There’s a really strange story that takes place in Ezekiel 37 – God shows Ezekiel this vision of a valley full of dry bones and then has Ezekiel command all the bones to come to life.
Only God can bring dead things to life.
Only God can breathe life into your walk with Him.
Only God can take the dusty lives of the people you minister to and bring them to life.
Only God can take that relationship you’re struggling in and give it a freshness that has disappeared.
What is it in your life that you’re trying to fix on your own? What dead area have you been struggling to bring life to? Reality check: you can’t bring life to it. Only God can.
Found this draft of a post I started back in 2007 and never posted to the blog. I’m quoting it as is. Three years later, I still struggle with learning this same lesson.
I’ve been reading Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. I’m loving it as it’s a huge reminder of God’s grace in our lives – that grace that is completely undeserved and completely lavished upon us. I’m still sorting through a lot of this. I have a tendency to be very self-critical and one of the things I think I’m slowly realizing is that somewhere deep inside I believe that I’ve earned God’s favor. There, I typed it. I say that I must believe this because if I fully believed that grace and a relationship with God were completely dependent on God, then there wouldn’t be a need to be so self-critical. When I accept God’s grace, how can I be critical? Constant self-criticism implies that it all depends on me, not that it all depends on God. I don’t think I’m alone here. I think many of us, to some degree, are in this same boat. We profess with our lips that it’s all completely dependent on God’s grace, but then we live lives that declare otherwise by the way we focus on Christian performance.
One of our pastors, Mike Pierpoint, preached a message this last Sunday on the parable of the talents. Go here and click on “sermons” if you want to hear it. Or if you want to read the passage it’s found in, click here. Anyways, I found his message convicting as I thought a little bit about my own life and ministry. I don’t know that I necessarily see myself as the guy who straight up buried his talent (a talent was about a year’s salary; it’s the thing(s) that God has entrusted you with to invest). But instead I feel like I’ve been given 5 or 10 talents and perhaps I’m only really using 1 or 2. Most of the time I’m operating at about 10% of my capacity…..and that’s really lame. If God has given me the gifts and abilities to make an impact for His Kingdom, then I really need to be about making the investment that deserves.
I think there are three main things that are obstacles to me fully jumping in to investing the “talents” God has given me:
1) Myself – I allow myself too often to get caught up in my own weaknesses and past failures to be able to truly invest in the present.
2) My time – I manage my time pretty poorly. This means that many of the big items and dreams that God gives me don’t get done because I’m too “busy” taking care of little things or seemingly urgent things.
3) My focus – This kind of connects to the last one, but is a little different. I can focus myself on things that seem to be good in ministry, but are not the most important things (or at least the things I’m strongest in). I may invest time in something “good” when I could be investing in something “great.”
This whole idea is something I’m still thinking through and has ramifications for my current ministry and the dreams that God is developing in me right now as well.
Anyone else feel the same way? How does the parable of the talents make you think through your investment?
I’ve been using one of the reading plans on YouVersion.com the last few weeks for my quiet time (full disclosure: pretty inconsistently). If you’re looking for a plan to help you read through the Bible, check out their plans – they’ve got a mix of intense reading plans, lighter ones to get you going, Old Testament plans, New Testament plans, and more.
I’m using the M’Cheyne One Year Reading Plan and it’s pretty sweet. You read about 4-5 chapters a day combined from 4 different books. Today I read about Nehemiah (side note: he’s quite possibly the most hardcore spiritual leader ever – dude beat disobedient people down and pulled out their hair!).
They’ve also got a great iPhone app which is what I’ve been using.
I was doing some thinking today about what a teenage disciple looks like. Here’s a (perhaps oversimplified) look at what I think is the heart of a growing teenage disciple.
Growing heart for God (the Creator)
Growing heart for God’s people (the church, the Bride of Christ)
Growing heart for the least, the lost, and the left out (those who Jesus’ heart was for, the answer to “Who is my neighbor?”)
Two years ago on our annual Mexico mission trip I got a 15 passenger van stuck on a hillside. We were building in this very steep area next to railroad tracks. I got stuck at a super awkward angle. I tried to fix the problem by reversing and steering differently, but I was stuck. We literally had to build the road up with some rocks so that I could get enough traction at the right angle to back up off the hillside. I tried to solve our traction problem by steering differently, but the reality is that a traction problem requires a traction solution. This is similar to a reality I continue to grapple with.
Spiritual problems require spiritual solutions.
“Trying harder” doesn’t work when it comes to fully living out the life of following Jesus. We merely spin our wheels and don’t go anywhere. I guess it’s the whole “apart from me you can do nothing” thing from John 15. And yet we try and try to live out Christianity on our own power. When in reality, it’s a simple dependence on the Spirit that lives out this life.
(Side Note: I’m not implying that we should create false compartments of life that are “spiritual” and “non-spiritual.” All of life is spiritual. Rather I’m talking here more about attempting to follow Jesus by the flesh vs. being led by the Spirit. See Romans 7)
Sensing spiritual attack? It requires a spiritual solution.
Trying to reconcile a relationship? It requires a spiritual solution.
Wrestling with sin? It requires a spiritual solution.
Feeling stuck in an area of life? Spiritual problems require spiritual solutions.
Why is it that I will say something so that I will feel better about it when the end result hurts someone else?
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,