Choosing Life Over Work

Of his mentor, missionary to China Margaret Barber, Watchmen Nee wrote, “She cared for nothing but life… [and to pay] more attention to life than work.”[1]

 I long for this mindset, but too often the opposite is true. Consider what occurred only a few days ago.

On my to-do list was to get the name of diabetic test strips which would be covered under our new health insurance plan. My pharmacy told me to call my provider. My provider told me to call my insurance company. My insurance company referred me to a third party which handled pharmacy issues.

After several tries, I finally found myself talking to a person. His name was John. His voice was slow and shaky. I had the phone on speaker and my wife and I could both tell he was elderly, probably in his 70s.

John didn’t seem to know the answer to my question and suggested I call my pharmacy. When I told him I'd tried that, he told me to call my insurance company. I told him my insurance company had referred me to him. I tried to keep my voice from sounding as frustrated as I was feeling. This "to-do" was taking much longer than I'd hoped.

That's the sad thing. At that moment I wasn't thinking about John at all, other than the fact that he was blocking  me from marking this nagging duty off my list.

When John realized I wasn't going to go away, he  put me on hold.

"I bet people laugh at the way he talks all the time," my wife offered, feeling compassion for him. This unsolicited comment began to shift my heart and my thoughts moved slightly towards John. I emphasize slightly, because my goal was still resolution, not encouragement. I hate to admit this, but it's true.

When John got back on the line, he had an answer for me. In fact, he seemed empowered now that he had information.

During our exchange, my wife caught my eye and mouthed, "Pray for him."

Not yet being fully focused on John, this hadn't even occurred to me and I was a bit reluctant. However, when  John was done giving me my answer, I asked, “Is there anything I can pray for you about?”

"Yes," John said without hesitation.

“What can I pray for you about,” I repeated.

“My salvation,” John cried out.

Wow. I wasn't expecting that at all, but it thrilled me that he would be so honest.

I went on to pray that John would recognize God's loves for him, that he would accept Christ's willingness to die on a cross for his sins.  I prayed that John would believe by faith the fact that Jesus' death was out of love for him and that by receiving Christ's finished work, it would secured the salvation of his soul.

John listened and when I was done we ended our call with the normal protocols. But before we hang up, we could hear John gasp loudly and sob softly. What if he really did surrender his life to Christ? We pray that he did.

When we value life over work, this changes everything.

I recently heard of a man who was an elder serving on a particular church committee for 45 years. He said the experience was totally empty, but that he considered it his duty to God. He said his life was a series of dutiful activities hoping to please God.

But two years ago he finally understood grace. Though he'd heard the word for years, the amazing truth of God's unmerited favor passed from head knowledge to his heart.

Since then, his life has been totally different.  Now, when he wakes up in the morning, he doesn't think about all he has to do. Two simple thoughts have replaced his thoughts of work:

  • Oh, how he loves me
  • I wonder who he will bring into my life today to love through me?

Prayer: Most gracious, heavenly Father. I’m sorry I so easily get caught up in the swirl of duties and work that life becomes secondary. You are life. I see you all around me in your creation and in the people you bring my way. Please help me trust you that the work you want to accomplish will get done. I’m asking you to change the paradigm of my day to care less about accomplishments and more about people, to pay more attention to life than work.

Thank you for loving me so much.  Please work this unsearchable truth more and more into the fabric of my heart.

Who do you want to bring into my life today so that you can love them through me?

1 Peter 3:15 (NASB)  but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

[1] Watchman Nee, Witness Lee

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All Jacked Up

“We fear if people ever truly knew us, they would not love us, but the truth is if people really knew us, they could truly love us” Jon Acuff

One of our pastors likes to refer to all of us, including himself, as ‘all jacked up.’  I don’t embrace this truth very well, but it’s intensely accurate. During the times I haven’t messed up too badly, I feel pretty good about myself. But when an area of my life begins to stink, I tend to go into denial. It’s easier to slather on the cologne and avoid thinking about it than to come to terms with how far I’ve missed the mark.

The truth is I am all jacked up. And I bring my imperfections into every area of my life, including my family, my job, my friendships, my… It seems the longer I live the more I realize I’m not the man after God’s heart I hoped I was. I’m not alone in this. Toward the end of his live, Paul called himself the foremost of all sinners.[1]  But even among such great company, I struggle to fully embrace my sin.

The Lie of Lovability

Lately, God has revealed a virus running in the operating system of my heart: The more perfect I am, the more lovable I am. Though I know its a lie, the less perfect I realize I am, the more unlovable I feel. I read what Jesus says about the sinner who washed His feet with her tears, “her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little loves little.”  (Luke 7:47b) This verse is like anti-virus software targeting the specific lie which has caused havoc in my life. In Christ, God lavishes his grace upon me. What should keep me from opening up all the crevices of my heart to allow His loving grace and mercy to have full access?

Cheer up

“Cheer up! You’re a worse sinner than you ever dared imagine, and you’re more loved than you ever dared hope.” Jack Miller

Could it be that a fuller embrace of my sin will give me a deeper experience of His love?

God is eradicating this lie which causes me to shy away from a full embrace of my sin. His great love for me is washing away guilt and shame, showing me something I never expected.

Being brutally honest with who I really am, with all my imperfections and sin, in all areas,  has far reaching benefits for me and for others:

  • Greater sin, greater love -As with the sinful woman, the more I see my sin and embrace God’s forgiveness, the greater I understand His love
  • Eradicating Defensiveness – If I know I’m loved, no matter how much I’ve messed up, I can fully accept, without denial, when others tell me I have broccoli in my teeth
  • Requires dependence – As long as I think I’m doing okay, patterning my life after the historic Jesus I read about in the Bible, I’ll keep grinding it out in my own effort. However, when I see the essence of what Jesus is teaching us in the Sermon on the Mount, that I can’t be perfect and can’t live the Christian life without him, I’ll begin to yield to His abiding Spirit
  • Brings freedom – Jesus says “the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32b) When we give the Spirit full access to the crevices of our heart, we’ll experience the freedom to fully embrace our humanity with all its ugliness and fully rest in the love of Christ
  • Really Good News – Gospel means “good news” and when we truly understand that no sin is more powerful than the precious life blood of Jesus, this makes the gospel really good news.
  • My Grace Story Brings Hope to Others  When we share our junk and related victories, others can identify and hope is ignites in them. “If God can do that in his life and with his family, as jacked up as he is, He can surely help me.”

Challenge:  

  • Think of the imperfect areas of your life. This shouldn’t be too hard. As humans, our sin is kneaded into all aspects.
  • Of these areas, pick one that’s particularly hard to accept. This is probably an area you find some worth in. Just one for now. You can repeat the process if needed.
  • Spend some being brutally honest with the Lord about your sin in this area. Perhaps you’ve been in denial about the extent. Then, with no hesitation, receive the cleansing power of the shed blood of Christ for forgiveness and cleansing.
  • Perhaps there’s a person in your life you need to talk to. Do it. Bring it all into the light of his healing grace.
  • Rinse and repeat the challenge for other areas. (This reference doesn’t work for me. I haven’t had enough hair to wash in years) (8^>

 Prayer: Most gracious, heavenly Father. I’m so sorry I hold my junk at arm’s length, not fully embracing my sin. Thank you for exposing the lie that tells me I’m unlovable when I’m not perfect. What a hideous message. I’m sorry for how my lack of brutal honesty with myself, has affected my freedom and perhaps even the freedom of others. Please keep me in absolute truth, exposing more and more of my junk, that you might use me to trumpet your lavishing love and unending grace to others.

“He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.Ephesians 1:5-8b 

[1] I Timothy 1:15