He’s FOR US (an addendum)

Before I move on to the promised post on what it means to exist FOR GOD,  I have to sort out some observations on what it does and does not mean to say that God is ‘for us’.  Drawn from my understanding of Scripture here are my thoughts:

What it does not mean…
–God has my happiness at the top of His agenda.
–God will never let me suffer or face deep disappointment or failure.
–God wants me always healthy, financially secure and relationally satisfied (and He guarantees my children the same!)

What it does mean…
–God has my best interest in view and arranges every circumstance to work for my good.
–God is committed to making me like Christ and will see this project through to the finish.
–God’s love for me will never falter, fade, or fail no matter what circumstances I find myself in.

These are things I know from Scripture, but they still sound very me oriented… I’m reading an author this week who calls this the ‘infatuated’ stage of my relationship with Jesus.  It is largely self-centered and tends to be all about me—my victories over sin, my joy, my growth—in short, all the good things Christianity has done for me.  “I love you for how you make me feel” is classic infatuation.  It’s a beginning but we’re called to more…

The honeymoon is over but the best is yet to come!

Link to previous post: If God is FOR ME

Continuing post…In it For Him

If God is for me…

“Wanting God to be God is very different from wanting God to help us.”

(Gulp.) I was arrested by that statement. It followed in the wake of a related question that’s been on my mind lately. Namely, Does God exist for me–to bless me, help me, answer all my questions, provide all my needs (and wants and longings and dreams…)—or in fact, do I exist for Him?! Yikes.

Do you ever wonder how much you are affected by living in a narcissistic culture—a culture that encourages you to find yourself, take care of yourself, pursue your dreams, and be happy! Has this message seeped into my life? Am I jarred at how it clashes with Jesus’ words on how to really find life…
–“He who loves his life will lose it. He who loses it for the sake of the Kingdom of God will find it”. That’s pretty counter-cultural.
–“Take no thought what you will eat, drink, wear…” Wait a minute, what about going ‘organic’, drinking vitamin water just case I missed anything or at least buying filtered, and wearing bamboo?
–“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” pretty much puts any self-centered dreams on hold! and
–‘Be happy’ is not a command I recall finding in the Bible. “Happy are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” is more like it…

So what am I saying? I’m wondering if it’s possible to be a frog warming in a frying pan and not know it. Water feels warm, nice, think I’ll just sit here and be cozy… Narcissism is a pretty comfortable state for the ‘old man’ in each of us.

And as for whether God exists for me, well, His word declares He is ‘for us’ doesn’t it?! He didn’t spare even His only Son but gave Him up for us all. How much more freely will He not give us all things?! And He has. We are incredibly blessed in this culture. Even the poorest of us live in comparative wealth. But I think this is precisely where the trouble begins. We begin to mistake material gain for spiritual blessing. Yes, God has blessed me incredibly with a family, a home, even a car and a dog… And every day He ‘loadeth me with benefits’. But have all these material benefits actually duped me into thinking these are God’s primary blessings in my life?! Or that He exists for my benefit? How has this affected my expectations of Him? (What does my ‘wish list’ look like?) Does your family grab the ‘wishbone’ when you gobble a turkey and make a wish before you pull? What do you wish for?

Have I begun to think God is obligated to provide for my comfort? In fact, He wants me happy and that’s why He’s there inviting me to ask for whatever I want. I can begin to be deluded that God is there for me. And my ‘spiritual’ life can begin to be all about me. Even pursuing Christlikeness can be self-gratifying. After all, who doesn’t want perfect peace, joy and fellowship? I will be happier when I am like Jesus, right? And besides, when I’m like Jesus, my kids will see Him and want to be like Him more and that too will make me happy! It’s all about me.

OK, so this is beginning to be a little confusing. Am I thinking too hard here? There’s more to say about the other half of the picture—that I’m here FOR HIM. But first, let me know if you’re following this train of thought at all…
I’ll leave you for this week with another quote from the man who made the opening one.

“God being God offends human pride. If God is running the universe and has first claim on our lives, guess who isn’t running the universe and does not get to have things as they please?”


Eager for your thoughts on the matter,


Quotes from: Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice (Willard & Johnson), p.41,37


Next in this series:

Wind and Spirit…

Got out for the last sail of the summer season yesterday as a Southeaster was blowing up!  The sun was shining, it’s true,  but the wind was doing a pretty good job of clarifying that summer is indeed gone!

So with sails fully reefed,  one hand on the tiller, one set to release the sheets if need be (so as not to capsize!) my skipper was in his glory as we skimmed across the sea. Where was I?  Below deck lending my body as ballast to the high side of the boat, wedged into place so as not to fall from my ‘roost’–reflecting on a friend’s casual question: “Linda, do you like wind?”

She does. But I wanted to retort at the time, “Have you ever sailed in a Southeaster? … shielded yourself from a dustdevil?…watched a tornado form listening to the car radio far from home or shelter…or fought a headwind while cycling?!”  No, I don’t generally like wind.  I don’t like the cold of it or the lonely eerie whine of it in the sails….

But there is another perspective.  The seagulls out my wee windows are wheeling freely in it, gliding just above the water’s surface.  They don’t seem frazzled at all.

“It’s beautiful!” comes the voice of my mate, in awe of the wind’s power to carry us effortlessly across the water.  “It’s amazing!” he says, peeking down  the hatch to see what shape I’m in.

Just last night a conversation with some ladies came up about wind and tall trees– to one they are scary and should be cut down. Another loves the sound of the wind in her giant fir trees.

So wedged in my little nook I contemplate what makes the difference.  Why do we love wind or fear it?  I think of the Holy Spirit being likened to wind.

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) [Later I find out the same word is used in the Greek to mean both wind and spirit!]

I think of the Spirit hovering over the face of the waters at Creation.  Here is order being brought to a formless void.  This is no random gust of terrifying force.  Perhaps it is the unpredictable force of wind I do not like, the destructive potential, the sheer power rendering me helpless…

But I am proud of myself today.  I have not always been so calmly contemplative under sail! There was a time when I would scream, “We’re tipping!!”  There have been tense, cringing, praying-for-this-to-be-over  sails.  What has made the difference?  I trust my skipper and my boat now.  We have been through windy seas together and both inspire confidence.  And I think of this as I measure the answer to that question: “Do you like wind?” and I have to qualify my answer.  When I am cozied in wool and windbreaker with warm dry feet,  a brisk wind in my face is scintillating–a delicious token of changing seasons.  When I am warm and safe the wind in the trees or even lashing rain at my window only serves to heighten my sense of coziness.

And what of the Spirit / wind analogy? Is there another question I could ask myself?  Do I welcome God’s Wind to will and to do His good pleasure in my life? Am I at ease with my Skipper to sail me through stormy seas,  trimming the sails to maximize the power of the Wind.  Am I eager to recognize ‘the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that [I] may know Him better… that [I] may know his incomparably great power for us who believe’ (Eph.1:17-19)

Where there is wind there is power.  Where the Spirit is at liberty there is power–“We all, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image–for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.  where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (IICor.3:18,17)

What will be my response to the promise of incomparable power unleashed in my life.  I read the story of the Gadarene villagers and their demon-possessed pig herd this morning (Mt.8:28-34)  They recognized Jesus had uncanny power, able to free a man from a horde of fierce demons.  And what did they do in the face of such power?  Terrified, they begged him to leave their town.

In the storm at sea the terrified disciples depaired that they were gonna’ die and marveled when Jesus rebuked the  wind and waves.  They were censured for their little faith, and could only marvel,  “What sort of man is this, that even wind and sea obey Him?” (Mt.8:27)

And that’s the key isn’t it? –knowing this God of ours.  I guess we would all do well to pray Paul’s prayer in Eph.1:17-19 (above).  Do I perceive what great power He holds on my behalf, what great power resides in my heart through His Spirit?

What situations can I carry to Him like the two blind men who came crying, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” (Mt.9:27-31) How did Jesus respond?  A question:“Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  And to their, “Yes, Lord.” came His response: a touch to open their eyes and a promise: “According to your faith be it done to you.”

So, come wind and weather, as surely they will come,  we would do well to remember the Wind in our sails is bent on our good.  Its power is incomparable but we are in Good Hands.  God’s got a Hand on the tiller and one on the sheets and  He’s taking us to Glory!!


“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble..”‘–the sons of Korah

“And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us!”
–Martin Luther


Last week I was ranting a little about trends in ‘worship’ that seem to me to be unhealthy.  In the words we sing we petition (that feels better than ‘invoke’) God to please show up in power.  And we keep singing. And singing… while we wait for something to happen that will make us feel… well, feel something!

We sing words like:
“God of Heaven come down. Just to know that you are near is enough [but is it really?] God of heaven come down…” which (as much as I do like the rest of the song) does sound rather bossy, and contradictory besides). 

Or we tell God to “Arise, take your place, be enthroned on our praise, arise”, as if He is obligated, because we are singing, to make Himself known to us in some mysterious way.

This feels backwards to me and here’s why:

I can tell my dog to ‘Come!’ and once-upon-a-time I trained my toddler(s) to come when I called because I’m the boss and they’d better or else. A child should not be giving orders to his parents anymore than a soldier would his captain.  Remember the Roman centurion? (Mt.8)  He desperately wanted his servant to be healed but he approached Jesus with utmost respect—“I am not worthy that you should come to my house”.  He understood the way authority works and he knew that in His Position Jesus could do anything, even from a distance.  Jesus marveled at his faith (and didn’t hesitate to meet his need).

God is no reluctant judge doling out justice only in the face of abject and incessant pleading.  He delights for us to know Him; after all, it was His design in the very beginning!  And ever since the Cross, we are invited to ‘draw near’ to His throne, to come right in to where He is and present our requests.  Then why the need to ‘coax’ Him to do our bidding?  I think of wide-eyed Peter out in the storm at sea, hanging on to the edge of the boat looking out at Jesus (‘could it really be Him?’)  and I love his words “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” (Mt.14:28) Other versions say, ‘command’ me to come.  And of course Jesus said, COME!.  Now that’s the command going the right direction…Other instances that come to mind are:

‘Come to me all who are weary; I will give you rest’ (Mt.11:28)

‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.’ (Ja.4:8)

‘Come follow me. I’ll make you fishers of men.’ (Mt.4:19)

Jesus is clearly in the position of authority.  He invites us to come to Him. That seems straightforward to me.

How does this apply to worship then?  Well, if He is our God and we are His people—actually His wild and crazy, not too brilliant, sheep—our position is one of humble sheephood.  We don’t need anything He’s not glad to supply.  Our posture need not be one of  bleating pitifulness (ple-e-e-ease bless us; pet us; hold us; love us).  If we’re not satisfied with some aspect of His care, it’s not His doings.  Maybe we’re the ones that have wondered off into a bramble bush thinking the berries looked mighty tasty…In which case there’s a little something to say to our Shepherd before we start bleating our self-centered, conditional praises and “please’s”’, something I see as a missing prerequisite to worship.  This is “something” even the E-how writer seemed to know about.  His third step for ‘praying to invoke the Holy Spirit’ was:

Confess wrongdoing in order to become a humble vessel. Those who are too proud and not meek in their hearts can not be told differently than what they believe. Confessing your sins to the creator will allow you to step into his presence with a clean heart. When you ask for forgiveness, you are also admitting guilt and imperfection. This can be a tool to humble and signals that you at least acknowledge that you are not the omnipresent deity.

If God seems far-away, who moved?  (And who needs to ‘Come’)  [Hint: He is the Omnipresent one, and the Omnipotent One…]

I wonder if we get so caught up in begging, pleading and trying to manipulate God to meet our perceived needs as we ‘worship’ that we fail to recognize He is standing at our heart’s door, knocking and asking, “Can I come in?” (Rev.3:20) This verse is not about salvation but repentance. “Those whom I love I rebuke.” It’s about God at my door wanting to come in and share a candlelit dinner with me!  That’s possible only as I agree with Him about the state of my ‘room’ and invite Him to take charge. “Yes, Lord, you’re right. I’m wrong…” and now I can appropriately say, ‘Come in! make yourself at home, You are welcome here!’ It’s no longer about demanding Him to meet me where I’m at with no questions asked, but about coming His direction with a heart confessing His Lordship, worshiping Him from a whole and satisfied heart.

“Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before Him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is He who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise…”

Oooo—this is where I want to be in my heart.  Let it not be said of me: “this people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth and honoreth me with their lips but their heart is far from me.” (Matt.15:8,9)

There’s no denying the God of Heaven will come down.  Jesus said: “Behold, I am coming soon!  My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done…blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city…” Rev.22:12

And we rightfully respond, “Even so come Lord Jesus”.  But let it be with joyful, faith-filled singing,  not discontented pleading.  For we know that He is not slow regarding His promise but  patient with us, and not willing that anyone should perish but that all should come to repentance…(IIPet.3:9)

“Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  And count the patience of our Lord as salvation…”(IIPet.3:14)

Let’s be found worshiping, not whining.  Adoring, not begging. Let our worship be about Him, not us.  He is worthy.



If you have made it through to here I thank-you for trying to follow my thoughts.  And if any ring true in your situation I would be really tickled to know—via ‘comment’ or a quick e-mail.

If you’re interested in more (and better) reading on this topic may I point you to Timothy Ralston’s well thought out article examining the Holy Spirit’s primary importance in worship entitled:
The Spirit’s Role in Corporate Worship

And for the really determined here is an article from a different denominational point of view than I am but one well worth examining.  It is dotted with brilliant gems of insight and a well-constructed discussion of many aspects relating to the way we worship.  Read with a highlighter in hand!  To peak your interest here’s one of my highlights:

“Waiting for the Mediator to return from the heavenly summit, we fashion golden calves of our experience to assuage our impatience.”
from the article:
Heaven Came Down: The Mission of Christ
by Michael S. Horton

Worship–what are we doing?!

I am seeing a disconcerting trend in ‘worship’ songs lately.  In fact I’m struggling not to let this become a ‘rant’!  So let me just say, I’m not here to ‘blast’ any particular song writers, though I may make mention of particular songs.  My concern is with a growing number of songs that put the worshiper in a stance of attempting to invoke the Holy Sprit. 

I know invoke sounds a little harsh—all sorts of folks out there are into ‘invoking’ spirits and wondering if there’s anything different about what they see as the ‘Christian’ version.  I had my education on that via an online discussion thread titled: ‘How is invoking the holy spirit substantially different from invoking Pagan deities?’  Disturbing conclusion: no difference.  And I was surprised to find there’s even a 5-step E-how on ‘Praying to Invoke the Holy Spirit’.  Not exactly an authoritative source–the contributor of this article also offers instruction on ‘How to Throw a Halloween Party for Teenagers’ and ‘How to Dance Really Well in a Club’.  But even he recognizes there’s more to it than praise and worship… But I digress.  I’ll get back to that later, maybe….

Let me explain my objection.  Picture this…the music is playing, smooth and mesmerizing.  And we begin the refrain: —“Holy Spirit come…” or “Come, Lord Jesus, come” with its requisite repeats.  A certain mystical mood has been created and we are all expecting something… but what?!  Are we prepared for our wish were granted? We sing, “Holy Spirit rain down…”  Is He not already here?  Are we not gathered in Jesus’ name?  Does the Holy Spirit not indwell each and every follower of Christ?

Of course I’ve heard it explained (as if the worship leader were reading my mind) that yes, God is present with us but we are asking for Him to show us He’s here, to touch us in some way.  We want more of Him.  My mind darts off to Jesus’ rebuke of those who demanded signs and wonders in order to believe God was in fact among them.  And do we really need something more if we have been blessed already with ‘every spiritual blessing in Christ’ (Eph.1:3)?  What is it we’re really after and why does God not seem to be showing up?!  After all, here we are singing our hearts out.  We’ve made the effort to come.  Now it’s His turn.

A recent chorus goes so far as to beg God to open the sky and fall down on us like rain, and not only that but like fire!  In fact we aren’t going to be content with anything at all ordinary!  What on earth?  I think the sense of the songwriter is that we’re desperate for a ‘move of God’, sick of the status quo, sick of life as we know it, and in this case even fed up with God’s blessings.  Now we just want the real commodity—God Himself.  Wow.  What do you do with a song like that?  And what about this habitual beckoning to God to come do something spectacular.  Does it honor Him, or is it pure self-centered worship?

The way I see it, we’ve got things backwards… But I’ll save that thought for next time.  I’d really like to know how you see it?  What are we after when we worship?  and what needs to be corrected?  Or perhaps where you are things are different.  I’d love to hear what you’re learning about worship.  Please tuck in a comment or send off a little e-mail.  I’ll leave you with the concluding remarks of an excellent article I hope to say more about next time:

Emphasizing the experience of the worshiper as the evidence of the Spirit depreciates his more significant functions, often leading to misunderstanding, pragmatism, narcissism and an idolatry of self rather than the worship of God.
                                                                    –Timothy Ralston