A Piece of Cake? Sure!

Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.




I really wish that when we became Christians, God just completely removed our sinful nature discussed in these verses. The constant struggle between this sinful nature and our new, redeemed selves, just gets really old. Thankfully, as these versus explain, we can live by the Spirit, and as we immerse ourselves in who God is, the sinful nature gets starved and loses some power. We can live victorious lives with a heart of peace. We can know God increasingly more. Isn’t that an amazing gift in itself considering mankind’s choice to disobey God?!!


Yet, it’s still so difficult.

Most of us can probably relate to a food analogy. Being a Christian sometimes feels like making a resolution to eat well so we can feel good, and be strong and healthy, while a luscious cake sits right behind us. Chocolate, of course. I don’t have to focus on that stupid cake. I can focus on reality, the delicious tastes of the Godly, wholesome food before me. I can focus on how great I feel eating well. I can focus on how I’m probably going to live a longer and fuller life eating well. I can really enjoy the flavors and complexities of this wholesome Godly food. I can vow to never look behind me and talk myself into believing I can’t stand chocolate or cake. Eventually, sure, the cake can be pretty far behind me.

But, here on earth, until Christ returns and we finally live knowing what it’s like to be completely holy and righteous people…the cake is still there. I’m just tired today of this whole battle between natures competing for my attention. I’m glad God makes a way for us to be victorious. I’m glad we can daily lean on him and find an undivided heart that thirsts for him alone. He is so good to us and has so much mercy and grace!

I just wish the struggle didn’t have to be. I wish cake truly held no appeal. But, like it or not, we were all born with a “sweet tooth.” And this is just a battle that we need to ask God to fight with us until Jesus’ return. It’s the effect of mankind’s choice to sin way back in the Garden of Eden. Praise God, it’s only these 100 or less years before we can look forward to a different reality in heaven. The battle does end! There is so much we can look forward to. Thank you, God!!

Naked

There wasn’t a more vulnerable and good time then when Adam and Eve were in the garden at the beginning. They had perfect communion with God and nothing to hide from each other. They were naked, not just physically, but in every way, and it was normal and good. It will be amazing to know what that’s like in heaven one day!

It seems we all spend so much time and energy trying to cover ourselves, hiding, guarding our hearts, distracting with lovely elaborate clothing, flat-out lying – even to ourselves. That’s why it’s a great practice to daily stand in God’s light. It’s very humbling, of course. How could it not be? But

God does know absolutely everything about each of us

– physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. We are incapable of hiding anything from Him.

But still, it is a challenge Appleto stand there before God, the perfect God of the universe, that has the right and ability to absolutely reject us and chooses instead to send His only son to die for us. Jesus’ life here on earth, death, and resurrection makes a way for us to be reunited with God again.

So we stand here in His light, knowing more each day about His amazing love, forgiveness, mercy and grace. And with that love, He is also perfecting us. When sin shows itself, as it will very often, God works on purifying us. It does hurt a bit, but the more we know God, the more we trust His daily corrections and removal of those seedlings of sin to save us from the grueling and excruciating process of removing huge trees of sin with roots hundreds of feet below the surface. And those roots, how deep they are… they do require major surgery! I’d much rather stand in His wonderful comforting love constantly and endure an occasional splinter removal any day.

God is such a kind and loving Father. He is what our hearts are longing for, that perfect love that puts our hearts and spirits at ease and helps our desperate search for meaning to finally come to an end. There is a no more wonderful place to be than there in His light. I challenge you to picture yourself there today. Use the effort it takes to hide instead to keep from running away from Him. His perfecting love is so wondrously fulfilling, comforting and peaceful. It far makes up for any adjusting God does to keep us healthy and free.

Mind Over Matter?

ThinkingGirlWe relate to God in many ways…mentally, emotionally and spiritually to name a few. When things are going well, we are growing in all of these ways and it’s possible we don’t even notice what order they are in. However, when life gets harder, so does our ability to handle the situation well.

Today, I’m thinking specifically about my mind versus my heart… knowing things mentally versus feeling them were spiritually and emotionally. My mind has always been much more domineering than my heart. I’m sure it goes both ways depending on the person. Usually I’d say having a domineering mind is good, because we need to know God and all He has done. Whether I feel He is near or feel strong or feel secure, these are all still reality. We immerse ourselves in God’s Word to know Him better which becomes the bedrock of our faith. From there, we know ourselves and others better as well. Ideally our hearts keep up and all is good. But big surprise, this doesn’t always happen!

Personally, my heart has been pretty starved and weak most of my life. Thankfully, God has been catching it up and growing it exponentially these past years but, there are still some obvious deficiencies. I do want to rely on both mind and heart and have them complement one another so I know God loves me, and I can rest in his presence and actually sense and feel He does. Win-win.

Sometimes though, my mind can just be a bully. That’s not the best situation either. Can you relate?

My heart hurts and needs God’s comfort….

but after a while, my mind just takes over and says,

Enough already.

Suck it up.

Get over it,

or the immature answer of  frustration, “WHATEVER!!!”

If I go along with my mind at this point, my heart gets completely stomped on and I immediately turn my emotions off and proceed. 

From the outside all is well. I’m DOING what I should. I’m not a crying mess. But in reality, nothing was resolved, learned or gained. Just another wound, not even from others, but from myself. I did not receive the comfort God had for me. Just “WHATEVER!!!”

So, for me, I need to get my mind to lighten up a bit. Maybe you are at the other extreme. God intends to grow us in all ways!! It is good to have our minds able to take over when there’s confusion, because feelings are fickle and sometimes our hearts just will not cooperate as they need to. It doesn’t take long being a Christian to find that sometimes God does seem to hide from us a bit and

we must rely on truth to get us through.

God is faithful. God is with me. God loves me. God is good, and so on.

Yet, I can say from experience, walking with God only on a mental level is a pretty dry walk. God does relate to our hearts so much. The Holy Spirit does comfort us and not just mentally. He speaks to our hearts. He is growing us always, even in the realm of emotion and feeling. The Holy Spirit brings the words of God to life and speaks uniquely to every person. So we should see to know God with our minds and also with our hearts. God can make that reality!

Longing

At the deepest core of ourselves, when we are most vulnerable and all else is pulled aside, we long for God. We were meant for Him and He initiates it all. It’s like we’re a complex Lego block and He alone perfectly connects to us.

But it is a challenge to stay in this place with Him. When we’re there, we think – this is where I want to stay! There is no place better! I’ll never leave! And that is what we are meant for, truly a taste of heaven itself.
It isn’t that easy, is it? It reminds me of those little handheld dexterity games I played a lot in my childhood. There would be several holes and teeny little balls that you had to try to tip into them. So frustrating! Just when you thought you had it, a different little ball would roll off, or worse still, you would get bumped and had to start over (or give up, which was the inevitable ending!)

Intimacy with God isn’t meant to be hard, but with sin in the picture, it is. Some days I’d say there were 100 of those balls rolling everywhere and I want to cry with frustration because I just CAN’T DO IT! The small victory of getting one ball in place means little because it won’t stay.

Today, that’s what the hope of intimacy and complete surrender to God seems like. The problem is, we are truly unable to keep any area of our lives as it should be without God’s direct help. We do try though! Personally, I try too hard – it becomes an issue of pride that comes between my Lord and me. His way is simple – “close your eyes and allow me to solve the game.” Often this doesn’t really appeal to me. “But, God, I am pretty good at it! I can help! Look!” And my eyes go back to me and my strength and my wisdom, and for the hundredth time that day I forget He’s even there for a while.

I guess it just amazes me how easily I get distracted. Now, sin, temptation, sure…that stuff takes a lot of effort and grace to avoid. But, somehow all the good things and great things also easily grab my attention. They are good things and great things God had given to me, that are meant to be a blessing and point to him! It makes no sense, but my heart can get so off course so easily even with the good things. What it comes down to in keeping God first and foremost in our hearts and minds, is giving it all to Him to make it happen. We want to be committed to our Lord. We want to stay on track and be righteous people we were meant to be. But, I find it a relief to just admit frequently, it’s not going to happen unless it’s all on Him. I am incapable of maintaining the relationship I desire with God. I need 100% of God’s help. I pray I’ve gotten better, but it’s not helpful to think I can do this on my own. It’s all on God. I bring Him my heart, as open and surrendered as is possible for me that moment and ask Him to do all of the rest. I close my eyes and quit trying to “help” God. 

There, finally, I find the sweetest communion, the most power, the best peace. There, my eyes are on Him and I actually find Him. Or better put, He finds me.

God’s Timing

C161QP41004KGod’s timing. It can be such a mystery. If only I could understand God’s timing, have Him explain what he’s doing and why. But, usually no. Isaiah tells us this about God –

 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,                                                                               neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)

 

Sometimes we long to be making a difference, and on a mission, but instead find we are

just waiting in a solitary place.

I’ve experienced that recently. It is very frustrating because we want God to use us in His plan, to “trust” us with the big stuff. God, in His wisdom, knows what preparations are necessary for us to be involved in the battle around us. In His mercy, He does sometimes take us aside to build us up where we are lacking, grow our character, and strengthen our weak knees. We don’t know what’s ahead of us or how intense the battle will be. Once we are in action, that’s not the time to realize I’m not up for this and go running back to safety, arrows whizzing by our heads.

Life is difficult. It is not for the faint hearted. Every day, we need to risk loving others, standing up for truth and sharing the Gospel of the One this world hated so much that we crucified Him. God loves each of us too much to send us out into the raging battle with only a helmet. Or only a breastplate. Or only a shield. God uses times of apparent inactivity to train us, get that armor on and equip us to be effective soldiers.

One thing I’ve learned in this time of waiting is we have to find our joy in God. There are thousands of other options in the world, and they will all let us down. People are so precious, but no one can take the place of God. Nothing can comfort like He does. No one else can honestly say, I will never leave you or forsake you. I’ve found it’s lesson one and unfortunately one to be learned through trials, disappointments and pain.

If you feel you are in a time of waiting, consider who or what is your joy. Who or what gives you worth. When we can answer both of these questions with GOD, so much of our training is done. God gives us that strength and elasticity to deal with a rough and unpredictable life. He helps us bounce back instead of breaking every time our feelings get hurt or someone lets us down. 

Whatever He’s doing and whatever phase of life you’re in, it’s for a reason. Possibly you won’t understand what that reason is for years or even your lifetime. Regardless, God is working for our good and His glory. Romans 8:28 says, 28And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.  He can be trusted. Whatever dark and lonely place you may be in today, you are not alone and never forgotten. It would be great to know how long you will be there, but better yet is knowing you’ll leave when God says you’re ready. If it takes 10 days or 10 years, we want to be soldiers that are fully armed, fully equipped and ready for whatever comes our way because God is with us. He loves us too much to push us into difficult situations ill-equipped.

The Best Gift

Gifts can say so much, can’t they? They reaffirm someone’s love, show their heart for us. The more intimate a relationship is, the more expectation we may have of gifts given. Most of us would agree it isn’t the cost of the gift as much as the thought put into it and the effort used to choose it. (I’m relieved this isn’t about my own record of gift giving, because that isn’t my best area for sure.)

CrossBut God has given us the best gift, the gift of his own Son’s precious life and death to restore our relationship with Him. It is the most costly gift. Before God created any of us or this world, He was already completely perfect and satisfied. He didn’t NEED us. He wanted us. Yet, in our choice to sin and reject God, we ruined it all. He could have looked at us and our terrible choice to sin in disobeying Him and just say, redo! In an instant everything could have been erased or restarted. But no, He chose to give up, for a time, His very Son, who is also God, to see Him suffer and die in the hands of sinful, corrupt people.

How much grief and pain that must have been for God. We can understand the death of the closest person in our family, but giving that person up to be treated horribly and then killed? Jesus is holy and perfect and obviously deserved none of that.

But He willingly went

through his part of it. For those 33 years, He was both God and man, subjected to this fallen world. He was treated terribly by us, accused wrongly, crucified – a most painful and humiliating death. He knew and experienced all of mankind’s hatred, jealousy, bitterness, evilness. I am so thankful He did rise from the dead and defeat death and sin! The most horrific story also has the best ending – God’s offer of salvation to every person.

What a gift! If gifts show one’s heart and the depth of love, the importance of the one it is given to – we are obviously

more loved than we will ever fully understand.

God didn’t have to do any of that! Yet, He did. He saw a way to fix what people ruined and it required giving up His only Son to be treated horribly and killed so our dilemma could be solved.

This is a gift every person should daily think about and be thankful for! How could we ever doubt our worth to God or His love for us. He has demonstrated His love with the most amazing gift.

Our Understanding Friend

YHWH….the Jewish people long ago wouldn’t even write out Yahweh’s name. They shortened it this way to honor Him.

Do I revere the Lord so much that I hesitate to write even His name down? I’ve spent a lot of time really understanding that God wants me to think of Him as a Friend. What an amazing privilege! But equally challenging is really getting how holy and overwhelmingly unique God is. 

I think it can be obvious which end of this spectrum I’m leaning toward by how I live day to day. When I think of Him mostly as a Friend, and less as the holy God of the Universe, I notice I get more lax about living like my body is His temple. I don’t eat right as much or exercise as I need to, and it really doesn’t bother me. I can put so much off until tomorrow. He understands, right!? Friends understand.

When I focus primarily on God as my Friend and not so much on Him as the Lord of Heaven and Earth, I really enjoy that God’s love is not about what I do. I know God wants true heartfelt worship and obedience, not checklists. But loving God is knowing Him better – which I do by spending time with Him, studying His Word, praying His will is accomplished. Doing these things doesn’t  make Him love me more or less, but they have a huge impact on the depth of my relationship with Him. How close are you to a friend you never see, talk to, or check in with? Not too close, right? So does God understand when we skip our daily disciplines and just “go with the flow”?

What about church attendance and participation in groups and events with my Christian brothers and sisters? God cares about me resting and not just being busy. Summer seems a great time to focus on catching up on things, taking a break, chillin’. If I try hard for 8 or 9 months of the year being involved at church, it seems He’d understand if I take the summer or chunks of the year off, right? Friends understand we need breaks after all.

But when I look at it all together like this, I am expecting God to understand an awful lot, aren’t I!? Am I making any effort if I take a break from all of these things for weeks, months, years? Now it seems more like I have no time for Him, that He’s not even making the top 10 of my priorities.

I read Hebrews 10 and feel very convicted that our Christian life is one that we are to live in a holy and intentional way. 
Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living wayopened for us through the curtain,that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to Godwith a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.




The Bible tells us exactly how God wants us to live. God is merciful and He absolutely understands us. Which means He also understands when we are making excuses, being lazy, selfishly pursuing our own plans or just plain not caring about Him.

We are meant to serve God wholeheartedly 24/7, 365. In doing so, He provides the rest we need. Our daily time with Him refreshes our spirit and strengthens our faith. We don’t give up meeting with our brothers and sisters because we all need one another. We need accountability. We need words of encouragement and correction. We need consistent practice learning to be vulnerable, forgiving, and gracious. If you are like me, you fade away from these things without purposefully pursuing them

My body needs to be treated like His temple always because that’s what it is. Whatever I need to do to be healthy and feel my best, able to be an energetic servant of my Lord, needs to happen.

He understands our struggles but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t expect our obedience. So, God is definitely my understanding Friend, your understanding Friend. No doubt there. But to be more accurate, He is our understanding, holy, almighty, all-powerful, perfectly loving Friend. The only one I would perish if I were to look directly at His magnificence. The Friend that created this world, the universe, me, the way of salvation, the heaven we will live in for all eternity. The Friend that has a purpose for our lives that we can either cooperate with or fight against. The Friend that deserves 100% of my faithfulness, 100% of my love, 100% of my time and energy. Yep, that’s my Friend!

What a Friend We Have in Jesus Lyrics

What a friend we have in Jesus
, All our sins and griefs to bear
. And what a privilege to carry
 Everything to God in prayer.

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
, Oh, what needless pain we bear
. All because we do not carry
 Everything to God in prayer

Have we trials and temptations?
 Is there trouble anywhere?
 We should never be discouraged
. Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful
? Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
. Take it to the Lord in prayer.