Friday, January 31, 2014

Blast From the Past: Another Lesson Learned

This was first posted on May 30, 2010. The circumstances have changed but the lesson still remains.

This morning, after our gathering, we were waiting for some food to be delivered. I was on the front porch of the house talking with a friend. Partway through the conversation the food that we were waiting for arrived, and help was needed to carry it into the house. Without thinking, I immediately left in the middle of the conversation to help. There were others there who could have helped, so it wasn't like it was absolutely necessary for me to get involved. A bit later I thought about that and realized that I had abandoned my friend right in the middle of our conversation, and I wondered why I did that.

Part of it could be that I'm not a great conversationalist, so it was more comfortable for me to help out in a way that didn't require talking. That's something I need to continue working on, although I am better than I was. Part of it could be that I feel like I have a reputation as a servant to uphold. That is one of my gifts, and I do feel more comfortable behind the scenes than out front, so of course I don't want people to think I'm being lazy. Regardless of the reason, I should have stayed on the porch and not abandoned my friend.

I think that a bigger reason is something that most of us deal with in our walk with Jesus, and that is the tendency to feel that we have to do something all the time rather than just be in the moment. I know that I sometimes will let things to do draw me away from spending time with the Father or with my brothers and sisters. A lot of evangelicalism, especially the fundamentalist branch, is built on "doing something for God." Great churches are built on the efforts of the leaders and members. Christians are made to feel guilty if they aren't involved in one of the programs of their church. Pastors burn out because they feel that it's their job to build a great work. In the midst of all this busyness, churches find that their members are not being discipled and are not growing in their walk with God.

The thing is, many of the programs and things that we try to do for God can be done without the Holy Spirit. Huge, "successful" churches and ministries can be built completely on human effort. Some of those come tumbling down, some get even bigger, but they really don't have much impact for the Kingdom. We bemoan the fact that people aren't knocking down the doors of our churches, and young people are leaving as soon as they are able. I think one reason is that we have presented a gospel that claims to be all about grace and a relationship with God, but is really about working. Not for salvation, but to please God.

God invites us into relationship with him. He tells us to be still and know that he is God. God is our Father, not our employer. It is true that we serve God and others. It is true that there are things that each one of us is called to do. But, do we do them in our own strength or in the power of the Spirit coming from just being in a close relationship with the Father? It is out of that relationship that we walk in God's love through our day-to-day. It is in that relationship that we learn the Father's heart and find out where he is working so that we can join in. The closer we draw to our Father, the more sensitive we will be to his agenda, and the more we may realize that we need to let our agenda go. Our efforts will be to join God's work rather than trying to get him to bless ours.

Joining in God's work might just mean that we continue a conversation on the front porch and let someone else help with the other stuff.

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