More Like Falling In Love

Here is another excerpt from the book I was writing three years ago.  This is how I describe a relationship with God.  How do you tell the story?

“Give me rules, I will break them
Give me lines, I will cross them
I need more than a truth to believe
I need a truth that lives, moves, and breathes
To sweep me off my feet

It ought to be more like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
It’s like I’m falling in love

Give me words, I’ll misuse them
Obligations, I’ll misplace them
‘Cause all religion ever made of me
Was just a sinner with a stone tied to my feet
It never set me free

It’s like I’m falling in love, love, love
Deeper and deeper
It was love that made me a believer
In more than a name, a faith, a creed
Falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me”

-Jason Gray “More Like Falling In Love”

I had something pretty remarkable happen to me the other day.  A friend that I had not seen or spoken with in several months contacted me out of the blue and wanted to meet with me.  As we sat down and talked through all the necessary small talk, we came to the real reason she wanted to get together.  I was blown away by what she asked me:  “How do you develop a romance with God?”

What an amazing question!  However, I discovered that it is a difficult question to answer on the spot.  How would you describe falling in love?  There is so much that cannot be put into words.

Developing a romance with God is such a beautiful thing, however difficult it may be to describe.  There is nothing like dancing through life with the King of Kings.  Sometimes when we think of church, we may have the idea that prayer and knowing God is boring.  When I was a teenager, I was afraid of giving God my whole life because I thought that I would turn into something that I really did not want to be: a boring person.  I would agree that the way many people try to make prayer into a “religious activity” rather than a faith activity is very unexciting, but that really has nothing to do with knowing God.  Since I finally broke down and fully gave my life to Him, there has never been a dull moment.

So how does one come to KNOW God?  First of all, we cannot forget the VERY IMPORTANT part that this whole Christian thing (or whatever you want to call it) is really a RELATIONSHIP.  If I want to know God, He cannot continue to only be words on a screen while the worship band is playing or stories in a dusty old Bible on the shelf.  It will require my time, energy, and focus.  It will require being open to cutting some things out of my life that are not pleasing to Him.  It will require steps of faith as He leads me into some uncertain waters.  However, before you close the book and decide that it’s not worth it, give it a chance.  Following God is such a grand adventure, and I guarantee that when you really get a taste of who He is and how much He loves you and the world, He will be a hard One to resist.

I grew up in church, and although it was a wonderful thing to hear about Christ and all the stories in the Bible from a young age, some things I began to tune out because it was “old news.”  “For God so loved the world…” yada yada yada.  I even learned how to save a person in three steps.  What was new and exciting was what was happening OUTSIDE the church.  When kids grow to the stage where they realize that not every family was exactly like their family and not everyone thinks like they do, it is not difficult to see why they could easily be drawn away from the church.  There’s a whole wide world just waiting for them to explore.  Why would they choose a weekly gathering of a few songs and a half hour listening to someone talk?  They can and they do, when they realize that following God is so much more than that hour every week at that one building on that one street that they’ve gone to since they could burp.  It’s more than a truth to believe or an allegiance to be given away.  It’s more like falling in love.

When I meet someone that I like, I want to know certain things about him.  What are his interests?  What kinds of activities does he like to do?  Who are his friends?  What aspirations does he have for his life?  What are his passions?  What is his history?  What is his family like?  What are some attributes that he looks for in someone he loves?  The list could go on and on.  It is really no different when we want to “fall in love” with God.  Get to know Him.  Answer the questions about Him that you would want to know from that someone else.  When you look at the Bible from a relational perspective, it’s amazing how much it is all about answering these questions!

As a relationship develops, you start to wonder what is going on in his mind at certain moments of the day.  You watch his facial expressions carefully to try to guess what he is thinking.  You study his behavior and start to realize patterns and can learn to predict how he will react to stressful situations.  You watch how he treats other people, and when you really feel comfortable with him, you invite him to meet your friends.  Now think about God.  How often do you sit down and wonder what is going on in His mind?  Do you watch His actions in the world and study His behavior?  Have you noticed His pattern of faithfulness to always be there in good times and in bad times and to provide when things are tight?  Do you listen to the testimonies of other Christians and see how He is touching and affecting their lives?  Do you feel comfortable enough to introduce Him to your friends?

Then it comes time for a commitment.  He gets down on one knee and asks you to marry him.  And you say yes!  Then a couple days later, it hits you:  you’re going to be living with him.  You discuss together the things you will have in your apartment or house, because you will be sharing everything.  Do you want to keep my couch or yours?  Do you REALLY need that 165” TV?  These discussions continue throughout the first year or so of marriage.  “Honey, could I have five dollars, please?”  “Sweetheart, I thought I gave you five dollars last week!”  or “This credit card statement says you spent $150 dollars at Payless?  You spent $150 on SHOES?”  365 days of burnt meals later, you can finally make fish that does not require a visit from the fire department, and the most thankful person in the world is your husband.  Things are rocky to say the least, but you are learning what it means to really let someone into your life, space, and bubble.  Through give and take, sacrifice and surprises, you realize that love isn’t about all those mushy feelings.  It is about so much more.

Could it be that it is the same way with God?  Eventually, you’ll have to do more than just walk through the park with Him.  He is going to want a commitment.  Then you will share everything.  The hard part comes in deciding what to keep and what to trash.  If you are going to be living with a holy God, then some not-so-holy things are going to have to go.  Your priorities and resources are no longer your own to decide.  You will be accountable to Him.  And you’re going to mess up and need a few fires put out here and there, but don’t worry, He’ll eat the fish until you get it right, and He’ll do it with a smile.  Relationships can be frustrating and require a lot of work.  However, when you realize that loving God is a lot more than feeling close to Him all the time, it makes it a lot easier to stick with Him, even when He makes you angry and you don’t understand what in the world He is doing.  He loves you, and you love Him, and you are in it for the long haul.

Something that is pretty incredible about watching people who have been (happily) married for a long time is how it seems like they are both unique but ultimately one person.  You go to dinner with them, and they will tell stories about the other one all night long.  They finish each other’s sentences, and when the husband forgets the name of that one lady with the two eyes and the nose, the wife knows exactly who he is talking about.  When you examine a couple that has been married 50 years, they often have similar features because over time they have watched and imitated each others’ facial expressions to the point that they literally look like each other.  When one gazes into the face of the other, she sees the only person who has traveled throughout the journey with her, was there with her when her parents died and when she was diagnosed with cancer.  He stood by her through the radiation treatments and held her tight as she cried when her hair started to fall out due to the chemotherapy.  They watched their children grow up and went to their baseball games and ballet recitals.  They saw their grandchildren born.  Their love is much deeper than it was the day they were married because they have grown through the good times and bad times…TOGETHER.

I have a friend named Bonnie.  If there is anyone that I know who has fallen in love and lived life with Jesus, it is her.  You go to dinner with her, and she talks about Him the whole time.  She can see the things that are happening in the lives of those around her and know what God is up to.  Perhaps the most amazing thing about her is that she has gazed into the face of God so many times, that when I look at her, I can’t see anything but Him.  She has gone through countless mountaintops and valleys with Him, and she has cried on His shoulder and He has confided in her His dreams.  Her love for Him grows deeper every day, because He is the only One who saw it all and they have grown through the good times and bad times…TOGETHER.

God wants to have that kind of relationship WITH YOU!  He wants the kind of love that grows stronger over time as two hearts become one and as they journey together.  Like the couple who has been married for 50 years and knows everything good and bad about the other and still loves him anyway, God wants you, with all your faults, insecurities, and clumsiness.  He wants your fish, just the way you make it, and He loves to brag on you to everyone He knows.  Do you want that kind of a relationship with Him?  Let Him romance you.  He’s the best at it because He CREATED it! 

As you grow with Him, you will start to see the world through His eyes.  The things that bring Him joy will bring you joy, and the things that bring Him sorrow will break your heart.  The annoying coworker that “has it in for you” at work becomes another hurting soul that God is seeking to heal.  The hungry child from the Congo who is shown on TV is no longer just a face without a name.  If not even a sparrow can fall from the sky without God knowing, how much more He must care that this little one has something to eat tonight.  As He moves your heart, you are moved to action, and you begin to realize that the talents you have that never seemed to make sense before now fit and bring purpose and fulfillment as you see these needs and follow God in meeting them.  What an exciting journey life can be when lived in step with the God of the Universe!

As you follow God and begin to fall in love with Him, it becomes obvious to those around you.  There is something attractive about a person who is really becoming who they were created to be.  The longer you walk with God and as you gaze into His face, like my friend Bonnie, your life will become transparent.  When people around you look at you, they will see God and nothing else.  Even those who have never met Him will come to know His character as they watch you, and as they gaze into His face through your life, they will start to look like Him too.

You see, I don’t change so that God will love me.  Being loved by God changes me.  As I live life with Him, I take on His characteristics and mannerisms.  I naturally live out His will for His glory as I come to know Him more, because what is important to Him becomes important to me.  Likewise, who I become in my passion and my obedience is my gift back to Him.  Eleanor Powell said it just right:  “What we are is God’s gift to us.  What we become is our gift to God.”  Will you become a person who is madly in love with God?  What is He speaking to you about today?

I’m Looking For My Faith…Have You Seen It?

I was going through a book that I was writing almost three years ago, and found a chapter that applied exactly to a conversation I had yesterday.  I doubt that the book I was writing way back then will ever get published, so I want to share this so that maybe it might touch someone where they are at right now =)

“He who is not every day conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson 

“You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.”
-Mary Manin Morrissey

I’m learning a lot about faith these days, and I am discovering that I had a lot of misconceptions about the topic for years.  Maybe they were things that I had been taught or maybe I constructed my own understanding.  However it came about, I was a little off base.

You see, faith is something that does not come easily for me.  I have always considered myself to have a good relationship with God, and I know Him and love Him with everything that I am.  And I trust Him, I really do…until it comes time to actually follow through on something He asks me to do.  I can believe that He is all powerful, and all resources are His, and He can work through a broken jar of clay until the day is done, but when it becomes necessary for me to take action, I hit a wall.  That wall is called FEAR.

I have always identified a lot with Moses.  If we would have been born during the same general time frame, we would have been great friends, I am convinced.  I take great comfort in his story, because I learn that someone that struggles with fear can overcome it, and choose to follow God.  Moses needed a lot of help with his faith, and he frustrated God.  However, God didn’t let him off the hook and allow him to be mediocre.  He still used Moses for an incredible task, and as it turns out, he is one of the most important personalities in the entire Old Testament.

Moses had a special calling on his life, and his mother knew that from the day he was born.  Now, his family was Hebrew, and these people were being held in slavery in Egypt.  Pharaoh, the Egyptian ruler, did not like how fast the Israelites (Hebrew nation) were growing, so he made a law that when any babies were born, all the boys were to be killed, but the girls could be kept alive.  When Moses’ mother saw him, she knew she could not allow her son to die, so she courageously hid him for several months.

A person cannot hide a child for very long, however, and when Moses’ mother saw that she could no longer do it, she put him in a basket that would float down the Nile, trusting that God would take the child to a safer place.  Long story short, Moses ends up being found by Pharaoh’s daughter, who decides to adopt him, and Moses spends his childhood years in the palace.  As he grows up, he starts to realize that he is a Hebrew living an Egyptian life.  One day, as he sees one of his own people being mistreated by an Egyptian, he decides to take matters into his own hands and ends up killing the guy and burying him in the sand.  Of course, everyone found out about it, and Moses had to flee for his life to another place.  He takes up a nice quiet job of shepherding, and settles down, probably expecting this to be how he lives out the rest of his days.
Then God showed up.  A bush bursts into flames, and Moses finds himself in the presence of Almighty God in the ordinary place of Moses’ everyday life.  God begins to tell Moses how much it is hurting Him to watch the Israelites suffer under the rule of the Egyptians, and that He has chosen someone to confront Pharaoh about this injustice and to lead the ENTIRE nation of Israel out of Egypt and into the land of promise.  Who is the lucky person?  MOSES!  Ding ding ding…bells are going off in Moses’ head.  “Let’s see….how can I convince God that this is NOT a good decision?  How many ways can I tell Him that He is making a HUGE mistake?”

So the argument begins.  Moses comes up with an excuse, and God counters it.  Moses tells God, “I don’t know Your name, so how can I tell them who sent me?”  God says, “I AM who I AM.”  Then Moses says, “What if they don’t believe me?”  God gives him miracles to show them.  So Moses brings up his stuttering problem.  “Surely I can’t talk to the people, God.  I can’t say anything right.”  So God tells him, “I will help you speak and I will teach you what to say.”  Then Moses comes to the point when he realizes that he can’t outsmart God, so he resorts to begging:  “Oh Lord, please send someone else.”

The next part makes me laugh.  God is upset with Moses, but He isn’t about to let him off the hook of his calling.  He sends Moses’ brother Aaron to “help” Moses, but in God’s own words, “You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help BOTH OF YOU speak and will teach you what to do.”  In other words, “Moses, you’re not getting out of this that easily.  I want YOU!”

I spent a lot of my teen years constantly worried that I would somehow miss God’s calling because I wasn’t paying attention.  I have learned, however, that hearing Him is not the hard part at all.  When God speaks, you notice.  That part is great.  The hard part comes in the actual DOING it.

So now we come to the question:  what is FAITH?  The easy Sunday School answer would be Hebrews 11:1:  “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  However, just like any other part of Scripture, this verse should not only be read by itself.  It must be understood in the context of the verses surrounding it.

One of the other major topics of the letters in the New Testament is perseverance.  In fact, this is the topic of the second half of chapter 10 in Hebrews.  The author explains the sacrifice of Christ, and how no more ritualistic sacrifices need to be made to God anymore for forgiveness.  This gives us confidence, that we don’t have to go through a priest to come to God, and our hearts can be made clean again.  He goes on to talk about our responsibility to keep ourselves pure and close to God, and about His judgment of those who do not do this.  Then he calls to mind all the times when the Hebrew people courageously stood for God, and finishes the chapter with these words:

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.  For in just a very little while,
‘He who is coming will come and will not delay,
But my righteous one will live by faith,
And if he shrinks back,
I will not be pleased with him.’
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (vs. 35-39)”

Wow.  Ok.  I always thought that faith was something that I either possessed or did not possess.  However, this seems to indicate that faith is an action.  It is a lifestyle.  It is something we must choose.  Faith is choosing to have confidence and to stand firm.  Faith is rising to the challenge that God presents.  It is pretty strong language that God uses, “And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”

The writer continues in chapter 11 with the famous “Hall of Faith.”  This passage tells a history of people who CHOSE to obey God, even when He asked them to believe and do some crazy things.  For example, God told Abraham to leave his home and travel to a land that God had not yet shown him.  He chose to believe that God would give him a son, even though this was not fulfilled until he was 100 years old.  Through faith the Israelites walked on dry ground through the Red Sea and saw the walls of Jericho fall.  These things that happened so long ago sound strange when placed side by side with the every day lives that we live.  However, I wonder what incredible promises that God might entrust us with if we dared to believe that He can truly do the impossible?

Verse 6 talks about pleasing God again, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

I love the incredible summary in verses 32-38:

“And what more shall I say?  I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.  Women received back their dead, raised to life again.  Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.  Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.  They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword.  They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them.  They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.”

It is interesting to me how the author ends this summary with all the bad things that happened to them.  If I were writing this section, I would have put that part first, saying, “Here is all the bad, but look at what good came out of it!”  However, this is not how the author chose to write it, and he did it for a reason.  These verses emphasize the incredible truth that in this life, the only thing worth suffering and dying for is OUR FAITH in God.  Our faith is something we must strive for, fight for, and treat as precious.

I want to live in faith like that.  I want to be used in mighty ways by God, and be trusted by Him to be obedient to anything that He might ask of me.  My imagination sparks and flashes with vibrant life when I think about this, and then suddenly I realize that I am still me.  How on earth do I develop faith like that?

Maybe it is not as hard as it sounds.  In my study of the Bible and through my own experiences, I have discovered eight things that have helped me to stand firm in faith and depend on God for the future.  Some of these take time and searching, but if faith is as amazing as it sounds, then it is worth everything that we can give.  In fact, God calls us to live the kind of lives that trust Him in every way, and everything He asks of us, He is capable of developing IN us.  So let’s begin this journey to develop an unshakable faith in God.

1.       Draw close to God.  This sounds like a “well, duh” statement, but it is really the most important step in learning to trust God.  It is difficult to trust someone with your life that you don’t know, and much easier to trust our family and friends.  However, when it comes to God, we assume that we can go to church on Sundays and hear about Him and even learn a lot of facts about Him, and somehow we will develop trust and a personal relationship by osmosis.  Relationships require time and effort, and our relationship with God is no different.  Take time out of your schedule to spend with Him.  Think about ways that you have used to get to know someone and allowed someone to get to know you, and do it.  Go on “dates” with God, pour out your heart to Him, and spend time listening.  You will be amazed at how God can and will speak when your heart is open to hearing His voice.

2.       Dive into His Word.  Sometimes this step is most difficult for people who have grown up in church, because they are under the impression that they have “heard it all before.”  Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active.”  You have never been in the place in your life where you are right now.  Dive into His Word again, and be amazed at the things He will show you.  Verses that you have read a hundred times will take on new perspectives in light of your present situations and struggles.  Go in with new eyes and an open and teachable heart.

3.       Claim God’s promises.  Please don’t mistake this for the “trust God and He will make you healthy and rich” philosophy that for obvious reasons is very popular.  God’s will and plan do not center around you and your comfort.  However, as the Friend and Father He is, He has given us promises that we can learn to hold onto.  In your study of the Scripture, keep a list of the promises that you find.  For example, Joshua 1:5c says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” and Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  As someone learns to trust their lover through the promises they make, learn to trust the ultimate Lover, who will never fail you or let you go.

4.       Surrender your dreams.  The summer after my freshman year in college, I worked at Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  For about a month and a half, I was very angry with God for leading me there.  I did not want to be there.  I wanted to be serving God in a more “exciting” place.  Finally, God used that experience to break me of the illusion that I could serve Him and still call all the shots in my life.  Part of faith in God is choosing to trust Him and obey Him even when life takes a detour and leads you to the last place you want to go.  Are you struggling with the place God has led you to right now?  Tell Him.  However, don’t hold so tight to your frustration that you can’t let God take it and trade it for His peace.  He knows who He has created you to be more than you do, and the person He dreams for you to be is beyond anything you could imagine for yourself.  Learn to be content in your circumstances, no matter how painful they may be at the time.  God never wastes time and He never wastes tears.  Pray about how your situation can best be used by God.

5.       Ask God to show you His dreams.  Did you know that God has dreams?  That is a pretty amazing concept, if you think about it.  As you are giving Him your dreams and desires, ask God what His dreams and desires are.  The brokenness and pain in this world affect Him deeply, because He created the world to be good.  As He reveals His heart to you, ask Him what part He has for you to play in the dream.  When you catch the incredible vision of God, no other dream holds a candle to the possibilities. 

6.       Step out in faith.  Many times in life, we are faced with a decision that includes a level of impossibility.  It is a good thing that we have a God with Whom anything is possible.  Especially in western culture with technology and abundant resources, we are not in the practice of taking very many steps of faith.  However, God still provides opportunities for faith boosters that often disguise themselves as impossibilities.  What impossibilities are you facing right now?  How is God leading you to take a step of faith and trust Him?

7.       Develop a track record with God.  About a year ago, I was facing a tough decision and I was struggling with the way I saw God leading.  On a Sunday morning, I went down to the altar and through my tears I asked God to help me to want what He wanted.  One of the pastors whom I did not know well and who was unaware of the situation, knelt beside me and began to share with me the concept of developing a track record with God.  As we trust God with situations and we see Him come through and provide, we take note of His faithfulness and therefore we build our faith foundation.  We develop this track record as we commit to long term memory the times when our faith was rewarded.  This helps us to trust God in future situations.  Whenever we are faced with a new impossibility, our natural reaction is fear and uncertainty.  When these times come, it is important to call to mind the track record of God, and it is easier to trust Him with the next step.  Our steps grow from smaller to larger as we find God to be faithful.

8.       Learn to focus on Him.  Contrary to popular belief, faith is not blind.  Although sometimes in trusting Him you cannot see where God is leading, it does not mean that you are blind.  It means that you have learned to focus your eyes on Him.  When Peter took his eyes off the Lord, he saw the wind and the waves and began to sink.  What did Jesus say to him?  “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)  Over the past few years, I have struggled tremendously with illness.  It is easy, especially when battling a problem for a long time, to be worn down and for discouragement to set in.  Our eyes wander off Jesus, and we start to see the crashing waves all around us.  It is not long before we are overcome.  However, our salvation lies in crying out as Peter did, “Lord save me!”  Our strong God reaches out, grabs our hand, and we are able to stand again.  Our eyes are back on our Lord, and we focus on Him once more.  This is the essence of perseverance:  finding our focus point and holding fast.  As we go through life, it is imperative that we learn how to run with perseverance, and we do this by focusing our eyes on God.  He is not surprised by any situation that comes into your life, and just as Jesus walked with Peter in the storm, He will walk with you in your storms as well.  Keep the faith you have developed in God by keeping your eyes on Him!

I’m looking for my faith…have you seen it?  Yes, I have.  It is in a God who has proven Himself time and again, who has found me where I am and loves me too much to keep me there.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the promise you have given that you will never leave me.  Please develop in me an unshakable faith in You that I may become everything that You created me to be.  Help me to trust in Your ability to handle any impossibility, that I may take part in Your dream for the world.

A Workman Approved By God

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive His approval.  Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.”

For our missionary training, we have a period of time called 40 Days in the Desert and I have been in the desert for about 30 days now.  This time has been rich and difficult.  It has been trying, but also it has truly been a growth experience for all of us.

When I first began the time, I had two extremes in mind:  this is either going to be much easier than they are making it sound or very difficult.  I think it has turned out to be somewhere in the middle, and I have learned lessons that I was not anticipating.

It has been rich living in community and it has also been very frustrating at the same time.  You learn more about people than you want to know.  You learn what each other’s limits are, and you learn to defend each other through those times.  I think my love for my teammates has grown exponentially through the tears and laughter, and this is only just the beginning of two more years of struggle and joy.  I am learning how to serve, and that service is not really service until it hurts.  So when it starts to hurt is when I have learned to start rejoicing, and I continue to push through.

It is humbling to realize that in order to be part of the Kingdom of God, I must surrender all my rights, even the ones I like and want to keep.  Submission is a difficult lesson to learn as North Americans, as we have fought and struggled to develop independence for so many years.  Then we move to South America, and we are once again children.  However, the Bible says that everyone is under authority.  If we cannot submit to the authority of our earthly leaders, how will we be able to submit to the authority of God?  Paul talks a lot in Romans about obeying our leaders, for they have been placed there by God.  As long as what they are telling me follows God’s principles, I am learning to submit.  My time is no longer my own.  My plans are no longer my own.  My tasks are no longer my own.  So every day I am learning to humble myself and give it my all.

Probably the biggest lesson of all that I am learning throughout the whole of 40 Days is the idea of being a workman approved by God.  It has been a great time of reflection as we are learning about leadership.  We have been evaluating our past (failures and successes), personality (the good, the bad, and the ugly), our skills, and God’s will for each of our lives as well as our group as a whole.  God has been showing me so much about His plans for me for the future, which are all good and great, but they have been given to me with a caution:  my success depends on me as well.  There is something interesting that I had believed for a long time:  that if God has called me to it, He will complete it in me.  However, I forgot to evaluate my part in it as well.

What God asks of us is more than simple obedience in decisions.  He also asks us to give everything we have:  our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  In the church we focus on the first and third, the heart and soul.  However, I had not taken seriously my responsibility to develop my mind and my strength.  I was not an avid reader nor was I pushing myself to grow in this area.  I also was very undisciplined in my goal meeting.  I have always been great at setting goals, but when it came to following through and completing them to the best of my ability, I would settle for finishing them and sometimes I wouldn’t finish them at all because I had come up with new and better goals. God has been working on me to push through and give each task my all.  He has taught me that it is going to hurt.  That is a sign of being stretched.  So I get up in the morning, give the day to God, and work until I fall into bed completely exhausted at night.  Every moment of every day is God’s, and I see now more than ever the ways that I have wasted valuable time in the past.

I have also learned to protect the health of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.  There is one extreme that says:  work and work and work…and die.  Then there is the other extreme that never does any work because the person is resting constantly.  He or she only works when it is comfortable to do so.  Every person needs a close friend that they can confide their heart in.  Every person needs a worship time where they are not in charge and they can simply regenerate.  I have finally discovered what it means to worship personally and not just corporately.  I have learned to keep my mind active with a variety of different things.  I am also learning that sleep is in fact necessary and my motto of, “I will sleep when I die” meant that I would in fact have a premature death.  In order to give my work my all, I must also give my body proper rest.  I also need to give my body proper exercise.  With our shower schedule being all out of wack, it has been hard to give exercise the time we should, but it has given me a greater appreciation and desire to take care of my body.  And, I am learning, that fasting is actually good for the health when done correctly.

What it means to be a workman approved by God is that I give my all to both work and rest, and that I learn in even greater measure what it means to draw close to God.  I didn’t realize this until God brought it to my attention, but I filter what God can do in and through me by precedent.  If God hasn’t talked to anyone a certain way in the past, then why could He talk to me in that way?  If God hasn’t done what He wants to do through me through someone in the past, then how can He do it through me?  I had been praying for years to have the type of relationship with Him like Abraham, Moses, or Elijah.  The other night as I was walking in the garden praying that same prayer, I heard Him say clearly to my heart, “But you are not Abraham, Moses, or Elijah.  You are Chelsea, and I want to speak to you like I speak to Chelsea.  Stop comparing yourself to other people, even in your desires.  Desire the unique relationship that I want to have with you.”  WOW.  As our team often reminds each other, “HUMILITY!”

He has also focused on the plans and dreams that He has for my life, both in these next two years and beyond.  In the times when I say to Him, “But, God in the past I have failed at….”, He reminds me, “I am the God of the past, the PRESENT, and the FUTURE.  I not only redeem what was once broken, but I also am CREATOR, and I am constantly creating.  You are a new creation.  The old is gone, and the new has come.  Would you dare to believe that I can do anything I want in and through your life?  Would you dare to leave who you used to be behind for the new you that I am creating you to be?”

How deep and rich is God?  Sometimes to even write a blog about all the things He is telling me is super overwhelming.  There is no way that I can make it sound good.  It is rushed and incomplete.  I have only touched on maybe 1% of all that I am learning right now.  What does it mean to probe the depths of God?  How does that change who we are?  I am so thankful that time in His presence changes us.  I am thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit that does what we cannot.

I could write all the time and not cover it all.  So I will let my life tell the story.  I hope that the work that He is doing in me sings beautifully of what His grace can do.  As much as I think He has already done, it is only a drop in the bucket of what He wants to do.  So I will live this day giving my all, and I will do the same tomorrow.  He is writing His story in my life, and only because of Him is it a story worth reading.
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