May 2009


kingdomIt’s easy to let other people do the work.

Let the pastors do the work of leading, teaching, and caring for the local church and community.  Let the missionaries do the work of evangelism.  Let the worship leaders do the work of worshipping.  Let others do the “Christian” work so I can focus on the other more pressing details of my day.

Let God do his God-work.

Sure, I want to be on the right team, so I identify with Jesus and I have all of my theology packed neatly away in my head.  But I’ll let other more “qualified” people do the important work of the Church.  And when Jesus wins, I’ll be there to cheer Him on.

Ready for my excuses for such passivity?  I’m weak, flawed, imperfect, sinful, young, naive, inexperienced, fearful of failure, too comfortable, too idealistic…

And then I read Luke 11:14-23.  Jesus does battle with Satan by healing a demon possessed man.  He likens this encounter to an attack upon Satan in which He overpowers him, disarms him, and plunders him.  He claims this is the result of the Kingdom of God coming upon them.  

The Kingdom of God is expanding into enemy territory.

I’m here to cheer Jesus on.  Keep expanding it!  Keep it!  Go get ’em!!

And then verse 23.  It gets personal.  I have a role to play in this epic expansion of the Kingdom.  I can’t be neutral.  I’m either actively working against God, scattering people and leading them (and myself!!) to anything other than God or I’m actively working with God to lead people (and myself!!) to Him.

I cannot simply watch Jesus do it…or watch anybody else for that matter.  I’m in the game.  I’m working either for God or against God, toward God or away from God.  God designed life in this way.

The work of the Church is MY work.  And yours.  With Jesus, we are to be a people who gathers, others and ourselves, nearer to God.  To expand the Kingdom, by God’s power, further and further into the dark corners of our own hearts and those around us.

This work is not somebody else’s.  It is not the work of those we deem “professional Christians.”  This is OUR work.

It is OUR work to care for each other physically and spiritually, to push each other deeper, to give up more of ourselves to God, to fill our needed God-designed roles within the life of the Church.  There are no time-outs or intermissions.

After all, we’re about expanding God’s Kingdom.  You and me.  Actively.  Right now.

It’s only the largest epic ever conceived and the only one that really matters.

growthIt’s kind of like watching a baby grow.

Those who see the child daily rarely notice the rapid growth, while other friends and relatives who see the baby once a week or so frequently comment on how much Johnny is growing. 

How big he is getting!  Look at those arms and legs!  He’s saying so many words!  He’s walking around!

What can be hidden by familiarity and the nature of small incremental change to those involved with the baby on a daily basis is usually obvious to others less involved.

The same dynamic is at work in the spiritual growth of a community.

As a community we pray for growth, for change, for God to lead us into greater discipleship.  How easy it is for us to miss God answering those prayers.  To miss the very divine work we so earnestly yearn for!

So once a month, we as a community slow down.  We reflect on the past month.  We share what we see in our lives and our life as a community.   Where we are growing,  failing, succeeding, and experiencing frustration.  Where we see God.  And we pray.

It is tremendously encouraging to hear from each other the various aspects of the last month’s worth of journeying together.  And it is tremendously important for us to learn to discern God’s work in our lives.

God has reminded me this past month of the spiritual importance of the daily, small, boring details that make up life.  I’ve been learning to appreciate the small steps of growth rather than being frustrated that I don’t see greater leaps and bounds.  And I’ve got much more to learn and practice in these truths.

Our community is transitioning from a mostly child-less group of 20s and 30s to mostly child-full church, and how a bigger family affects our relationship with God and the community to which we’re committed.  We are figuring out what it means for the church to do the work of the church and not just rely on one or two people.  We are slowly moving away from simply talking about loving others to serving in concrete, real ways for others.  And we’ve got much more to learn and practice in these truths.

God is at work.  We see that when we slow down, rather than rush on.

May we learn to discern His work better.

May we never miss it.

prayer4It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.  Jesus tells us to pray for the things in the Lord’s Prayer as though we are pounding on a locked door until it finally opens (Lk. 11:5-8).  We are to persistently, boldly, relentlessly present before God our needs in line with His will.

But He already knows them.  And He already desires to meet them (vv. 11-13). 

So why is God telling us to badger Him with the same requests, over and over again?  The whole enterprise seems rather futile before a omniscient, omnipotent, and loving God.

Surely it can’t be a form of divine manipulation.  If only we say this same prayer 30 times, THEN God is bound to grant it.  What hubris to even consider such human power over almighty God.

Surely it can’t be just a hoop to jump through.  The overall tendency of Jesus’ life and teaching seems to me to be a simplification of our relationship with God rather than imposing various new rules or laws or red tape.

Surely it can’t be to provide God with any new knowledge.  He’s God.  He already knows whether or not “we really mean it” or “really need it” or…

Surely it can’t be to change us.  I mean, we already know what we need.  We already know when we need it.  And how we need it.  And what’s best for us spiritually.  And all of the various implications.

Or, maybe not.  Definitely not.

So, as I see it, I’m left with one solution.  Persistent prayer is to change us in some way rather than change God in any way.

What’s the intended change?  I don’t know.  It’s probably different for different people in different places with their relationship with God.  Truly, each of us needs to be shaped a bit differently in order to grow in love of God and others.  To grow spiritually.

Maybe it’s to widdle away some pride or illusion of control.  Maybe it’s to force a greater dependence on God.  Or feelings of frustration that eventually boil over into greater honesty and surrender in prayer.  Or maybe a million other heart-changes.

Through persistent prayer, usually more gradually than suddenly, God shapes our hearts.  Somehow spiritual work is being done on you each time you pray it.  The you that pounds on the door the 50th time is probably not the same you who pounded on it the 1st time.

And that change is invaluable.

Have you experienced this?  How have you changed through the course of praying persistently for a particular need?  If so, please post it as a response…