I think Christians often forget what God is doing in us: what the final product (us) will look like. Because if we keep in mind what He is doing, it will inspire and motivate us to stay close to Him. Paul writes this: “there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.” (Philippians 3:20-21) He’s begun that work in us, and sometimes we only feel the discomfort and pain of change. But when we remember the end result: that we will be “beautiful and whole,” aren’t the difficulties of this life worth that? We are very willing to put up with some disarray and hardship when we’re redoing our kitchen or bathroom: why aren’t we willing to let our God do whatever He needs to in making us “beautiful and whole?” As you pray this week, submit yourself to His work within you, and ask Him to let you see all the disarray and hardships simply as part of His reconstruction project in you. And rejoice in His workmanship: your future beauty!
In John 4, Jesus has a discussion with a Samaritan woman. The discussion eventually turns to worship, and Jesus says this to the woman:
true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
What does “worship in the Spirit” mean to you? I think that is a question worth pondering for a while…. As I reflect on it, it certainly takes me beyond the motions, beyond appearances. It’s not enough for me simply to show up for worship on Sunday, or to show up in prayer and make my requests. Our God is concerned not just about our behavior, He is more concerned about our character, the spirit in which we come and act. It is entirely possible to pray for the right things, but with a bad attitude. It also is very possible to do good things, but with bad motives. God’s desire and will for us in not just changed behavior, but to change our heart, the inner castle of the soul, to “make the tree good.” We should continue to worship, even if our spirit is not entirely appropriate; and we should continue to pray, even with a bad attitude. But we should also go beyond the behavior, and open our hearts and souls to our God. A right request or action is still right, even when done with a bad attitude: but we should never be content with ourselves and those persistent selfish, sinful attitudes. That’s where we need the Spirit’s presence and help, so that, over time, not only the behavior, but the spirit is right.
I began a sermon series this past Sunday on the Lord’s prayer. It has been renamed by some, “The Disciples’ prayer,” for Jesus gave it to us as a model for our own prayers. There is a clear pattern to it: it begins with a focus on God, and on His kingdom, His will. Prayer should begin by remembering there is always Someone on the other end of the line, that we never get a voicemail with God. Enter His presence, enjoy simply being with Him, and let Him minister to you soul. We are usually in such a rush that we move immediately to requests: to telling God what is on our mind. It is so unfortunate that our prayers are so full of self: our needs, desires, requests… Think about it for a moment: we have so little understanding of all that is happening around us, our perspective is limited in so many ways, to the point where we don’t know what truly is best, or even good. So often I have been so thankful I did NOT get what I asked for, and also the reverse, I have been so thankful God did lead me in ways I did not ask or even desire. Let me encourage you to rest in Him for at least a few moments: allow Him to enlarge your heart and perspective. And always remember to add: “and not my will, but yours be done.” I have learned over the years not to trust in my requests as much to trust in His loving responses to my requests. And quite frankly, it gives me great comfort to know my God will answer my requests based on His infinite knowledge and unceasing love, not on the frequency or intensity of my requests!
Mark 14 records what we today call the “anointing at Bethany.” Jesus, nearing the time of His death, is sharing a meal with his disciples as a woman comes into the room and pours expensive perfume on Jesus as an act of devotion. The disciples, you might recall, are upset at this wasteful act when there were so many needs around them. Jesus reply includes the words, “she did what she could.” As I read those words again in the past few days, I found myself asking the same question of myself, “am I doing what I can for Jesus?” Not, “am I doing as much as _____,” or “am I doing all I want to do?, or even, “what difference am I making for Jesus.” Just a simple, “am I doing what I can?” for Jesus. Today, where I am, with what I have. How ‘bout you? Are you doing what you can- for Him? Are you praying for those around you? Are you looking for ways to serve others? If all of us would simply commit ourselves to “doing what we can,” wouldn’t the world be a different, and better place?