Category Archives: More of Christ

The Best Day Ever!

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Yesterday morning, I got up as I usually do, with a feeling of apprehension.  It was like there was like the word “SHOULD” stamped across the day that was to come.

And then I looked at Facebook.  A Facebook friend posted that her son, who is about 8 or 9, gets up every day and says, “Today is the best day ever!”

“Why is it the best day ever?” she asks him.  He answers by naming all of the things he is going to do that day, or that are going to happen.

This really convicted me.  Because I so rarely have that attitude.  Instead I have a heaviness.

So as I thought of this, I had my quiet time.  I was studying the chapter in my “Spiritual Discovery” book about motives and desires.  It asked, “Why do you do the things you do?”  I had to think about that for a bit.  I brainstormed and wrote down three top motivations:  to be productive, to not fail, and to be in control.  Basically,  I want to be secure.  I want to build this safe strong life where I am not vulnerable.

And then it seemed like the Spirit moved me to read about Jesus, and I read Luke 4 with the question in my heart: What was Jesus tempted to desire?

The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.Luke 4:3

Jesus was tempted to try and take care of his own needs, instead of trusting God to meet his needs.

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Luke 4:5

Jesus was tempted to fill his needs with the wrong things.

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.  For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Luke 4:9-11

Jesus was tempted to make something happen so he could be assured of his value to God.

These things really hit home with me.  In a nutshell, Jesus was tempted to satisfy his desires and needs himself, instead of trusting God to meet his needs.  That is what I’ve been struggling with.   I’ve been trying to satisfy my desire to be safe by spinning my wheels all day with productivity and trying to doing what I “should” do, instead of going to God to meet that need.

Seeing that was a breakthrough!  So yesterday, when I started feeling insecure and scared, I went to God and asked him to help me.  The hardest time was the afternoon.  As the day got later, I began to feel a slump in energy and motivation.  Usually this would be a real downer for me because I wouldn’t feel like I could perform the way I needed to.  If I was going to be with people, it would be hard to be giving.  I would just feel blah.  I would have to just keep pushing through somehow.

But this time I prayed, over and over, that God would give me some strength and joy in my heart.  As I was cleaning to get ready for House Church to be at my house, I started to sing spiritual songs.  The next thing I knew, I was feeling energized and excited as I sang.  Ken got home, and I was upbeat and positive.  People streamed in the door for house church, and I joked with them and enjoyed talking with them.  It was great.  I was thankful.

At the end of House Church, Mike closed out the lesson by saying something that was so God.  He said that as we study our Bibles and mature, each day can be the best day, because we see new things about God and this helps us to grow.

I started my day with hearing about each day being the best day, and I ended my day in the same way!

And it was the best day.  I learned something new about God.  I grew.

It wasn’t without struggles.  It didn’t go perfectly.  But I was able to go to God when I was lacking, instead of pumping myself up with thoughts that I SHOULD be able to handle the lack.

And God came through.  I had some great interactions with friends. Good things happened.

But I don’t want it to be about what happened.  Because even though God is giving to me over and over again, and I am soooooo thankful, I don’t want my happiness to depend on that.

I want each day to be the best day because I connect with God as the source. Because I drink the living water.  Because I am wonderfully filled by just being near to God.

Because HE meets my needs in a way I cannot.

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. Ps 73:28

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:19

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Filed under More of Christ, Things I Am Learning, Uncategorized

Remember the Lord

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”  “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel . . . “

What have we left?  Why did we do it?

We see our friends living the high life, going on extravagant vacations, buying fancy cars and houses.  We see them on the weekend, packing every minute with recreation, doing elaborate home fix up projects.  We see them taking high powered prestigious jobs.  We see their kids doing activities that cost as much monthly as a mortgage payment.

And we look at our lives, austere by comparison, and ask, “Why did we give up all that?”

Not to say that we don’t have some of those things at times.  But we’ve given up the pursuit of all that as a lifestyle.

And as Jesus says the reason is for HIM, and for the good news.

Are we still doing it for Jesus?

Here’s DeWayne, who just got baptized.

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When people shared about DeWayne, they talked about how he had fallen in love with Jesus.  That is what made him change.  And you could see the change.  You could see him more engaged, more joyful.

Do we remember every day to be motivated by our love for Jesus?

Because I can just go through the motions and forget how amazing Jesus is, how he has the answers, how I love the way he lived, how I am inspired by his heart of mercy and righteousness.

You know, when I shared the first part of this blog with Ken, he laughed, because it doesn’t really sound like we give that much up.  We still have so much.  But the early apostles really DID give everything up.  They left their homes, their families, their livelihoods.

Why?  When Jesus asked them, Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”  John 6:68-69

For the apostles, Jesus was what they’d been looking for all their lives.  It was worth EVERYTHING to them just to be able to be around him, watch him and learn from him.

And that should be true for me as well, but, strange as it may seem, I lose track of it in the midst of Bible study, church attendance and Christian deeds.

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.  John 5:39-40

I lose that heart pounding excitement, that exhilaration of following someone GOOD and TRUE and LOVING.

I need to remember this:

Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.  Phil 3:11

Knowing Christ eclipses all else.   How is it I get so caught up in Christian pursuits that I forget that he has to be at the center of each one of them?  That he gives the vibrancy to our walk?

I’ve been working on a thankful list for months.  So far I’ve thought of 900 GREAT things God has given me!

But I don’t think Jesus is on this written list.  Sure, I thank God for Jesus in prayer.  But why not WRITE down my thanks for Him as I count my blessings?

So that’s what I’m doing today.  Thank you, Jesus, for showing me how to love and how to live.  Thank you for caring for the lowliest individual.  Thank you for being righteous.  Thank you for being with me always.  Thank you for choosing me.

thank you Jesus

Do you know what happens when I do this?  Jesus gets bigger.

And it occurs to me that if our minds are consumed with worry, stress,  resentment, etc, maybe it’s because we haven’t remembered enough how amazing our Lord Christ is, how he cares, how nothing is impossible for him, and so on.

There’s this great scene at the end of the musical “Upside Down,” where Peter is desolate because the authorities have threatened to kill his wife, Abby, if he doesn’t denounce his faith.    But Abby sings an epic song, “Remember the Lord,” saying that it’s her faith too, she’s ready to die for Christ.  She reminds Peter over and over how awesome Jesus is.  And finally, Peter remembers, and joins her in triumphant song.

In essence, Abby is saying, “I’m willing to DIE, because I REMEMBER Jesus.

So back to the question, “Why do we do it?”

Because we remember Jesus.  We remember who he is.  We remember what he’s done for us.

We remember him and he is magnified and everything else is minimized.

And then it is worth it, whatever we’re going through, whatever we give up.

To whom should we go?  We can only go to Jesus.  He has the words of eternal life.  He is manna to our souls.

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Above All Else: For God’s Glory

WE ARE CREATED TO GLORIFY GOD, ever and ever to praise Him, the Alpha and Omega, the Almighty.  This is His just due, not because He is an egotist, but because it is the natural order that the one who made everything and has power over everything should be acknowledged accordingly.

Throughout history, God shaped a people who would reflect His holiness and bring Him glory.  They would be His treasure and delight.  Look at the verses below that chronicle this plan from God’s very heart:

  • Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.  Ex 19:5
  • But as for you, the LORD took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are. Deut 4:12
  • For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. Deut 7:6
  • Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth– every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.   Isa 43:6-7
  • They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God. Ez 37:23
  • Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word   Eph 5:26
  • who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good  Titus 2:14
  • But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  I Peter 2:9
  • In him we were also chosen, … in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. Eph 1:11-12;

But too often we treat God as impotent and uncaring.  We don’t think He will answer our prayers.  We don’t live bold lives.  Instead, we are swamped with discouragement.  We compromise.  We lose our dreams.

God’s name is to be exalted, not profaned or belittled.  He is to be honored as HOLY, POWERFUL AND FAITHFUL.  Through the ages, He has upheld His name, and we should do the same.

  • I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out Ez 20:14;
  • for the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another. Is 48:11;
  • But for the sake of my name, I brought them out of Egypt. I did it to keep my name from being profaned in the eyes of the nations among whom they lived Ez 20:9
  • I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the LORD am the Holy One in Israel. Ex 39:7
  • Tell Aaron and his sons to treat with respect the sacred offerings the Israelites consecrate to me, so they will not profane my holy name. I am the LORD. Lev 22:2
  • But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’
  • And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  Heb 11:6

I am posting a picture from a church wedding I recently attended.  Look how everyone is celebrating!  Our hearts were bursting with joy and praise for God.  He worked powerfully to save and to bless abundantly, to give hope.

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On Friday night I went to a Bible talk and we talked about the parable of the unmerciful servant. (Luke 18)  I thought one reason the servant didn’t forgive his fellow servant was that he took for granted the amazing mercy he had been shown when his own debt had been forgiven.

Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.  At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.  Matt 18:25-27

We have been given so much.   We should be filled with joy, live lives of celebration, constantly giving glory to God and Christ.  We have a wonderful merciful savior.  He is faithful to us, His treasured possession.  We must honor HIS HOLINESS AND HIS NAME by living powerful, effective lives that DELIGHT in Him.  Amen.

 

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Deuteronomy, Faith, Favorite, Glory Above All, Having the Right Heart, Holiness, More of Christ

Don’t Pray for Blessings!

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To start off, I got the idea for this blog from another blog.  I read it and then went on my way.  Yet as time went on, I kept thinking of it, and it made such an impact that I wanted to communicate its main ideas.  I tried to find the blog to give it credit, but couldn’t.

Here is what the blog said:  Don’t pray for blessings.

We Christians have a habit of defining life in terms of our “blessings.”  We say our material possessions are blessings.  “God blessed me with such a nice house, car, etc.”  We say the good things that happen to us are blessings.  We name our friends and family as blessings.

And, don’t get me wrong, all of these things ARE blessings.  “Every good and perfect gift is from above.”  (James 1:17)

But labeling things as a blessing can lead to a mentality where our happiness is MEASURED by what we have, and what goes right.

If things work out, we are happy.  After all, we are blessed!  But then what do we think when things go wrong?

If we are studying the Bible with people and they decide to make Jesus Lord, we’re happy.  When we see the church assembly full of fired up people we’re happy.  But what about when people get weak, or leave?  It can be so discouraging.

Of course, if we care about people, we are going to feel emotional when they struggle.  “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.”  (I Cor 12:26)

But we we need to have a joy that transcends our “blessings.”  We need to have a deep and abiding joy that comes solely from Christ.

Instead of filling our prayer time with so many petitions, we need to pray to have MORE OF CHRIST.     Pray for God’s will to be done, and let this will be our food, as Jesus did in John 4:34.  Pray to know God’s love better, as Paul prayed in Phil 1:9 and Eph 3:17-19.

I mean, just look at the Ephesians 3 prayer: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

We get COMPLETELY FILLED with God when we understand the love of Christ.  And I think that is what leads to the next statement in Ephesians 3, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

I think God does immeasurably more, not with life circumstances, as much as with our INNER TRANSFORMATION.  God does immeasurably more by helping us understand his love, and filling us completely.  We overflow with, as Peter put it, an inexpressible and glorious joy:

  • “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  I Peter 1:9

God works incredibly in our hearts, giving us inner security where we were insecure, giving us confident where we were fearful.  Our weaknesses are turned into strengths. We are freed from the fruitless pursuit of trying to meet our own needs, and finally trust that He who loves us will take care of us.  A vibrant joy in our souls can keep growing and growing.

In my house, I try to always keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the table.  It symbolizes abundance to me.  As I look around, I see that I surround myself with the comfort and affirmation that I am blessed.  I see the cat curled up on the couch.  My grandmother’s quilt on the rack in the bedroom.  Pictures from vacations in the guest room.  Shells from the beach on my dresser.  Pictures of the kids on the occasional table.  Decorative pieces from loved ones on walls and shelves.

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But this mentality is only good if everything is in order.  It requires me constantly having to straighten up and clean.  Somehow my symbols of abundance aren’t as powerful when they’re surrounded by mess!

It’s just one more reminder that I cannot let my blessings dictate the level of my joy.

Okay, I know the title of this blog went a bit overboard.  There are many good “blessings” we should pray for.  There are circumstances that need to change.  People who have needs.

And we do need to be thankful.  Gratitude is POWERFUL!  I am keeping a list of things I am thankful for, and I am up to about 400 things on that list so far. It is so helpful to focus my mind on the positive instead of the negative.

But I want something more.  I want something deeper.  I am not entirely sure how to get it, but this has been my prayer —  that God will show me how to have an all sufficient joy that is based on Him, that my happiness will not be based on physical blessings, but on spiritual ones.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”  Eph 1:3

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Addicted to Affirmation

pat on back

I am doing battle with my need for affirmation.

At heart, I am insecure.  It is something I have wrestled with all my life.  I have had many victories.  But lately I have noticed it manifesting in the form of jealousy and envy.  When someone else accomplishes something, I feel that stab in my gut.  I want that recognition.  I have been longing to have a job that gives me tangible evidence that I am worthwhile.

What a wretched thing it is to always have that knee-jerk reaction of envy, the huge hunger in my soul for something else.

So I started to get serious about addressing this, and what I realized is that I need to deepen my emotional connection with God, to rediscover my hunger for Him and only Him.

I read two statements that hit home with me.  Both are from “Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer” by John Piper.

  • “The weakness of our desire for God is not because he is unsavory but because we keep ourselves stuffed with “other things.” 
  • “It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. “

I have been filling myself with so much stuff, that I have lost touch with that vibrant, fulfilling communion with the Lord.  One of the chief culprits is the Internet.  How easy it is to while away free time on Facebook, or random web sites.  Another culprit is filling my life with business.  I love to complete tasks, because I can pat myself on the back about how much I’ve accomplished.  And finally, I have realized that I am too undisciplined with my mind.  Being unemployed encourages my mental ADD.  I surf through it all day, going wherever my thoughts lead me.  Sure, I don’t let them dwell on sinful desires.  But I allow all kinds of mundane stuff consume my thoughts.

  • . . .  but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.  (Mark 4:19)

What I need, instead, is this:

You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water. . .
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods  (Ps 63)

I need to connect with the sacredness of the universe, to see the poetry in the divine, to experience the fountain of beauty that is my infinite God.

  • One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.  Ps 27:4

Let me remember that Christ is the best and ONLY treasure:

  • “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ . . ”

It is a good battle.  I have been playing the guitar and singing more.  I have been constantly running through the scriptures I have memorized in my mind. I have been making conscious attempts to be in sync with God, and carry on a little dialog with Him on how it is going.   All of this is opening for me a fountain of inspiration.  I feel like I could write 50 blogs a day.

I have been learning to be more thankful, and to praise more, and it reminds me that we were all created to praise.  May every particle of my being join with all of creation in worshiping the Creator.  This is living out my purpose, and it is highly fulfilling.

Sunday, Jake preached about true freedom.  I do want true freedom from the leprosy of pride, jealousy, envy and insecurity.  As I am building my appetite for God, and my hunger for affirmation wanes, I find there is so much more room for God in my heart, so much more to discover about Him, so many good things to fill myself with.  It is true: as I hold to the teachings, the truth sets me free.  Scenes of bliss forever new are my food now.  Communion with Him is the peace that quenches my thirsty soul.

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.  Ps 36:7-8

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking (filling our needs), but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit  Romans 14:17

. . . whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  John 4:14


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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, More of Christ