Friday, August 13, 2010

Leaning Into God

by Donna L. Watkins

This year has been a time when God has called me apart from many things to increase my time with Him. I kept hearing, "Lean in" and "Come Apart." Some days during my time with the Lord, I journal what I feel the Lord is saying to me, and for two months I would hear this emphasis, until I knew I would be disobedient not to change my life to what God was asking of me. Not that He would love me any less. He gave us free will which means we always have a choice to go with our own will or His will.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Great Crested Flycatcher in Live Oak Tree, Mepkin Abbey

When we accept Jesus as Savior, we turn over our lives to Him and seek to do His will, knowing that it is the best plan for our lives. After all ... have you ever put something together without the directions only to find you have some leftover parts ... or maybe the item doesn't work the way you put it together? We can use our own will ... or we can follow the directions of the maker of the thing.

 Common sense dictates we follow directions of the One who made us ... but our pride sometimes gets the best of us ... and we suffer the consequences.

In Deuteronomy 30 God gives us choices. He says He offers us life or death, blessings or curses. We get to choose. God is not an angry God waiting for us to mess up so He can slap us. He's a loving God who desires the best for us (His directions), as we do our children. He created many beautiful things for us to enjoy so when we look at something He made we will glorify Him (not the created thing itself).

So, we know God is a loving God not only by what He made for us to enjoy, but because He gave His only Son to redeem us back from Adam's free will choice of giving his authority over to Satan, who is called the "god of this world." God so longs to have relationship with us. He made man in His image and gave us free will so we could choose relationship with him, just as our children choose to obey or not.

Yes, God disciplines because He is a Good and Perfect Father. If your two-year old child decided to run outside and play in the street every time you turned away, the odds are that they would eventually be killed, so you discipline them as a loving parent so they don't do what will kill them. God does the same thing, so we don't die spiritually, emotionally or physically. He wants us to be healthy and full of peace and joy, but as anybody knows a rebellious child (or adult) is never truly a happy child. You can see the misery on their face. And when we rebel with wrong choices, the misery is evident in our own lives also, whether it's mental anguish or physical symptoms.

God could've created a world of beings without free will and programmed it all to run the way He wanted, but how gratifying would it be to have robots for children? They would always be obedient and do exactly what you wished and wanted ... but there would be no relationship, which would make it a very lonely existence. So ... God loved and by getting to know more and more Truth about Him, we can love in the same manner. Not only Him, but ourselves and others around us.

I John 4:8 says, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." If God is love, and we are made in His image, then we have the capacity to love as God loves. WOW! That sure struck me hard. The Scripture is very plain. If we do not love, we do not know God. We can easily deceive ourselves of many things.

A friend of mine began a heavy exercise program to lose weight, but realized after a couple of months with no loss, that they had also increased the amount of food eaten to make up for the "extra work" they were doing with the exercise. We are blinded to many things when we lean towards rules and religion and not relationship.  The devil is a thief only desiring to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10).

In the Bible the word for that kind of love is "agape." Agape love never manipulates others and is never less than truthful and honest. It's not a "you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours" type of relationship, which is also called a co-dependent relationship. It's a focus on others, just as God focused on us with agape love when He sacrificed His Son to die for our sins, so we could live in the Kingdom of God and not be under the "ruler of this world" (John 12:31).

In Kingdom living we are to honor others above ourself (Romans 12:10). That takes great humility, which means that pride has to go. That's tough when our whole world is shouting for us to be on top of the ladder no matter how many people you knock off to get there. It's "all about me" in this generation of over-achievers and workaholics.

The world doesn't give much for our "grab it all with gusto" lifestyles. Headlines change daily and fame is like a fleeting vapor. Purchases provide only a few days or weeks of gratification and titles bring applause for a short period of time. Proverbs 29:23 says that a man's pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor. God hates pride (Proverbs 6:16-19; 16:5).

When we begin to lean into God and spend more and more time with Him, He will gently point out the prideful areas of our lives. You'll be surprised at how many there are! Pride is a huge, thick wall that separates us from a Holy God. Masses of Christians these days say they don't hear God's voice. 

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Kilgore-Lewis Gardens, Greenville, SC

Personally, I've wanted quick and snappy answers to my questions over the years. I guess you could picture that the way some households are these days with both parents working and everybody feeling like they are ships passing in the night with just a few light signals to know each other is there. Sticky notes on the refrigerator, emails, voice mail and text messages. No time for relationships ... just enough minutes to get information back and forth. God's time is not the world's time.

When we dig deep into His Word, there are many things God says to us because He desires to spend time with us. One of the Scriptures that jumped out at me in the beginning of this come-apart journey was Isaiah 30:15. The New American Standard version says this, "... In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength. But you were not willing." Israel relied on their own strength as we tend to do.

Many of us were raised with a strong work ethic and believe the "I can" mindset is always a good thing. It is not. Jesus even said that His yoke was easy (Matthew 11:30) and called us to come unto Him and He would give us rest (Matthew 11:28). We have drifted so far from the open hands of God with our self-reliant nature, even as a Nation.

Didn't Jesus say we had to come as little children? Do little children get covered up with details and lists and tasks and worries? Nope! They just trust in parents ... and sometimes that's not a good memory. If we were betrayed as children, we have a harder time trusting God ... but hard or not, the only way to deliverance is through surrender and trust. It's the focus of salvation ... to give our very life to Jesus. Of course, some may have repeated words in exchange for a ticket to heaven when we die, but God intended for salvation to provide a way to live with peace and joy in this life, on this earth, if we give our lives to Him.

Have you been leaning in? Do you come apart every day to be with Him ... or just come apart trying to juggle it all? Join me on the journey. I assure you there are no tasks that provide real comfort and satisfaction. Shopping, eating, to do lists, internet relationships, gadgets and stuff, brand names and titles are expensive and fleeting moments of happiness. Happiness is based on something good happening. Joy is based on a fulfillment within. Only Jesus satisfies.

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