Monday, February 14, 2011

The Process of Growth

"Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another; and for all men, just as we do for you; so that He may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints."
- 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13.

I often feel confused about what part of the growth process, as a Christian, is my job and what part is God's. I have often struggled with those concepts and feel that I am finally getting some understanding about it. As I have begun to understand God's role and my role it is amazing how much more exciting my relationship with Christ is becoming. There are two things mentioned by Paul that are God's responsibility that I use to try to muster up in within myself. The first thing that he asked God to do was to cause them to increase and abound in love for one another and for all men. As I think about these verses I want to try to figure out how God does this work in me.

Not long ago I did a blog on loving God with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength and my neighbors as myself. I saw that in 1 John that I was told I love Him because He first loved me. True scriptural love comes from a heart that has recognized, accepted, trusted and experienced God's love. Out of the overflow of experiencing His love we learn to love Him through obedience and faith. We then learn to let that love be our guideline in how we treat and relate to others. I find that when I am the most confident of God's love and acceptance that I am really secure enough to take risks in loving others. Biblical love is a supernatural act of God within the heart of a believer.

The second thing God does is to establish my heart in holiness. Again, personal holiness or righteousness is not something I can make happen on my own. For when I try that, what comes out is self-righteousness. I clearly understand the positional righteousness that was imputed to me when I trusted Christ to be my Savior and He took God’s wrath for my sin. I get that when He looks at me He no longer sees all the sins that I have done, He sees God’s righteousness in me instead. Second, I also understand in a head-sorta-way that God saves me continually from the power of my sin. My job, as near as I can discern, is to come honestly before God and spend time in His word and prayerfully choose to obey it. (Romans 12:1, I Thessalonians 5:16-24!) As I am spending time with Him, God will impart His character and His desires for me into my heart. It is like an elderly couple that have been married for so long that they look and act alike. If I spend enough time with Him, I will begin to walk and to talk like Him. My confession will flow out of experiencing His holiness through His Word and His Holy Spirit. He abides in me and can change my heart so that no sin will have power over me, but I have to be really honest with Him about the sin that has been such a stronghold in my life. It has taken me awhile to understand that my “mask of perfection” does not glorify God, but my honest transparency with Him and with others that He puts in my life does. He is glorified when we let Him replace our fear with His boldness. He is glorified when we let Him replace our anger with bold love, humility, and firm but gentle rebuke that invites reconciliation rather than seeking to wound. He is glorified when we become timid and turn to Him and let Him give us His courage to speak truth into every situation. He is glorified when He wants us to teach and we turn our inadequacies over to Him so He can do something through us. He is glorified when we are tempted with sin and turn to Him for the strength to say no! In summary, He is no less glorious because of our humanity. Rather, He is glorified when we come to Him in our weaknesses and let Him work in us.

So I have to honestly ask myself, “Am I trying to muster love and righteousness up apart from God?” If so, I need to make a conscious decision to try it God's way. I will greatly benefit by spending time with Him by reading His word and praying about what I read. How I desire Him to make His word come alive in me personally and desire for Him to show me what He desires for me specifically. When I read His Word I want to respond to it by making application to my life so that I can integrate His truth into my life where it becomes part of my soul.

As I study the Bible, I notice how God loved people and dialogue with Him about the reality of His love for you. I must daily ask Him every day to fill me so that I love Him with all that I am and ask Him to love others through me. I am thankful that I can be totally transparent and real with God. For there is nothing in me that is so evil that it will keep Him from loving me or keep Him from changing me so that I can be more like Him. If I am not bringing things to the light of His word by confession and transparency, He is not obligated to do anything towards changing me. When I am craving intimacy with God, I can choose to turn to worldly things or I can acknowledge what I am craving as I sit at His feet and let Him overwhelm me with His love. When I am tired of sin and want to be more like Him, I need to set aside my tendency to dwell in that ugly place called toxic shame and come boldly to God and spend time saturating my mind with His thoughts and trust His Holy Spirit to work His righteousness in me. Today I choose to ask God to let me see others He has called me to love through His eyes. They are people just as broken and confused as me, who, in the hands of the Master, can be transformed and molded by His perfect love and His redemptive work…are you willing to join me in being a part of the process?

Prayer: Father, thank you for being a God who will establish our hearts in righteousness and love. Thank you for the transforming power of your word and your Holy Spirit. Father, cause us to crave time enough with you that we begin to look like you, act like you, talk like you and even think your thoughts. May we be people that when we let our minds go idle, the automatically go to thoughts of you. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!