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.

05Kyle-4-ways-males-4

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!

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!

The Big Picture

a.k.a. Letting God be God

GalaxyMost of our time is spent on the battlefield, daily life, involved in hand to hand conflict. It’s the strength of our shield, the sharpness of our sword, our thirst and fatigue we are thinking about. But now and then, I find God lifts us out of the trenches and shows us the big picture. We get a new vision of the wonders of heaven awaiting us, the horrors of the enemy’s plans, how desperately we do need Him and how much we need our brothers and sisters in Christ. Then, refreshed and remotivated, back into the battle we go to live life up close and personal again. I’m so thankful for God’s glimpses of the big picture because as time goes by, I naturally slip down that slope and begin to focus more and more on myself again, and less and less on God’s plans. I get tired. I wish we could have some more variety. I long for what’s next.

I had a big picture moment this morning as I opened my Bible to the end of the book of Jonah. Jonah 4:4 caught my eye, “But the Lord replied, “Have you any right to be angry?” It stood out because one big concept I’ve been meditating on is that God is capable of dealing with all of our emotions, at all their intensity levels. We can’t always let them loose on people, but He can take them. But this verse addresses anger in a different way.

Do we have a right to be angry with God?

For that split second, He was asking me that question. When I can’t have what I want and life doesn’t go as I’d like, do I have a right to be angry with God. When He doesn’t answer my “whys” as I’d like and doesn’t take the alternatives I suggest seriously, what is my response?

God doesn’t need to prove He is good, and loving and merciful, does He? He demonstrated it in creating mankind and then sacrificing His only Son to reconcile us back to Him.

Can the created, me and you, put the Creator on trial?

Does any created person have the authority to do that? I forget my position with Him sometimes. He is very accessible to us and wants an intimate relationship with each of us. But do I then presume that He wants my advice and opinions? That I can give Him a grade in His role of God and suggestions for improvement?

There’s nothing we can face on this earth that is too much for God. God sacrificed his only Son for us. There’s no pain or circumstance, nothing we feel is withheld from us, nothing that gives us the right to judge God and his plan.

God is good. It’s a fact.

I’ve known God long enough to stop debating. I know Him from his Word. I know the way He comforts me in hard times with the Holy Spirit and lifts me from the pit I am so drawn to throwing myself into.

I will never 100% understand God, but in His mercy He has opened my heart and mind enough to move on to trusting He knows best. I’m tired of fighting Him. I’m tired of putting Him on trial and insisting He prove why His way is best. I feel ridiculous thinking of myself plummeting toward hell in the proverbial handbasket, being rescued by God Almighty, only to start griping that I don’t understand why I was plummeting at that angle, and shouldn’t the basket lining have been a different color and why, why, why.

It’s time for me to give God the benefit of the doubt. We can celebrate his grace and mercy toward others. I can hand God the puzzle of my life and say, help me, God. I don’t have to understand all the how and why.

He’s good and that’s enough today. The cross says it all.

When I focus my eyes on the cross of Christ, I find nothing to argue about and fight with God about. I am the recipient of the greatest gift. May I never forget it. There’s no detail big or small in my life that could challenge God’s love and sacrifice for me.

So back to the battlefield. Back to fighting hard in God’s army. Asking him for his plan and then following through with it. Doing my part in the battle and being a good soldier. I don’t have to question my commander.

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!

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.