In Control

I read something from either St. John of The Cross or St. Teresa of Avila (sorry, I can’t find the reference) that asked the question: why would God speak to us when we are not neccesarily willing to obey? It is a great question that shows deep insight.

While I was reflecting on this I began wondering why we even want to hear from God when we aren’t willing (or ready) to obey? After all, it seems like we all want to hear from God. Even some of the songs we sing ask God to speak. So when God does speak, are we _always_ willing to listen? to obey? to follow? If not, then why not? We are the ones wanting to “hear from God.” Why in the world would we be hesitant to obey once God does speak…no matter what God asks or says?

I think the issue is control. We do want to hear from God, but we want to reserve the right to obey or not obey. We want to hear that God loves us and all, but if God calls us to give and/or go we want to decide if we will obey and follow. If God calls us to go where we don’t want to go, or give what we don’t want to give, we want to make the ultimate decision. Deep down we know that we can and may say “no.”

So, back to the original question; If we know that we are reserving the right to obey or not obey whenever God speaks, why should God speak at all? Does God really just want to be one option out of many in our lives? I doubt it. (I could say something about viewing God as some type of advice columnist, but I won’t).

Yet, God shows us how gracious he is because he continues to speak to us even when all parties involved know it all might fall on deaf ears. God continues to invite us deeper.

When I am willing to follow, no matter what, I ┬ábecome more receptive and I sense God speaking into my life more. I find that God is able to lead and guide me. This is also what I see in the lives of faithful men and women of God throughout history. They heard from God, because they were willing to follow. The issue isn’t that God doesn’t want to speak to us, the issue is we really don’t want to hear. Those who are willing to hear, obey, and follow, they are the ones who find God continuing to speak into their lives. The result is they are able to truly become who God has created them to be, because they are allowing God to lead and guide them.

If you desire to hear from God, perhaps the first step is to trust God and be willing to follow once you do hear.

Jesus Sacrificed…so You Don’t Have To

Right now I’m reading Michael Slaughter’s new book Change The World. So far it is a great book and I really admire Slaughter for changing gears when he senses that God is moving in a different direction. At one point he writes,

“It is not acceptable to make doctrine and church meetings a substitute for sacrificial service.”

When I read that I found myself reflecting on the term “sacrificial service.” I don’t find our culture interested in much sacrifice. While we celebrate those who do sacrifice for others it seems like most of our lives are about avoiding sacrifice. To sacrifice means we are giving up things that we might not want to; things we care for, things we need, things we want. To sacrifice means we give them up, usually, for greater purposes.

That is not the message I get from culture, or many times, from the church. The message I continue to hear goes something like this: Jesus sacrificed, so you don’t have to. The message basically goes: Because Jesus gave himself up for us (which he did), we can have a good life with all of our dreams and desires. In fact, I just saw a video the other day where the tag line was, “What can God do for you?” Catchy? yes. I don’t think it is good theology though.

God is not our servant. We are his however. I believe Slaughter is right. If we are serious about our faith, our relationship with God, and being faithful to the gospel, there will be sacrificial service. It means we might be driving our cars a few more years so we can give the amount we are saving from car payments to God’s purposes. It might mean we take less expensive vacations, or put less in our 401Ks. It might mean we spend less time watching tv or entertaining ourselves so we can be available to God’s purposes. Whatever the case, it will mean we are giving up (sacrificing) something that we believe is important.

Culture tells us that it is okay to give to God’s purposes what we think we can afford. For most of us after we give to God we are still able to live at a very high level. In fact, we give to God only those things we believe we can live without. That is not sacrifice.

I wonder how the world would be different if those of us in the church began sacrificing more.

[amtap book:isbn=1426702973]

Every Moment

…every moment of our life has purpose…every action of ours, no matter how dull or routine or trivial it may seem in itslf, has a dignity and a worth beyond human understanding…yet what a terible responsibility is here. For it means that no moment can be wasted, no opportunity missed, since each has a purpose in man’s life, each has a purpose in man’s life, each has a purpose in God’s plan. Think of your day, today or yesterday. Think of the work you idd, the people you met, moment by moment. What did it mean to you — and what might have it meant for God? Is this question too simple to answer, or are we just afraid to ask it for fear of the answer we must give? – Father Walter J. Ciszek, S. J.

It has taken much time, but I’m discovering that Father Ciszek is correct. I tend to view my life as a series of (relatively boring) moments. What if all my moments have purpose? What if even the dull, boring moments are a part of God’s plan?

I’m learning to see that every moment of my life is a gift from God. Not only that, but every moment of my life God is inviting me to join Him and experience His presence. If I don’t recognize that, I will probably miss the invitation and instead of accepting His invitation, it will instead pass me by.