Monday, April 19, 2010

R12: All In

My apologies for not having the last chapter under the topic of Surrender up earlier. The weekend got the best of me. I do plan on keeping the M-F schedule for the next topic: Separate, so expect that first post later this morning (10ish Pacific is my goal).

On to the subject at hand. The illustration of a blank check is used to describe wholly surrendering to God. The problem is, we often think that blank check is from God to us, instead of the other way around. On the other hand, there may be a moment in our lives where everything spiritually aligns and we are more than willing to hand God a blank check for our lives. But we fail to mention that we have a secret account hidden away that he can't touch. We all have that "one thing" we hold on to, that we are unwilling to give up. So we find ourselves stuck in the religious machine, unable to fully experience God's blessings in our lives.

From the book: "Unfortunately, I know a lot of Christians who spend the majority of their time 'trying hard' to please God but never quite feeling like they measure up. Their Christian life is little more than multiple attempts of self-effort to gain God's approval. For others, the Christian life is more like fulfilling a duty and obligation on the weekend by attending a service and attempting to live in a moderately more moral way than the people around them. Both approaches completely miss God's heart and intent for His children." The numbers back this up. Recall the Barna poll that found that 81% of Christians surveyed considered spiritual maturity to be defined by "following all the rules".

So if God doesn't want us to be religious, legalistic, or even "moral" on some sliding scale, what does he want? He wants us. He wants a personal relationship as a Father to his child with each and every one of us. It's not about the "how" but about the "what". This is where religion fails. The focus is wrong. It's corporate, not personal. It's rule-based, not relationship-based. It's lukewarm instead of passionate for your own [spiritual] flesh and blood.

That relationship however, comes at a cost. It must cost us our will, our regret of the past, our dreams for the future, our all. So what are you holding back? For many, it is their religious tradition in the face of what the Bible clearly states. For a lot of people, there's the "one thing" that they swore they would take to their grave that no one else would ever know. Most of us hold on to something in our lives- our career, our relationships, our money- that we begrudgingly offer to God, but not with our whole hearts. For Chip, it was a girl and basketball.

For me, it was all the above at different points in my life. First I had to surrender my religious tradition. The Biblical definition of a disciple of Jesus was inconsistent, and ultimately incompatible, with my religiosity. I had to give up "the faith of my fathers" in order to have a meaningful relationship with God. I was converted in campus ministry, loved my brothers and sisters there, and loved where I lived. So when I graduated I then had to surrender limiting my career by my geography by packing up and moving. Yet it took me a year of waiting tables before I was willing to surrender my career to God and go wherever he chose. At the same time, I had to surrender those relationships (and an interest in a particular sister) to move someplace where I knew no one. My biggest fear moving was that I would have to build new relationships and in so doing, it would take too long before finding "the one" and forging a relationship with her. I was convinced I should have been married already and I felt like I was running out of time. But once there, after stubbornly trying to build relationships while keeping one eye open for her, I found most of the single sisters in my congregation were seldom encouraged and were left out of the dating "scene". So I chose to surrender my desire to find "the one" so that I could encourage the sisters right in front of me with no expectations and no strings attached. It was only then that who God had chosen as "the one" came into my life. Even then, it took me a while to see it. While I was building this relationship, ignorant of God's plan for us, I was digging through my own past and had to face one of those "I'll take this to my grave" events as part of my recovery. After laying it all out on the table, I was suddenly able to see this sister for who God planned her to be and fell deeply in love. Shortly after we were married. We chose to surrender her career for our firstborn on the faith that God would provide on my still entry-level salary. It wasn't long after that decision that I was given a large raise. I could go on and on, but I'll just say that I think I have the best job in the world, I'm blessed with a beautiful and faithful wife and two adorable children. All because of a series of decisions to surrender.

I don't say this to boast, or even as a how-to or what-to-expect with surrender. In fact, my heart is overcome with sadness. Last night at my recovery group I learned a young man, who I personally challenged a couple of weeks ago to be open about his "one thing" because he was stuck in his recovery, backslid and fell of the wagon and has been on a binge since. He was willing to own up to what he had done as an addict, and he had literally been through Hell and back, but would not own up to who he was. And that was keeping him from fully surrendering. I'm sad because I know that God has better in store for him. I know that God can work powerfully in his recovery. I know that God can repair the incredible damage he's done to his family. But he needs to surrender.

The secret of surrender is not holding anything back. Writing that blank check. Going "all in" where it's then up to God whether you win or lose. Only then can we experience the full extent of God's blessings in our lives. I've seen it. I've struggled through it. I've seen it in others. I want to see it in you.

***Updated 9:40. Forgot the TRUST ME acrostic***

Think: What do you hear God saying in Romans 12:1?
Reflect: Why does God want "all of you"?
Understand: What is the best way to process your inner thoughts and feelings? Journal, music, long walks, good friends, etc?
Surrender: Just do it! Sign that blank check! Go all in!
Take Action: If you choose to surrender, highlight Romans 12:1 in your Bible and date it. Tell someone about it.
Motivation: Write Psalm 84:11 on a 3x5 and put in your wallet or purse so you can review it every time you make a purchase this week.
Encourage someone: Share Psalm 84:11 with two people via email, text, phone call, etc this week.

Today continues our "virtual small group" covering the book Living On The Edge. For how this group is going to work, read this entry. For an introduction with disclaimers, click here. For some numbers from Barna to motivate you to continue reading, go here. For the R12 videos, click the R12 button on the sidebar to the right. Finally, as we move forward through the book you can always catch up by clicking the R12 label at the end of each post.

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