Redeemed Around the Edges
“Yet You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand.”- Isaiah 64:8
Do you like to be told what to do or what you need to work on? If we are honest with ourselves, most of the time when we are corrected, even when we display a calm/controlled persona and put a smile on our face, the message causes an inner churning and grating of our heart. I know that when I have been confronted and corrected about an attitude or area in my life that needs adjustment, there have been times that I zoom pass the whole James 1:19, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” God truth. Often, I revert to making excuses, blaming someone, comparing myself to others, or counteracting the statement with a list of all my most recent accomplishments which absolve me from the present examination. If Joanie were co-writing this article with me a resounding “AMEN!” would have been placed after the last sentence.
When it comes to our being disciplined and shaped, I believe we can do better. During my summer sabbatical I quickly moved from the beginning weeks of “Refreshing” into a time of “REFINING”. I was at a place where the Lord was addressing some areas that needed healing, reinforcing, focusing, and maturing. In the midst of multiple areas that God was bringing to my attention, there was one central theme to the Holy Spirit’s message: I need to BE the person God wanted me to be at all times. This is not to say that I have been living a lie or that I was a hypocrite. The essence of this heavenly examination had to do with the need to make room and time for what should have been priorities all along. Let me share two examples that address the same problem of me feeling hurried, distracted, and burdened.
One of the first areas the Lord was revealing to my heart was the need to become a better listener with my kids. Now, for some reading this you may be shocked, because you feel I am a good listener. Well, yes and no? When it comes to the church family and needs that people I have, I am readily available and compassionate to give my time, ear, and heart. But in my own home I found myself too tired to listen after a certain time and based on the subject matter. Throughout the summer sabbatical I felt convicted and prayed for help to be a better listener and disciplined myself to be present to my precious ones. I even made it a point to take each child out for lunch just to talk.
The other place that became a focus was our neighbors. I feel we are pretty good neighbors: We know each neighbor by name on our block (11 homes), have looked for opportunities to give, serve, and bless, and we have even shared God’s love to the point that two families from our street have attended our church. However, in the busyness of having four kids and being a pastor, I am routinely rushed and do little more than smile, wave, and engage in small talk with my neighbors. The sabbatical has allowed me time and the wonderful opportunity to have more meaningful interactions with my neighbors. This summer I have had at least four lengthy conversations engaging life, family, and what this season has been like for my neighbors. As happy as I am to bring this report, I am equally embarrassed to admit that these summer-time front-yard chats exceed the previous few years combined. Yet, God’s point was not to make me feel bad, but to bring me to a deeper level of life, love, and purpose. Romans 8:1-2 tells us, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”
The Spirit life-lesson and refining time this summer is all about making room for living in in this faith, peace, and love mode when I go back to my regular schedule. I know this will require a ton of God’s grace and personal discipline, as I have already felt the “old man” tugging to feel hurried and distracted. Thankfully, I have put in some daily practices in place that are producing wonderful results. The good news for us all, is that God is not like a house inspector who just provides us with a list of all that is broken, expecting us to shell out the big bucks to have it all fixed. No, He is the mender, the gardener, the chief builder who works within us His perfect grace and strength. The same God who made us into a new creation in Christ, has the power and the plan to do a new work, AMEN! Take a moment to ASK the Lord where you need some breakthrough and INVITE Him in to those areas. Be honest and humble about the area or attitude in your life that needs an adjustment, whether it is a relationship, a mundane job, a doubting of your faith in God, complaining about your finances, etc. He can take our lives and beautifully blossom newness and abundance in each area! Remember Jesus’ words in John 15:1-2, “I am the Vine, and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”