Paper Tigers & Impressing God Series

Day 31: Conclusion

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

Today has mainly been focused on life after #write31days.  Completing this big writing challenge was really cutting into our wearing clean clothes and having groceries in our cabinets.  Today I did laundry, ordered groceries, and did a full day of home school work with my 1st grader.  

I wrote about 20,000 words this month.  That's an accomplishment.

Even better is the fact that I feel much more confident in my understanding of this topic.  This topic isn't just some facts or trivia.  This topic is at the heart of my identity in Christ.

I feel more sure about my relationship with God after thinking through and writing this series.  I pray this series has helped your relationship with God as well.

Thank you for reading along!

 

Day 30: Running the race

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
— Philippians 3:12-16 ESV

I started this series with these wrong ideas (taken from my intro):

  • I thought I could impress God by being good and doing good.
  • I have been working my head off serving in ministry, and I felt like God would be disappointed in me if I didn't do well.

Here we are at day 30.  Have I achieved my goal of understanding how wrong these statements are?

I look at this verse in Philippians, and it is full of verbs that my try-hard, do-good heart loves.

  • press on
  • straining forward
  • toward the goal
  • hold true

Am I wrong to think we should let go of the striving?  Just look at this persuasive call to action?

My goal of this series was not to prove that we could stop doing things for God; it was to change the attitude of the doer.

Here are the things I wanted from this series (taken from my intro):

  • a clearer understanding of our relationship with God
  • a truer understanding of the God who created and loves us
  • a sounder theology
  • a humbler position
  • no longer driven to earn God’s approval or love
  • and no longer driven to impress God

I think if we look back a few verses in Philippians, we can see how these ideas are met before all the action takes place.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
— Philippians 3:7-11 ESV

Paul is saying that His righteousness only comes through faith in Christ.

In order to run the race, pressing on and straining forward, we must first know this truth.  Knowing this truth deeply, down in your bones, only comes with maturity as a Christian.  Maybe that is why verse 15 says, "let those of us mature think this way."

I pray that my striving to impress God has come to an end and that I can continue my race, maturely knowing that my righteousness only comes through faith in Christ.

I cannot earn a right standing with God through good works or good behavior (the law).  Faith in Christ is the only option.  As scripture says, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

 

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And a song...

Day 29: Commissioned

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

I, Paul, and my companions in faith here, send greetings to the Galatian churches. My authority for writing to you does not come from any popular vote of the people, nor does it come through the appointment of some human higher-up. It comes directly from Jesus the Messiah and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. I’m God-commissioned. So I greet you with the great words, grace and peace! We know the meaning of those words because Jesus Christ rescued us from this evil world we’re in by offering himself as a sacrifice for our sins. God’s plan is that we all experience that rescue. Glory to God forever! Oh, yes!
— Galatians 1:1-5 The Message

As we come to the end of our series, I want to go back to the very beginning of Galatians.  (Yes, I know that is backward, but so much of studying the gospel is the opposite of the way the world works, so it fits.)

Paul lets the church at Galatia know where his authority for writing the letter, that is the book of Galatians, comes from.  The English Standard Version phrases it like this, "not from men nor through man."  The Message version takes a more poetic approach.  It says that it doesn't come from popular vote or higher-up appointment.  

Our media has been overly obsessed with popular votes and the appointments that the vote winner will have the authority to make.  Neither of these man-made authorities is necessary to have God's authority.

Instead, Paul's authority comes directly through Jesus.  The Message version says that he is God-commissioned.

Here's some good news.  You are God-commissioned too.

You have been commissioned with His authority to go into all the world proclaiming His message.

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’
— Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

This is The Great Commission, and it is a calling we are all commanded to fulfill as a Christian.  In this commission, Jesus promises to be with us until the end of the age, basically FOREVER.

He is with us as we fulfill this mission.  We are not alone.  It is God's will that everyone should hear the gospel, and when we go, making disciples, we are joining the work God is already doing here on earth.

Here are some facts that might erase the fear you might have of being commissioned:

  • You are not alone.  The Spirit is with you.
  • You cannot mess up the job of making a disciple if the Holy Spirit is the only one who can draw hearts to God.
  • You cannot impress God by making a disciple because Jesus is the one who actually brought that sheep to Himself.
  • You cannot disappoint God when someone rejects God.  God knows everyone's heart already.
  • You are obeying God's call making disciples.
  • Your obedience pleases God.
  • God loves you no matter what.
  • Our relationship with God is only based on Christ, nothing else.

So go!  Make disciples!  Help others come to know Him.  Help others know Him more.  You are God-commissioned.

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And a song...

Day 28: Goodness

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
— Romans 8:28-30 ESV

This verse is a comfort as we abide in Him and live out the calling He has placed on each of our lives.  Whatever comes our way, every single thing, can be used for good.  We were chosen by Him, and we are called by Him.  We are made right with God, just as if we had never sinned through His blood, and some day we will be glorified in Heaven with Him.

God's Word also tells us that everything that is good is from God.  The absolute only way to have goodness in our life is to receive that goodness from Him.  Abiding in Him guarantees that our lives will be filled with His goodness.  Anytime bad things creep into our lives, God has the ability to make those bad things work for good, whenever we are called according to His purpose.

As we stay living His calling and abiding in Him, we allow Him to bring His goodness into our lives.

This all sounds so simple, doesn't it?  My work-hard, try-hard, striving nature causes me to worry that I'm not doing the right things to abide in Him.

What if I skip my Bible reading time too often?

What if I am mistaken about my calling?

What if I'm bad at remembering to pray?

All of these questions come from a place of fear, fear of not being "good enough" to be in a relationship with God and fear of not being "good enough" to be used by God.

We have to realize we have been justified by Christ.  Our faith in Him is what makes relationship and calling possible.  We don't have to be "good enough."  Jesus was perfect.  He is all we need.  We are justified.  

Our flesh want to lean into following rules and check boxes that will tell us that we are "good."  God just wants our faith.  We show that faith when we lean into Him to be our justification.  It was Abraham's faith that made him righteous.  It will be your faith that will make you righteous.

Because God offers this righteousness to us through His Son Jesus, we know God is so good.  Not only that, but everything God created is good.

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.
— 1 Timothy 4:4-6 ESV

God invites us into good teaching and sharing the Good News with our friends and family by receiving goodness with thanksgiving.  This is our calling.  We have all been called in the Great Commission to make disciples.  We make disciples when we share the goodness of God's Word with the people in our life.

We will not be perfect disciple-makers; we are not Jesus.  But as we lean into abiding in Him, having faith in Him, sharing the truth of the gospel, and knowing we don't have to be "good enough," He will be faithful to bring goodness.

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Here's a song for you today.

Day 27: Abide

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
— John 15:1-4 The Message

Abiding in Him.  It is the key to everything we have been talking about.

If we live our live making our home snuggled down into Christ as our identity, as the Holy Spirit dwells inside us, just like the Holy Spirit dwelled inside that ark, inside the Holy of Holies, inside the tabernacle, then we will naturally avoid these paper tiger pitfalls we've been discussing.

It sounds impossible, but our goal is to live a life where you really can't tell where you end and Christ begins.  We live as heirs to the great inheritance.  We live as sons and daughters adopted into His family.  We live as servants, laying down our life for His will.  We gain life as we respect and submit to His will, following His example of servanthood.

Abiding in Him makes good works possible, and when we realize that we can do nothing on our own, we know our works can never impress God.  The work was always His.

I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
— John 15:5-8 The Message

Abiding in Him is how we bear fruit.  We don't just behave ourselves, we actually have unnatural, unconditional love for our fellow humans.  We have joy on our worst days.  We have peace when the world is spinning out of control.  We have patience when we cannot muster it on our own.  We are outlandishly kind when the flesh wants to lash out.  Goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness become how we relate to our fellow Believers and the world.  We have self-control when our flesh is weak.

I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.
— John 15:9-10 The Message

We are not on our own trying to avoid the fear of failing others and trying to avoid people-pleasing.  When we remember love is the goal, we know we should treat others with grace and truth, just as Jesus came and lived His life.  Grace and truth are only possible through abiding in Him.

We are not on our own hoping that our good works, our service in His Kingdom, will succeed and please God.  If we join in His work, as a friend and co-worker, we don't have to worry about pleasing Him.  He is pleased with His work.  His work succeeds, maybe not by worldly standards, but by Heavenly standards.



I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.
— John 15:11-15 The Message

 

 

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A song for you.

Day 26: Credit

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

There is no limit to what a man can do who does not care who gains the credit for it.
— anonymous

A minister friend, Angel Martinez, like to change that quote to say, "There is no limit to what God could accomplish if no one cared about getting the credit."

We live in a time in history in which fame is easily accessible, and it is easy to blur the lines between ministry callings and celebrity.  It is called influence instead of fame because that sounds more spiritual.

No judgement from me.  I buy the books, follow on Twitter, take notes in the conferences, and listen to the interviews.  I do all the things.

As someone who has a dream to publish a Christian book, I wrestled with a lot of feelings surrounding this issue.  I've asked myself if I just want fame.  Do I want credit?

It is easy to see where this might be a question when it comes to producing media like a book.  The truth is that this is a question at every level of ministry.  Find the smallest town church, and I guarantee that the church staff and volunteers have concerns about getting credit for their gifts to the church, their good works in their community.  It is human nature to crave recognition.

It is a common occurrence to be recognized for a secular accomplishment and take credit for the remarkable achievement.  In many cases, the man or woman being honored knows the Lord, and he or she decides to give glory to the Lord for giving them life, talent, ability, and good timing to be recognized.  They realize it would be foolish to take credit when God has made everything about the moment possible.

In ministry, the disciple, whether he or she receives a paycheck from a church or not,  should also know that it would be foolish to take credit for any good work.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
— James 1:16-18 ESV

We should know that we, as humans, have absolutely no power to make someone receive Jesus.  The Holy Spirit must draw someone to Christ.  Christ must stand at their heart's door and knock.  This is a work of God, and we cannot manufacture it.

[Jesus said,] No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
— John 6:44 ESV

Works of God do not end at just salvation.  God is completely sovereign.  He makes all the decisions.  God is already at work in the world around us, in my community and in yours.  We can choose to join what He is doing.  God will sometimes ask us to join Him in what He is doing.  When we join Him, we work with God, but He is doing the work.  We will never know until Heaven how many believers have had a part in fulfilling God's plan.  Any victory for the Kingdom usually includes multiple seeds planted, multiple prayers, and a move of the Holy Spirit.  He deserves the credit.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
— Romans 11:36 ESV

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Here's a song.  Seriously, the 2000s were the best music.

Day 25: Audience

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

As I began writing this series, realizing how much I had wanted to impress God, the phrase "audience of one" began to sound wrong.

I really had to think about if I thought this was bad advice or not.  I went to the Bible to find some clarity.  Should we be doing everything for an audience of one, meaning God?

The verses I found on this subject seemed to be in two different categories, the work we do in a workplace and the work we do to serve others.

In the case of workplace work, the verse I found is actually addressing slaves.

Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
— Colossians 3:22-25 ESV

Context matters.  This verse comes from a letter Paul wrote to the church in Colossus, and he had just asked wives to honor their husbands, husbands to love their wives, and children to obey their parents.  Even as a slave, we should not be people-pleasers.  We are to work, whatever the work may be, as if we are working just for God, even in the harshest of work conditions.

If we are taking orders at a fast-food restaurant, cleaning bathrooms, entering data into computers, stocking shelves, preparing reports, making sales, washing other peoples' clothes, or writing code, we should do the task in a way that pleases God.

The Message version of this verse is worth reading.

Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.
— Colossians 3:22-25 The Message

Another kind of work we do as Christians is good works.  When we serve others, we are commanded to do it for only the Lord as well.

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
— Matthew 6:1-2 ESV

These words are straight from the lips of Christ, and he warns us to avoid looking like a hypocrite by serving others in secret.  I've been serving others all of my adult life in ministry.  Serving in secret is easy some days, no one is watching because, honestly, no one cares.  Other days, it is not as simple.

My husband's job is to tell others about the work we are doing downtown in ministry.  He produces a tv show that has a large segment informing others of the ministry we are doing.  Our church couldn't serve the hundreds of families and children with just the tithes we receive on Sundays.  We have to raise money to fulfill the mission we have downtown.  We have never thrown fundraisers, but we have taken the approach of telling people what we are doing and then depending on God.  As we tell people what we are doing, God prompts them to give to our ministry.  We have been serving families and children in the neighborhood surrounding downtown for 20 years now.  This month marks 20 years of ministry, and the Amarillo Globe News came downtown to do a newspaper story on our church.

Is all of this non-secret ministry going against the words of Jesus?  I don't think it is.  God has used our tv shows, newsletters, and other media to provide for our ministry.

In some circles, there are public relation people employed to organize service by celebrities only for the recognition and nothing else.  That actually happens.  

I ask myself, "Would I stop doing this ministry if I was never recognized for it?"  And, "Does me telling others about my service actually go to encourage more service?"  And, "How do I feel about the service I've done where I am never recognized?  Am I still glad I did it?  Am I doing all of my good works with The Lord as my audience?"

The Message version of this verse says it this way.

Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.
— Matthew 6:1 The Message

I think the reason "audience of one" sounded off is that audiences usually applaud.  I've been in a lot of audiences at concerts and shows.  The audience is impressed with the performance that took place, and they whistle, yell, jump, and clap to show their appreciation.

God is not that kind of audience.  We should only be concerned with what God thinks of us, but we shouldn't be expecting applause.

He loves us.  He is pleased with us; He promises rewards in Heaven, but we cannot strive to impress God.

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I like to include a song with each blog post.  Here you go.

Day 24: Not yet perfect

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren’t perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan.
— Galatians 2:17-18 The Message

I feel this sentiment.  Have you noticed that I'm not perfect yet?  (If you're not sure, just ask my kids.)  Is it a surprise to anyone that I'm not perfect yet?  I've been a Christian for 27 years now.  Shouldn't I be getting closer to perfect?

We are sanctified as Christians, but we will never be perfect here on earth.  Oh for that glory in Heaven!  We all long for it, especially on Mondays.

I'm still sinning up a storm in my life.  (Again, just ask my kids.)  Is Christ an accessory to that sin?  Did Christ aid and abed my sin?

The English Standard Version of the Bible phrases the question like this, "Is Christ then a servant of sin?"

In either case, Paul says this, "Certainly not!"  Christ is neither an accessory to my sin or a servant of sin.

The sin has been dealt with, once and for all.  He finished that wrath-appeasing on the cross.  He paid the wages of those sins when He died that death.  He brought us forgiveness from those sins when He rose from the dead.

Christ is not an accessory to your sins.  Christ is not an accessory to your friends' sins.

Our goal cannot be to just have good behavior, and if you are a teacher, your goal cannot be just teaching and expecting good behavior.

Paul says that "trying to be good" would be rebuilding religion that the Jews had before Christ came.

Jesus is greater than religion.

Paul says that if he were to promote "being good" that he would be a charlatan, a fraud.  The ESV phrases it like this, "For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor."

I am trying to hold myself to the same standard as Paul.  I am trying to live in grace and truth without striving to define myself by my good behavior.  I am trying to teach heart changes when I teach God's Word because behavior changes save no one.

 

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I like to include a song with each blog post.  Here's one for you.

Day 23: Charade

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

Later, when Peter came to Antioch, I had a face-to-face confrontation with him because he was clearly out of line. Here’s the situation. Earlier, before certain persons had come from James, Peter regularly ate with the non-Jews. But when that conservative group came from Jerusalem, he cautiously pulled back and put as much distance as he could manage between himself and his non-Jewish friends. That’s how fearful he was of the conservative Jewish clique that’s been pushing the old system of circumcision. Unfortunately, the rest of the Jews in the Antioch church joined in that hypocrisy so that even Barnabas was swept along in the charade.

But when I saw that they were not maintaining a steady, straight course according to the Message, I spoke up to Peter in front of them all: “If you, a Jew, live like a non-Jew when you’re not being observed by the watchdogs from Jerusalem, what right do you have to require non-Jews to conform to Jewish customs just to make a favorable impression on your old Jerusalem cronies?”
— Galatians 2:11-14 The Message

I always felt icky after those conversations I talked about on Day 21: Reputation.  Whenever I would engage in agreements to conform to whatever friend group I was around, assuring them of my conformity to their pre-set parenting methods or behavior, it felt dishonest.  I was seeking their approval.  I would agree and nod my head.  I would throw ideas out that I knew they would like.  It felt like an over exaggeration of the "good job" I was doing as a parent.  I would leave those conversations with a yucky feeling.  I had just affirmed the choices we had made as "right" even though they were decisions made from privilege.  I could feed my kids healthy food when I could afford it.  Others cannot.  I could stay home with my children and home school because I had a husband with a full-time job.  Others don't have that luxury.

I would leave my conversations affirming our privileged decisions that defined "good parenting" to us, and I would go downtown to minister to single moms who couldn't cut McDonalds out of their lives or home school their children.

It felt like I was setting a standard for "good parenting" that could never be achieved by the majority of moms.  And I felt icky.

I didn't fess up to the times I had yelled at my kids trying to get to the gatherings of moms either.  I didn't fess up to the times we ate McDonalds or Burger King with our church group or as a family.  

It felt dishonest.  And I felt icky.

I don't know if Peter felt this ickiness when he conformed to the conservative Jewish men from Jereuselum.  Maybe He did.  Peter wanted to fit in with the Jewish click, and he was pulling back from the gentile Christians that he was discipling.

Paul confronted him for his actions.  Paul told him that he was not living in the freedom that Christ had brought us.

If something is true, worthy of defending, it will be just as true for the mom stuck in poverty as it is for the middle-class mom.

Conforming to friend groups just to get their approval compromises your honesty and vulnerability that allows you to connect with others.  If the parenting or behavior rule isn't true for the single mom struggling in poverty, then it is a cultural decision, not a spiritual one.  It isn't something we define our Christianity by.  We shouldn't hold others to standards set by our middle-class culture.

When we create or conform to these standards, we create cliques among believers.  We create an "us" and a "them."

Let go of this charade and live in the freedom Christ died to give us.

 

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I like to include a song with each blog post.  Here's one for today.

Day 22: Vulnerability

Paper Tiger & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

Yesterday we talked about not worrying about our reputation with others.

It turns out that acting like we have it all together doesn't attract friendship anyway.  Those conversations of reassuring people that I wasn't sinning, that my behavior was good, was the opposite of being vulnerable.

Being vulnerable is where real relationships are formed.

A few years ago, I read The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, and it wrecked me.  Why didn't I know all of these things in my teen years?  In my twenties?

Listen to what Brene says.

Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.

...

Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.

...

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.
— Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

When we are not honest about our struggles, we are being unkind to our fellow Christians.  When we pretend we have it all together, parenting, relationships, good behavior, and good works, we are being dishonest about our life.  This is actually a disservice to yourself as much as it is a disservice to your friends and church members.  Perfectionism pushes others away, but vulnerability draws them in.

Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
— Colossians 3:9-14 The Message

Wearing love is impossible to accomplish if you keep people at arms-length away, only allowing them to see the pieces of your life that are pretty and clean.

Being vulnerable shows kindness and love, and it glorifies Christ.  Our testimony is only shared when we are not the hero.  Don't be afraid to honestly share how Christ is working in your life, in your past and your present.

 

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I like to include a song with each blog post.  Here you go.

Day 21: Reputation

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

I have a really bad habit that I am trying to break.  My bad habit is caring what others think of me.

This sentence from The Message version of the Bible is the pivotal sentence that began this series.

My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God.
— Galatians 2:20 The Message

How much of my life has been spent trying to have the good opinion of others?  Almost all of it.  I wanted my mom, dad, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins’ good opinions.  I wanted teachers’ good opinions.  I wanted friends’ good opinions.  I wanted pastors’ and youth pastors’ good opinions.  I wanted college professors’ good opinions.

If I am honest it was the most important thing to me growing up.

As a young mom, I would do anything to have the good opinion of other moms I met in our home school play and learning groups.

I had a tendency to have conversations that were just back and forth agreements of something we both thought was good or bad.

“We don’t let the kids watch THAT show either.”

“Oh, I would never give my kids that to eat either.”

“Yes.  We do that too.”

I wanted their good opinion, and I didn’t realize how much I was making my acceptable behavior become my focus.

My ego, or my sense of self-worth, was wrapped up in how good I could appear.  If it sounded like I had done something my friends might not approve of, I was sure to throw disclaimers and corrections around like I was afraid of losing an important job.

“Oh.  We didn’t KNOW it was going to have all that cursing in it when we watched it.  I wouldn’t watch it again.”

“We did this, but we didn’t do THAT.”

When I was getting my self-worth from my behavior, I was negating what Jesus did to bring me the best self-worth ever, righteousness through the grace of God.  Being right with God is the best self-worth, and Jesus died to give it to me.

So whenever some shade of “unacceptable in some people’s eyes” or iffy behavior gets thrown my way, I no longer duck and run for cover under my disclaimers and corrections.

It isn’t about me.

It is about Jesus and what He has done.

Let people think whatever they would like about me.  What is important to me is that they have a correct view of Jesus.  Am I working as hard to make sure everyone I encounter knows who Jesus truly is?

Living a life that is worried most about appearing good and following rules can actually do huge detriment to your relationship with Christ.

I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
— Galatians 5:4-6 The Message

God knows our failings, our actual failings, not just perceived missteps.  When we live a life trying to obey “fence laws” and not worried about our real relationship with Christ, we can lose sight of His grace and mercy.  We can slowly lose our grip on faith, as we hold so strongly onto our reputation.  We can lose sight of loving others, as we practice judging ourselves and others by actions and perceived actions.

Actually trying not to sin and obeying God are two things we should do as Christians.  Those things are a big part of your one-on-one relationship with God.  You take those things to Him in daily prayer, knowing that we have already been made right with God, then that relationship will be more satisfying than any earthly relationship could be.

Give up trying to gain approval from others.

Live in the freedom and self-worth that Christ offers.

 

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I like to include a song with each blog post.  I wanted to include a certain Joan Jett song here, but I'll be nice.  This song actually is really fitting.  Trying hard is just like a black hole.

Day 20: Bad to good

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

God doesn’t waste anything.  He has the ability to take our worst hurts in life, redeem the hurt, and use the circumstances for good.

This idea could not be better illustrated than through the story of Joseph.  Joseph was thrown into a pit by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused, falsely imprisoned, and forgotten.  God weaves this story of heartache and betrayal into a redeeming story of saving the nation of Israel from starvation during a famine.  He also brings healing to the broken family.

Joseph tells his brothers this:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
— Genesis 50:20 ESV

In my life, I have seen God take horrible situations and use it for good.

Here are some examples for you.

  1. Using the hurt of loosing my brother to spur me onto more, deeper ministry, especially to Ethiopia.  I tell the story here.
  2. On my third trip to Ethiopia, God called a young man who had lost his brother-in-law to join our trip, and God used his testimony of loss and salvation to share the gospel with young men in the ministry we visited.  (Click here and scroll down to number 6.)
  3. I have been able to use my testimony of loss to contribute to the website The Gift of Second.  They have visitors every day looking for encouragement after losing a loved one to suicide.

God can also use something non-spiritual to lead someone to know Him.

Here are some examples of that.

  1. My friend Jackie was assigned community service after being convicted of a crime.  That community service brought Him to my church, where my father-in-law led Him to the Lord.  Jackie has been one of the employees at our church that's been there the longest.  He met his wife at our church, and he adopted four children.  God moved in Jackie’s life beginning with something non-spiritual, state-issued community service.
  2. One of my favorite stories from Tony Kriz’s book Neighbors and Wise Men is the story of the man in the communist country of Albania becoming a Christian through a National Geographic magazine.
  3. While my husband was out of the country doing mission work in Mali, I was under serious spiritual warfare.  I was having such a tough time, James was beginning to wonder if he would have to try to find a way to leave the mission, before it even began, to come home and help me get through my struggles.  I begged him not to even consider coming home.  The devil would have won that battle if he abandoned his mission only a few days in.  I went to a worldly yoga class, and God really spoke to me as I was doing the breathing and meditating on Him.  He reminded me how much He loved me, how precious I was to Him, and to put on the full armor of God to fight off the fiery darts and lies that the devil was discouraging me with.

God can and will use any and everything on this earth to show us that He loves us and advance the gospel.

We discussed motivation on day 6, and we decided that God could even use our bad motivations to advance His gospel here on earth.

Praise the Lord that He is able to use awful things for good.

 

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I like to include a song with each blog post.  Here you go.

Day 19: Searched and known

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

God searches our heart successfully.

That is something I think we don’t have the capability to do on our own.  We can try to search our heart, but we can’t be objective.  Our memories are so subjective and easily altered by suggestion.  Hindsight is prejudicial.  Our actions and feelings aren’t cold hard facts.  We cannot be open-minded about our past or future.

The Bible tells us that God searches our heart.  I think the verb use here might be misleading.  God doesn’t stop what He is doing to preform this action.  It is an effortless knowing of our heart, a heart He created.

God doesn’t have to pull our file, remind himself of which human He is considering, make pie charts, or go through analysis.  God just knows.

I the Lord search the heart
    and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
    according to the fruit of his deeds.
— Jeremiah 17:10 ESV

And as Psalms 139 tells us, the Lord has searched us and knows us.

To try to search your own heart is futile, and I promise you this, you will not live up to the standard set by Jesus.  We will be disappointed in ourselves every time.

Yes, we do our best to avoid the snares of sin.  Yes, we please God by worshipping Him and keeping His commands.  Yes, we obey God and join Him in good works here on earth.

If we try to search our heart and see how “clean” it is or how “pure” our motives are, we are going to not only fail to be objective, but we will be discouraged at how we measure up.

King David was the man called by God, “a man after my own heart, who will do all my will.”  How is it possible that God would say these things, knowing how David failed so many times?  It is possible because God knew David, God created David, and God saw David’s repentance.

By our standards, King David was a hot mess, but God saw something different.

By your standards, you might feel like the hottest of messes, but let God do the searching.  Let Jesus do the justifying.  Love God the best you can, and stop trying so hard.

God loves you with a love that is unmeasurable.  He would be saddened to hear how you talk about yourself.  Jesus died for the sins that you still let rule your life. 

For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
— Acts 13:36-39 ESV

 

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I like to include a song with each blog post.  Here you go.

Day 18: Doer who's humble

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?‘  And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’ And they said to him, ‘We are able.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.‘  And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.  And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’
— Mark 10:35-45 ESV

Jesus asked this, “What do you want me to do for you?”

What if Jesus came to you and asked you this question?  What would be your answer?  Is there a need you are desperate to have filled today?  Would you plead someone’s case, asking God to move in their life?  Would you ask about an unfulfilled dream that you would hope Jesus could bring to fruition

I’m seven sentences into this blog post, and all of them have been questions.  I don’t know what I would ask Jesus to do for me.

I judgmentally look at James and John’s answer.  Surely I wouldn’t ask Jesus to place me at His level, make me His top dog.  Or would I?  (BTW, sorry for calling you Shirley!)

As I think back about my “striving hard to impress God” times in ministry, wasn’t this kind of what I wanted?  I wanted to be noticed, promoted, trusted with more, and praised.

James and John were asking to be second and third in command, placed in a seat of honor, and maybe even seen as holy.

When I strive to look “good” to people, isn’t being seen as holy my goal?

I don’t know about you, but I feel such conviction reading this passage.

Jesus told them, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”

That answer must have felt so backward or inverted from what they were expected from Jesus.  Jesus isn’t giving them what they asked.

What I want in my deepest heart of hearts would not be to be a servant.  I can understand their confusion.

Jesus then left that conversation to go die on the cross, paying the ransom of so many in bondage to sin.

Yesterday we discussed freedom.  We considered being a DOER who is free by being someone who DOES out of love.

Serving out of love is the key to freedom and also the key to being more like Jesus, who tells us that He came to serve - not to be served.

When we come to Jesus concerned with our self-interest and self-promotion instead of coming to Jesus concerned about His Kingdom and His will, we are very likely to go away as disappointed as James and John were.  What matters most is His will, the advancement of His Gospel, and His story here on Earth.

A better stance would be to approach Jesus with the humility of a servant as we do, we find our assignment to serve others in our lives from a place of love.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
— 1 John 5:13-15 ESV

 

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I like to include a song with each blog post.  Here you go.  I love the guitar part at the end and the lyric, "I want to knit you a sweater, I want to write you a love letter, I want to make you feel better, I want to make you feel free."  Joni is a treasure.

Day 17: Doer who's free

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
— James 1:22-25 ESV

Here is my question, “Can a doer be free?”

I’m task oriented.  I like doing.  I am a doer.

Maybe you are like me too.  Maybe you are a doer as well, but maybe you are not.  Maybe doing sounds like too much work and you would rather be spending time at the feet of Jesus.

That sounds free!  Worshipping Him, praying, and lavishing in His goodness and love.  That sounds like freedom.

What about all the tasks:  studying, teaching, going, proclaiming, making disciples, nursery working, cleaning, preparing, orphan care, raising awareness about injustices, giving, feeding the poor, welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, clothing those without.

We could all just get tired from the list.

How do we stay free in the midst of all the doing?  Is it possible?

We can’t forget the doing and just hide behind our faith because Scripture tells us that faith without works is dead.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
— James 2:14-17 ESV

Works is as simple as this, living your life as if you believe the Bible is true.  If the Bible is true, it will lead you to love, trust, and worship God.  Your love of God will lead you to love others.

What is freedom anyway?

Let’s go back to Galatians, where we are getting these ideas of freedom from fear of paper tigers and freedom of striving to earn God’s approval.

 It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?
— Galatians 5:13-15 The Message

Paul says that freedom grows out of love.  Love is the key.

 

Reasons to DO that will not bring you freedom:

  • guilt
  • striving to impress
  • selfishness
  • wanting accolades
  • growing our importance
  • promotion 

 

Reasons to DO that will bring you freedom:

  • love

 

It is possible to be a doer who is free, and love is how it is done.  That is so good to know.

 

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I like to include a song with each blog post.  Here you go.

Day 16: Rest

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’
— Hebrews 3:7-15 ESV

Yesterday we talked about how seeking social justice was an important part of living in God’s will, therefore we couldn’t just “rest in Him” and ignore injustices.

It is important to point out that rest is a necessary, important part of living for Christ.  We should take time every week to rest.

These verses in Hebrews warn us of the danger of not taking time to rest.  It warns us that rest is necessary because failing to do so will lead to hard hearts toward God.  The word harden is used three times and the word rebellion is used twice in these 8 verses.  There is a direct link between taking time to rest and becoming rebellious and hard hearted towards God.

The thing about rest is this, you have to actually be at work during the week to be resting from work.  There is no such thing as rest from rest; there is only rest from work.

We join Him in the work we are called to accomplish of advancing the gospel and bringing His justice into this world, and we take rest breaks.

God modeled rest when creating the world in six days and then taking the seventh day to rest.  God didn’t need a day off; He’s God.  He took day seven off for our benefit.  He was being a good Father and modeling healthy behavior.

In this series we are learning how to do His work without thinking that how we perform at His work changes our status as His child or thinking we will impress God with what we do for Him.

Resting is an important part of doing His work well.  If we are obeying Him and joining in His work going on here on earth, we will and should be able to include rest in our lives.

 

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Here's a song for all the "dry and weary souls."

Day 15: Rest in Him?

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

We have come to the point in my series where I begin to wonder if we should do anything.

We have discussed how grace covers our sins and propitiation means that His blood has finished the need for sacrifice.  We have expressed how we cannot impress God by our good behavior or our good works.

As my favorite song Dust by King’s Kaleidoscope says, “I’m realizing, that all my striving is chasing wind, is chasing wind, but you freed me, so I can just be.  Nothing to prove, nothing to lose.”

Do we just “be”?  Is that what the spiritually mature do?

Today I joined a couple hundred people in my city walking in the #walkforfreedom to bring awareness to modern slavery and the A21 campaign to end slavery in the 21st century.  All over the world, other Christians were also walking in solidarity with those trapped in voiceless places in this broken world.

As I walked today, I remembered a girl in Ethiopia.  A woman that worked for the organization I had traveled with was our guide for the day as we visited ministries in the capital city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The woman was telling everyone that her daughter was getting so big, almost 3 years old.  I asked who was watching her daughter while she escorted us around town.  She told me a story I will never forget.  She said that she had a live in helper, a young lady going to school.  She told me some of the young woman’s story.  She had lived outside the city, and her family had forced her into marriage to an older man at 16-years-old.  Instead of marrying the older man, she decided to run away.  She was able to find extended relatives to live with.  This extended family had a store.  They were happy to put her to work, but they refused to pay her.  She would work all day, everyday in the store with no pay.  She finally got enough courage to run away from yet another unjust situation.  My new friend had found her and offered to let her live with at her home; she had enrolled her in school and began employing and paying her for work as a live in nanny.  This young girl had escaped forced teen marriage and modern day slavery.

We may think that this is just a problem in places like Ethiopia; that it is just a problem that Africa and Asia face, but this is a problem we face here in America too.

Recently in my American, Texan Sunday school class one of the youth asked for prayer for her aunt who was schizophrenic, addicted to drugs, and had tried to sell her cousin.

Trafficking not only happens in our country, in our city, but it happens within our circle of acquaintances.

As I walked, I not only thought of and prayed for the slaves we were standing in the gap for, I also thought of and prayed for the people in the cars driving past our single file line of freedom walkers.

We were dramatic, all in black, some of us adorned with tape across our mouths to signify the silence of the 27 million slaves in the world today who are unable to speak up for themselves.

I prayed that awareness would be brought to people who need to know the church cared about hurting people.  I prayed that awareness would be brought to people who have resources to help.  I prayed that awareness would be brought to people who are a part of the problem, who need a heart change.

Just then, a big, black truck pulled to a stop at the intersection.  We broke our chain to let him turn.  His truck was littered with bumper stickers, one which was impossible to ignore.  He had a sticker that said, “I support single moms” with a silhouette of a woman on a stripper pole.  You can’t make this stuff up.  (He also had a sticker supporting a certain political candidate, which is neither here nor there - or is it both here and there?)

The Lord’s prayer says this, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

It is God’s will that the justice that we will only experience in Heaven be brought down to earth.  That can only be accomplished by God, and He allows us to take part in bringing justice to the world around us.

I imagine a woman who has been trafficked, who is living everyone’s worst nightmare as a modern day slave.  Would she care if we are being spiritually mature or resting in just being His bride?  Or would she be moved that we as a church are acknowledging her pain and suffering, raising money and awareness that could possibly lead to her rescue?

I don’t think we are off the hook.  I don’t think we are called to just rest in Him.  There is more to discuss.  We are only half way through #write31days, we will continue to wrestle through how to live a Christian life not fearing paper tigers or trying to impress God.

 

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Congratulations on the Nobel Prize, Bob.

Day 14: Questions

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

Yesterday I talked about a moment I remember coming to the end of myself when God let me get all tired out.  That moment, that night before the women’s event I had helped organize, brought up so many questions, both in the moment and as I am remembering it.

Was that feeling a spiritual attack?  Was it the devil trying to discourage me?

I don’t always know when I am in the middle of a spiritual attack, but it is usually very clear afterward.  Afterward I can see the lies the enemy has thrown at me, and I can see the lies I mistakenly believed.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
— Ephesians 6:12 ESV
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
— 1 Peter 5:8 ESV

Spiritual attacks are real, but I don’t think that night was a spiritual attack.  There was harmony and peace in my home.  My husband was right beside me, encouraging me and offering to help.

Why are some things “successful” and other things are “not”?

We ended up having a little more than a hundred women register and attend our event.  That might sound awesome on its own, but the year before, we had attendance of 500.  Was this event less successful?  Had God blessed our efforts the year before and chosen not to bless our efforts the next year?

What do we do when we are sure we are following God’s call, but our efforts don’t seem successful?  We trust God.  We look at how we are defining success, because maybe we are doing it wrong.  Numbers is an awful way to gauge anything.  (I have an accounting degree, and that sentence will never feel true, but it is truth.)

We serve a Shepherd that leaves the 99 to seek after the one.  He died one death, and He would have done that work for just one soul.

We will never know why God may ask us to do something that might have low numbers or look insignificant.

I emailed a group of women who had participated to ask about their experience.  I was blown away by their stories.  God definitely moved that weekend, despite my feeling insignificant or unsuccessful.

Not all of my questions in the ministry always feel answered.  It is a struggle as I serve.  Not all of your questions will feel answered either.

He asks us to come along and serve, join Him in what He is doing here on Earth.  To do that, we must have faith.  When we have faith, we aren’t promised easy answers, rested nights, and worldly success.

We are promised that He will never leave us and never forsake us.

That’s just going to need to be enough.

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.
— Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV

 

 

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I like to include a song with each blog post.  Here you go.

Day 13: Tiring Out

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

I could not have begun to learn how to quit fearing paper tigers without coming to the end of myself by tiring myself out.  I was like that annoying toy in the bottom of the toy box that makes noise every time something gets jostled.  I needed to run out of batteries.  This didn’t happen overnight, but over a series of events over three years.  Let me list them for you.

1st -- My first mission trip overseas.  I came home with such a passion to change the circumstances that I saw children living in.  I rallied friends and strangers to donate every cloth diaper I could get my hands on.

2nd -- My second mission trip overseas.  I was so excited to take supplies to the orphanages we had visited.  I began to realize that my efforts were such a drop in the bucket of meeting the children’s needs.  I began to realize that my efforts were good, but they weren’t world changing because the problems were so vast.

3rd -- I said yes to almost anything that advanced the gospel, no matter how difficult it might be to accomplish.  I was afraid I would miss something God had for me.  I was afraid that if I didn’t say yes, that no one else would say yes.

4th -- I picked “ardent” as my word for the year because I was so gung ho excited to work hard changing the world.

5th -- I was standing in the living room crying because I was so tired.  I felt like I was doing all the right things, and God was holding out on me.  I was serving Him, and the burden was so far from light.  It was the night before a women’s event, and I had worked so hard all week.  I had missed some sleep, and I knew I wouldn’t get sleep until the event was over.  There was a detail that had to be handled before I could go to bed, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.  Why wasn’t God looking out for me?  Why hadn’t He sent more help?  Why was the response less than I had expected?  Why are some things “successful” and other things just not?  Was this a spiritual attack and I was just too immature to see it?

6th -- I attended a women’s conference where we were encouraged to ask God what He wanted us to do for His Kingdom.  I had a dozen answers I could have written down, a dozen things I could lead, start, or volunteer to accomplish.  I listened and wept as the Holy Spirit told me the answer I was suppose to write down, “Just be you.  Just be the one person you are.  Stop trying to do it all.  Just be.”

7th -- I had a tough summer because of low vitamin d.  I was running on empty, and I had been for months and months.  I had to do some self care over the summer that resulted in a really great tan.  God showed me a passage in Galatians, and as I read it in The Message version, my eyes were opened to how deeply I was people pleasing and God impressing.  God began to shift my thinking and open my eyes to His truth.

8th -- My third mission trip overseas.  The lesson that what I can do on my own is so insignificant really finally was sinking in.  I could see that what we had done was only effective because Christ moved in spite of our efforts.  I began trying to verbalize what God was teaching me, but it was coming out all wrong.  The ideas I’m sharing in this blog series began to sprout on that trip.

 

That moment crying in my living room was just a piece of the story God was sewing in my life, teaching me this lesson, but I can so easily recall that feeling.  I felt completely alone in my pursuit to live out a calling for Him.  I felt like even God was not doing His part.  I wanted God to be proud of me, impressed by all that I was doing, and He was holding out on me.

This feeling, these questions are the heart of why I’m writing this series.  We’ve covered some ground on our topic; we are almost to the half way point of our 31 days.  Over the next few weeks that we have left, I hope to answer at least a few of these questions that we maybe have not answered yet.

Tiring out and coming to the end of myself was just the beginning.

What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a ‘law man’ so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.
Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.
— Galatians 2:19-21 The Message

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I've already shared this song once (or maybe even twice), but it it is the theme song of my journey here.  I love it so much.  This vid has lyrics, so there's that.

Day 12: Grace upon Grace

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
— John 1:16 ESV

Since we are talking about grace, I’m going to let you practice grace.  I’m going to tell you my new favorite tv show, and I know it will exercise your grace muscles because: 1. It was brought up in my son’s Sunday school class as a bad idea this week.  And 2.  I don’t even think my tv friends think it is good.

I’m sorry I can’t quit watching it.  I’ve even watched some of the episodes multiple times, something I rarely do.

It is the new NBC show The Good Place.

Stop it.  I heard you groan.  That’s not nice.

If you haven’t heard of this tv gem, let me tell you about it.  The premise is this, a women dies and finds herself in an office where she is told that she has been good enough in her life on Earth to end up in “the good place” instead of “the bad place.”  In the show, there is a point system that adds or subtracts points (or fractions of points) for every single action you have done in your life.  The problem is that there has been a mistake and this woman who finds herself in “the good place” is actually an awful person who doesn’t deserve to be there.  Almost everyone who has ever lived ended up in the bad place, for example, the only president who made it to “the good place” was Lincoln.  The people who have made it to “the good place” are annoyingly good, and this woman obviously doesn’t fit in.  Comedy ensues.  You get the picture.

I also love tv fake cursing.  Now we have something to add to our Battlestar Galactica's fracking.  If you can't laugh at fake tv cursing, what can you laugh at? 

I also love tv fake cursing.  Now we have something to add to our Battlestar Galactica's fracking.  If you can't laugh at fake tv cursing, what can you laugh at? 

Usually I hate shows or movies that have bad theology laced into their plots.  I cannot tell you how mad I was leaving the theater after the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie End of Days.  I just looked at the Rotten Tomato score, and it is 11%.  I think 11% is too high.

For some reason this show has hit me differently.  I think I know why.  The point system from the tv show isn’t much different from what most humans feel like would be a fair system of eternal judgement.  We’ve all heard the scale system of measuring our good and bad actions described one way or another.  It sounds fair right?  If our good outweighs our bad, Heaven!  And vise versa.

The thing about this weight system and the point system on the show is that it actually isn’t fair.  What about people who live longer and have more of a chance to rack up more points?  What about people who have bad parents, who aren’t taught good from bad?  What about people who have only bad influences in their lives?  What about criminals who decide to change their life and begin to do good?

The show, whether it intends to or not, is showing how unfair the “fair” point system actually is.  What about real, honest-to-goodness, truth-from-the-good-book theology?  It shows itself superior to this man-made point system.

Why?

Grace!

Jesus came and died for you and me, not because we deserved it, but because He loved us.

Through His death on the cross and our accepting of that free gift, we are extended that beautiful gift of grace.

God offers us something better than the frozen yogurt laden land that is the tv version of after life perfection.

God offers us a place in His house, His perfect eternity, Heaven.  Grace means we do not deserve this.  Mercy means He withholds the punishment we do deserve.

We have been offered grace, because no matter how hard we try, we will never rack up enough points to be considered “good.”

We have been offered grace because He loves us.

We love God back, because how could we not?  He loved us first.  And how we show love for others is offering them grace as much as humanly possible.

So go ahead and practice your grace out.  I’m going to keep watching that silly, bad theology tv show because it is escapism at its finest, and because they are proving how much we need grace even more than we need frozen yogurt that taste like a full charged cell phone.  (That is from the show.  See?  I told you it was funny.)

 

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I like to share a song with each blog post.  This one is a little serious for such a silly post, but whatevs.