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.

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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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Let It Happen

Comfortable people don’t need Jesus, desperate people do.
— Bob Goff

I’ve been hearing this question lately, “Why do you keep watering it down?”

“Watering what down?” I ask.

The Holy Spirit whispers, “Your passion. Your longings. That voice that keeps telling you that you were meant for more. You turn to lesser things for comfort when you’re called to feel the discomfort of “not yet” or “not quite”. It’s worth the investment right now.”

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The lesser things just deaden the voice a little bit; they take away the edge. Rather than requiring me to trust God, I make it manageable by making it quieter.

Not too close. Not too hard. Not too much.
That’s how it feels. Like it’s just too much. Deep down I don’t know if I can handle being fully alive so I self-medicate.

I want to protect myself from the pain of disappointment because the dreams are bigger than anything I could do on my own. You know the saying, “If your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough”? Well, they scare me, so I shut them away and act like I don’t care. If it happens it happens, but while I’m waiting I’ll be over here watching Netflix.

There’s a song that goes, “Your full of life now, full of passion, that’s how He made you. Just let it happen.” I just got it. I just realized I wasn’t letting it happen. I was letting the voices of others in my head influence me. I was letting my own desire for comfort influence me. I was avoiding the pain that I know comes with “letting it happen”. Because it is painful. There’s another song with a line that says, “coming alive feels a lot like dying”. And it does. I’ve been comfortable. Not satisfied. Comfortable. I work for a church, I serve, I lead a small group...but I’m comfortable.

We require the right problem to expose our need for Jesus. What’s my problem? Laying my head on the pillow every night knowing that I might not be ready for an opportunity that could present itself tomorrow because my desire for comfort won. Isn’t it interesting how pain reminds us that we’re alive? We find ourselves stuck in the cycle of settling for lesser things until we wake up to the conviction that each day is a day we won’t get back. Because God is merciful He allows me to feel the pain of “what if” and then I wake up.

Sinking deep into who God created you to be can be scary because you’re not sure who can come with you to that place. But if God is calling you there, then it’s because you’re supposed to lead the way for others. The longer you put it off, the more frustrated you’ll become over the time that you’ve lost. But know this: God is the redeemer and He can redeem the time if you hand it over to Him. There is a facet of who God is that we will miss out on if we don’t trust Him with the opportunities we believe we’ve lost.

Watering down your calling is just a temporary solution for an eternal problem. It will never lead to the satisfaction and true rest that we all long for. At the end of the day, I know that if I don’t trust Him with this I’ve denied myself abundant life. Jesus said that’s what He came to bring us, and just as He challenged the rich young ruler, He also challenges us to leave our comfort behind.

What He’s placed inside us isn’t just for us. God’s purposes will be accomplished with or without us. Are you okay with that? I don’t think so. Although, my actions make me feel as if I am betraying myself, since they seem so contrary to who I know I am—to who I’m called to be.

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
— Colossians 1:28-29

When Paul says, “for this I toil, struggling,” he's saying that he's exhausting himself for the sake of the call, for the good fight of faith. He acknowledges the powerful work of the Spirit within and responds accordingly. Know this: Paul is not working for the sake of achievement or earning recognition. He is working and toiling in response to the reality of a dying world and the corresponding power of the Holy Spirit within; the same power that raised Christ from the dead.

When we water down the call we relegate the powerful work of the Holy Spirit to the sidelines of our lives. The power that raised Christ is the same power that is available for you to spend yourself completely on the gospel (beyond what you thought possible). And in the very midst, the Holy Spirit invites us to rest in His sovereign care. He wants us to know that if we pour out our lives, abundant life awaits us.

You may be asking the same question I’ve used as an excuse many times to keep from being “all in." How is it possible to give beyond what you imagined and then to rest? Both are the result of utter dependence and yielding to the work of the Holy Spirit. You can’t have one without the other. You can’t work in submission to the Holy Spirit and not rest AND you can’t rest in submission to the Holy Spirit and not work.

When we try to preserve our comfort we deny ourselves true rest.

But Jesus invites us into a “glorious ‘yes.' " A yes that requires every part of us and gives us abundant life in return.

So give it all.

Give it everything you’ve got.

Do it scared if you have to.

Because it will be worth it.

It always is.

You’re full of life now, full of passion. That’s how He made you. Just let it happen.
— United Pursuit
 

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