Christian Life ...

Christian Life ...
Christian life is meant to be a life of bearing much fruit. What does that look like? How do we get there? This blog will record thoughts and meditations about living a life striving to be a fruitful branch.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Stealing From our Creator

A while back now Pastor David Berge of City of Lakes Covenant Church, and preacher at Resurrection MPLS worship service at Aldrich Church in South Minnepolis, (pfwehw ... deep breath) began a sermon series on the ten commandments. I can assure you, that if this description of Pastor Berge's role leading my congregation leaves you as rooted as a helium balloon, please click the link and learn more about my church community.

The idea of a sermon series about the ten commandments, immediately makes me squirm a little bit. Am I going to sit here and have someone, even a good friend, tell me what I can and cannot do? The greatest thing about this series was that it wasn't that way at all. It wasn't a direct personal "do" and "do not", but a study on how God provided these Commandments as rules to freedom.

One week, Berge preached on the "Do Not Steal" commandment and one part of it really stood out to me. This was the idea of what it means to steal from God our creator. To preface my interest in this comment, I will first review a portion a previous sermon series in which Pastor Dave used a book by fellow Twin Cities Covenant Pastor, Steve Wiens entitled Beginnings as a guide. In that book, Wiens takes the reader though the Creation story in Genesis. In doing this he points out how God continues to create within us. He shares lessons and thought pieces from each day of creation, expressing the many ways that God continues to help us grow, embrace change and experience new creation and new life.

In the chapter related to the Third day of creation, Wiens speaks about the Hebrew word zera, or in English, seeds.  

God Spoke: "Earth, green up! Grow all varieties
          of Seed-bearing plants,
Every sort of fruit-bearing tree."
          And there it was.
Earth produced green seed-bearing plants,
          all varieties,
And fruit-bearing trees of all sorts.
          God saw that it was good.
It was evening, it was morning--
Day Three.

-Genesis 1:11-13

In this passage, God gives creation the ability to create. He plants seeds that we grow plants that will produce fruit that will hold seed that will grow more plants. God created perpetual creation. He gave even the simplest of his creations the ability to create. We have the same ability, both physically to reproduce, and more generally to come up with new ideas and to inspire one another. 

In this chapter, Wiens tells a story about a fundraiser he participated in where he and a few other men ran all the way across the Grand Canyon, in exactly the kind of sweltering heat as you would expect. They did it to raise money for The Keziah Project, a organization that helps Ethiopian women escape sex trafficking. 

Steve's uncle Ed, who ran that day as well, described the action of running an actual marathon, twenty four miles down into and back out of the Grand Canyon, like passing "..through the womb of the earth" (Page 65). Wiens relates this to the idea of bringing something into the world. Birth is good. Birth is beautiful, but any mother would tell you that it's extremely painful too. Like how birth brings good into the world, God created us to that too.

Wiens mentions that the value of the fundraiser was more than what first meets the eye. It wasn't just the joy and satisfaction of finishing an impressive physical feat or raising a bunch of money for great human rights cause that struck him the most. In addition to all  that it was the feeling of doing something that brought people together. He explained it as "being in the center of a very wide group of people who loved me and who supported me as we did something redemptive together" (page 65-66).  He felt like it started something new in him like the planting of a seed. It brought forth new life. 

Going forward in the chapter Wiens talks about viewing people with the assumption that they have "something in them (that) needs to be born" (page 67). God gives us gifts. He has given each of us something that we are made to do. Something that is designed to bring good into the world. Something like a seed in us that will sprout forth with fruit that holds inside of it, it's own seeds.

I feel this way when I write. I feel this way when I spend time with youth and when I collaborate with other musicians. These things bring me joy.

Back to the main point of this post, it is hard to conceptualize how a person could steal from God, especially when God created everything and has, as they say, "got the whole world in his hands". The point of this however is that when God created us, he created us with gifts planted inside of us and skills and abilities that we were made to use for His glory and His kingdom. This is fruitfulness. If we intentionally refuse to acknowledge our gifts, or refuse to use them as he has called us to, we are in a sense, stealing from God.

That hit me pretty hard. I can't count how many times people have told me how great a gift I have at relating to youth. I have felt the daily urge to write. I've felt the itch to share music. But when I feel this urges I have learned to cut them down. I tell myself they are impractical, because they are not money makers. I fear that if I spend my time doing these things that I am called to do that they will come to nothing and it will all be a waste of time. Let me insist, both outwardly to any readers of this blog and to myself, that what is practical is rarely redemptive. Practical decisions are, by their very definition, to insure comfort, to save face, to take care of me, to captain my own ship.

God has planted these seeds in me. He has given me these gifts to write and to perform music, and he has made me uniquely gifted in relating to people, especially youth. In my worry about what is practical I have forgotten what is missional. In worrying about my bank account, I have forgotten that I can't take the currency with me.

Because I am God's and he planted these seeds in me, the fruit that comes of them are His. In not using these gifts, in not acting upon the deep urging of my God given gifts, I am, and have been, stealing from my creator.

We have been created in the image of God, and are called as Christians to mirror Christ. In this way we are to be primarily merciful, sacrificial, self-giving, prayerful, relational, word focused, and creative people. In creating us he didn't make mistakes. He didn't put desires to create in my heart as a test so that I would learn how to choose more practical hobbies. He did not give me a heart for hanging out with youth so that I could only do that when it happens to come up.

God is a good Father and he knows how to give his children good gifts. He knows what makes me tick. He knows what things are "my jam" and what are not. He knows that better than I do. God doesn't expect me to build his Kingdom in ways that He's gifted somebody else. He desires for me to trust Him. Instead, I continually find a way to worry about the value of doing the things that actually give me vocational joy.

This is actually really good news, isn't it? Isn't it good that God has planted seeds in us that are made to grow fruit that in it holds more seeds? Isn't it great that he has given us unique gifts and promised to be with us?

I am learning how much I want to be good on my own. I realize that when I worry about being practical, and making the absolute perfect choice of what is best to do, I'm not trusting God, I'm clinging to my own safety. I'm like a child hugging a Christmas present that is too afraid to set it down. They are so afraid of losing it, that that they never open it. That steals from the giver. The child has to put down the pretty packaging and get to the actual gift inside.

I'm not planting the seeds that are inside me, at least not completely.

Once at a bible study retreat while I was a student at Gustavus Adophus College, a student from another school shared an memorable image. She said that she envisioned herself wrapped in heavy chains. However instead of the chains being locked, this girl saw herself clutching them. No matter how many times she had been convinced that God had graciously removed their burden from her, she eventually picked the weight of the broken chains back up again.

Let me state this clearly. This is NOT what it means to pick up your cross and follow him. We are not picking up a cross of judgement and following Christ, we are picking up a cross of redemption. This is an enormous difference.

Like that girl's vision, God intends to give us freedom. Freedom in exactly the way he created for us. One of the ways that he does this, is by planting these kinds seeds in us. By giving us gifts that will give gifts. This is good news. We have a God who created us out of the joy in His nature. His creation is built to continue to create. Actually, it's built to re-create. God has planted in us the seeds that will help grow the garden of re-creation. He's given us gifts that fit our vocation and our personal sense of recreation to lead to his re-creation of the world. God's redemptive purposes are in the works right now. The reconciliation of creation isn't passive. We, as members of Christ's vine, as parts of the body of Christ, His church, we are meant to be fruitful in our role.

I urge you. Listen to the desires of your heart. Listen inside of you to find the thing that makes you buzz. What excites you? What drives you crazy? Is there a way you are called, or people are calling you to work on those things that excite you or in opposition to those things that make you want to throw stuff?

One of the most remarkable things about God's law is that it is for our good. I am stunned by how much this idea of breaking God's law by stealing from him has effected me. It has shown me that the things that people have called out in me, the things that God has planted upon my heart are the things that give me real lasting joy. Not doing them, is stealing from God and stealing from my role in the redemption of the world.

Nonetheless, there is Grace for that theft. Only Christ followed God the Father's will completely. In him, God "made the One (Christ) who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Pray about those things. Pray for the Holy Spirit to provide you with wisdom and guidance. Ask the Lord if there are ways in which you are stealing from Him the goodness He has planted with you. Consider these words:

Forgive me Lord for the times where I have let what appears practical for my safety and comfort distract me from the gifts and inclinations you have placed within my heart. Gardener of Creation, nurture within me the seeds you have planted there, even some of them that I may not know yet, and use them for Your Kingdom purpose. Water them with your plans. As I look to you, remove from the soil of my heart the weeds that make it less fit for fruitfulness. Thank You Lord for your promises to work for our good. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit and Your living Word. Spirit help us to see in others, those things that must "be born in them". Give us vision. Lord, our strength is in You. Amen.

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