Thursday, September 28, 2006

What God Wants...

"Come unto Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest for your souls."
- Jesus Christ

As human beings, we work hard. We climb our way up social ladders at work, within the family and in the church. We love to have influence. We often work very hard for approval and affirmation from others and especially from God. Most people are willing to work for what they want in this life. In the end we are burned-out emotionally and exhausted physically. I know, I've been there. However, in the process of breathlessly spinning my wheels, a Still Small Voice invites me to rest. I wrestled with the question many years ago, "Is there a God?". I feel His presence, I cannot deny that He exists. So then the question became "What does He want from me?".

There are many opinions out there about what God wants. Here is what I have discovered recently about what God wants:

1.) He Wants Relationship with Us.
Today, like so many weekends before, I stood before an audience with 'Message of Mercy' singing my heart out for 3 different church services. The first service broke our hearts. During the song service, they sat there just as dull and expressionless as could be. The few who did sing, you couldn't hear them- their lips barely moved. The faces looked as if they were bored to death- even as we sang 'How Great Thou Art'. Now I'm not saying everyone should jump around & shout, or even sing loudly, but why not a smile or a look of satisfaction on the faces? As musicians, we invest ourselves heavily in the music. We can feel the energy drained from us after a performance before a lethargic and unresponsive audience. Reminds me of the passage where Jesus laments saying, "We played the flute for you, but you would not dance, so we played a durge, but you would not mourn." He is saddened because the people will not respond to Him- no matter what He does to reach them. I want with all my heart for people to know this wonderful God who works so patiently with me! It was clear to me that many who attend the first service need an infusion of new life in the Spirit. Some (perhaps a majority) of these people have flogged themselves into living a certain lifestyle and holding to things they didn't even completely understand because that is what their church expected of them and they were convinced that was what God wanted from them. But all the good behavior in the world cannot make up for a lack of relationship. Imagine if me- as a wife kept the house perfectly (with 4 active kids- ain't gonna happen) but imagine if I got up early and stayed up into the wee hours of the night to keep an immaculate house- constantly cleaning. However, whenever my husband approached me for relationship I was dull-eyed, tired and apparently bored to be in his presence. Then I would not be a happy wife, but a worn-out slave. If the church is the bride of Christ, she has been more of a slave than a wife. Until she sees how much she is loved, she will never be able to respond to God in the way He desires. Relationship first.

2.) He Wants our Praise Not Our Perfection.
Ever heard the phrase "Work smarter- not harder?". I worked quite hard, but never felt accepted by my parents or my church, so I buckled down with my nose to the grindstone, determined to win them over. However, God is not asking ME to be perfect. God alone is perfect and He is willing to impart that perfection to me. God loves His creations and invites us to wear His Robe of Righteousness. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us less and there is nothing we can do to make Him love us more. "For I have loved you with an everlasting love." "And this is love, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us". If God's love was based on our performance, then we would have power over Him. We do not tip the scale or change God's mind about us or that would make us gods with influence over Him. He alone is Sovereign! He created us and not we ourselves. Salvation is through God- not through man. If I allow Jesus to be my perfection- then I am working smarter- not harder!
Psalm 150 entreats, "Praise God in His Sanctuary; Praise Him in the firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with the sound of trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the Timbrel and DANCE; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!"
Hebrews 13:15, "Therefore, by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name."I recently joined a Liturgical Dance class with my sisters in Christ. I have danced before the Lord on many occasions in the past- what a beautiful, freeing experience!! I showed up for my first session, arriving 15 minutes early. I entered the room and there was my mentor. Much to my surprise & delight, she is African American- what a testimony she has! :o) She's the first to admit she's not the most attractive woman in the world, being overweight with hair cut closely to her head. But when she started the music and began to dance before the Lord, I saw absolute transformation! She moved gracefully and passionately before her Maker! Her heart, indeed her spirit was opened tenderly before Him- she was so beautiful, I was moved to tears. One lady comes and learns the motions, but each week they have to pray & encourage her. She is obese and feels that since she doesn't have a perfect body, she has no right to get up to praise God in this way. I'm so glad we don't have to be perfect in body or spirit to worship the Lord! There is something beautiful and humbling about coming before God as fallen beings who do not let our imperfections stand in the way of praise. God asks that we present our bodies a living sacrifice. Under the Old Covenant, animals were offered as sacrifices. Under the New Covenant we offer a sacrifice of praise for what God has done to redeem fallen humanity and it is beautiful in His sight.

3.) God Wants Us to Enter His Rest.
Rest is such a foreign concept. Psalm 37:3-7, "Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and feed upon His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. COMMIT YOUR WAYS to the Lord, TRUST also in Him, and HE SHALL BRING IT TO PASS. HE SHALL BRING FORTH YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS AS THE LIGHT, and your justice as the noonday. REST IN THE LORD, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of evil-doers, or the corrupt man who prospers in his way, because of wicked schemes. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; DO NOT WORRY for it only causes harm. Evildoers will be cut off; but those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. I capitalized the key points in this passage. What is this passage saying? It's saying to confess (or commit) our deeds to God. Let Him know the ways you feel you are inadequate. Then we are to trust Him to work in us to produce righteousness. He WILL bring it to pass. The Rest God offers is not merely observing a day of worship. It is a continual dwelling in His presence and an acceptance of His work in us.

Finally, God wants us to draw near to him- flaws, scars and all. He wants us to bask in His presence- face to face when this earthly life is over. He wants us to have a life of joy in the midst of chaos. Most of all He simply wants US! Amazing love!!


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