What God Asks of the Christian


I think most Christians are overburdened.

busy, frantic, moving peopleBeyond needless guilt and shame that were instead eliminated forever by Christ’s finished work on the cross (“Christian, you are free!”), I think too many of us are crushed under the weight of all the religious work we think we must do—and some religious moralists can’t cease telling us we should be doing.

When you examine the actual lives of Christians in the early Church, little is said about what ordinary Christians actually did. Sure, the apostles seemed to be active and involved in missionary voyages and church management stuff, but for the most part, Joe Christian just went about his daily tasks.

Daily being key.

Jesus showed his disciples to pray thus:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
— Matthew 6:9b-13

What was the bread? Today’s.

Later in that same chapter, Jesus adds this in verse 34:

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”

What is the focus on? Today.

He also said this in Luke 9:23:

“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

When is that cross taking-up? Daily.

The more I study the Scriptures and live them out in this life, the more I am struck by the truth that what God asks of us is to live in today. Leave tomorrow to tomorrow.

The immediacy of the Christian life is an attention to this moment, this present, this person before us, this situation now, and these resources we have in hand. By forcing Christians to live in the present moment, God becomes more real, and our dependence less on what we have stored up and more on what He can do through us, despite our lack of preparedness.

This is not to say that Christians should never prepare. Only that our preparedness be rooted in the now, in the daily putting of one foot in front of another based on where God is leading us at this present time, even if we cannot see the desitnation. That is the essence of walking by faith, not by sight.

What we can always do in the moment:

  • Pray
  • Love others
  • Have a good word at the ready
  • Use our spiritual gifts
  • Use our natural gifts
  • Commune with the Lord
  • Be faithful

You and I can always do those things. And we should always be ready to do them.

But beyond that, we can say little about where we will go and what we will do.

In many ways, what I have learned of God is that He expects nothing more of me than the use of the natural and spiritual gifts with which He has given me, used in conjunction with the resources currently before me, for the purposes He has put before me in this moment. When viewed that way, the life of the Christian gains an immediacy that keeps us rooted in the present and the now God has placed us within. So much of the weight of doing great things for the Kingdom falls by the wayside in light of the immediacy of what is before me at this second.

The cashier at the grocery store who seems harried—can we speak calm joy into her life in this present moment?

The elderly women who can’t wrestle the bag of cat food into her car—can we do it for her?

The youngster who is crying—can we listen to her story?

The door left open on that person’s car—can we close it?

The customer service rep who deals with hotheads all day—can we be the one respite of peace in his day?

The angry arguers—can we be the mediator of their battle?

Can we?

And what about our own families? In what ways are we serving them in the present? In the little things. In what way is doing our job well a help to them? Or attending to their needs in the now?

I find that so many of us Christians are so geared to do ginormous things for God that all the little things right in front of us go ignored and forgotten. And yet that is sometimes the only thing asked of us.

Amid all this doing is grace. God is full of grace for us, his broken, flawed, clueless people. He is always giving us opportunities, and sometimes we get them done right, and other times we blunder on. He loves us nonetheless.

Christian, I believe that what God asks of us is simply to live in the here and now. The day’s own trouble is sufficient for the day. Do what you can in the moment with what you have been given, and do not second guess or lament missed opportunities. You are dust. That dust can do anything at all is miracle in itself.

Rest in God. Lay down all your troubles. Do what you can, when you can, with what you have, and leave the rest to God. Know grace. Be at peace.

Why the Christian Must Model Slow


I used to live in a little cabin in the woods. Just me. I would walk there after quitting time, cook my meal for one, hand clean and dry my dishes, and settle in for the evening.

That simple housework amid solitude proved to be some of the holiest times I’ve experienced in my life. To this day, I can think of few mountaintop experiences with God that matched the simple joy of making food and cleaning up afterward in His presence. It was slow work, never hurried. While it asked for concentration on the task, I never felt overwhlemed. I did, however, feel holiness in the moment.

Something in those basic, careful actions in a quiet cabin in the woods centered me on God. He was there. Always. I could feel Him connecting with me in my doing.

I don’t believe most people today ever experience that kind of focused yet unhurried connection with God in their work. It’s one reason why so many people see their jobs as soul-inhibiting. Paycheck, yes. Personal meaning, no.

Much has been written concerning the recent New York Times piece on the frenetic atmosphere at Amazon. Frankly, I think many people will wonder at the singling out of Amazon, given how blender-like corporate life has become for everyone.

People in a blenderWhat’s the most commonly used phrase in job postings today? I’ll cast my lot for fast-paced environment. It’s ubiquitous, a badge of corporate honor. Businesses stopped pushing the blender’s Stir button and progressed with boasting to Liquify.

What’s being “liquified” is people.

Let’s get real here: Fast-paced environment most likely expresses itself as a needlessly disorganized workplace that is understaffed and poorly managed at all levels due to horrendous forecasting and unrealistic expectations. Companies use that phrase with pride when they should instead be soberly calling it failure and correcting it.

Yes, I went there.

I’m not alone, though, as the NYT Amazon article and this one, “Work Hard, Live Well,” show us. Our harried work lives are getting noticed as a negative. Finally.

Beyond our jobs, the general pace of life is killing us as well. Too much incoming data to process. Too many commitments. Too much striving to stay on top. Too much structure to maintain. Too much need to control. Too much.

We can’t live in a perpetual state of being overwhelmed and still maintain our mental and physical health. It’s time to stop lying to ourselves about what we can and cannot do.

We were not created by God to be little flesh-bundles of process optimization. Being counts as much, or more, than doing.

The blur that is our daily existence leaves no room for God. This lie that we can cram an entire day’s spirituality into a 15-minute quiet time is just that: a lie. And it always has been, despite whatever some nationally recognized pastor, spiritual leader, Christian author, or life coach says.

Why? Because God is to be found in EVERY moment. In something as basic as cooking dinner for one. Or in handwashing the dishes.

Julie, a friend and essayist in the vein of Annie Dillard, rebooted her Lone Prairie site and elected to hand code the HTML and CSS. Most would say that’s the hard way.

But some would contend it’s the way God connects with us in our work. It’s slow. It may even be tedious. Yet I think that pulling back from the most optimized, GTD-approved way is how we can reconnect with the holiness of our professions. It’s how we can slow down enough to find not only ourselves but God.

If we Christians are not the people who stay off the dance floor when the world says mambo or who cannot laugh in the face of demanded mourning, who will?

Christians are supposed to be the most countercultural of all people, yet more often than not, we American Christians, through a grace-less misunderstanding of responsibility, instead lead the parade toward dis-ease.

Slowing down enough to find God in more than just the “holy moments” but in ALL of the day will cost us. It must.

If lost people are going to find God, we Christians must be the examples of how to connect with Him. If we’re racing around like headless chickens, we will have no time for perception and observation, either of the natural world which God created or of the spiritual one, where He is found. Neither will we have time to process the crucial connections between the two, where wisdom dwells. We will instead become blind guides. There won’t be any counterculture left, only concession to the deaf and dumb spirits of the age.

“I’ll rest when I’m dead” is no statement of integrity but of stupidity. Christian, find ways to slow down or risk losing everything that truly matters.

Once off the highway and on the backroads, we’ll find God on the curves, near that spot with the stunning vista. Take time to stand there and breathe. That’s where redemption abides.

Your Best Purpose Now?


Who are you? Do you believe you were created for a purpose or was it all just chance? This week on Let My People Think, Ravi Zacharias looks at how we were created for significance and what our purpose really is…

Ravi Zacharias is one of the few contemporary radio preachers I still listen to, primarily by podcast. We need more like him.

Work and life in a cubicleStill, in my listening to his two-part series recently rerun, I feel even philosopher/ apologist Zacharias seems ill-equipped to explain purpose amid our societal/cultural norms. The “how to live out that purpose practically” eludes even him. (Perhaps it’s because the talk was from 1992. I wonder how Zacharaias might speak about purpose in a more digital age.)

Purpose in life is an issue that I think bubbles under the surface of everyone’s thoughts, yet it is a question the contemporary Church in America fumbles.

Here’s what I see:

  • By reflex, many Christians will state their purpose in life is to glorify God in everything they do, but then they wonder why it is that what they do seems so insignificant and self-serving.
  • Many Christians struggle to make any sense of their own mission within the Church when they compare it against their actual day-to-day living.
  • Many Christians have been taught that God has a perfect purpose for their lives, what He created them to do that comprises part of “the abundant life,” yet this purpose eludes them, which means the abundant life does also.
  • That disconnect causes many to reason that if the life they have now reflects God’s purposes for them perfectly, it casts doubt on how faithful God has been to bring them into that promised life of fulfilling purpose. This leads to much of our modern angst in the Church.

Let’s be honest here. It’s hard to believe that assembling widgets on a factory line, going home exhausted after 10 hours, rushing perpetually here to there, and always having some expectation on you that you can’t fulfill is in any way reflecting the love of God for you through meaningful purpose.

Nothing saddens me more than to hear Christian leaders not only concede to this kind of industrial-revolution-inspired life but actually laud it. Doing so renders terms such as underemployed meaningless. I believe depression is rampant for the very reason that people are not finding any purpose to their lives. They labor, they consume, and then they die, having contributed little to the world.

How is it that the Church here concedes to that kind of drudge life and often holds it in high regard? Why are Christian thinkers and leaders not FIGHTING against the thinking, the systems, that create purposelessness?

Strangely, instead of working to change the way the system works, all we can do is point out that it’s broken. Then we teach some anemic coping mechanisms that we hope will work, at least until the next Sunday, when we will offer different, “better” ones. But we deceive ourselves, because men and women cannot keep adding tricks to deal with a purposelessness that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

Does a person doused in gasoline and set ablaze want to receive either spiritual or secular suggestions on how to cope with being on fire? No, they need the flames extinguished, folllowed by emergency medical care. Yet most people are being burned by expectations and sociocultural conceptions of what their purpose should be. Who is calling out and saying that this experiment has failed? Shouldn’t that be the Church? Shouldn’t we be actively extinguishing false ways of living that create purposelessness and tending to the needs of those burned by the system?

The Church today in the West seems incapable of taking on systems of any kind. We simply are not up for that battle. But we should be. Instead, we tend to settle and make peace. Perhaps we, as a whole, have forgotten our purpose.

Can we at least start small? Just as each person in a church has God-given spiritual gifts that church leaders should be partnering to identify, I believe that each of us has not only a general purpose in life but a specific one. We used to name that a “calling.” If a person’s spiritual gifts are given by God to encourage and strengthn the Body, is not that person’s calling in line with those gifts? And is not the Holy Spirit able to help others to help us discover what God would have for us post-conversion?

I believe life in 2015 needs an infusion of purpose. If God has a wonderful plan for our lives, are we really living that way? Or are we lost at sea, hoping to crash on the shore of some future island oasis that seems so very far away?