the privilege to see more of Jesus. What about you? When was the last time you made a decision to trust in Jesus that could jeopardize your status? When was the last time you did so for another? When was the list time you asked Jesus for help humbly, not because you deserved to have in your home but because you had faith he could speak any and all things into being? When was the last time you understood Jesus’ authority as your great general and lived to carry out his orders? When was the last time you witnessed a miracle?
Today is a great day to start!
Today in my reading I found my attention stuck on a short little story about Jesus healing a leper. There are a number of profound and practical things we can take away from this great story. Have you ever wondered how we should approach God? What about if God cares about you and the things going on in your life? How are we to live and respond to God? These three verses deal with all of that and some, join me.
2 And a leper approached, and bowed low before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”3 He stretched out his hand and touched him saying,”I am willing. Be clean!”Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 Then Jesus said to him,”See that you do not speak to anyone, but go, show yourself to a priest, and bring the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
Maybe you are like me and you really want to, no need to experience God in you life and maybe, like me, you have things in your life that you need healed. If you are then you can relate to this leper. He had a horrible skin disease that literally would have ruined his life and be killing him. This guy finds Jesus and basically asks him the age old question, “do you, God, care about my life and are you willing to get involved?”. Well Jesus was God in the flesh so he was already involved in the world but would he be involved in this guys life.
We see as this leper asks this question of Jesus he bows or humbles himself, he does not approach God with demands or tests but a very real and deep question. How are you approaching God? With arrogant demands or humble questions? The leper had a real disease but he did not question if God could heal him, if you believe in God by definition he is God and can do anything. The question is, “is he willing?”. Not just is he willing to heal but will he get involved in your life? Does he care or is God hanging out some where doing his thing or playing cosmic chess with other Gods? No matter what your questions for God are you have to approach Him humbly understanding he is God and can do anything.
So the leper asks Jesus if he is willing to get involved, to care about his life, his hurts, his pains. Jesus responds with reassurance that he cares and will get involved and heals him completely. Now God may not always respond the way we would hope but remember the question is not really about healing the disease it is if God is willing. Jesus lives as God in the flesh and suffers death for humanity because He is willing. He is a God that cares and that is willing to get involved. So then the question goes back to you, are you willing? Are you willing to trust Him?
After this man experiences God and God’s healing in his life Jesus says something that might seem odd. Jesus tells him to obey what the law says and present himself to a priest as a testimony to what God has done. There are a few things we can take from this. God cares about the way in which he has set for humanity to live. There is a right way of living and it is important to God that it is upheld. However, he did not send him and say do this and then I might be willing to heal you. Our problem is that we try to do the right things SO THAT God will heal us or intervene in our lives. However, by Grace through faith in Jesus we obey and try to follow God’s path because He already has intervened in our lives. Are you working yourself to the bone trying to live the right kind of life so that God will intervene? If you are, you are missing it my friend. God is willing to intervene by grace right now, not because of anything we have done but because that is who he is.
Now if God has intervened in your life, now you know why we live for God, it is because He has intervened and healed even though we did not earn or deserve it. Our pursuit after the ways of Jesus is our way of saying thank you, we love you. Not our way of saying please.
There is one more really cool thing. I love it that Jesus sends the lonely, abandoned leper to testify to the priests. More of our churches need healed lepers running in during the service yelling, “I’ve been healed”. We are in love with knowledge and entertainment and all the while the church is missing the testimony of the leper. Maybe, God is calling you this week to testify to your class, service, group, or church that you have had an encounter with one who is willing. Who will be bold enough to be the leper this week that God’s testimony (story) might be known. Don’t leave it to the payed guys, remember they are the ones Jesus was sending the leper to that were missing it all as they sat at the temple.
As I prepare to preach this Mother’s Day and continue our Connection Series I have been reflecting a lot on relationships and community. The message this Sunday is going to be about Connecting in Family Relationships. Much of what I am going to teach are some of my favorite things to teach about and talk about as I have had the pleasure to cover the topic a lot lately in pre-marriage counseling. Today I came across this verse in Proverbs and thought I would share it with a preview for this Sunday.
Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire”
As one who has a real tendency to seek isolation this really jumped out at me especially in light of what I am teaching on Sunday. You see isolation is completely contrary to God and His desires which is why the passage says isolation is seeking our own desire. God by nature, the one true Triune God, is communal, is in relationship. From the very beginning He created humanity in relationship.
Well actually, in Genesis 2 we see that He created Adam the first man, and although Adam was standing with God in His presence God says that it is not good for man to be alone (or without one like himself). In this passage we know that God created man in God’s image, to be on earth, under the laws of creation and a representative for God. Yet, as God looks at Adam there is a noticeable difference that is not good, unlike the Triune God, there was no other like Adam.
Now when you really think about this, it is very fascinating. Adam is standing with God, you know the very think that all civilizations have been striving to achieve from this point on. Yet, Adam is alone. How? How can you be alone when you are with God? Adam was not truly alone, but he was without another like himself. He was isolated from anything equal to Him. God was his superior, Adam was to rule over, protect, and take care of all creation meaning creation was not his equal.
God then makes a helper suitable for Adam, that we know to be the first woman, Eve. Now this comment has been taken out of context in horrible and harmful ways for thousands of years. What was Eve to help Adam with? Was this really all about procreation? Really? After all God could have created any type of way for procreation, why a woman, another like Adam, equal to Adam.
Well that is what we will be discussing on Sunday for Mother’s day, why did God create a family, and why are family relationships at times so difficult? There is a real answer. If you cannot make it on Sunday, check back on my blog on Monday for the answer. It is good, and will help you approach the way you live in relationship with others, especially your family.
For now, lets just understand the truth that isolations leads us to our desires, not God’s. I’ll explain that all too, on Monday.
We are all familiar with the song about Santa, he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake. Right it is fun, and reminds us of childhood and gifts. Well, did you know we could sing those very words about God. Maybe that is the point of that old song in the first place, I don’t know.
Proverbs 15:3 says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”
My first reaction is, In Every Place?
Now let me explain as that question comes from different places depending on the place. You see we all have pain, suffering, disappointment, frustration, etc. that we deal with. Many times, our human (sin) nature tries to convince us that no one understands, no one knows. It tries to lead us toward loneliness and isolation which will result in more pain and despair.
The truth is, the eyes of the Lord are in every place. That’s right, in the place where your greatest struggle comes, where you feel your greatest pain, God sees. He knows, He sees, He is keeping watch on you in every place. There is no reason to move toward isolation instead, seek help through our loving God who knows and has established the church as people who are seeking Him and serving each other. God has established a people (called the church) that He desires to use to help one another.
Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
God sees, God knows, and He wants us to help each other through the struggles and pains of life. When we carry each other through difficult seasons we are fulfilling the law of Christ, we are loving our neighbors.
In Every Place? Yes, He sees it all. Turn away from the inclination of isolation and instead turn toward God and His people.
Now there is another perspective to this question, In Every Place? Yes, He is keeping watch on the evil too. There is no such thing as a secret place where you can get away with something. But no one will ever find out. Really? In Every Place? Jesus’ ministry was filled with calling people to repent from their ways and instead turn to God and His ways. Why? In Every Place. He sees it all and knows it all, He knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.
That’s right, choose what is right because He really does know and He does care just as He cares about your pain. Why does He care? Jesus says He came to give us a full or abundant life. The Bible tells us our choices to choose God’s way or not are a choice of a blessing or a curse. Why does God want you to follow His ways? They are right and with them comes blessing, comes freedom. Not necessarily always material blessing which is normally all we consider in our current culture. But a life that is full, a life that abundant, a life with less guilt and shame. A life that is free to choose to be the person God made you to be and do the things God made you to do.
In Every Place. How does that truth change the way you live? He knows, choose Him.
Many times my blogs center around a particular scripture or scriptures, but sometimes I just have to share my random thoughts. It is Friday afternoon and there is a lot going on in my little word. We are int the process of starting a new church and there are lots of things to do and take care of, not to mention people to meet and build relationships with.
Currently I am on a hunt for sound equipment for our young church. It is all extremely expensive and we have no money, but I am working on a plan (haha, we’ll see how that goes). This is taking a lot of my time as I am researching, looking for deals, talking with people, etc. There are plenty of others things to take care of at the same time so it is a bit crazy right now. My natural tendency would be to focus on this and let it consume me until it is figured out. Thankfully, God is always at work and always at work on me.
So instead of sitting at home researching and making calls about sound equipment, I am at the Family Fun Center in Spring Branch with my boys. It has been raining for a few days now and really needed to get out, run, play, and get stinky. With Mindy still battling extreme pain that seems to be getting worse each week I decided we were going to hit the road. This is a cool place, I am sitting here with my computer and free wifi thinking about how this is what really matters. As I watch my handsome little boys (and now stinky too) I cannot help but think of how easy it would have been to just turn on a few movies for them and sit in my office at home. Instead, they are having a blast playing and running around with some other boys and girls. In fact, here are a few pictures thanks to the miracle that are macs.
We are having a blast, them playing and getting out of the house me thinking and reading. Is this the kind of day that will really matter in the end. After all, I bet we will eventually get the sound equipment that we need and if I would have spent the day in my office would it have made that happen sooner? Would we have found a better deal? After all we don’t even have the money yet.
So my question for you is, what is it that is really going to matter today? What should you do different then you would normally actually do? I am not sure about you, but I know I am sitting right were I am supposed to be sitting right now, well maybe that comfy seat over there, but you know what I mean.
As I have been reading and reflecting on the truths in the Proverbs recently it has surprised me how many times Proverbs refers to the way we use our mouths. Here are just a few examples:
“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” (Proverbs 10:19 ESV)
“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered. Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:12–14 ESV)
“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (Proverbs 13:3 ESV)
Now as one who tends to be a talker, and really one who processes thoughts by talking (or writing) this really jumped out at me. For some time I have been working on restraining my lips and using better understanding to remain silent when it is necessary.
These verses give a great reminder of the importance for us to evaluate and guard our words. The truth is that we all struggle with our sin nature, and when we do not restrain our words we allow our sin nature to rear it’s ugly head. This has happened to me a number of times over the years. For example, just chatting and playing around it is easy to let your guard down and say something in jest that offends or hurts another. Unfortunately we see this a great deal in our culture today as true humor has been replaced by sarcasm and crassness. I am working to still laugh and enjoy life with true humor and not resort to sarcasm and crassness to bring laughter. In fact, most of the time it takes much less effort and intellect to be sarcastic and crass in our joking. Let us use the great gift of the mind that God has given us to bring laughter and not pain to others. Let us encourage and build up others, not tear them down and call it humor.
I have also found as one who tends to process better either verbally or on paper that I must use wisdom and discretion in this area. It is not right to simply talk with anyone as you process things in your life, and at times I have made a way for Satan to temp others around me by verbally processing with them. When words are many, instead, I have found it beneficial to process on paper, to process with my amazing bride, and to process with those who intimately know my character and understand such discussions as processing and not necessarily my final thoughts on a subject. I would advice much discretion and the guarding of your mouth in this area.
Finally, the hardest part of this lesson is learning to live with and be comfortable with a healthy amount of loneliness. It appears to me that many times we (me include) say too much in hopes of being interesting and being liked. Much of gossip comes in here, we share secrets because we know people always want to hear secrets (can you say Tiger Woods scandal). The truth is, we all must be comfortable with a certain amount of silence, or loneliness. Until we are, we will continue to struggle with our self-control in regard to our mouth. In addition, as the verses share, we will continue find ourselves in ruin and transgression. Maybe not physical or monetary ruin, but the dragging down and darkening of our soul to ruin. We will continue to wrestle with the guilt, the pain, the regret of our ugly mouth.
Or today, we can work to become people who use their words prudently. Ask Jesus to help you, as I am asking Him to help me today. What do you? Do you have any practical examples you can share to help us all? Either stories of failure or how you are doing better?