I like order.
My ideal morning routine consists of waking at 5.30am. Wandering into an ordered kitchen. Grabbing ground coffee from an ordered cupboard. Taking the milk from an ordered fridge. Carrying my freshly made coffee out to my ordered deck and spending time in reasonably ordered prayer.
A sense of order helps me to feel peaceful and in control of my life.
With seven children, however, order and routine can be something of a challenge. Go figure.
I have learnt, for the sake of sanity and fun, that it’s okay to settle for disorder in lesser things. My children are more important than order and routine – a fact my wife continually reminds me of (because she needs to).
Despite the presence of disorder in my life, I live in an ordered universe (and I am very thankful for that!). Thankfully there are a set of physical laws that govern life and bring order to how things work.
This order flows into our life and much of it happens without any conscious effort. Gravity takes effect. Our lungs breathe. Our hearts beat. Rain falls. Trees grow. The sun rises and sets. The tides ebb and flow.
Sometimes order requires a conscious effort. Consequently, human error becomes a factor and we can get the order wrong. And when we get the order wrong, things don’t work as they should.
I own a 2-stroke Victa mower. Generally it runs really well. But I know for a fact that if I don’t pump the fuel line, open the fuel line, move the throttle and pull the starter cord, precisely in that order – it’s never going to start. If I want my mower to start, it’s not enough that I know all the steps, I have to get them in the right order.
Ephesians 2:8,9 tells us that – it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
There’s an important order here – grace, faith, works. Saved by grace, through faith, to do good works. Often we get the order wrong. We get it back to front. Works, faith, then grace. We try to do things in our own strength, and it’s not until things go wrong that we really consider our faith. Then we start to pray and wonder – where’s God when I need Him? In this scenario, grace becomes our last resort, an afterthought. Yet it is only because of grace that we can be saved and then equipped to do good works. Right elements, wrong order.
The order of things is important.
As I venture into my Year of Love there are four particular areas that I am being challenged to focus on in relation to the order of things.
1. Jesus before everyone and everything else
Idolatry is quite simply the incorrect order of God in our life. When Jesus is at the centre of my life, order is restored and maintained. When Jesus comes first the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control become evident in my life. When my focus shifts from Jesus then my peace turns to discontent, my joy to bitterness and my concern becomes myself. Jesus needs to be number one in my life, each and every day.
2. People before convenience
Just as idolatry relates to the order of God in our life, injustice is the incorrect order of people in our life. When we fail to treat people as we ourselves would like to be treated, injustice occurs. When we put comfort and convenience before people, injustice occurs. This is why ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ is so powerful because it places people in the correct order and removes the likelihood of injustice.
3. Kingdom before nation
I don’t enjoy watching my team lose. In fact, I can be quite parochial. I barrack loudly and proudly for various teams from Brisbane, Queensland and Australia. But I am mindful that I shouldn’t place my nation or my politics before Jesus. I am mindful that I shouldn’t place patriotism before people. But it happens. And the main reason it happens is that in the absence of worshipping God, people will worship something or someone else. Sometimes that’s nationalism – worshipping the flag, worshipping icons of history, worshipping sporting teams, worshipping ‘being Australian’.
Yet we know that in the Kingdom of God there is no favouritism or distinction of cultural background. The Kingdom of God is for people of every nation. Being kingdom-minded should always come before being nation-minded. Relationship with God and relationship with people should always come before rules and tradition.
4. Available before capable
In my previous post I discussed human failure. I confessed, which should be no surprise to anyone, that I am flawed and I fail. One of the many problems with this fact, is that even though I know I am fallible, I somehow think that I can overcome my failures by myself. Do you know how flawed that thinking is?
In John 21 Simon Peter is at a loose end and he’s feeling like a failure. Even though Jesus has risen to life and appeared to Peter and the disciples, Peter is wondering what next? He can’t shake his denial of Jesus. And not just once, but three timesm he denied Him. .
In John 21:15-19, Jesus essentially reinstates Peter’s ministry and establishes the role he will play in early church. He does this by asking him the same question three times – do you truly love me?
Yes Lord, yes Lord – you know that I love you.
Then feed my church. Take care of my church.
Jesus doesn’t ask Peter what training he’s done. He doesn’t ask Peter for his credentials. He doesn’t ask Peter how much he knows of the Torah, or Jewish law. He doesn’t even ask Peter whether he thinks he’s called to ministry.
He only asks Peter, ‘do you truly love me above everyone and everything else?’
Before Peter could move forward he needed to receive Jesus’ forgiveness, he needed to receive Jesus’ love. And receiving Jesus, receiving His love – requires availability rather than capability.
First and foremost, Jesus is interested in your availability rather than your capability.
Are you available? Are you available for Jesus?
OVER TO YOU
There are things that prevent us from being available for Jesus.
One of those things is ‘busyness’. We live in a busy world, and we lead busy lives. Are you too busy for Jesus? Are you too busy to receive His love in your life?
Another thing that can prevent us from being available for Jesus is our sense of capacity and capability or lack thereof. Are you allowing your capability, rather than your availability to dictate whether you follow Jesus or not?
If you think you’re not good enough, don’t pray enough, are not holy enough, or not knowledgable enough… join the club. We tell ourselves things like, I need to wait until I’m capable enough… But it’s not true, that’s not the correct order.
Jesus knew that Peter was incapable. All he required of Peter was that he was available.
Be available to receive Jesus’ love, available to love Him in return, available to fulfil the purpose and role that Jesus has for you.
LOVE IN ACTION
The question I want you to pose to yourself is:
Am I available for Jesus to work in my life and what do I need to do to allow that to happen?
Do I need to free up and set aside time?
Do I need to ask the Holy Spirit to change my attitude and mindset?
Do I need to humble myself before Jesus and receive His forgiveness?
Do I need to realise that everyone is incapable and invite Jesus to pour out His love in my life?
Thank you Jesus that we live in an ordered universe. Thank you that this order speaks to your purpose and plan in everything. Help me to increasingly get that order right in my life. I desire to place you above all things. I desire to place people above convenience. Make me kingdom-minded more than nation-minded. And, more than capable, cause me to be available for you. Amen.
Hmmmmm, I like order too. I carefully order our kitchen, cleaning dishes and wiping down sinks and benches. And my study, which is set up in the garage under the house. Desk is ordered, books are ordered, motorbike is polished and parked in an orderly fashion.
Yet i find when I wake up or I come back from being out that everything is disordered and messy again. (thus proving that the idea of evolution, the idea that everything is getting better, is improving and getting more ordered on its own… The 2nd law of thermodynamics is correct – everything is getting messier through decay!! But I digress…) There are, I find, 4 other people and 1 dog living in my house…
People, it seems, tend to create disorder. Particularly in areas they are relatively unconcerned about. My kids don’t care about clean dishes stacked neatly in place or mopped benches. (Grumpiness results; peace is often a distant concept) A couple of years ago I chose to allow one child room in my study as she created a tad too much mess in the lounge. She turned my study into an art studio, which I regularly battle to keep clean. (Grumpiness results; peace is often a distant concept)
How can we survive as a family if some like orderliness and some care little for it? The lessons I’ve learned as a parent is to extend grace to those who so patently don’t deserve it. In this, I am forced to act out the character of God through an imperfect medium (me!) God extends me grace, which I patently don’t deserve any more now after 25 years of following Christ than I did when I first asked Him into my life. Giving grace is to give love, which covers their messiness as much as it mitigates my personal failures. Giving grace helps stop perpetuating injustices as it’s often hard to detect who in particular messed things up this time round when one isn’t either omniscient or omnipresent!
Grace binds families together as it does friendships and fellowships. Grace gives way to our own pettiness to allow God’s love to flow through us so that our own desire for orderliness and control doesn’t get in our way to deepening our ongoing relationships. The relationships that far outweigh all other considerations as we follow Christ in our fallen state in our fallen world. Grace gives hope, restores connection and frees us to love despite our own and others failings.
Thanks heaps for your reflections, Aleem 🙂
Excellent thoughts, thanks Dave!
“People… tend to create disorder” – very true! We are fallible and imperfect (don’t tell anyone) 😉
I love the advice on grace too – very important.