Posted in focus on faith

Come out with your hands up!

None of us like to surrender. The very word suggests defeat. We want to win, not give in!

However, in God’s paradoxical economy, what we see as “winning” might be “losing” in the long run. Spiritual winning only comes through the gateway of surrender. This is one of the valuable lessons learned in the wilderness of spiritual dryness.

The wilderness wanderer has to admit that she has lost her way, then to further admit that the most probable reason for it is because she stopped following God and followed her own heart, her own mind, her whims, her best laid plans….

There is a big difference between the way I thought when I was in wilderness and the way I think when I am surrendered to Christ (a place I still stumble in and out of on a daily basis!). Perhaps you can relate to one of these ways of thinking:

Surrendered thinking is the opposite of wilderness thinking.

  • Wilderness thinking says, “Maybe there is no personal God. I haven’t seen Him or heard from Him in a long time.”
  • Surrendered thinking says, “I choose to believe in the God I can’t see or hear.”
  • Wilderness thinking says, “God can’t love me because I have wasted so much of my life in this wilderness of unbelief.”
  • Surrendered thinking says,” I choose to believe that the God who sent His Son to die in my place paid too dear a price to give up on me yet.”
  • Wilderness thinking says, “God will hold me accountable for my wasted potential and I will never be who I could have been in Him.”
  • Surrendered thinking says, “God is the one who orders my days, perhaps He has brought me through this experience in order to prepare me for a ministry I never would have chosen on my own.”
  • Wilderness thinking says, “I am unfit to serve Him in ministry.”
  • Surrendered thinking says: “God is in the redemption business and He will send me out to minister to other wanderers, to point them to Christ and to give them hope. Broken people minister to broken people.“

Trust is essential to surrender. Choosing to believe that God loves you is the first step in learning to trust Him. “Surrender is hard work. In our case, it is intense warfare against our self-centered nature,” writes Rick Warren. He adds “surrendering is never a one-time event. …There is a moment of surrender, and there is the practice of surrender, which is moment-by-moment and lifelong….It will often mean doing the opposite of what you feel like doing.” As we surrender, by choice, over and over, we change the way we think.

For every message of defeat that Satan sends into the heart of the recovering wanderer, there is a message of hope from God. (Excerpt From Faking it to Finding Grace)

Posted in focus on faith

What happens when you believe in Santa-God?

9957573-santa-claus-with-a-bag-of-money-stock-photoThere’s something I call “Santa-God theology”: if we are good little girls and boys, Santa-God will reward us with everything on our want-list. But the painful realities of life in the real world don’t support this belief.

The wilderness school for the soul teaches that God will not always protect us from suffering and disappointment. No–in fact, God may wish that we experience suffering and pain so that we come to know Him fully.

When Santa-God doesn’t come through we ask ourselves:

  • I feel like I’m doing all the right things — I teach, I sing, I give, I bring a pie to everything — why don’t I ever sense His presence?
  • Was my conversion real? Or was I riding an emotional wave?
  • If God is in control of my life, why do bad things happen to me?
  • Where is this joy the preacher keeps talking about?
  • Other than an abundance of disappointments, what’s so “abundant” about my life?

Many believers ask themselves these questions. For the Christian who is experiencing spiritual drift, this type of thinking begins to take a foothold, opening the door to doubt that can shove its way in and start to take over. (excerpt From Faking it to Finding Grace)

Many believers who find themselves in a season of dryness cannot pinpoint a date or time or reason for the beginning of their drift away from God, but most of them can relate to the problem of Santa-God theology. North American evangelical culture (it’s music and message) often supports this idea that God can be persuaded by our good behaviour to make all our dreams come true.

That’s Disney, not Truth.

Why don’t the people espousing Santa-God theology ever talk about the fact that every one of Jesus’ disciples, except John, died a violent death?

What happens when you believe in Santa-God? Life happens! Real life! Things go wrong. We lose–the game, the job, the relationship. We get hurt. We don’t get promoted. People die, even children. The poop of real life hits the fan of our illusion (Santa-God) and the resulting mess causes us to get scared, turn away, question God, and drift into the wilderness of doubt.

The journey out of wilderness is a journey into mature faith. Faith that is supported by Scripture; faith that works in the real world. In order to have a mature, workable faith, we must believe in the God of Scripture, not the God of our wishlist.

The real God is good. He loves you. So much, in fact, that He gave Himself in your place when He sent His Son to die on the cross as payment for your sin. (John 3:16) Sin?! What sin? The sin of thinking you don’t need God, that you can be our own god. (Game show buzzer sound!)

Maybe you believe in Santa-God but never realized it. Perhaps you are in a season of dryness and you don’t know how you got there or how to get out. If so, stick around as we explore spiritual dryness and mature faith in this series of blogs (go here and here for more). Join the conversation any time so we can travel together and help each other along the way.