Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Do you know how to make one million dollars raising horses? Well, you have start with three million dollars . . .

About a week ago, I was presented with (ahem, uhmmm, errr . . .) the ‘opportunity’ to own a couple of horses. We have lived out the country on a few acres for several years and we’ve occasionally talked about having horses (our kids especially have talked about it). But we’ve never seriously pursued it and we weren’t exactly ‘in the market’ for horses.
Nonetheless, the opportunity presented itself: Two horses became available for the combined price of – ‘free’. After briefly discussing the opportunity with my wife, we determined that the price was too good to pass up. So we borrowed a friend’s horse trailer and fetched us a couple of horses.
On our way home, we started thinking about all of the things we now needed to buy in order to ‘enjoy’ owning horses: halters, ropes, saddles, bridles, blankets, brushes (for starters). We started talking about the cost to get one of them ‘gelded’, the cost of a farrier, the veterinary expenses, the additional hay, etc. Soon our heads were spinning in anticipation of what these ‘free’ horses were going to cost us.
And then my wife asked me, “Did we ever really pray about whether or not to get these horses”? Of course not – they were free! It must have been God’s will for us to get them, right?
Then it hit me that we really let the situation dictate our course of action rather than consulting with God and making sure we were on the same page as Him. Our main thought process, I think, was that we needed to commit to getting those ‘free’ horses before someone else did. Mind you – we are not typically what you would call ‘spontaneous’ people. Yet we let the apparent urgency of the situation dictate our decision rather than whether or not horses (free or otherwise) really fit in to God’s plan for us.
Pretty silly, huh?
Well, unfortunately, I don’t think that was the first time I’ve made a decision without even thinking about taking it God first.
But is God really that concerned with whether or not we got the horses? I think the answer is probably both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
Because of God’s immeasurable love for us and the fact that He is sovereign over every thing that happens, He definitely cares about the smallest of details in our daily lives. Does that mean that we should ask God whether we should order the Quarterpounder or the Big Mac at lunch? Well – I’m not sure we’ll get an audible answer from Him on that, but I think He wants us to care about whether or not our decisions (no matter how small they appear to be) will be made with Him in our consideration (or, rather, with Him as our primary consideration).
So often we look at ‘prayer’ as the means to get God to tell us how to act, what to do, where to go, etc. But prayer is primarily the means of our communing with God – deepening our personal relationship with Him. Yes – He is concerned with the choices we make, but primarily He is concerned with our living the lives He has called us to live. We can best achieve that by constantly consulting with the One who has the best plan for us.
In his book, The Calling, Os Guinness makes clear that the most important calling on our lives is the call to Someone (God) – not to ‘something’ (a particular career, ministry, etc) or ‘somewhere’ (the deep, dark African mission field). Once we have accepted that calling, he tells us that “everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for [H]im” (emphasis added).
How do we ‘think, speak, live, and act entirely for Him’? We are told that “[t]he LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you” (1 Chronicles 15:2). And the best way to ‘be’ with Him and to ‘seek’ Him is - prayer.
While it is certainly appropriate to find a quiet corner of a closet, lie prostrate on the floor, raise your hands, close your eyes, etc. for certain prayer times, such ‘restrictions’ on your prayers would dictate that very little time would actually be spent communing with God. Even a true ‘prayer warrior’ would spend only a fraction of their day communing with God.
Instead, the Bible tells us to pray all the time - 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says: pray continually (NIV), never stop praying (NLT), pray without ceasing (NASB). When we live out our lives in the realization that He is constantly with us and that we can constantly commune directly with Him, then we can begin to see ‘prayer’ as the vehicle with allows us to ‘think, speak, live, and act entirely for Him’.

Did God want us to go and get those ‘free’ horses? I’m not sure.
But I am sure that He wanted us to consider Him in making the decision.
He wanted us to pray. Continually.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Winning? Won!

Everyone is probably getting pretty tired of hearing all about Charlie Sheen and the destructive spiral he seems to be pursuing. Nonetheless, I have listed a few of his most ‘interesting’ recent quotes below:
• “I'm tired of pretending I'm not a total [awesome] rock star from Mars, and people can't figure me out; they can't process me. I don't expect them to. You can't process me with a normal brain."
• “I am on a drug. It’s called ‘Charlie Sheen’. It’s not available because if you try it once your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body.”
• “The last time I took drugs I probably took more that anyone [else] could survive. I was banging seven gram rocks because that’s how I roll - I have one speed, ‘go’. I have a different constitution, a different brain, a different heart. I got tiger blood, man. Dying's for fools, dying's for amateurs.”
• What tiger blood means: “It’s a metaphor for having absolute rocket fuel in my veins.”
• “I am grandiose because I live a grandiose life; what’s wrong with that?”
• “What’s not to love? Especially when you see how I party, it was epic. The run I was on made Sinatra, Flynn, Jagger, Richards and all of them look like droopy-eyed armless children.”
• On his daily life: "It's perfect. It's awesome. Every day is just filled with wins. All we do is put wins in the record books. We win so radically in our underwear before our first cup of coffee, it's scary. People say it's lonely at the top, but I sure like the view."
• "I have a 10,000-year-old brain and the boogers of a 7-year-old. That's how I describe myself."
• "I will not believe that if I do something then I have to follow a certain path because it was written for normal people. People who aren't special. People who don't have tiger blood and Adonis DNA."
I think it is very interesting how Mr. Sheen apparently sees himself, how he ‘defines’ himself. But, unfortunately, he is not alone in erroneously ‘defining’ himself.
Our culture is very conducive to encouraging us to define ourselves by what we do (our work), by our possessions, by our affiliations, by our responsibilities, by our activities, and by our accomplishments (or failures). We adopt or even strive for the identity that others may perceive from what they can observe. ‘Who I am’ is defined by ‘who’ I can convince you that I am.
And that false identity problem carries over into the body of believers as well. We can try to define ourselves in relation to others (“I’m more ‘spiritual’ than he is”). We can try to define ourselves with the right accoutrements (leather-bound red letter Bible, fish decal, Sunday-morning-everything-is-just-peachy smile). We can try to define ourselves with ‘church’ activities (bible study, choir, deacon, Sunday School teacher, short-term mission trip).
While there is nothing wrong with most of those things, when we try to define ourselves by them, we are defining ourselves with pretense. We use masks and facades to try to convince others ‘who’ we are.
We even do that with God – we try to convince Him of ‘who’ we are by what we do and how we act. It’s as if we think we can fool God into believing we are something or someone that we aren’t. We are so ‘performance based’ and so ‘appearance oriented’ that we spend our lives trying to convince God of ‘who’ we want Him to believe we are, or to make up for what we used to be.
We try to tell the Almighty God of all creation ‘who’ we are. We try to define ourselves to the One who made us and knows us better than we even know ourselves.
Not only is that a completely ridiculous thing to do, but it takes an enormous amount of time and energy. We try to work harder and harder and harder to convince Him of ‘who’ we are (or ‘who’ we want to be).
But that is not necessary. We don’t need to try to ‘define’ ourselves to God.
Do you know why? Because Jesus Christ died for the right to define who we are. It doesn’t really matter who we ‘think’ we are; it doesn’t matter who we try to be; it doesn’t matter who we feel like; it doesn’t matter who we look like; it doesn’t matter who we act like.
We were bought with a high price – Christ’s life (1 Corinthians 6:20) – and Christ has defined ‘who’ we are. There are dozens of ‘definitions’ in the Bible as to ‘who’ Christ says we are. But the key to living out those definitions is that you have to believe what He says and stop trying to define yourself to God.
He says:
• You are blameless (1 Corinthians 1:8). Not because you have been ‘good’, but because He said so.
• You are righteous and you are holy (2 Corinthians 5:21, Ephesians 1:4). Because of what Jesus did for you.
• You are forgiven (Colossians 1:14). No matter what you’ve done.
• You are free from any condemnation (Romans 8:1). No matter how much you think you deserve it.
• You are redeemed (Ephesians 1:7). He paid the price for you because you couldn’t.
• You are justified (Romans 5:1). Not because of what you’ve done, but because of what HE did.
• You are a new creation (2 Corinthians (5:17). Not improved, but new. Different. His.
• You are chosen and loved; you are Christ’s friend (Colossians 3:12, John 15:15-16). Not because you chose to be, but because He chose you.
• You are protected – you are His . . . forever (John 10:28). You can’t change who He says you are and what He has given you.
• You are a child of God, a member of God’s family, and a citizen of heaven (John 1:12, Ephesians 2:19, Philippians 3:20). Not because you earned it or because you acted the part – because He said it was so.
• You possess the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Not from studying and learning, but from accepting.
• You are an example of His rich grace (Ephesians 2:7). His work, not yours.
• You have peace (Romans 5:1). All of your stress and anxiety and effort won’t make you at peace with God. That was settled for you.
• You have been given life, eternal life (Ephesians 2:4-5, John 6:47). Not as a reward, but a gift.
• You have been set free (Romans 8:2, John 8:32-36). Forget about trying to define yourself, you are free to be who Jesus has says you are.
• You are victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57). Your performance doesn’t matter; your accomplishments don’t matter; your willpower doesn’t matter. He won the victory and gave it to you.
That is one area where ‘who’ God says we are actually corresponds with Charlie Sheen’s definition of himself: We win so radically in our underwear before our first cup of coffee, it's scary. Think about that over your morning cup of coffee. You are already victorious (because of what Christ did); you don’t have to be superhuman today; you don’t have to be ‘the most spiritual man in the world’ today; you can’t lose; God’s got your back; He’s on your side; He has defined who you are and that can’t change that by what you do or don’t do today.
So take a breath. Trust God with ‘who’ He says you are.
Be who He says you are.