SAFE

Motivation. 

Think about that word. What moves you? 

The opinions of others? I’ll admit that’s been my primary source of motivation for the majority of my life.

In the past, my fear of what others think has been enough to send me into a tail-spin of introspection and anxiety for days.

Image by:  Viktor Mogilat

Image by: Viktor Mogilat

But God is so gracious and He’s been at work; a slow steady work.

The moment I was willing to surrender to this work, whatever it looked like, He started a full-scale upheaval of the falsehood I had built my identity on. There was only one truth that could set me free. It’s a truth that I’d heard a million times but it didn’t make a difference in me until I came to the end of myself. God knows me through and through. He knows my every thought, sinful and glorifying. He knows my every motive, selfish and selfless. He knows it all and He loves me still. He loves me so much He sacrificed everything to be in relationship with me, the very relationship He created me for, the relationship that frees me from the bondage of sin and shame. And what He says about me is more powerful than the opinion of anyone else, even my own opinion of myself.

God’s love isn’t reckless. He knows what kind of people He came to save, He knew exactly what that would mean and He did it anyway. We’re the ones who can’t conceive of it. So yes, it appears reckless from our incredibly limited perspective. But it’s just who He is. (I love that song as much as the next person but I had to say it.)

There is nothing more humbling than knowing that God saw me at my lowest, least-desirable point and sent His Son to die for me. This not only speaks profoundly to who God is but speaks volumes about who I am.

The Creator of heaven and earth, powerful beyond comprehension, loves me beyond reason. 

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
— Colossians 3:3-4 ESV
And you are complete in Him...
— Colossians 2:10 NKJV

When ruled by insecurity, we sentence ourselves to a fear-driven search for wholeness. 

Picture yourself standing out in the cold, alone. The door right in front of you leads to warmth and safety but it also means admitting your inability to find security apart from Jesus. It means surrender. And if we’re honest with ourselves we know deep down it’s the only thing standing between us and abundant life. All too often we try and find some sense of who we are apart from the One who made us, all the while still His beloved, welcome at any moment to come in from the cold and find the shelter we long for. 

You see, “He must increase and I must decrease” is not a loss of identity, but a reconciliation of it. (John 3:30)

John was not fading into the background of history, but fully embraced his role in the grand narrative of God’s redemption of mankind. 

We are the imago Dei, made in God’s very image and likeness. And Jesus is the purest expression of God’s intention for humanity. Therefore, who we are must be firmly rooted in Him. Our identity “In Christ” is the safest place for us to grow into the people we were always meant to become.

Don’t sleep on this truth. It’s everything. 

Your identity is safe with the One who made you. 

How could the men and women of Hebrews 11 sacrifice everything for the sake of a promise they would never see fulfilled while on this earth? How could Jim Elliot, John Chau and countless others feel so compelled to share Jesus that it would ultimately cost them their physical lives? The things we often feel entitled to or believe we will find fulfillment in were the things they counted as loss. Why? 

They knew that who they were was safe with the One who made them.

And if who we are is safe then everything else seems to matter so little. All the things that we look to for happiness and security seem to carry less weight. If our lives are hidden with Christ, if who we are is found in Him, we’ll find our grip loosening on the things we once held onto so tightly. We shouldn’t be surprised if we end up looking a little reckless ourselves.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.
— Philippians 3:8-12

Re-Discovering the Awe

My 7-year-old daughter has this thing for toy unwrap videos. In case you’re wondering, toy unwrap videos are where people unpackage toys on YouTube while providing commentary throughout the process. (Confession: Sometimes, it is strangely satisfying to watch.) A few months back my wife and I noticed a shift in her behavior. Multiple times a day she would ask for various toys. More than usual it was, “Daddy will you get me this? Can I have one of those? Hey, I want that!” I know kids love toys, but this was uncharacteristic of her. After some conversation and investigation, we noticed her fascination with these videos and thus, traced her change in behavior back to these clips.

Then, in an unexpected way, God began to use this scenario to deal with me, graciously chastising me for the many things that compete for the affections of my own heart.

Photo by:  J. Diego

Photo by: J. Diego

I became more aware of how this horizontal world can consume us. It could be a new job, a promotion, a fresh, new pair of kicks, or, perhaps it’s an unhealthy relationship, money, porn, revenge, etc. When our love is not aligned vertically, we chase after the horizontal. We aim to fill our affections with the objects of our obsession.

We seem so easily compelled to settle for a very human “second best,” when what God offers us is so much more. The temptation being to exchange the Creator’s glory for something created.

It’s in our nature to conform to the likeness of what we behold. In time, we come to care for the thing(s) we give our time, energy and attention to. Like a combustion engine, we have the capacity to fuel our tastes and motivations for life.

For Israel, God miraculously delivered them from Egypt. After which, He instructed them to craft a temple worthy of His glory (Exodus 24-31). Moments and chapters later (Exodus 32), God’s chosen people are crafting a golden idol, a god of their own making, to worship while Moses talks to God on the mountain.

Like this moment, our entire human dilemma comes down to one thing: worship.

As John Piper once said, “Missions exist because worship does not.” As creatures with sin in our DNA, we are not inclined to pursue God, only to seek self-satisfaction until we eventually destroy ourselves. Sin leads to death (Romans 6:23). This is the disease of the human heart.

But our hearts are made to worship, not things, but God. I challenge you to study the lives of those around you. Look closely and you will find everyone serving and loving something. Our worship is good, the things we worship, not so much. But only the one true God is worthy of being worshiped. Only God can absorb our praise. And in this, He uses it to turn our affections towards Him. It is His goodness that draws us to repentance (Romans 2:4). This captivation found in our creator has a name. We call it awe­­ - a complete and total captivation, an amazed wonder at the brilliance of who God is.

Worship begins with discovering the awe.

For the Christian, our daily pursuit is to re-discover the awe, where once again we revel in the majesty of our beautiful savior.

Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
— Romans 11:34-36

God has made us so that our affections will flow to and through Him. He wants to epitomize our worship. Since He made us to worship, our primary end is to uplift Him in our lives.

When God is not the ultimate aim of our affection, a problem arises. When He fails to imbue the fullness of our desires, our joy is short-lived. And so, as a human race, we find ourselves unhappy, chasing things, when all along it was God calling at our desires bidding us to come and find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).  

But think about it…only an eternal being (God) can handle the human heart’s deep yearning for joy and satisfaction. It’s only when our desires are set upon Him that we are truly satisfied. In Him, our contentment is certain, since only God can manage what He made - our hearts.

Do you see? Outside of God’s grace, when we steward the human heart, we destroy it. God completes it.

Application to the Believer & the Artist

Worship is equally central to the creative life. To be a creator is to share an element of the beauty we’ve beheld - to tell its story. When that most awe-inspiring thing or person is God, the creative works to translate these aspects of His revealed greatness through their gifts for His infinite glory.

This response (to God’s revealed glory) is what we call worship.

In other words, worship is our adoring response to the revealed glory of God.

When we behold the Creator, our hearts long to share the transcendence we experience. We long to capture these elements of the sublime and put them in front of the viewer as if to say, “Come look what I’ve found. Come see the glory and majesty of what I’ve discovered.”

Look around and you will quickly discover how God has crafted the world to reflect His greatness (Romans 1).

Is it any wonder that when we gaze upon God’s beauty, we long to do the same - reflect His greatness?

The same goes for what we craft with our hands. We want it to reflect the beauty we’ve beheld in what we make.

Look circumspect and take note, whether you’re a custodian or a craftsman, an artist or a homemaker, a coach or a designer, a thinker, a teacher, a dad or an entrepreneur, your first priority is to worship our great and glorious King.

 

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Stewarding Grace

We are constantly trying to make sense of the world around us. Our lives are a journey of discovery. “Who am I?” is a question we’re consistently asking and this leaves us searching for our identity wherever it might be found.

When we stop and think about it we find that circumstances are perfect for us to adopt our gifts as our identity and to forget that we did nothing to merit them. But the gifts we’ve received are what God has called us to use to serve Him and to serve one another, not tell us who we are. 1 Peter 4 tells us they are a reflection of God’s multi- faceted grace. When we steward our gifts we are stewarding grace.

IMG_7528.JPG
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
— 1 Peter 4:10 & 11

Because it’s so hard to determine sometimes where our gifts end and we begin it’s intensely personal to offer our gifts back to the One who entrusted them to us, as if to say, “These gifts are not my identity. My identity is found in You alone. You are the One who gives me value and worth. Therefore the grace I’ve receive is the grace I’ll extend with everything I have, with every gift You’ve given.”

Here are some signs that you’ve surrendered your gifts to the Gift-giver:

1. You’re happy for the success of others in your area of giftedness.

In other words, the success of others doesn’t intimidate you. It’s understandable to feel a tinge of frustration when you see people move ahead and you seem to be standing still, but reminding yourself Who you’re doing this for should realign your heart to the One who graciously gave you the gift in the first place.

2. You don’t dwell on past mistakes.

God has already seen where you’d fall short and He called you anyway. You have to give Him your failures and trust Him with them. He is the redeemer of every lost opportunity and every missed chance if we will let Him be.

3. You can surrender your idea of what using your gift means.

Our culture paints a very specific picture of what using our talents is supposed to look like and it has snuck it’s way into the church. Do you trust God enough to let Him lead you down whatever path He chooses, whether it looks like what you envisioned or not? We sometimes put a ceiling on how far God can take us because we think it needs to look a certain way.

4. You steward your gift faithfully no matter what.

Whether you’re having an opportunity to use your gift publicly or not, if God gave it to you He is telling you to steward it. You steward that gift for Him because He is ultimately the One you serve.

5. Jesus is enough.

If everything changed tomorrow and by the world’s standards you had amazing success, if God asked you to, would you leave it all behind because Jesus is enough? If you were called to disciple the people on the stage rather than be on the stage yourself would you do it because Jesus is enough? If God asked you to use your gift in a place where no one would ever know your name would you do it because Jesus is enough?

If you have a gift, use your gift. Walk it out in the fullest expression possible. God will make up where you lack because He’s to One who is glorified, even in our weakness. ALL the glory belongs to Him. He invites us to be partakers in that glory but not for one second are we intended to try to take it for ourselves. When we find ourselves deceived into thinking this might all be about us, the Holy Spirit mercifully reveals that no amount of achievement or notoriety will bring the kind of satisfaction that offering our gifts back to God could ever bring.

The satisfaction we all long for is found in the Gift-giver, not the gift itself.

You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
— Psalm 145:16
 

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