If you’re like me, you’re good at getting by. You do what you need to, and not much else. You’re quite possibly a follower of Christ, but maybe not. Maybe like me, you’ve entered, or will be  entering, your middle years. Again, maybe not.

This is (your) life. Or something like it:

You’ve got a great career: you do what you do, and do it well. You have a wonderful wife, a great family. But what you don’t have is purpose:

Why are you here? Why does it feel like there should be more? You should be happy, content. Why does it feel like something is missing?

What’s wrong with you? You have so much, and yet your life feels like (to borrow a phrase) you still haven’t found what you’re looking for?

You, my friend, have mastered the fine art of surviving. But somewhere along the way you forgot how to thrive. You traded purpose, and fulfillment, for mere thrills. You forgot that one does not feel one’s way into actions, but rather acts one’s way into feelings.

You’ve put the proverbial cart before the horse.

You’ve forgotten that you’re not a human doing, but rather a human being. Your purpose is innate, put there by God. He created you for Himself, and the good works will follow–as you follow Him. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

But don’t let’s put the cart before the horse; we must needs worship before we can serve. It’s not either/or–it’s both/and. Worship and service go hand-in-hand.

And purpose will follow–as we follow Him. First be, then do. He is the vine, you are the branch.

Let’s not cut ourselves off, okay?

He knows you, and who He made you to be. Don’t be afraid to fail forward as you follow.

We have a problem here in the modern American Evangelical church. The problem isn’t the Bible, or Jesus; it’s us. We, by-and-large, preach a gospel of behavior modification. We tell people, “Come to Jesus,” but don’t accept them until they look like us.

The problem is that instead of making disciples, we’re trying to make clones. We forget that we were once sinners in need of a savior; consequently, we say we’re down with grace,  but either explicitly, or implicitly, tell folks to come to Jesus.

But only after they’ve cleaned themselves up.

The irony here is that who among us can even do that: clean ourselves up? As if. Else why would we need a savior?
We take God’s free gift of life, and make the price of entry too high. Much like the Pharisees of old. We take the Gospel, and turn it into rules of the road. Rules that we ourselves, if we’re honest, can’t often attain to. I mean Jesus said that He didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Meaning that it’s our duty to proclaim this message–not worry if it’s been received. Or try to change the mores of a fallen world. We say: “Come as you are.” But do we really mean it.

Come as you are… but not if you have some sin we don’t approve of. Jesus might accept you. But we don’t. We’re the gatekeepers of orthodoxy, of faith and practice. And you can’t come to our party if ______. You change your behavior first, and then we’ll talk.

It’s as if we don’t believe in the Holy Spirit anymore. And his ministry to “convict the world of sin, righteousnes, and judgment.”

If the Parable of the Sower is in any way a reliable guide, ours is to proclaim the message. Not make the hearts receptive. That’s between others and God. Further on in that chapter in Matthew 13:30, it says:

“Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

The point being that the tares (weeds) and the wheat were to grow together, and that God would do the reaping. He knows who’s His, and who isn’t. Our business is to proclaim, make disciples (but not clones), and trust Him with the outcome. A tall order, I know: to trust.

Who among us can even change our own heart? Why do we think we can change another’s?

The Gospel of Behavior Modification needs to die. Because it’s not a message of imposition: of enforcing change from the outside. It’s about lifechange,  about transformation from the inside out.

What do you think? What do you have to say?

Too Much to Ask?

randomlychad  —  April 22, 2014 — 3 Comments

If the other day I wrote of love being more than they have to give, today I’d like to address the other side of that coin. Namely, how growing up with a marked lack of intimacy creates questions, and puts burdens on others they were not meant to bear. For you see, nature (and here I mean human nature) abhors a vacuum. If we don’t get the mother love and/or the father love we need in our formative years, we look to other people, to tbings, to substances to fill that void.

We put burdens on spouses, and friends, that were simply not meant to bear.

If the questions:

“Daddy, do you love me?” and

“Do have what it takes?”

“Am I pretty?” (in the case of a little girl)

Are met with stony silence, or outright hostility, we naturally question our worth. The inference is that we don’t have what it takes, and we will do what we can to find it. They are all questions asking the same thing:

Am I valuable to you?

If the message is that we’re not, then we’ll go looking. And it’s often a fruitless, and heartbreaking, search for identity. As a husband, and as a man, say that I go to my wife: I’m not going to  get the affirmation of I’m looking for. Because she is a woman, and masculinity is something which is imparted. Besides which, having coming from a broken home, who is role model? My dad, with his philandering? Is that how a woman is to be treated? He took his question to the woman–and still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. Just a string of affairs, and two divorces.

And several disappointed kids.

The cycle of dysfunction set him up to fail, and that is the legacy he has handed down. I have learned I can’t look to him. Yes, looking to God is the answer.

But…

Other than His Word, the Bible, God is largely silent in today’s world. It’s not like we can sit down with Him and have a face-to-face conversation. Oh, sure, we can have a heart-to-heart via prayer. And we know He loves us–the cross proves it. But sometimes we want arms, we need our daddy’s love. Let’s face it our hearts are fickle: when we don’t get what we think we need from:

God

We turn to people

And when people likewise let us down

We turn to things

But the things never satisfy

Leaving us longing for more.

It’s a recursive loop, like a serpent devouring its own tail. It’s nuts to be so needy, but growing up without those loves needs met leaves one very vulnerable to getting on this affirmation treadmill.

Because enough just never is enough.

And I know Jesus is the answer. I just don’t know how. My heart is fickle, and wants to go full on Children of Israel:

At least I knew Egypt, but like song by Sara Groves says, “Those places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I’ve learned. And those roads were closed off to me while my back was turned.”

Maybe it’s a trust issue, you know? Maybe you and I know that God loves us. But maybe we’re just not to sure about his people? Or we view Him like we view our earthly fathers? I just wish He would show up more often and help me make sense of my messy heart.

Is that too much to ask?

What do you think?

Throughout my life, I’ve wanted a greater depth of relationship with my parents. Instead, they want to give me things. Yes, they’ve helped financially from time to time. But it stops there. When I want to go deeper, I’m met with either misunderstanding, or resistance. What more could you want? is the implicit question. What more?

Someone to call for advice.

Someone who’s there when I’m hurting.

Someone who cares beyond the surface.

Believe me, I’ve tried.

And I’m learning to let go of my expectations. I can’t make anyone be what I want them to be, shape them into someone, or something, else. I can only take what is, and work with that.

It’s the same with God.

He’ll only take what we yield to Him, and no more. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” He says. “If anyone hears My voice, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Jesus doesn’t force His way in; rather, He knocks, waiting to be let in.

It’s the same with other people: we can only go so far as they’ll let us. To which the only response–the only sane response–is:

“God, grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

It just flat out sucks when it’s someone close to you, because you don’t want to be that person subsisting on crumbs, but you can’t make them give more than they’re willing, or able, to give.

You learn to take what you can get. Hope for more, but learn–as Jesus did–to accept this world as it is.

Not as you would have it be.

And that’s a hard thing. When you can’t make someone love you the way you need. Because it’s more than they have to give.

At the outset let me just say that I’m glad I didn’t pay good money to see A Good Day to Die Hard in theatres. Yes, I know it came out a year ago. I just had a free preview weekend of HBO courtesy of DirecTV, and it was on.

So I queued up the DVR to record it. Thinking, “You know, Live Free or Die Hard was cheesy, but I kinda liked it. How bad can this one be?”

The answer is so, so bad. Clich├ęs, deus ex machina, etc. Near as I can figure the plot had something to do with bad blood between Evil Papa Smurf and Russian Alec Baldwin (his Russian doppelganger). Throw in a surly kid named Jack–who don’t know jack–and Bruce Willis acting like he wishes he were in a Geritol commercial with Wilford Brimley, and you’ve got the movie. Seriously, Willis looked like he needed a healthy dose of prune juice.

Don’t get me started on the ridiculous set pieces. Like a car chase involving a conveniently placed trailer? Whither credibility? At least with say James Bond there’s a willing suspension of disbelief (especially the Blonde Bond films). But here? They only thing that could’ve made this film worse is Shia LeBouef. Or maybe that’s better? MAYBE THEN WE’D KNOW NOT TO, YOU KNOW, TAKE IT SERIOUSLY.

Yes, that I think–other than the absurdities (quick car ride to Chernobyl from Moscow, anyone? It’s 12 hours away!)–was the film’s greatest sin:

It took itself too seriously. It wasn’t fun. The one liners fell flat. And there wasn’t one single “Yippee-kai-ai!” in the whole sordid mess.

And that, my friends, is just one McClane too far.