Developing Intimacy

heart_thoughtContinued from here.

Another point from the documentary Godspeed is the importance of developing intimacy. We live in a world where people have 500 Facebook friends but nobody who actually knows them. The DJs on a Christian radio station were recently talking about a study that America’s Youth do not know how to carry on a face-to-face conversation because their communication is always through text and social media. American life has become very disconnected, and yet God calls us to intimacy, both with Him and with one another. How can we do this if we don’t slow down enough to make eye contact and to know one another’s names and stories?

One of my favorite names for God is El Roi, which means “the God who sees me.” I have spent most of my life feeling unseen. I have oceans of depth to my soul, but few people bother to look. However, God not only sees this depth, but he even understands the complexity in me that I don’t even understand about myself. He knows me intimately, which draws me ever closer to Him as He meets my deep need to feel seen and known.

In my Evangelism class in seminary, the professor said that someone set up shop in a mall and offered to spend 30 minutes listening to whatever someone wanted to talk about for $20. Per the professor, this person had no credentials but made a lot of money because people are that desperate to feel “heard.” However, nobody is listening because we are all racing from here to there, many of us with earbuds in our ears to ensure that we fail to hear as well as see the pain of those around us. This is not the way God designed Christian community to be.

The Church is supposed to function as a Body, but how can that happen when we do not see or hear one another? How can we learn to walk together when each one of us is racing to his or her own destination at 90 MPH? It’s a lot easier to move as a body at 3 MPH, getting to know another’s names and stories as we walk.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling with her eyes closed and thinking of a heart. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Slowing Down

snailContinued from here.

Slowing down is a concept that most Americans cannot even process. When I tell people that I observe the Sabbath each week (on Fridays so I can rest while my family is at work or school), they look at me like I have two heads! How could I possibly afford to take an entire day off from work, cleaning, running around, and getting things done? My response is that I cannot afford NOT to take that day. When I was working full-time and going to school full-time, my Sabbath was my day of sanity – a break from an overstuffed life. I actually get more accomplished in six days while observing the Sabbath than I could possibly complete in seven without it!

I also slow down in the mornings and evenings by spending both blocks of time with God. I don’t how I used to get out of bed and immediately go at full speed, but I did this for many years. I need that time of grounding – of filling up with God – before interacting with another person. The slow pace of my morning provides the foundation for hitting the ground running when I start my day.

A wise woman once told me that I am a human BEING, not a human DOING. A wise man said that America has it backward: Rather than “don’t just sit there, do something,” our motto should be “don’t just do something, sit there.” God did not design people to go at 90 MPH, and that is not how Jesus lived. If he was going at 90 MPH, he never would have noticed Zaccheus or the Samaritan woman at the well. How much do we miss as we zip through our lives to make progress on our endless to-do lists?

Many people tell me they wish they could discern God’s voice as well as I seem to be able to. I wonder how many of those people have any time during the day in which they are only walking 3 MPH so God has an opening to speak to them. God frequently “interrupts” my quiet time because that’s when I am walking slowly enough to hear Him. It’s harder to get my attention when I am racing from one task to the next.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace crawling out of a snail’s shell. Courtesy Bitmoji.] 

 

Godspeed

godspeedMy church provides its congregation with a free subscription to RightNow Media, which is a streaming service of Bible Studies and sermons, kind of like a Christian Netflix. Because I have an account, RightNow Media periodically sends me emails promoting one of the available videos. I generally simply delete those emails because I have limited time for viewing them, but the latest one caught my eye. It was advertising a documentary called Godspeed, which you can watch for free here.

Godspeed is the story of an American priest who moved to Scotland and learned about living life at God’s pace (hence the pun in the title Godspeed). In the United States, life races by at a dizzying pace, but God led this priest to a parish in Scotland where everything moves at the pace that Jesus did – at 3 miles per hour. When we move at 3 MPH, we notice things that we simply cannot notice when we are racing from one place to the next. In fact, that’s the pace Jesus used to change the world!

By moving at only 3 MPH, Jesus had the time to notice people – to not only learn their names but also their stories. He got to know the people around him intimately, as they also did with him. This is what the American priest learned to do in his parish. His “office” was the village. He got out and walked, getting to know the people as he walked throughout the parish. He shared a powerful story of feeling led to do a sermon without notes, which was frightening because he didn’t want to freeze up in front of “the congregation.” But then he realized that “the congregation” was made up of individuals he had gotten to know intimately, so freezing up did not have to be scary. These were not nameless people congregated to hear him speak. He was speaking before a room filled with friends who he knew and who knew him.

I was blown away by the simple and yet profound concept of slowing down and developing intimacy among the people around you. I loved the line in the documentary about how we race through life, impatiently waiting for God to catch up with us while if we would simply slow down our pace, we would catch up with God.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling over the word, “Godspeed.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Motivation for Discipleship is Always Love

love_youContinued from here.

Radical discipleship is not possible without love, which is why it’s so important to invest quality, one-on-one time with God every day. Humbling myself to apologize to the mother of my son’s bullies was not easy for me, and there’s nothing in my natural self that was inclined to do it. I chose to say, “Yes, Lord” because I loved God more than I hated the thought of having that conversation. I don’t know if God will use that conversation to change the mother’s life, but my obedience certainly changed mine.

Each time we say “Yes, Lord” to something we REALLY don’t want to do, we deepen our level of intimacy with God. We get the opportunity to experience Him in ways that most other people do not. God rewards those who earnestly seek Him, and the momentarily pain of obedience is more than compensated for in the long run. Joyce Meyer words it this way: obedience first causes pain to the flesh before it results in pleasure to the spirit.

Radical discipleship is what Jesus called us to. All of his disciples were radical in how they lived their lives and how they interacted with others. Their priorities were not the same as the World’s. They weren’t concerned about saving up for retirement and making sure their kids got into the right college. Their focus was on Kingdom purposes, doing the will of God and sharing their faith with anyone who would listen. They loved God more than their own lives, and they gave up their right to live as they pleased to become slaves of Christ. That’s the same level of radical discipleship that God calls us to as well.

Are you a disciple of Christ? Or are you just going through the motions to avoid going to hell when you die? Do you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? Or is going to church simply an activity you do on Sundays that you check off your to-do list each week? God isn’t looking for pew warmers – he’s looking for people who will radically follow Him, loving Him more than they love their own lives. Is that you?

In March 2013, I became a radical disciple of Christ, and my life has been completely transformed. Anyone who knew me before then will testify that this is the case for me. I have made many sacrifices, but I have gained so much more in return. God IS the gift. Chase Him! Cling to Him! He is worth it!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding up a sign that says, “Love You.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Radical Obedience of Christian Discipleship

truck1Continued from here.

Being a disciple of Christ requires radical obedience. Let me give you an example from my own life…

When my son was a freshman in high school, he was bullied by two brothers. Things got ugly, first with the boys and then with the parents and the school. While I did pray for God’s wisdom and discernment as well as for the bullies and their family, I did not handle the situation in a Christlike manner. I even threatened to sue the school if the situation was not resolved to my satisfaction, and I meant it. (I have a law degree and am married to a lawyer.)

God was faithful and brought about many blessings throughout this difficult and painful time. My son is a better person because of the bullying, and I learned much about God’s faithfulness and grace. Hindsight is 20/20 vision, and I now see how God used what was intended for harm to bring about much good.

Now for the “Yes, Lord” part of the story … The bullying was at its worse in December and January, and then someone vandalized my husband’s truck in July, the night before my son left for the hospital for major back surgery. To this day, my family is convinced these bullies are the ones responsible, but we are unable to prove it. So, you can imagine my reaction when God placed on my heart in September that I needed to apologize to the bullies’ mother for the way I handled the bullying situation.

Let that sink in for a minute. These bullies vandalized our house and vehicle, emotionally tormented my son for several weeks, and did not take much responsibility for any of this, with only a minor consequence applied to one of the bullies after my threat to sue the school if no action was taken. And God told ME to apologize to the mother of these bullies.

As a disciple of Christ, I knew only one answer was possible for me: “Yes, Lord.” I told God that if He would provide the opportunity, I would do so. Within a couple of weeks, I crossed paths with the mother at a soccer game, and I followed through with my promise. I apologized for how I handled the situation and said that while I still don’t know how I should have handled it better, I wish I would have spent more time on my knees before God in prayer before reacting. That was a difficult conversation for me to have (and was well-received by her), but I loved God more than I hated having to do this.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Photograph of Grace’s husband’s vandalized truck. Courtesy Grace Daniels.]

 

Carving out Time for God Every Day

prayer2Continued from here.

So, what does Christian discipleship look like? It involves removing yourself from the center of your thoughts by replacing yourself with God as the center of your universe. God becomes your top priority. If you don’t have enough time to get everything done in a day, your time with God is the absolute LAST thing to go, even if that means losing sleep, missing a work deadline, or anything else. Sadly, most Christians have this backward, squeezing in a few minutes with God in the shower or immediately before falling asleep at the end of a busy day. I know because that is how I used to live my life as well.

If you believe that you do not have time to spend with God, then you are not a disciple of Christ. Jesus was a very busy man, ministering to thousands of people at a time, and yet he always carved out one-on-one time with God. If Jesus needed to frequently withdraw from the world and spend alone time with God in prayer, what makes you think you can get by without doing this yourself?

My quiet time with God during the first hour of my day is sacred time. Nothing replaces it, no matter how sick or tired I am and regardless of the inconvenience of finding a place to be alone with God, such as when I travel with a large group. I then build the rest of my day around this priority. Like most people, I have days where I don’t get everything done, and sometimes even important to-dos are left undone longer than they should be. However, the ignored to-do item is NEVER my alone time with God because He is the absolute #1 priority of my life.

Show me how you spend your time, and I’ll tell you what you prioritize. If you do not carve out sacred time for your God daily, you are not a disciple of Christ.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace praying. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

We Cannot Say “No, Lord” and Call Ourselves Disciples of Christ

yuckContinued from here.

Far too many Christians (myself included for many years) believe that saying “No, Lord” is an acceptable response to God’s leading. This confuses free will with discipleship. Yes, we have the option of saying “No” to God through free will, but at the point at which we do this, we cease being Jesus’ disciples. We cannot have it both ways. Either we are voluntarily slaves to Christ, doing the will of God from our hearts, or we are not Jesus’ disciples. We don’t get to enjoy the benefits of discipleship with Christ without first denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Jesus.

Following Christ is not always fun. We live in a culture that is fundamentally self-absorbed, and Christlikeness is all about denying ourselves and putting the needs of others above ourselves. That means we aren’t to blend in to society, and that’s hard for many people to do. May Christians (myself included for many years) want to straddle the fence, keeping one foot in the Church to avoid going to hell while keeping the other foot squarely in the world so that other than warming a pew on Sundays, their lives aren’t very different from the lives of their worldly friends. The Bible says that when we do this, we actually become God’s enemy!

God despises lukewarm Christians, so if you are trying to straddle the fence and live a worldly life peppered with just enough church to avoid going to hell, you are fooling yourself. Jesus did not call people to accept just enough of his sacrifice to avoid going to hell. He called disciples, and he defined discipleship as (1) denying yourself; (2) carrying a cross; and (3) following him. You cannot do this and live a self-absorbed life like the world. You are fooling yourself if you are trying to do this.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace gagging under the word, “Yuck.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]