Thursday, March 22, 2012

Looking outside the box...

I feel led to share this again...perhaps because, as my pastor so accurately said last night, God is stirring in His people. He's calling many of us to step outside our comfort zones, to be obedient, and to trust Him on deeper levels.

I wrote this almost exactly two years ago... but it's just as true now as it was then. I pray it encourages you this year as well.

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The past few days were an amazing weekend in several ways...some of them quite different than I expected. That's not a bad thing, though. I find myself realizing, in a new way (again), how walking with God is a step by step kind of thing. A constant discovery of new things. A never-ending learning process.

So often we talk about how we can't put God in a box...yet I think we put ourselves (and how He can use us) in a box just as often. We call it our comfort zone. The area outside that box is filled with fear, nervousness, and uncertainty. Not fun. So of course we'd rather stay in our comfort zone.

But what if we've put everything outside our comfort zone in a box as well? We've taken that vast expanse of space where God dwells and put it in this bigger box and called it "stepping outside our comfort zone." The uncomfortable zone.

But there's a big problem with our notions and our boxes. (Probably more than one, actually.) Simply put, our comfort zone often isn't always all that comfortable. In fact, when God says "move out" it can get distinctly uncomfortable. On the other hand, moving outside our box doesn't have to be uncomfortable.

I'm wondering if all those times when we've stepped outside our box and found fear and nervousness were times when we stepped out on our own initiative, instead of God's. Or perhaps, we stepped out according to God's leading, but not His timing. When Samuel anointed the kings of Israel, he never did it at the moment when they were called to actually step onto the throne. God was declaring His purpose and direction, but the timing had not yet come.

Do you see what I'm getting at? Throughout the Bible, God often said, "I have called you to _____." And then, sometimes years later would come the command, "All right, the time is now."

I'm afraid that many of us, today, forget to wait for the now part of the command...and so we step outside of our box on our own initiative and think that God has called us to be uncomfortable and fearful and nervous and confused about what we should be doing. We've somehow come to expect that following God "outside the box" is supposed to be a nerve-wracking uncomfortable thing...and I have no idea why, when God continuously says that His ways are filled with peace and joy!

The reality that I'm learning is that there is a path outside my comfort zone that is nothing like that preconceived uncomfort zone idea. Instead of fear, there is peace. Instead of nervousness, there is trust. Instead of uncertainty there again, and the certainty of knowing that God knows what He's doing and it really doesn't matter if I don't.

What's even more amazing is how, when God leads you one small step at a time, you don't necessarily even realize that you've stepped outside your box. Looking back at this weekend, I now see that this is exactly what God did...and I didn't realize.

I heard Him call me to do one thing, and He was right there. I didn't think much of it, I simply obeyed.

I asked Him for direction, to speak to me, to tell me what to do. All I heard was the four words, "I will use you."

I walked the path He had laid out for me over the weekend, anticipating something great...something amazing...something that would wow me with the glory of Him.I'm receiving my revelation now, as I look back and realize that all those small steps He led me along...the many moments of not receiving what I had hoped for...were instead the first along a path I've never walked before. A path that I once thought would fit those uncomfort zone ideas, but turned out to be nothing more than simply walking with Him and obeying.

Will it always be like this? Should it always be like this? I think so, if we are truly walking in the Spirit, for the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Comfort...from the Comforter. And He lives outside my boxes.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Light and lights...


Lately, I keep noticing songs on the radio that talk about light--specifically, the light inside of us.

"You let Your love shine down
so that the world could see
You put the light in me.." ("The Light in Me" - Brandon Heath)

"We are the light of the world
We are the city on a hill
We are the light of the world
We gotta, we gotta, we gotta let the light shine.." ("We Are" - Kari Jobe)

"So I say oh oh oh oh oh
I'm learning to be the light" ("Learning To Be the Light" - NewWorldSon)

As I listen to these songs, however, I'm realizing some things that, for me, are quite profound.

This concept is, of course, taken from Matthew 5:14-16 where Jesus said that we are the light of the world.  I've known that story all my life, but I've taken it as more of a command. "Go shine." You know... Go. Do it. Tell people Jesus loves them. Go take the gospel to the nations. Put forth the effort. Get out of your little corner and quit hiding.

In other words, I've seen it as a list of commands that are added on top of all those other things I'm supposed to do.

But as I was listening to "You Put the Light in Me," these words jumped out at me:

"Keep me from growing dim
cause in Your perfection, I'm just a reflection
so pull me closer to You
I'll catch like a fire, and I'll hold You higher
Cause You put the light in me"

Then these:

"I'll raise it high, I'll let it show
From the rooftops down to the streets below
In day and night, You will be known
And all will see
You put the light in me"

And suddenly I started realizing what the light really is.

Kari Jobe sang it:

You are the light,
You are the light,
You are the light
We will lift You high
Shine, shine, shine!"

The light isn't the words I force myself to speak.

The light is Jesus.

In Isaiah 42:6, God says of Jesus:
I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness,
I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You,
And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the nations...
And in Isaiah 49:6:
I will also make You a light of the nations
So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

Jesus says of Himself in John 8:12 and again in 9:5:
"I am the Light of the world."

There are two different definitions of a "light," isn't there? We can walk into our living room and move a light (or lamp) from a corner to the center of the room. But that light is really just the holder for the actual light that shines and fills the room.

We're the light we bought at the store and set in the corner.

Jesus is the Light that makes the lamp worthwhile.

I noticed, though, and Jesus didn't say, "You are the light of the world, now go turn yourself on."  He said, "Let your light shine."  Let. When you let something happen, are you making it happen? No! What are you doing? You are simply not stopping it.

That's what Jesus is telling us! "Don't cover your light! Don't stop Me from shining through you!"

Isn't that awesome?

I am not responsible for turning the Light on. He is the Light, and He does that. The Light is there, already shining...all He asks of me is that I chose not to hide where He wants to shine, and let Him shine in my life.

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