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The pressure to produce, lately, is overwhelming. I have obligations, and the means to meet them are getting harder to come by. As I fell into my “Charles In Charge” mode, and prepared to execute an action plan I had devised, I heard the Lord.
I recognize the voice of the Spirit, now that I have ears to hear.
“Come talk with me”, said the Spirit.
I am not used to this gentle Spirit of Love talking to me.
Keeping in mind the Business Model I have learned throughout life, I reminded the Spirit that I have things to accomplish, and I have broken them down into three categories:
1. MUST: Do the things you MUST do first. KNOW THE MISSION, DO THE MISSION! I have to accomplish a lot in a very little time if I am going to meet my obligations. Earn your living, pay your bills, meet your deadlines. If you have obligations, you MUST meet them, no matter what else is going on. That is life, and how it is. As I am running against real deadlines, and everything depends on me to accomplish them, I have to hit the bricks and perform my duties.
2. NEED: Next, do the things you NEED to do. THESE ITEMS WILL ALWAYS BE HERE IN ONE FORM OR ANOTHER. I need to get the car tuned up, and have the timing belt replaced (It is a Toyota, and has greater than 200,000 miles). I need to replace the weather-stripping on the back door. I am not fond of trying to air condition all of Texas. I need to get braces for Hannah, get my wife knee surgery, glasses, and take her out on a few dates…
3. WANT: Finally, do the things you WANT to do. I want to spend all my time praying and serving God, because of Jesus. I want to be the best writer that ever walked the face of the earth. I want to take my family on vacation…I want to show them the places I have been on this planet, so they can see the incredible beauty I have witnessed. There are a thousand more things I want to do. And, while stopping to spend time with the Lord would be fabulous, I have obligations that take precedence.
The agony of my obligations have been gnawing at me relentlessly.
“I MUST meet certain obligations…MUST, and do it NOW!!”, I practically shouted that at the Lord.
Did you know that you can actually hear the Lord sigh, and hear (see) Him grin? It is true…you just have to know how to hear, and know how to see.
“Come talk with me”, said the Spirit.
I am irresistibly drawn to His voice.
I lay my agenda on my desk…I cannot say “no” to His invitation.
“Here I am, Lord”
“Hop on your bike and meet me at the third pond.”, He said. (REALLY, Lord?? It is freaking HOT out here in Pearland. HOT, and the Sun will melt me before I get out of the driveway!)
“OK, Lord, I’ll do it.”
A few weeks ago, I decided I need to get back on my bike. My car was in the shop, and I had obligations. My bike was my back-up plan. My first time out was a dismal failure. I had a flat, and on the return leg, I had a mild heat stroke. If it weren’t for the concern of two people whom I love very much, mild would have turned in to severe, and I probably would have ended up in the hospital. After that, and after recovering, I decided I will get back on the bike, and relearn how to ride. It really is an art, if riding a bike is one of your passions. I am up to 12 miles, every other day. I ride outbound 6 miles, to Highway 288, and ride back the same 6 miles. The body doesn’t forget, and I had adapted to riding in real heat and humidity in decent time. Perhaps I can lose that next 50 pounds this way.
I looked back at my agenda. It lay on my desk, accusing me of being a slacker. I HAVE OBLIGATIONS!!!
“OK, Lord, I’ll do it.”
The rays of the Sun bore down like fine needles, piercing every part of me.
The 12 mile route includes passing by three water overflow reservoir, or ponds. When it rains here, (AND IT RAINS HERE), these overflow reservoir collect all the run-off from all the neighborhoods in the area. Reservoir abound through-out South Texas. Pearland is, after-all, in hurricane alley. I pass by three reservoir when I ride.
I love to ride fast. If found, however, that, if I maintain a 9 mile per hour pace, I get enough air flow so I can breathe (The air was just hanging around, not moving.). I also discovered that, if I go faster than 9 miles per hour, the sapping energy loss of the heat and sun shine would deplete my reserves before I go a mile. So, I kept the pace at a very leisurely 9 miles per hour.
I discovered that riding this slow gave me the chance to see where I am riding, to absorb the beauty that is Pearland, Texas, to actually look people in the face as I pass them by. My blood pressure started falling. The knots in my stomach were coming undone. I felt a song stirring in my heart, “This IS my Fathers world…” . I hummed the song as I rode my bike.
Recent heavy rains meant the reservoir were still laden with enough water to support wild life. I watched the cranes and heron and gulls sitting in shallow water, their wings open, so they could get some natural air conditioning. “This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise, the morning light, the lily-white, declare their maker’s praise.” The oppressive heat turned into a warm embrace…I caught myself singing out loud. When did I start doing THAT?
After just a few minutes, I arrived at the third pond. I walked my bike around the pond until I found some shade trees to rest under. I drank some water and let the breeze off the pond cool me. Those birds really knew what they were doing. I listened to the frogs, and dragonflies, and heard turtles making their way to the water. I saw snakes hiding in the rush under some trees that had their roots in the pond. What a good thing it is to sit and watch God at work. Nature is God’s work.
“How was the ride?” “Amazing”
He grinned again. “I’m glad you came here.” “Me too, Lord, me too…”
“What has you so fearful? “My life just went out of control, Lord. I don’t know what to do.”
“What did you learn from your last mission?“, He asked, gentleness soothing my soul. “I need to keep my eyes on you, Lord. I got caught up in their religion, and made their 12 commandments more important than the author and creator of those virtues. I looked to man for approval, not to you. When I got too caught up in trying to observe the “Law” of the commands, I forgot about the Grace of the Lord.” “I learned that religious people can hide some pretty intense hate and fear behind their “Positive Attitude”. I learned that, whether we are in the desert crossing to the promised land, or in Texas, “Living the Dream”, if we turn your virtues into a law, and make the law more important than the Creator, then we have lost sight of what is really important. In the end, we make hypocrites of ourselves. And we advertise that we follow these virtues when it is apparent to everyone that we don’t.” “I also learned that when I am keeping my eyes on you, things go really well. But when I look to myself or others, I fail miserably.”
“That’s was a mouth full! And I think I hear some judgement encroaching your lessons, too.” “David, I don’t judge you. All judgement of all sin and failure was poured out on Jesus at the Cross. I am here to teach you. What you said is true, but you didn’t mention THE truth.”
“Lord, please tell me THE truth, then. What am I to you? What am I going to do now? How does this apply to the fact that You sent me here?”
“David, I have called you and Sandy to serve me, and me alone. I sent you here, and soon, you will know why. I need you to learn these lessons, as painful as they are. Keep your eyes on ME, and trust that I know what I am doing. Stop trying to please man AND serve me at the same time. That is not possible. Remember at all times the Love and Grace I have given you. You are to give generously to all who you meet. Never take matters into your own hands. I am your Lord, I care for you, I love you, and there is no condemnation on you because you are in Me. Seek me first, in all things, in all ways, and all the rest of the things on your list will be taken care of.” What you experienced at that place was, in fact, exactly what you asked me for.
“What?” “It’s TRUE.” “WHEN?” “Remember you prayed to work at a place where My virtues are pointed out, where people are Christians, where ‘Doing the Right Thing’ actually means something?” “Yes, I do.” “You got what you asked for. You have no more business judging them for their shortcomings than they do judging you for yours. I sent you to where you asked to be sent. But, even so, I always send you where I need you, where you will do the most good, and grow to be like Me.” “You simply forgot why I sent you, that’s all. Now that you have learned this lesson, I will send you where you can do some good. Just remember to keep an eye on Me. I will meet all your needs. My promise is not conditional, nor is it based on whether you behave yourself or not. I always keep my promise. You will serve me. The more like me you become, the less you will have to worry about in this world.”
American Christians are not yet at the point where it will cost them their lives for their faith. We have become complacent, and have turned what God has intended for good into a religion that drives mankind far away from God. We have fellowships that are more like clubs. We do not readily accept the unwashed, the sinner, the outsider. If I don’t think like you, then I am wrong. The hard truth is, neither of us think like God, nor do we have the mind of Christ. That is not an accusation, that is a hard-earned observation. In my anti-religious stance, I have built a new religion. In your Americanized Christianity, you have built a religion. Jesus did not come here to build a religion, but a relationship. Any time we forget that seeking the Kingdom of God, and HIS righteousness is more important than anything else we will do, then we are in error. We are still saved. But we are not following God, through Jesus Christ.
Jesus died of all our sin, all our failure, all our fear, all our poverty, all our lack, and anything else that built a wall between us and His kingdom. In return for this, He gave us eternal life, eternal fellowship with God, and everything that HE inherited as Lord. We abound in God’s goodness, if only we can remember how to hear and see what God has done for us. When what we do as Christians drives people away from God, then we are being religious. When what we do does not bring the lost to the Kingdom of God, and the Saved to be more like Him, then we are practicing a religion. If we are running a business that touts the virtues of God, but does not actually serve God, then stop saying what you are, and just be what you intend to be. By seeking God, your business WILL have those virtues, and God will make sure everyone knows it. Bragging on HIS children is one of the things God LOVES to do.
We still sin, and fail, but God’s promise is eternal. You are His child. You will be made in to the image and likeness of His son, Jesus.
Religion worships the idea of God, and the idea of the virtues of God, but the heart of religion is all about lip service to the Creator. We are more concerned about being right than being like Him.
The Cure for Anxiety
“This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you — you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat? ’ or ‘What will we drink? ’ or ‘What will we wear? ’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” – Jesus – Matthew 6:25-33
This is why I know that, in spite of any failure on my part, or any judgement of mankind against me, in the end, I will serve the Lord. He has become my first love, and I desire Him above all else. My burning desire is to serve Him. He is using my failures to teach me how to succeed HIS way. And I love even these hard lessons. Forgiveness, Love, Grace, Mercy, Service, Giving, are more important than any idolatrous covenant that God never asked you to agree to. All things that God desires to give you will come to you when you seek Him first.