#41 – Talking to the Man Upstairs

his is the Fourth installment of a mini-series I’m calling:

“Uh – I don’t think so”

examining mis-held assumptions that cause discontentment.


READ THIS

What an absolutely bizarre way to refer to communication with the creator and sustainer of the universe. Yet, it’s not uncommon to hear people refer to prayer as “talking to the man upstairs.” or something similar. Unfortunately, that’s not the only way we misunderstand prayer.

Prayer is something that I’ve held many unhelpful assumptions about – and I know I’m not the only one. Among the unhelpful ways I – and others I know- have understood prayer include:

  • Prayer as a last-ditch effort when you realize you are out of options
  • Prayer as a way to get what you want from God 
  • Prayer as a way to cover your own ideas with a veneer of religion 
  • Prayer as never anything more than rote recitation 
  • Prayer as a way to means to end all suffering, disappointments, and problems in your life

These and other mis-held assumptions really do affect our contentment because we are missing out on something that can bring contentment to our daily lives – intimate, personal, meaningful, communication with God.

I think one of the things that really clicked for me (much later than it should have) was reflecting on what do I really want out of prayer. Would I be happy to continue praying, spending time with God, if He never answers my prayers the way I want Him to? In other words, do I want the thing I’m praying for MORE than I want God? If so I’m using God to try to manufacture my own contentment. I want God to give me something (a job, a mended relationship, health) because I know that will bring contentment. A completely different posture is that I find contentment in God -and spending time in prayer is its own joy, its own reward.

(no – I”m not there yet – but I’m working on it)


DO THIS

The next time you pray – write out the things you most want from God. Then think about whether you are basing your contentment on receiving those things. What if God answered ZERO of those prayers the way you want – could you still be content? Could you still find joy in spending time in prayer?


PRAY THIS

God, 
the ability to even speak to you is beyond my comprehension. 
The fact that somehow you hear me, listen to me is often impossible to believe. it’s too good to believe. 
However – you asked us to pray to you. 
You told us to address you as Abba Father – Papa, Daddy 
while understanding that you are hallowed, holy, completely set apart from everything else in the universe. 
I want to believe you hear and answer my prayers, 
but more than that I want to believe you are with me as I pray. 
I want to feel the presence of your Spirit, 
receive the forgiveness of your Heart, 
and be part of the work of your people. 
Lord I believe…help my unbelief. 
Amen.

#40 – Father, Son & Holy ….

READ THIS

This is the THIRD instalment in what I’m calling: “Uh – I don’t think so.” examining mis-held assumptions that cause discontentment.

One of the bad assumptions I picked up somewhere along the way that perhaps has been the most hurtful, most harmful, was my understanding of the Holy Spirit.

I grew up in a tradition that was not only very conservative in theology, but traditional in practice. This meant order, repetition, nothing unexpected. The frozen-chosen you could say.

God is a God of order after all.

However somehow along the line that shifted in my view that the Trinity was more likely to be: Father, Son, and the Holy Scriptures.

Those happy-clappy charismatic-types were highly suspect. HIGHLY suspect. Also, I often heard the phrase “Holy Ghost” which really did not help to any kind of understanding (and in our current form of the English language is a questionable translation of “Spiritus Sanctus”)

The Holy Spirit’s work was more abstract. It was probably very unusual, happened usually at some other time, or at least some other place. Miracles did/could happen – but I don’t think I saw The Spirit work them – they were something God the Father sent from heaven above like lightning.

Saying “The Spirit led me to ….” was not something that one just said…

I think the problem was that I compared one fairly extreme tradition towards the Holy Spirit, with the opposite. Never really just digging back through the bible to see what it actually said about the Spirit.

So please hear me out on this one. I would argue a Christian is someone who has received Jesus as Savior and Lord, is Adopted as a beloved child by the Father, and has received the gift of the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit gives us power and authority and all the things we need to live out our calling as followers of Christ, and children of God – how can we be content if we misunderstand him? IF we ignore Him? If we forget Him?

Contentment in this life will not come if we are trying to follow Jesus, yet refuse the power that He promised to give us to do so. We will never find deep, true contentment if we are children of the Father, but ignore the Spirit who came to encourage us.

This one is pretty big….and to be honest….I’m still working through it.


DO THIS:

Read Acts. It’s not that long. Or just read some parts. There was an absolutely fundamental shift in the way the disciples acted from Acts 1 to the rest of the book. The only change was their receiving of the Spirit. That HAS to mean something to us.

follow-up: read . Forgotten God by Francis Chan I’m reading it right now for probably the third time through. Still a TON there for me to learn


PRAY THIS

Holy Spirit
Triune God
I admit I don’t understand you
I either igrnore you, or obsess on you.
Help me to understand you.
Help me to see you for who you are.
the great counseller, encourager, healer, giver.
Ever present, and all powerful.
I pray in your holy and powerful name,
Amen

#39 – Workin’ for the Weekend

READ THIS

This is the SECOND installment in what I’m calling: “Uh – I don’t think so.” examining mis-held assumptions that cause discontentment.

Sabbath

The first time we moved to France, one of the things that struck me was their calendar. The French view Sunday as the 7th day of the week, calendars are laid out as Monday through Sunday (OK – lundi through dimanche).

This made sense to my logical brain. Of course! We call Saturday & Sunday the ‘week-end’ so it should be the /end of the week/. We treat Sat-Sun like a set so why break them up visually on the calendar. We work five days to earn two days off. “Everybody’s working for the weekend” after all. {if I just put the 1981 hit song in your head where it is going to live rent-free for the rest of the day…you’re welcome }This timing issue was one of the most recent pieces to fall in my mis-understanding of sabbath. One of our team-mates in Burundi once pointed out how he loves the week starting on Sunday – starting with sabbath. We don’t earn it – we start with this gift.


Sabbath is not a reward for our hard work. Sabbath is a reminder that we don’t earn what we have. It’s a reminder to rest in God, in his care. It’s a chance to say: 
I don’t deserve what I have, 
so I don’t earn what I get, It’s all a gift 
I’m not in control,
so if I take ‘the day off’ it won’t all go sideways. 
If I stop from my labor, it won’t all fall apart. 


My work is not the indispensable piece holding my world together.So I switched my calendars back, Sunday is now the first day of the week. I try to see it as a gift, not a reward. 
It’s a reminder that if I stop working God doesn’t – which reminds me whose work is really more important.

DO THIS

This coming Sunday – try to conceive of the day as a gift to start the week – not a reward for the previous week. Imagine Sunday as a day of rest – that you can take because the world’s functioning does not depend on you, it depends on God.

Make it a true Sabbath rest (however you choose to do that) – but ensure you imagine it as given, not earned. 

PRAY THIS

Creator God who worked,
and then rested.
You have called us to work,
and you have called us to rest.
Give us true Sabbath rest. 
True, deep, contented rest.
Amen

#38 – Workin’ for the Weekend.

READ THIS

This is the SECOND installment in what I’m calling: “Uh – I don’t think so.” examining mis-held assumptions that cause discontentment.

Sabbath

The first time we moved to France, one of the things that struck me was their calendar. The French view Sunday as the 7th day of the week, calendars are laid out as Monday through Sunday (OK – lundi through dimanche).

This made sense to my logical brain. Of course! We call Saturday & Sunday the ‘week-end’ so it should be the /end of the week/. We treat Sat-Sun like a set so why break them up visually on the calendar. We work five days to earn two days off. “Everybody’s working for the weekend” after all. {if I just put the 1981 hit song in your head where it is going to live rent-free for the rest of the day…you’re welcome }

This timing issue was one of the most recent pieces to fall in my mis-understanding of sabbath. One of our team-mates in Burundi once pointed out how he loves the week starting on Sunday – starting with sabbath. We don’t earn it – we start with this gift.
Sabbath is not a reward for our hard work. Sabbath is a reminder that we don’t earn what we have. It’s a reminder to rest in God, in his care.

It’s a chance to say:
I don’t deserve what I have,
so I don’t earn what I get, It’s all a gift
I’m not in control,
so if I take ‘the day off’ it won’t all go sideways.
If I stop from my labor, it won’t all fall apart.
My work is not the indispensable piece holding my world together.

So I switched my calendars back, Sunday is now the first day of the week. I try to see it as a gift, not a reward.
It’s a reminder that if I stop working God doesn’t – which reminds me whose work is really more important.


DO THIS

This coming Sunday – try to conceive of the day as a gift to start the week – not a reward for the previous week.

Imagine Sunday as a day of rest – that you can take because the world’s functioning does not depend on you, it depends on God.

Make it a true Sabbath rest (however you choose to do that) – but ensure you imagine it as given, not earned.


PRAY THIS

Creator God who worked,
and then rested.
You have called us to work,
and you have called us to rest.
Give us true Sabbath rest.
True, deep, contented rest.
Amen

#37 – Don’t Think…just believe.

READ THIS

{This is the first instalment in what I’m calling: “Uh – I don’t think so” examining mis-held assumptions that cause discontentment}


When i was younger I somehow came to the conclusion that ‘blind faith’ was the most pure kind. Belief that stands in the face of what is right in front of you. I think it went something like this: Jesus rising from the dead seems impossible; therefore it IS impossible; therefore believing it is a ‘really strong faith.’This lead to discontentment as I have always been a very logical person (yet always coupled with childish child-like humour!) and so this often didn’t sit well deep within me. 


Later in life I was exposed to Christian Apologetics – where believers use real historical evidence, and logical thought to lend support to the claims of the Bible and the church. This sat much better with my mind that was always trying to find explanations. However these claims felt like they were in a separate category. They were some kind of ‘small proofs’ to support specific claims of the Bible (resurrection, creation, crossing the Red Sea etc) – but just made you felt a bit better about the whole ‘blind faith’ bit that got you into this in the first place. 


In my mind the ‘purest faith’ was one that stood in the face of the evidence – it wasn’t supported by it. /Blind faith/somehow seemed ‘stronger’ or better because it was standing all on its own. 
I’m 40-whatever now (no that’s not being cheeky – I honestly have to either calculate or ask my kids) but I realize there is still so much baggage I’ve carried with me about my faith that is just incorrect assumptions that I absorbed decades ago. 


This idea that we shut off our minds when we come to faith robbed me of a lot of contentment, for years of my life. 


DO THIS

If you’re struggling with this I suggest reflect on the following:

One day an expert in the law stood up to test Him. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?”‘
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus said. “Do this and you will live.
Luke 10:25

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. – 2 Tim 2:7

When you read this, you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ Eph 3:4

Jesus’ parable of the good soil: “the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields,…” Matt 13:23

At least Ten times in Acts that Paul is said to “reason” as a method of telling others – including Acts 17:2,4,17; 18:4,19; 19:8,9; 20:7; 24:25


PRAY THIS

God who created our minds,
Who gave us logic, intellect,and curiosity
Who gave us the ability to think as well as to love and believe
Guide us to a place where we truly love you with all our heart
all our soul
and all our mind.
Amen

READ THIS

{This is the first instalment in what I’m calling: “Uh – I don’t think so” examining mis-held assumptions that cause discontentment}


When i was younger I somehow came to the conclusion that ‘blind faith’ was the most pure kind. Belief that stands in the face of what is right in front of you. I think it went something like this: Jesus rising from the dead seems impossible; therefore it IS impossible; therefore believing it is a ‘really strong faith.’This lead to discontentment as I have always been a very logical person (yet always coupled with childish child-like humour!) and so this often didn’t sit well deep within me. 


Later in life I was exposed to Christian Apologetics – where believers use real historical evidence, and logical thought to lend support to the claims of the Bible and the church. This sat much better with my mind that was always trying to find explanations. However these claims felt like they were in a separate category. They were some kind of ‘small proofs’ to support specific claims of the Bible (resurrection, creation, crossing the Red Sea etc) – but just made you felt a bit better about the whole ‘blind faith’ bit that got you into this in the first place. 


In my mind the ‘purest faith’ was one that stood in the face of the evidence – it wasn’t supported by it. /Blind faith/somehow seemed ‘stronger’ or better because it was standing all on its own. 
I’m 40-whatever now (no that’s not being cheeky – I honestly have to either calculate or ask my kids) but I realize there is still so much baggage I’ve carried with me about my faith that is just incorrect assumptions that I absorbed decades ago. 


This idea that we shut off our minds when we come to faith robbed me of a lot of contentment, for years of my life. 


DO THIS

If you’re struggling with this I suggest reflect on the following:

One day an expert in the law stood up to test Him. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?”‘
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus said. “Do this and you will live.
Luke 10:25

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. – 2 Tim 2:7

When you read this, you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ Eph 3:4

Jesus’ parable of the good soil: “the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields,…” Matt 13:23

At least Ten times in Acts that Paul is said to “reason” as a method of telling others – including Acts 17:2,4,17; 18:4,19; 19:8,9; 20:7; 24:25


PRAY THIS

God who created our minds,
Who gave us logic, intellect,and curiosity
Who gave us the ability to think as well as to love and believe
Guide us to a place where we truly love you with all our heart
all our soul
and all our mind.
Amen


#36 -OK then, what IS my identity ?????

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Last week we looked at how we try to find contentment in NOT being part of some group – and the week before how we try it through identity WITH a group.

Today we examine how we need to stop looking around for some identiy that we hope will bring contentment, fulfillment, peace.

Followers of Jesus know – at least in their heads – that their identity is with Jesus. They KNOW that verses like Galatians 2:20 say “..it is no longer I who live, but Christ living thorugh me.” 

But that’s hard.

It’s hard to give up trying to find our identity in something – out there. 

Some group, some team, some tangible community. Something that we can see and feel.

You see – the Bible doessn’t say find our identity in being “a christian” or in blonging to a church. But in Christ.

It’s easier to say “I’m a German Lutheran” or “I’m a Southern Baptist” or whatever – becauase that gives us a sense of belonging to a group of other people. Like being fans of a sports team. 

However – we are to find our identity in Christ. 

In christ alone.

We will only be content when we can center ourselves, and find out identity there.

Not in groups of other Christ-followers – but Christ. 


DO THIS

If a stranger were to ask you “what are your religiosu beliefs” or “what’s your faith?” – how do you respond? 

What is the center of your identity? 

Is it Christ? Or is it some other – maybe good thing/group – but not truly Christ?


PRAY THIS

Jesus, 
Be The Centre
Be My Source, Be My Light, Jesus
Jesus, Be The Centre
Be My Hope, Be My Song,
Amen

[Lyrics: Michael Frye]

#35 -At Least I’m not them – because they’re Wrong

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Last week we looked at how we can tie our contentment to our identity as part of a group – political, religious, sporting…whatever. We find identity in a community, and our contentment gets hitched to them for better or worse.

Today we look at the flip-side – basing our contentment on NOT being part of a group.

One of the easiest things to happen when we strongly identify with a group is we see who ‘the other’ is. It quickly reverts into an US vs. THEM mentality.

At least I’m not a member of THAT political party.
At least I’m not a fan of the Calgary Flames.
At least I don’t belong to THAT church.

We find our sense of contentment, of belonging, and security being tied to not merely being IN a certain group – but in demeaning the OTHER.

We can only be successful if THEY fail.
We can only win if THEY lose.
We can only be right if THEY are wrong.

We are content when we can compare ourselves to someone else – and ensure we are better / more right / more successful.

Now we’re not only basing our contentment on some fallible group of sinful humans – but on comparing ourselves to another group we deem more unworthy.

This attempt to find contentment will not only fail – but lead us to pride, arrogance, and contempt for our brothers and sisters.

DO THIS

What group are you glad/proud you’re definitely NOT part of?
What group REALLY gets under your skin?
You KNOW they’re wrong. You know they’re on the wrong side.
You KNOW they support the wrong cause?
Name them.

Now pray for them.

Pray sincerely that God would show that group his favor.
THat they would see him more.
That they would know him better.
Pray that God would reveal what you can learn from them.

Even if they are the fans of Chelsea Football Club, or people from Toronto, or Democrats, or fans of country music. Whatever.

PRAY THIS

God
Help me see your image in those around me
Those I disagree with
Those image-bearers I don’t agree with.
Give me your eyes to see your divinity in everyone I honestly don’t really like
Help me reveal your love to those I disagree with.
You have done so much more for me – and for that I am grateful.
Amen

#34 – Identity-based Contentment

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We all tie our identity to something -or rather some things.

Sometimes we show allegiance intentionally and overtly, like wearing a hat from our favorite sports team. Sometimes we do it less intentionally, like sporting a t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of a clothing company. Other times it comes us in conversation, like our allegiance to a political party.

However, human beings seem hard-wired to attach themselves to something we see as bigger than us. Something that makes us part of a community of some sort.

However, when too much of our identity is tied to anything other than God – we are giving over our contentment to something fickle, unreliable, and unpredictable. We tie our fortunes to something that we have zero control over.

We all know what someone who is a die-hard fan of a team looks like the morning after they lost the big game.

While this contentment tied to something else is not a bad thing, we need to keep it in check.

If we claim our relation to God is stronger than our affinity for our sports club, does it show?

If we claim our love for the church is stronger than our ties to our political , can others tell?

DO THIS

What symbols, items, things, ideas, memberships, team hold incredible value to you?
Are you giving over your contentment to the control of these things?
What sports team’s loss, or political party fortunes, or whatever – can crush you?
How much of your contentment – are you giving away to something that is guaranteed to fail you at some point?

PRAY THIS

God
our refuge and rock.
Solid and never changing.
We know you won’t let us down,
yet we act like you might, so we hedge our bets.
We want to be all in with you and your people,
yet we feel stronger allegiance to so much else.
Give us purer love for you,
and more consistent love for others.
Amen

Talk to you next Thursday!

~George

#33 – Cracks & Light

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You may be thinking “wait…I thought you told me to stop looking outside myself for contentment?”
Well, yes. But — sometimes we need to.

This week the message is simple.
It may even seem repeated.
It may seem too easy.

But if you’re like me, you need to hear this over and over and over.

You always have something to be thankful for.
You always have rays of sun through the clouds.
You always have hope.
Always.

This week some friends are dealing with a potentially life-altering outcome from a simple bicycle accident. But what message do we hear from the husband at the bedside in the ICU?

Positive outlook. Gracious responses. Heartfelt thanks.
Hope.

(is there really a more beautiful thing in this world than hope in the face of adversity?)

There is always something that you can find to be thankful for.

There is always someplace God is shining light in.

Look around and you will always see some redemption, some healing, some life, some love, some grace.

Often we’re just too inwardly focused to see it.

DO THIS

“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Leonard Cohen

What does that mean to you – right where you are, right now?
What evidences of brokenness – are actually ways that redemption is getting to you?

PRAY THIS

God I don’t fully understand why you allow so many horrible things,
pain and suffering, and brokenness and heartache, and sickness and death.
BUT…
When I look I can see your love and healing and care and resurrection.
I see your lights through the cracks.
Help me focus on the light getting to me,
Instead of the cracks.
Amen

#32 – I deserve what I get

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Welcome to our fourth and final installment of our mini-series on ingratitude’s ties to discontentment.

When we have no gratitude towards God (or anyone else) we believe that we alone are the cause of our good fortune. Logically this means we are good enough, smart enough, influential enough, powerful enough etc etc to be able to enact whatever kind of change we see (or want to see) in our lives.

The end result is a life full of self-confidence, self-assuredness, self-sufficiency, and a whole lot more self’s that can get pretty ugly.

Of course having an appropriate level of self-confidence is a good thing – but from my 40-whatever years on earth, I’ve learned we tend to err on the side of TOO MUCH rather than too little of anything related to ego.

We lose contentment since we become inward-focused. We can’t see the good given to us, the good that others do for us, and the lack of control we have over our lives.

Perhaps one of the lingering “benefits” of the pandemic is those of us who live lives of relative ease and comfort, who are used to exerting incredible amounts of control on our lives – will actually accept we are not in control.

Our lack of gratitude turns us inward, it makes us boastful and causes us to ignore what’s around us. We simply can’t be content when our pride is a shell around us that filters out the goodness of others, and won’t allow criticism for fear the shell will crack.

DO THIS

Today – this very day – just thank someone (anyone) for something that you would not normally thank. Just do it. Then do it again. See how you feel. See how they feel.
Be more of that.

PRAY THIS

Father of giving,
you give even when I don’t acknowledge your gifts,
mountain peaks, palm trees, placid lakes, gentle snow.
All of it beautiful in its own way – all of it an undeserved gift.
You send others to help even when I ignore them,
you give kindness, and beauty, and grace, and love.
All of it is life-giving in its own way – more undeserved gifts.
Turn my cold heart of prideful stone
into a heart beating with thankfulness.
Amen