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How Do We Become Preoccupied with Jesus?


#1

Welcome back!

Let’s pick up our discussion again of Finding Church. I’m sorry that my surgery and the holidays interrupted our flow here and hopefully we can now finish the book over the next few months. We’ll start the new year with Chapter 11, In First Place.

The church of Jesus thrives where people are relating to and focused on him. Most of us have learned to negotiate human relationships based on our competing desires and affections and who has the power to get their way and who is forced to go along. The church Jesus is building doesn’t play that game. As people engage a growing relationship with Jesus their conversation begins to reflect his presence in their life and his character begins to shape the way they respond to people.

Religion gets us focused on our performance, our failures, our identity, our group’s identity, and how to get our needs met. Everything about God is a tool to make our lives easier. Jesus had something better in mind, those who would embrace him, not a religion about him, and by doing that find their lives changing within.

In this chapter let’s sort out how it is that our lives begin to orbit around his priorities and character, rather than getting him to meet our expectations. What has helped you become more preoccupied with Jesus over the course of your life. What distracts you from that reality and what draws you into it with ever-more passion? What helped you see those things, circumstances, Scripture, the influence of another person?


#2

This is a tough question…

One thing that constantly leads me back to God is looking at 1 Corinthians 13, and seeing how God loves me and how He loves other people. I’m also constantly being drawn towards God’s love by seeing how much I fail at showing love to others (and I say this humbly). It’s like a litmus test, and when I see that I don’t measure up to 1 Corinthians 13, I’m drawn back to asking God for help in those areas where I fail, and it seems like shortly thereafter God helps me in some way.

Some other things that help me are when I hear stories about people getting to know more about Gods love and living by faith instead of self-effort and religious obligation.

It also helps when I see that life isn’t about trying to live a perfect life, but it’s about getting God’s love into us, so we eventually see others through the lens of God’s love, and thus it draws us in to treat people with that kind of love. Sometimes it’s found in remembering when I was poor and miserable, and thus it draws me to have compassion on others that are in poverty and misery.

I think some things that distract us are (1) when we are trying to be better than everyone else, (2) when we are trying to be the most spiritual person in the room, (3) when we think of vengeful thoughts towards others, for their bad behaviors, instead of how God’s love could fix things, (4) when we try to go do stuff for God out of self-effort or religious obligation instead of through love and by faith, and (5) when we try to act as lords over others, as if we must control them in order for things to go well for everyone.

Lenny
Bailey, NC


#3

In answer to your questions above, coming to the knowledge of His love for me (after reading He Loves Me etc.) has done more to change me than anything else. Also, I think that coming to the knowledge of the truth that what Christ did for me He did for EVERYBODY, and that it is DONE has helped bring healing too. What happened in Adam has been undone in Christ! That knowledge has brought such relief, rest, and freedom. That knowledge has made me so grateful to Him and it has also given me a compassion for others. It is no longer us verses them…but rather…we are ALL included. He loves us ALL with an everlasting, never changing love! I heard Francios du Toit say, “God doesn’t have a dark side. He is the Father of light. In Him there is no darkness at all. He changes not! He has no shadow due to change.” And Jesus came to reveal THAT Father…not the one the religious believe in. Religion had me focused on my behavior. (What a burden!) Now the mystery of Christ IN me is my focus! (What freedom!) All of this has brought about a change in my conversations with others (like you mentioned above.)

So glad you are up and feeling well and whole Wayne! Hope your wife is pain free too.

joan


#4

Ditto. I don’t think most people want things fixed. Most people don’t know they’re broken. But it’s a good way to pray.


#5

I would like to add one little thing… Sometimes our yuck meter (as some of us call it), keeps us from drifting away from Gods love and living by faith.

For example, I recently had a situation that made my yuck meter go really high.

I recently had holiday celebrations with my family, and one family member gave me a book as a gift, and the book was about making church community attractive again, and my yuck meter spiked really high. I was kind, as I smiled and said thank you. However, I suspected that it was focused on religious obligation and self-effort. A quick look at the table of contents also made me suspicious. A few days later I tried to read some of the book and it seemed to be focused on religious obligation and self-effort, exactly as I suspected.

Sometimes that yuck meter might simply be the Holy Spirit guiding us and giving us some of God’s wisdom. It keeps us from returning to self-effort and keeps us focused on God’s love, or helps us to frequently get drawn back to God’s love.

On the other hand, another family member has seemingly become a little more open to these ideas and I even mention this book, and they said that they had heard a lot of good things about this book “Finding Church”. So I told them that I recommended it and that they take their time to go through it to mentally digest everything in there. I hope it works out for the best.

Lenny,
Bailey, NC


#6

For me the break has been welcomed as I too had some corrective knee surgery and it has been a hard road back to getting anywhere near normal. This coupled with my work trying their best to get rid of me after I have been faithful to them for over twelve years only served to add to my bitter pill. None of it made any sense and to add to this where was God?
When I first went off to get the surgery done I thought, brilliant a month off work where I can draw closer to God and really get going with this journey. However, what I never place into my thinking was the main source of how all that would work. Yes, there I was steaming along in a lot of discomfort physically and then a week into it all emotionally I was praying, seeking and hanging my head in confusion, where was God?
Does that make sense to anyone else?
I wanted to fire off a hundred and one emails to Wayne but he was recovering too. I still need to find community and or even a brother or sister on this journey that lives near or is in phone contact. I found myself slowly as the days went past letting go and forcing myself to relax. I started the Jesus Lens again and was asking God to make the scriptures more alive and help me to see the treasure that they are to others. I rarely picked up scripture as it made me feel so guilty and had me doing and doing and doing… most of that came whilst in an abusive cult and was cemented by becoming a committed member of the IC after I returned from a mammoth back slide of ten years into alcohol and drugs.
A few months into my recovery from recent surgery I noticed the scriptures coming alive, I’m managing to jump into the story and sit in it asking questions and I see things helping me with direction and I know there’s more to come. The important thing for me is I find myself naturally gravitating towards the scriptures and whilst reading or listening to them as I sometimes enjoy doing I find I’m drinking them in. This is new and I’m loving it and I lay that all in the fact that the Spirit has and is guiding me as He always has and now there is an extra side to help me walk this path.
What I find most interesting is that although I felt God wasn’t around wasn’t talking, I can look back and see that He has been doing a most profound work in me, one that I saw as hard and with feelings of being abandonment. None of that was God but all rubbish in me that He the gardener was pruning away. I find myself thinking differently especially towards others. More with an interest to what I may be able to help them with rather than what I can get out of the moment. I can also see the things I easily hang on to with the change I am walking into a trusting that is growing in me and in turn find I’m leaving them to Jesus. That is new.
This last week I found myself getting so concerned I’d committed the unforgivable sin, and there it goes again my self destruct button was in the on position again. Yesterday morning I felt a strong nudge to listen to this week’s Podcast titled “The best time to Plant a Tree.” Blow me over if it wasn’t spoken of in the conversation. But hey it doesn’t end there, Brad gets to chatting about the difference between the realm of my soul and the realm of my spirit. He said, “I’m born again, God is inhabiting my spirit, I have been made new. I am joined with the Lord. That’s true right there. That’s who I really am.”
“My soul is my mind, will and emotions, so the question is where am I living?”
Like Brad, I want to live by the Spirit. I want the Spirit to be shaping my reality. The past few months have been a first-hand discipleship course in allowing Him into my everyday life. It’s been a tough time and I must say I struggle to yield to His working but I do see it is better and find myself saying more.

Ian near Heathrow UK


#7

Ian, thanks for the encouragement you share. Happy you are sensing God’s work in your life through/despite the troubles.

I’ve had some of those days lately when I feel like God either has me on punishment or I’m just not saved. So there it is. Doesn’t last long, but things get pretty down around here. Hubs still doesn’t have a job. Have to keep reminding myself: All in God’s time! We DO have a roof over our heads and food on the table, Thank you, Lord. We want to get out of this house soon, but nothing else has opened up. Being where you’re unwanted is miserable.

Just want to make sure I understood you correctly, you do STILL have your job, right?

I certainly understand wanting some fellowship with believers you can trust. As for one-anothering, I’ve tried more and more not to second-guess the nudges; I just do whatever seems to be the thing to do or say when I encounter a person. I’m tired of worrying about whether it is the right thing to do; I’m sure there are those who’d think something is appreciated, and there are others who’d think I got it all wrong. Really tired of analyzing everything to death. Tired of being criticized, too. I can have a thought without submitting it to The Committee of Everybody Else for Approval. How’s that? I live in an area where people are very tight-lipped, where everybody minds their own business to the extreme. If somebody has a problem, then you’re supposed to stay out of their way and let them work it out. Guess they’ll have to get used to something different. Kingdom trumps culture, huh.

Reading some books I really enjoy, but the Scripture means more and more to me all the time. I just read and underline and hi-lite and pray as I go. A D- according to the books on spiritual disciplines (bet Jesus didn’t carry a book-bag and a journal), but it works for me.

Thanks again for sharing. I appreciate what you wrote. You are an encourager, bro!!

~Beth in Texas


#8

I became preoccupied with Jesus through my spiritual poverty. The preoccupation grew as I mourned and he comforted me. I began to realize that although I am a unique individual, my circumstances are not unique. I am not different from other people. I experience the gift of his mercy in a new way and find myself treating others with mercy. My focus has become a heart connection. I no longer experience the need to compete with others or compare myself to anyone. He os showing me the extravagance of his love and I recognize there is more than enough love to go around. I am at peace and find myself more comfortably extending that peace to others. When I experience criticism, betrayal and abandonment, I turn to him for comfort, protection and renewal keeping an open heart the best I can.

Regardless of where I find myself in what Jesus shared when he spoke to the crowd sitting on the hill side in Matthew 5, I am blessed. I am blessed wherever I land in the process Jesus describes as he continues to change me. I am comfortable being along side of others knowing that regardless where they find themselves on this journey, they are loved and blessed.

Older brothers and sisters on this journey have provided some scaffolding. Support and encouragement that helps me to move more deeply forward. Wayne encourages me to relax into the process, relax in God’s love. He provided me with the gentle, loving guidance I desperately longed for and needed even though I didn’t quite understand what that meant initially. I just moved forward the best I could and talked to Jesus. It was awkward at first, but the relationship with Jesus changed me. I don’t know how. I don’t know when, all I know is I am not the same. Life is very different today regardless of the season I find myself in, I am blessed in his love.

Pat
from Wisconsin


#9

Thank you for your kind words Beth, yes I still have my job, a fight to keep it legally may happen up the road a little ways I think. I have my moments but try to leave it in Gods hands.

Gosh we all seem to have our fair share of troubles down here, there is an interesting scripture keeps coming to mind when I get concerned about my future and where my money comes from. Psalm 37:25 “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsake or their children begging bread.” actually I have just read through Psalm 37 and I feel there is a whole bunch of little sayings I’m going to sit and think on for a while and see what Father says, whatever happens they are lifting already for me.
I love reading fictional adventure thrillers and have had my moments where I feel guilty as I have not picked up the bible. What I started doing when that happened was to read my book on purpose as I feel those guilt trips are the input of the other side and my laziness. I have been asking God to make the scriptures a treasure to me and to be honest I am captivated at how that is coming alive.

Ian near Heathrow UK


#10

I like that!! Same problem here sometimes. When my brain has been in hyper-drive over this present insanity I get to where I can’t concentrate on anything. It helps to read a book of any kind that is engaging. [I confess: I’ve even read Neta Jackson’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series. Liked early Clive Cussler books, too.]. Gets my mind off everything and I slow down, then I can concentrate again. Sometimes I feel guilty if I’m not reading the Bible constantly, but I decided that I can’t pack it into my head like cramming for a geography test or literature exams. I guess Scripture cooks best on simmer.

I would really like to be part of a fellowship of believers who ARE preoccupied with Jesus. There are probably more people out there who want that than we know. Connecting with them is a trip. We’ve been amazed in the middle of this current insanity by the people outside the church who have shown up to encourage or to hand us a $100 dollar bill “to help out.” Some have been surprises. The more I think about it, the more inclined I am to pursue this while we are still in town.

Yes to Psalm 37! Had to slow the brain down long enough the other morning to remind myself that what looks like a total disaster for us financially is not necessarily the forecast for the rest of our lives. God will provide. Always has. Trust still required. So easy to say, though I still feel like a flop for not being able to say it unflinchingly. One day at a time. Like Wayne said, God never shows up in our worries about the future (or something like that!).

~Beth in Texas


#11

Thanks Wayne. I was wondering when I would make my way back here. I finally received a Lifestream Discussion email today, and, here I am!

My preoccupation with (and distraction from) Jesus are based on both the truths of Scripture, and the lies of the devil. Psalm 73 has been a cornerstone of my faith when I get down and discouraged about the world.

Something Brad has said several times in the God Journey podcasts, about how you will have trouble in this life, and how it doesn’t seem to make any refrigerator magnets, reminds me that the words of Jesus are not only at times uplifting, but also at times sobering.


#12

In my life, my relationship and preoccupation with Jesus is often related to TIME. I am now retired and have more time to spend quietly with Jesus and with scripture. That time is a great source of prioritization for me. We raised four children, then both had jobs and there never seemed to be adequate time to just be with Jesus. I know He totally understood, but my preoccupation then was when I could escape the ‘busyness.’ As I am less ‘busy,’ I find myself desiring time with Him and conversation with Hiim. Busy-ness can still distract me, for sure, but it is usually a choice, not simply a circumstance. I am drawn into my ‘preoccupation’ with Jesus by the relationships around me that show me how He is at work and how He pulls me into His work. It is gentle, it is clear, and it is honest. It is a daily surrender and an attempt at awareness. Where is He opening doors? Honestly, Wayne, your work (Shack, Jesus Lens, He Loves Me, etc.) have greatly influenced me to be able to ‘lean into’ the love of Jesus (as you put it) instead of trying to please Him by earning His affection.


#13

Ian - thanks for being so open and vulnerable. That takes real courage. I can totally relate.

There are days I still wonder if I get it, and why doesn’t God seem to be answering my prayer like He seems to answer others?

The big thing I’ve been hearing from the Lord lately is to rest in Him and enjoy Him. I grew up in a very traditional church where the emphasis was in how much and what you could do FOR God. Sure, you might pray and ask Him, but it was all about how much you could do. This only got worse after becoming a pastor. I wanted to serve God and felt called to serve Him. The deeper I got into that rabbit hole, though, the more I saw that didn’t line up with what I believed to be true about God and what the scriptures said.

After leaving all that, I still have days that I wonder if I’ve made the right decisions. It doesn’t seem like something that I’ve chosen but it has chosen me. (if that makes sense?) It’s a path I never thought I’d be on but glad there are fellow travelers here!


#14

They call it saved to serve don’t they. I’m learning to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. And I have found it takes time to be set free from the ways an institutional mindset about church enslaves us.


#15

P.S.

Sometimes we just need to stop trying to be the most spiritual person in the room, and simply go about our lives, and be kind to people… Engage in kind conversation, engage in acts of kindness, and if we can lend a hand for a few seconds to make someones life a little better, or a little easier, then let’s do it.

Lenny
Bailey, NC