There are certain times and places when a ready-made recipe is exactly the right approach.
- Brain surgery.
- Rocket science.
- Navigating deep oceans in a sub.
- Flying a jumbo jet.
- Building a finely crafted timepiece.
- Parachuting through the clouds.
These occasions, and many others like them, are best accomplished with a well-laid plan of action. There is little room for error and precision is essential.
Recipes are even quite useful in a kitchen. But they are of little value when it comes to doing life with God.
“Recipes are useful in a well-lighted kitchen. Recipe theology, that collection of practical biblical principles that tell us what to do in every situation, treats confusion as something to be solved rather than entered. It reduces the mysteries of life to things we can manage.” ~ Larry Crabb, Jr. – The Silence of Adam, Page 66
There is no one-size-fits-all Biblical solution to every circumstance because we are not privy to God’s Upper Story plans. Two people in similar situations may be led by God to respond differently.
I’m not suggesting that God’s timeless truths or principles change, but that doing life with God doesn’t fit into a nice, tidy box.
It it did, there would be no sense of adventure. There would be no challenge to stretch our faith. There would be no reason to trust God in the midst of uncertain circumstances.
God invites us to come to Him any time we want. But don’t just run to Him for a solution. Join Him in the journey and delight in discovering new things about God and yourself.
What will be our adventure with God today?
If you’re following along in The Story read chapter(s) 12 for this week. You can check out The Story by clicking on the page tab above.
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.
So… exactly how would you define “better life”?
- More money…
- Better job…
- Newer car…
- Bigger house…
- Happy kids…
- Better health…
- Dream vacation…
- Happier relationship/marriage…
“Have you ever realized that living for the Better Life is an insult to God? It’s the same insult paid by the prodigal son to his father: ‘Your only value is what you can do for me. I don’t have any interest in knowing you. Just give me what I need to enjoy this life.’ That’s too close to how we think.” ~ Larry Crabb, The Pressure’s Off, Page 149
When God met Moses in a burning bush that did not burn up, He said that His name was “I AM.” It’s a simple verb that means “to be” or simply “be.” God was expressing that He alone is the essence of life.
Jesus came to dwell among us as the only one who could make God known to us (John 1:18). John also describes Jesus by saying, “in Him was life and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:4).
A little further on in John’s account he records Jesus saying, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
The real “better life” is deeper, richer intimacy with God!
Are we seeking God for His blessing, what we can get from Him to make life here more comfortable; or are we seeking God for greater intimacy with Him?
Speaking as if from God’s perspective, Larry Crabb writes…
“My nature, what comes naturally to Me [God], is to live for the well-being of others at any cost to Myself. Your nature, what comes naturally to you, is to live for your own well-being at any cost to Me or to others. My nature, the holy inclination to love, is now in you. When you relate in the energy of that inclination, you are relating not naturally but supernaturally, above and in conflict with your natural inclination. Expect a battle.”
~ From 66 Love Letters, by Larry Crabb Jr., p. 335
God’s nature is to love. Every thought, every decision, every action He takes is motivated by love for us. But my nature is to love myself ahead of loving God or others.
I know, I know; I’m a pastor. But I am first and foremost a fallen and broken human being. I want to love God and others more than myself and sometimes I do. But it doesn’t come naturally. It doesn’t come easily. And it doesn’t happen overnight. As Richard Rohr puts it:
We live a long time in order to become lovers. God is like a good parent, refusing to do our homework for us. We must learn through trial and error. We have to do our homework ourselves, the homework of suffering, desiring, winning and losing, hundreds of times.
Some people are easy to love. Some people are difficult to love. A few… almost impossible to love. And yet, we are called to love everyone as our heavenly Father loves. Seem like too much to ask? Don’t know where to begin? That’s OK. It happens as we humble ourlseves and ask God for grace to love as He loves. But as Larry warns…
Expect a battle!
I’ve long admired those people who seem to do life with steady upward progress. My own experience is more akin to a roller coaster ride with ups and downs and twists and turns and unexpected dips.
Yesterday was one of those “dips”, though actually I think it began shortly before going to bed the night before, and to be perfectly honest it was frustrating!
For some time now I’ve been thoroughly enjoying every aspect of life. My relationship with God is thriving. My family is doing great! I’ve been eating better and exercising. Ministry is going really well.
But then an unexpected dip came and there I was dragging myself into another day. It’s not that the bottom fell out but more like I was stuck in a haze.
I don’t know how you handle such moments but one thing I do is sort through and organize my stacks. According to Susan, if stacking were an Olympic event I’d be wearing gold! And since my desk looked like the aftermath of a tornado it was a good place to start.
By 1:00 pm that afternoon God had used several different things to get my attention and readjust my focus.
- Reading about a gal who gave up her 4,000 square foot home to work in Darfur helping the homeless and victims of sex trafficking.
- The story of Christopher Yuan – I write more about him in a later blog.
- An article by Carolyn Arends about how our busy pace of life can hinder our ability to listen to God and participate in His primary goal for us – to make us more like Jesus.
- A blog entry by Steven Furtick challenging us to emulate the attitude of the Apostle Paul – seeing every moment as an opportunity to participate in God’s grand adventure.
- Reading about a small church in KY that dropped their denominational name and reached further into their community to touch the lives of the hurting – pursuing the Great Commandment (Mt 22:34-40).
- An email from NewWays Ministries with encouraging words from Larry Crabb.
None of that was on my radar heading into the day!
I’m not suggesting that any of these particulars would have the same effect on you; I’m just pointing out that sometimes unexpected dips or hazy moments serve the divine purpose of interrupting our agenda or current train of thought so that God can more effectively grab our attention. So…
Don’t begrudge the dips!
Larry Crabb is one of my favorite authors because of his authenticity and passion for intimacy with God. I hope this excerpt inspires you as it did me.
Jesus came to earth to tell us He is the way, the truth, and the life. His death opened the way into God’s presence, the greatest blessing of all. His teaching made clear the truth that life does not consist in a return to Eden’s comforts; it doesn’t even consist in graduation to heaven’s bliss. True life is knowing God. Jesus said so. And the life is Christ Himself, not the bread He could multiply or the corpse He could resurrect, but Him. Being in Him, having Him in us, living with His energy, chasing after His purposes, loving what He loves, seeing Him form in us until we’re actually like Him–that’s life. And it can be enjoyed in bankruptcy or affluence, from a hospital bed or a deck chair on a cruise ship, or when you walk out of a divorce court you never thought you’d see or into a surprise party celebrating fifty years of your wonderful marriage.
— Excerpted from The Pressure’s Off by Larry Crabb
How can you find more satisfaction in God and spend less time on the distractions of the world?
To read chapter one of The Pressure’s Off click here.
We’ve just finished up with the annual college football bowl games and are closing in fast on the next Superbowl. Do you suppose any of the coaches involved went (or will go) onto the field of battle without a game plan? Not a chance!
Health and wellness… finances… home maintenance… relationships… education. No matter what area of life you consider, there is great benefit to having an intentional game plan for taking the next step; for making progress.
So what’s your game plan for drawing closer to God?
There are many aspects of growing in our walk with God and reading Scripture is a vital part of it. Every year I try a different approach and this year I’m trying two.
One is with Meet the Bible: A Panorama of God’s Word in Daily Readings. It’s by Philip Yancey and while it doesn’t cover every verse cover-to-cover it touches on the major themes and narratives from every book of the Bible to give a BIG PICTURE view of God’s story.
The other is 66 Love Letters by Larry Crabb Jr. which is very intriguing because of the whole premise behind it. He writes it as a dialogue between himself and God as if they were having a conversation about what it is God wants us to learn or get out of each letter of the Bible.
Maybe it’s just me but it seems that we often get so focused on individual verses that we run the risk of misunderstanding it or missing the point because we forget or ignore the bigger context. Sort of like the principle in the old saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” So this year I intentionally want to be challenged in seeing the bigger picture of God’s story.
I’m not worried about keeping a strict schedule but merely making sure that I read something every day. I’m sure there will be an ocassional blog that shares something from what I’ve been reading in these resources. But for now my questions to you is…
What’s your game plan?
Larry Crabb has long been a favorite author of mine. He writes with authenticity, transparency and a passion for God. He’s written on a variety of subjects but his newest book is very unique.
66 Love Letters is written as if one person is sitting down with God Himself to talk about each of the 66 books of the Bible and what it is that we are supposed to learn from them. It’s not intended to be a commentary but rather an overview that weaves all 66 books/letters together as they lay out God’s unfolding story of love and redemption.
As I was reading yesterday about the letter of 1st Corinthians it struck me that the church in Corinth was one sick church! Then I wondered, “Why would God even want the story of this church included in the Bible?” It certainly was no shining example; nothing we would want the world to see.
Coming from the perspective of God explaining Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church Larry writes…
“Paul continued to tell My story of love to quarrelsome, arrogant, and selfish people. Although My people in Corinth were living more like Corinthians than Christians, Paul continued to call them to a new way to live. He never gave up on them. Neither did I. I never give up on My Children.”
“Every word in this letter highlights the plot of My story, My call to community, My vision of others-centered relating, and My plan for your spiritual formation – My power to place within you the desire to love and to release that love in the worst of circumstances, in the most hopeless of conditions, and in the most painful of relationships.”
Perhaps God chose to include the story of this church in Corinth precisely because He knew we would need the encouragement. He knew we would all struggle with the hurt and confusion that comes from being part of a group of Christ-followers that are still in the process of being redeemed by grace.
Lord, continue Your work in us – Your church – and give us the grace to not give up!