An Active Response

The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4b-9)

Repeat.

Talk.

Bind.

Write.

Responding to God and His Word is active. It’s not something we are content to know about, tear apart, analyze, and set aside. We question, interact with, wonder, and wrestle with it. We let it change us even after we’ve concluded something about it. We repeat it not to fully comprehend it but to let it become a part of us beyond comprehension. We build our faith on it with trust and certainty even when we are not certain. We let it chasten and chisel us.

It is uncomfortable.

It is necessary.

It is trustworthy.

It is beautiful.

Bible-Reading

Assigned Gifts

indexLook, I have selected your fellow Levites from the Israelites as a gift for you, assigned by the Lord to work at the tent of meeting. But you and your sons will carry out your priestly responsibilities for everything concerning the altar and for what is inside the veil, and you will do that work. I am giving you the work of the priesthood as a gift. (Numbers 18:6-7a)

We receive gifts from God. We like gifts.

God’s gifts are assigned. He designates them to us, as individuals and as communities in which He places us throughout seasons of our lives.

We like the honor, but we don’t always like the responsibility that comes along with the assignment. Assignment feels so…obligatory.

Yes. Our relationship with God includes responsibility. He doesn’t demand it, because He wants our willing response, but as our relationship with God deepens, we better understand the responsibility He extends to us. We accept it more fully. It excites us, yet burdens us, too. We know it is a blessing, and sometimes it feels thrilling, but it also feels confusing and uncomfortable and unrelenting.

When we’re honest with ourselves and with God, we listen for assignments and we let God challenge us to change and grow along the way. We receive His gifts not like we receive annual birthday gifts but as a humble recipient of an award we’re not sure we deserve. We open them with uncertainty of what we’ll do with it but with trust that God is certain and will let us discover the gift and fulfill His assignment one step at a time.

Losing A Generation

“Why won’t the young people come to help?”

“Young people these days feel entitled to all the things we worked hard to get. They’re not willing to sacrifice anything. They only think of themselves.”

“I’m scared for our country/business/family/church when it comes to these kids taking over.”

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I guess I’m considered a “tweener” of generations right now. I’m in my late 40s. I have a lot of friends who are 60+ and even more who are under 40. As I recently interviewed nonprofit leaders, we often arrived at the topic of involvement and volunteerism, and I frequently heard snide comments about “young people.” I’d ask how we can bridge the gap, and more than one person gave a response of “It’s pretty hopeless,” blaming the younger generation.

However, when we stiff arm a generalized judgment about a group of people, isn’t the gap partly our fault, too? If we’re not willing to build a bridge, mentor, teach, listen, and walk through the messes of life of those trying to figure out the things we might have experienced but now see the solutions as simple and easy, we’re not putting forth the effort, just as we’re blaming others for their lack of effort.

Maybe we’re willing to help because we have more available time. Our families are grown, and we might even be retired from full-time jobs. We’re not balancing a young family’s schedule, several part-time jobs or two parents’ work schedules or building a business, financial pressures, constantly fixing used appliances, cars, and houses that we can barely afford, and so on. Yes, we’re busy, too, but we don’t seem to be able to respect what others are facing. We “remember” those days but somehow picture them a bit differently. We think of how much we served even when things were busy, how simple we kept our lives, or how firmly we kept our kids in line. We look back with rose-colored glasses. Or we remember the past as tough, but we survived and so will others, so why can’t they just buck up and pitch in to help and get more involved?

We wonder why the younger generation doesn’t come help us when we plan a service project…but we schedule it during work hours or sports and other kids’ activities. Instead of judging someone for what he or she isn’t doing, what if we verbalize our appreciation for their commitment to work and involvement in their kids’ lives? Instead of trying to compare someone’s life to the way we remember that same time in our life, why don’t we listen to where people are, refusing to give the easy, general answers of “It will all work out” or “You’ll survive and look back at these years and wish you had them back”?

We might not understand everything another generation is going and has gone through, but that goes both ways. How can we expect others to get to know us and be willing to see our perspective of things if we’re not willing to begin the conversation? When will we realize that complaining about others wanting their own way reveals our selfishness, too? How can we live with hope among people who are different than we are instead of being doomsayers who claim all is lost…unless everyone begins to think and act just as we do.

How rude, self-centered, inflexible, and prideful of us.

In the Bible, a generation isn’t limited to a specific age range of people. A generation most commonly refers to all the people alive at that time. Instead of separating groups of people based on life stage and pitting one against the other, it’s reaching around them all and claiming responsibility together. It’s sharing identity without pointing fingers. It’s humbly getting to know each other, and taking the higher ground needed to find common ground.

Are we willing?

If we’re not, we miss out…and so do the people we pit ourselves against.

 

Are We Neutral, or Do We Not Care?

Sometimes being neutral is just apathy. We claim neutrality, because we don’t want to take the time or effort to care. We don’t want to find out too much, because knowledge comes with responsibility. We’ve seen how information has impacted others. We’ve seen anger, stubbornness, and what seems to be futile arguments, and we don’t want any part of it. But when we avoid the negativity that can come with familiarity with an issue or situation, we also miss out on possible compassion.

We can’t be invested in every single issue, but when we’re faced with it, we need to explore it with honesty and sensitivity. We will always be able to find someone who knows more or is more passionate about an issue than we are, but that doesn’t mean we refuse to ask questions and make a difference in a small way.

As we pursue truth and justice, we might see a couple different perspectives, and we feel we’re neutral, but perhaps it’s just that we stand on some shared ground. We still care. We still listen. We’re not apathetic. We need to check out motivation behind claiming neutrality. If it’s the easy way out, we’re not taking responsibility. Apathy is dangerous, unstable ground on which to stand.

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Are You Getting Enough of God’s Word?

Many of us feel we get “enough” of the Bible. Sure, we could study more, ask more questions, and certainly know more about the Bible, but when will we fit it into our schedules? We’re overwhelmed the way it is. It’s not that we don’t want to know the Bible better; in fact, we plan on it…when things slow down. The problem is: Life doesn’t slow down on its own.
We’re not enslaved by a busy schedule. As much as we want to cry “I’m a victim and just have to do the things I do,” we have more choices than we care to admit. Such an admission puts some responsibility back on ourselves, and in the middle of that never-ending busy “season,” we just can’t handle the pressure and guilt of thinking we have more control than we want to take.

So, the cycle continues. We want to know the Bible better, but we just can’t seem to find the time. Plus, we get “enough.” After all, we go to church…fairly regularly. We follow popular Christian bloggers. We like and follow encouraging social media people who post verses and quotes that help us through the day.

But how do we know the truth and context of what is being posted if we’re not able to compare it to the truth of Scripture? Not that any pastor, teacher, blogger, or social media friend would intentionally steer us wrong, but each person is absolutely capable of misunderstanding and miscommunicating God’s Word. Or perhaps the timing we think is so perfect because of the comfort it gives us is, in reality, our misapplication of the truth someone else is sharing.

In order to identify something false, we have to know truth.

So, how do we do that when we’re so busy? How will we ever get to know everything we need to know in the Bible? We don’t have the time, energy, or money to get a degree in the Bible, so why not let the experts teach us what we need to know?

Because they can’t. First, even experts don’t know it all. Second, no one knows specifically what you need from God’s Word and when you need it…except God. He wants you to dig into His Word, not because He wants you to gain a boatload of information about Him, but because He wants you to know Him. The Bible isn’t a collection of information and stories. It’s one way He reveals Himself to us. We don’t read the Bible as a self-help book to cure all our woes; we explore it because we draw closer to God through it. His Spirit guides and pours into us as we interact with Him. He opens our eyes, ears, and hearts.

No matter where you are and how daunting God’s Word is to you, start somewhere in it today. While it’s certainly convenient to have a Bible app on your phone, use it for quick references when you’re on the go. For daily reading, if possible, use a printed Bible. You probably have one or more sitting around collecting dust. Start somewhere. Anywhere! Don’t get paralyzed by trying to figure out the perfect reading plan for you. Don’t get discouraged because you miss a day. Don’t give up because you don’t understand something or know how it might apply to life today. Keep reading. Interact with God. Take notes if questions and highlights come up. Pray when you feel challenged, nourished, or doubtful. Ask a friend to help you with accountability and encouragement as you develop a new habit of reading the Bible regularly.

You and only use are responsible for your relationship with God. You can’t complete a workbook , sermon series, or a class and check the box of “Bible study” as complete. You can’t have enough of God’s Word, because you can’t have enough of God. Not in this lifetime.

No more excuses. No more spiritual laziness. God already knows where you are and what you need. Let Him nourish you.

Start today.

Trying to Help Without Assuming Too Much

We have a responsibility to people God has placed around us. Scriptures are full of “one another” statements:

Love one another.

Be at peace with one another.

Forgive one another.

Accept one another.

Speak truth to one another.

Comfort one another.

Encourage one another.

Teach one another.

Admonish one another.

Pray for one another.

Yet we cannot control each other. People have choices, and they are responsible for those choices. Sometimes we have to make tough decisions as we care for others. We need to do something (or NOT do something) for someone because it is what is best in the long run. Or sometimes, we do what is best in the moment, because in some way, it works into the best for the long run. We do our best to steward relationships, but we don’t have full control…or full wisdom. We will mess up. So will they. But God can fill the gaps and turn the potter’s wheel. He can rework us and seal the cracks of insufficiencies, weaknesses, and errors. He will give us strength and purpose as we invite and allow Him.

We have a responsibility to others but not for them. That is in God’s control and wisdom. And that gives me comfort and peace.

 

Praying with Eavesdroppers

I was recently asked to pray at a small gathering. Praying in groups rarely intimidates me. I don’t think much about it, because I’m simply talking to God, no matter who is listening.

But this was different. First, I had a warning, so I had time to think about it. My organizing, analyzing mind can be a great thing at times. Other times, it gets in the way. Second, I’m deeply invested in the people who would be in the room. Each relationship came with important ties of respect, influence, or challenges.

I instantly said I would pray, but the hour or so between my commitment and actual prayer time was wrought with wrestling. I’d settle in and remember prayer is not about the people eavesdropping around me, but I’d vacillate in waves of the weight of witnessing, choosing the right words, avoiding the wrongs ones, and so on.

So, I prayed about praying. And God was good to remind me that just as my private time prayer was between Him and me, so was my public prayer. Yes, I was praying on behalf of the entire group. Yes, everyone else in the room would hear everything I said. But the impact wasn’t my responsibility. How people heard the prayers, accepted or rejected them, and were affected by them was not my responsibility. It wasn’t even in my power to take responsibility. It was God’s.

I need to trust Him.

Speak with Him.

Worship Him.

So, I did.