As we seek to start dynamic spiritual conversations with the people that we are drawn to, it’s important that first we:
- Experience God’s love and acceptance towards us, and live out of that
- Be filled with God’s love towards others, shown through our instinctive prayers for them
- Live an authentically real and open life with others
Now, thinking externally and directionally towards others, let’s explore what it looks like to practically and tangibly demonstrate God’s infectious love.
The message that Jesus taught, that God's way of life was now available here and now on earth to all who chose to align their lives with Him, was constantly being demonstrated as Jesus lived life with people.
To some, he brought physical healing. To others, emotional healing. For those who were cast aside by society as rejected, he befriended. For those who stopped believing in themselves, he gave hope. Every person was different and had different needs, but he met each one as he was guided by God his Father.
For every encounter Jesus had with people who were open to him, he deposited an experience of God's love in them and around them. Sometimes, he didn't lead with words, he led with actions. Every time, though, sparked a spiritual conversation.
What would it look like for you and I to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, and demonstrate God's love towards them in creative and unexpected ways?
What could it look like to strategically and proactively demonstrate God's love? To create experiences, offer gifts, share invitations, recognize accomplishments, encourage the discouraged, celebrate milestones, send notes/texts/emails that communicate God's love?
Before we start spiritual conversations, it's important that we live the message. I love Young Life
's phrase: "Earn the right to be heard."
Let's be so serious about demonstrating the love of God before we start talking about it. Talk, we know, is cheap, unless reinforced with consistent behavior. By the time we're hoping for our conversations to turn towards spiritual matters, wouldn't it be cool if our lives sparked such curiosity that people responded to our questions with, "You know what, I was dying to ask you about that....!"?
What's something you could do- right now- to demonstrate God's infectious love towards someone else? Take a few seconds to get quiet, and ask God WHO and WHAT....and don't wait for the WHEN because it's right now.
I want to know the real YOU. I want to know what makes you tick- what fires you up, what irritates you, what makes you laugh and what makes you cry. I want to know if you've had a good day. And why. I want to know if you had a bad day. I care about YOU.
So do people who you're intentionally becoming friends with to express the love of God towards. They are NOT interested in a contrived, everything is happy, life-is-always-good version of you. They aren't interested in you "becoming all things to all people" by pretending to like things that you don't have any interest in, or doing things that you don't like to do. They want to know the real YOU.
In this third post of a six part series on Starting Everyday Spiritual Conversations, we're going to take a look at what it means to live your life in an authentically passionate, honest and humble way, and allow God to use you to impact others.
If it's true that you and I are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14) then apparently it's no accident that we are the way that we are. If it's true that God knew us before we were born, and "prepared us to do good works" (Ephesians 2:10)
And if we are the way that we are then we must have purpose
and a design
behind who we are: personality, sense of humor, skin color, born into our family, at this point in time, with our unique story.
We are the way we are because God wants us to be the way we are.
And if we are made the way we are then God must want to use us the way we are.
Not the way somebody else is. Not the way I feel like I'm supposed to be. Just me. Just you. Do the people around you know the real YOU?
Do they know how quirky and weird you are? Do they know what you want to do with your life? Do they know who you're voting for? Do they know who your favorite team is? Or what your favorite movie is? Do they know about what or who has hurt you?
We don't really become friends with other people until we start letting our guards down. (That's why road trips, retreats, and living together are so bonding- we just can't keep up the pretending for very long).
God wants to use you. Not the you that you think you're supposed to be. Not the you that you think other people want you to be.
So before you start spiritual conversations, stop acting and start pretending like
One of the things I've discovered over the years when I've made the decision to start a spiritual conversation with someone who doesn't share my faith is that they react more to my attitude and heart posture than to the things I'm saying. I might be saying clever, intelligent, and interesting things, but when I've started conversations out of arrogance or obligation- it overpowers the message.
Our body language gives it all away. Amy Cuddy's TEDTalk
dives into the significance our non-verbal messages send to people and how even split second "tells" give away our true disposition and attitude. No matter what we say with our mouths, if we don't actually believe it others will know- every time.
In short, if you're not motivated by love, it's probably not going to go very well.
Why is it then, that so many times I've been encouraged to "just do it" and go tell someone the gospel message, even if I'm not feeling it? Is there really more value to me growing into a courageous mindset than the potential damage my lack of love can have on someone else's heart? Although it's tempting to believe that God is so powerful that He will overcome our deficiencies and spiritually take over every time, when I listen to the things Jesus taught and look at the way he demonstrated the gospel message, he seems extremely intent that my heart be in the right place. He longs for us to be motivated by love, too.
There's a great conversation that Jesus gets to in John chapter 5 with the Jewish leaders after he heals a guy who'd been an invalid for 38 years. The religious authorities are really upset that he 'worked' on the sabbath, and even more so when Jesus equates the work that he does with the same work God the Father does. In other words, Jesus comes out and says that he and God are the same.
When he's challenged (aka persecuted) Jesus has this response: "the Son can do nothing by himself, he only does what he sees the Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does" (John 5:19).
Jesus is motivated to act because of what he sees God doing.
Not because he's obligated to.
Not because he feels like he's supposed to or has to.
Not because he was afraid someone someone would accuse him of being spiritually shallow if he didn't.
Not because everyone else was doing it and he didn't want to be left out.
Not because he felt distant from God and wanted to rekindle the fire in his heart.
But because God's love was overflowing towards this man who's been suffering, and Jesus sensed that same flow of love coming out of his own heart. He only acts when his Father acts. He only says what the Father wants him to say.
Before you and I rush into a spiritual conversation, let's take a minute to uncover our motivation. If you're inspired to start a spiritual conversation because you authentically sense God's presence, feel drawn to that person, and desire them to have an encounter with God- then rock on.
If you don't, check yourself before you wreck them.
If you don't, then take a few minutes to spiritually align your heart to God's heart. Picture that person in your mind. Ask for God to help you see them the same way He sees them. Take time to imagine what their lives could look like if God was fully present.
You'll know your heart is ready when you sense affection and acceptance for them. You'll know you're ready when praying for them comes easy to you.
One of the most damaging myths about being a follower of Jesus is that we will get MORE of God's love in us AFTER we do things for Him.
It's rarely said as clearly as that, but I've been around many Christian communities and heard speakers imply that the reason we aren't connecting to God's love and experiencing His presence is because we aren't doing enough for God. I'm quite sure that's known as Pharisaism (impressed by my large theological vocab word?), and it's an evil idea.
In the first part of this six part series on Starting Everyday Spiritual Conversations, we're going to explore the idea that before you attempt to share God's love with others, you need to experience it yourself.
Prodigal Son, by He Qi www.heqigallery.com
Honestly, I wish that the myth were true. I wish that I could control God by doing things for Him- when I want, what I want, and with whom I want. I wish that when I felt empty inside, all I had to do was go share the gospel with someone or go befriend someone who doesn't know God yet.
But it doesn't work that way. God doesn't work that way.
In the story of the Prodigal (Luke 15) the most striking and shocking moment is the Father's unequivocal acceptance of his younger son who rejected him. Almost equally as shocking is the older son's decision to reject the Father's acceptance and stand outside of his Father's love. It's a story about acceptance- God's radical, shocking, unexpected and underserved acceptance of his children exactly as they are.
If you're like me, you might have grown up with a God-is-out-to-catch-you mentality and theology. A little bit like Santa Claus ("he knows when you've been naughty"), and a little bit like a stern dad ("you just wait until your father gets home!").
But something I've been learning as a dad is that I'm actually DRAWN TO my kids when they're acting disobediently. There's something inside me that is sparked when my kids throw fits, tell lies, make messes, and slow me down. It's affection. As much as I dig them and who they are when they're being cute, funny, or creative, I'm learning that I'm also drawn to them when they misbehave. Pure acceptance: for better or worse. No hint inside or expressed of condemnation, rejection, or shame.
God's the same way with you and I. He's not repulsed by your bad behavior or screwed up thinking or messy heart- he's DRAWN TO you out of pure acceptance and affection. He loves you. He actually likes you. Really.
Before you make a list of the people in your life who need God's love, and before you start praying for them, and before you start strategizing how to talk to them and what questions will be best to start spiritual conversations with them, experience God's ACCEPTING LOVE of YOU.
Try this: open your hands. Close your eyes. Turn off your phone, and your email. Get quiet. Let your mind sink down into your heart. And just say quietly (out loud or to yourself) "Come Lord Jesus, let me know your love for me." Repeat that phrase 10, 20, 30 times for a few minutes. Each time believing more in your heart that it's true. That you are totally, absolutely, unregrettably loved and accepted by God who sees you and knows you.
In a negative sense, there's a lot of pressure in being a Christian. There's pressure to do a lot of stuff: go to church, read your Bible, pray for your friends and family, pressure to give money, pressure to serve, pressure to be kind, pressure to be moral...
And when you start your first job or internship, there's pressure to be a spiritual influence on those around you and be a leader. You might have Christian friends or a pastor ask you: So, who are you reaching out to at work? Or, has anyone accepted Christ yet in your office?
But I'm not so sure God wanted it to feel like pressure for us. Do you think Jesus felt pressure?
Here's what Jesus said about the kind of pressure he felt to fulfill his calling:
“‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.’ ” John 5:19-20
I don't think he felt pressure in the same way you and I feel it. He seemed at peace, unhurried and unburdened in his interactions and the way he kept his relationships.
Here are some practical ways you and I can get into the same flow that Jesus had:
1. Pray less but more frequently: I know, it sounds mildly heretical, but what I mean is what if you experimented by praying more often throughout the day, like every hour for a minute or two, rather than try to cram all of your prayer requests in on your commute to work. It might shift prayer for you to be more relational and conversational, and you might start catching glimpses of the things God is up to throughout the day. Your life with God would become less compartmentalized.
2. Think like a Spiritual Director: a good spiritual director recognizes that his/her role is to help you identify the movements of God within and around you, and respond to God appropriately with courage and faith. They ask great questions like: Where are you sensing God draw you into relationship with someone? Where are you feeling his invitation to bless someone around you?
3. Use your imagination: what are the things that God is into? Probably things like: being kind, using your words to encourage others, helping people experience acceptance, being a source of healing, working with excellence....when you start living out of a sense of imagination, I think we start catching more glimpses of what God is up to.
What do you need to start or stop doing to experience less pressure but more connection with God?
Your first five days on the job are the most critical to getting started as the YOU you're supposed to be and want to be.
In my experience, once a week has past, it's really hard (or impossible) to shift back to the real YOU. So, take careful thought and intentionality to who YOU are, who YOU want to be, and how YOU want people to experience YOU.
1. Every office has a culture, and it is well established and stronger than you. Learn about it, be a cultural observer, ask inquiring questions about what's normal and how people behave. Note where you disagree, feel resistance, or don't like. Also, pay attention to what you do like, what is good, and what is healthy.
2. You can't change much, especially when you first get started. But hopefully you were hired well- you did your due diligence and so did they about whether or not you're going to be a culture fit.
3. Adapt to the rules and norms, fit in and be a team player. Most likely, people in your office will work longer hours than you feel necessary or important. Work the same hours they do, or even more. It builds credibility, stamina, and trust.
4. Decide what you will be different about, and stick to it. If you decide to be someone who doesn't complain or criticize (about the boss, co-workers, the system, clients, customers, traffic, etc), then don't do it. Ever. If you decide that you're going to be someone who goes above and beyond, maybe when other entry level employees don't, then do it, and keep doing it. Be consistent.
5. Pray for direction. If you believe God strategically places people in settings to be a unique gift and blessing, and if you believe God can and will use you in meaningful ways, then partner up with Him and what He's up to already. Pray for wisdom, guidance, a gentle spirit, tenacity, courage, and servanthood.
I know many recent grads are getting started with their first full-time job out of college. What are YOU going to do to stay consistent with who YOU are?
And, maybe people are feeling stuck in their jobs, not sure how to recalibrate and become the real YOU. What's the next step you can take to make a change?
Do you know who you really are, from a spiritual point of view?
The Apostle Paul (who wrote a lot of the New Testament) makes it pretty clear: "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's spirit dwells within you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16)
There's a great scene in one of the Narnia movies (someone told me that those movies were first books?), where two of the characters, Edmund and Lucy, vent their frustration that nobody in 1940's London knows that they are really kings and queens. In the mythical land, Narnia, they are a royal priesthood.
That's a great image for what Paul is trying to communicate in his letter to the Corinthians. You aren't who you appear to be!
In the Jewish understanding of the temple, that was where God's spirit lived. The temple is where people visited to encounter God. That's where they reconnected with him. That's where they experienced freedom and reconciliation with God.
Paul says, you and I are God's temple. That's a profound statement, and should shift how you view yourself and how you participate with other people. Everywhere you go, God's presence goes. Every person who bumps into you has the opportunity to bump into God.
How do you and I live into that reality? How do we maintain a moment of insight and stoke the flames of our awareness to continually live up to the implications of God's spirit dwelling within us?
Very difficult, if not impossible, to do alone. So who's the person that reminds you of who you really are? And are you playing that role in your friends lives?
Scripture Reading: “19 Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.’” (John 5:19-20)
Thought: Sometimes we can feel an overwhelming burden to be all things to all people- all the time. Especially for those of us who are internally driven to achieve, it’s easy to feel guilty or responsible for doing a lot more. But Jesus offers us a different way of thinking about living life well. Very simply, he only does what he sees God the Father doing. That’s it. Nothing more, and nothing less. If it worked for Jesus, hopefully it’s a good enough strategy for you and I.
What are you doing that maybe you feel like you ‘should’ do, but maybe God isn’t into for you?
What do you see the Father doing today? How can you jump in?
I've always wanted to be a spy. Yes, an undercover agent with a mission. Maybe it's a psychological dysfunction in me that enjoys dreaming about playing other characters and tricking people through espionage, or maybe it's my fascination with the idea of being on a mission. Lately, as I hang out with interns and young professionals starting their jobs post-graduation, this idea of being on mission (together) has captivated my attention. When we think about waking up to God's purpose for our lives to be spiritual leaders in the workplace, when we think about getting engaged at work and being fully alive to the things that God is up to, I wonder if we can start to cultivate an imagination for the peculiar, whimsical, and unexpected...
A lot of us are trying to figure out the culture of an organization so that we can fit in. I get that, but maybe we overshoot and become a little too ordinary. I've been inspired by hearing the stories of what my friends are up to in their offices, and how they aren't
- One friend has had a tense relationship with a co-worker going on for two years. Rather than let the friction continue, he sat down one morning and sent her an explicit email detailing several ways he was thankful for her and appreciated her contribution. A few minutes later she rounded the corner of his cubicle with tears in her eyes, confessing how meaningful his comments were, which opened up a great conversation about the future and their collaboration together. Guess what? He started to enjoy working with her...
- Another friend was scheduled to be trained in a new department at his company recently and feeling a little apprehensive about the time and energy drain he expected he would be to the department leader, since he was brand new to the tasks. So, he called the day before and asked for the guy's favorite Starbucks drink and got the training started with a smile.
- A friend did a favor for me and a deep discount for some web design work, without really knowing much about me. I knew a thank-you note was in order, but when I discovered that he was a big sailor, I searched on eBay and found a toy sailboat nicely mounted for his new office and shipped it to him as my thanks.
One clear way to wake up when you're at work is to create your own sense of mission. What might God be up to in this place? How might He be wanting to communicate his affection for the people around you, and desire to reach out in friendship? How can you and I jump in and join the things of God?Be peculiar, whimsical, and unexpected. How can you start today?
I dare you to find someone these days who is or would be satisfied with a less-than meaningful job. 100% of the responses from college students that I've asked about what they hope for in terms of a job or career post-graduation have something to do with meaningful work. Every single person wants to know that what they're doing matters, has impact, and brings value to someone else. The question remains, though: What does it mean to be meaningful? And, is meaning something that you discover on the job, or is it something that you bring?
In the first part of a maybe two or three part series (we shall see...), let's explore the idea of bringing meaning to work. What do you need to do to bring meaning, add value, do something significant and serve other people around you? Yes, the plain-old people that you work with- sometimes annoying, sometimes grumpy, sometimes petty and sometimes wonderful people that you interact with from 9-5.
The main question that you need to answer if you'd like to bring meaning to work is this: Who am I? Do you see your role as getting the job done, checking the right boxes, doing the bare minimum, or do you see yourself as the one to infuse hope, optimism, build trust and connection, and point to the bigger purpose behind what you're doing?
If you want to do the bare minimum, there are going to be rare days when you discover meaning. But if you go above-and-beyond, if you go the extra mile, if you create something new, if you invite someone to lunch, if you take a few minutes to ask about someone's weekend, if you do your work excellently, if you anticipate the needs of your supervisor, if you take a little workload off of someone's to-do list...
If you're looking for meaningful work, then don't look too far. Become full of meaning.
What would it look like for you to bring meaning to your work today/this week?