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.

A Complex Equation

N1007P41006CTrust 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

I’ll admit, one flaw in my thinking most of my life, has been that life should be easy. We should be carefree. Obedience should be effortless. Keeping focused on God should be a given. Choosing Godly decisions should be easy.

But it just isn’t easy and that is pretty disappointing and frustrating to me.

I do imagine life in the Garden of Eden was easy and most likely heaven will be. But this life certainly isn’t! It is a blessed life though, walking through it with Christ.

I picture myself chained up to a heavy weight. I want it off completely. I want no hindrances, absolute freedom and the ability to do whatever I please. Instead, becoming a Christian,

Jesus carries it for me.

Some days, this is great and I handle it fine. I do know now what freedom is like. Other days I just fixate on the fact that chain is still there. There are still things I can’t do and I’m not OK with it. If I push Jesus away, I’m completely weighed down again. Living life absolutely independently is really not an option. I have no choice but to get over it and fully accept the arrangement I’m in – always needing to rely on Christ. Free, yet not absolutely free until heaven one day. A free person, yet a slave to Christ. My life is mine, yet my life isn’t mine at all.

There’s just nothing easy about reality. Reality is really a daily challenge. All the difficulty, hurt, trials, and pain is absolutely balanced out with the blessing and joy of a redeemed life in Christ. But it’s not a simple equation – it’s very complex! It’s not “life is easy and fun”. It’s “life is quite difficult, and really impossible on my own + Jesus frees me from all the cares and worries of this life = content me.” Now go live life to the full list and love it. Or spend it having a pity party and missing out on some pain and also on countless joy and blessing.

Class over. 

A Piece of Cake? Sure!

Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.




I really wish that when we became Christians, God just completely removed our sinful nature discussed in these verses. The constant struggle between this sinful nature and our new, redeemed selves, just gets really old. Thankfully, as these versus explain, we can live by the Spirit, and as we immerse ourselves in who God is, the sinful nature gets starved and loses some power. We can live victorious lives with a heart of peace. We can know God increasingly more. Isn’t that an amazing gift in itself considering mankind’s choice to disobey God?!!


Yet, it’s still so difficult.

Most of us can probably relate to a food analogy. Being a Christian sometimes feels like making a resolution to eat well so we can feel good, and be strong and healthy, while a luscious cake sits right behind us. Chocolate, of course. I don’t have to focus on that stupid cake. I can focus on reality, the delicious tastes of the Godly, wholesome food before me. I can focus on how great I feel eating well. I can focus on how I’m probably going to live a longer and fuller life eating well. I can really enjoy the flavors and complexities of this wholesome Godly food. I can vow to never look behind me and talk myself into believing I can’t stand chocolate or cake. Eventually, sure, the cake can be pretty far behind me.

But, here on earth, until Christ returns and we finally live knowing what it’s like to be completely holy and righteous people…the cake is still there. I’m just tired today of this whole battle between natures competing for my attention. I’m glad God makes a way for us to be victorious. I’m glad we can daily lean on him and find an undivided heart that thirsts for him alone. He is so good to us and has so much mercy and grace!

I just wish the struggle didn’t have to be. I wish cake truly held no appeal. But, like it or not, we were all born with a “sweet tooth.” And this is just a battle that we need to ask God to fight with us until Jesus’ return. It’s the effect of mankind’s choice to sin way back in the Garden of Eden. Praise God, it’s only these 100 or less years before we can look forward to a different reality in heaven. The battle does end! There is so much we can look forward to. Thank you, God!!

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!

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.