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.

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.

Freedom in Christ

motorcyclistBecause through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2

How we as people long for freedom. It’s true, we are meant to flourish in a world of beauty and love. We are meant to explore and learn and share our hearts. But the freedom we usually choose to pursue is that of living by our own rules. Human “freedom” seems to be the ability to pursue whatever we decide makes us feel happy and loved. We don’t want to be told what is right or wrong. We don’t want to be limited by outdated morals and lofty wisdom. Freedom means I am free to pursue my own pleasure how and when I want.

There is really no such freedom!

The more we run toward what we think will satisfy our cravings, the more we entangle ourselves in chains of selfishness. The only freedom that can really be found and enjoyed is freedom in Christ. It is freedom to be the person God intended each of us to be, freedom to be children of God that desire to follow Him wholeheartedly.

Sure, we can be more or less enslaved, but without God’s intervention, we can never truly be free. The more we look for purpose without God, the more we find pointlessness. The more we look for love, the more we find brokenness and disappointment. The more control we try to obtain, the more we watch our circumstances slip through our fingers like grains of sand. Freedom apart from Christ does not exist.

We are creatures made by a creator, God, with purpose and meaning.

Without God, we will never truly know fulfillment in any way.

Only as we submit to Jesus as our Lord and Savior can we see the freedom we have available. It is freedom to be loved as we are, faults and all. It is freedom to be completely forgiven and then be able to offer that forgiveness to those around us.  It is freedom to live a victorious life regardless of our circumstances. We accept the yoke that Christ offers, tensing up for a heavy load only to find He lifts the weight off of us.

I’ve read accounts of people in the worst, most dejected, filthy places, being treated more like animals than people. But, even in these horrid circumstances, a child of God can live in freedom and peace. It makes no logical sense but it is true. On the other hand, we can look around and see countless people with tons of “blessings,” unable to find any true meaning, purpose, or hope in our world.

When we feel empty and lost, we have the chance to look to the one true source of hope and freedom…Jesus Christ. It’s never fun to hit a low spot or be confronted with our emptiness. But at least that allows us to look around and re-evaluate our choices. God doesn’t give up on us. We can put Him off, and pretend He’s not there, but eventually we have to acknowledge Who He is and whether or not we will follow Him. When we are tired of looking for salvation and freedom in a broken and cruel world, we can look for true salvation and freedom in the One who has the power and ability to change our lives completely. Let’s give up our supposed freedom to serve ourselves and choose to become slaves to the most amazing, holy God of the universe. He gives us a life of true meaning, hope and joy.