This post written by Pastor Mark was originally published in the Edmond Sun.
My email inbox these days are full of subject lines and titles like: “5 Things You Must Change,” “Top 10 Reasons People Don’t Go To Church,” “10 Ways to Dramatically Increase Giving,” “7 Key Reasons People Choose Your Church,” “40 Ways to Increase Baptisms in 2017,” “5 Dangers of Church Bullies,” “6 Signs to Look for in Addiction,” and “11 Signs You are Emotionally Mature.” I just added 94 things to my “to do” list before 9 a.m.! No, I am not “Emotionally Mature.” I am cratering beneath the weight of unrealistic expectations from people, “experts” I have never even met!
Jesus tells us there is a better way. . . his way . . . a life of joyful obedience to an audience of one. Jesus knew the Proverbial wisdom of the Hebrew scripture that teaches, “Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to GOD! Run from evil!” (Proverbs 3:5-7 The Message).
Jesus says the cure for the depressing duplicitous life is found in the first commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). The beautiful thing about Jesus’ commands is that they are “covered promises” not only of something we are to do, but something we can do! As we love God, praise God and serve God, our hearts naturally turn to God. Dallas Willard writes, “He who is in love, his thoughts are ever upon the object.” I certainly found this to be true when my wife and I were dating. I was in New York City and she still in Oklahoma. It is profound to feel so alone in a city that never sleeps on the crowded streets of Manhattan when all your heart and mind can think of is your love watching an Oklahoma sunset without you. Yes, our thoughts are with the ones we love.
When we are in love with God, our thoughts are on God: God’s goodness, God’s faithfulness, God’s provision, God’s everlasting kindness, God’s mercy, justice and perfect timing. This, in turn, leads us to be people of humility and gratitude. We are not self-made. God has made us and we belong to Him. God alone tells us who we are as a beloved son or daughter of the creator of all things. God calls all creation good and calls you “very good!” (Genesis 1:31).
However, you won’t fall in love with or grow closer to God in 2017 by accident. For those of us married for 20+ years, romance is something that you may not be able to manufacture consistently. However, love, affection and intimacy is something you can plan for, put effort into and create an environment where closeness has a greater potential to happen.
Willard writes when it comes to God, “In order to sustain and develop such a life of loving abandonment to God, an overall plan of life is required. . .” Put crudely, you have to plan a “date night” with the Lord. When is the last time you spontaneously thought about how beautiful and awesome God is to you? When is the last time you set aside intentional quiet alone time with God in an environment conducive to a good conversation or loving relationship? How do you do this in the busy life of suburbia?
The next step forward for those who have decided to follow Jesus and to follow his command to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength is to put in place those regular times, places, and practices that make love possible. I want to say this is how you find peace in 2017. The reality however, is that when you create intentional space and time for God (the giver of all life), peace finds you.
Make no mistake, it takes time. It takes precious time. It may require a little trial and error and or some study or a guide. It will be a gift of the Holy Spirit. But it can be done and when it is, your life in 2017 can be transformed by Jesus Christ himself. Jesus has the power to save us from the cacophony of noisy voices trying to tell you who you should be. Jesus is the ONE voice of the ONE who loves you perfectly and knows you fully because this ONE voice is the one who knitted you together while you were still in your mother’s womb and called you – VERY GOOD! Find rest for your weary soul this year by living for an audience of ONE.