A Facebook meme grabbed my attention this week
I've thought about it all week. This is excellent advice to those dating but it goes way beyond that. How do I know a church is right for me? A friendship, mentor, or prayer partner? The answer is the same. Are they leading me to God?
I thought of all of the people God sent and still sends to lead me to Him. Family, church members, mentors, pastors, and friends. Those leading me to God are the only ones I want influencing my spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical life. Certainly, there are many in our lives who don't lead us towards God and I am not suggesting we leave them behind. My mentor Pastor Ron Fuller often references people who are his by "blood, adoption, or assignment." What I am suggesting is to only adopt people as spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical influencers if they lead us towards God. Pop psychology might call them the people we let "inside our head." The voices we allow to encourage or correct. Those with whom we ride emotional roller coasters or work beside until we are bone weary. Those whose words send us to the word of God and our prayer closets. Those who will go to the word of God and their prayer closets on our behalf.
Biblically, we have obligations to many people but obligations are different than following someone. For example, we are linked to our spouses for life, even when they aren't leading us towards God but even in marriage, God has exceptions for broken covenants. Our family is our family and as such are ours but we all know family situations that become so toxic that boundaries had to be set and relationships put on hold. God sends assignments on a regular basis and since "lost people act like lost people," often those assignments include dealing with bad behavior. However, we get to choose whom we adopt and give permission to influence our spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical lives. Those privileged spots belong only to those who lead us towards God. Knowing that means we can fulfill family obligation and accept God's assignments without having expectations and being hurt when family and those God assigns let us down.
I haven't always understood that or the difference in those relationships - blood, adoption, and assignment and as such, was hurt because I gave the wrong people permission to impact my spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical life. Not everyone in my life has the goal of leading me to God. If I allow those with other motives a high level of influence, I'm hurting them and me by allowing them to lead me in the wrong direction. This can include both big life changing issues and something as small as an hour or even minutes of my time. I've lost count of the things I tried to do to "please" people, only to end up feeling sorry for myself because they demanded more without seeming to appreciate what I'd already given up to please them. That feeling of self righteous self pity was often my first clue that I'd given the wrong people permission to influence my spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical life. I've come to understand that when people I trust tell me I need to learn to say "no," they are really telling me that I need to get better at knowing to whom I need to say "no."
It isn't hard to know who God has assigned to us. We want to help. We make sacrifices joyfully and peacefully without expectations that they will give back to us. We also know those who are ours metaphorically by "blood" - our family. Family responsibilities like taking care of aging parents or caring for our children are instinctive and we can joyfully accept them, even when they are hard. I think that is what Daddy meant when he said he never resented anything he chose to do for people, which was a lot. Daddy also didn't let people push him into doing things he didn't want to do. We instinctively know who is leading us astray by that knot in our gut. What Daddy was a master at took me years to learn and sometimes only moments to forget. The combination of people demanding my time out of a sense of entitlement and me feeling "stuck" but doing it anyway was me choosing to follow people doing their best to lead me towards their desires instead of God's desires. I had to learn that the only "Well done!" I needed was God's.
If you've wondered why this ministry is called Pocket Full of Change, it is because we are called to help people make some kind of change, large or small, that leads them in the direction of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Having a pocket full of change is a metaphor for being prepared. We like to say that we help people prepare for life and eternity. The quarters we give out represent God's free gift and being prepared. On our travels, we often have just a moment with people and we want to make the most of that moment. Yes, if they aren't in a saving relationship with Jesus, we start there. Many we minister to have already met Jesus but for whatever reason, they have chosen to tiptoe, walk, or run in the opposite direction. Helping people "change" directions is the real call of this ministry. It is why we evangelize, blog, write books, use Social Media, coach, speak, train evangelists, and write this Moment. We think in terms of helping people make the wobbly baby steps towards the direction of God and see God as the beaming loving Father waiting with arms outstretched to catch the stumbling infant as he or she pitches forward into His arms. This line from the Moriah Peters song, "Well Done," is our constant prayer: "If they're following me, they're going to follow you."
Who steadies and guides you as you make those wobbly baby steps towards the loving arms of God? Who puts leading you towards God ahead of anything personally they might need or want from you? Put those people on your "adopt" list and celebrate them. If you can't name anyone, don't worry. Ask God to send you some. I know from experience that he'll say yes. When they arrive, test what they say against the word of God and if they pass the test, adopt them.
Check your relationships. Are they yours by blood, adoption, or assignment? Some will be on all 3 lists and a few might not be on any. Make sure you understand what list they belong on and adjust as the Holy Spirit leads. Choose who you adopt and make that group the only people you allow to lead you to Him. Again, to quote "Well Done," follow only those people who lead you straight into His arms. The only "Well Done" any of us need to hear is from God.
The Adoption Test
- Does the peace of God rule in your heart when you are with them?
- Are you thankful for them?
- Does the message of Christ dwell richly between you
- Do you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit?
- Do you sing to God about them with gratitude in your heart?
- Is everything they ask of you in the name of the Lord Jesus?
If the answer is yes, adopt and give thanks.