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.

Longing

At the deepest core of ourselves, when we are most vulnerable and all else is pulled aside, we long for God. We were meant for Him and He initiates it all. It’s like we’re a complex Lego block and He alone perfectly connects to us.

But it is a challenge to stay in this place with Him. When we’re there, we think – this is where I want to stay! There is no place better! I’ll never leave! And that is what we are meant for, truly a taste of heaven itself.
It isn’t that easy, is it? It reminds me of those little handheld dexterity games I played a lot in my childhood. There would be several holes and teeny little balls that you had to try to tip into them. So frustrating! Just when you thought you had it, a different little ball would roll off, or worse still, you would get bumped and had to start over (or give up, which was the inevitable ending!)

Intimacy with God isn’t meant to be hard, but with sin in the picture, it is. Some days I’d say there were 100 of those balls rolling everywhere and I want to cry with frustration because I just CAN’T DO IT! The small victory of getting one ball in place means little because it won’t stay.

Today, that’s what the hope of intimacy and complete surrender to God seems like. The problem is, we are truly unable to keep any area of our lives as it should be without God’s direct help. We do try though! Personally, I try too hard – it becomes an issue of pride that comes between my Lord and me. His way is simple – “close your eyes and allow me to solve the game.” Often this doesn’t really appeal to me. “But, God, I am pretty good at it! I can help! Look!” And my eyes go back to me and my strength and my wisdom, and for the hundredth time that day I forget He’s even there for a while.

I guess it just amazes me how easily I get distracted. Now, sin, temptation, sure…that stuff takes a lot of effort and grace to avoid. But, somehow all the good things and great things also easily grab my attention. They are good things and great things God had given to me, that are meant to be a blessing and point to him! It makes no sense, but my heart can get so off course so easily even with the good things. What it comes down to in keeping God first and foremost in our hearts and minds, is giving it all to Him to make it happen. We want to be committed to our Lord. We want to stay on track and be righteous people we were meant to be. But, I find it a relief to just admit frequently, it’s not going to happen unless it’s all on Him. I am incapable of maintaining the relationship I desire with God. I need 100% of God’s help. I pray I’ve gotten better, but it’s not helpful to think I can do this on my own. It’s all on God. I bring Him my heart, as open and surrendered as is possible for me that moment and ask Him to do all of the rest. I close my eyes and quit trying to “help” God. 

There, finally, I find the sweetest communion, the most power, the best peace. There, my eyes are on Him and I actually find Him. Or better put, He finds me.

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.

Hope in Exile

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”




I’ve always loved this verse. I’m sure it’s a favorite for many people. It’s very reassuring that God does have a plan for each of us. We can have a hope, a future! Awesome! I’m in.
A few months back, I read a summary of this verse more in context, and since then I’ve thought a bit differently about it. Jeremiah the prophet passes these words on, from God, to the Jews in captivity. So, here are the Jews, God’s chosen people, that God has allowed to be taken away from their homeland and held captive by their enemy, not just for a stretch, but for 70 years. Keep in mind, their actions through the years certainly earned them this punishment, and much more. They were not faithful to God and repeatedly turned from Him, so it’s not an issue of fairness.
Still, I put myself in their shoes, since I am now adopted into God’s family, seen as one of His chosen people, and how I would struggle! In 70 years, many of the 3000 Jews would not see their rescue from the Babylonians. Some of the children would be born and die in captivity. The Jews must have received so much grief from the Babylonians, that their God had rejected them. They must’ve felt abandoned.
That’s where this verse comes in. Was it difficult to believe it at this point? Did they wonder what sort of plans exactly does God have? And how is this situation prospering? This captivity has hope in the future? Really?
Yet it can be very encouraging. When we are in a difficult, even impossible, place, we still know God is in charge. For whatever reason this difficult stretch is necessary, but God does have good plans for His children, plans to prosper us. As grim and lengthy as a trial is, we can trust God. Even if we are born into a trial, live our whole lives in it, and then die without seeing a change… God is good and faithful.

I love the verses right after this one, too. Seek God with our whole hearts, call upon Him, pray to Him….and we will find Him He says. Not that the difficulty is magically over or the time of exile is done. But, we will know Him and He will listen to our pleas. He will be found. There will be an end to that exile, whether you live to see it or not.
It’s our relationship with our amazing God that gives us hope and a future. We can know we are absolutely loved, have worth, purpose and help regardless of how great or horrible our circumstances seem. It’s great when life is happy and easy and fun. And some people’s lives do seem to be mostly those things. But we don’t know and can’t see God’s plans. You are where you are for a reason, as am I. We can know God better, trust Him more, find our absolute satisfaction in Him regardless. This life seems endless at times, but in reality it’s only a little inch on an endless ruler called forever. God will help us get through it and if we allow Him to, find a lot of joy and peace as we do.

When Life Is Hard

Comments on the book by James MacDonald

458704I’ve been reading through a really good book called When Life Is Hard by James MacDonald. The funny thing is, I didn’t even want to read it at first. My husband and I joked about getting the sequel, When Life Is Easy. But I am really glad I did read it. MacDonald has amazing compassion, but holds us accountable.

There is a part in chapter 4 that hugely impacted me so that’s what I’ll write about today. How do we get from a great relationship with God to making terrible decisions and disowning our Lord? It’s a shorter route than I realized, and it was a rude awakening that I’ve made it pretty far down the path at times of my life.

So, enter the trial, that one trial that just never seems to end and is so unfair. Let a month pass, a year, a decade…..here’s what can happen.

Trials CAN Lead to Discouragement.

Ok, so this one seems kind of common sense, doesn’t it. Aren’t we all in this place here and there? We can take step one to destruction on many days. MacDonald explains that many factors can go into us becoming discouraged. But, often it’s a faulty way of thinking, like blaming others, having a pity party, denial or just refusing to focus on God’s truths.

Discouragement Leads to Dislocation.

Now to me, this is something I’ve definitely overlooked. I get discouragement and why we need to keep our hearts and minds correctly focused on God. I’ve also noticed I can get discouraged and eventually feel better and not think that much about it. MacDonald explains that trials feel like pressure on us. God is getting our attention and allows some pressure that could end up causing us a slight limp or discomfort. BUT, and here’s the key, HE WILL EQUIP US TO BEAR UP UNDER THE WEIGHT. If we remain, and stay faithful, it’s possible it would not even be that difficult. Our main job is looking to Him and remaining where He puts us until He says we’re done. So, we have no idea how long it will last. It hurts. We want out. If we choose to squirm and crawl out….the pressure is going to cause major pain and serious injury (dislocation), perhaps that we will never recover from. So this step is caused by our desire to escape, be free of the trial and solve it ourselves. All that we accomplish is setting ourselves up for another time of this trial again. We didn’t learn our lesson. We didn’t overcome with God’s strength. We opted out and looped back around to have to do it again, maybe with a permanent added injury.

I would say I’ve been through this step at times too. I’ve given up on the right way and just forced my way out of a hard situation. Perhaps it was turning to lying or cheating, or failing someone we could have supported. Bursting out angrily and hurting someone, taking what may seem the easy way out but finding we’re left with a relationship that can’t seem to be repaired or a terribly guilty conscience.

Dislocation CAN Lead to Bitterness.

I wish I would have never gotten to this step, but, I have. Perhaps you have too. For me, bitterness is that turning point of I’m not listening to God anymore, I’m listening to me. I know He’s perfect but I feel this instance may be the first time He has messed up. I stop listening to wise friends and wallow in my own anger. Lines get blurred and I don’t care as much if I cross them. I am not getting what I feel I deserve. And I’m sick of it. Time for me to be in charge. The crazy thing is, you may even have an ok attitude. But, if you’re going with your plans and purposely skipping God’s….you’re still bitter.

Bitterness Leads to Profane Living.

This is where you tell yourself you don’t want God, you don’t like Him, and you’re fine with trying to undermine Him and His plans. The things you try not to do, you now purposely enjoy. You take His name in vain, refuse to pray or listen. You mock Him when able. You subject yourself to things that you know are bad for you. It’s being unfaithful to God and acting as if He means nothing to you. You can still get back to where you should be. But, you’re allowing your heart to be hardened, even hoping it will, which then leads to the final step.

Profane Living Leads to Disqualification.

Perhaps you thought at some point you could still come back to God, and He does give us SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES. But, eventually, it’s not your choice any more. “One day, I’ll make things right. One day, I’ll think about eternity. One day, I’ll tell Him I’m sorry for hating Him all my life.” If there’s still a soft part of our hearts, we have hope. We can still respond to God. But, as our hearts become harder and harder, we hear Him less and eventually our heart is just a rock that would need a miracle to change. MacDonald brings up the sorrow Esau felt after selling his very birthright for a meal. Hebrews 12:17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. He did want to seek it, but it was too late. And unless we turn to God before this point, this is where our downward spiral can also end. 

Repent. Submit to God no matter how difficult or unreasonable you feel the situation is. He’ll bring you back to Him. Eventually it will make sense. He is so good, and you can trust He knows what He’s doing. Our stubbornness gets us nowhere. Don’t say, hey, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s not like it’s life and death…..because that’s exactly what it is.

I hope this is helpful to others as it has been to me. Read the book! It’s worth it!

God…The Ultimate Giver

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”Acts 1:8

Power – it comes with the Holy Spirit. Not optional. Not, if you think to ask for it. We will receive power and will be Christ’s witnesses.

So the gift is given, the power is given, and all we need to do is receive. Be willing. Be open. Offer out open hands, admit our need and want. Say yes, thank you!
God offers us salvation, the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and power amongst many others things. If we don’t have all He offers, it isn’t His problem, it’s ours. He is generous! He wants us to ask for what we need and is so gracious to care about our every hurt and hope. But so much He already freely offers – we have it. It’s ours. What a blessing to have this amazing confidence in our Lord and God. Truly, an amazing and good Father!

In the Light

Bright vector sun with lens flareBut if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. I John 1:7 

Being a Christian is often compared to walking in God’s light. Some days that light feel so wonderful, like a lovely sunny day after months of gloom. Our spirits are lifted and we can’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else. But other days, that same light feels really glaring and harsh and I feel tempted to

run and hide.

Maybe it’s a time I’m struggling with loving God more than the world, or remaining obedient to Him, or maybe shame has crept into my heart… regardless, it does not feel natural to walk in God’s light that day. Perhaps you’ve also had the nightmare where you are out and about in public, only to realize you never got dressed or that you’re up on stage with a spotlight so bright you can’t even see who is in the audience, and oh yeah, you’re naked. It’s 100% humbling, vulnerable, foreign and scary. All you can think about is running away, how you would give anything to be given a towel or something as you stand naked on stage, heck even a napkin.

No matter what situation we’re in or how God may seem to us that day, the truth is God is good and has so much He wants us to learn and experience in our walk with Him. We are where we are for a reason and can trust there’s something here to be learned if we are willing to just stay there in His presence no matter what. God doesn’t change, but we certainly do, way too frequently! We have to consider, what circumstances am I facing today? How obedient to God am I being right now? Am I spending time with God and fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord so I am held accountable? Or am I wandering where I shouldn’t be…in dark places where I can easily get in trouble and lose my way?

Here’s our daily challenge,

 walk in the light.

Stay in God’s light no matter how it feels today. If it’s a “naked on stage day,” it may be rough but make the best of it. Don’t go running off the stage. Get comfortable, get crazy and smile. Know God sees us as we are and still loves us. If God’s light seems to be burning you today, hot and relentless, ask Him to be your shade and your comfort while you are in that place. If you’ve been in the dark so long His light repels you, just give it time and let your eyes adjust. They will. And eventually no matter what sort of light God seems to be today, we will find there’s nowhere else we would rather be. We were made to be creatures of the light, completely known and loved by our heavenly Father, and gradually very well-known and loved by those we trust around us.