God on a Shelf

Do you have a “friend” that you really only ever contact or interact with when you need something from them?  Maybe it’s someone that you were close with at some point, but time and circumstances have come between you.  Or perhaps you have a “friend” that you were never really that fond of and you never really cared to spend much time with them.  But, for one reason or another you keep them “around” while maintaining minimal interaction.

With the availability of cellular network devices and the advent of social media this has become super common in our culture.  I understand that often times these avenues allow us to remain in contact with people for some very good reasons.  For example… you can provide hope and encouragement when you see that they are going through something… or you can let them know that you care about them or are thinking about them every so often… or you may use it as a way to remain an example in someone’s life in order to point them towards Jesus.  These and several others are great reasons to remain in contact with those people in our lives that we may have minimal interaction with.  The main motivation behind these reasons is to somehow benefit the other person involved.  The focus is not about what you can “GET” from the relationship, but about what you can “GIVE”.  When you focus on what you can give in a friendship, you begin to take delight in your interactions with that person and thus you will desire being around them.

However, the “friends” that I am talking about are the “friends” that you keep around and the only time that you pursue an interaction with them is when you need something from them.  Some examples might be… that person that has nice toys/houses/timeshares/(enter any material thing) that they are willing to let you use… or the person that is always willing and able to give you money when you need it… or the person that is willing to listen to your problems and act as an emotional crutch when you need it most.  These things are not bad things to experience or accept in the blessing of a real friendship, but when these things are what motivate us keeping someone “around” then we are not being fair to ourselves or the other person.  There are many people out there who enjoy blessing their friends with these things and things like them, but it is not healthy to take advantage of them and not have any desire to interact with that person because you enjoy who they are.  In these relationships, the focus is not about what you can “GIVE”, but more about what you can “GET”.  Ultimately, this type of “friendship” will lead to negative thoughts or feelings for either one or both of the parties involved.

I have seen various examples of this throughout my own life.  Often times I’ve been a third party looking in on the situation involving one or more of my own friends/acquaintances/family members.  But other times I am one who is directly involved on one side or the other.  I have been that person who’s consciously kept people around because I knew that they may be of some use to me in the future.  I have also found myself in “friendships” where it seemed like I was only contacted when someone needed something from me.

The more that I thought about these situations, the more I felt convicted.  Not just convicted about the times that I kept “friends” around for what I could GET from them, but convicted and deeply saddened because that is exactly how I treat God.

When I take a good look at when I interact or communicate with my Creator, I find that it is in those times when I need something from Him.  When I have fallen and need an abundant measure of His mercy and forgiveness.  When I’ve wronged someone and I need Him to heal a relationship.  When my pride and jealousy have overtaken me and I need his grace to humble me.  When I am lonely and depressed and I need Him to remind me of His unending love.  It pleases God for me to come to Him for those things, but He more so wants me to desire Him and delight in His presence even in those times when I feel like I need nothing at all.  Sadly, aside from these times and others, where I need something from Him as my Provider, I spend little time pursing Him just to be in His presence.  I know who He is and I do have a relationship with Him, but too often I treat Him as “friend” that I can just put on a self and pull down whenever I need something from Him.  He deserves and demands so much more from his children.

As I look around, this seems to be the norm amongst many Christians today.  We treat God like a genie… like God on a Shelf.  We keep him visible in our lives so that we and others can see him, when it is convenient, and we make sure He is within reach so we can get to Him quickly, if life hits harder than we can take.  We maintain that minimal contact with Him during our week by going to our church services/programs and by checking off our “daily devotion” like it’s just another task on our to-do list.  Outside of those expected “religious” obligations, we show little desire to pursue time with God to just set and be with Him.  It’s no wonder we don’t hear from Him when we ask for His guidance and direction… we can’t even take time to set and listen to Him!  We always want to be the ones talking TO HIM during our interactions with Him.  He wants to talk TO US if we would just be still and quiet our hearts and minds.  It’s just like any other relationship… we have to PURSUE and LISTEN to the other person in order to learn more about who they are.

When Jesus called us His friends in John 15:15, He meant FRIENDS!  He meant that we have access to a 2-way relationship between our Savior and ourselves.  He deeply desires to be in constant communication with us and He is relentless in the pursuit of our hearts.  This desire is not because of anything that we have done or can do… we can do nothing that will make God love us any more or any less than he does right now.  But, it is because of WHO HE IS.  God is EVERYTHING and offers us EVERYTHING we need to live our lives and live them abundantly.  It brings Him great pleasure to give us His Kingdom and everything that it entails.  God didn’t want Heaven without us, His creation, so He brought Heaven down, through Jesus, and made His Heavenly Kingdom available to ALL through the gift of His Holy Spirit when Jesus was resurrected and ascended in to Heaven.  When we trust Jesus as your savior we receive the Holy Spirit to live inside of us… God is now with us.  His Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, is right at our fingertips!  A life of justice… a life of peace… a life of unrelenting love is available to us right now!

If that is the case then why is it that when I look into my own life and the life of those around me I see so much injustice… such heavy burdens of worry and doubt… relentless hate and resentment?  This is not the abundant life that He sent Jesus to the cross for. God never intended for it to be this way.  In fact, it breaks His heart when we muddle through life like this.  It doesn’t bring Him much glory when we live like that.  We needn’t live this life like a prison sentence that we must serve before dying and going onto to the eternal life that we’ve been promised

We get one shot at this life and I want MORE… I want more of the Kingdom in my life NOW.  And I know that you want that for yourself to.  So let’s take God off of the shelf and choose to acknowledge that fact that He is with us all of the time… devotion time or not… church time or not.  He wants to walk with us… talk with us… BE with us ALL of the time.  In every thought… in every decision… in every temptation.  Let’s stop trying to see how far we can make it on our own before life brings us to our knees and we are forced come to Him.  Instead, let’s bring Him along with us every day and be expectant of how He will lift us up above our circumstances and use us in a world that desperately needs hope.  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).  We are promised that there will be troubles in this life, but when our thoughts are fixed on the supply of life we can handle anything because it isn’t about us anymore… it’s about Him.  The devil can try to steal our joy, kill our spirit, destroy our testimony… but WE… CAN… HANDLE… IT!  No form of evil can remain in the presence of God…  His presence is with us when we take Him with us.

Accept the challenge to start living… to live ABUNDANTLY!  Let’s start treating Jesus like a TRUE FRIEND.  Pursue Him in everything we do.  Let Him into every area of our life.  Desire Him for Him.  Find delight in His presence.  Only then will we experience the justice, peace, and love that flows from who He is.  Then we will find ourselves on the path to live “All 4 Above”.

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