What is God doing? That’s a fair question in a pandemic world. Watch this video to see how this question is actually the core question for a disciple of Jesus.
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Here is an important question for us today, “What is God doing?”
You can take this question many ways. You can say it like you are shaking your fist at the sky and shouting at God, “What do you think you’re doing, God?!? Why are you doing this?”
That’s a fair question. It’s OK to cry to God that way. The Psalmists did it all the time. Jesus did it in the garden of Gethsemane and while he hung dying on the cross. He said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
While I encourage you to have those honest moments with God…often…that is not the sense in which I present this question.
The question, “What is God doing?” is actually the fundamental question that a disciple of Jesus must ask on a daily basis, regardless of the circumstances.
You see, being a disciple of Jesus is not a matter of learning the correct doctrine and being a member of the correct church. It is not a static position in which you stand still.
Being a disciple of Jesus is a dynamic relationship in which you follow Jesus into the world and into God’s preferred and promised future.
The daily disciple question is, “What are you doing today, God, and how can I join you?”
There is a fancy word for it: discernment.
There are lots of voices shouting in the world. God’s love creates a world that is free to choose its own path. That means many people disregard God’s way of being and choose to forge their own path of selfish desire, empire building, self-protection, and so on. These patterns are what the Bible often calls “the flesh, the world, evil, sin, etc.” and, they always ultimately lead to fear, hatred, violence, and death.
The disciple of Jesus must learn how to listen and hear the still, small voice of God’s Spirit in the midst of all the shouting, and discern what God is doing in each circumstance.
That begs a really important question. How do we know what God’s voice sounds like?
Do you remember when Jesus said, in John 10, “I am the good shepherd. The sheep know my voice.”
If Jesus is like a shepherd, then we are like sheep. When the Spirit of God moves ahead and calls us, we can recognize the voice and be able to follow.”
The Spirit’s voice is the voice of Jesus.
So, again, how do we know what Jesus’ voice sounds like?
We know it by studying Jesus’ life in the four Gospels. The pattern of Jesus’ life is the rhythm of God at work in the world. When we see this rhythm, we see God. When we hear this voice, we hear God.
This is Jesus’ rhythm of life:
First, he proclaimed “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, repent and believe the Good News!”
Then, he approached people and said, “Follow me. I’ll show you what this looks like.”
There are two key elements of Jesus’ rhythm:
First, it was a dynamic relationship. Jesus was in such close relationship with God that the spirit of God intuitively led him to where he needed to go. That’s why he called God ‘abba/father.’ Jesus was in a parent/child love relationship with God.
Second, it was about loving practices. Jesus lived by two basic principles:
Love God with your whole heart, and
Love your neighbor as yourself.
It really is that simple, and that difficult.
Jesus did not come to start a new religion. He did not come to establish a creed, a doctrinal statement, an institution, or an empire.
He came to show us the rhythm of God’s love in the world. This is what he meant by the Kingdom of God.
God’s love encounters every person and every thing and gives them what they truly need to know the fullness of life.
When Jesus encountered a person who had been abused by evil, beaten down, marginalized, and forgotten, He raised up them up to stand in wholeness.
When Jesus encountered a person who had allowed their place of privilege to create a false sense of entitlement and form abusive and oppressive systems he spoke truth to corrupt power and held them accountable.
Jesus knew that evil kept some people beaten down and some people puffed up. He knew that all people need to be set free to know the unconditional love of God.
He treated everyone with the respect due to a child of God and he spoke truth in love.
He demonstrated God’s love by giving up himself to our greatest fear: death. He overcame sin and death. He passed through the depths of human suffering, to the point of death, and showed us resurrection life on the other side.
Then he turned to his disciples and said, “Now it’s your turn.”
“as you are going in this world,” he said, “make disciples out of all people. Drown them in God’s love, and teach them my simple commands: love God with your whole heart and love your neighbor as yourself.”
If you’ve ever visited my website you may have noticed that I have the tagline “following the cloud.” That’s my way of saying discernment.
God led the slaves of Egypt into freedom and through the wilderness by a cloud of smoke and fire. All the prophets and leaders in the Bible had their own encounters with God when God led them in the most illogical paths.
I have learned throughout my life that God never follows my plan, as much as I try to get God to get with my program.
My job is not to worry and stress and “make it happen.” My job is be a student of Jesus, and take the time each day to ask, “What is God doing? How can I join in on it? What does love for God and love for neighbor look like in this moment?”
We don’t do that in a vacuum. We do it in the combination of four important forms of listening:
- Quiet, solitary contemplation in which we learn the discipline of letting go of the noise and breathing in the rhythm of God. (many call this mindfulness practice)
- Focused study of scripture (particularly the Gospels). Here is where we learn the patterns of God in the world so we can more readily recognize them in our circumstances.
- Conversation with trusted traveling companions. This is why we need the church. Notice, we don’t “do church” to keep an institution afloat. We “are the church” because we need community to collectively discern what God is doing.
- Careful listening to what is happening in the world: our neighborhood, our spheres of influence, our nation, and the global picture. Here we seek to discern who are the broken and beaten that need to be raised up and who are the oppressors that need to be confronted. In all circumstances we must speak the truth in love.
So, as you sit in pandemic social distancing, look around and ask:
“What is God doing, and how can we join in?”
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