Sunday, September 9, 2012

Our Steps to Success - Industry and Education or trust and rest?

That is what we grew up trusting, that and hard work.  If you need more, simply work harder.  Give more, be more, know more.  As I was growing up I do not remember ever seeing any adult praying for a financial need, did you?   

I found out we could pray for any sort of need when my first child was an infant and he needed healing.  Prior to that I felt alone in my pain.  I had learned to take care of myself and comfort myself.  I was doing my best to “buck up”.

We learn self-reliance.  We think it is our only option.  Our society applauds the “self-made man”, the winner.  We learn to take, and to grab, and to compete.  We resent others who achieve more, and we look down on those who have less.  We learn that to be independent is to be strong.  But it is an illusion.  God says his strength is perfected in our weakness.  

Oh, he lets us try it our way.  He lets us do our best.  Go for it and knock ourselves out.  But is it our hard work and effort that makes God happy with us?  So if we sacrifice ourselves more can we actually save ourselves?  

Think about it.  Can we ever provide all that we need?  Can we rise to the place that we don’t need God?  Should we try? 

It is not much different than Adam and Eve.  God gave them everything and met their every need.  And they had the freedom to pursue their passions.  They did not have to work for food, shelter, or security.  They “worked” at their passions.  They could create and make art and music and build things.  They could explore their world and each other.  They could get to know God and learn from him.   They were to fill the earth with their family.  They were to be kings of the earth.  The animals were tame and obeyed them.  The weather was not hostel.  They could build homes and cities and amphitheaters.  Whatever they felt like doing.  They were not chained to a job. 

How different from the way we live under the curse.   The curse that said the earth will not naturally provide for you anymore.  We were sentenced to hard labor.  "By the sweat of your brow you will eat".  It begins to crowd out our time with family and friends and our passions, and even God.  Why?  Because Adam and Eve did not trust God’s love and provision for them.  They believed God’s enemy.   They wanted more.  They wanted to be their own Gods.   They made their own decision with the reasoning of their minds.  Even though God said not to do something, it seemed ok to them, so they went ahead.  Then God said have it your way and he took his blessings and disappeared, literally. 

Well, we know that in his mercy he did not take all of his blessings away.  And he has been reaching out to us throughout the ages.  He is the one offering us a way back… a way to balance and peace, with our trust in God and nothing else.

So if it is not hard work to the point of sacrifice that pleases God, what does? 

Faith.  Without faith it is impossible to please God.  Our real job is to hear God’s voice in this lost world - to get to know him and to put him first in our lives.  Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to make it possible for us to do it.  This is one of the ways he has set the captives free.  His yoke is easy and his burden is light.  Matthew 11:29 … Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Who is at the top of that ladder you are climbing?  Is it You?  Money?   God?   Just make sure you are on the right ladder.

Thorns of Love?

On the cross Jesus was crowned by the very thing that did not even exist when God created the earth.  Thorns were not in the original creation story.  They came about after man’s rejection of God.  Thorns were not God’s plan for man.  In Genesis 3 we read that thorns grew on the earth for the very first time after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.

Thorns represent the cursed earth.  Now I ask myself…Why would Jesus be crowned with something that represents the curse?  Why did Jesus allow the cursed thorns to draw blood from his head?  His perfect, sinless, blood dripping from his head by the very thing that man’s disobedience brought to the earth.  What irony! 

It is yet another reminder that He came for us in spite of our rejection of God.   God sent him to accomplish a very wonderful and loving task.  To show us a way back to God.  Man’s ultimate sin is being his own God.  It is our mistrust of God that makes us act as our own God, yet in doing so, we elevate ourselves above God.   Our thoughts are evidenced by our actions and called "sins".  We do our own thing.   We are in charge.  As humans, we do not naturally submit to our creator.  That is something we learn to do.  Then we call it "wisdom".  Adam’s self-leadership is what originally brought thorns to this earth. 

It was Jesus who showed us that we humans need our heavenly father to lead us.  And God accepts us back into his family if we make Jesus our leader.  We do this by acknowledging that we know very little compared to what God knows.  We need God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  We come 4th in the rankings.  And we always will.  No matter how good or smart we get, we need to know that we will never elevate ourselves above God. 

So consider Jesus, who loves us even though we did nothing to earn it.  And by remembering the sinless blood streaming down his face, and knowing he is wearing a crown made of human rebellion, we can see clearly the powerful symbolism.

Now living simply becomes about gaining wisdom through everyday experiences and talking to God as we go.  But until the day Jesus comes back to earth to govern here… our roses will always have thorns.

Come Lord Jesus.