His Terms, Not Ours

Today I’ve been thinking about living life with Jesus on his terms, not mine. I’ve been thinking about the fact that there is no flexibility or compromise when it comes to the Christian walk.

There is a common myth that all roads lead to heaven. All gods are the same god, just called different names, or a good God will take me as I am, no religious affiliation necessary. But Jesus said very differently. 

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

No compromise. His terms, not ours. 

In the Lord’s prayer we are taught, by Jesus, to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

God’s will. Not ours. 

I think, as an adult, one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with is watching God not handle things the way I think they should be handled. Even after I pray and lay out to God a perfect way for dealing with a situation and what I think would be a perfect outcome, he keeps not taking my advice and doing it his way instead. Where’s the compromise??? Surely it should be done my way sometimes? But instead I have the whisper of what Jesus prayed in the garden, “Not my will but yours be done…”

Scriptures says, 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

We offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, and this is what is pleasing to him. This does not evoke pictures of two businessmen sitting at a conference table hashing out a deal. In fact, it reminds me of when I was a kid and my parents made some pronouncement that my brother and I didn’t like and we said, but This is a Democracy! We have rights! And the answer was, actually, no, this is not a democracy, it is an autocracy. 

Many different places in the Bible God is described as a potter, we his creation. Isaiah 45:9 asks, “ ‘Does the clay say to the Potter, what are you making?’ ” 

As Americans we have little experience with authority and submission. Our society is based on equality. No one is better than the next person. We all make decisions as a group. We have leaders but their job is to do the will of the people, not their own will. It is a sign of weakness to not “be your own person” who is in complete control of your own life and who makes all important decisions for yourself. And then we become Christians and we get confronted with this verse, 

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23

It doesn’t sound like a very balanced power system. It sounds like sacrifice. Submission. Servanthood. Complete Faith. Trust. 

So un-American. So medieval. So repressed. 

But maybe, instead of making this amazing sacrifice of self-autonomy and status, what we are actually doing is leaving the pretend world. The world where God doesn’t exist and we self-created out of the atmosphere and we rule our own destiny. Maybe what we are doing is getting our eyes opened to true reality. The reality that God does exist and has always existed. The reality that God created us. The reality that without him we are nothing. The reality that our destiny and our eternal existence depends completely on him and his mercy and grace. And in this very real world, God is God and we are his creation. Potter-clay. Master-servant. Father-son. And we are called to live life out on his terms, not our own. And when we do, that is when we have peace, joy, love. A life that is truly worth living. 

Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

Quite a while ago I had a vivid dream. The kind you wake up and think, that was important, I need to remember that, I need to think about that…

In the dream I was in a big castle whose King was in residence. There were all kinds of people in the castle, lord and ladies, courtiers, servants of all kinds. It was actually pretty crowded. I was a servant. I had never actually met the King face to face, but would see him in the distance occasionally. I also heard what everybody had to say about the King and I was in awe and a bit afraid of the King. One day, for some reason I ended up serving in the dining hall and somehow I managed to trip and spill what I was carrying all over the King who had been standing in a group of people. I was terrified. Face down on the floor begging forgiveness. The King was not angry at all and reached down to me gently to help me up and with a puzzled look on his face said, “What have they told you about me child?”

That was it.

So, it’s not too hard a dream to interpret. I would say I was the servant and the King was Jesus. My knowledge of him was as a harsh taskmaster when in reality he was kind and gentle and forgiving.

I am not sure why my initial impressions of Jesus were of a harsh, unapproachable person. I think a lot of it was the Christian culture I grew up in. Christianity seemed to be about learning the rules and following them. Christians don’t listen to that kind of music. Christians don’t watch those movies. Christians don’t go to those places. Christians don’t wear those kinds of clothes. I remember hearing the phrase “Jesus doesn’t like it when you: have a bad attitude, aren’t thankful, say mean things, talk that way…” Yes Jesus loves you, as one song says, but you also better watch out, better not cry, better not pout, Jesus Christ is coming…Oh wait, was that Santa?

My adult life has been all about learning about Jesus as a God of compassion and grace and mercy and forgiveness and love. It’s been a long difficult journey and I think I have come so far and then some behavior or thought pattern shows me that I still have a long way to go to understand God’s love for me and walk in it.

Today someone at church asked if they could pray for me after the service as I had been on their mind all week. After the service I went up to get prayed for and they prayed for me, spoke words of encouragement and wisdom, direction. It was an amazing blessing. The one phrase they spoke over me that hasn’t left me all afternoon has been, “You are much beloved.”

What does that mean? Perhaps that God is for me not against me. That I’m not trying to earn his favor. That I am not alone. That God is someone I want to be with.

Here’s the hard part. God’s loving me has nothing to do with how awesome I am and everything to do with how Awesome he is. That is the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around, that He is that Good, that Kind, that Compassionate, that He can extend his love to me, an everyday human who is tangled up in sin and selfishness. I feel unworthy and so thankful. And joyful and wondering and hopeful and excited. And just a little bit scared. Do I dare believe that it’s true? I have heard this message before, but somehow, every time it’s brand new, once again. God Loves Me.

For those of you reading this…It’s true for you too. He loves you. Oh that you could know this for yourself. That is my heart’s desire for you.

This is one of my favorite hymns. May it’s words bless you.

O THE DEEP, DEEP LOVE OF JESUS

TEXT:
Samuel Trevor Francis
MUSIC:
Folk Tune

1. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Thy glorious rest above!

2. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
Changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones,
Died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth,
Watcheth o’er them from the throne!

3. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’Tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’Tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee!

Public Domain