From time to time, OK….really often, I have to have a “come to Jesus” meeting. Seriously. Truth is that sometimes I forget that between me and God the conversation is usually supposed to be all about me. Or about me and God and this relationship we have.
While sometimes our prayers can change God’s direction, I think often we pray with a very shallow purpose. We pray to be considered “nice people.” We pray to get our way. We pray to give God our side of the story, so we can tell ourselves we’re right. We throw up prayers like popcorn, hoping God catches a kernel in his mouth, but really expecting that he won’t. It’s almost like a party game. “Lord, heal my friend.” Then we kinda think “Prayer prayed. Cross that off my ‘to do’ list. Now I have fulfilled what I said I would do. I can now say ‘I have been praying for you.’ Nothing else for me to do here. When they are healed I can say ‘I helped!’ But really it looks bad. Probably nothing positive going to happen there!”
Take that same prayer, “Lord, heal my friend.” What if we prayed in such a way that it really directed our attention to God at work? What if as we prayed we promised God that we would watch as he works in that person’s life and the lives of those around them? What if we promised to acknowledge God if that person is healed? What if we asked God how we could help that person or their family or perhaps others in their same situation? What if it moved us to change who we are and how we live? What if it drew us closer to God? Wouldn’t that give that prayer some depth? Another layer of purpose?
My heart breaks as I look at this world. My heart breaks as I look at the lives of those I love, especially those who seem to be on the wrong path; who seem to be making decisions that will do nothing but hurt them and hurt others. The truth is, though, I (we) can’t change other people. Ever. God gave them the freedom to live lives of truth or lives of lies. They must make the appropriate decisions to change themselves, they must make the decision to thumb their nose at God or surrender all they are. There’s something quite freeing about that when I have it in proper perspective. I can pray and trust God can handle the situation. With or without me. I can be willing to be used by God in people’s lives, but have to acknowledge when I try to change people under my own power, it usually doesn’t work out. God doesn’t necessarily need to use me in everyone’s lives that are around me. After a while you have to surrender your perceived control and say “God I trust you to lead them. To let them hear your voice. Please do the same for me and teach me to follow you.”
The second part is the hardest part. It means our focus has to change to living the life God wants us to live, and not the one that comes naturally. That which comes naturally usually takes us in the direction of our own desires, and not God’s. One thing I can promise….if you do God’s way correctly, you will not remain in your comfort zone. You will not be able to coast on your strengths…..you will be challenged to let God work through your weaknesses. You will not have time to pass judgment on others. In other words, you will not be the Holy Spirit of the world, the nation, your neighborhood or even your own home. You will be a person of opinions, someone called to speak when they feel they have no words or aren’t especially good at it, and you will be fully involved with the problems of the world. Because if you are God’s person, justice, love, peace, forgiveness, and mercy are the foundations of how you live. Those things require that you give up your comfort, and challenge the person you think you are. It requires you not live in a righteous little bubble, but engage with the world.
Those who follow God surrender their “rights.” They realize it’s not all about them. They don’t compare what they have been given with those around them, because the truth is they have enough. Whatever it may be. Our purposes are different. Our mission fields are different. Our strengths and weaknesses are going to be used differently. All that we are, and all that we aren’t, is by design. Some of us may think we have good reason to whine, but one thing I have found….however little that I may think I have, there always seems to be someone with less. However inept I may think I may be, God can work through it. Needs are great, and God meets those needs in interesting and unexpected ways, through not-so-interesting-but-incredibly-amazing people who are willing to be used. OK….even through the unwilling and kicking and screaming folk!
I have said before that I’m not a “good Christian”. Maybe no one is, but from my eyes it does seem to come more naturally to other people than me. I’m a rebel by nature. I’m not even a “good Christian” on my best days. In fact, I hate….yes hate….the phrase “good Christian”. It puts a pressure on us that I don’t think God intended. It makes it about us instead of God. Truth is, the greatest story of scripture is that we can’t be good enough…..and we don’t have to! Pressure off. Time to move on in spite of it.
So frequent “come to Jesus” meetings are necessary where we talk about me, and how I fall short, and what I need to do to get back on track. Where I don’t blame others for who I am or what I have done, but accept responsibility for the ways I fall short. Where I remind God of all I am not, and he reminds me of all he is. Where he reminds me that there is no valid excuse to disengage or insulate or live a life without purpose. Where there is no valid reason to disrespect people, or be unkind, or be less than I was created to be. Where there is no excuse to not stand up for what is right, honest, just and true. Where he reminds me that since I am His, he’s got me covered. Where I am weak, He is strong.
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.”