The Tremendous Cost of Relying on Ability

The cost of refusing the invitation isn’t just an opportunity missed. The ramifications of our choices bring consequences that can be directly opposite to the intentions we had when we made the choice to ignore the chance. The thing that we set out to do can be defeated in our efforts.

A couple of days ago, I wrote of the invitation that Jesus gives us in Mark 6:31 to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” In that post, the resting point is that without a conscious choice to put things down, we won’t be able to accept His invitation. 

Turning down that invitation may not mean much on it’s face. It may not seem important to rest “in this season” for whatever reason. Maybe that reason is just this one project or the crisis of the present circumstances. Maybe it’s the sense of calling to change things for the better, therefore, “Jesus wants me to do this for Him right now” or some similar language.

If you are a professing believer/follower of Jesus, here is what He says about the stuff that we do: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

The word for “nothing” there at the end of the last sentence comes from a word that means “nothing” in the original language. Nothing means nothing. That is, without connection to, reliance on and abiding in Jesus as the Source, then whatever we do amounts to nothing. Even if we are able to raise money, build buildings, etc.

The opportunity cost for choosing not to rest with Him isn’t just refreshment; it’s everything. Without a “yes,” the rest doesn’t matter. It may feel good in the moment. I may draw some attention, adoration or accolades from others. Even so, it won’t matter. It’s nothing.

You see, I know, because I do. I like to do and I’m good at doing some things. Those things that I’m good at doing can even bring me some attention, reward and satisfaction. They are nothing, however, compared to when and what He does. Jesus is better at everything than I am. He’s a better lawyer, business owner, minister, leader, writer, speaker, you name it. Failure to truly trust Him to be better has, at times, cost me my “yes.”

No more. I say “yes.”

“Come Away With Me”

Last week, I started to wake up a couple of hours early, but resisted. It wasn’t time to get up and I wanted to get more sleep. In this moment, it seemed to me that my heart was stirred by these words, “Come away with me.” About an hour later, the same thing happened. Same stirring and same reaction. In both cases, I went back to sleep.

Then, two hours after the initial stirring, it was time to get up and I awoke to that same perceived call. I believe God was stirring my heart in that way so I woke up praying and considering, “is that You? If so, what does that mean?”

I opened the Bible and found this passage: “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

This meant some things to me personally which I continue to process. It also meant some things to me professionally. The ministry I work for (thequestlife.com) was started, in effect, from that phrase. The founder, Richard Henderson, tells the story of God stirring those exact same words within him over 18 years ago. That invitation, met with his “yes,” took him to Riodoso, New Mexico. From that invitation and acceptance, Quest was born on the side of a mountain. Thousands of people from different parts of the world with different stories have encountered Jesus during their Quest experience.

The invitation was given by Jesus to the guys with Him and it’s given to us. Our willingness to simply say, “yes” to his call to put down our business and go away to a quiet place for rest with Him remains. Maybe that’s the true “secret sauce” to Quest or any related “freedom” ministries . . . “yes” to the rest. Yes to the communion. Yes to the meal with Him.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I think it is, but it isn’t. In the “yes,” there is an implied “no.” That “no” is where the problem is. Most of us are simply unwilling to say “no” to the busyness. We are either too over-extended, self-important or addicted to the adrenaline that we won’t stop. Our excuses will vary, but they all result in a refusal to take Jesus up on that very simple invitation. Until they don’t, and then our quest can begin.

The Intersection of Faith, Fear, Theory and Belief

My beliefs have changed drastically over the past 20 years, although the foundation for what I now believe was put in place as a kid. In between being a kid and 20 years ago, I would have claimed some of the same beliefs that I was raised on, although there was no evidence in my life that I actually believed them. I was living like hell even when I said that I believed there was a heaven.

A belief is not a belief until it is displayed in a choice. Up until the supposed belief is manifest in a decision, it is little more than a theory. It could just be culture. When decisions are made in accordance with a previously untested belief, the theory becomes fact as our trust in the belief is proven.

Whether we claim to believe in God or not, we all face problems. No matter what our stated beliefs are related to God’s love, power, goodness, sovereignty, etc., those statements will be tested in our circumstances. Then, and only then, are our theories of belief put in the fire for refining. They will either be strengthened or prove themselves to be false.

‘But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?’ (Psalm 56:3-4)

David sings of “when” he is afraid, because sometimes he is. This “man after God’s own heart” experienced fear and, at that point, his belief in God was tested. While his soul cries out all through the Psalms, the place he lands is “I trust in God . . . What can mere mortals do to me?” He lands in a submission to God’s sovereignty and eternal context.

His comfort is in the distinction between man and God; temporary and eternal. His fear is the intersection for trust and decides that God’s sovereignty and the outcomes of the eternal picture are better than anything that might happen as man, among man, in the temporary state of man.

The “promises of God” we have are eternal glory . . . AND trouble in this world. We are invited to share in the sufferings of Christ here and now, trusting that our place with Him is forever. We either trust that His wisdom and intentions are better than our preferences or not. You’ll know the answer for you in the choices that you make about Him.

We Smell Wrong

While any semblance of “Christian culture” is fading fast, Christian-Judeo belief systems and traditions have heavily influenced the United States. Our laws and norms were shaped in large part by religion and faith, despite a mounting rejection and attack on those same moral and spiritual precepts. If you believe the things that have influenced the present from the past, it’s easy to feel superior, threatened and/or victimized in planning the counter-assault against society, the legal system, political opponents, etc. What if we’ve gotten it backwards, in some ways? Consider the following passage:

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

As Christianity fights for it’s previously enjoyed relative favor in American culture, we can’t forget the Truth of the Gospel in defense of a lesser gospel. The call of Jesus is to follow Him and, as Paul writes to the church in Corinth above, His procession spreads His smell.

If we are saved by His grace, we should know His path by the smell of death (“we are an aroma that brings death”). Our relationship with Him is affirmed in our sacrifice of us. There has to be a sacrifice of superiority, privilege, entitlement or other related perceptions commonly fostered in a society where the heritage affirms your beliefs.

Yet, to those that are not familiar with His grace and the invitation into His salvation, we should smell like “an aroma that brings life.” We should be the most encouraging, selfless, humble witness of the resurrection of Jesus that is imaginable. People from outside of that same system of beliefs should be attracted to the hope that comes from Christ through us; not us at them. Our judgements, condemnations, Facebook debates and accusations against “them” don’t smell like and offer of life; they smell like the imposition of death.

Here’s the thing . . . none us can really smell like life unless we are willing to smell like death. Until and unless we give up our political positions, arrogant arguments, insecure self-promotions and other affirmations of us, we won’t smell like Him. Only in dying to the need to be heard, right, protected or promoted will we actually smell the way that we are intended to smell.

 

God Bless Texas

It’s easier to be in charge than it is to trust and release. We trust our limitations more than we trust the limitless possibilities of what might happen beyond our capacity. Our very nature, in it’s fallen state, is to be sovereign over ourselves and other stuff.

The sovereignty of God is a more complex idea than we might appreciate at a glance. If we really believe that there is a God who is actually God, then that means we can’t be. That realization contradicts our fallen state and requires our submission. No submission = no belief.

Concepts are not belief; choices are. For everything that I control the outcome and withhold my trust, then I remain “g”od where “G”od is ready, willing and able. For everything that I attempt to show Him how much I’ve done for Him, He is a spectator of my futile and temporal jukes towards religion as He waits willing to offer eternity.

The net result is often a life that lives out the Lord’s prayer as follows:

“Our Father, Who is in heaven . . . 1) give us this day our daily bread, 2) forgive us of our flaws and 3) protect us from evil. But just in case, for today until You show that You will actually come through in the way I prefer, I’ll strive to provide for myself by working myself sick and robbing relationships from valuable time. Also, I’ll continue to be expected to be judged by my intentions as others consider me but I’ll evaluate them based on their performance. Finally, I’ll buy lots of guns and stockpile money and build plenty of “wise” safeguards around my suburban existence to ensure that we can still make it to church on Sunday. But I trust You . . . really. Just keep blessing me, because, You know, I’m an American and a Republican and, oh, yeah . . . a Texan. Amen.”

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:20-21)

Power and Glory

It seems like everything should be able to fit into a series. A nice, packaged summary of all truth related to a topic and a transition to the next thing seems reasonable. After all, one thing gets boring after a while, doesn’t it? Isn’t it best to move on just to sustain interest?

I haven’t found that to be the case. I haven’t been able to get beyond grace. I got turned upside down during a deep, personal dive into the ramifications of grace about four years ago and I’ve never recovered. I don’t want to, either.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth . . . For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:14, 16-17)

Jesus came to offer us a change. A change of identity and positioning. We were welcomed as adopted children into the Father’s love by the Son. We were invited into His grace if we want to step away from the striving of the law. He would change who we are, how we see things and what increasingly would come out of us. All we have to do is agree.

The time of Jesus’ ministry on earth to the time of His return, which is increasingly imminent, is the time of grace. We are welcomed in and given His right standing (righteousness) with the Father simply by our “yes” to his invitation. It’s been going on for two thousand years and we will know when it’s time to turn the page: “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30)

Until then we enter by His grace, finding a loving Father and a willing Comforter ready to receive us as family. From our place as family and His place within us, the stuff that will come out of us will be inviting of others into His family, as well.

The stuff coming out of us when we are communing with Him is the same thing that invited us in; it will be His grace. His grace through us invites others to commune, too. That’s a message that never ends, until it does, and we’ll know when that is by “power and glory.”