Thank You, Daddy!

N0860470Thankfulness is on my heart today. What does it take to make me feel thankful? Does EVERYTHING have to be going well, because if so, it’s going to be a very rare occurrence! And how often do I become overly focused on the gift and forget about the gift giver all together? I may be a stickler helping my kids send out thank you notes for their birthday gifts, but perhaps I need the same prodding myself!

I wonder if it breaks God’s heart when we traipse away with one of His gifts without a second thought? Assuming we are entitled is such a common thought today.

I deserve….everything, right?

I know God does not show favoritism and that people all around the world are suffering and going without necessities. I could have been in their situation just as easily. God loves us all the same. Those of us in America don’t deserve more than any one else. The irony is that often people with so much less seem to be so much more thankful in general.

I just want to be a more thankful person. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to come up with a very long list of God’s blessings! I’d like to have an increasingly softened heart to God’s constant blessings.

And the best blessing He gives us is Himself… His presence, His Holy Spirit, His love.

I certainly don’t want to suffer or be without, but honestly, as long as I have my relationship with God, I really do have everything I need. Everything else just demonstrates God’s lavish, generous nature. God is an amazing Father that is so very good to us. I want my days to be spent running into His arms, saying thank you, Daddy!

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No Thanks, I’m Full

Ephesians 1:23 … The fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

How nice to walk through this life full. When all the usual remedies of the world are offered, to say, “no thanks, I’m full”. Entertainment, food and drink, endless hobbies, whatever… No thanks, I’m full.

I love that. Without Christ’s fullness, we are all so desperate. We are the cursed pirates in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie that cannot quench their thirst. Nothing satisfies. And nothing does in this life – that’s the truth we all have to face – whether it’s as a kid or as an elderly person on our deathbed.

We were meant for more! That more is Christ. We were made for another reality, and that reality is heaven. We were meant for different rules, and those rules are those of the kingdom of God. I cannot be happy on this earth without Christ and there’s a reason why. One that makes total sense.

I’ve always felt I don’t quite fit in to this world and I’m glad it’s not just me. None of us were made for this world as it is. The difference is Christ! He’s the missing piece that allows us to have peace and rest in a world of brokenness and strife. More accurately, we each are a crucial piece belonging in His puzzle. How wonderful to finally be where we belong.

Alone

DejectedLadyAlone… that used to be the worst word ever to me, what I feared most. Alone, I had no identity. I was empty, nonexistent. Alone meant no one cared and my worth seeped out until I was nothing.

But not anymore.

There really is no such thing as alone. God is always with me, with you, desiring relationship with us. If anything, we should be feeling claustrophobic because God is a constant companion that never lets us be! Even when I want him to leave, he doesn’t. He loves me too much and the same is true of you!

Perhaps you have a hard time believing this. I know most of my life, I did. I can’t I feel his presence, I would lament. Why do I feel so alone? Why is he allowing me to be in these less than ideal, or perhaps just plain horrible circumstances? If He loved me… If He loved me…

There is no if.

Got absolutely does love you!

What space there is between you and God was put there by you, my friend. You’ve been hoping to protect yourself perhaps, or hide, or maybe prove you need no one. But the layers and layers you insulate yourself with are only hurting you, not helping you.

Stop fighting God. Stop pushing him away, and invite him in.

Admit you need him. Your life is not what you hoped and you’re only making more of a mess of it as you attempt to “fix” it. You aren’t even able to remove all that crazy insulation you’ve wrapped yourself in!

But don’t despair. God’s got you, my friend. Just ask for help. Stop trying to change things yourself, because God knows you better than you know yourself. He’s not a bully – he isn’t going to force you to love him! I can tell you though, it’s him you want. You may only sense the smallest bit of truth in that statement, but that’s all it takes to call on him.

You’ve never been alone either! God made you. He loves you more than you can even imagine possible. Invite him into your aloneness and find as I have, that life may become no more “easy”, but shared with the lover of your soul, it becomes a joy.

Do Not Try to Bend the Spoon….That’s Impossible

Whose Reality Is It Anyway?

1acd337d76dc41774d9311840597b152The greatest reality is God’s reality. God’s reality includes all I see and know but it also includes infinitely more. God’s reality incorporates millions and billions of other people. It includes a spiritual realm that I cannot see, that operates with power I can’t even begin to really understand. It includes complex plans that take all the sin and evil that should not be here and works it into God’s plan for good. God’s reality includes

all of the impossible,

all of the nevers and

all of the if onlys…

because nothing is impossible with God.

I find a lot of comfort in these thoughts because the realities of my life, all my senses demand is true, is just not enough for me. The limits of this life, the horrid circumstances we witness and must be a part of as well,  I refuse to believe this is all life is about. Cruelty and hatred, the double-edged sword of evil…none of these is supposed to be here, not in this world and not in my heart. Where I was meant to be and where I will one day be has already begun to be revealed here on this broken, crumbling earth.

Restoration of blackened hearts, flowers growing up out of ash, evil plans that will not succeed….that’s the reality of God. Why would we listen to the taunting of the enemy that things are a lost cause, that it would be easier to just give up?

There is a mighty army alongside me, alongside you. Do you see it?

My circumstances can be great or horrible but they do not define me! It’s God who gives me my identity and stands with me in all this life dishes out. The same is true for you. It doesn’t matter to me how weak and pathetic I and my brothers and sisters in Christ may appear, we are mighty soldiers in the army of God and that’s what we must act like.

Should I be downcast that I live in a broken world with evidence of the enemy’s work all around me? Jesus was crucified and those three days before he rose again had to be terrible for all who loved and followed him. But that was not the end of the story.

Jesus rose again.

God shows up.

God wins.

The real and unspeakable glory all believers will know in heaven, as we are with God forever, face to face, is what we need encourage ourselves with right now, today. We have a possible 100 years here on this earth, much less for many of us, but as endless and difficult as our lives seem some days, we will know it is actually quite short compared to eternity, millions and millions of years without end in the joyful presence of God.

I have never liked sad endings to stories and today I get why… the true story, God’s story, – the real one – has a wonderful ending. Right now it doesn’t seem that way as we live in a horribly broken and evil world. But this world had a beautiful beginning and we are given the ability to choose a wonderful end with the salvation God freely offers us.

Eternity with God, things as they should’ve been all along…that’s what I live for and that’s the reality that gives me hope and peace and joy despite what each day brings in a difficult life. If you’re living day-to-day with anything but God’s reality, stop trying to make sense of the world with your human eyes and and find out the truth that can only be seen through the eyes of God!

God loves you so much that He sent his only son to die for you and me so that we can have real hope and joy and peace.

Only in the amazing reality of our almighty God does anything in this life make sense.

The God of Truth

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. I John 1:5b

N1703P13006CThere is much about God we cannot fully understand. He is holy, set apart, our Creator. Even spending eternity with Him, we will always have more to learn about Him.

Yet much of His truth could be no more simple, like loving God means obeying Him. I John 5:3 says:

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

And loving God means putting Him and His plans first. Exodus 20:3 says:

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

Who couldn’t explain these concepts easily using a parent/child relationship as an example? Still, these very truths can be a lifelong struggle to really believe and then to follow.

Sin has so tainted our hearts so that the very God that made us and loves us most could not seem more foreign. I think of Peeta in the Hunger Games. He was captured by the enemy and brainwashed into believing his friends and cause were actually evil. When Peeta returns to his fellow rebels, he seethes with hatred toward them. He must be restrained to not injure himself and others in his anger. Even after much time, he realizes that he can’t trust his own “memories” and insights and needs help discerning what is true or false.

Isn’t that how we act like toward God, our Creator? How we fight Him! We are so sure He can’t be trusted, He’s withholding the best from us. We are the ones confused! We have been fed lies since birth and believe them so easily because of this sin nature we all inherit. We can see the effects of our sin nature even in babies and toddlers!

So what do we do? We go to God’s Word and we learn what is true. We find what seems foreign, or unbelievable, or too good to be true… and we soak ourselves in it until we can believe it. We help those around us remember what’s true and accept the correction we often need ourselves.

God works miracles in these hearts of ours. Nothing is hopeless or impossible with Him. He takes the dead soil of our sinful hearts, radiated and sick, and replaces it with healthy soil. His Word adds nutrients and His Spirit water until one day we see a small sprout appear. With time He fashions a beautiful garden that brings us and those around us great joy. And our enemy can’t touch it…I love that part. He sure does try to intimidate us with his acid rain and nearby nuclear explosions! God always protects what He grows. Every flower, every tree testifies to the eternal hope we have in Him.

So we choose day to day to believe the One that loves us most, that heals our wounds and turns the impossible into daily realities. We remind ourselves of truth over and over until it becomes permanent in our minds. We sit at the feet of Jesus as often as we can and we listen and soak in His love for us. We believe what God says and look for the amazing ways He works to bring life and hope and healing. We say, “Yes, Lord” and obey Him. And in that place of complete submission and obedience and trust, we find everlasting joy.

Addicted

N1201P22011KHow desperate we are for Christ! Do we know it? Perhaps one of the greatest gifts of God is being aware of our need for Him. Who likes to come face-to-face with his desperation? It’s frightening, isn’t it? How much we need God and how dire the situation is if we attempt to live without Him.

It seems most of us lean toward either numbing ourselves to our desperation or toward addictions that may, for a time, fill our emptiness. Either way, we feel we have control, for a while at least, and we think we can skip disappointment and pain. It can take extreme situations to shake us from these patterns and wake us up to reality.

The truth is, each of us was made for a deep, intimate, fulfilling relationship with God, our Creator. Until we realize have that, life isn’t going to feel right. Something will always be missing. I experienced this for many years, even knowing God but keeping Him at a distance from me.

We can’t numb ourselves enough to not feel the pain of our separation from God – there really is a hole in our hearts and it hurts! Neither can we find any temporary pleasure that will fill us enough. We will need more and more until either we are destroyed or we strangle the life right out of the people and things we grasp so tightly.

Only God is enough.

Good things, bad things, doesn’t matter….everything and everyone will eventually fail us if we take our expectations to them as if they were God.

We are meant to be addicted to Christ.

That’s no exaggeration. That’s the one place, the one being that we can ask for more of and hear, sure, as much as you want! I love that thought! We know moderation is the secret of so much in this life….but with God, just dive in and expect more of Him. We’ll never be disappointed.

It’s not hard to find this longing in the Bible. In just the book of Psalms, you’ll find these desires basically on every page.

Psalm 42:1 “So my soul pants for you, O God. “

Psalm 42:2 “My soul thirst for God, for the living God. “

Psalm 39:7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. “

Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord.”

Psalm 32:7 “You are my hiding place.”

Psalm 62:1 “My soul finds rest in God alone.”

Psalm 63:8 “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Psalm 90:14 “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love.”

Psalm 107:9 “For he [God] satisfies the thirsty and feeds the hungry with good things. “

Psalm 119:120 “My flesh trembles in fear of you: I stand in awe of your laws.”

So here’s the good news today – if you’ve usually numbed your heart because you’ve been hurt or disappointed, it really is OK open up and start living. God will never disappoint you! He loved you enough to die for you! You mean that much to Him!!

And if you’re looking for fulfillment in earthly addictions, you realize you do need something. So, look toward the only one that can 100% satisfy you – God. He has all the joy, hope and pleasure you are seeking. It may sound bizarre to you if you’ve never looked  at God this way. But, it doesn’t take long for most of us to know there has got to be something more than what we find on earth. He’s the One our hearts crave and He is waiting for you to turn to Him. Do it today, don’t waste another day!

No Room For Shame

I’ve really enjoyed studying Hebrews the past few months. It’s a challenging book because so much of it seems to deal with faith …. and lack of it, belief … and lack of it. I suppose it’s a book that has always stirred up anxiety in me. But it doesn’t need to do that. It can lead us instead to a wonderful security in Christ.

Way back when Adam and Eve first sinned, shame became people’s norm. Adam and Eve realized they were naked. They knew they had disobeyed God and deserved punishment and they hid from God.

Problem is, it’s still so easy to continue living with that shame even after we truly do repent and give our lives completely to Christ as our Lord and Savior. Grace and shame is an impossible mix, but we try to keep both, don’t we? I’m a child of God but I still feel I need to hide from Him. The two just don’t go together!

We mustn’t hide from our wonderful God. We only miss out on the love and freedom and joy He wants to bless us with. The blood of Christ really does wash away ALL our sin and shame. We must believe this and come to the throne of God for His mercy and help. There really is no other option for God’s children. God is the one that clothes us. We cannot clothe ourselves. We must stop hiding and walk up to Him in faith.

But I’m ugly, we think. No really, like, this body…no one wants to see this naked! And I am bad. I know Christ forgives me but perhaps He doesn’t know the extent of my issues. Even worse, I don’t want to give these things up! When I clean myself up, then I’ll come out from hiding. He could never accept me how I am.

This is not how God wants us to behave. God tells us to come to His throne and we will find mercy and help in our time of need. He doesn’t say, come when you are perfect, because we can’t make ourselves perfect. That’s just a lie of the enemy. There’s just one thing we need and that is faith- faith to stand up and walk, naked, as we are, full of problems and addictions, up to God’s throne. Faith to believe He really does forgive us and is truly there to transform us in His strength and mercy.

It’s humbling, no doubt about it. It is very, very uncomfortable, much like the nightmares many of us have of being caught unprepared, or without a crucial piece of clothing or before a judge. It takes faith to look past our physical shortcomings, our idols, our addictions to sin because they feel they are stuck to us like a nasty piece of toilet paper on our shoe.

But, friend, it’s worth it. He is who He says He is. Yes, He could condemn us to the pit of hell, and we would deserve it. But He doesn’t. He has mercy and grace instead. It’s not that He isn’t aware of all our sin but Jesus’ blood washes our sin away and He sees the beautiful child He made us each to be. He knows us even now in our perfect state in heaven in the future seeing Him face to face. He says even now, you are beautiful! Here is an elaborate royal robe for you. I am here to help you be a light in this very dark world you live in. I will help you overcome your sin and shame and fear….just ask me. Trust me when I say you are beautiful. Believe me when I say you are an overcomer. Refuse to hide from me and take hold of my hand, dear one, and never let go! I never let go of you.

Who will you listen to today? Will you listen to the father of lies as he says, hide. Dig a deeper hole, be afraid because you are so ugly to God.

Or will you listen to the words of life and hope and freedom spoken by the One that made you and knows you….and absolutely loves you. Let’s stop hiding. Let’s trust God and live always in humility at His throne.