God’s Dream: Mystery

How do we know the will of God?

I know you may have come on this Restless journey hoping for complete clarity. You aren’t alone. I long for clarity because God keeps asking me to trust him and to risk. And it is painful. It would seem so much easier if he would just spell things out a bit. But as we all walk by faith, we are tasting more of him.

I do not know what your future holds, but I trust fully in the promise of Scripture that if you commit all of your ways to the Lord, he will set your path straight (Proverbs 3:6). For me, that has typically looked like only knowing the exact next step on the path and learning to trust him with the darkness ahead.

The restlessness we feel is not a bad thing. I believe it is the longing and passion in us for God-for more. It could push us to move forward, to live epic lives that were designed before the foundations of the earth were laid.

The stirrings of a revolution are in the works. God is gathering a force, and change is coming. It comes from him. But a lot of us, if we’re honest, are afraid. We hold close to our chest the new and scary and uncomfortable visions that may just be from God and play a small part in something bigger.

But we need each other.

We need some understanding of ourselves and the empty places around us.

But mostly we just need faith in a real, unseen God.

I believe that together, if we all will quit comparing ourselves to others and just follow our Jesus, something is going to happen. A generation who has quietly been reading and longing and dreaming and falling in love with God is about to wake up. We are about to let God run wild through us.

We live once, and then we meet God. We want to live lives that matter for eternal things. We want to be a generation who followed with reckless abandon a God who was real to us.

So let’s get after it.

Respond:

Do you believe you could do great works for God?

What is holding you back from running with the dreams God has put in you?

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God’s Dream: Threads of Passions (Part 2)

Passions have become nearly synonymous with pleasures in modern culture. But when we consider passion is originally defined as the moment of the deepest suffering of Christ for our good, it lifts the word from human desires to a monumental love willing to suffer.

William Wilberforce knew his passion. He resisted it, but this passion held him captive as a young man, nearly at the same time he became completely captivated by Jesus. He met God and wanted nothing more than to begin vocational ministry; he was convinced this was the best way to serve God. But the passion that kept him up at night, that had him pacing floors and banging tables, was the unacceptable injustice of the slave trade in England.

His minister, John Newton, a former slave trader, enlightened him about the horrors of slavery. William was haunted. God had given him a gift for communication, the empathy of one who had suffered, a position of influence, and a deep, lifelong friendship with the prime minister of England. He was faced with a need too awful to ignore. A dozen or more threads, ordained by the hand of God, were slowly assembling into a great calling.

Finally Wilberforce’s friends convinced him that God could potentially use him most as a politician. He ran headfirst toward the thing that haunted him. It was painful, and most of his life was spent before there was any reform.1 But at some point William’s passions turned into a calling. When that happens, the cost becomes irrelevant.

Every one of us who knows Christ has a calling for our lives. William Wilberforce and Joseph aren’t especially epic, they just gave their lives to the problem of their generations. We could do that too. The problem is we don’t naturally have passion for others. We are naturally danged selfish.

But when we were bought by Christ, we exchanged our heart full of self-seeking passions for things on this earth for God’s heart. And now we share his passions. Our hearts are new, and now what was cold and hard is soft and full of compassion, led and moved by his Spirit.

It is a privilege to use our passions to participate in the work of God. What is holding you back?

Respond:

What needs have you experienced or observed that have moved you?

How could you use your passions for God’s glory?

God’s Dream: Threads of Passions (Part 1)

It’s easy to miss the point of Joseph’s story. What was God doing through Joseph’s suffering and the betrayal of his family and the unique gifts he possessed? Yes, he was refining Joseph. Yes, he was restoring Joseph to his family. Yes, he was using him throughout Egypt in many people’s lives. But ultimately God intended Joseph’s life to save many lives. With the famine coming, God would use the faith and obedience of one to save them all. Joseph had a unique need he was designed by God to meet.

We all are longing to live for something bigger than ourselves. As believers in Jesus with need all around us, we get to. We look past the normal of mundane jobs and boring places and see the need in them, and passions start to wake up. God built us to take the material around us and invest it into our nearest need. It’s how we’ve been wired: we are most fulfilled when we are meeting needs.

God built us to love different things so we could meet different needs. It’s beautiful that your heart doesn’t beat fast about the same things my heart beats over. When we start to lay out our threads, it is unbelievable to see how what felt average about ourselves starts to take on intricate beauty. Our untangling threads reveal God’s sovereignty and attention to detail. Beautiful is the body of Christ poured out into every crevice of this world, every city, every office, every home. It’s the unselfish passions of people displaying the love of their God in a million unique ways.

It’s beautiful that all your unique threads run in a direction that blesses people and shows God. That direction is usually determined by the things that cause you to beat the table, or lay in bed awake, or speak with exclamation marks.

Our passions determine our direction. We began this journey in hopes of discovering how to invest our lives. I promised no magical writing in the sky-only a journey to discover more of God and the pieces of life he gave you to make him known. Where does your heart bleed for the need you see around you?

Respond:

Where is God calling you to be brave and meet need?

What is holding you back?

God’s Dream: Threads of People (Part 2)

It is our turn to be Jesus to this world. We exist for God and for those who need God. Within the church, we use our gifts to build up and equip the body. Outside of the church, we show love to show God.

Next time you are in a public space, be awkward and look in people’s eyes. People, nearly every one of them, are hurting, even if they don’t say it. And we hold armfuls of their cure. We get God, and we get to give God away; it is for our joy. I am never more content than when I am meeting need.me to call the righteous, but sinners.”

In the movie Amazing Grace, William Pitt’s character races barefoot through a field with William Wilberforce and says to him “Why is it you only feel the thorns in your feet when you stop running?” When we run for God and for people, we forget for just a moment about ourselves, and it feels amazing. Nothing makes a soul sicker than too much time given to itself.

So who needs God around you?

Pray.
Pursue them.
Ask them great questions.
Share your struggles and your God.
Dream of ways you can meet their needs.

There will be people you know who need you. But also seek out relationships with people outside your circles. Some of my favorite moments in my life have happened as I have stepped out of my comfort zone. Like taking some women from a local halfway house out to bowl with some of my friends. I remember sitting in a bowling alley with a woman just out of prison who exuded more joy than I remember ever feeling in my life. Her joy and perspective changed me-and I needed to be changed. God’s economy makes beautiful exchanges: as we give, we grow.

Seek the uncomfortable. Life is short, and it is worth the risk. You do not risk like a fool; you are wisely investing in the only two things that will not die: God and people. No better reason to make piddling a thing of the past.

Respond:

Prayerfully create a list of five names of people who need you. How can you begin to invest more in these people?

What are some practical ways you can keep all your time from going to casual friendships?

God’s Dream: Threads of People (Part 1)

Here’s the thing about Joseph. He couldn’t control his circumstances, but he intentionally leveraged every relationship in his path for the glory of God. Despite the chaos of his circumstances and the incredible evil brought against him by people he trusted, he never quit choosing to trust and love people. He never wasted opportunity to serve-even those who wronged him.

If we are honest, we’ll admit that it is hard to love people-especially like Joseph did. So you know what we tend to do instead of doing the difficult work of loving them? We piddle.

To piddle is to waste time, or spend one’s time idly or inefficiently. It’s easier to survive this life on the surface, bumping up against people gently than do the mess of intentionally loving them. Love takes risk. Love takes forgiveness and grace. Love takes effort, time, and a commitment to not bolting when it gets hard (because it will get hard).

If this is the cost of deep relationships, we can’t possibly have capacity and space to go deep with everyone. So we have to become intentional, because we need people. We need the right people. And sometimes finding the right people takes discipline and effort. When we find those right people, we have to fight for them. We have to prioritize time and issue grace over and over, because every human on this earth will disappoint us. And when that happens, we love and fight for them even harder.

We all fell in love with shows like Friends, because we deeply want to have “our people.” Close friends and mentors don’t fall into our laps. You search and invest, and then you allow them to be imperfect versions of what you were hoping for in your head. Most of us are waiting to be invited, waiting to be pursued, waiting for friends to come to us.

Love is such an active process, and we are fairly lazy. So initiate. Then when you come together, initiate depth. Great conversations come from great questions and honest answers. Become someone who does both well.

Respond:

Who are the people that you need in your life right now?

Are you intentionally pursuing people in your life? If not, what gets in the way?

God’s Dream: Threads of Places (Part 2)

There is a lot we can know. We know our mission. We know at least a glimpse of the story of God through Scripture. We know we are to love, without warrant, every person God puts in our path, and we know we are to love God more than all of it. When it comes down to it, 99 percent of being in the will of God is being wholly willing to be in the will of God. God is not vague, even though he can be quiet. He is completely wise in his timing of when he shows his will.

You may need to change your place to be in his will, but to tell you the truth, most of you have enough opportunity for ministry right under your noses that you never need to move or change a thing.

We learn from Joseph’s story today our places are significant, even when they are not necessarily the places we would have chosen. God sets us in them and has important work for us to do there.

Recently I was talking with a girl who wept because she wanted a life of purpose. I asked what she did, and she told me she was developing a sex education program that might be used in the entire Texas school district. Um . . . I was confused. How could she not feel purpose in this God-given place? She went on to realize there was certainly purpose there, but she was living in so much fear that she would fail at this huge task that she couldn’t embrace her place.

Maybe you are exactly in the will of God, living a life of purpose, but you can’t even see it because you are afraid.

Afraid your place doesn’t matter. Afraid you won’t succeed. Afraid God doesn’t see you.

Afraid that what you’re doing isn’t specifically ministry. Afraid what people will think if you live for Christ in your place.

Do not let fear distract you from living boldly in your places. Like Joseph, live more intentionally and embrace the place God has strategically selected for you.

Your place is not the problem; it’s what you choose to do in your place that matters.

Respond:

What about your place makes you afraid?

How might God want you to be intentional like Joseph in your place?

God’s Dream: Threads of Places (Part 1)

Our places are not an accident. Your gifts and stories will be used in many different places over your lifetime. We have freedom to dream about our places; there is great purpose in using our gifts in corporations, nonprofits, state school systems, churches, and neighborhoods. Our God does not separate secular and spiritual. He just wants you to participate in his story wherever you are and with whatever you have.

Joseph demonstrates this beautifully. He spends twenty years unjustly enslaved and in prison, yet Joseph never lost faith, and instead lived intentionally. Joseph received his place as God’s will and worked hard for God’s glory despite severe limitations and suffering. God had shown him he would do awesome things with his life, so rather than worry about being stuck in prison or as a slave, Joseph did great things wherever he was.

From Joseph’s life we learn it’s not about where we are, but how we execute God’s mission for our lives wherever we are.

Places will never fulfill us, but can serve as the fertile ground for God to make himself known through us. And if we each played our part, from Africa to Dallas, we would get to heaven and know that in our little place, we were a part of something too big to ever conceive of while we were here. Because, you know, we aren’t really in our true “place” yet. The place we were made for is coming; no place feels quite right until we are home.

I want to come to the end of my life and see how God was able to move into time and space through me. I want to see many moments that will last forever, many moments when I sat in boring or painful places that I preached anyway. I want moments no one else saw but that God used to build his kingdom. If I am to go on living and breathing here, I want it to be worth it.

It’s not our places, it’s what we do in our places.

Respond:

What are your places, and how are you seeing God work in them through you?

Are you discontent with your places? Do you want a change? Either way, do you think that God is leading?