Posts Tagged ‘God’

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You’re the Only One Available

September 2, 2013

For several years, I have started out every morning the same way. As I am taking a shower (though sometimes I do it while sipping tea in my office at the front of the house) I tell God that I am available if God wants to change my day. I then think through the events of that day and see if any of them need adjusting.

Occasionally God chooses to speak to me. On those days, I make alterations to my daily schedule. And it is good.

Several years ago, I spent Sunday night tossing and turning. I wasn’t nervous about anything, but I did have a big weight on my mind. The next day I was going to be playing at one of the most exclusive golf courses in Northern California. As I tried to sleep, I felt like that child who knows Christmas is coming – or the other child who realizes tomorrow is the day for Disneyland. Golf is my Disneyland; it is my Christmas.

Finally, I couldn’t sleep any longer, and I went to my office to pray. But I couldn’t concentrate; all I could think of was the Olympic Club (site of the 2011 U. S. Open Golf Championship). I was going to play there that day. I envisioned every nuance of the course. I had played it many times on Tiger Woods computer golf program.

I gave up on praying and took a shower. During my time in the shower, I asked God if any part of my day needed to be re-arranged.

God answered me. I could not believe the thoughts going through my mind. God wanted me to go down to the State Legislature and pray for the budget impasse. The State of California had been without a budget for several months and God wanted me to forego my golf game and spend the day in prayer.legislature

Three things you should know:

First, I am non-political. I don’t care about budgets

Second, I love golf; and I yearned to play the Olympic Club

Third, I had a choice to say no. God does not force us to serve. We are free to bail out any time we want. God would not strike me dead or cause seeping lesions to form all over my body. I don’t think.

I asked God to explain why I, a golf-loving, politics-hating Canadian was being called to pray over the California State legislature and their “stupid” budget problems.

God’s answer in my mind was strange: “Because you’re available.”

Doesn’t that sound strange to you? There must be thousands of people who are praying for California, for the budget, for politics, for the members of the legislature. At least, I assume there must be. But I was the one available – how is that possible?  Yet, I cannot see why my brain would make this up. And the enemy of my soul never tells me to pray, so I can rule out the thought coming from that quarter.

I was the only one available. I firmly believe that God values our Freedom of Choice so much that some prayers will not get answered unless we accept the offer of partnership in praying.

Because I believe that, I called my golf partner and politely begged off our golf game. He quickly found someone else to go and I went down to the legislature.

The first thing I found is they were not in session! I was there alone. Well, not quite alone. There was one solitary security guard who followed me around as I prayed through various rooms. For instance, I sat in the balcony of the Senate chambers and asked Holy Spirit to show me what to pray. I filled up five pages of my journal with insights from the Spirit as I sat there for a couple of hours praying.

At the end of the prayer time, I looked up and saw the security guard on the other side of the balcony. He was just staring at me. After several moments, he walked over and sat down beside me.

“Are you praying?” he asked.

“Yes” I said softly. “Is that allowed?”

“It is. Can I join you?’

He had asked God that morning to give him a prayer partner to intercede for the Legislature and their budget problems. There were hundreds of thousands of state employees who had not received a full paycheck in months. Various vendors were going bankrupt because the budget had not been passed.

This security guard decided enough was enough. He and I prayed for several more hours. We went outside various offices and Holy Spirit showed us which people would broker the deal that week to end the budget standoff.

Two days later, the very people we prayed for did get together to hash out an agreement on a state budget. It was a monumental thing.

I still don’t care about politics or budgets. But I love knowing that on that day, when the world had better things to do, a security guard and I were the only people in the world God had available to him to change things.

That’s pretty special.

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Does God Pull Away or Do We?

October 25, 2012

I have heard it said many times that God hates sin so much that he cannot have anything to do with people who have sin. God is often pictured as distancing Himself from sinners, retreating to a holy conclave where He is not affected by our sin. Jesus’ death on the cross, which legally pays for sin, allows God to have fellowship and friendship with the believer.

Or so we’ve been told. There are certainly verses throughout the Bible that suggest this and even state openly that because we are all sinners we fall short of the grace of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible says that when we sin we negate the effectiveness of our prayers (Micah 3:4), we bring spiritual death upon ourselves (Ezekiel 18:20, Romans 6:23), and we lose a place in the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

But nowhere does it say that God cannot stand to be around us when we sin. Nowhere.

Here is what it does say: Isaiah 59:1-2:

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated
    you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.

Look clearly at v. 2. It is not that God pulls away from us; we pull away from God. Sin, by definition is selfish living, living without regard for Creator, other people and consequences. When we live in such a self-absorbed condition, it is hard to be close to anyone, let alone God. The more we sin, the less we are like God and the less we share values in common with God. When you do not share the values of another person, it is so hard to get close to them. In counseling over the years, I have seen many married couples grow apart because they do not share a common set of values.

In the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve disobeyed God, we read that God went looking for them. THEY HID FROM GOD, not the other way around. God is not afraid of sin and neither does God reject the sinner. Jesus is God and he liked to hang with sinners. Holy Spirit is God and he speaks to sinners about sin, righteousness and the afterlife. You don’t speak to people you abhor.

There is not a person in this world that God willingly pulls away from. But He will allow us to pull away from Him. Keep that in mind next time God feels far away. God didn’t move away. God didn’t change position at all.

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Visiting Jealousy

April 30, 2012

It was ninth grade assembly and all the awards had been handed out. I watched with subdued anger as many of my friends received accolades of various sorts. All I got was out of sorts. I honestly thought I deserved to be rewarded for something. But I wasn’t acknowledged for anything.

Years later, after many points of soulful reflection, I realize the reason I was left out of the award parade. I hadn’t worked hard enough to achieve anything. I did nothing of consequence that should be honored or recognized. I see now that the anger was fueled by an expectation of wanting what I had not earned. I was jealous of how so many others were being singled out for honor while I was passed over. I look back on it now and realize how stupid it all was: But I can still access that feeling of jealousy and in some ways, I can taste the bitter realization of mediocrity.

I can still be jealous as easily as that day. I have chosen to adopt three professions at the same time, and so it is possible to be acknowledge any number of ways. I am a counselor, a writer and a pastor. In each of these roles, I have won some awards and, at times, a certain notoriety. You would think this would insulate me from becoming jealous. But, instead of ridding this insidious root from the garden of my thoughts, the more people reward me, the more I want it. I still cringe when colleagues achieve something I do not. I still feel some pain of regret that I have not risen to the height someone else looks down from.

Fortunately, I can usually slough off these jealous feelings within a short time. I no longer waste much emotional energy moaning over what others have done. And, I have come to grips with the knowledge that if I too put in the work they put in, I can achieve something of what they have done. That usually settles the issue for me. I don’t want to work as hard as some others, so it helps me be more content in achieving less.

As Fulton Sheen so eloquently noticed, “Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius”.

But how then does that explain God’s jealousy? James 4:6 says clearly “Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?” In 21 places in the Bible, we are told that God is jealous for his people. That raises so many questions for us:

  • Does God have a jealous streak and does this mean we are greater than God if we don’t get jealous?
  • Does this mean it is all right to be jealous if God gets that way?
  • Are there different types of jealousy?
  • If there are different types, are there some types that we can indulge in and not others?
  • Is God allowed to be jealous even if we are not?
  • Are we indeed not allowed to be jealous?

Without doing a deep study into the words used in the Bible which we translate jealousy, I think we can reasonably conclude there are different types of jealousy. What is it that God gets jealous of? In the Old Testament, he is clearly jealous of those times when his people followed after idols and other gods. He is jealous when they devoted their lives to pursuits that leaves God out of it. And in the James passage quoted above, it says in the verse before, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?” The jealousy that God allows for himself (and perhaps for us as well) is a jealousy where the person who is in a covenant relationship chooses to leave that relationship to follow someone else. In our case, that would be felt by a spouse, a parent or a child. A spouse may be jealous of their partner that leaves them for another person. A parent can be jealous of a child who gives themselves over to drugs and a child may see a workaholic parent and wish that they were more important that the job.

Jealousy is mainly a problem when two things occur. First, where we seek to utilize external control methods to restrain another. God is our example here. He does not stop us from following other gods. He grieves over it and gets angry, but he gives us free choice in the matter. When we seek to use external control methods (like force, manipulation, deceit) to force a person to stay in relationship with us, we violate their most sacred right: The right to call the shots for their own life. The second problem occurs when we will not let go of the pain of jealousy. When the jealousy becomes our food on a daily basis, we have given too much power to jealousy. We must instead think of ways we can be ready if they should choose to return to the covenant relationship.

 

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