Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Everyone's a perfectionist

Everyone has a perfectionist streak in them, no matter how laid back they may appear.  It's not just the perfectly accessorized coworker who has every hair in place that most would label as a perfectionist.

I remember several street beggars in New York before the time of Mayor Giuliani, when they were allowed to congregate on the sidewalk in front of our church and would often demand handouts, then angrily accuse us of hypocrisy when they disapproved of the amount we gave.  They'd even quote scriptures with the vehemence of a fire-and-brimstone preacher.  They had the lowest standards for their hygiene, warmth, health and safety, but when it came to handouts, they were consummate perfectionists. If you didn't live up to their expectations, you'd get an earful! 

One thing for certain is the Bible holds us all to high standards in so many aspects, that none of us can afford to assume that we have attained perfection in any of them. A friend who prods you on to improve is truly a friend, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.  She is keeping you from becoming complacent, and complacency kills faith.  Be thankful for the wounds of a friend.

But ask yourself, are you one of those friends who usually does the prodding, but is completely blind in other areas yourself?  Maybe you need to be on the receiving end.  Maybe you don't just need a prod, but shock treatment! Just like the beggars in New York, you can even use the Bible to justify why your version of perfection is the best.  Are you perfect in one or two minuscule areas, and even humble about the areas you're not so strong in, making you even more perfect?  

I can list for you the things that I am imperfect in, and for many of my friends, those areas are a breeze for them.  I need to prod myself and truly improve - I know.  But one of my frustrations is that in the areas where I have a strong perfectionist streak, few seem to even care about those things, or even notice that they are an issue. They are often brushed off as not worthy of effort, meanwhile I can see how incredibly important they are to being effective in the way we help others.  If I speak up, I become offensive, but if I remain silent, I stifle a very living urge inside of me to see this thing done well.  Foolishly, I have just remained silent for too long and didn't realize how much could have been done about it.

This is my challenge now, to do more than just speak up and be heard, but to be an example of how doing things right actually works. There is no better teacher and no better encouragement for others to follow your lead, than concrete results.  Meanwhile, I'll be working on all the stuff I've been prodded to do, and trust that God will use me to bless others as I prod them with my example.  Of course, if people want to hear what I have to say, I'd be more than happy to give them an earful!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

So you think you know God's voice?

God won't lead me somewhere that is awkward or uncomfortable. God respects my tastes and likes.

If I can just save one soul. just one, it will be worth it as long as it fits into my lifestyle.

On the other hand, if I could save thousands and tens of thousands yet be required to sacrifice the things I like… Anyway, if I can just save one soul…

I have sacrificed and given God so much, He wouldn't ask anymore from me now.

These things in my past used to be my idols, but now I use them to reach others, so God would never ask me to give them up.

Abraham was Abraham, and Moses was Moses.  God is so much nicer these days.

God wants me to live an abundant life, so I should keep doing the same old thing I've always done to get out of my poverty.

I love being radical, but only when it's safe.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Restoring Respect and Awe for God

"When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” He was afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! This is none other than the house of God. This is the gate of heaven.”

This has to be among the top ten favorites stories for me in the Bible.  This happened when the conniving, scheming Jacob ran away from his furious brother because he had stolen his blessing of the firstborn.  But God saw in Jacob the con artist, a heart that hungered for His blessings, and so He graciously gave him a dream of angels climbing and descending a staircase to heaven.

When Jacob awakes in the middle of the wilderness, he is a changed man.  He is filled with awe and reverence, and sees the vast wasteland around him as a holy place, the house of God, the gate of heaven! From that moment on, Jacob is a man of faithfulness to God, a man of honesty and a clean heart.  A man filled with reverence for God, is a man that God can empower to change the world.

God renamed Jacob, Israel, who fathered the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel, from where our Savior and Lord Jesus came to save the entire world.  That alone shows the power that comes from a life of sincere reverence for God.

What people commonly consider to be "reverent" means walking around with a long face, speaking in religious sounding terms and basically being a boring snob.  Of course the devil would love to paint the most powerful attitude of submission to God in that light, so no one would be attracted to it.  But reverence can take on many forms.  God is the inventor of all pleasure and joy, as CS Lewis has noted in his Screwtape Letters, but there is no true joy without utter respect for God as God.  There can be no pleasure without a hatred and disgust for sin.  There can be no power without a total surrender and willingness to serve, merely because He deserves to be served.  But with respect and awe, come joy, pleasure, power, victory, peace, and all things good that come from our Father above.

The Temple of God in the Bible was a constant reminder that sin is evil and that His people need to live in a constant state of repentance.  How about now?  Too many people that I have come to know repent only when they are caught red-handed.  But people who live in the power of God, are constantly repenting and constantly reminding themselves that they are weak, and the God who loves them is strong to deliver them.

The Temple was also a constant reminder that the presence of God is so awesome that when anything defiled or evil approaches Him, that thing is burned up and destroyed.  Not because God is cruel and has no love, but because God is such a pure and powerful love, that evil cannot exist in His presence.

When you kneel down to pray, or even pause in the middle of your day on your job, do you realize that you are in the presence of an awesome and fearful God?  When you walk into your church every week and see the same bulletin board, the same kids class teachers, the same seats and carpeting, do you remind yourself that you are actually stepping inside the very house of God? The very gate of heaven?

Watch this video and think about how we need to recapture that sense of holy awe for the God who has given His life for us.