Stunting The Gospel

I love well researched and written works. I believe that God entrusts us with gifts and means to communicate. With that our obligation is to do the best with what we have and leave the rest to God’s Spirit. Any communication of any message, any preaching of God’s Word must be done well.

Matt Chandler (with Jared Wilson) have done a splendid job in a great work, The Explicit Gospel. I will do a review of it when I’m done with it. It is probably one of the best books (besides the Bible, of course) that communicates the Gospel in a non-complex, yet accurate way.

creation waiting

The reason I write this post is because of something that struck me as I read. It is a statement that wowed and convicted me, all at the same time:

The gospel doesn’t terminate on individual salvation… – The Explicit Gospel

I know that ultimately, God’s plan is for a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1). I’ve also read the Romans 8:19-25 and just focused on how creation just can’t wait for the sons of God to become perfected…

Something I’ve overlooked for a while is how the culmination of the Gospel is not just individual salvation. That our salvation (as a result of the Gospel) is connected to nature as well. Man’s fallenness also brought bondage and decay to nature. I feel embarrassed to admit that I’ve, in a sense, ‘forgotten’ that part of God’s plan is that, with man’s restoration through his salvation, God wants to and will restore creation as well.

Another trap that we can easily get caught in is to think that God is just about saving us and restoring creation. This kind of thinking puts us at the centre of the Gospel. Though we benefit from the Gospel, though creation will ultimately benefit from our salvation, we are not the ultimate object of the Gospel.

The ultimate object of the Gospel is God’s glory and the consolidation of Christ’s supremacy [Click to Tweet]

Creation sings of God’s grandeur, power and majesty. It has been somewhat limited in doing this because of sin. I must remember that though I am a beneficiary of God’s grace through the Gospel, I’m not the object. No!

God’s glory is. I would love to think that God went through all the trouble He did to save me and that is all, but that is only a part of the story.

This also means I should be careful that my worship of God is God-centred and focused. I could think of God’s saving me from sin and its power for the sake of me and forget that His glory trumps that, to say the least.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. – Colossians 1:15-20 [NLT]

God, help me to keep you at the centre and circumference of everything.

We’re stunting the gospel when we think it starts and ends with our individual salvation [Click to Tweet]

[disclosure: book link is affiliate]

My Opinions And God’s Will / Plans For Others

My Opinions And God’s Will Plans For Others

I have opinions. Many opinions. I sometimes think I know more than I really do. Sometimes I convince myself of that. At other times I am so blinded by “my convictions” (whatever that is).

I blindly believe and act according to what I think is best. I do this for me… The sad thing is that I also impose this on others, as well. And, worst of all, I try to recruit God to my side of the “judgment lines“, when He doesn’t do what I think He should be. Like He needs to be convinced I’m right… There are times I’ve had my opinions about others and God’s will for their lives.

In some instances I’ve felt God shouldn’t be doing some things through some people. Either because I (strongly) felt they just weren’t “wired” for it. I justified their failures as validation for inadequacies I perceived in them. As if God didn’t already know what they could and couldn’t do. As if He was blind, like when parents think the world of one child and treat the other as a demon of sort.

My Opinions And God’s Will Plans For Others

You know when the “angel of a sibling” does nothing wrong and mom and dad don’t believe the “bad one” when he or she reports a bad incident perpetrated by the “angel”?

I cry foul when God seems unfair, when He is actually being gracious to others [Click to Tweet]

Like Jonah, the one in the Bible, I fight God on His will for people. Jonah was upset that God wanted to show mercy on Nineveh. He was livid that God showed mercy to “bad people” (Jonah 4:1-4).

Some translations of the Bible say that Jonah was “displeased”, but when I read around that, “displeasure” is way too mild. His reaction, to go out of the city and ask God to kill him, “displeasure”? Yeah right! Jonah was livid! Infuriated!

Reading Philip Yancey’s, “What’s So Amazing About Grace” challenged my view of grace. It helped me understand a little more just how gracious God is and can be.

However, there are other instances, where I have, in different ways, God’s will and plans for others. Why did God not take my opinions on the people or the situations?

God seems to remind me that my opinions of other people and what He should do don’t really count. For that I’m often infuriated. Infuriated, like the brother who stayed home, in Jesus story. You know, the brother who didn’t squander his part of the inheritance from the father who was still alive…

I guess there are instances where I have been that older brother. The one who was more upset with God’s grace on others despite how they dissed Him.

And, ironically, also relieved.

Relieved that God doesn’t act like how my sometimes, depraved mind and emotions sometimes want Him to. That His grace goes beyond what I think. The thing is, if He had to do that for others, like how I sometimes think He should, then He would also need to withdraw His to / from me. His grace that I’m in always desperate need for.

What makes me think God needs my wisdom on dealing with people He made, knows and loves infinity multiplied by infinity forever, more than me.

God’s plans, for others aren’t dependent on my opinion of them or their circumstance [Click to Tweet]

This, as I’ve written about it in the past, sometimes gets in the way of my assignments as God send me to others. My opinions are often a hindrance to encouraging others to fully commit to what they feel God is leading them to.

Somehow I’ve been reminded of how my opinions, our opinions cause people to be hesitant in being completely given to what God wants of them. We can easily and nastily get in the way.

That’s what the Pharisees and Sadducees did in Jesus’ time. They somehow, made themselves the standards gatekeepers. They exalted their opinions above God’s love and plans for others. When I join them. Do like “them“.

God, forgive me. Help me remember, keep this at the fore of my mind: Your will, grace and plans for others doesn’t depend on my opinions or feelings. May you help me (and all Christ followers) to not have opinions but discern Your will for others and be a part of it where and if we need to be. Amen.

[Photo Credit: David Restivo]

OK To Struggle With God, But In God

OK To Struggle With God, But In God

It is not always easy being vulnerable about struggles with myself in relating to God and what He expects of me. I wish I was super spiritual. The thing is, growing up as a Christian there were times I was made to believe that the more you matured spiritually the less you struggled with stuff. That you were impervious to temptation and unChrist-like behavior.

I wish I knew earlier that it was OK, fine, to struggle with stuff. I’m not saying that it is fine to give into temptation but that temptation and other struggles of being a Christ follower don’t make you a “lesser” Christ follower. What determines whether you’re immature or not, is your response to temptation and struggles.

I’ve been liberated to know that it is fine to have struggles with God. I mean Jonah, for example, struggle with God’s plans for the people of Nineveh and went to Tarshish (Jonah 1:2-3). Maybe that’s not the best example, what about Paul, kind of the rock star Christian right, he struggled with God because of some thorn (Romans 7:21-24).

Wait, I think I have the best example. A man asked Jesus if He could heal his son. Jesus said the son could be healed if the father believed. Wow. That simple? Sometimes not. The man’s response was that he believed but still had some hang-ups. Some issues, you know challenges, believing.

Out came his confession, “I believe but help my unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24). Awesome. This man was upfront about what His struggle to believe and rely on Jesus completely. This is liberating, especially for the times I’ve felt and feel condemned by others for not believing or having “enough faith”.

“Enough faith?” What is that? Who has the measure for that? [Click to Tweet]

How absurd that we can be the ones to determine how “enough” other people’s faith is. Ludicrous! Profanity! How dare we tell people they don’t have enough faith. How dare I tell anyone that they faith is not “strong enough”. How can I condemn others like this?

Moving on. This man was real with Jesus and Jesus had no problem with that. It is when we’re smug and try to act like we got it all together we push God’s hand away (Luke 18:10-14).

The most important thing about having struggles, whatever they are, is where we turn to. Some have challenges with some of the ways things are done in the local Church and choose to stay away. Some don’t understand how they lives have played out the way they have that they shun and hate God.

It’s OK to struggle with God, but in God [Click to Tweet]

Grapple with whatever you’re grappling with as long as you take it to God. As long as you use it to seek God more about it. As long as you go back to God, like the man in desperate need, “I believe but help my unbelief”.

God I’ve used excuses about the things I don’t understand about You, about how my unmet expectations in life, to turn from you. I’ve turned from you while, on the outside, I’ve done things that “normal” Christ followers do. Help me to always turn to you when I struggle with you. Amen.

I Am Jonah, I believe but help my unbelief…

 

[Photo Credit: jot.punkt]

OTHERS | What The Assignments God Gives Us Reveal [Part 3]

I’d like to think that I am God’s sole focus. That God has nothing better to do in multiverse but love me and wait for me to give Him an assignment. To meet my needs.

If the rest of the world is anything like me, God must have His hands full. Somehow He seems to care about people who He actually sends other people to them.

Like I’ve said before, when the hurting pray, God sends people. This makes me wonder and shudder; at the thought of how much hurt I’ve allowed to continue because of my unresponsiveness. I’m freaking out at the thought I haven’t curbed injustice because of wanting my comfort undisturbed. Because of being selfish…

OTHERS - What The Assignments God Gives Us Reveal

Despite our frailties, stubbornness and selfishness, God still sends us. He gives us assignments to reach other people. To be His agents. His representatives. Wow. Excitement. Fear. Sadness. A mess.

When God sends us, sends me, He reveals His heart for others. I’d like to think I’m the center of universe but there are other people God wants to reach. Sometimes, He sends to people we don’t feel deserve His grace.

Yet, He still sends…

When God gives us assignments His reveals that He cares for other people as well. He wants us to realize that other people matter to Him. That as much as He loves us, He loves “them”.

I have to remember that other people matter to Him as much as I do. When He gives us assignments He reminds us that we are to always look around us to meet need. Need for a shoulder. For time and other tangible things.

He reveals and reminds us of His love for others. Dear Jonah, stop thinking you’re it. Stop admiring and justifying your self-pity, lust, self-centeredness and selfish ambition. See the people God sees, the way He sees them. Feel and bleed for them.

Go.

[Photo Credit: Joe Shlabotnik]

Fear Of Missing “God’s Purpose For My Life”

I lived with the fear of “missing God’s purpose for my life”. In fact, my teens were torture. I was more scared of “missing God’s purpose for my life” than I was obsessed with “finding it”.

What if I God didn’t tell me what He put me on the earth for? What if He is saying it and I’m just too dumb to get it? It is like everyone but me knew what God put him or her on the earth for.

They had a clear picture. All I had, and still have, is the sense that there is something ‘great’ (whatever that means) that God has for and through my life. I’m sometimes too afraid to say this. Is it arrogance?

fear of missing God's purpose for my life

But then again God’s grace is what gives me, and everyone, give us, access to greater purpose for our lives. We aren’t perfect but are made perfect. We are weak but strong in Christ. Through Him we do valiantly…

For some reason I’ve lived under the impression that significance of my life lay in knowing the entire purpose for our lives. I lost of a lot moments in life because I got so tangled in looking ahead I stumbled where I was.

Life was a fumble. A walk in the dark. I know the people who told me to seek God’s purpose for my life were well-meaning. However, they missed something; God’s purpose for my life was not something afar off.

God has plans for my life. He had, and still has, plans through my life. However, I don’t need to know everything in its entirety. I don’t need to have an answer to impress people about the grandeur of what God has “called me to”.

God’s grace is what gives us access to greater purpose for our lives [Click to Tweet]

Once again, I need to guard my attention to hear from Him. I just need to be attentive enough to hear Him lead and send me where I am. To know the next thing. The next step.

Some people know exactly God intends for and through them right to the end of their lives. That is great. For them, God sees fit that they know it. For me, if God doesn’t do the same, I still must be at peace, knowing that He does have a plan for my life. Knowing that as long as I’m still breathing He has my world in His hands.

Could it be, then, that how I miss God’s purposes for my life is by being so focused on thousands of miles ahead that I miss the seeming minute assignments where I am today.

God’s grace says we’re good enough for God to use us [Click to Tweet]

God’s purposes for my life are not entirely about me. I am a part of them but they’re about other people. Perhaps what I need to be doing is listening for the voice of God in the need around me.

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying… (Jonah 1:1).

That is one of the ways God’s purpose for our lives comes his word coming to us… Jonah’s adventure begins with God’s word “coming to Him”.

God, help me not to miss your word when it comes to me. Amen.

[Photo Credit: marc falardeau]

On Miley: My First Response And How I Should’ve Responded

I was quick to judge. Discussed with others about how disgusting her performance was. In my head I used disgusting. In my heart I judged. Disdain. How could she? Incredulous.

What’s wrong with this girl? She should know better…

How could she? As if I was any better. I’m not on an a platform as big as the one she has. I don’t have as many eyes on me…

I may not have the issues she has but I do have issues. We all have issues. I should be a grace dispenser. God sends me to love people the way He does.

Judgement is easy for the callous hearts. My heart must be… Why was compassion not my first response? Pride. Am I really any better than Miley?

What gives me the right to label her? If the next assignment God gave me would be to walk alongside her during whatever she’s going through would I have been able to go to her without bearing my shame for judging her.

Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever. (Paul)

We can never be there, truly be there for people we judge. When we, when I judge, the way I just did I make myself judge. I assume the position of determining who deserves grace and who doesn’t.

The last place anyone needing a shoulder to lean or cry on will go is toward pointing fingers and loathing eyes. [Click to Tweet]

I don’t agree with what she did. Even with this in mind I need to remember that I doesn’t disqualify her as the object of God’s love.

Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. (Paul)

Yet God’s grace was extended to me. Is still extended to me. I am still far from perfect and who am I to point a finger?

Yesterday I spoke about how we need to remember that we already have our Church Clothes on and today it’s out the window.

I’m not beating myself up but I’m embarrassed and disappointed at my first response. Bad reaction. Ungodly.

I wish my first response was like Angus’.

Grace and compassion are lenses that enable us to see the need and hurt in others [Click to Tweet]

Without it we will judge and condemn the world and those who desperately need God close to them.

God, forgive me for judging. God fill me with your love and compassion. I Am Jonah.

ME | What The Assignments God Gives Reveal (Part 1)

The Bible is full of real stories, with real people who faced real challenges. They had real shortcomings, real failure and real success. This is the heart of I Am Jonah, to make following Christ and the challenges in staying on that path real.

God has assignments for everyone. Even Jonah, that guy who God knew would meander on the way his assignment, got an assignment.

Most of the things God has given to me as assignments have been beyond me. Even after a while of being in the assignment I continue to doubt myself. I guess it is good in some regards.

Looking back at some of the assignments He’s given me I see there are a number of things that were revealed.

ME | What Assignments God gives reveal

it’s humbling that God uses me…

 

 

Every time someone gets an assignment from God something is uncovered…

Self

The assignments God gives us reveal us to ourselves. In the face of the assignment we become aware of frailty. Our shortcomings glare at us. And when this happens most use them as an excuse not to do what God says.

There is something about the nature of the assignments God gives us that make us examine ourselves first. It is human nature; I guess it is nature to always check if we measure up, if we’re adequate for the task.

There are times I’ve wrestled with selfish ambition. To be honest, every now and then I have to deal with it, over and over. I guess with each assignment I see something ungodly about me that should disqualify me from the assignment.

I sometime think, “If only God knows that I…” then I remember that He knows. But He still asks me. He doesn’t really ask, that’s just courtesy, He sends me.

He knows it’s going to be a fight for me to stop seeing my lack of wisdom, clarity and self-imposed inadequacy as barrier, yet He still sends, me.

He knows I’m going mess up. In fact, He might be just sending me from the mess I am.

Sometimes I feel like Isaiah as God sent him, unclean. Unworthy. At other times I see the giants the assignment demands I confront and I want to run, but He still chooses me.

I wonder if God knows that I don’t like the people He’s sending me to. Sometimes it’s the place and at other times the conditions.

As He sends me I realize how comfortable I am and how much I want to stay in that comfort. There are times His assignments have revealed how much I want to hold onto stuff. How attached I am to some stuff.

There are times I’ve hesitated to follow God into the unknown because I was too scared I would mean I’d miss out on some things I liked.

God’s call on me has uncovered some of the things I placed worth or value in.

I don’t know exactly what, but there is something about God’s assignments that force introspection. I guess one of the questions underlying the introspection is, “Am I good enough”.

Then again, If God asks, no sends me, doesn’t that say I am? It says I am good enough for the assignment. As messed up and ignorant and weak as I am. I am good enough.

One of the saddest things though is difficulty in believing it. The scary thing: God trusts me enough to send me.

I want to follow Jesus, the Christ. I follow Him and yet every time I receive an assignment from Him I have to relearn that if He sends, I’m the man for the job. My responsibility is to go.

You’ve just read this but I think I’ll say it again; perhaps you’re in the same space:

I don’t know exactly what, but there is something about God’s assignments that force introspection. I guess one of the questions underlying the introspection is, “Am I good enough”.

Then again, If God asks, no sends me, doesn’t that say I am? It says I am good enough for the assignment. As messed up and ignorant and weak as I am. I am good enough.

One of the saddest things though is difficulty in believing it. The scary thing: God trusts me enough to send me.

I guess one of the reasons I doubt myself is simple. I Am Jonah. And I have to keep reminding myself, If God is sending me then I am good enough.