So I Press On Toward The Goal

This last week I decided to watch the first episode of Downton Abbey. I wondered what all the hype was about and wanted something to pass the time for the evening. I just wanted to watch the first episode, but of course, one led to two which led to five and then eight…they really know how to hook you, don’t they?!

I am so easily addicted to things like this. And starting from episode 1 of season 1 when there are now 3 seasons out there means I could easily spend a lot of time catching up. I could watch it for hours upon hours! And the temptation is there, no doubt! I found myself meditating on it…thinking about it throughout the day, reflecting on what had happened and contemplating what could happen.

By the end of the week, I felt a little duller toward the things of the Lord. Meditating on scripture? Is that nearly as satisfying? Reading and praying and singing songs to the Lord? It just didn’t seem as attractive or fulfilling to me…but I knew in my heart it is even more so.

Please hear me out that I am NOT saying watching TV or flipping through magazines or scrolling through pinterest and the like are evils in themselves. They can be enjoyable pastimes and can prove beneficial sometimes.

But hear this too: if our faith feels a little dry and our joy is dull, maybe it’s because we aren’t spending time in the Lord’s presence…searching to know Him through His Word and prayer, experiencing the fullness of joy that comes in his presence alone.

Maybe it’s because we feed the lesser desires of satisfying these pastime enjoyments instead of feeding the deeper need of knowing Him.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. -Psalm 16:11

Do we believe that in His presence there really is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore? Have we experienced it?

Nothing else satisfies but everything else promises to.

Everything else promises to: it’s a lie from the father of lies. And so often we buy into it – we spend our time and money and thoughts meditating on that which we are sure will satisfy. It slowly steals our joy, dulls our faith, and we become somewhat complacent with a half-hearted faith…just living day-to-day with no real sense of purpose or joy. Not dead, but not on fire for the Lord in quite the same way.

When I think of the woman I hope to become and what I hope my life will amount to, it’s become so clear to me that spending endless hours passing time was not going to get me there. And yet there are so many temptations to fill time to just pass the time.

I have to ask: What do we hope our life will amount to? And is spending time doing _______ going to get us toward that end-goal? Because if not, maybe it isn’t worth our time. Maybe our time should be more purposeful and valuable in seizing opportunities to know the Lord more and finding out that He really is real and in His presence really is complete fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.

It takes discipline. It takes devotion. But let me tell you: it is worth it. When I spend time in the presence of the Lord, learning more about Him and rejoicing in this great God who saved my soul …it is well worth it and I am never left wanting or feeling dull.

So church, press on toward the goal of knowing Him more and making Him known. Resist that which is not beneficial in getting you there. It’s not always a pretty, internal dialogue. Sometimes the temptation is fierce and the flesh seems stronger than the spirit – but stand firm and keep fighting the good fight.

And while there are endless moments to let life pass by, to live for vain pleasures and waste time on unworthy causes, I hope we remain focused, devoted, and disciplined; aflame with a love for the Lord that dims our desire for anything not of Him.

I hope we live a life worthy of the calling which we have received and of the God whom we serve.

What’s Your Response?

A sower went out to sow his seed. The seed was the Word of God. As the sower spread the seed, people heard the Gospel!

Yet many who heard the good news chose not to ground themselves in it and lived a life outside of His will. The result? Some fell away from temptation. Others were consumed by the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life, which overtook them and they yielded no fruit.  

How have you responded? Where are you on this chart?

If you find yourself believing with joy for a while, but falling away in temptation, root yourself in His Word. Commit yourself to being watered and fed daily by His Word, plant yourself in a church and have community with other like-minded believers, and put into practice what you read.

If you find yourself consumed with the cares, riches, and pleasures of life, remove yourself from the sin that so easily entangles (Heb 12:1), deny yourself and follow Him (Mark 8:34). You may be hearing the word, but you are not yielding fruit because you continue on in the cares, riches, and pleasures of life. This world will pass away – live wisely!

Regardless of how we’ve responded in the past, I pray that we will become hearers and doers of His Word, keeping it and bearing much fruit for His glory and kingdom! Because when we all stand before His throne at the end of our lives, faced with the reality of how we lived in response to His Word, I want to be found in His truth, clothed with the righteousness of Jesus, living and remaining in His grace. And you will too.

Keep the faith, brothers and sisters, Jesus is coming soon!

Freedom & Life

An old friend of mine spent a couple of years in prison. I didn’t know exactly what happened to him. We lost contact and then it seemed he just disappeared. I knew he had stolen cars and gotten deep in drugs. He struggled with lust. He got involved with gangs. He was one of those old classmates that you wonder what ever happened to them.

Years later, he contacted me because he remembered our conversations about Jesus. Fresh out of jail, he still struggled with his old way of life. He struggled with lust and sexual sin. He knew that if the opportunity presented itself, he may not be strong enough to resist the drugs. We lost contact again as he stopped answering his phone. I’m not sure what happened to him.

I do know that though he was given a new opportunity at life, he remained in bondage to the old. Free from prison, but not really free at all. How true this is of so many Christians who have been freed from the eternal consequences of sin, yet remain in bondage to their old ways of life.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

The gospel is more than just a message of eternal salvation. Jesus paid our eternal debt through His death on the cross and set us free from the eternal consequences of sin. But if we accept & believe in His death and resurrection, yet remain in bondage to the old ways of life – to our anger, bitterness, jealousy, lust, pride, anxiety, and the like – then the power and intent of His death is not complete in our lives. He came to save us from our sins and to sanctify us in His truth for His purposes and glory (John 17:17).  

Our struggles with sin don’t end with salvation. But the hope of the gospel is this: He has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2nd Peter 1:3). He has given us the Holy Spirit who transforms us into the likeness of Christ as we yield to His work. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, there is HOPE for redemption and new life.

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you…For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:11-13

In light of this hope, may we deny ourselves and follow Him; take off the old and put on the new; stop walking in the desires of our flesh or the ways of the world and start walking in the Spirit so that the fruit of His Spirit can be produced in our lives and the hope of the gospel evident in our testimonies.

Praise Jesus! There is real power in His death and resurrection! We now stand resurrected by His Spirit – alive by His grace!

Happy Easter, friends. He is Risen!

Someone Was Missing

I sat at my desk and wrote a card to my mom for her birthday. After thoughtful words were written, I mindlessly signed the names I’ve signed for the last five and a half years: “With Love, Mike and Brandee.”

But this time, God filled my mind with an impressionable message: someone’s missing. It caught me by surprise but I couldn’t ignore its meaning. Is our family incomplete? Is it not supposed to be just the two of us anymore?

OK, this was a big deal – and might I mention – a deal outside of our previous plans to wait another year. I couldn’t tell Mike the details right away, but when I saw him the next day, he shared a strange dream he had. About what? Oh, just about us having a BABY.

Ever get the idea God is trying to tell you something?

So we prayed about it and decided to wait a few more months…and then three weeks later, we were pregnant. I’m thankful God’s plans always prevail. And now we wait joyously for the arrival of our baby in mid June!!

Dear baby,
As your life begins
May your eyes be opened to the grace of God.
May you know Him, even now,
As the Creator who came to give you life.
Oh sweet baby, we love you,
Just as He created you.
His hand covers your life,
Look to Him for purpose.
For He created you with divine wisdom.
And this we know for sure is true,
That sweet baby, someone was missing,
And that someone was you.

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We can’t wait to meet you, baby!!

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Singing at the Kitchen Sink

Tonight as I washed the dishes piled high from the week, I began singing a song that flowed from my heart and into the ears of my Savior. By the way, if you don’t sing to Jesus while doing dishes at your kitchen sink, I highly recommend it. A mundane task can become quite the sacred moment. So I wrote down the words to my song and thought I’d share it with you. Feel free to sing it to your own tune, or just read it as a poem. Either way, I hope these words flow from your heart and  into the ears of your Savior as you trust Him with your life.

Tomorrow

I don’t know what tomorrow holds,
But I know it holds You.
And Jesus, You give us hope for life,
We have nothing without You.
.
So teach us here, teach us now.
Give us hope, oh, give us life.
We can’t live without You, Christ,
So in Your Truth, God, we abide.
.
Jesus, oh, Jesus.
We call out, for we know You hear us.
And we know Your plans are good for us.
So we’re stepping forward, eyes gazed on You,
Trusting. Waiting. Hoping.
.
Cuz we don’t know what tomorrow holds,
But we know it holds You.
And Jesus, You are the light of life,
It’d be dark here without You.
.
Cuz we don’t know what tomorrow holds,
But we know it holds You.
And we don’t know tomorrow’s plans,
But we know You hold it in Your hands.

The Life Giver

Her life was broken. And it was about to end. She had been caught in a sin that demanded death: adultery. The religious leaders brought her to the temple, disrupted the teaching, and tested a man named Jesus about her punishment. All eyes were on her. I imagine the shame and disgrace she felt in that moment was great. If they chose to stone her, her life would end violently. If they chose to release her, she’d be shamed in society forever. Either way, it seemed like a hopeless outcome.

But Jesus. Jesus exposed the sin of her accusers so that they could no longer condemn her {John 8}. Then He spoke to her saying, “’Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.’…‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of LIFE.’” Jesus gave her life.

Then there was the demon-possessed man. He wore no clothes and was homeless. He was exceedingly fierce and was cast out of the town to live in the tombs alongside the Sea of Galilee. It is said that no man could tame him. The people were surely afraid and the demons tormented him constantly. What hope was left for him?

But Jesus. Jesus came and cast the demons out, and He restored life to this man {Mark 5}. Jesus told him to go tell his friends and proclaim what the Lord had done, and they marveled because they saw the life transformation. Jesus gave him hope. Jesus gave him his community back. Jesus gave him life.

Story after story, I read of Jesus as the Life Giver. He redeems. He restores. He heals. He comforts. He forgives. He saves. He is the ultimate Life Giver.

But Jesus…But Jesus was tormented too. He was spat upon and mocked. They took a whip to Him and lashed Him 39 times. They forced a crown of thorns on his head and struck Him with a rod. Then they made Him carry a large wooden cross to the place they would crucify Him. Mercilessly, the soldiers took the mallet and pounded nails into His wrists and feet. Then they lifted up the cross and watched Him hang in agony.

The Life Giver died on that cross.

But Jesus. Jesus rose from the dead three days later, and in so doing, He conquered death. Jesus is LIFE and death is the absence of Him. He restores us and He redeems us. He came to give us life, and life abundant.

How has Jesus given you LIFE today? Now that He has given you life, how can your life honor & glorify Him?

 

Is He MY God?

“The LORD is the great God, and the great King above all gods…Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture.” Ps. 95:3, 6-7

“He’s either God in my life or He’s not.” I listened as a wise woman said this the other day in conversation.

The statement is not in regard to whether or not He is God…He is. The statement is in regard to my life. Is He MY God? Is He Lord in my life over everything – over my marriage, my relationships, my work, my dreams and desires, my will and my emotions, my entire being? Because He either is or He isn’t.

I think we all have parts of our lives that we are lord over or that we allow to be lord over us. It is often in those things we try to control, or in those things that control us. And we submit to these false gods and allow our flesh to reign over the Spirit that resides in us.

Christianity isn’t a nice tradition, or a religion we can practice on Sundays. It’s not a piece or fraction of our life. It is our life because as Christ followers, He is our life. And He must reign over and in every facet of this life we live. He must be glorified. He must be God.

Because He’s either God in my life…or He’s not.

“Lord, reign and be glorified! Allow us to discern the sin and the lies that remove you from the place of Lordship in our lives. It is all about you. It is all for your glory. You are God…you are our God.”