I read another devotional with a statement that got me thinking. The author (whose books I generally enjoy) said God has given all of us a mission in life, and we will one day have to give account of our mission and can then rest from our labors. He said: “We seldom realize fully that we are sent to fulfill God-given tasks.” Another well-known author talked about the assignments we receive from God. These statements, along with the oft-used God uses us, make me uncomfortable and I finally understand the deep-down reason why.
Taken together, they pull me back to my past, when I lived and breathed legalism. Each of these statements implies failure – I might not discover or fulfill my mission; I may not complete my tasks or if I do, my work might not be satisfactory; if I am being used by God, I might not live up to his expectations. I could disappoint God, displease him (see my previous posts on these topics) and then I could be in danger of losing out on salvation.
I never want to go back to a legalistic view of God. I never want to sink back into separation theology – of believing anything I do wrong can drive a wedge between us, even a little bit. In Christ, we are as close to Jesus as we want to be, and he is as close to us as our own hearts. Any idea that we are only here on a mission to finish tasks for him or to be used for assignments diminishes the relationship God wants to have with us, the relationship he created us for.
For twenty-five years, the only relationship I had as a Christian was with the law; now I revel in a relationship with my Abba God and I’m thankful he doesn’t want to use me to fulfill tasks or assignments. He loves me more than that.
I’ve been reading a series of Unputdownable (the name of the publisher) books by a British author, and they are hard to put down. The main character is an alcoholic who drinks to forget all the horrible things he’s done. He’s always going to an AA meeting to find encouragement from his fellow alcoholics and to try to keep himself sober.
I’ve never had a problem with alcohol, so I couldn’t relate to needing help with drinking, but I do sometimes have a problem with my tongue, among other things. Because of the fourteen books I’ve read about this character, needing a meeting was on my mind, so when I started having an attitude problem, I realized I needed a meeting – with Jesus! I found myself saying this often and it worked. As soon as I turned my thoughts to Jesus and prayed for help, I felt the relief that comes from getting just what I needed for that moment.
Sometimes I need a meeting to tell him how thankful I am or how much I love him. For any reason and at any time, a meeting with Jesus is just what I need. And the best part is, I can have one any time I need it.
(If you’d like to know about the books, email me at email@example.com.)
When bad things happen, a lot of Christians tell others – and themselves – that these things are part of God’s plan and he has a purpose behind them. This way of explaining life’s trials and tragedies makes it look like everything is by God’s design (or his fault) and that he makes us suffer to teach us lessons – or give us a book to write.
But is everything, little and big, all part of some plan God has for each of us? What about those who suffer a birth defect or are abused? What about children who are sold into slavery? What about terrible car crashes? Some might say God’s plan is only for Christians; those who don’t believe are on their own. But God sends rain on the “just and the unjust.” He lets us make choices about everything. Sometimes our own choices cause us problems; sometimes the choices of others are the cause. But they are our choices, not ones he imposes on us.
God’s plan for our lives is much bigger than the day to day events we experience, although the more we yield and cooperate with the Holy Spirit, the more involved he is with our lives. He wants all of humanity to be with him in eternity, and to paraphrase Star Trek Captain Jean-Luc Picard, he will make it so. Redemption will happen – all will be made right and everyone will be made whole. As N.T. Wright said, “the major, central, framing question [of the New Testament] is that of God’s purpose of rescue and re-creation for the whole world, the entire cosmos.” That’s the plan.
If you read enough blogs and devotionals, you’ll come across advice about clearing out the bad influences or time wasters from your life, including people. If someone is draining your energy, discouraging you or pulling you down in any way, the recommendation is to get them out of your life. I’ve always wondered about this, because I do know some people who are difficult to be with (see my post on sandpaper people), but it doesn’t seem like the Christian thing to do.
Jesus spent time with the outcasts, those on the fringe of society, the sinners, the lepers and the demon possessed. I don’t remember him advising his followers to stay away from them. Rather than try to get them out of his life, he went out of his way to establish relationships with them, to heal them and even love them.
Colossians 3 tells us everyone is defined by Christ and everyone is included in Christ (verse 11, MSG). If I’m living my life as if Jesus were living it, rather than ditching difficult people, I need to figure out a way to connect with and love them, sandpaper and all.
In this time of situational ethics and variable facts, you’ll hear people talk about their truth. This is my truth, or that is your truth. Apparently, it changes from person to person and with circumstances. Your truth is different from my truth and that’s just fine. We all have our own truth.
Is this true? At the end of Pilate’s interrogation of Jesus in John 18, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” It seems no one knows, even today. And a lot of folks don’t let the facts get in the way. If you believe in your own truth, maybe you are fooling yourself. Most will say they mean they have their own story and experiences but talking about their own truth seems indicative of how much our society has strayed from the absolutes of God.
Jesus called himself the way, the life and the truth (John 14:16). He is the only one who could talk about his truth and be telling the truth. Jesus is the only real truth, the truth that leads to eternal life.
You may have heard of FOMO. When I first saw this acronym, I had no idea what it meant. Urbandictionary.com defines it as “a state of mental or emotional strain caused by the fear of missing out;” also, “a form of social anxiety ̶ a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity or satisfying event, often aroused by posts seen on social media websites.”
I like to think I’m impervious to this phenomenon. For the most part I am, due to my increased awareness of minimalism and simplifying my life. Every once in a while I’m tempted to succumb to the voices telling me I need a new product or experience so my life will be meaningful and I won’t be the only one to miss out, but then I remind myself I am being pushed to “need” these things. Social media and advertisers do this to us all the time and it’s up to us to tune them out.
A better voice to tune into is that of the Holy Spirit, who tells us to be content with what we have: “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met” (Matthew 6:33, The Message). Through Timothy, the Spirit tells us to pray for our leaders so we may live quiet, peaceful lives (1 Timothy 2:2). We don’t need to, and shouldn’t, fear missing out on anything this world has to offer. We have everything we need in Jesus.
As part of decluttering and simplifying my life, I’ve given away a lot of clothes, so many that I had empty drawers in my dresser and now have a lot of breathing room in my closet. Having less makes it easier to find something to wear, but I still have trouble deciding. I wish I had it as easy as my husband, who wears black polo shirts most of the time. Maybe I should try that.
Regardless of what’s in my closet, I always know what to wear on the inside. Romans 13:14, in almost every translation available, says to put on Jesus. Paul expands this in Colossians 3:12 and 14 when he writes to the church there to clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, and over all of these, to put on love (NIV). Love is “your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it” (MSG).
It would be nice if this were as easy as grabbing compassion out of a dresser drawer, pulling kindness from a shelf or taking patience off a hanger and then just putting all of them on. Ultimately, God is the one who dresses us in these attributes, but he doesn’t dress us the way we would dress a toddler. I’m pretty sure he expects us to cooperate with the Spirit by practicing the spiritual disciplines. We need to go to the closet (Bible study), open the drawers of the dresser (pray), search the shelves (meditate on God’s word) and then hold out our arms to let him dress us with his gifts.