As you can tell, I am following my regular pattern this morning. I found a message and I'm putting it in a blog. Is that wrong? Is it a gift? Is it a calling? I'm not sure what the answers to those questions are, so for now, I'm just going to run with it and see what comes out.
Last week I was confronted and convicted by a quote Bill Hybels read from one of his old journals. He had written, "The pace at which I am doing God's work is destroying God's work in me." Hmmm. On the day I heard Bill read those words, our Women's Ministry was two days away from completing one of our four annual Big Events. And this event was held at my house--including every bedroom, bathroom and even the whole yard. I have been eating, sleeping and drinking this event for four or five weeks. Could the pace at which I'm doing God's work be destroying God's work in me too?
A few minutes after Bill Hybels spoke I heard a message from Tim Keller on his book, "The Prodigal God." He detailed the parable of the prodigal son from a new perspective. The "good son" really wasn't so good at all. He got angry, greedy and jealous--so much so that he refused to enter the banquet at the end. In other words, while the younger son, the prodigal, repented of his sin, entered the banquet and was saved, the elder son did not enter and therefore was not saved. Wow, never thought of it that way. He was no better than the prodigal and he was upset that his father was spending his inheritance on this party celebrating the return of the "bad son" who had squandered his inheritance.
Keller outlined some characteristics of elder brothers: They get angry when life doesn't go their way - ouch. They don't take criticism well. They only pray petitionery prayers. And they never just enjoy God's presence because they're always trying to get something from God.
Sometimes I pride myself in never having been a prodigal. I've always done good things and lived a good Christian life. So Keller is messing with my stuff here! Is it possible to be a "good elder brother" and remain unsaved? Apparently so! I'm not saying that all "elder brothers" are not saved, and neither is Keller. We just need to remember that we can't rely on our "goodness" or our "ministry" to save us!
I spent several months this past year being extremely angry at God because life has not gone my way. Wow, that one really hit home. I can't say that I never take criticism well, but I do struggle with it sometimes. I don't always pray only petitionery prayers, but it's hard not to when a constant parade of the faces of friends and relatives who are carrying heavy burdens runs through my mind during my prayer time. It's not that I never enjoy God's presence, but what is the bulk of my relationship with God? What do I spend most of my time doing or asking for when I come before Him? How often do I just bask in His presence without thinking about how I will blog about it or share it with a friend who needs an encouraging word or seek some kind of answer or hope for my kids' future?
I'm a doer. God created me that way. So I struggle with just being in God's presence. I get bored easily and waiting on God takes chunks of quiet time with few distractions. It's hard for me to be still and quiet without being asleep! That's where discipline comes in.
Based on the messages I heard last week, I'm going to reinforce some boundaries that have become a little too flimsy in the past couple of years:
- I will have one place in my house designated for my personal quiet time with God.
- My petitionery prayers will follow a time of worship, repentance and thanksgiving.
- In that personal alone time, I will repent of my selfish motives for doing good works--motives like attention, affirmation, recognition or to get God to behave the way I want him to!
- My office will be reserved for work and ministry.
- It's not that these two worlds will never intermingle. They are way too integrated for that. But I do want to take time to enjoy my Heavenly Father's presence without bringing my family, my friends, my blog readers, my work and ministry with me! There are times I need to come alone into God's presence without what looks like the entire Verizon network following me!
Can you hear me now?! Does anybody else struggle with this stuff? I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this. Let me know if you do too and how you deal with it.