Connecting to the Heart of God

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 KJV

A simple truth, but so profound. God loves the world.

It is our privilege to help connect people in Spokane to the heart of God. And sometimes it is scary. Sometimes God asks us to do big things, that are clearly beyond our own human capacity. And sometimes, if feels like it is all about me, my ability, my personality, my creativity, my popularity (or lack thereof), my performance. Since I’m a broken, imperfect person, I fail. Often. Depending on my ability results in epic failure. Repeatedly.

Recently, God challenged me to step out in faith and take on a new responsibility. It is scary. I don’t want to do it. I could fail.

In the process of seeking the Lord’s direction (because I’m much more concerned with my performance than with obedience), I called a dear friend who is also a spiritual mentor. Instead of telling me how crazy I was for even considering adding something else, she began asking probing questions. Difficult questions. Questions I neither wanted to consider nor answer.

But consider I did. And God revealed that I have some deep rooted fear; fear of failure. He also revealed something else. It’s not. about. me. Nothing in this life (or the next) is about me!

And, my obedience is more important than my performance. Regardless of how well I perform, my success is determined by my obedience.

Sometimes, God gives really strange instructions! He told Jeremiah to take his belt off and bury it. Then later, God instructed Jeremiah to go back and dig up that same belt, then to wear it to preach a message to the Children of Israel. He told Hosea to marry a prostitute! And, Hosea experienced great heartache as a result. Those are extreme examples, yes, but examples, all the same.

Honestly, if you think about it, instructing a man to marry a woman who was already pregnant, with Someone Else’s child, or using shepherds as messengers, or having old women carry babies, or sending His Son as a common man instead of a king – those are all pretty crazy, even outlandish things to do. But God has done them.

And God continues to do outlandish things. Things like adopting Gentiles, and opening His Kingdom to “publicans and sinners”. He so totally blew the Pharisees away (to the point that they wanted to kill Him) because He didn’t fit inside their carefully constructed facade. In their eyes; indeed, in the world’s eyes, Jesus wasn’t much of a success story. Even today, he wouldn’t have been a success, not by our usual metrics of numbers and impact. Jesus left a ragtag bunch of social misfits, and only a handful at that. He didn’t launch any new movements, He didn’t leave any beautiful buildings, He didn’t transform His culture overnight. He didn’t even chase the Romans out of Israel?! But He was completely successful…He was totally obedient and accomplished everything His Father gave Him to accomplish. As a result, He completely changed the world.

And because that ragtag bunch of social misfits took the Great Commission seriously, they went and made disciples, who made disciples, who made disciples, to the point that, after about three hundred years, the Roman Empire looked nothing like it had in Jesus’ day. And eventually, disciples of disciples went to the ends of the earth, and people in the Pacific Northwest (which is about as far from Israel as you can get) are followers of Jesus as a result.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 KJV

 Such a simple verse, but what a profound, life-changing, world-transforming concept…we can connect with the heart of God!

A Long Obedience

Have you ever seen an ad (or a movie) where someone does a good deed, and before you know it, a whole community has joined them? Yeah; me, too. Those images always leave such warm fuzzy feelings in my heart. And I want to be part of something special like that.

My experience, however, hasn’t quite played out that way. Honestly, I’ve done lots of good deeds all alone; no one has ever known. You probably have, too.

Almost nobody notices. Virtually nobody remembers. Nobody is cheering, or giving awards, or helping with the efforts.

You can probably think of your own examples; times when you gave even though (or especially because) nobody was watching. The goal isn’t to be noticed; good deeds have their own intrinsic reward. But sometimes it seems like somebody somewhere should care that you’re making sacrifices to benefit someone else.

Perhaps you’ve never done it, but sometimes I figure if someone is doing a good deed, it must be because they have time. Or it is convenient. Or they don’t have anything more important to do. But, if they are anything like me and you, most of those people do have something else to do, and helping isn’t necessarily convenient, and they really don’t have any more time than we do. They are just choosing to use it differently.

Why, you may be asking, am I bringing this up? Well, let me tell you. It is because God gave me an object lesson, in the sleet and rain.

We live on a busy street. And we are responsible to keep the sidewalks clear. Initially, my son wanted to shovel the snow; he loves shoveling, and wanted to earn a littlIMG_00002278ae bit of money. But, as the sleet turned to rain and the snow got heavy, I knew he wouldn’t be able to get the job done. So, we traded places. And I started shoveling.

My plan was not to shovel that long; I just wanted to get the snow off the sidewalk so pedestrians would be safe (and we wouldn’t get sued). But as I approached our property line, God started tugging at my heart. Our neighbors hadn’t gotten their sidewalk shoveled yet. I needed to shovel their walk, too. So, I kept shoveling. And as I did, God and I wrestled, a lot.

I didn’t want to shovel for my neighbors. They haven’t always been very friendly. On occasion, they have been decidedly unfriendly, actually. And it was wet, and cold, and I had other things to do. And when the big vehicles drove by, they splashed gross mucky slush up on me and the sidewalk, further weighing down the already heavy snow.

In a perfect world, I wouldn’t care. I would do the right thing, because it was the right thing, and that would be that. But I don’t live in a perfect world…and even if I did, I’m not perfect…

And because I’m not perfect, I wanted somebody, anybody, to help me. I wanted God to turn back time so I could accomplish my oh-so-important to-do list. I wanted somebody to notice and say good job. I wanted something. And, because I’m not perfect, God heard all about what I wanteIMG_00002285ad.

Thankfully, I wasn’t struck by lightening (which I really did deserve), and God showed me that what I needed was an attitude adjustment…to praise God in every circumstance, even this one. So, I offered a sacrifice of praise, thanking Him that I can still shovel snow at my age (not that I’m that old, mind you), that I had the tools to do the job without freezing (gotta love modern conveniences like waterproof boots, insulated gloves, and warm coats), that I have a sidewalk to shovel  (I could be homeless, or live in a tiny apartment with downstairs neighbors who hated living under an elephant herd), that I have a shovel, and that I have neighbors to bless with a simple act of kindness. Mostly, I chose obedience; I chose (what felt like) a long obedience, in the same direction. And, the job got done.

More than the job, though, was the lesson God taught me about obedience. It doesn’t always feel good. It doesn’t always make sense. It isn’t easy, or convenient, or fun. But, when I choose obedience, God can make even an unpleasant experience blessed. What a mighty God we serve. And how gracious, able to take my rotten attitude and bless me as a result.