"For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:17-19 NIV
Recently, a woman mentioned she felt like she was missing something. I could tell she didn’t know exactly what was missing. She came to me for advice because she felt an uneasiness had crept into her heart like an unwelcome guest. A void within her had been created and she wasn’t really sure how it happened. As Western Christians, we are primed to believe we are to do something in response to our feelings. For example, the voice in our head or someone we respect prescribes we read more chapters of the bible, pray more, attend worship and serve more often. It’s almost as if we expect that doing something is a magic pill that can reduce our anxiety and make us feel better. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to just feel better. I want to be better. The only way I can be better is to focus on my intimacy with God.
For those of you who can identify with my friend and feel like you need to do something: Wes Griffin, CEO of the International Leadership Institute, suggests there are ways to develop intimacy with God. Here are some questions to help with a personal inventory:
1. Have I settled for a spiritual life that is superficial and shallow?
Shallowness or superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant gratification is primarily a spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a great number of intelligent or gifted people but for a deep people. (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth.)
2. Have I used the excuse that I am too busy to develop a robust spiritually invigorating relationship with God?
Failure to prioritize God because of the tyranny of the urgent can leave us running from deadline to deadline with no time to develop relationships. Intimacy is developed from a deep spiritual place of necessity much like the air we breathe or water we drink.
3. Do I truly know God?
Information can be a cleverly disguised idol. A focus on information instead of intimacy with God will eventually leave us empty. We can study biblical theology, Christian history, the creeds—even the bible itself and yet not experience true intimacy with God. Knowledge about God is not the equivalent of having a deep, meaningful relationship with God.
4. Have I practiced humility with God?
Unconfessed sins like unbelief, unforgiveness and disobedience can lead to spiritual train wrecks. Sometimes life doesn’t go the way we want it to go. Answers to big questions are illusive. We attempt to take control of a situation only to jump the train from the tracks. Disgust, failure, blame, resentment, anger and a host of other emotions come and sit alongside the wreckage. Humility can renew our right relationship with God. Forgiveness is key.
For those of you who identify with my friend and feel like you need to try something new: do nothing.
Stop trying so hard. Simply notice your emotions without judgment, blame or guilt. Once we quiet the anxious, rebellious, ‘do something’ mind we can recognize how foreign we truly are to the ways and means of God. I believe it is God’s will we live an intimate spiritual life with him. He must be the first priority of our lives. We can then be open to his purpose and plan for our lives. We can accept he’s God, trust him and live as foreigners in his land of grace, humility and forgiveness. Foreigners. That’s who we are! We don’t really know the first thing about grace. Grace does’t belong to us. We did not invent it. But, we are meant to receive it. Once we receive grace ourselves, we can allow it to flow through us toward others. Could a love for foreigners actually be generated from God? To love a foreigner may mean we learn to accept there are things we can change and there are things we cannot change in this world. We are not God. This is a foreign concept for some of us. But, the benefits of this wisdom have eternal significance for us and others.
Sunday, we welcome Keith Draper from World Relief at our Naperville campus. We will also host an International Potluck and Forum following worship in the Community Room. Our own Faith Promise partners Randy and Susan Roberts will share what’s happening in Jordan with their ministry to refugees. Corey Ashley will challenge us to discover God’s style of hospitality. Invite someone to come along with you. Listen. Learn. Be challenged. Be loved. Be amazed. Maybe like my friend, you may find what is missing in your own spiritual life among other foreigners. See you Sunday.