Monday, May 31, 2010

Something Negative About God?

It's Day 1 on my quest to do The Love Dare with God.  Today's challenge was a little strange.  I was supposed to spend the day not saying anything negative about my "spouse".  Well, what could I say negative about God? 

Plenty, actually, if I really wanted to.  Money is tight, I'm not exactly in the job I want, my car is a few bolts away from falling apart, I have staff stresses at work, and so on.  God put me here at this moment and in this location for a reason.  So if everything isn't exactly perfect, then it's His fault, right?  Many people would think so, cursing God for all of the trials and tribulations of life.  That's what Job was tempted with.  And though he didn't curse God, he certainly questioned why those things were happening to him.  Many of us could fall into the same situation and feel the same way.

When you love someone you shouldn't criticize them out of spite.  Yes, constructive criticism is okay, but it's easy to go from helpful to hurtful.  And when it comes to Jesus and God they are perfect so any criticism is completely unfounded. 

So how do you spend a day avoiding saying anything negative about God?  Well, first you do just that.  You don't complain about your circumstances since God put you in them.  You don't get mad at His creation, and you wait patiently through it.  Above all, you seek to find the beautiful and positive things in the world around you.  God loves us and only wants the best for us.  He truly wants us to be happy.  How can we be negative about that?

One day down, 39 to go.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Love Dare With God

Most of you reading this have likely heard about or seen the movie Fireproof and the book The Love Dare.  For those who don't know much about these things, here's a quick synopsis or summary.  The premise of the movie is that a man has become selfish and his marriage is suffering because he isn't giving enough to his wife.  His father gives him a journal with a "love dare".  He has to do each step in order and do one step every day for 40 days, regardless of how he feels about it or how his wife responds.  He also can't tell her exactly what he's doing.  By the end of the movie this man has found a renewed selflessness and love for his wife. The book is based on this premise, and is an actual workbook for doing these 40 steps and renewing your marriage.

When the movie came out my wife and I bought it as a way to strengthen our marriage.  Not to sound perfect or cocky, but we quickly discovered that we already do most of the things in the book, so it wasn't as much use as we had hoped.  We don't have a flawless marriage, but we have a very strong and loving one.  So The Love Dare ended up in a pile of books to trade in at a used book store.

Until God inspired me today and laid a challenge on my heart.

If you read my last entry, you know that I'm looking at my walk with God and relationship with Him like I would a marriage.  Well, if the Love Dare helps to strengthen a marriage and bring two people together, why can't it help strengthen a relationship with God?

Sound crazy?

 "At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
 "At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' 
(Matthew 25:1-6)

Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, "How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?"
 Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
(Mark 2:18-20)

The Bible compares Jesus to a groom and the church (i.e. the people who are believers) as His bride.  So it's actually Biblical to look at our relationship with God as a marriage.  And that's what I'm going to do. 

Beginning tomorrow I am going to start a love dare in regards to my relationship with God.  Every day for 40 days I am going to follow the steps in The Love Dare and direct them towards God.  Each day I will chronicle my journey here, and we'll see where this takes us.  Honestly, I have no idea what's going to happen, especially in some of the steps that are expressly directed towards a flesh-and-blood relationship.  But I'm excited to see what may happen.

Anyone want to take this journey with me?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Commiting To A Relationship

I have been married to my wonderful wife for over 11 years, and our marriage has gotten stronger over the years.  We have our ups and downs and our arguments and tough times, but our relationship is definitely stronger and I am more in love with her than when we met 12 years ago.  I believe that there are several keys to our success.

1.  We make time to be together.
2.  We talk to each other throughout the day, even calling during lunch breaks at work.
3.  We tell each other "I love you" numerous times each day.
4.  We continually strive to understand each other better, learning what it takes to make the other person happy and learning each other's moods and preferences.
5.  We seek out ways to be together without other people or distractions around us so we can focus on each other completely.
6.  We seek to do things that the other person enjoys, as well as things we enjoy together.
7.  As much as we can, each of us puts the other's needs ahead of our own.
8. We apologize and ask forgiveness when we have done something wrong.
9.  We remember the vows we made when we were married and actively seek to honor them (I made the "mistake" of vowing to spoil far I think I've done pretty good).
10.  We enjoy each other's presence, even if we're not actively talking.

Doing these things has helped us weather the problems and have helped us have a successful marriage.  Notice that most of these things are active tasks.  They happen because we make them happen and not by themselves or without effort.  We actively work at our relationship in numerous ways every day.

Did you know that being a Christian is not a religion, but a relationship?  Sure, you've probably heard that before, but have you really thought about the implications of this idea?  If being with God is like being in any relationship, why not treat it like one?  Let's re-visit the above list, but think of it in terms of God.

1.  Make time to be with God.
2.  Talk to God throughout the day, at lunch and other times.
3.  Tell God "I love you" numerous times during your day.
4.  Strive to understand God better, learning what He wants and likes.
5.  Seek out ways to be with God without other distractions around you.
6.  Seek out things that God enjoys and find ways to do that with Him.
7.  Whenever you're given a choice, put God's needs above your own.
8. Apologize and ask forgiveness when you have done something wrong.
9.  Remember the promises you made to God when you first became a Christian and actively seek to honor them.
10.  Enjoy God's presence, even when you're not talking.

I've been feeling very convicted about all of this, and realizing that I don't put enough effort into my relationship with God.  My relationship with Him should be the most important thing in my life, but I spend far more time on Facebook and the internet than I do praying and reading my Bible. How can I expect to know God's will and hear His voice when I spend my time in other ways?

Okay, let's everyone be very self-critical for a moment.  Be very honest about how much time and effort you put into your relationship with God. Let's be serious for a moment, and brutally truthful. Got that in mind?  Now take that time and effort and imagine that you put that amount towards your spouse, significant other, or best friend.  How many of us would loose friends or end up single if we treated our human relationships like we do God?  What would happen if we spent 10-15 minutes per day with our spouse and the rest of the day ignoring them for other pursuits? 

Why do we expect our relationship with God to be any different?

As I said, I'm feeling very convicted about my own failings in this area. So I'm putting this out there in the public realm to be held accountable.  First, I will ask His forgiveness for my failure.  I will actively work at my relationship with God and Christ as much as I do with any mortal relationships.  I will read my Bible every day.  I will pray and otherwise be with God throughout the day. I will seek to learn about Him and find things that He enjoys.  I will put His needs above my own.  I will tell Him that I love Him.  And I will ask any of my Christian friends to lovingly keep me accountable.

I hope that any of you will do the same.  Let's see how it transforms us.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Too Busy For God

I've been more aware of a problem in my home church, and I'm sure this is true of many churches.  We have a significant number of people who seem to attend only when the don't have something better to do.  There are often excuses like "oh, we have some friends from out of town," or "I was tired from working all night," or "we're going out of town for the weekend."  It seems like something always comes up that takes precedence over attending church.

Now I know that church isn't a requirement for Salvation or a relationship with God.  But the Bible is also very clear in its examples of believers meeting together for worship, fellowship, and group study.  Just about everyone of importance in both the Old and New Testaments can be found in regular temple or other worship activities.  There is nowhere in the Bible that gives us an example of anyone who survives without regular contact with other believers.

Where is our love of God?  Where is our desire for that relationship?  What other business or personal relationship would survive sporadic contact and insincere communication?  How many of our spouses or significant others would we be close with if we gave them a mere fraction of our time and were always pushing them off for other activities? 

Why would we expect a relationship with God to be any different?

God is very patient and forgiving to my eternal thanks.  But I have to wonder what role He plays in some people's lives when they put other things ahead of Him.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Unity In Christ

Last Thursday was the National Day of Prayer here in the US, and I attended my first-ever meeting at one of these celebrations.  It happened at our local courthouse, and around 1200 people showed up.  That was really great considering that our town's population is around 17,000 and about 500 showed up last year.  One of the best parts was when everyone started saying the Lord's Prayer at the same time.  Over a thousand people of different backgrounds and denominations, all joining together in a well-known prayer.  Regardless of our histories or churches, we were united in praying together for the betterment of our community and country.

The next morning I attended a meeting of local pastors for a time of prayer.  There was little socializing and no preaching.  For about an hour we prayed together, each in our own ways, for each other, the community, and whatever struck us. This was the first time I have attended something like this, and I wasn't sure what to expect.  Again, like the day before, I was struck by the fact that we were from very different places and even theological beliefs, yet we were coming together in a common purpose and faith.

I can't stand how much arguing is done over small differences in doctrine or Biblical interpretation.  Yes, those points may be important to the person holding those beliefs, but are they really so important in the grand scheme of things?  And are they really that important if they keep Christians from coming together as one under Christ?

Seeing these gatherings in my own city gives me hope.  If we as Christians could unite in one single faith, we could change the world in ways never before seen.