A Weaned Child

Something the Lord is teaching me in this season of life is to acknowledge Him as doing work that I have no ability to do myself. Like Mary who pondered great things in her heart, the Christian life should be more full of “what great thing are you going to do, God?” than “oh no, how should I make this work!?”. It’s when I step out of that quiet pondering and submissiveness and frantically run to the tough situation in attempts at fixing it that I find myself weary and burdened, confused and frustrated. And why do I run to fix situations too great and difficult for me? Some reasons are that I want it fixed my way, I’m afraid God can’t figure things out or I just don’t have the patience to wait on the Lord. Usually, all these reasons are valid at the same time.

When someone I love is pursuing the world, my reaction can tend to be to worry myself sick thinking of their future and what this means of their eternal soul. I go outside the bounds of prayer and trust and into a state of panic–“I need to figure this out!!”. Or when I think about my future and all of the unknowns, I should commit it to prayer and live faithfully for Christ each day, but I often go outside the bounds of trust and try exhaustedly to figure out what a future that is not in sight may look like for me. Because the thing is, I want everything in my future to look good. I want everyone to be saved, I want success in my endeavors and relationship, and I want to stay healthy. These are not necessarily bad desires, but when I want them so badly that they cause worry or manipulating of circumstances rather than prayer and trust, that’s when I realize they are no longer become good desires, but rather greedy wants.

As I withhold clinging desperately onto the type of earthly things I’d like to happen for the future, I finally acknowledge a truth and not a lie–God is in control, not me. That is when peace and contentment begins to overcome my soul and bring it true joy! Not because a Christian should have no desires met, but because the greatest desire that could ever be fulfilled in a Christian’s life is given to us already. We have Christ. We have a God who is for us, not against us, and who is completing our faith until glory. A God who will not withhold from us anything that will benefit us spiritually because of His great love for us.

As I begin to see and believe these promises, my grip loosens from this world and my hands are lifted up for worship. I gladly sing:

Psalm 131 My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. [Ashtyn], put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.

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Perspective

Talking to an animal loving elderly lady as I painted her fingernails found me telling several stories about the pets I’ve had over the years. We continued to alternate stories as hers would spark a new memory of past experiences with my dogs and cats, and mine would hers. She told me about the joys of getting her cats, and the silly things her dogs would do. As happy as the memories were, they always had sad endings. Each story about each family pet was followed by how the pet died, because the sad reality is that we normally outlive our furry family friends by many years. A quick google search can tell you that the average life-span of a dog is 10-13 years, and an indoor cat’s is 13-17. When you compare that to a fly or a goldfish, that is a very long life. But when compared to the average human life, which is usually around 70-80 years, the life of a cat or a dog seems significantly short. This can make us feel as if our years are generous, but it’s all about perspective. The stories shared with and by this lady reminded me of man’s obituaries. You have memories and stories of the person’s life, and then the fact of their death (sometimes even details on how they died). If we as Christians want to live a more focused and intentional life, we need the right perspective about the length of our days.

Our lives are as fleeting as our pets’. In comparison to the some 2018 years that have come after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the few decades we reside on earth is like one quick breath in, or one blink of the eye. After that we are gone. If we live life in the moment without looking at this big picture, we will fail to make Christ our goal and aim. Our goals will simply become the small milestones we have in life. Becoming an adult, graduating college, getting a job, buying a house, getting married, having kids, retiring, having grandkids, and so on. There will always be things that will distract us and steal our hearts, until we reach our end and are very far from Christ and very  familiar with the world. If we give our heart to the things this world offers, the world will leave it empty and broken.

So be thankful, Christian, if God disciplines your wandering heart–it’s because He loves you dearly. When God rips your earthly dreams from you, He is lovingly reminding you not to live life for the milestones.  Live it for Christ. This life is short, the next life is eternal.

Jesus Was

Before you were, He was. Before the philosophers, psychologists, free-thinkers, moralists, kings and other authoritative leaders, or traditions, practices, or any man-made ideas–before all of these existed, Jesus reigned. And before the first blade of grass or mammal or star, Jesus was there. In fact, all these things were created for, through and by Him! This means that He has complete authority and control over all of creation. Any teaching that belittles or seeks to diminish the truth about the supremacy of Christ should be rejected. Sadly though, it seems so much destruction in the church is caused by small blunders in doctrinal truths. Why? Because they aren’t small at all, they only seem small because many of us haven’t grown to understand the danger of straying even an inch away from the truth about God and His message.

What should we never stray from? Jesus Christ. His authority, sovereignty, equality with God, power, and ability to redeem. I’ve heard people liken Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, and Amish (to name a few) to Christianity. In fact, all these try to resemble Christianity, but they are a whole world away from the truth. God, His Son and the Holy Spirit created, redeemed and is sanctifying His children. The three in One. If we choose not to believe in the full authority of any three persons of the trinity, we dethrone God, because Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the Father are all One, working out our salvation in a way that no human effort could dare achieve.

Many pastors say, “Ask Jesus to be Lord over your life”, but Pastor Paul Washer once said in a sermon, “Don’t even think I will ask you to make Jesus Lord of your life. That’s the most preposterous thing I could ever do. Jesus Christ is Lord of your life whether you serve Him or not. You can love Him, hate Him, bless Him or curse Him. He is the Lord of your life because God has given Him a name above every name so that at the name of Jesus Christ every knee will bow and tongue confess that He is Lord!” You can choose to bow now or later, but your choice in bowing does not prevent God from having complete control over your life and all of life! Jesus is and was and is to come, and the church should never stray from this truth. We should heed the advice Paul gave to the church in Colossae so long ago, as it’s still very much applicable today:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. [Col. 2:8-10]

These Two Things

Jesus do you have compassion on a sinner like myself, needing help but never wanting help?

These two things trick me:

Your loving rod which humbles me looks much like Baal’s infantry, while Satan’s sly seduction looks a lot like blessings, heavenly.

But when You show me my bent, broken self, it’s then I know I need Your help, and then I see the difference of the two.

Christian Failure

Failure, sinful failure, is the launching pad of faithful ministry. When you are freshly saved, God excites you with the truth, but you’ve not grown enough to understand the depths of how valuable, even vital, the truth is. You haven’t grown enough to realize how valuable Jesus is. It’s not until you’ve come under the discipline of the Lord as a result of complete unfaithfulness to Him, do you really begin to cling to His Words. David remembers, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word.” 

When Jesus was approaching His appointed time to die, He commanded His disciples to watch and pray with Him in the garden. Not only did they fail to stay awake, but when the crowds came to take Jesus away, all the disciples fled. They abandoned Jesus! Why did Jesus want his disciples to be there? They were not there for Jesus’ companionship or protection, but rather to be trained in the school of holiness by this tragic experience of their personal failure. What did they fail to do? They failed to follow Jesus completely, to the point of death. Peter was extremely eager to die for the Lord just hours before this, and even seemed to be doing better than the rest as he does follow Jesus from a distance to see what the people would do to Him. However, when questioned about his relation to Jesus, he denied knowing Christ three times. Three times did he sinfully fail His Savior. The rooster crows and the precious eyes of the Lord lock with his own, piercing through his soul like a dagger. He goes out and weeps bitterly.

Until the disciples completely failed Jesus, they were not yet ready to endure what the Lord was preparing for them next. Each one would go on and suffer for the sake of the gospel, even to death. Peter would be the rock of the church and later suffer crucifixion upside down.

When we are unfaithful, yet experience God’s faithfulness, it is a pride crushing thing. We have absolutely nothing of our own merits to hold onto and we learn that our entire Christian life is 100% dependent on God enabling us. Until we understand this in a personal way, we are unable to serve Him very well. We must look to God and His character when we fail, and He will use us beyond our failures.

 

Run to the Rock

One of the most valuable things I’ve learned recently in my sanctification is the importance of allowing the Lord, and not others, to bear my burdens. To say that I commit to this perfectly wouldn’t be true, but since this amazing revelation of truth penetrated my heart, I have sought to better put the idea into practice. On a practical level, this would mean that in crisis, big or small, I run straight to the Lord before anyone else rather than impulsively venting to friends and family. This then puts me in a position to better serve the church body rather than always draining others with constant talk of my problems. It’s a dangerous thing to rely on people to heal a soul that is designed to only be healed by Christ. When I fail to run to Him first, I mentally remove God from His sovereign, authoritative position and I place the title upon myself or another human being. I’m acting in a way that would mean I actually believe that I or a friend have the most power and insight to cure my problems. Impossible does not even remotely stress this task I put upon others. Not only is it impossible, but it is absolutely absurd to think that a person is capable of replacing the Lord’s work of aiding, rescuing and sheltering His children.

Is it wrong to seek biblical counsel from wise believers when facing trials? Absolutely not–it is a blessing of God that we have these resources available. But remember that the task of these people is to simply point you to the only valid help: your Rock in the raging storms of life.

“Hear my cry, O God;  listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to You, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.” Psalm 61:1-3

Jesus’ Love

I love you. Those three blissful words are like poison in the mouth of the world. The world is quick to esteem sacrificial, selfless love, but cannot attain to it. A boyfriend may profess his love without hesitation, only to profess it to another girl soon after. A wife may leave her husband who she vowed before God and man to stay with. A father may kiss his children and tuck them into bed before walking out the door, never to return. Empty words, empty promises, all in the name of love… but love was never shown. It is so true that selfishness disguised as love can bring wounds more painful than death itself.

With all of this confusion and mixed messages, how can we know what true love is? Often times we believe the lies media or other people put on display as love. Maybe passion is love. Maybe lustful desire is love. Maybe love is simply a warm and fuzzy feeling. But the Bible puts it pretty clear. God is love. If we want to know what love truly is we cannot look anywhere else. Any other place or person that promises to show what love is, is lying. Only God can show us this.

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10

Jesus didn’t merely profess His love to us. He didn’t simply give us flowers and letters with endless poems of His devotion to us. How did He show His love toward us? He left the beauty of heaven to come to us, He spent countless hours pouring out His time and energy patiently teaching and healing sinners. He fed 5,000 hungry people. He calmed the storm, washed some feet, and was tortured on a Roman cross. Scourged, spit upon, slain, for His children. Jesus backed up His words with His life, literally. He laid His life down to show that what He said about His eternal love was actually true.

You may have heard the saying, “love hurts”. God has such a pure and holy love, that the only way He could possibly love people, such vile and evil creatures, was through pain. He knew it would take pain, but He volunteered. Such knowledge is too great for me to understand. It’s too humbling and amazing. He bore our pain on the cross, so we can know what it’s like to love freely and painlessly! We can love God completely, with no fear of being rejected, because Jesus was rejected by His father for us on the cross. He took the greatest pain we could imagine ourselves going through upon Himself. And because He rose, we rise alongside Him new creatures. Creatures who know that we are immensely loved by the One we now love the most, never to be abandoned. Creatures that long to show true love to others as well.

Where people said it and took your blood, Jesus shed His to show you love.

 

Done

Christ-follower,

 

When eyes examine

Every way you look and act and talk,

And mock the way you live,

And you react in shock–stop.

 

For Jesus peered down

From the tree and saw the teasing eyes,

Yet cried that it was done,

To thaw the freezing ice inside your heart.

 

Look lovingly at jesters as they yell;

It could be done for them as well.

Unfailing Love

What a vile, repulsive, delusional, unsightly thing sin is. It’s an insufficient, degrading substitute for real joy-giving, life-giving things. This week I felt as if the world were caving in on me and telling me that all I will ever find is sin. One of my closest sisters-in-Christ seems to be rejecting the faith, I accidentally discovered a Christian friend’s hidden sin, and the girls I have been witnessing to have been avoiding me the past few months because they do not want me to discover that they are deep in sin and far from the Lord… I’ve felt as if, at the end of all good things, sin will be sitting there with a mischievous smile, telling me that the joke is on me. In attempts to drowned out the unpleasant sound of this, I have covered myself in fear. Fear that others will fall into deep sins, and fear that I myself will. Does God hear the cries of my heart?  Does He listened to a prayer riddled with the sin of anxiety? And how discouraging it is when I think about how deep my worry sin is. Why can I not trust my Father? Why am I afraid of life? Why?

I am thankful, however, to say that even though I’ve felt so plagued by my thoughts of sin lately, God has also been slowly teaching me new things about Himself. Yesterday I stumbled upon Psalm 33, and felt the comfort of that chapter that came especially as a result of my recent struggles. Verses 4-5 brought rest to my soul as I meditated on it.

For the word of the Lord is right,
and all His work is trustworthy.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the Lord’s unfailing love.

When I feel as if all there is on this earth is sin, I see here that there is something else filling the earth–the unfailing love of the Lord. Unfailing. I fail, but He has saved me and will never fail to hold me fast in His love. People are not always trustworthy, but that is to make God’s trustworthiness shine. People are unrighteous and unjust. This makes His righteousness and justice look so beautiful! I am encouraged to meditate on the character of God when I am overwhelmed with my character, or the character of other people. It’s easy to begin to meditate on the sinful ways of man, but if we do not direct that way of thinking to the Savior, we will be left with a taste of reality, but no hope. But, when crushed under the weight of the sin filling the world, my Savior picks me up by His strong hand and lifts me to the highest mountain. I will stand and not be destroyed, only because of the unfailing love of Jesus.

Pleasing Prayers

You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires. James 4:3

It is vital that we come before the throne of God and desperately ask that He would search our heart and reveal sin to us. The sad thing is that we fail to realize that this type of prayer holds significantly more value than our insistent requests that our lives be comfortable and happy. Desires for comfort or happiness are in no way wrong, but when we begin to allow earthly desires to take a higher seat than our desire for God and His glory in our lives, that is when our desires become evil and destructive. The lusts of our flesh, when left unchecked, only keep growing and doing more damage to ourselves and those closest to us.

How thankful I am that the Lord does not leave His children to their sin! That He, with compassion, points out our sin and gives us the power to turn from it. When we were unsaved, we were blinded to our sin and unable to stop sinning. Now, by Christ’s power alone, we can turn from the sinful desires that were once impossible to turn from, and live a life pleasing to Him and nourishing to our souls.

The type of prayers that please God are prayers that align with His heart and His desires. Having faith in God as we pray does not mean we’re “speaking things we want into existence”, as the prosperity preachers would say, but rather we’re fully believing the promises of God that are given to us through His Word. He is fully able to give us the fruits of the spirit. He will not hesitate to give us more of Himself. He can give us spiritual gifts to use to build up the body of Christ. He is more than able to pour out upon us a peace that passes understanding as we are going through trials. We have been given amazing promises that He often uses our prayers to activate, as all part of His plan.

So, will we waste our prayer time by filling it with all fleshly requests, or will we beg God to grow us and change us?  Will we pray for salvation and/or sanctification for others? Will we ask for more of this world, or more of Him?