Thursday, March 24, 2011

Immature? I am...

One of the reasons I started writing this blog was to combat those names we call ourselves. Names we never were supposed to call ourselves, but somehow picked up along the way of life. Names that hold us back from what God has called us to do. The one that has been weighing on my heart lately is Immature.

Wait! Don’t go away. I know what you’re all thinking… “I am NOT immature.” Well, let’s just take a look at that definition. Immature: not developed, ripe, or perfected. Not fully grown, lacking wisdom or insight. Hmmm…do any of those connect? I can pick a few for me:) And how about this - are any of them excuses you use when God taps your shoulder and asks you to do something? “But Lord, I’m not wise enough”, “Lord, I haven’t been a Christian long enough” or “God, I still have too many rough edges.” Ohhh....what about "But God, I'm not perfect"...

Here's the truth - we are immature. We are children of God and we're still growing. Maybe we're all at different stages, but we don' t reach maturity until we're in heaven. To be mature means to be fully ripened, complete in growth, perfected. Now, I may have some characteristics that are more mature than others, but as a whole I am not mature. I am immature. So are you.

But that isn't a negative.

And it doesn't mean He can't use us.

See, we all start out as babies when we come to Christ. We’ve literally been “born again” into His family and we begin our journey as just a babe. And even here, He uses us.

Do you know what it’s like to see a newborn Christian? New birth brings joy, and as Christians, we explode with it! When a person first comes to Christ, we get to see again in a profound way His grace at work – and boy do we celebrate! Not only for what He’s done in your life, but for what He’s done in ours. It refreshes those of us who have been saved for years. Just simply by accepting God into your heart, God’s used you. It’s your first step.

So you grow a little. You start reading your Bible. You see God at work in your life. You have the faith of a child. Jesus welcomed children into His arms and onto His lap. He told all the grown-ups to become like them. I see that in our faith too. With each step you take in faith you remind those who are struggling that God is still at work. They see your zeal, and it is contagious. Just by your walk you encourage others to keep up with theirs. And you take a few more steps.

Time passes. You grow into an adult. You know your Bible, you attend church regularly, maybe even a small group. Some of those rough edges are smoothed out. And God calls your name. Why not head up one of those small groups? Teach Sunday School? Go to Bible School? Become a missionary? Reach outside yourself.

And you stop. Me?

But wait God, I’m not ready! I’m not fully developed. I’m still messing up in areas. I don’t have every scripture memorized.

The excuses mount up so quickly, you can’t see over them to the fact that He’s been using you all along. This is just another step in your journey - maybe one that feels like an insurmountable leap - but your growth comes from taking it. It looks bigger than any step you've taken before, but that's because you've grown. You see, we’d never expect a newborn to just up and run. That’s not how God created it. We scooch, we crawl, take a few unbalanced steps, walk, then finally run. Maybe even leap...and sometimes we fall. But our Father picks us up, gives us a hug, wipes our tears and sends us on our way. To keep moving. To keep growing. To keep becoming.

You’re more ready than you know. And what you think you cannot accomplish is simply another step of your growth. Let God accomplish it through you. Let Him amaze you with His plan for your life. But you have to take the step first. So take it, and remember, "He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6). Until then, let God use you, immaturity and all.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Come on in, the Water's Fine.

Have you ever noticed that our perspective of a situation can change how we feel about it? Let’s continue looking at Peter (and maybe a little of ourselves through him) as he meets Jesus out on that water. (Matthew 14: 22-33)

There he was on that boat, up above the water, looking out. His footing was secure. He held the safety of knowing what lurked beneath him – bunk beds. Those waves looked small, the wind felt gentle. And he had a direct view of Jesus over the water. Then he jumped.

I imagine his perspective changed.

Suddenly there was water under him rather than solid wood. I can almost hear the theme to Jaw’s playing in the background as shadows swam beneath him. Waves now crashed around and over him, sometimes stealing his view of Jesus and the wind felt violent. Hmmm…a little harder to hold onto that faith now, isn’t it? It was. And he sank.

But what hadn’t changed?

Jesus.

He was still in the same exact spot as when he called.

And he’s asking, “Why did you doubt?”

You see, we all do this. We get up the courage to finally jump, and somewhere in there we convince ourselves that will be the hardest part. Jesus will catch us and we’ll skip away into the place he’s beckoned us to. We don’t think about the water we’ll land in. We are so focused on him, we jump.

Then something tickles our feet and we look down – taking our eyes off of him. Or we see a fin rise through the water and wonder if it’s coming our way; we look – taking our eyes off of him. Maybe the wind picks up and a large wave rolls by, and we focus in on it – taking our eyes off of him. Suddenly, jumping into this vast place doesn’t seem the smartest thing. Our faith slips, and we sink.

But Jesus never moved. And, yet, with our focus off of him our perspective has changed, and we suddenly doubt.

Put your eyes back on him. Grab a hold of your faith. That same faith we needed to jump, we need even more once we’re in the water. You see, if God is calling you to something, satan is going to try and get in the way – especially if you have the faith to go for it. He’ll bring distractions, he’ll try to obscure your focus…don’t let him! Jesus has not moved! He is still in the same place he was when he called you. And he is bigger than anything satan can throw at you.

So let God handle it. Let him slay the sharks and calm the waters. Your job is only to keep your eyes on him. You’ll stay afloat, just keep your faith and keep doing what he’s called you to.

Come on in. The water is fine. You’re Father - your life guard - has it all under control.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Jump In!

It’s been a bit since I’ve posted, but I’ve been working on jumping in. God’s continued to push me to make leaps in certain areas of my life, and I’ve been trying hard to follow that call. Here’s some of what I’ve been discovering.

It started with Peter. God kept putting him on my heart. That whole jumping out of the boat story of his. There Peter sat in the middle of a storm, watching the waves buffet the boat he was in, and he decides to jump. Why? I mean, really, would you? It sure isn’t an easy thing to do. And I imagine it depends on who we are and where we’re at.

You see, I think there are three different types of jumpers out there. Go watch an hour of swimming lessons with little kids and you’ll discover what I mean. There’s one thing they all have in common: the lifeguard. You know the one. He’s treading water underneath the board, calling for the child to jump, coaxing them out. His purpose is to give them a life saving skill, to break their fear of the water and teach them how to survive in the midst of it. All the while he’s promising them they won’t get hurt, he’ll take care of them, he’ll meet them there…they’ll survive.

At the board there’s a line of kids waiting. They all see the lifeguard out there. They all hear his call. But they all behave so differently.

First, there are those who hesitantly approach the edge of that board. Their little toes sliding slowly forward with each step. Realization that they have to jump - whether from obedience or just the acknowledgement of the inevitable - fills them; they will do this. So they inch forward, their bodies quaking but their minds determined. They may do it slowly, but still they do it. They jump!

Next comes along the screamer. The child who claws at every pole they can find, and flails along the board as they are pulled by someone bigger than them. They must jump but they cannot understand why…they don’t even want to understand it! They don’t want to jump! (Oh, each of my children were this child, and I can still hear their screams.) But it is imperative that they do. Though it’s scary, they have to jump to learn to be safe. To no longer be afraid. These are the ones that need a little push above their protests. But they also jump.

Then there is the child who sprints for the end. They see the lifeguard, and they know they’ll be safe. They don’t even question it. Perhaps they’ve made the jump enough times to feel its freedom, or maybe they are so familiar with the lifeguard they know he’ll protect him. Maybe they’re just fearless. Whatever the reason, they throw out their arms, run, jump, sometimes even doing a little spin on the end coated with laughter and a KOW-WA-BUNGA! They jump. With flair.

I think Peter was the last of these. Maybe there was a bit of hesitation, but I think he was still coming off the amazement of what he’d just watched his Lord do. Jesus had just performed the miracle of feeding the five-thousand. Can you even imagine what excitement that evening had brought? How it strengthened his belief that Jesus could do anything? So certainly, once he’d realized it was Jesus out there on that water, once he heard his voice, Peter jumped!

I want to stop here and hit on one important point. Peter didn’t leave that boat until he KNEW it was Jesus calling him. He questioned him, “Lord if it’s you…” and when Jesus answered, he came. He didn’t keep questioning, he didn’t hesitate, he was out of that boat. But he knew it was Jesus who had called him first. If you’re going to jump, be sure of who’s calling you and catching you.

So, what kind of jumper are you? I think I’ve been each in my life, but I’m working on becoming like Peter. I hear you Lord, and I’m jumping! Now, we all know things changed a little once Peter hit that water, but that’s for next time. For now, work on your jump. Jesus is out there. Learn to recognize his voice. When He calls…JUMP! He's your life guard, and He will catch you every time.