He Has Made Me Glad

N1406P30017KI woke up this morning with this little chorus in my head from the long ago praise song, I Will Enter His Courts:

He has made me glad, He has made me glad,

I will rejoice for He has made me glad.

My first thought was, you know,

I really do not feel glad right now. Nope. Lack of glad. Lack of rejoice.

I have a heavy heart actually – pondering change, and loss and difficulty.

But instead of dismissing this song as annoying (like the Song that Never Ends, the Chicken Dance and other super irritating songs), God nudged me to realize it was exactly what I needed to think about this morning. Praise God, He is our constant source of JOY. His love for each of us, His sacrifice, His promise of an eternity in Heaven with Him….these are all facts that we can base our lives on. We have a foundation of truth and hope that can and will lead us to JOY if we allow it to.

If I skip God’s joy, I choose to live this life based on circumstances and moods and emotions, whims really. Without God’s steadfastness and truth, we are all on a sickening roller coaster ride 24/7. Hoping for good, often having our hopes dashed, afraid of all the possible bad that can occur.

Joy is a prayer away. Not necessarily awesome circumstances, or worldly happiness or people that never fail me, but godly joy. Good bye roller coaster and hello anchor of God.

                         3  Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;

let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!

Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy,

and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Psalm 43:3-4

I love verse 4, that God is our “exceeding joy“. Yes, I think that would qualify Him as able to make me glad!! The word “exceeding” can be defined as extraordinary, exceptional, excessive, beyond the limits or bounds of, superior.

Excessive joy from an extraordinary God!

On Unbelief…and Teeth

Hebrews 3:12-13 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

How do we end up stuck in unbelief? Any of us have the potential to turn away from God, be lured into a life of disobedience. Sin is a part of our lives here on earth – it doesn’t go away. Sure, we can experience victory over sin and through Jesus’ blood, we do. Without constant submission to God though, our hearts can be easily deceived.

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I Peter 5:8 says Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

And our hearts growing cold and hard isn’t always an obvious change at first either, to ourselves or others. Strangely, it reminds me tooth decay! That close-to-invisible sugar just sits there on a strong hearty tooth. Teeth are bones and sugar and bacteria are so small and “harmless,” aren’t they? But, in no time, there’s a hole right through that tooth.

Or another teeth analogy, this time orthodontics, (our fourth child just started orthodontics! It’s been a constant subject in my house!), when years of braces are over  what happens when we skip wearing that annoying retainer every night? I know first hand (and my kids hear it often!), eventually it will be too late and you’re back to crooked teeth despite all that time and money. All that work and nothing has changed.

The little things do matter. Every little act of obedience does matter. Small sins can cause so many problems and can lead us down a slippery slope right into the enemy’s camp. No person can claim to be beyond deception. If we are honest, we know we are completely able to be deceived apart from God and we can easily deceive ourselves on a regular basis.

It’s God, and God alone, that keeps our hearts on course, soft, pliable,  and attentive to His voice. If we’re wise, we saturate our minds with His Word and make it a habit to invite God to point out anything and everything that should not be in our hearts and minds.

I enjoy finding new and favorite verses in the Bible…there are so many words of encouragement and hope! But, this summer I came across a least favorite verse. As I read James McDonald’s book “When Life Is Hard”, (highly recommended!) he brings up Hebrews 12:17 and how sad it is for a person to get to the point that repentance just can’t happen any more. “He [Esau] could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.” Esau finally wants to change his ways, but his heart is hard as a rock, and without God’s help, he cannot bring it to change anymore. God gives us second, third, thousandth, etc. chances! He is so good and forgiving. But, even He has a point that time’s up and an end is reached.

I’d like to think I have control over my own heart.

I’ll just let this little part harden while I enjoy this teensy sin, and let God in the rest. He’ll forgive me! He always does! Then, just a little more disobedience. I’ll ignore His voice just a little longer; I’m in control. I can stop when I feel like it. I’ll make things right tomorrow, next year, the day I die.

It’s a fool’s path. No sin is harmless or small. I think if we could see the reality of life in the spiritual realm, we would not be so lax and carefree about any sin. We would see as it truly is – immense and disgusting, dripping with deceit and ruin. Running carelessly through a mine field really is better than playing with sin.

We need to run to God and fall on our faces before Him daily.

We need to thank God for the blood of Christ that covers our sin and allows us to be seen as righteous in His holy eyes. And beg, yes beg, Him to open our eyes to our own sin and deception. Beg Him to give us the courage and obedience to stay in the middle of His holy and righteous path, not willing to take even one step to the right or left. We need to cling to Him desperately with every fiber in our bodies. Admit “My heart is prone to deception Lord, and I need your help to live a life pleasing to you.” He is faithful and He will keep us on His path. Praise God!

Trust

It's not an easy life, Lord. Walking with You is amazing but sometimes quite painful. It's pain with a purpose though. I ask You to perform constant heart surgery. My heart is always splayed open and You're always removing sin and pouring healing balm over the painful places. If I don't cooperate, they get infected and You open my heart back up again. So painful yet so necessary.

I hide my fleshly hopes and desires…You uncover them. Over and over, until I relent. I ask for a quick bathroom break but instead hide more of my hopes and dreams back in there. I return. You know. You are sad because I'm not trusting You but You don't condemn. You say, Ok, back at it. Hop back up on the table….need a hand? I say, "But, Lord!!?" You pick me up and gently set me down. I lie back down and You get back to work on what I freshly "hid."

More surgery. More cleansing. Maybe this time I'll trust God. Maybe this time I'll stop fighting Him and let my heart heal properly. I'll trust God. Trust His Master Physician hand. Trust His directions to avoid these things until it heals and discontinue these other things forever. Trust He knows best. Trust.

Whatever God Wants

C162QP34004CBeing a dreamer and loving big dreams, I can quickly become very excited about the future. Ok, that’s a huge understatement! Far too excited is more accurate.

But aren’t we supposed to be excited about the future, anticipating big things, dreaming big dreams?

Not necessarily.

It really depends on whose dreams and whose plans we are banking on. When God gives us plans and dreams and hopes, I don’t think we can do too much to prepare for them. Say you are sure you are to be a missionary. Pray often, read up on it, talk to people, check out countries and ministries, dream big!  But if it’s just your own dream, and you really don’t know what God has for you yet, focus your prayers on wisdom, guidance, obedience. Pray hard for missionaries and the lost, but don’t obsess over your own plan, assuming it’s God’s plan for you.

Whatever God’s plans are for you, it’s going to be a perfect fit for you as long as He leads you to do that. And when He prompts you to move on, well, then that new direction is going to be the perfect fit for that time. Get excited about the doors God opens for you. Don’t waste you time trying to pry open a door you want to open on your own. It’s pointless. All you’ll find is disappointment and heartbreak. The most noble causes are wonderful, but they are also part of

God’s timing and plan.

If your “big dream” right now is being  a stay-at-home-mom, changing diapers, kissing sweet cheeks, do it with all your heart. If it’s a fast-paced career or the mission field, or flipping burgers…whatever it is, do it with all your heart. Do your best. See where you can grow and learn and bless others. When it’s God’s time for you to do something else, don’t worry, He’ll let you know!!

A good friend of mine and I were having a talk awhile ago. I was doing my usual dreaming (my own dreams). I was thinking of all the wonderful things I could do for God…all great dreams, noble dreams. Then I asked her to expound on what she would like to do for God, waiting for a similar list. She wisely said,

“Whatever God wants me to do.”

Amen. Lesson learned.

Godly Wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

TrainTrackThe older I get, the more I appreciate God’s wisdom. Godly wisdom was very abstract to me when I was a kid – a vague notion of God knowing. As I got older, I understood God’s wisdom was quite different from my own, and was always right. However it’s taken into my adult years to try to come to peace with the times His wisdom conflicts with my own imperfect “wisdom.”  I really struggle but have to say, I don’t get it, Lord, but I know Your way is best so I’ll obey.

If I can get past this struggle between wanting my way and knowing God and His wisdom are the best for me, and everyone, I can finally begin to appreciate this wise, all-knowing God. It’s a relief that life does not hinge on me and my wisdom! I absolutely hope I am becoming more wise each day, but any wisdom I’ve gained has entirely been God’s doing. I can’t boast at all about it. It’s usually been through hands-on, almost disastrous conclusions of my stubborn choices that help me see….I don’t know best but God does.

Earthly wisdom is like making decisions as we wander through an endless, pitch-black cavern with a teeny lit candle. It’s so limited. 95% is just assumptions and guesses fit together with the glue of pride. And who is in the center of earthly wisdom? Why ME of course. Everyone else’s purpose and value and meaning depends on how it all impacts ME. Ouch. It’s just impossible to really make good, loving, wise decisions without God. He is wisdom, perfect wisdom.

The thing is, many faithful Christians have died still not knowing why God had them do things the way He did. There’s no guarantee we will know all the whys here on this earth. But we can trust that one day, some day, eventually, God will show us and we will understand and whole-heartedly agree with what He chose. Will life lived by God’s wisdom always be fun? No. Always easy? Definitely not. Always logical to us? I wish. Always best? Absolutely.

We can trust God’s wisdom and pray diligently that He blesses us with wisdom as well. He wants to increase our wisdom and understanding here on earth. He wants us to make good decisions and offer good counsel to those around us. Don’t bother with all these paths over here, He says. They only lead to heartache and pain. Trust me, go this way with no regrets and absolute peace. Trust the Holy Spirit is leading  you and rely on every word in the Bible. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5–6

Playing with Fire?

  For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a  jealous God. Deuteronomy 4:24

N1609P25002CYou know, it’s ironic that we want God to be there for us. We love His faithfulness, loyalty, and steadfastness. But we don’t transfer that to how we should be toward Him. True, God doesn’t need us, and we do need Him. But, we often put no real value or seriousness in our faithfulness to Him.

Our pride nudges us to demand life be our way, with our rules and on our terms. It is nearly impossible to figure out where God is supposed to fit in our hearts, when our hearts are overflowing with ourselves. He’s not ok with that obviously. Jeremiah 29:13 says “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” We are God’s creation, His children, and we are always meant to be seeking Him and wholeheartedly obeying Him.

Is God only an option for me when I am in dire need? Is He just a back-up life jacket I throw in the shed when I get back from sailing? Or a great parachute I sometimes really appreciate? I remember Him easily when I’m grieving, or ill, or anxious – then God gets my attention. I can be a better friend to God. I can love Him better, no question. My determination or strength won’t accomplish this, but the Holy Spirit in me can accomplish this, and more!

I am very happy God loves me. But He wants my heart completely! He wants me to put Him first in every circumstance and seek His dreams over my own dreams. The Bible says in Deuteronomy 4:24 “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” The jealousy He has for us is right and pure and deserved. He is absolutely holy and set apart and deserving of our complete obedience and love.

Were it not for the blood of His Only Son, Jesus, that covers our sin, we would have been burned up long ago in the holiness of God. But, praise God, Jesus did make a way for us to be forgiven and brought back into a relationship with God.

God’s heart for us, His nature is to be OUR EVERYTHING. Forget the life jacket or parachute…

God is our air.

That’s a much better analogy. In our stubbornness and pride we still try to fight Him. We still are tempted to say back to Him, “Fine, I’ll just use this oxygen tank and I’ll figure out a way to do it myself.” It’s time to give this foolishness up.

What we are looking at is this amazing, all-powerful consuming fire, God Almighty, that we are able to be in because of Jesus’ blood. God is not a cute campfire we can splash a bucket of water on and leave. He’s so powerful and mighty, we cannot even look at Him or we would instantly die. Somehow we need to tie in His amazing love, that we love to think about, with His amazing holiness, which makes Him entirely unapproachable without Christ.

This is the God that adores us and wants our undivided attention 24/7. This is the God that created each person and loves them more than we will ever understand. This is the God that made us to have perfect communion with Him over anyone or anything else. Our resounding answer should be, YES GOD! HERE I AM! DO WITH ME AS YOU LIKE!

Priorities

When it comes down to it, life seems to go well or poorly based on our priorities. Who or what comes first in our lives? Second, third? It makes a difference!

The Ten Commandments give us the framework to evaluate our priorities. They show us what God has decided us most important. Commandments one and two give us our biggest priority – Keeping God Himself first in our hearts and lives.
Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.”
And Exodus 20:4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol….you shall not bow down to them or worship them for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…”
The longer I live, the more I understand what a struggle it is to keep God first. Other “good” things can quickly head to the top of my list.

Plus, putting God’s blessings first is not the same as putting God first. God’s blessings are wonderful, but they are down the priority list. God blesses us with wonderful people but they can’t take God’s place. God gives us good gifts we enjoy and can use to serve Him and glorify Him but they are still not Him. We can have the best, most noble or most profitable job but regardless, jobs are down the priority list. Our families too, bless their hearts are so important, as is our spouse, but all pale in comparison to our Almighty God.

I don’t know about you, but this one area often requires all my efforts. I’m not even going on to our spouse as priority 2 and our family and friends as priority 3. Always the most important and life changing decision is putting God first and keeping Him there always. It’s where we have to start if we want our lives well ordered.