Monday, August 4, 2014

A Life Lived Well, part 1

One of the problems with being a talkative person is that many talkers don't make very good listeners.  I don't mean this to be some great overgeneralization.  I am sure there are lots of talkers who make very fine listeners.  I would not be one of those.  

I'm not a good listener.

Unfortunately this is also true when it comes to listening to God at times.  Sometimes God needs to tell me the same thing over and over again before I hear him; before I pay attention to him.  That seems to be the case this summer.

The summer started with me becoming fascinated with Hebrews 12:28 
"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."
The words "worship God acceptably" grabbed my attention.  If there was a way to worship God acceptably than there must also be a way to worship God unacceptably.  And honestly this idea terrified me.  Was I worshipping God acceptably???  I shared my thoughts and my concerns on this idea at BCW and you can read about it here.  

Perfect!  Done!  Lesson learned, processed and documented.  Check.

Um, not quite. Though I may have been done listening, God wasn't done talking. 

A few weeks later someone brought to my attention Cain and Abel.  Two brothers who both made sacrifices to God, only one was found acceptable and one was found lacking.  So clearly, we can make sacrifices that we ourselves feel pretty good about yet God finds lacking, even insulting, unacceptable.  Oh.  So, how do the sacrifices I claim to be making stack up?  Honestly? Probably not as good as I think they do.  I mean if I have been worshipping unacceptably, there is a good chance I have also been making sacrifices unacceptably.  

Let's be honest, God wasn't always getting my first fruits.  Yes Erik and I tithe a fair portion of our finances, but He wasn't always getting the first and the best of my time or my attention.  I had not taken captive every thought and made it obedient to Him as we are told to do in 2 Cor. 10:5.  He got what I was willing to give Him, when it was convenient for me, if I wasn't feeling it, He wasn't getting it.  And I expect Him to be delighted with me? 

Then I started to re-read "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan and was reminded of the parable of the seed found in Matthew 13.  We all tend to assume that we are the good soil that the seed falls on.  Meanwhile, the reality is we are more rocky than we think with roots that don't grow deep.  We have earthly weeds that we allow to choke out our full devotion to God.  Chan tells us not to just assume we are the good soil, but really look at how we are living out our faith.  

In the last 10 years my faith has grown by radical proportions.  Often I find myself thinking I am in a pretty good place.  But when I am confronted with the scriptures; with the truth from God's own word.  I am forced to acknowledge that my worship, my sacrifice, my soil is not what I think it is.  I have a long way to go before I am the person God is making me to be.  

There are times this summer, brief moments, when I have been discouraged by this.  But then the Holy Spirit brings to mind Phil. 1:6, 
"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

And I am reminded of the grace that is found in Christ Jesus.  I am not enough.   My worship, my sacrifice, my soil, will never be good enough.  I cannot earn my salvation, my place in heaven. It is given to me freely because I have given my life, my whole life to Christ Jesus.  He and he alone is enough. 

Hmm, maybe I am finally starting to listen.  The lesson maybe sinking in...

Lately, I have been dwelling on the parable of talents found in Matthew 25.  It is the story of three servants who are entrusted with some of their master's property.  At the end of the parable the master says to two of his servants, "Well done, good and faithful servant." The third servant, though he thought he was doing the right thing, got it all wrong.  He was reprimanded and disgraced.  

We will never live our lives perfectly, but we can live them well.  The question is, are we?

There are lots of things we do for God throughout our day; pray to him, worship him, maybe sacrifice some small part of our time or attention, or perhaps our finances, but do we do these things well?  Because the mere fact that we do these things does not mean that we are doing them acceptably.  Just because we worship, does not mean we worship well.  Just because we sacrifice does not mean we sacrifice well.  Just because we pray, does not mean we pray well.  

Our worship should be acceptable.  Our sacrifice should be a fragrant offering.  Our prayer should be heart-felt.  Our life should be lived well.  Is yours?