Being a Bird in the House of a Cat

Sometimes we can fall into the temptation of seeing God’s ways – His moral absolutes, rules, statutes – as obstacles that get in our way of freedom.  This is especially true for us fiercely independent Americans, who value our freedom above almost anything.  I offer this alternative view.

Imagine that you are a bird.  A little, charming parakeet or something.  You were designed to fly freely and eat whatever you happened to find in God’s wild world.  Yet you live inside a small cage in a house.  Imagine also that there is a cat who lives in the house, who constantly has his eye on you and paces beneath the dresser where your cage is kept.  Is the cage a repression of your God-given right to fly freely?  Or is it protection against an unsafe world that wants to eat you?  Don’t fall into the trap of resenting the direction of the Lord, as if you invented yourself and didn’t owe your very existence to Him in the first place.  The Creator and Lover of us sees everything – past, presence, and future.  Trusting Him is the answer, even when we don’t want to.

As long as we see God’s Word as hindering us, and not helping us, we will always struggle with buying into resentment and sin.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand…Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:6-9)

“Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:1-4)


Jesus did not use guilt to motivate others, neither should we

There are different ways to motivate people to do what they ought to do…or what you want them to do.  The method we use to motivate others has a huge influence on whether or not the person will follow.  Guilt can be a very powerful motivator, it’s also the easiest.  If you point out to someone why they ought to do, or not do, a certain thing – and accompany that “ought” with a heaping measure of condemnation, name-calling, and shaming, you can get people to do almost anything.  Which is fine, as long as your main goal is compliance and control.  However, as is the case in many other areas of life, the easy path is often the most destructive.  You know people who use guilt on you…you may even have the image of someone popping into your mind right now.  I do.  These people hold sway over your soul, and have a way of holding your peace & joy & contentment for ransom until you do, or don’t do, what they require in order to approve of you.
This is not the way of Jesus.  Although there are many in today’s world who see Christians as self-righteous and narrow-minded guilt-police…and often this accusation is painfully accurate…Jesus did not use guilt to motivate others, neither should we.  When we lose our grace, and start enforcing rules as a means of acceptance, we become just like the Pharisee’s in Jesus’ day….His greatest adversaries and enemies.  
Jesus led with love and service, self-sacrificially.  In no way does this mean that He condoned wrongdoing, but He didn’t hold His acceptance of others over their heads until they did right.  He loved and accepted people as His friends, and then influenced them in ways of righteousness out of the context of that love-based relationship.  This is by far the more difficult method of influencing others, it demands the most of us…but it is right.
This is the kind of Jesus that this sinner fell in love with as a 16-year old…the kind of Jesus people are longing for today. 

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command….This is my command: Love each other.”  (Jesus, in John 15:13-17)


Transforming Setbacks Into Opportunities Through Prayer

These words were adapted from this morning’s daily devotional in “Jesus Calling”, by Sarah Young.
Every time something thwarts your plans or desires, use that as a reminder to communicate with God through prayer.  This practice has several benefits.  The first is obvious: Talking with Him blesses you and strengthens your relationship.  Another benefit is that disappointments, instead of dragging you down, are transformed into opportunities for good.  This transformation removes the sting from difficult circumstances, making it possible to be joyful in the midst of adversity.

Begin by practicing this discipline in all the little disappointments of daily life.  It is often these minor setbacks that draw you away from the presence of God.  When you reframe setbacks as opportunities, you find that you gain much more than you have lost.  It is only after much training that you can accept major losses in this positive way.  But it is possible to attain the perspective of the apostle Paul, who wrote: “Compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, I consider everything I once treasured to be as insignificant as rubbish.” (Philippians 3:7-8)