Under Control

A couple days ago a co-worker and I met with the daughter of a client. The client is older and has lost mental capacity and cannot manage her affairs anymore. The daughter had brought us the information we needed to prepare her mother’s tax return. She explained that she has had to get a power of attorney and get permission from different banks and brokerage firms to handle her mother’s assets. After the meeting, my co-worker expressed concern over the mother losing control of her affairs. She said she couldn’t imagine not being in control of her life. I could tell this was a real fear of hers. And it got me thinking.

Control is a funny thing. We think we want it. We want to control every detail of our lives. We don’t want anyone or anything dictating what we should do or how we should live. Once we have control we feel safe, confident, everything’s going to be okay because I’m in control of my destiny. But is that really security? Does that really make us safe?

One of the biggest hang ups people have about submitting to God is control. God asks us to trust him. The word trust comes up many times in the Bible. But to truly trust God with our lives means relinquishing control, taking our hands off the wheel. This is hard for many people because we’re taught to be independent, to make our own decisions. Relying on others makes us weak. We have to take responsibility. Asking for help makes us inferior. But these are lies, lies from the enemy.

Do we need to live our lives and make decisions? Yes. Do we need to take responsibility for our actions? Of course. But grasping for control and putting undue pressure on ourselves is not the way to do it. People think giving up control makes you a slave. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Submitting your life to God’s plan gives you freedom. The freedom to stop beating yourself up, to stop being paralyzed by indecision, to stop worrying.

So much of the time worry comes from a feeling of helplessness. There will always be situations that are beyond our control. We worry because we think we have to change it. If we can just get control of it, it’ll be better. I’m the only one who can do it. All the pressure is on me. Wouldn’t it be great if there was someone who could take that burden off you? There is. His name is Jesus. He said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Letting Him take the reins means you don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to do it by yourself. And there is serious freedom in that. Let Him take control of your life so you can start living it.

Opposites Attract

“Repent” is a word that gets misused a good bit in the Western church. It has led many to preach the idea of “turn or burn.” It’s all about admitting you’re a sinner and you need Christ to get to Heaven. Yes, you do need to accept Christ so you won’t go to hell but there’s a lot more to repenting than getting a ticket to Heaven.

The Greek word for repent is “metanoia.” It means “change the way you think.” Our perspective comes from the world we live in. But the world is broken. I’ve been noticing lately that there are so many things the world says that the Kingdom contradicts. The world and our earthly minds say one thing while the Word says the opposite. For example:

The world says believe only what you see. The Word says live on faith.
“For we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

The world says God is a taskmaster. The Word says God is our Father.
“Our Father, who is in Heaven.” Matthew 6:9

The world says take control of your life. The Word says trust God with your life.
“Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8

The world says take credit for the things you do. The Word says give God the glory.
“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12

The world says you earned everything you have. The Word says it belongs to God.
“LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you.” 1 Chronicles 29:16

The world says when you are full you stop. The Word says when you are full you overflow.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

The world says the supernatural is unusual. The Word says the supernatural is normal.
“The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” Matthew 11:5

The world says you are its product. The Word says you are from Heaven.
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” John 17:16

The world says works bring you to your identity. The Word says walk in your identity and works follow.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12

Changing our minds about these things brings us closer to God and deepens our relationship with Him. Learning to live from God’s perspective and accepting the opposites attracts us to Him and Him to us. Once you accept your identity as a child of God, you become full, you overflow, and you walk in power. Don’t let the world tell you otherwise.

The Unglamorous Mission

Let’s face it. To many of us in the Christian faith, missionaries are rock stars. They go off to foreign lands, risking life and limb to do God’s work. They come back with amazing testimonies of healing and miracles and if we’re honest we get a little jealous. At least, I do. That’s because I would love to do what they do. I want to serve God in a big way. Being a missionary seems big and everything else seems small to a human’s way of thinking.

But we need to look at it from Jesus’s perspective. In Luke 15:4 Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” He shows us that God cares about all his children individually. He doesn’t care more about the poor in another country than he does the rich person in America who doesn’t know Him. Missionary Heidi Baker has said, “Missions isn’t about where you are. It’s about where He is.”

Last summer I read Heidi’s book, Compelled by Love. It really got me interested in missions and I longed for an opportunity to do it. I wanted to travel to another country and minister to the people there, to pray for them. Little did I know he had an assignment for me right here at home.

I’ve written about my assignment at work on this blog. I know it was an assignment because He specifically asked me to do it. I was asked to pray and be a conduit for the Holy Spirit in my office. I prayed for Him to change the hearts and minds of co-workers and I worked to promote communication and team work at all levels, to support the ones who were discouraged, to show that respect and love work so much better than intimidation and manipulation.

It has taken me awhile to realize that this was a mission. God gave me the testimonies of international missionaries to prepare me for a spiritual fight in my workplace. It was difficult, it got ugly, but I continued to pray for all of us to pull through it because God loves the people in my office just as much as He loves people in other countries.

Nobody is going to write a book about it. I’m not going to get on stage somewhere and give the testimony. To us it seems so small, but to God it’s huge. When we change our perspective on what’s “glamorous” and what isn’t we see that even the smallest thing done for the Kingdom really isn’t small at all.

Put Up or Shut Up

Last week, I went to a conference at my church entitled “Naturally Supernatural.” My church has a healing ministry where “prayer servants” pray for anyone and everyone who comes through the doors every Monday night. This workshop was to teach both members and leaders from other churches how to pray for people and to do it in a way that isn’t off-putting to those who might not be comfortable with the supernatural.

“Supernatural” in this case refers to hearing directly from God, receiving prophecy, and praying for miraculous healing. Now, this is not something most of the Western church is down with. There are many people and, in fact, entire denominations that run from this idea. We base our theology on the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, especially John 14:12 (NIV), “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” What did Jesus do? He taught the Kingdom, healed the sick, and delivered people. He told us to do the same.

That being said, I have been hearing from God for two years so I figured it was time to take the next step and learn how to pray for people. Sitting there I didn’t feel like I was ready and I didn’t think I was really getting much out of it. I was even regretting signing up for it. Was I just wasting my time? Was this what God wanted for me?

Turns out the answer was an emphatic yes. This week one of my co-workers was in a minor car accident. She was rear-ended and it hurt her back. Nothing’s broken but she was really sore the next day and in pain. Late morning, God told me to go pray for her. I admit that I didn’t really want to. I’m not a person who seeks attention and I wasn’t sure I was ready to be labeled “that girl who thinks she can heal people.” I tried to ignore it and he told me to be bold. I realized that I made the commitment to surrender my life to the Holy Spirit and to be obedient and if I didn’t go pray for a co-worker’s back then I was really just all talk. That is unacceptable. So I went and asked her if I could pray for her. She thought I meant in general until I told her I meant right then. She let me and I prayed for healing for her back. Nothing flashy, just a quiet simple prayer commanding the pain to go. She thanked me but seemed a little skeptical. I know she’s a Christian but I don’t know how she feels about this kind of stuff. It didn’t matter. I was obedient and that’s what matters. The next day she thanked me sincerely for praying for her and said her back felt much better.

I may be looked at as odd in the office now because of it but I’d rather be weird with God’s works than just plain weird. I didn’t know what God was planning for me when I signed up for that conference but doing it was a step in faith. Like our pastor said last week, “The Promised Land only becomes visible as you walk.” I’ve talked the talk. Now it’s time to walk the walk.

Leave No Woman Behind

I didn’t really have grandparents growing up. I mean they existed but they lived far away and I didn’t establish close relationships with them. My grandfathers died when I was very young but both my grandmothers are still living. Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know my mom’s mother, Gramma. She lives in Florida with her husband and we’ve gone down there several times to visit with them and my mom’s other relatives.

Let me explain something about Gramma. She has not had an easy life. There are a lot of reasons my mom moved a very long way away from her family. She likes to keep at least two states between her and them. God has been doing great things for all of them in the last several years but still. And Gramma has made a lot of progress with the Lord and forgiveness. She has been attending a Lutheran church with some of her friends.

The last time she was at our house was in 2001 for my brother’s high school graduation. A lot of big moments happened between then and now. I graduated high school and college, my brother graduated college and got married. Those are things grandparents usually attend. But Gramma couldn’t come for various reasons, one of which being her nerves couldn’t handle traveling that far. It’s 10 hours by car on the interstate and navigating an airport at her age and her anxiety level would be a nightmare. So I just accepted that Gramma would never visit us, we’d just visit down there.

If you think God isn’t in the miracle business anymore, think again. Back in August, my 84-year-old grandmother and her 89-year-old husband did indeed navigate airport security and fly to my house. It may not seem like much but, y’all, that was a miracle.

And it doesn’t stop there. We got to take Gramma to our church, something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. Now, the church I attend is not everyone’s cup of tea. We believe in miraculous healings and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Some people would call us crazy. During the service they asked the twenty somethings to come down front and then they asked everyone over sixty if they’d come down and pray for us. When we were finished and I turned around to go back to my seat, Gramma had come down and she was praying for a girl. I admit, I never thought I would see that.

We had a great visit and I’m so thankful God made it happen. She got to see my brother for the first time in 13 years and meet his wife. I thought that was the extent of God’s miracle for us but as per usual, He gave more than was asked. My mom talked to Gramma a couple weeks ago and she mentioned that the little Lutheran church she attends just isn’t doing it for her anymore. She wants something more.

Y’all, let me tell you something about the Holy Spirit, He leaves no one behind.

“For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:8 (NIV)

Why Not?

As I sit in my office breathing in the scent of Sweet Pea from my Wallflower, exhausted from 7 weeks of workplace hell, I can’t help thinking about how all this happened.

It started in the spring. Our firm bought out a couple of smaller ones and we took on some major new additions. It’s put a strain on everyone. We’re small ourselves and we’re not equipped to handle this amount. Then we were told we’d have to change our entire way of doing things by converting to a new, harder-to-use, very un-user-friendly program. Add in some serious problems at the top level and you’ve got a recipe for rebellion.

One night, as I was stressing about the situation and thinking about how useless the whole thing was, a train of thought started running through my head. There could actually be a solution to this. I’ve always been a leader and I often get put in leadership positions. I’m also pretty good at mediation. Emotions were running high with everyone and there was so much whispering at the office. The things I was thinking about would open communication and help to reconcile the situation. It would also put me at the center of the fray. After I had hashed it all out in my mind, I thought, “I can’t do that.”

Then God said, “Why not?”

And I didn’t have an answer. At least not a good one. He gave me these leadership and people skills. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that He would want me to use them? Hadn’t He already given me many situations like this to practice on? Hadn’t He already revealed that He was using me at this job for His purpose?

So I stepped into the fray and no, it wasn’t easy. I got pummeled from all sides and it left me drained and wondering if I had done the right thing. But then others started to step up and we had the opportunity to make our concerns heard. They decided to the delay the conversion until we could all consider the consequences. That’s a huge relief going into the autumn. Did it fix everything? No. But it fixed the most immediate problem and brought the other issues to light.

Part of being all in for God is hearing His voice and being brave enough to act when you know it’s Him. He doesn’t give us the entire answer up front. He expects us to recognize the opportunity and step out in faith, trusting He will take care of the outcome.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Romans 8:31 (NIV)

Why not, indeed.

Not to Church

This is a follow up to one of my previous posts “To Church or Not to Church” where I lamented the absence of fellow 20 somethings at churches.  I think I may have shed some light on my own question:  Church can be exhausting.

I’m not talking about long services (and God knows I have sat through some marathons) but what the church expects of its members.  I spent two years at a very small non-denominational church and enjoyed it for the most part.  I did get involved.  I brought a dish to the potluck, food for the poor, volunteered in the nursery, went to the Bible study, and led a short-lived dance worship group.  But it seemed like that was never enough.  There weren’t enough people to cover the nursery so I was always getting called in at the last minute and people weren’t showing up for the dance thing.  And they always wanted me to be doing something more.  I left that particular church for reasons unrelated to that but it’s something that seems to be happening everywhere.

I went to another non-denominational church that wasn’t a whole lot bigger.  I only went a couple times but while I was there, I was encouraged to take the New Member Class so I could get my Member Certificate.  What, are we in first grade?  But that’s another discussion.  Then the pastor went on and on about how we’re supposed to serve and it’s not okay to just attend.  You have to be a member and you have to be involved in some way and you have to do, do, do.  The reason I left this one was because there were no young people there.  I tried one that was bigger but not a mega church.  There were a few young people there but again I got the Do Speech.  I started to ask myself, “Am I not a good Christian if I’m not involved in something?”  I got so wrapped up in trying to get involved and meet people and be what I was “supposed” to be and do what I was “supposed” to do that I ended up feeling completely disconnected from the church.  Instead of being preached to, I felt preached at.  It felt like I was being told I wasn’t good enough.  As if I don’t get enough of that from other aspects of my life.

After a couple months of striving to be the model Christian I realized that this was people stuff, not God stuff.  Yes, the Bible says that Christians should congregate and volunteer their resources to help those less fortunate but people can take that too far.  They try to do too much and expect everyone else to do that too.  I want to be involved and help but I also don’t want to be looked down on if I just need to attend services and be fed for a while.  This and the other stresses in my life were becoming overwhelming so I made the decision to take a break from church for a while.  And maybe that’s what other young Christians are doing.  It’s not because we’re lazy or we don’t want to help, we’re just tired of being told we’re not good enough.  Many 20 somethings are unmarried, childless, and don’t have a good enough job, leading some to think of themselves as failures already.  I did for years.  We don’t need the church encouraging those kinds of feelings.

The Church is made up of people and therefore imperfect but I hope that pastors can understand that pounding on and guilting people into serving is not the way to go about it.  I’m taking a break from church not because I’m turning away from God but because there are times when you just need to rest your mind and tune out all those voices telling you to be better, do more.  This is just my season of rest.  Church will probably come with another stage of my life.