Meeting Needs in Church

needsGod wants us to meet needs, but He’s the one who determines what the needs are.

In ministry, we often ask, “What kind of classes would you attend? What could we offer than would help you get involved? How can we offer you a chance to serve in an area you’re comfortable or passionate about?”

It’s important to engage people, asking questions and getting to know them, but giving the impression that we will meet any needs people think they have perpetuates a consumer-focused culture, which has no place in the church. Faith is not about what we can get out of it. That’s a result of faith because God is generous, but if it’s our motivation of faith, we’re selfish, which in and of itself, is in direct opposition of faith.

What do you want because of your selfishness? What do you want “your way”? Maybe it doesn’t look as if you’re selfish. You might be able to get others to believe you’re seeking and following God’s will. You’re being firm about something, not because of what you want, but because of what you’re sure God wants. How sure are you? Are you deceiving yourself, too? Do you want so badly for your way to be God’s way that you’re closing your eyes, ears, and heart to any other possibility?

How are you encouraging others to take the same “me” perspective by asking them what they need or what would pull them into the church community? It’s not just about what you say but how it can be perceived and misunderstood. You might have pure motivations, wanting to meet people where they are, but here’s another possible approach:

Instead of asking for someone’s needs, then having to adjust to meet them, what if you help someone see how their needs can be met by some existing opportunities? When people are hesitant to get involved, they will find the differences between what is available and what they want. You can’t meet every need the way it is presented. But God can meet every need, even the ones you can’t identify. He knows people’s hesitations. He knows your motivations. He knows your willingness to connect and serve. He knows others’ sensitivity and baggage. He will work with it all.

Do you trust Him enough to listen…really listen…and let Him guide, even when you don’t get to decide what to ask, how to respond, and what to plan? Do you trust Him to meet your needs, as well as others’, even if you don’t completely “get” how it all fits together.

He’s a lot more trustworthy than anyone else’s assessment, including your own.

Lord God, You are God; Your words are true, and You have promised this grace to Your servant. (2 Samuel 7:28)

Just Living

Micah-6-8Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the LORD requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Justice is trendy right now.

I’m sure it’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last. It’s biblical. Because it’s God’s way, justice, and the command to live in and with it, isn’t going anywhere. It’s not just a Christian standard. It’s a people standard.

You can often identify what causes your friends are passionate about by their social media feeds. Some match up to the way they live and what they’re willing to personally sacrifice. Some buy a shirt for support and feel they’re doing their part. Others read a book. Some sacrifice their income, home, and comfort to live a different life, so that others can live a different life, too.

Has justice become a substitute for people to experience the goodness and redemption of God…without acknowledging Him and giving Him glory?

Justice requires mercy. In fact, it requires we love mercy, which involves a passion for sacrificially helping. And behind all that justice and loving mercy is humility. It’s not about us. We don’t get to mark something off our “feel good about ourselves and the way we’re serving” when we act justly, because it’s not about us. The moment it becomes about us, it’s no long just.

Justice is about God’s redemption. It’s about making things right…His way. When we seek to act justly and extend mercy, we’re trying to make things right. We see a wrong, and we try to fix it. But when we seek redemption without God, we fall short. He is the source of redemption. We can’t make things right on our own, because our perspective and our power is limited. He wants to use us, of course. He brings us together, open our eyes to injustice, opens our hearts and pours in mercy, and people are redeemed because of it…because of Him. We are redeemed, too. We are changed.

Why is justice important to you? Why does whatever it is that you want to help fix need to be redeemed? Are you willing to be redeemed through the process? Are you humbly inviting God to change you?

This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. (1 John 3:16)

God Owes Me Nothing

God doesn’t owe me (or anyone else) anything, but that doesn’t mean I don’t act like He does at times.

gratitudeHow about you? Have you ever said something like…

  • Surely this won’t last much longer. You (I) have been through so much already!
  • As much as you have given to others, you’ll definitely reap the rewards.
  • I’ve been really responsible with my money lately, so I’m sure I won’t have any unexpected surprises.
  • It’s time for vacation, and you (I) totally deserve a break!
  • I’m looking forward to retirement. I’ve put my time in and it’s time to enjoy life.

Even if we say we don’t think God owes us anything, what we think and say often betrays us. Instead of believing who God is and trusting Him regardless of how life is going or how well we understand it, we turn to a reward system. We might vehemently oppose the concept of karma, yet our reward/punishment system of what we and others deserve or don’t deserve says otherwise.

God doesn’t have to give me anything. His response isn’t dependent on me; it’s dependent on Him. Making it about me gives me way more control than I actually have…control I don’t even want, because I know I can’t handle it. I don’t see all the moving pieces involved. My perspective is selfish. I think I know what I want to happen next. I definitely have an opinion of what I think should happen next. But I’ve been wrong before and will continue to be wrong because of my limited perspective. The best perspective I can have is God’s, and the only way I can have it is to know Him well. Even with my best efforts, I will not fully know Him. There’s always more to know. Thankfully, He’s willing to consistently reveal Himself to me.

Am I willing to pay attention?

Yes. I owe it to God.

He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses. For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His faithful love toward those who fear Him. (Psalm 103:10-11)

Life with Attitude

Rejoice_title_1024x1024What makes you rejoice? What brings you great delight? Does what prompts you to rejoice bring great delight to God? Joy is a firm confidence that all is well regardless of the circumstances. Philippians 3:1 says “Be full of joy in the Lord.” God is the source of joy, and God is the object of joy. We rejoice because God is who He says He is, and that means we can trust Him, fully relying on His guidance and provision through any circumstance. Our joy isn’t circumstantial, because our faith isn’t circumstantial. We rejoice because of God but also with God. As we live close to God, we experience life with the glimpse of His perspective. Because God has the big picture, we can trust there is always hope, and if nothing else, we can rejoice in hope.

Knowing God, being in a dynamic relationship with Him, transcends any and all temporal circumstance. Knowing God is inextricably connected with obeying God, and obeying God gives us peace and assurance even in uncertainties. Life isn’t fair, but God is.

The thing is…whether or not life is fair is irrelevant. God doesn’t want us to get stuck in this life. He wants to correct our eyesight so we see into eternity. This life on earth is important, because it’s where we live out our faith. We seek, learn and grow. God doesn’t want us to waste one minute of it. That’s not to say we’re supposed to be perfect. After all, we often learn most through those trials. We experience the most intense joy after a dark night. God doesn’t want us to waste life, not because it’s about us, but because, ultimately, it’s about Him and our relationship with Him. Are you rejoicing through life with God?

The Perspective of Faith

Today’s post is excerpted from the Pure Purpose Bible study. Order a copy for yourself, a gift, or small group.

PureFaithCoverLowRes“When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

The perspective of faith is difficult and easy. Difficult, because faith requires us to assume and trust God’s perspective in all things, yet we’re limited in our perspectives, so we only get a glimpse of what God sees and knows. Easy, because faith grounds us in certainty…even when we’re uncertain about the certainty. Because God is trustworthy, we can trust him for his perspective and we can trust him with our lives. We won’t always understand, but we can always find certainty in faith, because faith inherently includes certainty.

All these people are known for their faith, but none of them received what God had promised. God planned to give us something better so that they would be made perfect, but only together with us. (Hebrews 11:39-40)

Our best effort to assume a godly perspective of faith is to know God and live his Word.

We cannot always know God’s will. We want the answers handed to us when we sometimes don’t even know what questions to ask. If we ask the questions we should ask, we sometimes don’t really want to hear and abide by the answers we get! God’s will is not a mystery if we search for it, but the question is: Are we willing to accept what God reveals as his will, or will we instead decide to hide behind pride and presumptions?

A common question when searching for God’s will is “What does God want me to do?” We can ask this question with sincere intentions, but it’s a question that too easily leads us down a path of what if, either/or, if/then, and so on. Our logic starts to kick in, and our preferences and assumptions can too easily get in the way and cloud our sight and hearing. Perhaps a better question to ask is “Who is God?”…with a follow up of “And based on who God is, how does he want me to respond?”

When we seek the “who” instead of the “what,” “how,” or “why,” we’re less likely to get discombobulated.  The answer still might not be clear, but it also won’t be clouded with the additional questions that can easily lead us down a rabbit trail tangled with our opinions, experiences, and pride.

When I was a young mom, it was difficult for me to put God first in a practical, everyday sense. I thought putting God first meant applying myself to spiritual disciplines, such as prayer and Bible reading and study. I absolutely loved spending as much time as possible in those areas, but I felt an urgent call to help when a daughter needed her diaper changed, meals needed to be prepared, naptime needed to start immediately (or was suddenly over), and many other things that, at times, seemed to nearly crush me under the to-do list. Plus, I was trying to be a good wife, which apparently was supposed to fall somewhere between putting God first and being a good mom. Because I couldn’t handle keeping even two of those in perspective, keeping three prioritized seemed disappointedly impossible.  I felt like a failure. Even on the days I felt like an adequate wife and a decent mom, I was still failing—at least, by my perspective—as a Christ-follower.

It wasn’t an identity crisis. It was a spiritual misapplication. I was setting myself up for failure by holding myself to a standard God never intended. I needed to stop seeing God at the top of everything and instead place him in the center of everything.

Perhaps it’s just semantics, but the shift worked for me. I stopped defining my efforts as failures of faith and began defining every role and responsibility as an opportunity for faith. It was the same basic concept, but a slight change significantly altered my outlook and faith journey.

When I placed God in the center of everything, I realized I wasn’t choosing my daughters over him when I played with them in the yard and walked to the library. I wasn’t choosing my husband over God when I helped him with a house project or watched football. When God is in the center, he touches everything. I consider God’s perspective no matter what I’m doing. I find significance in the most mundane tasks, because I acknowledge there is purpose in it even if I’m uncertain as to what the particular purpose is. When God is at the center of everything, I’m confident the purpose of what I’m doing is to follow and honor him. When I follow and honor him, I’m placing him in the center of everything.

It’s not simply that God is first in everything. He is the absolute foundation of everything. He is invested in everything. He is interested in everything. That is true whether I acknowledge his investment and interest or not. My distortion of God’s position in my life doesn’t change his position. He will always passionately pursue me. What can catapult me farther and faster in spiritual growth is my willingness to line up my life with his will. I can shift my perspective and priorities so that he seems to be off to the side, but he’s still in the center. I’ve simply distorted what I see as reality. God is the center, and when I line up my life with who he is and who he says he created me to be, I have the full assurance of him impacting the practical details of my everyday life.

No matter what I’m doing, God is in the center and emanates to reach every circumstance in the circumference of my life. Claiming God as the center of your life is what a perspective of faith is all about.

The will of God has more to do with controlling our hearts than planning and meeting goals. Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well. (Matthew 6:33) God wants us to surrender our own plans and will, not because we’re giving up but because we’re giving him ourselves. When we place him in the center of everything, we’re declaring his way is better. We follow him, because he has a better perspective and, therefore, a better plan and will! We are limited; God is not. But Jesus said to them, “My Father never stops working, and so I keep working, too.” (John 5:17)

We must remember that we follow a person, not an idea. We have a relationship with Jesus. We don’t just believe in Jesus; we believe him. And it is because of that belief that we follow him. A problem arises when we think Jesus is supposed to give us the details of every single decision and direction we face. However, we don’t even need the details that we so desperately think we need. We want step-by-step directions, the same that we can print or depend on our phones to recite to us. But we don’t need those details. We simply need to follow Jesus. He will give us the details we need. What does that look like?

Consider a carrier pigeon. A carrier pigeon doesn’t have all the details. He can’t read the delivery address let alone have a wifi connection that gives him step-by-step instructions. He knows “home.” He knows where he belongs. He might fly in a circle a few times to get ready and make sure he’s properly oriented, but he’ll then hone in on the direction of home and fly in that direction. We need to be so intimately honed into Jesus that we know the direction we need to move. We don’t need to wait for the step-by-step. He’ll reveal what we need to know along the way. We need to trust that his perspective is the perspective we need—the perspective of faith.

“I do not know the way that I take but well do I know my guide.” (Martin Luther)

Where are you going to be a year from now, five years, or twenty years? If you’re honing in on Jesus, you’ll be closer to him as you journey in faith!

What would your life be like if you completely trusted God?

King of the Mountain

kingofthemountain“I. Am. King. Of. The. Mountain!”

It was the best feeling, standing on top of the mound that seemed unconquerable, especially when others were scrambling up the side, grabbing ahold of you and trying to use the momentum of pulling you back to push themselves up the mound even further. You knew exactly what they were doing because you did the same thing when given the chance. Getting to the top required some sacrifices, and it meant sacrificing of others as much as sacrificing some skin as you ascended.

Ascending seems critical in life. Better house, more money, job promotion. More experiences. More education. More. More. More.

But more by the world’s standards isn’t more by God’s standards.

There’s a difference between ascending and descending in life. It’s a difference between a worldly perspective and a godly perspective. Ascending by the world’s perspective isn’t usually ascending by God’s perspective. In order to ascend by God’s perspective, we have to descend by worldly perspective.

Those who try to keep their lives will lose them. But those who give up their lives will save them. (Luke 17:33)

He must become greater, and I must become less important. (John 3:30)

God’s not saying we have to literally lose everything in order to gain him (although sometimes, that’s the path we’ll take). We don’t have to physically lose our houses, bank accounts, jobs, families, and so on. We have to lose our hold on them. We need to loosen their hold on us. We have to realize that everything we have, from the tangible possessions to intangible characteristics, are not our own. When we’re willing to give it all to God, realizing anything we have is his anyway, we gain a perspective where loss is gain, death is life, poor is rich.

This counter-intuitive perspective is why Jesus said to his followers, “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, I tell you that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24) A rich man had asked him about eternal life, and Jesus had instructed him to obey his commands…and go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor. If you do this, you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me. (Matthew 19:21) The rich man walked away sorrowfully. The price was too high.

Is it too high for you? Which route of ascending will you choose? The one the world says is best or the one God says is best? Will you ascend to the top of the mountain to get what you think is the most recognition, resources, privilege, opportunities, etc., yet leave God at the bottom of the heap? Or will you leave the world’s values behind and ascend into God’s presence, trusting him to use your obedience and sacrifice?

Consider the choices you’re making right now. Upon what values are they founded? What are you hoping to get in response to the choices you’re making? Where will you end up if you continue the path you’re taking? Are you willing to adjust?

There’s only one King of the mountain. And it’s not you.

Spiritual Breathalyzer

breathalyzerWhat if you could take a spiritual breathalyzer? What would the reading be?

Taking a spiritual breathalyzer certainly isn’t a new concept. Consider Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 5.

So be very careful how you live. Do not live like those who are not wise, but live wisely. Use every chance you have for doing good, because these are evil times. So do not be foolish but learn what the Lord wants you to do. Do not be drunk with wine, which will ruin you, but be filled with the Spirit. Speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord. Always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (verses 15-20)

Paul compares being filled with the Holy Spirit with being filled (drunk) with wine. With what are you filled? Bitterness? Discontentedness? Pain? Sorrow? Guilt? Pride? Greed? Doubt? A spiritual breathalyzer will tell the truth.

Consider what happens when somebody is filled with too much wine.

  • They’re no longer in control.
  • Their perspective and response is changed.
  • They are less inhibited.

And what happens when we are filled with the Holy Spirit?

  • We know we are not in control. God is.
  • God’s perspective eclipses our own, and we respond according to his leading.
  • We are no longer inhibited by bitterness, discontentedness, sorrow, guilt, pride, greed, and doubt. We set aside our self-centered concerns and boldly respond in God’s timing.

Consider your intimacy and comfort with the Holy Spirit. Even as Christians, we are often much more familiar with God the Father and Jesus the Son than the Holy Spirit. We’re often more comfortable with the rational, intelligent approach to faith. We don’t want to be or even seem to be out of control. Yet when we yield to God completely, including being filled with the Holy Spirit, we are not out of control. We simply yield to God’s control. We set our own selfish control issues aside to invite him to have full reign in our lives.

Take a spiritual breathalyzer today. Ask God to give you an accurate reading of where you are spiritually. Let him challenge you in the areas you are clinging to how you want to fill yourself instead of yielding to him. Then respond in obedience. Trust his assessment of you to always be for your spiritual growth and for his glory.