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!

Unearned Kindness

How far will God’s kindness go? His mercy and graciousness toward me is so undeserved, and sometimes I wonder, when will it stop? I can’t do anything to deserve it. And yet sometimes I fear that if I don’t “do better” in my Christian walk, He’ll take it away.

I still have so much to learn of Him, and I recognize that these thoughts only expose how much I don’t know of His grace or of His character.

Because really, does our good works earn us the grace and blessing He pours into our lives?

There is no doubt that God rewards those who seek Him, so I’m not advocating a spiritual laziness because God’s grace will cover our lack of discipline. But in no way does our attempts toward holiness merit His grace or kindness or mercy. Rather His kindness and mercy is meant to lead us toward greater holiness.

I feel increasingly undeserving of His goodness; and I am undeserving. But because of His goodness, I am led continually toward repentance. I hope that as we realize the magnitude of His grace, we do not trample on it in pride or hardness of heart, but we repent, turn to Him, and love Him because He first loved us.

“…Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4

“…[He] saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…” 2 Timothy 1:9

Thank you, God, that you alone are worthy. And that your kindness to us through Jesus has changed us and given us hope beyond compare. I pray we’d look to you and respond to your kindness and give glory to the work of Jesus who has clothed us with His righteousness. Amen.

Lies, Lies, & More Lies

Me? Lie? Noooo. I don’t lie. Liars go to…well, anyways, let’s just leave it at that. I’m no liar.

Ok, ok…that’s a lie. Truth is: lies come in all shapes and sizes. I like to believe my lies are tiny round specks, but God sees them as large square planks. We lie for all sorts of reasons: shame, pride, anger, fear, worldly pressures…but none of these reasons excuse it. God hates lying. And He loves honesty and integrity.

I recently read an incredible book called Integrity by Henry Cloud and began praying that God would make me a woman of integrity. God’s response to my prayer? Well, He didn’t exactly deposit integrity into my character, though that would have been the preferred method. Instead, He’s given me opportunities to develop integrity. Of course, His Spirit is an ever-present resource in these opportunistic moments…if I choose to call upon His help.

Two of the opportunities came while I was at work. The day after Thanksgiving would be a low-staffed day, so I was asked to work longer than my 3-hour shift. “Well, I have homework to do, finals are coming up…” I muddled through the excuses. I don’t know why I felt that just being honest wasn’t enough. My sister would be in town and I didn’t want to work more hours. So I gave an excuse. An excuse that got me three more hours of work that day. They asked me to do the homework in the office so I could answer the phones. Did I learn my lesson? I hope so…

The second opportunity: It had been a rough morning. I was frantically trying to complete a project due that day, and in the rush, I forgot to route the project details through the director. Oh, and by the way, we route everything through the director. There is absolutely no exception. Why would I forget? Oh, I could blame it on all sorts of things: the rushed deadline, the other people whom I routed it through should have routed it to him, or I could claim innocence. In the end, they are all excuses intended to take the blame off me. In the end, it was simply my fault. After attempting to point blame, I walked into the director’s office and apologized for my big mistake. Lesson learned? I really hope so…

Integrity: living by a high standard of moral and honest character. Integrity is about completeness; it’s about the whole of a person and having an upright heart. It makes us a bit vulnerable as it shines light on our imperfections, but it also shines light on the grace and character of Jesus. I share these experiences in humility, but also in the grace of God. Ooh, they’re not my lowest moments, but they’re recent ones…

God sees beyond the excuses and into the heart. That’s a scary thought, but yet it’s also freeing. Because we can ask Him for help. Help for the days we’re ashamed of the truth. Help for the days we have to lay down our pride. Help for the days when the truth causes us to lose something important. He’s a gracious God who wants to help us live a holy life.

“Whoever would love life & see good days must keep his tongue from evil & his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil & do good; he must seek peace & pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous & his ears are attentive to their prayer” 1 Peter 3:10-12

My Rationalization of Sin

Deny God’s Word? No way! I would never…it’s just that sometimes my pain, or my anger, or my “justifiable” situation seems to rationalize…well, my sin. Oh, you know, that all-too-common phrase “I know, I know all that, BUT…{rationalization here}…” The truth is that sometimes our situation is so difficult, our pain so great, our hurt so deep, that it seemingly gives us reason to justify our actions.

This rationalization is a timeless phrase; the Israelites used it too. They were in slavery under the hand of Pharaoh, and Moses’ encounter with Pharaoh only caused greater hostility toward them. As Moses sought God, God gave him a message for the Hebrews: “I will rescue you from bondage.” It was a message of freedom. “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.” It was a promise of redemption. “I will take you as My people, and I will be your God.” It was a declaration of love.

The Israelites’ response? We read it in Exodus 6:9, “So Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel, BUT they did not heed Moses because of anguish of spirit and cruel bondage.” Don’t you see it? They used their pain and desperate situation as a reason to deny the one thing that could redeem them from it. Yes, their pain was real. But so was God’s promise.

Are you struggling to forgive that person who greatly wronged you? Are you anguished in spirit? Are you consumed by a circumstance that is so difficult, it seemingly gives you reason to deny the Truth? Friends, the Truth will set you free. It too is timeless: it is a message of freedom; it is a promise of redemption; it is a declaration of love. And it is written to you.

May we not rationalize our sin by our situations or emotions, and in so doing, deny the Spirit of Truth. Instead, let us deny all earthly reason to justify ourselves and hold fast to the hope and promise that God’s Word has the power to save, redeem, and transform. Heed His voice, for though our situations are real, so are His promises.

The Hard Questions

Have you ever faced a question that challenged your faith? Have you ever been faced with a circumstance that was so horrific, you didn’t know where it fit into your Christian world? If you haven’t…you will. We live in a fallen world full of pain, disease, and depravity. If we don’t ask the questions, someone else will ask them of us.

We can deal with these questions of faith – or even crises of faith – in three ways: 1. Shrug it off too fearful it would challenge our faith and leave us hopeless 2. Deny God’s existence because of the world’s depravity or 3. Ask God the questions and go to His Word for His response. So what are these “hard” questions? Here’s a few that are bound to come up:

  1. Why does God allow pain and affliction?
  2. Is God really good and does He really care?
  3. Is God even real?

I’ve faced some of these hard questions myself recently while reading a book called Half the Sky, a book about the horrific oppression women face worldwide. Specifically, why does He allow this pain and affliction? I’ve also had these questions asked of me from a woman whose friend was just diagnosed with cancer. How are we to respond?

When I need to know the truth, I go to the Truth. When I need peace from the storm that rains havoc in my life, I go to Him who is Peace. When I struggle with the character of God or doubt His sovereign wisdom, I go to the testimonies of people who had all reason to struggle and doubt, and yet who personally found Him to be faithful and sovereign.

Asking Him the questions allows our faith to grow. We become confident in His Truth and in His perfect character as His Word validates that He is a good and righteous God. When you face these life-altering, faith-challenging questions or situations, ask God and then go to His Word for His response. Seek out the Truth and be in continual prayer. He speaks through His Word to bring light to the darkest of situations, to give wisdom to those who ask, to bring peace and increase faith.

“He is the Rock, His works are perfect, for all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He”. –Deuteronomy 32:4

“But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.” –Psalm 73:28