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!

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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.

Trust and Obey

Trust and Obey

1 When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word, 

what a glory he sheds on our way! 

While we do his good will, he abides with us still, 

and with all who will trust and obey. 

Refrain:

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way 

to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. 

2 Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share, 

but our toil he doth richly repay; 

not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross, 

but is blest if we trust and obey. 

3 But we never can prove the delights of his love 

until all on the altar we lay; 

for the favor he shows, 

for the joy he bestows, are for them who will trust and obey.

4 Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at his feet, 

or we’ll walk by his side in the way; 

what he says we will do, where he sends we will go; 

never fear, only trust and obey. 

I remember this hymn well from many years ago. It’s so catchy and such a classic, but the truth is….I wish I would have let its word sink into my brain better back then!

It seems not much pleases God as much as His children trusting Him. Isn’t that why Abraham is often mentioned in the Bible as an example to follow so frequently? Or King David? People that please God have this in common – they chose to trust God. They chose to obey God, not always perfectly of course, but still that choice was made.

N1706P22004CTrusting God pleases Him….so what angers God? Well from the Israelites experience of wandering 40 years in the desert and never being allowed to enter the Promised Land, I’d say it’s testing God – not believing He is powerful enough to do what He says and that He loves us enough to take good care of us as He promises. Our unbelieving hearts that are always going astray….this angers God. (Hebrews 3:10 That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’)

When we don’t chose to trust God and obey Him, we spiral downward in our pride and stubbornness, in arrogance that we know better. Our hearts become full of sin and hard as a rock toward God. We become unable to hear Him or see Him and if we persist in our sin and foolishness, God may eventually give us over to all the consequences of a life lived without Him. Sure, it may seem we won, we got our way. But really we may lose everything.

Thankfully God often still grabs our attention to bring us back to our senses enough to repent. But then what? Where do we go from there? We either obey God and prosper in His eyes or we don’t obey God and stray from Him again, and again.  I see where He could get really tired of fickle and often unfaithful hearts. I’m so thankful for God’s patience and mercy.

Let’s trust Him today. Wherever we are, easy or hard, straightforward or completely bizarre, joyful or heart-wrenchingly sad and painful, His way is the way to go. There really is no other way that leads to good things. 

Keep our hearts soft today, Lord. Help us trust you no matter what. Help us obey, quickly and humbly.

His Still Small Voice

How much we notice the promptings of the Holy Spirit seems to go hand in hand with how much we obey God. God pricks our conscience with concern about an action, or regret, or guilt, and we have to decide how to proceed. Our society of course values “absolute freedom” to do as we please and makes fun of those who “feel bad” about their actions and thoughts.

While it’s true our consciences can be over-active, I’ve found it’s usually the Holy Spirit warning me I’m about to cross a boundary I shouldn’t or that I need to repent for what I’ve done. How I proceed determines how sensitive I am to God in the future.

Sometimes God just seems to be quiet and I have the chance to be faithful and trust He’s always there with me. But other times I find His promptings are nonexistent because I’ve increasingly ignored Him.

It’s like having a friend tap your arm to get your attention. The more layers of clothing you have on, the less you feel that tap. These “layers” are our disobedience and ignoring of God’s promptings.

I am very relieved that God is so patient and merciful. He’s the father waiting for the prodigal son to return, always watching, always there. It just takes one step toward Him and He gladly increases our sensitivity to Him. Just obey Him now, today, and off comes that thick outer coat you have on.

Our sensitivity to God is never something we can just take for granted though. The more we obey, the more sensitive He allows our hearts to become. Perhaps today it was the way you chewed out your coworker that made you “feel bad”. But next week it may be your rude tone toward that coworker that God convicts you about. And then perhaps you’ll next find He is encouraging you to be kind to that coworker. And maybe eventually He’ll soften your heart to want to actually befriend that person.

It seems wherever God has us, He will challenge us to become just a bit more like Jesus today. If we obey today, then the next step will be obvious tomorrow.

Yes, Dad. Right away, Dad.

17 This is what the Lord says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.

18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. Isaiah 48:17-18 (NIV)

N0860470It is humbling to really understand that I do not know what is best for myself. It goes against everything the world teaches us and against all our prideful assumptions.

God is always our Father and we are always His children. This is a relationship we must be content to remain in forever. It isn’t like a human parent/child relationship. There isn’t a time we will be independent of God, or be friendly equals, or take care of Him in His old age. He is forever my all-knowing, perfect Father and I am always the child that needs to listen and obey and agree I don’t know best.

I think of all the things a good parent must lead his child through so he becomes a responsible, caring adult…how to eat well, manage time, stay in shape, be kind and compassionate, have good priorities, know his worth, on and on. All the, “No, you’re not going to do this,” or the “Yes, you do need to do that.”

How much the child’s attitude matters! How much grief is avoided if the child listens and obeys and doesn’t have to unlearn bad habits or learn the hard way why the rules exist. Growing up is hard and we do know so many varying end results – good and bad results physically, mentally, emotionally,  and spiritually. We are no different as God’s children.

Do we respect God?

Do we trust that He really is absolutely good, and knows best? And do our actions and beliefs match up? Do we say, “Yes, Lord” and immediately obey with a good attitude? Do we follow his rules and trust He knows best even when we would prefer our way and His way seems to make no sense to us at all? What about when He seems to add another chore to our list and no one else’s, and we want to complain about the unfairness of it all?

Are we learning to be obedient, respectful children that bring God glory? Or are we more concerned with our own ways and plans and therefore failing to obey him, disrespecting His name and character.

I love the end of these verses – that God will bring abundant peace and righteousness to our lives if we pay attention to His commands. That’s the kind of life I want. I want to skip the strife and fear and pain that come along with bad decisions and refusal to learn wisdom. So, I will ask God to help me be obedient and do so quickly with a good and trusting attitude. It’s not easy! I know that from experience. But I have yet to regret submitting to God in the long run, even if I just don’t get it at the time. He is so very good and His plans and wisdom will always be far above my understanding.

Walking With the Spirit

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.       Galatians 5:25

N1509P37009CI have been very interested in understanding what walking with the Spirit entails. Since God knows best where I should go, when, and how quickly, why not submit to Him instead of challenging Him?

Here are a few things I’ve learned so far…

1. Walking with the Spirit is not walking with an equal.

We submit to God and agree to stick with Him, no matter the path or timing or seeming confusion.

I think of a young child with his parent running errands. Usually the parent walks slowly for the child to keep up comfortably. But sometimes the parent rushes (for reasons unknown to the child) and he just plain needs to keep up! We opt to hold God’s hand and He is also holding ours. We like the security usually but here and there He holds tightly to keep us from running off in dangerous places or when He knows we don’t need another “gimmee session” in the toy store.

2. Walking with the Spirit requires trusting God.

He gets how all these crazy circumstances fit together to end up best. He has the best plan so we can stop planning and focus on obeying. It’s a challenge but it works so well. Why slow God down by constantly trying to pull Him other ways? Or by throwing fits? I hope to please God and be a pleasant and obedient child, not slowing things down and needing to be disciplined every few steps. It usually comes down to Him pointing to that next step and me taking it. When I obey, He reveals just a bit more. It’s probably smart He doesn’t give me the map, because I’d be tempted to go run off and do it all myself. 

3. Walking with the Spirit halts when I grieve Him.

We can’t trick God – He knows everything about us! But, if you’re like me, I sure have tried to do that frequently. Like a child sitting in “time out” with chocolate smeared all over his face, I can refuse to admit, “Yes, I took my brother’s candy.” I can beg and plead and cry, but in the end, the only way I’ll get out of the chair is to confess and make things right. 

When I think through my life, I’d say too much of it has been spent in that time out chair. I feel really bad about that now, but I can’t change the past. What I can change is my obedience now! God forgives and every day is fresh and new. I don’t want to keep Him waiting any more. I think of all the complaining I’ve done that God just “didn’t seem present”and how He seemed to “forget about me”. Well, yeah! I have been stuck many times, but it hasn’t been Him, it’s been me being stubborn! God’s wanting to move too, but it’s hard when we refuse to talk with Him about what is grieving Him! I pray I will be quick to repent and He will keep my heart soft towards Him from here on out!

There are so many wonderful places God wants to take us. Some are hard, but many are full of joy! The nice thing is, regardless of the places we are in, we always are with the absolutely best travel companion and friend ever!

Who Is This God?

I watched a great sermon on YouTube yesterday by Francis Chan, The Cost of Discipleship. I’d highly recommend it! He spoke about knowing who this God is we serve. Do we know Him? Or do we just latch onto one part of Him and leave it at that? Isn’t that what the world does? They only want God to be love, and not even real love. The world’s definition has more to do with God’s leniency- He should let me do what I want and never cause me pain. Isn’t that more the definition of indifference?

It’s true that no person will ever fully know God, even spending eternity with Him. But we can make it a point to know Him better, can’t we? If I have a million piece puzzle and I have 2 pieces, it’s impossible to know anything about the picture. But if I keep gathering pieces, won’t I have a better idea when I have 20 then 200 then 2000? Of course. Or if I moved to another country, although I may never speak as fluently as a native, wouldn’t I still do my best with that goal in mind?

As we get to know God better and understand Him more day by day, His complexities become clearer. I can get how God can be love and still have annihilated all but a few with a flood in Noah’s day. I can get how He tells us murder is a sin and yet in Numbers this morning, I read how He let 250 people get swallowed up into a crack in the earth for rebelling against Moses and Aaron.

All these puzzle pieces fit together to perfectly show this God who is love and holiness and justice and many other noble characteristics all at once. He is holy, extremely holy. He is very serious about our obedience or lack of it. He loves us more than we will ever understand AND He is perfectly just. He will be sure that every unjust thing is brought to justice. He knows what’s best for us and that can include times of suffering and pain. We try to hide our wounds but He lovingly tends to them, digging out debris, changing the bandages, even grafting skin and giving us transfusions when needed. We yell, stop it! Leave me alone! You are so mean! We don’t know Him very well.

Knowing God better helps me face life more realistically right now. When I want to do things my way, I can’t just focus on how kind and loving God is and not how holy and righteous He is too. That’s making up my own “god”. Or if I’m angry with someone, I can’t just focus then on God’s justice and holiness and forget His compassion and mercy.

In the end, we just need to realize how we view God and who He really is, is constantly changing and hopefully improving. He will point it out if we’re listening and He will help us know Him better. He is unchanging after all. I hope I can know Him a bit better today, place one more puzzle piece into the picture.

I try to remember on days I feel I really don’t understand God very well, that it’s God that initiated us being able to know Him at all. It’s God that is revealing Himself to us and softening our hearts to even hear Him. It’s God that has come up with our amazing world and everyone in it. And best of all, it’s God that figured out a way to save us from the eternity of wrath we all deserved. He is for us. He loves you and me more that we will ever know. Seeking to know Him better and love Him more should be our top priority in this life. He makes all the difference.