Sunday, December 15, 2013

And when I sin...

Scripture tells us that it's the will of the Lord to crush us, His children, at times. It's hard to fully comprehend and understand what that means until you're there. Today I got a simple text from a friend that the Lord used to open a flood gate of covetousness and idolatry in my heart. And it aches.

Jesus saved me nearly 20 years ago. Knowing that the majority of my sin has taken place post conversion is hard to reconcile at times. It's really difficult knowing that the very King who died in my place, the very Messiah I proclaimed to know, love, and follow, is the very Savior that I daily spit upon and whip and nail to the cross.

I've been sitting on these things all day today. In the Lord's sweet love for me, He didn't let me sit in condemnation and shame for long before, once again, taking my eyes off of myself and putting them on Him- and reminding me of His loving promises. As you read these Scriptures, I hope and pray you're encouraged. We sin. We need Jesus- and just as we celebrate now during Advent, He came. He came and brought a redemption and hope that the world had never seen- and we too are partakers of that hope. Rest assured, in your sin there is something so much greater- and it's His grace.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1

Come, let us return to the LORD; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up.
Hosea 6:1

"For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid My face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you," says the LORD, your Redeemer. "This is like the days of Noah to Me; as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but My steadfast love shall not depart from you, and My covenant of peace shall not be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:7-10

If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

Behold, blessed is the one who God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. For He wounds, but He binds up; He shatters, but His hands heal.
Job 5:17-18

But He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift up for drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
Hebrews 12:10-13

Out of the depth I cry to You, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared. I will wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption. And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
Psalm 130

Saturday, December 7, 2013

He's just not that into you...

I watched the movie He's Just Not that Into You today. It's a funny one. I think any woman, single or married, can watch that movie and "get" it. They can easily relate to one of the characters and, in embarrassment or shame, think "oh my gosh, I've done that!" or "crap, that's me..." It seems silly and irrelevant because it's "just a movie" but inwardly, something else, something deeper, is happening.

The first time I saw it a few years ago, I felt a deep sense of shame. I didn't believe I was worthy of pursuit or attractive because of the basics of my personality. The fact that the girls I went with declared "you are so Gigi!" didn't help much. I was mortified, embarrassed, and began to believe that my hopeful heart and ridiculous actions somehow had the power to dictate my love life, or lack thereof. I began to believe the lies that I had screwed up God's entire plan for me and that I was destined to be stuck in singleness for the rest of my life. There are a lot of things that were wrong with that mentality, and I think they are things each one of us, as single women, are prone to. (Side note, as a word of encouragement, the Lord is faithful to sanctify and grow. As the years have passed, these thoughts and tendencies are less and less frequent and my joy in Him is overflowing. He truly is the greatest gift- press into Him and allow Him to do a work on your heart.)

1. We forget Who actually does rule and reign. And it's not us.

We think of ourselves too highly- and too often. We allow our minds to wonder off into so many crazy places, believing that the things we say and the things we do determine the course of our lives. We are the highest authority and we have the power to control not only our lives, but those around us. How terrifying would it be if this were actually true?

In these moments of weakness and sin, fear and doubt, it's good for me to remember the One who has always been and always will be. God was never created- He is the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end. He sees all things, knows all things, and is everywhere, all the time. That means I'm in His vision. He sees me. He is daily aware of me and I am on His mind at every second of every minute of every day. Not only am I, and all the intricate details of my life, in His vision, but He's the author of my life. He is in control. Psalm 139 reminds me that before there were even any days of my life, He already knew them. Matthew 10 reminds me that the very hairs of my head are numbered. He sees when every sparrow falls, and how much more of a value am I than them? I, who am made in the image of the Creator, my Father, am incredibly and deeply valuable to Him. I am so valuable to Him that He will not give me the reigns of my life. He loves me too much to do that. And He, the God of all wisdom, knowledge, power, and might- wouldn't He know the right course of my life, in spite of me... I can't mess it up.

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.
Psalm 131

No need to worry about the failures to be exposed today. They have all been covered by the blood of Jesus. No need to be discouraged by the "could haves" or "what ifs." All your "coulds" and "ifs" are controlled by your Sovereign Savior. No need to think for a moment that you're beyond hope. Your hope doesn't rest on your power, but on your Savior's amazing grace.
Paul Tripp

Rest assured, your sin, weakness, and failure do not have the power to thwart God's unstoppable redemptive plan.
Paul Tripp

2. Our actions do have consequences, but God never looks at our sin and choose to withhold because He's fed up with us. Nor does He sit around waiting for us to "get our act together" before He blesses us. His gifts are NOT dependent upon our actions, but His character.

Self-righteousness is not only the belief that our right actions should somehow merit His favor, but that our wrong actions should bring about His frustration and anger. Praise God that neither of those are true, and by the grace of God may He sanctify us and eradicate those beliefs. There is nothing that I can do to make God love me any more or any less. It's because He is good that He loves me. At my "best", I am undeserving, yet He loves me. At my worst, I am undeserving, yet He loves me.

Just like that silly movie, there are actions that we partake in (as men and women, single and married) that have consequences. There are patterns that are unholy and ungodly- that are unattractive, unfeminine, unmasculine, and not what the Lord wants for us. But never once does He look at our sin and turn His face from us. Never once does He look at me and think "That When will she get her act together? I'm just ready to give up on her. A husband for her? No way. Definitely not kids. She is just too much!" - the enemy whispers these LIES (call them what they are!) in my head, and as a daughter of the King, I renounce them. I choose to trust God's perfect plan, and I choose to rest in His love and in His promises, not on my ability or my charm. I choose to wait for the Savior's return with hope and expectation. I choose to know Him and commune with Him, knowing that joy and hope is ultimately found in Him.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
Matthew 7:11

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
James 1:17

When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.
AW Tozer

3. You are never "stuck in" singleness, but intentionally and providentially placed there, for HIS glory and for your good.

If you're single, chances are you've been encouraged to view singleness as a "gift." That isn't an original concept, but one that Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 7. It's interesting if you do a word study on "gift." In Paul's writings, he referred to a "gift" as the ability to encourage and build others up. He is not speaking of the gift you open Christmas morning that entirely excites you and brings a great deal of ecstasy. Tim Keller has some good things to say about this in his book Meaning of Marriage (this is a shameless plug- just go buy it!)

The "gift-ness" of being single for Paul lay in the freedom it gave him to concentrate on ministry in ways that a married man could not. Paul may very well, then, have experienced what we today would call an "emotional struggle" with singleness. He might have wanted to be married. He not only found an ability to live a life of service to God and others in that situation, he discovered (and capitalized on) the unique features of single life (such as time flexibility) to minister with very great effectiveness.
Tim Keller

This life is so much bigger than us. We were created to live for God. We were created to know Him and make Him known. The glory of the gospel is that we get God- and that's good, that's profound, that's life. You were created in His image and in His likeness- for Him. The depth of your personality and your character is for Him. Whether you're extroverted or introverted- male or female - single or married- melancholy or sanguine- athletic or poetic- life of the party or the wall flower- you were created that way for His glory. Use it. Take your eyes off of yourself, learn to walk in humility, and grow to love others more than you love yourself. Use your singleness to bless others and to encourage the body of Christ. Use the uniqueness of your situation to further the Kingdom of God. Use your femininity and your masculinity for His glory.

He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us.
Acts 17:26-27

You were created to live for something vastly bigger than you and only grace can make you willing and able. You were hardwired to live for God, so even though you may not be aware of it, every good or bad thing you do today has verticality to it. Remember that every physical, situational, relational glory you'll experience today is meant to point you to the glory of God.
Paul Tripp

4. His perfect love truly does cast away all fear.

Read the following Scripture, and rest. Let your heart be at ease and sit - peacefully - under His love and in His care. He knows you in a deep way that is too profound to put into words. Rest.

I sought the LORD, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
Psalm 34:4-5

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes I will help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Nevertheless, I am continually with you. You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel and afterward You will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but You, O LORD, are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:23-26

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.
1 John 4:18-19

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
Deuteronomy 31:8

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Guard your heart... what does that even mean?

As ladies in the evangelical Christian world, it is common to hear the exhortation, "guard your heart" in reference to how we interact with those of the opposite sex when we're interested in them or just "friends" with them. Proverbs 4:23 is often equally overused and misused in reference to this. Those three words are drummed over and over and over into our vocabulary- so what does it even mean?

There are a couple of foundational things about our hearts (the deepest depth of our physical, earthly being) that we need to know.

1) Our hearts are desperately wicked. (Jeremiah 17:9)
- We cannot trust our hearts. We are our own worst enemy. Not one lies to you, manipulates you, hurts you, deceives you, or betrays you like you do. The more you trust in yourself and trust the fickle nature of your heart, the more you will experience pain and confusion. It's crazy how we can love something so much at one minute and hate it equally the next. Our hearts cannot be trusted.

2) Our hearts are only truly safe when grounded and rooted in Christ.
- It's in knowing Christ that we are free. Knowing Him and resting in Him provides a hope, rest, freedom, joy, and love that our hearts seek everywhere else. It's only truly found in Him. All other sources, no matter how good they are, will fail you and hurt you.
- Is there joy in being loved by a man? Absolutely. Can a man care for your heart in a biblical, godly and fulfilling way? Yes yes yes! But will he still fail you? Yes. If you are waiting for a man to experience safety, protection, security, and love for your heart, you are looking to the wrong source and you will be disappointed. Put your eyes on Christ.

(Let me preface here by saying: I have failed royally in this area. I write these things boldly because I have been smack dab in the middle of this and I have not walked in wisdom, discernment, or purity of speech or mind. I'm still learning and God is faithful. Amen!)

Practically speaking, how do you "guard your heart". It's better here to say "guard your mind." We've attached such a fluffy feeling to our hearts, almost as if we have no control over what's happening and if we're feeling it, it must be okay or normal. So- if I'm married but I'm "feeling" something in my heart for another man, it's okay right? No. We've romanticized this idea and removed any responsibility of wrong-doing or foolishness on our own parts. It's time we own up to those. So, here we go:

  • Stop fantasizing and dreaming about a man who isn't yours. It isn't helpful to you or to him. That fake date you dreamed up in your mind? It didn't happen. But now you've attached real life emotions to an illusion, which will cause greater confusion, pain, or frustration in the future. 
  • It's not wise to be best friends with a man unless you both plan on being married to one another. The more intimate details you share with him, the more your heart will grow attached, and the more painful it will be when he starts dating someone else. Just don't do it. Don't share parts of your life that aren't meant to be shared with him. Don't nurture and care for him in a way that you would a boyfriend. He's not your boyfriend, but unbeknownst to you both, you'll enter into a faux dating relationship that will not end well. It sure feels like the "real deal", but it's not. Don't tip toe into this and don't dive head first thinking you can handle it. It's not wise.
  • Don't look at someone else's romantic situation in contempt, jealousy, or covetousness. Before you know it, roots of idolatry will take place and anything male that moves will become your eye candy because you so desperately want what she has. Rejoice with her. Confess your fears to Christ. Tell Him what you need and what you want- He already knows. But trust His answer. Rest in His love, not your desire for love.
  • Quit playing the "it's meant to be..." game in your mind. You like John and all of the sudden you're meeting John's everywhere- don't put your hope in that. You're seeing John everywhere you go now- he's always been there; you're just now aware of him. You keep having dreams about John- that doesn't mean he's clearly "it". Don't read into "signs" that aren't there.
  • It's not necessary to tell everyone about him to get advice or prayers or counsel. The more you talk about him, the more you like him. The more you like him, the more you want to talk about him, and the more people know. It becomes a cycle that just gets more painful. Pick a select few people (WOMEN or couples) who will speak truth into your life and have them pray for you. Don't tell all your girlfriends so they can encourage you in something that you've schemed and planned in your mind.

You know your own personal weaknesses in this better than anyone else. Confess these to WOMEN and invite them to speak truth into your life. Have prayer warriors on your side. If you struggle with this when you're laying in bed at night, have women praying for you as you go to bed. Memorize scripture. Sing yourself to sleep. Fill your mind and heart with things of the Lord during the day so that when you're in a weak moment, you can recall those truths. If having social media makes it more difficult, be willing to take a "social" hit and get rid of facebook, instagram, twitter, vine, snapchat, etc... Your holiness is more important than getting daily updates from the lives of your 795 "friends." Fight for this, sister!

We can do all of these things but still fail. Unless your heart is first rooted and grounded in Christ and His love for you, fighting for holiness in this area is meaningless. You desire to watch your heart and mind because you love Christ. The more you know and love Jesus, the more you desire the things He desires. He desires a hope for you that does not put you to shame. He desires a joy for you that turns your mourning into dancing. He desires a love for you that is better than life. All of these are found in knowing Christ. He is better and sweeter than the imaginary relationship you keep concocting in your mind. Wait on His timing and wait for His best. He will not fail you. Even if His best is never having that earthly desire met, He is not failing you. 

He hasn't forgotten you. He hears you, sees you, and has a life planned for you that far exceeds anything you could plan for yourself. It's good. He's good!

Praying these Scriptures tonight for myself, and for you.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:14 

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there is any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalm 139:23-24

Monday, October 7, 2013

His ways are not our ways...

If you had asked me five years ago what I'd hope to be doing today, it would be not even close to where I actually am. I've said it before and I'll say it again- God's ways are so much greater and higher, and He's taken me smack dab in the middle of my fears to learn that. Through years of deep sanctification, the very situations I fear are the very situations that I'm in. Just a few short years ago I felt so much shame in being single. Somehow I was "missing the mark" of what a godly woman is supposed to do and I was disappointing family and friends.

That couldn't be more false, and He has patiently (and sometimes painfully) shown me that. A godly woman is marked by her devoted and unhindered love and pursuit of her Maker, her love of knowing Him and making Him known- and by her desire and zeal to make disciples as He's commanded us. As each day goes by, I see the Lord's sovereign and loving care as He opens more doors for me, in my singleness, to live for Christ and share the hope found in Him. As He's grown and matured me these past few years, my desires have grown and extended to not only minister around my home, but to reach the lost all over the world.

It's in the midst of all of this that I'm excited to share that I have recently been offered a position at NEXT Worldwide, a church-planting missions organization that mobilizes American students to the mission field to plant churches where no witness for Christ exists. To say I’m excited about this opportunity is an understatement. My love of mentoring and pouring into youth along with evangelism and sharing the gospel around the nations are beautifully put together in this job. It's where the Lord has gifted me and He's made it very clear it's where He's directing me. 

The work the Lord has done and is continuing to do through NEXT Worldwide is nothing short of God-glorifying and amazing. I have had the privilege to go to Guatemala twice with NEXT Worldwide. To be a part of a team planting a church and sharing the gospel with people who don’t know Him is what the Great Commission in Matthew 28 is all about. We are called to be a part of God’s global work of redeeming a people for Himself. NEXT Worldwide is participating in this work in 10 countries around the world.

As I watch God break down walls of spiritual warfare, save souls, and bring hope amidst desperation my faith is deepened. This is the same faith that remains steadfast and sure as I embark on this new journey with NEXT.  I will be working full-time for NEXT and will be raising support for all my income.  I must reach 100% of my monthly support before I can begin work as a Mission Team Leader. And I'm going to be honest with you- this scares me. But greater than my fear and greater than my "this is awkward" is the deep rooted truth that HE alone provides. He is good, He knows my needs, and His track record is perfect. He loves me. I've learned that in deep intimate ways the past few years, and I'm learning it again in a new way, and that excites me. His ways ARE higher and greater than mine. So, in light of that, I am excited and joyful to ask you to consider being a part of my support team.

You can go here to find out the ways you can financially support me and what the Lord is doing. I will be updating this blog with ways to pray, stories of Christ's redemption, photos from trips, etc... I will also be sending out prayer cards and letters, so if you don't receive one and would like one, please let me know. I love each of you and I'm grateful for each of you!

In His grace and for His glory,

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rock of Ages, Cleft for me...

The more I seek Christ, the more I see my sin. The more I see the depths of my sin, the more I realize the grandeur of the grace of God and my desperate need for Him.

I've seen that a lot lately. It's been one of those months of the Lord revealing sin after sin, idol after idol, fear after fear- and it's exhausting. It's exhausting because I try so hard to figure this out on my own. I try so hard to do the "right thing", to somehow impress God- and in reality, all I'm doing is offering Him lifeless and temporary offerings and sacrifices, and He's not impressed. I don't experience life or the grace of God in that. It's bondage and it's idolatry.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." Psalm 51:17

I've been a follower of Christ for nearly 20 years, and I'm not even close to figuring this "thing" out. And the more I try, the farther I fall, because I am not meant to do this on my own. Ever. It is ONLY and SOLELY by the grace of God that we, as believers, can do this life and do it well. Not a day goes by that I don't need the gospel preached to me. Not a day goes by that I'm not tempted by the lure and enticement of sin and all this world has to offer. "Prone to wonder, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love." Not a day goes by that these words in Ephesians doesn't slam me over the head.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

This is humbling and sanctifying- and something that every believer experiences as we wait for Christ's return. I yearn to see Him face-to-face, to behold His glory and be forever awed by His majesty. I was sitting here listening to the hymn "Rock of Ages", and I was moved to tears listening and reading the lyrics. This hymn is from the mid 18th century, but it could not ring more true today. 

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure

Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law's commands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

All the single ladies...put your hands up!

Yep. I just said that. 

I want to talk to the single women I know. I want to share hope with you and remind you of truth. These truths and these promises of God are not just for single women or single men- or for married women or married me- or for children or elderly. These truths and promises are for every adopted son and daughter of God. And they're powerful.

But right now- I'm talking specifically to single women.

We live in a Christian culture that sometimes fears that elephant in the room. The elephant being the fact that there are so many dang single people, and the age of those singles is getting higher. Somewhere along the way, desiring marriage automatically became an idolatry issues. Somehow we've missed the fact that marriage is instituted by God for His glory and our good. It's a beautiful gospel representation. It is GOOD. It is to be desired. Don't place that desire above your desire to know Him and don't allow it to breed discontentment. But if that desire is birthed out of godliness, please feel no shame in that. It is a good desire.

Singleness is hard- I know. And that's okay that it's hard. Hear me when I say that- it's ok. It's okay that there are nights that are so hard you don't know what else to do but cry out to God. Continue to do that. Cry to Him. Plead with Him. Confess your fears to Him. Ask Him for the things you desire. He longs to hear you. It's okay that you're lonely. The Lord oftentimes uses loneliness to create a deeper intimacy, and that is a beautiful thing. Confess your loneliness to Him and watch as He moves in powerful ways. It's okay that you feel weak when you see a godly man serving the Lord. Praise God there are godly men to be an example of His work. Thank the Lord for that. Thank Him that your heart hasn't been hardened or jaded by the world. Lay those feelings as His feet and allow Him to care for your heart. It's okay that your heart stings with each new wedding you're a part of. There is a really hard- but beautiful - sanctification that plays out in those moments. Don't miss the opportunities to rejoice with your sisters as they rejoice. In that, you will get the chance to share the selfless love of Christ. And it's worth it. 

Open your Bible. Read these following truths found in Scripture and allow the Lord to speak to you. Listen to His voice and be warmed by His love and care. 
  • You are known. [Psalm 139. Isaiah 49:15-16. Psalm 31:14-15. Psalm 56:8. Psalm 73:23-26. Lamentations 3:31-33. ]
  • You are loved. [Isaiah 53-54. Psalm 32:7. Psalm 59:16-17. Psalm 100. Romans 5:8. Zephaniah 3:17. Romans 8:31-39]
  • You are desired. [Isaiah 55:1. Psalm 27:10. Matthew 11:27-30. Galatians 4:1-7. 1 Peter 2:9-10.]
  • You have purpose. [Acts 17:24-28. 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. Psalm 16:11. Psalm 30:11-12.]
  • You are heard. [Psalm 5:3. Psalm 9:9-10. Psalm 34:18. Psalm 63:5-8. Psalm 116:1-2. Romans 8:26.]
In your struggle and in your wrestle, don't lose sight of the beauty of knowing Him and making Him known. There is no greater joy. In your pain and in your loneliness, don't become selfish. Take your eyes off of yourself and seek to serve the body of Christ. Find younger women who are also struggling and comfort them with the same comfort you've been given. (2 Corinthians 1) Don't ever forget the grand story you've been invited into. It's much bigger than you and your singleness. Praise God He hears and knows- these are beautiful truths. Take those truths and pour the gospel into others. I pray you would confidently say:

I have tasted and seen, God, that You are good...
[Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Psalm 34:8]

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

He is sweeter.

How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose!...You drove them from me, You who are the True, the Sovereign Joy. You drove them from me and took their place,You who are sweeter than all pleasure.

I have to daily remind myself of these things. He is better. He is better. He is better. So often I chase the things of this world, believing that somehow they will satisfy a deep longing in me. They won't. They can't. They were never meant to. I was hardwired and designed to give my life for something and Someone much greater than myself and my small world. Romans 1 says men serve and worship the creation, rather than the Creator. When I lean upon the temporary pleasures of this world to satisfy me, or fill some void in me, that's exactly what I'm doing. I'm committing an act of treason before the King of Kings.

How much happier you would be, how much more of you there would be, if the hammer of a higher God could small your small cosmos. 
GK Chesterson

He's not a means to an end. He's the end.

We get God. If that's not enough, then that journey isn't for you. I get God. I get to commune with, converse with, and walk in love with the Creator of the Universe. How incredible is that? How unreal...we say it so easily, but think about it. The very One who created (and sustains) all your cells to perfectly work in your body...the One who created gravity, so this world just doesn't collapse...that same One who created everything out of nothing - that awesome, incredible God. He wants me. He sought me out. He bought me. He paid His life for me. He chose me. He made us to bring Himself glory and give us the greatest joy imagineable. It's in a life of worship unto Him that we find the deepest and greatest intimacy and joy. 

God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. 
John Piper

He drives away those fruitless joys of this world and replaces them with Himself. He is far better, my friend. He is so much better. C.S. Lewis says, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." As adopoted sons and daughters, we were not made for this world. We were made for eternity with our Father, our King of Kings, our Lord of Lords, our Maker and Redeemer, our Savior and Friend. While we sojourn in this world, let us praise Him. Let us speak of Him and share Him with the nations. Let us NOT keep this hope within us! Let us walk in joy and walk in life so that the world knows Him.

He is sweeter than all pleasure.

You were created to live for something vastly bigger than you and only grace can make you willing and able. You were hardwired to live for God, so even though you may not be aware of it, every good or bad thing you do today has verticality to it. Remember that every physical, situational, relational glory you'll experience today is meant to point you to the glory of God.
Paul David Tripp

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Does He hear me?

I find great comfort in the God breathed words of King David in the Book of Psalms. I feel like he "gets" me, and I know I'm not the only one. In those precious chapters, you see a God-fearing man struggle with his sin, you see him passionately pursue his Maker, you see him fight for holiness, you see him wrestle with loneliness, depression, fear, and doubt, and you see him in ecstatic joy.

I read those words and I'm comforted. I'm comforted because I know I'm not alone and I get to see the progression of a man's sanctification and the Lord's faithfulness to him. I'm comforted because I see the might, sovereignty, and love of God as He graciously handles David.

Sometimes I doubt the Lord hears me. If we're honest, we all do. There are nights that are just so hard; I pray and He doesn't answer. I cry and no one holds me. I ache and the pain doesn't go away. When I allow myself to sink into the pit of that pain, I'm left in this utter dark loneliness. And it's not fun. Just tonight I was talking to the Lord and just cried asking Him why He wasn't listening to a specific prayer of mine. I confessed that I felt like my words fell on deaf ears. It's nights like I had earlier tonight and like I've had in the past, I refer to as "dark nights of the soul." We all have them. David had them over and over in the Psalms. But God never left him alone in that, and He never leaves us alone.

His kindness leads me to repentance...and as His daughter, it doesn't take Him long to sweetly speak to me and lovingly remind me of His promises, that never waver or fade- regardless of my circumstances and regardless of my "feelings" (which we're told in Jeremiah are deceptive). He is faithful. I have no right to question Him or doubt Him, yet He hears me and comforts me. He tenderly speaks to me, holds my tears, and listens to my deepest pains and greatest fears. He confronts my sin and pushes me to holiness.

Tonight He reminded me of Psalm 130. We see this beautiful progression of the psalmist brokenness over sin, his confession of that sin, his hope found in God amidst his sin, and his assurance of who God is and the work that He does.

Be comforted. He hears you.

Out of the depths I cry to You, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchman for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with Him is p

Friday, May 17, 2013

Farther Along...

I just got finished watching the series finale of The Office. And I wept.

I literally sat there bawling like a baby. It was the end of a 9 season long era. As I sat there, I realized these tears- they go so much deeper than a silly show ending. That show is a fabricated view of reality, but something about it strikes the depths of my soul. At the core and foundation of who we are - image bearers of the King of Kings - we are created to worship. We are created to give all of who we are to something- to be a part of something great and grand. We are created to drink deeply of life, to know joy, to walk in love, to be known, to experience intimacy, to be invested in the lives and stories of others. 

The problem with all of this is sin. Sin came into the world in Genesis 3 and we see the order and beauty of creation destroyed. Since then, our world has been fractured with misplaced identity, an incorrect view of joy, unbalanced hope, unfulfilling "fulfillment", temporary sustainment, etc... Instead of finding our worth and value in our Creator, and who we are in Him (His image bearers), we look everywhere else.

So you have The Office. You watch these men and women grow in relationship, make memories, live see marriage, divorce, children, retirement, laughter, inside jokes, the beauty of normalcy. You see this community and this depth and to the core of who you are you scream "I WANT THAT!" We were created for that- but, in our broken state, we have an incorrect and misplaced view of what that is. 

We were created to experience that through intimacy with Christ.

2 Corinthians 5 talks about this incredible invitation that Christ extends to us, as His disciples. From the beginning of creation to the return of Christ, there is a magnificent story unfolding. The story of redemption and all things being made new. As believers, we have experienced that newness partially. We are saved from the depths of our sin and the wrath of God- but we are still awaiting the return of Jesus and the redemption of the universe. Until then, there IS a story unfolding. And we are invited in.

"From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."
2 Corinthians 5:16-21

For the believer in Christ, THIS is where hope, joy, and freedom comes. We are saved. Not only are we saved FROM something, but we are saved TO something- to something so great and so grand that we can't fully describe it. We are invited to be ambassadors; the representatives of our eternal Kingdom in the presence of the King of Kings. We are invited to preach the gospel, to invite others into the same hope we have in salvation, to extend the reconciliation of God. It is through this call and this invitation, that we can walk fully in the truth Jesus shared in John 10- He came to give life and give it abundantly. 

Through Jesus Christ, we can experience the fullness and beauty of marriage. Why? Because it's a depiction of Christ and His pursuit of His bride, the church. 

Through Jesus Christ, we can experience the fullness and beauty of children. Why? Because it's a depiction of the way our Father God loves and cares for His children. 

Through Jesus Christ, we can experience the fullness and beauty of friendship and community. Why? Because it's a depiction of the Trinity and the union the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have.

Through Jesus Christ, we can experience the fullness and beauty of work and labor. Why? Because it's a depiction of God's work of creation and it is good. (work was in the garden BEFORE sin!)

Through Jesus Christ, we can experience the fullness and beauty of life. Why? Because it's a depiction of God's unique design of creation. - Psalm 139.

There's a song by Josh Garrels that has always struck a deep chord in my heart. Listen to this and read the lyrics. "There's so much more to life than we've been told, and it's full of beauty that will unfold..." That beauty unfolding is through the work of Christ. There's nothing more beautiful. It's permeates to the core of our being and ignites a fire that nothing in this world can eliminate. So, that's why we press on. That's why we persevere. That's why we preach Jesus, love others, and wait expectantly for His return. We keep our eyes fixed on our home and the eternal weight of glory that awaits us. We hope in Christ- and it's a hope that will not, ever, put us to shame.

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9

Farther along we'll know all about it 
Farther along we'll understand why 
Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine 
We'll understand this, all by and by 

Tempted and tried, I wondered why 
The good man died, the bad man thrives 
And Jesus cries because he loves em' both 
We're all cast-aways in need of ropes 
Hangin' on by the last threads of our hope 
In a house of mirrors full of smoke 
Confusing illusions I've seen 

Where did I go wrong, I sang along 
To every chorus of the song 
That the devil wrote like a piper at the gates 
Leading mice and men down to their fate
But some will courageously escape 
The seductive voice with a heart of faith 
While walkin' that line back home 

There's so much more to life than we've been told 
It's full of beauty that will unfold 
And shine like you struck gold my wayward son 
That deadweight burden weighs a ton 
Go down into the river and let it run 
And wash away all the things you've done 
Forgiveness alright 


Still I get hard pressed on every side 
Between the rock and a compromise 
Like the truth and pack of lies fightin' for my soul 
And I've got no place left go 
Cause I got changed by what I've been shown 
More glory than the world has known 
Keeps me ramblin' on 

Skipping like a calf loosed from its stall 
I'm free to love once and for all 
And even when I fall I'll get back up 
For the joy that overflows my cup 
Heaven filled me with more than enough 
Broke down my levee and my bluff 
Let the flood wash me 

And one day when the sky rolls back on us 
Some rejoice and the others fuss 
Cause every knee must bow and tongue confess 
That the son of god is forever blessed 
His is the kingdom, we're the guests 
So put your voice up to the test 
Sing Lord, come soon