Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Be Still

Unfortunately, It’s been awhile since the last time I blogged.  I have missed it and missed connecting with people through common struggles and life experiences! So, after a period of intense studying and intense relaxing I am back.

Do you ever wake up feeling like you are in the same rut as the day before? Some days I go to sleep thinking, tomorrow is a new day, I will wake up SO refreshed! And in the morning I feel physically refreshed but not mentally refreshed. This weekend is a prime example. I knew I had a long run coming up on Sunday before church so all of Saturday night my mind was dreaming about missing my alarm and then not being able to finish my run! Some days I go to sleep with the most pressing concern still on my mind, and I wake up with the concerns of the day before becoming the chores of today. I know that this is bad. It is like my mind cannot be separated from the things I have to do, and I go to sleep wanting to be as productive in my rest time as I am in my active time. And in the case of my Saturday night dream, I wake up exhausted because not only have I stressed all night about something , but its like I mentally ran 10 miles before I ever got out of bed! I feel like this happens to many people, before a big presentation, before an interview, before the first day of school or a big date- our minds just keep running and running all through the night.

I wish I had a great mental exercise to say here, like humming in bed with your legs crossed for 10 minutes before you go to sleep. I could insert a great promise that the exercise would work WONDERS for you. I would say that ‘you would wake up and the problems of tomorrow would fly far away on a magic carpet ride!’ or something incredibly cheesy yet very enticing. Because in all actuality, I wish there was an ‘Easy’ button (Staples commercials) to press in real life. Unfortunately, I think I would press it way too often. I wish life was easy. I wish that some days I didn’t go to bed and carry the stresses of yesterday into the next day. But I do.

So today as I was doing a quiet time in the morning, a new revelation hit me. I think the be-on-guard-for-whatever-may-come mindset is a symptom of a greater problem I have. I hate to admit it, but it’s a faith problem for me. I would love to say that I have faith to move the mountains, I have faith as wide as the sea, I have faith that 100% trusts in God every step of the way all day. If any of you do have this faith, boy do I admire you. Having faith is something so easy to talk about. It’s easy to say that no matter what comes your way you have blind faith. It’s easy to encourage others to 'just have faith' because it will all be okay. I realize that the words I speak become so hard to live whenever trials and stresses come my way. I have accepted Jesus Christ as my savior, knowing that he died on the cross for me. I have been forgiven and redeemed. But the daily act of faith is so much more than a simple belief. It is a huge life commitment. I know I will never be perfect, and I am thankful for that, but for me personally I realize that my faith should grow as I grow. I’m not saying I have to wake up daily to prove my good works and actions, but my heart, soul, and mind should belong entirely to God as reflected in my faith.

Oswald Chambers, in my Utmost for his Highest,  chose the verse “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10) as the verse he focused on for today's devotional. This verse hit me head on.  So, even though I am not an English pro, I’m going to give my English insight into the verse.  “Be still and know that I am God” is a command. God commanded the author of Psalm 46 in the midst of the “nations in uproar” (v.6), and the war (v.9) to just be still. I don’t know if this is something he has placed on your heart, like he placed on mine. But he commands me to be still. “Be still” is our verb, or some form of a verb (this is where my English goes down the drain). This is an interesting verb, because it requires that we are not doing any other action word. We can’t be still and run. We can’t be still and fight. I even think that it extends to quieting our hearts and minds. So not only should our bodies be still, but even our minds. So we can’t be still and plan, be still and arrange, be still and demand. How many times do I do this? SO MANY. I come to God with my plan, with my demands, my issues. And it’s like the whole time I’m doing any other action word besides being still. I’m planning, I’m arranging my future, I’m scheming, I’m pushing back on an idea. Being still is scary. I have come to enjoy the ever constant noise and distraction of life, as much as I would hate to admit that.  I seem to like being distracted, I like the noise, I like the things that keep me so busy. I don’t want to appear as being boring, alone, or unproductive.

And this is where not being still, burdens my faith. Because when I am not still, my faith is not focused on knowing God. My faith is focused on the action words I can do. I can do a lot of action words, I can do them all day, for the rest of my life without having the faith that God requires. I can be distracted with the noise of life for the rest of my life, without having the faith that God requires. I do understand that God commands us to do many action words like teach, pray, believe, love. However until I follow the command “Be still and know that I am God” I will not truly believe with absolute certainty the power of my God. He is big. He is powerful. I am not.  In the midst of war, chaos, and confusion, the Psalmist heard God speak in a great way. God said if you are still, I will do all the work. I will carry you. “I will be exalted among the nations and the earth.” Isn’t that such a great promise? God told him that if he quit moving and was still God would do all of the action words needed in life. At the end of the day God will be on the winning side. He will triumph over all evil. He will carry us through. The commitment we have to make, is to be still enough so he can hold us in his hands. Be still, so that I can hear him speak. Be still so that I can know the characteristics and personality of my God so that I be a small glimpse of his image to others.

So my command today, is to be still so that I can know God. This could mean something entirely different for every one of us. It’s between you and God, what that personally means to you. I can’t tell you what revelations God will bring, or what God will say. However, I do believe, our faith will grow along with us. And God will take the stresses of today and restore our hearts for the next day. And maybe just maybe, we will get that big break that we have been looking for. Maybe it will be like a spiritual vacation. Maybe we will get to sit back, relax, and enjoy God’s awesome show.

Psalms 46:10
Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted among the earth.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What do we have to give up to hear God?

Ever since I posted the Busyness blog post I have been struggling with putting aside my list. It has been so hard to focus on love being the center of it all in my life. I’m going to be 200% honest and say I have even been struggling with my daily devotionals and making time to read the bible because the rational side of me wants to keep up with all of my commitments and goals.

Let me tell you something, words mean NOTHING until they are put into action. God is very clear about that. He says- don’t just read my word, but live it! That is so hard for me to do. But that is my challenge daily. And sure enough, it’s easy to write about what I should do (like saying I will put aside my chores, and list) rather than actually do it.

Let’s be honest- we are always a work in progress. I don’t think one certain issue, concern, or worry will be solved overnight. I wish it was. Good ole’ Les  Carter (I call him Dad) would say “It’s not life on demand Lindsay. Things aren’t going to happen just as you want them when you want them.” When I was younger, I never understood that because I was too busy demanding, rather than listening. But for real, just like things take time to work themselves out, that is kind of how God’s word in our lives is. It takes years and years for some for us to master these ideas and even then we still won’t be perfect (Bummer, right?)

But today as I was doing my quiet in 1 Corinthians 9, a new revelation hit me. In my NIV Bible, 1 Corinthians 9 is titled the Rights of an Apostle. Automatically in the title, we get the hint that the apostles will be entitled to certain things. We all learned about rights in American History. We are all entitled to the right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.(Insert: patriotic music playing in the background, preferably God Bless America) Some days I even make up rights for myself. A classic one is, well I did the dishes yesterday so it’s my right to not do them today (and this is an example of an illegitimate right).

But yes, we all get hung up on what we are entitled to in life. And Paul is talking about what he is entitled to as an apostle. In verse 4, he says he has the right to food and drink (get compensated so that he can buy food), and to take a believing wife along with him (v5), and to do as the other apostles and the Lord’s brother (v.5- this is interpreted as refraining from other work and being devoted to be an apostle, rather than have to get another job, like what everyone else did). Those are an apostle’s rights.

(Bear with me here- I am going to continue going deep into the scripture to establish the point!)

And then Paul even brings in a logical argument of why he is entitled to compensation his work. He says, “Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the grapes? Who tends a flock and doesn’t drink the milk?”(v. 7) Basically he is saying who works and doesn’t expect to receive some benefit for it. And in Verses 8-11 he establishes that since he works for the Lord and is sewing spiritual seeds among the Corinthians, shouldn’t he receive a material harvest? (material harvest=getting paid!) Paul says, if the average Joe Corinthian gets the right to be paid, shouldn’t apostles have an even greater right to be paid since they are doing spiritual, BIG work? (v12)

So after establishing that Paul and apostles have these certain rights, in Verse 15 he drops a bomb! He says “But I have not used any of these rights.” So that means he hasn’t been getting paid for all the work he has been doing. And to me, I was a little confused here because Paul did a great job of convincing me of his rights for 15 verses. I was thinking, yeah Paul, go get your wages! You were doing BIG things and you do deserve to get paid!  And his rights were legitimate, followed with lots of thought and reason.

But in Verse 18 he explains why he gave them up. Because the real reward of preaching the gospel and sharing the good news was greater than being paid, so he was willing to do it “free of charge.”

And at this point you are probably thinking, that you have no idea where I am going with this. But here it is. In order to hear God’s calling in our life, we have to give up our rights.

Let me say it again. Loud and clear. In order to hear God’s calling in our life, we have to give up our rights. You say, what does this mean? We have all identified things we are entitled to (our rights).  Let’s start with Paul’s example. If we work, we feel like we have the right to get paid. We feel like we have the right to get married. We have the right to spend our time the way we want to. Let’s go with the American example. We have the right to life. We have the right to liberty. We have the right to pursue happiness. Paul acknowledges all of his rights, but for him the real reward for him is giving them up.

What does that mean? I want to hear God. I want to know my calling. But I have to give up my rights. We are a people of want, want, want. We are a people of demand, demand, demand. We want God to be there right with us every step of the way. But we don’t want to give anything up in the process. For people like me, that might mean giving up my time. For others it might mean giving up an idea, or a timeline. And for somebody else it might mean giving up a destructive habit, or recurring sin. That is where Paul found his reward.

Today, I can think of a million things I need to do. And it appears that sitting down and spending time with God, or blogging will not accomplish much. There are things that I could be doing today that will give me an immediate payoff. Like studying for my test in 10 days. If I studied I would be in a much better place and one step closer to passing it. So, I have this right to do things that are going to be of value to me. Things that are going to PAY me. Some of you may spend your time working, where you physically get paid every month. We devote our lives to things that will bring us immediate gratification. We devote our time to the things that will give us tangible benefits.  And then when things go wrong, we wonder where God is. We wonder why he isn’t running down to save us every time we get frazzled. After we have spent all our time and energy on things that will pay us out, and not on quiet times or devotionals, prayers, and fellowship (because after all we don’t have time to do it all), we wonder where our community that will lift us up is. And God says where have you been investing your time? Time with God is an INVESTMENT. It pays out in the future. If you are going to spin your wheels on things that will pay out now, you can’t wonder where God is and why you can’t hear him.

To hear God’s calling in your life and to be his hands and feet, you have to give up your rights. For somebody that could mean taking a job that pays less so you will have more time for things that matter. For me, it means taking my time away from valuable study time to spend with God. And it is not easy to give something up. It’s not easy to have to pay a price for our intimacy with God. But it is something we have to do to truly hear the calling.

Have you ever thought that the days where you can’t hear God speak, maybe it is because you never listened? Maybe you never set aside the time. Maybe you were so consumed with your right to be happy. Maybe you were consumed with your entitlement to truly live life, because life is short and you have to live it up. Maybe you were consumed on your rights instead of understanding that a true reward lies in giving them all up.

God wants your whole heart, your whole body, your whole mind. He doesn’t just want the leftovers. He doesn’t want your worst. He wants your best. He doesn’t want you on Sundays. He wants you all week. He doesn’t just want you at night after you are exhausted. He wants you all day. And if you aren’t going to give him all of you, don’t wonder why you can’t hear God speak. Don’t wonder why you are so busy and never have time. Maybe its because you never set aside time. Maybe its because most days you, like me, don’t want to give up our rights. And we especially don’t want to give up the rights to ourselves.

I don’t think it was easy for Paul to take up a calling where he would not get paid. To go from his comfort of being a stable Pharisee persecuting Christians, to now being one of the Christians himself. But the reward of being a follower of Christ, the reward of knowing his greatness and becoming more and more like him each day filled Paul up. Paul wanted to fight so hard for his faith, to run the race so hard that he would get an eternal crown. You see, one day, hopefully we will all be standing in heaven alongside Paul, saying “God I gave you the time when I had it, I gave you the best of me, I gave you my all. I gave up the right to myself, so that you could work in me.”
I see it now, I can picture the joy Paul gets from giving up his rights. For God to look at me and say “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Now that is the reward that Paul is talking about.