God Does Not Care About Your Jenga Blocks

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A couple of weeks ago, I was writing in my journal during my morning “Jesus time”, wrestling through the way we view our relationship with God.

“We don’t understand that it’s not about being good and doing the right things…it’s about knowing Jesus. Ha! It’s like we aren’t even playing the same game as You, God. We’re playing Jenga, but You’re playing Hide-n-Seek..”

We are playing Jenga, but God is playing Hide-n-Seek

I’m so tired of the way performance based thinking has hijacked Christianity! It’s not just people like me, raised in extreme legalism…it’s spread throughout the whole church. There we are, trying to build our Jenga towers, poking out blocks and stacking them on top, carefully balancing all of the “good things” that we are “supposed” to do, hoping that everyone, God included, is noticing. When everything stacks up, we feel satisfied, proud and accomplished. But when life falls apart, when we lose control, when we screw it all up, we feel guilt and shame. Surely God is disappointed in us…

I’ve got news for you. God does not care about our Jenga blocks! He doesn’t care when we stack them impressively tall and he doesn’t care when they fall over. Because, God isn’t playing Jenga with us. God is playing Hide-n-Seek.

Have you ever played Hide-n-Seek with a toddler? They can’t even count to 10 so it becomes this wild race to beat them to the hiding spot. I remember putting my kids in the kitchen nook and then dashing for a spot behind the bedroom door before they saw me. You have to remind your little one that you are hiding and give them a hint as to which room you might be in. So, you call, “Come find Mama (or Daddy). Where am I?” You aren’t really trying to hide…you’re trying to get them to find you.

Guess what? We’re the toddler and God wants to play Hide-n-Seek. He wants us to find Him! Can you hear him? He’s calling.

“‘You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.’ declares the LORD…” Jeremiah 29:13-14

Can we put down our Jenga blocks? Do we believe that God doesn’t care about them?

Here’s a crazy thought: What if it’s not about us being and doing right or wrong anymore? What if it never was? Don’t freak out and think that I’m saying we should go and sin as much as we can because it doesn’t matter. I’m not saying that…that wouldn’t be knowing Jesus either. But I AM saying that we HAVE to stop our attempts at perfection. We can’t do it!

jenga-1941500_1920Stop playing Jenga! Better yet, let those blocks fall. The sooner you realize that it’s okay to be a mess and not have it all together, the better off you will be! Just push them off the table. Enough!

God changed the rules…or at least it looks that way to us. The Bible clearly says that He planned Jesus from the beginning of time. It was never about us being good enough or doing enough. It was always about Jesus…always about a relationship between us and God.

God wants to take you on adventures that you can’t even imagine… He wants to heal the hidden brokenness that you can’t even talk about… Jesus wants to set you free from addictions and habits and make you so alive you can’t even handle it… But this can only happen if we stop performing and start seeking. It can only happen when we really find Jesus.

I say this all the time, but I absolutely believe it: when we begin to KNOW God…we will be changed. It’s Jesus changing us from the inside out, not a surface display of outward perfection. He changes our hearts and our actions follow…not because they have to, but because we want them to. We WANT to be like Jesus and sin no longer satisfies.

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So, what do we do? How do we stop playing Jenga and start playing Hide-n-Seek? It might look like this:

  • Let your blocks fall and then shove them off the table. Stop trying to be good; stop defending yourself; stop making excuses. Own the wretched sinner that you are. Own it! You will NEVER be able to appreciate Jesus and his grace until you realize how much you need it.
  • Choose to believe in God’s crazy love for you, in His delight of you, in his never ending grace and forgiveness, even thought it makes absolutely no sense. 🙂
  • Start seeking. He’s calling you. He’s making it easy. Acts 17:27 says that we can even find him blind and groping in the dark. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is the exact image of God the Father, so maybe start there. Dig through the gospels and get to know Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but I’m awfully tired of Jenga. I’m tired of the pressure and stress, trying to get it right and always failing. I want to laugh and giggle and run around with my Daddy God instead. I choose Hide-n-Seek.

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More than a Follower

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It might just be me, having been raised in legalistic Christianity, but I struggle with the way discipleship is often portrayed. I feel like there is this heavy emphasis on what we are supposed to DO as a disciple even from mainstream pastors and teachers.

Follow * Deny Yourself * Take Up Your Cross * Be Like Jesus

These statements, or at least the thoughts behind them, ARE in the Bible. And they aren’t wrong. But I think something is missing. Or rather, Someone.

There has to be more to being a disciple of Jesus Christ than just action verbs focused on our behavior. There is more! Check out this “Jesus encounter”  from John 1

“The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God.”

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed him. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.” John 1:35-39

According to Bible scholars, this is most likely NOT the time these two men became disciples of Jesus. “Followed Jesus” simply means they literally followed him. I LOVE this story…might be a little obsessed in fact. 🙂

Jesus is walking by, just doing his thing, going about his business. And John, knowing who Jesus is, points him out to a couple of his friends using a strange name. He calls Jesus “The Lamb of God”. The disciples are curious. Who is this man? So, they follow him. (My imagination starts running wild.)

Jesus turns around, and being God, already knows these guys, already loves them, already has every moment of their lives planned out. He can’t help but smile as he asks them what they want. They want to know where he is staying…basically inviting themselves over for dinner. With a grin on his face and a twinkle in his eyes, Jesus says, “Come and see.” He doesn’t even tell them! He just invites them to come with him, to walk with him, and spend time together. They haven’t “believed in him for salvation”…they haven’t “committed themselves to him”…they haven’t “made him the Lord of their lives”… Yet Jesus invites these seeking men to meet with him, to get to know him. They end up spending the evening hanging out with Jesus. After those few life-changing hours, what passionate conclusion do they come to?

“We have found the Messiah!” John 1:41

This is what we are missing! There are way too many people trying to be Jesus’ disciples without ever having met him. Sure, we believe good, Biblical, intellectual things about Him, we know a lot ABOUT Him, but we do not have an experiential, intimate relationship with Jesus. We are trying to be like him, trying to copy him, at a distance. But Jesus wants more! Jesus died so that we could have SO MUCH MORE!!!

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What if discipleship looked more like this?

Meet * Become Mesmerized * Follow * Listen * Believe * Be Changed

What if you met Jesus, like really met him? What if you took whatever time you needed to search the gospels and actually get to know this crazy, radical 1st century rabbi who changed the world? I guarantee that the more you learn, the more mesmerized you will become.

Dig into the culture of Jesus’ time (thank you, Internet!) and be even more amazed. Follow Jesus through the pages of the New Testament. Picture yourself there; imagine being the people he interacts with; listen to his message. Let his words sink deep into your soul. As you believe, you will be changed. You will want to follow him and be like him, not out of a sense of duty but one of burning desire!

Yes, there is denial of self, there is letting go of sin, there is choosing to let Jesus change you. But when you KNOW him, and you are in a relationship with him, it’s different. Obeying him is easier when you know his character and trust his heart. Letting go is easier when you believe in his love. Everything is easier when he is right beside you giving you the strength and power through his Holy Spirit. It’s no longer your effort, your action verbs…you are doing it together!

No one can make this happen for anyone else. You have to want it. You have to seek him.

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You’ve been following him for weeks, maybe even months now. It’s hard to keep track of time. You’ve watched him do miracles, tasted the food he made from nothing, listened to his stories and pondered their meanings. It used to be enough to just be part of the larger crowd, but lately you have felt a longing for something more. You have found yourself jealous of Jesus’ friends who stay with him after everyone else goes home. But would he want you? Would you be welcome?

One day, you linger after the crowds leave. You feel naked and exposed, no longer “one of the group”. Slowly you approach the friends gathered around the fire, talking and laughing. They see you. He sees you. You freeze, but Jesus stands and walks toward you. His eyes, so full of life, passion, emotion, love, fire…it’s like he’s looking into your soul, terrifying and thrilling at the same time. Then he smiles and says hello. You say hello. He asks your name, but you have this feeling that he already knows. You tell him anyway.

The smile that breaks across his face as he says your name, destroys any doubt. His love overwhelms you. Jesus wants you, it’s so obvious, and all he’s said is your name. Then he asks a question, “What do you want?”

“I want to know you. Can I spend time with you? Can we talk? Can I follow you?”

Of course the answer is yes.  It’s all he’s ever wanted. With his arm around your shoulders, Jesus leads you back to the fire. It happened! You left the crowd and became a friend!

 

 

Knowing (Experiencing) Jesus

This is a condensed repost of two earlier blogs I wrote a couple years ago. It was on my heart again. 🙂

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There is a huge difference between knowing about someone and actually knowing them.

I write and talk a lot about legalism and religious Christianity vs a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It sounds good in theory. I’d much rather have a friendship than a list of rules to follow! But how does it work?

God often feels like a celebrity to us. We know (or think we know) a lot about Him. We read articles, blog posts, and books about Him. We listen to sermons, podcasts, and songs about Him. We hear lots of people’s opinions of Him, both positive and negative. But do we actually KNOW Him personally?

How do you get to really know someone like God?

I believe that everything God wants to tell us about Himself can be found in the Bible. One of the things that He tells us over and over again is that if we looks for Him, we will find Him. Check out some of my favorite verses.

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Paul speaking to the religious but lost people of Athens said:

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God promises that if we look for Him, we will find Him. He says that even if we have our eyes closed and are bumping around in the dark feeling for Him, we will find Him because He is close by. God wants a relationship with us! He wants us to KNOW Him, not just facts about Him.

Jesus made this relationship possible! We can’t get to God by doing good things, following all the rules, praying a prayer, raising our hands, or going forward in church. We can only get to God by trusting that Jesus’ death and resurrection paid for our sins.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:17-18

This is great news! But, how do we actually experience a relationship?”

When you get to know someone like the God of the Universe, you have to think outside of the box. He will blow your mind. You might not understand or being able to explain Him. And that’s okay with me!

God often seems kind of crazy, and He doesn’t usually make sense. Experiencing Him might make you cry, a lot, even when you’re not sad. But, He will also make you laugh. His love is ridiculous, and overwhelming, and amazing.

There is no magic formula for being a friend of God, no three step process. But, here are some suggestions.

  • Become familiar with the Bible. Sometimes we think we know what the Bible says, but we actually know what people SAY the Bible says. It might surprise you to actually read it for yourself. I highly recommend Max Lucado’s “The Story”. It’s a fantastic overview using actual chunks of the NIV with some summary in between.
  • Intentionally take quiet time away from noise and electronics. While I was in college, I used to go sit on a bluff at a cemetery overlooking a lake. It was beautiful, and peaceful, and made me think about how short life is. Now, I just try to get up before my children. Haha!
  • Tell Jesus you want to know Him, and wait for Him to “show up”. This is actually the best part. Because if you have trusted in Jesus as your Savior, then His Spirit already lives inside of you. So, it’s not really Him showing up as much as it is you slowing down and becoming aware of His Presence.

What does is look like, sound like, feel like when Jesus becomes real? It’s different for everyone, but chances are you have already experienced Him and just didn’t recognize it. Sometimes it’s like this:

  • A song comes on the radio and it’s exactly what you needed to hear.
  • You are listening to a sermon or podcast and you start wondering if the person speaking is psychic or has been reading your journal.
  • As you read the Bible, a verse just jumps out at you in a way you never saw before.
  • Your friend calls/texts/messages you with a truth that you needed to hear right then.
  • Something really hard happens but you have a strange peace about it.

This is God, the Creator of the Universe, speaking to you, being intimately involved in your life. The more you become aware of God’s Presence, the more you will recognize Him.

Will you take a chance, and step out in faith, and ask Jesus to make Himself real to you? You were created for a relationship with Him. This is the true point of Christianity. You will not regret it!

 

Getting to KNOW Jesus (Pt. 2)

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(Yes, I do realize that Pt 1 and Pt 2 of this post are months apart. :-))

How does someone really get to know Jesus, experience Him as a very real Being?

There is no magic formula, no three step process. But as I said in part one of this post, God wants us to know Him. He has promised throughout the Bible that if we seek Him, we will find Him! And I can promise you both from my life and lives I have seen changed, that when you really find Him, you will never be the same!

It’s like experiencing an alternate reality, think Narnia. Suddenly all the knowledge you had in your head explodes into living color, and you get it! He changes you and you realize that you never wanted anything else.

That’s great, but how do I get there?

Here are some suggestions.

  • Become familiar with the Bible, so you know who you are looking for, so you know His character and what He sounds like, the kinds of things He says. I recommend Max Lucado’s “The Story”. It’s a fantastic overview using actual portions of the NIV and some summary in between.
  • Intentionally take quiet time away from noise and electronics. While I was in college, I used to go sit in this cemetery on a bluff, overlooking a lake. It was beautiful, and quiet, and made me think about how short life is.
  • Tell Jesus you want to know Him, and wait for Him to “show up”. This is actually the best part. Because if you have trusted in Jesus as your Savior, then He already lives inside of you. So it’s not really Him showing up as much as it is you slowing down and becoming aware of His Presence.

What does is look like, sound like, feel like when Jesus becomes real? It’s different for everyone, but chances are you have already experienced Him and just didn’t recognize it. Sometimes it’s like this:

  • A song comes on the radio and it’s exactly what you needed to hear.
  • You are listening to a sermon and you start wondering if the person speaking is psychic or has been reading your journal.
  • As you read the Bible, a verse just jumps out at you in a way you never saw before.
  • Your friend calls/texts/messages you with a truth that you needed to hear right then.
  • Something really hard happens but you have a strange peace about it.

I really could go on and on. This is God, the Creator of the Universe, speaking to you, being intimately involved in your life. The more you become aware of God’s Presence, the more you will recognize Him.

I’m going to share what it feels like for me, but remember that each person is different and we can’t put God into just one box.

When I seek God, I start with just quiet. (Remember, this is more about us becoming aware of God and less about Him coming to us.) I quiet my heart and mind and remember who it is that I am seeking: my Creator, the Awesome All-Powerful One, my Savior, my Friend, etc. I think about His love for me. Then I just talk to Him. When I am aware of Jesus’ Presence, I usually feel peace, contentment, surrounded and almost held. I know I am loved and I am completely satisfied. Usually there are tears in my eyes…not sadness, but possibly because the emotions I feel are too big for my little human body. (They are here right now as I write this.)

The Kingdom of God is backwards and inside out, so it doesn’t always make logical sense. The weak are strong, foolishness is wisdom, you get everything for nothing… It’s crazy! And the key to this secret kingdom? Faith!

Will you take a chance and step out in faith and ask Jesus to make Himself real to you? Let me know what happens!

“Lord, I Believe; Help My Unbelief!” – What Is Standing In the Way of Your Relationship with Jesus?

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You would think that being friends with God would be a popular message among Christians. After all, it’s kind of the point of the whole Bible, the book we claim to base our beliefs upon. Jesus himself said, “…but I have called you friends…” (John 15:15). So why aren’t more of us living like God’s friends?

Why are so many of us content to go to church on Sunday but ignore God the rest of the week? Why are so many of us obsessed with rules and formulas, attempting to impress God with our outward “goodness”? If this is how we are living, then we aren’t actually experiencing a relationship with God, THE relationship that Jesus made possible by His death on the cross!

I’ve been a part of both sides at one point or another. Why are we so quick to reject a friendship with the God of the Universe? Here is what I’ve found true of me:

  • I want to be in control. It terrifies me to let go and let God run my life. What if He screws it up?
  • Sin is fun. I don’t want God coming in and telling me to stop it.
  • Rules are easier to maintain than a relationship. They make me feel good about myself.
  • I often believe lies about God, who He is and what He wants from me.

Sure, I like Jesus as my Savior; I’m all about spending eternity in heaven. But Jesus as my friend…that’s a little uncomfortable, a little awkward. So what is really stopping me? What is stopping us? What if it’s as simple as one word?

Unbelief

My husband and I are not adrenalin junkies. In fact, if you know us, that thought probably makes you laugh. However, we took a special date last weekend to a zip-line course! There were 10 zip-lines spreading over a mile in total length. It was a blast!

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First we got harnessed up, put our helmets on, and attached carabiners with some kind of a trolley (can you tell I’m not an expert at this) to our harness. Then, our tour guides loaded us into an awesome off-road vehicle and drove us up to the top of a ski hill. We climbed a short flight of stairs and there it was, the first zip-line spanning a valley and disappearing into the trees on the other side. I’m not gonna lie, my heart missed a couple beats!

One by one I watched my fellow zippers get clipped onto the cable and soar across the valley. Then it was my turn. Our guide clipped me in, got confirmation from the other guide across the chasm, and told me I was free to fly. Ahh!

What if, in that moment, I had doubted the cable’s strength and my harness’s ability? What if I refused to believe my zipping guide? What if I insisted on clinging to my own control and instead chose to climb down the stairs and continue across the valley on foot?

Obviously, that would that have been a waste of money, 🙂 but I would also have missed out on an amazing adventure! Soaring through the trees on a zip-line is incredible! (Hanging upside down, no hands, is even better!)

I miss out on an amazing relationship with God every time I chose doubt and unbelief instead of faith in Him.

  • I doubt God’s love for me, that He really likes me and wants me.
  • I don’t believe that He knows what’s best for me.
  • I doubt my own ability to stop sinning (and forget that He has given me a Helper, the Holy Spirit).
  • I don’t believe what God says about Himself all throughout the Bible.
  • I don’t believe that Jesus can really satisfy me.
  • I doubt that I can actually have a friendship with God; so I don’t try.

Stop! I just need to stop!

There comes a moment on every station of a zip-line course where you have to make a choice to trust the equipment and step off the platform. You can’t zip if you won’t jump. And, you can’t experience a real give-and-take relationship with Jesus if you won’t believe Him.

What do we need to believe?

We believe that Jesus paid for our sins by His death on the cross. (Romans 6:23) We believe that He rose again conquering sin and death once and for all! (1 Corinthians 15:20-26) We believe that Jesus is who He says He is: the bread of life (John 6:35), the living water (John 4:10-14), the way, truth and life (John 14:6). We believe that He will satisfy us, give us good direction and abundant life. We believe that Jesus wants to be friends with us. (John 15:12-17) We believe in His promises that if we seek Him, then we will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:11-13; Acts 17:27; Matthew 7:7)

Nothing is better than a real relationship with Jesus! One where I talk with Him and He talks with me! I know this because I’ve experienced it, so why don’t I pursue Him more? Nothing can separate me from the love of God, except for my own choice to doubt, my own unbelief. Is it really that simple?

  • “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Jesus does not change. But our faith, our belief (or lack of it) determines what we experience of Him. He is not pushy. He will not force Himself on us. But, He is there to be found if we will seek and believe.

This should be the most amazing message, the most incredible part of being a Christian! Don’t let your unbelief stop you from experiencing everything you have and are in Christ.

What were my favorite zip-lines from last weekend? The ones where I ran screaming off the platform against all common sense, and the ones where I trusted my equipment and soared through the trees upside down.

“Jesus said to him, ‘All things are possible for one who believes.’ Immediately (he) cried out, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” Mark 9:23-24

Is this your prayer today?

“Help us to believe You, Jesus! And as we seek You, and find You, and fall in love with You, overwhelm us with Yourself, until all we want is You.”

Truth Is, We Are All Broken!

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It was a beautiful spring day, the warm sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze blowing, and the grass was turning green. I was winding my way down the familiar road, feeling each curve, radio playing, singing along. All of the sudden, I knew with a jolt that I was too close to the road’s edge. The cold winter and spring rains had produced wheel-swallowing-potholes in this particular stretch. Breath caught, heart stopped, I realized I couldn’t correct in time. “Whump!” My front wheel fell into a small canyon. “Bam!” My tire blew. And there I was, stuck, with a broken car, on the side of the road. With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I knew I was going to have to call the woman I nannied for and admit that I had broken her car for the second time in a week!

It is not easy to admit when we break something, and even harder to admit that we ourselves are broken.

Truth is, we are all broken, every single one of us. It’s easier to hide, cover up, and pretend. We feel guilty about being broken. We feel alone. Surely no one else is as screwed up as we are. We don’t think anyone would understand.We feel like God is disappointed in us, as though He could be shocked by our true selves. We push Him away too.

And often, people in the church seem to say, “You’re broken, so, get it together! Fix yourself! Look better! Or at least pretend.” We get good at hiding.

That’s not what Jesus says! Jesus says, “You’re broken, but I’ve got this!”

Our mess doesn’t shock God. He already knows. He doesn’t expect us to fix ourselves; He knows we can’t! He wants to fix us, but we have to let Him. We need to admit our brokenness and give all the pieces to Him.

What are you hiding? What are you holding on to? It’s not worth it! Let Jesus heal you. He’s a great Doctor!

  • “Jesus answered them, (the Pharisees who were complaining because he was hanging out with “bad” people) ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32 (ESV)

What if we just stopped pretending? What if we decided to be real and honest, honest with God and with each other?

  • “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man…” 1 Cor. 10:13 (ESV)

We all struggle with the same things! There are no perfect people, just some better actors. Let’s embrace our common brokenness, our common needs, because they point us to the cross where we all find grace, and love, and forgiveness. Let’s run to Jesus together, knowing that He is the answer.

  • “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (my sin nature). For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out…Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through JESUS CHRIST our Lord!…” Romans 7:15,18,24-25

Not religion, not good behavior, not a list of do’s and don’ts, not church, not anything, but Jesus. Jesus is always the answer. He died so that we could know Him. Let’s do it! He died to forgive us and set us free. Let’s be free!

Will you come on this journey with me? Will you be honest with God and honest with others about the parts of you that are broken? Will you accept the love and forgiveness and grace that Jesus offers you? Will you throw away the things that are holding you back?

It may seem impossible. That’s okay. It’s a process. That’s why it’s called having a “walk with Jesus”.

Remember, you can’t do it. But Jesus can!