Passionate Waiting

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~ I am an insanely introverted person.

I would rather organize my closet than go to the mall.

Or go for a hike alone in the woods than spend a day surrounded by people.

Or sit and have a cup of coffee with a friend or two, sharing our struggles and triumphs and passions in our walks with the Lord, than go to a bible study and be surrounded by other believers.

Or snuggle up in my jammies on a Sunday morning and watch my church service online than sit in a room full of acquaintances.

I am better at expressing myself with a pencil and paper then with vocal words.

~ But for reasons I have yet to understand, the Lord has given me a passion that is disturbingly extroverted.

He has given me a hunger to shake up the church and remind her what her Beloved created her to be.

To see unity forge her bond between every denomination.

To see lovers of Christ ignited with a fire for Him and cease their petty arguments and assumptions and segregations and show this world what Christ’s heart really looks like.

To see the church emerge from inside the four walls of the buildings they occupy and flood this ever darkening world with light.

I want to see every corner and nook and cranny of this earth. I want to see every need that hasn’t been met and look into the eyes of every hungry child and hold the hand of every grieving woman and shake the hand of every man who struggles daily to meet the needs of those who depend on him, and I want tell them about my Savior. I want to put a roof over the heads of the homeless and make sure the hungry have a place to go.

~ But, here’s the thing that stumps me… the thing that makes me stop and say, “Girl, you must be out of your mind to think this is ever going to happen, or that the Lord would call YOU to this.”

I cannot figure out, in my rational mind, how this is EVER going to happen.

I’m a massage therapist. I have a few hundred dollars in a savings account. I see no doors opening. I have no clear direction. I live with my parents. I’m single. I have no connections. I just moved to this new state and know so few people. I work two jobs that require all of my time.

It doesn’t make sense.

I can see where I am right now, and I can see what my heart is on fire for, but I have no idea how the Lord is going to bring any of this about.

~ “I will make a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 48:19b

But here’s the thoughts that keep resonating with me, that play over and over when the doubts creep in; it doesn’t need to make sense. If it did, would we need faith? Would we ever know, without a moments doubt, that we serve a God of the impossible? Would we be passionate and on fire for a God who only used people who “made sense”? Would this life of adventure and purpose He has in store for us actually be adventurous and purpose filled? Would we ever get to experience the excitement of knowing He is working and fighting for us? Would we ever truly be able to say we desperately longed for and needed grace through the waiting? Would we get to feel that peace that passes all understanding, that peace that swoops in and floods you with so much joy it exchanges tears for rejoicing?

“Thus says the Lord, the Holy One who formed him: ‘Ask me of things to come; will you command me concerning my children and the works of my hands? I made the earth and created man on it: it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I command all their host. I have stirred him up in righteousness, and I will make all his ways level; he shall build my city and set all my exiles free, not for price or reward,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 45:11-13

~ We worship a God who made the dead rise.

Who walked on water.

Who parted the Red Sea.

Who made an evangelist out of a murderer.

Who fought for thousands of years for the hearts of the Israelites.

We serve a Creator who designed every human feature and carefully graphed every leaf and lovingly planted every flower and tree and orchestrated every sunset and sunrise.

~ Habakkuk 2:20 says, “But the Lord is in His holy Temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.”

He’s got this.

“I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’… Isaiah 46:9b-10

There is so much to learn in the waiting. So much excitement to see what the Lord is going to do. So much Passion in purpose.

“How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.'” Isaiah 52:7

If we aren’t living this life for His glory, we aren’t walking in our purpose. And when we have no purpose, we become lonely, depressed souls that wander through this life struggling to find meaning and a sense of belonging.

“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:10-11 

Be passionate about your purpose, even if it makes no sense. Be joyful in the waiting, knowing that you are growing and learning and your trust in His plan and His timing are being stretched and molded. Be vigilant in praying, knowing that He delights in giving us the desires of our hearts, especially when we have allowed Him to mold those desires to mirror His heart.

“The former things I declared of old; they went out from my mouth, and I announced them; then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass. Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass, I declared them to you from of old, before they came to pass I announced then to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol did them…’ You have heard; now you see all this; and will you not declare it? From this time forth I announce to you new things, hidden things you have not known. They are created now, not long ago; before today you have never heard of them, lest you should say, ‘Behold, I know them.’ You have never heard, you have never known, from old your ear has not been opened.” Isaiah 48:3-8

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The Transforming Of My Heart

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Why do you want a relationship?

What do you think it was created for?

 I can tell you why my heart yearned for it years ago. I was looking for my identity. Searching for my worth, not only in the eyes of a man but in the eyes of the church as well.

When did we stop encouraging young people to pursue the heart of Christ and start encouraging them to pray about who the Lord had for them? Because let me tell you what, that leads young, immature people who are already insecure in who they are as people and in their relationship with Christ down a rocky and misguided road.

And it was EVERYWHERE. Looking back, I feel like ‘pray about who your husband will be’ was more gospel then the gospel itself. Somehow, marriage became more of a spiritual victory, like if you are granted a spouse; you have somehow attained a level of spiritual maturity the rest of us are still grappling for. Married individuals who LOVE sharing their “let me tell you how the Lord brought us together” story would say things like “the Lord is still working things out in you and/or your significant other” as ‘encouragement’ for the trial that is singleness. Really? No… just, no. We are not defective. Being single does not make you less and it doesn’t mean that one day you are going to marry a pot smoking drug dealer who is still too busy getting high to pay attention to the Lord’s tugging at his heart.

 It became hard for me to keep getting older while watching others much younger get married and have babies. That “why not me?” thought echoed like a loud Metallica song that screams on and on and NEVER ENDS. See, I totally bought into all those poorly placed comments and thoughtless suggestions.

What do I have to do to be worthy of this elusive relationship?

These thoughts that turned over and over in my head began to weigh on me. They robbed me of my joy and rocked my peace.

I felt worthless. After all, that’s the message that had subtly been preached since I was a child. That was the message in all those poorly placed comments by well-meaning people.

So I began to pray. Not for a husband or understanding or what I needed to change to be worthy of such an honor as marriage. I begged the Lord for contentment. I pleaded for it. Got down on my knees and cried for it. Day after day, month after month, that prayer was like a recording I recited over and over throughout my days. I was so tired of being plagued by my desires and so hungry for contentment.  And then one day, I realized I had stopped praying for contentment. And even more amazingly, I realized I was content. My heart was burdened by my desires and a new fire was burning in me. There was so much joy in that moment. So much hope. I remember how overwhelmed my heart was at the quiet faithfulness of Christ.

But that wasn’t the end of the journey He was taking my heart on.

Gently the whole makeup of my heart began to change. The more I saw the heart of Christ, the more my heart was transformed (and still is by the grace of God).

I no longer desired a husband, someone to hold my hand and walk through life with me and tell me I’m beautiful and encourage me and be encouraged by me. The desire to live in a cute house with a handful of kids and a life full of fellowship and happiness started to taste like sour milk in my mouth.

My obsession became revival. My passion became the church. Not my personal church, not the system that is called ‘church’ today. But the body of Christ, the vision God lit in the heart of the Apostle Paul.

My dreams and desires were radically transformed. My vision for my life of purpose collided with Christ’s purpose for my life. I always thought they were one and the same, you know? Get married to a good Christian guy, have babies, serving in the church, being a light in the working field, raising my kids to love Jesus. Now, please understand I’m not diminishing any of those things. They are all beautiful and important and needed. But Christ’s plan and purpose is so much more than that.

When I think about marriage, it no longer has anything to do with me. When I think about what I would want out of a marriage, it has nothing to do with me.

God created it to be about Him. His glory, His plan, His kingdom. Not our worth in anyone’s eyes. Our lives were created for so much more then marriage. And if that’s not where you are right now, you’re just wasting time obsessing over a fleshly thing instead of pursuing God’s purpose for His kingdom.

I’ve watch this pursuit destroy people, this need to be with someone. I’ve read the Facebook statuses and watched friends go in and out of relationships and I’ve seen lives shipwrecked over this drive to love and be loved.

Please don’t think I’m dismissing marriage. I think there are aspects of God’s love we can only experience in marriage, and I think He created it to be a huge witness for His glory.

My issue isn’t with marriage. It’s with the mindset behind it. My best advice, the counsel I wished I had received as a young girl wading through the confusions that can lie in our pursuing of God’s heart,  is to STOP. Stop praying about who your husband will be or begging God to bring you one or constantly trying to manipulate your life trying to bring it about because you want it.

Start begging God for contentment. Beg Him for the insight to know what His heart is toward marriage and what He created it for.

Do you want to get married so you can have the security of knowing someone wanted to be with you, that God has ‘deemed you worthy’ of such an honor and you get to rise through the ranks in the eyes of those around you?

Or do you want every single breath you breathe to bring God glory, do you want to move mountains in His name and shake lives up with His truth, and maybe, if the time comes when you will be a better witness with another serving at your side, who’s heart is passionate about winning souls for the kingdom of Christ, will you want it because it’s still all about Him?

Search your heart, know His truth and desire for your heart. Be passionate about Jesus. Beg the Lord for a passion for Him and only Him and let yourself be so captivated by His heart that every other desire melts away until He writes it into your ceaseless pursuit of His purpose.

Redemption’s Secret

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A broken heart can rend you.

It can take the carefully knit fabric of your entire being that was sewn together so beautifully and turn it into anger and grief… resentment and confusion… bitterness and hate.

We have all been there at some point. The story of our lives has so many plot twists and cliff hangers and it’s laced with brokenness and redemption. Failures and forgiveness. Mystery and adventure.

But the real meat, the heart of our story, is found in our brokenness.

We can’t grow unless we have been broken. Our character won’t stand up and proclaim the glory of God unless we have fallen and failed.

The reason there is so much beauty in our brokenness is because that is where our redemption lies.

Such an underrated thing for us, I think.

Instead of wanting Christ to redeem us and heal us in the midst of our brokenness and give it purpose, we wallow in confusion and entitlement and misery. We want to understand why this broken heart had to happen. How a God who loves us could allow such a deep, penetrating and persistent wound to invade a heart we’ve tried so desperately to protect and cherish.

I’m very much an “all or nothing” kinda girl. Being so has its pros and cons. When I love, it’s with ever fiber of my being. So when that is betrayed, I’m shattered. Honestly, I’d gotten so used to seeing myself as shattered, that I never even realized that I’d been healed, my heart completely redeemed.

Years ago, my heart was broken. More intensely and completely then any brokenness I’d ever known. My brokenness led me down a road that wrought destruction and death and even more brokenness.

And in the midst of my destruction, my heart began to change. I hungered after light. I hungered after healing. I hungered after righteousness. I hungered after God.

I had no idea how vehemently my Savior was pursuing my heart. How relentlessly He was alluring my heart.

 “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Weeping a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. In that day,”        declares the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ I will remove the names of the Idols from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked. I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD. I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.'” Hosea 2:14-23

 

It was then that my healing could start. I stopped running from it. I stopped fighting it. I just felt it. I cried, I prayed, I grieved, I prayed, I overanalyzed every detail of it, and I prayed some more.

I did this for years. Not days, not months… years.

I stopped believing I would ever be healed, that my heart would ever be whole again, but still kept praying for it regardless.

And here is where the awesomeness and grace of God is so astounding to me; in the quietness of God’s mercy I was healed and didn’t even know.

Sounds crazy, right?

How could I pray for something so adamantly yet not realize I’d been healed?

Slowly, without my even realizing it was happening, the pain left my eyes and the sting of betrayal left my mind and all those wounds that were dripping blood began to scar and healing took place.

Joy replaced that ting of sadness that always seemed to hang mercilessly over my weary head and I was excited about what the adventure of my life had in store for me.

In every heartache God has a purpose. He will shape our character with it and make it a testament for His glory. We may not understand today or tomorrow why it happened, that answer may never be known while are feet still rest on this earth.

But He is faithful to redeem us. To do the impossible and restore every piece of our heart to be lovingly sculpted back into the masterpiece He has created us to be.

Let Him do His work.

Let Him allure you.

Let Him pursue you.

Let Him heal you in His time.

Let Him teach you through it.

Surrender to the knowledge that we don’t need to understand why it happened, but understand that it’s all for His glory.

If my heart break screams Christ’s grace, then please God let it be broken again and again for Your Kingdom’s sake.

 

 

 

Occupy new space.

Amazing… Encouraging… Just what I needed to hear.

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“Andy Jacobs,” I muttered beneath my breath as my hands curled up into fists at my sides.

I was standing in the center of what was once my living room, surrounded by black trash bags and packed boxes. I was wearing a bright yellow dress that made my mama tell me, “You’ve never looked more beautiful than this moment.” 

It was the only thing I could think to say when my roommate poked her head out from the refrigerator and asked me if I wanted to keep the kettle. Otherwise, she would throw it out. Just a few days earlier, this had been our apartment. It’d been home to us. Memories were taped up on the doors. The ceremony was over. I had ten minutes to gather the rest of my stuff. My mother told me my relatives were waiting to celebrate my graduation nearly 45-minutes away. I told her I…

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Is There Power In Our Pain?

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~ I think one of the biggest diseases in the heart of people today is that we love to hurt. Pain becomes a platform for attention and a sense of entitlement sweeps in on her broomstick and invades our lives and relationships and jobs and our spiritual walk.

~ Have you ever had someone in your life that felt like what they have been through is so beyond anything you could ever understand that they back away from a cherished friendship? I have.

~ Have you ever had someone in your life that constantly compared your hurts and struggles to theirs, making you feel inferior and less, like you have no right to express or feel the pain you’re in? I have.

~ Have you ever had someone in your life that NEEDS to be better than you? Better grades, better family, more attention, more beautiful, more qualified, yet uses the “tragedy” that is their life as a means for attention, recognition and admiration? I have.

~ Have you ever had someone in your life that holds you to a double standard? That the same behavior they accuse you of is something they practice daily? I have.

~ I could go on and on with this list.

~ We are all failable people, all desperately in need of a Savior, some searching to find Him in all the wrong things, some have been found by His amazing grace and are searching to know Him more and make Him known.

~ Is there a line where we can say, as lovers of Christ, enough is enough?

~ When Proverbs 4:23 warns us to protect our hearts, the writer wasn’t just filling in space. And I believe with all my heart that those words are far more complex than we assume they are.

~ I hate the thought of hurting people. I will allow my heart to take an emotional beating before I will speak up or start building walls. I want to be a wellspring of kindness and encouragement that people can draw from. But there comes a point where kindness can cripple us, and we are doing someone more harm than good by our silence and desperate attempts to let it ‘role off our back’.

~ Entitlement is such an ugly thing, and we have all walked in it to some extent. Job had a sense of entitlement. He went back and forth between begging for death because of all he had been through, and proclaiming he was better than his friends and without sin, even blaming God in his self righteousness. Yet God still called him blameless, a man of integrity. That’s how awesome our God is, guys. He sees the ugliness that sometimes we don’t even see and He calls us worthy, cherished, set apart, blameless, holy, men and women of purpose, value and integrity. And He calls us on our crap. My favorite part of the tragedy that is the book of Job is when the Lord called him out, tells him he is going to stand up, take it like a man and God held him accountable. Please note that God never looks at Job and says “Well, I guess I was wrong about the whole ‘being blameless’ thing. You’re a train wreck.” His worth never changed in the Lords eyes. His value wasn’t diminished and he was still a righteous man of integrity.

~ Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is speak up for ourselves. Now, I know there are plenty of people that have no problem doing this, but is it being done in a way that leads to repentance or resentment?

~ Our hearts should be to let even the tough moments be an example of the grace of our Father, His insane mercy and unending, passionate, ever pursuing love.

~ I’m still not entirely sure how to do this myself. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the truth that kindness sometimes requires you to become uncomfortable, become confrontational, and to speak up for your heart and the heart of your friend/loved one/significant other. But I do believe that, in His grace, He will give us the words to say, the wisdom when to say them, and a heart of compassion and love that will point directly to the throne of our Savior.

~ The question now is, are we willing to lay down our pride and own sense of entitlement we wear like a shield when we have been wounded, and show a small aspect of the breathtaking character of Christ to those in our life that require a tough dose of kindness and love?

~ Know that every person you meet, every situation you face, every road you walk down, every door that has been opened or closed, every heartbreak, every situation that requires more of you than you have to give is another way for God to work in and through you, strengthen you in the knowledge of your weakness, mold you into His image, comfort you with His love, and make you a better version of yourself than you were before.

~ Why would we want to use these things to elevate ourselves in a shallow pursuit of human recognition and revel in what we’ve been through when we have the beautiful opportunity to elevate our Savior because of what He has brought us through?

Is The Pleasure Worth The Pain?

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~   For the last few days there has been an uneasiness that has plagued me.

~   A feeling deep in my heart telling me something just isn’t right and things aren’t as they should be.

~   A feeling I know so well.

~   It’s a feeling I have had ever since I was a child.

~   One that warned me that I’ve done something wrong and punishment was headed my way.

~   One that has pleaded with me to turn in the opposite direction because I was headed straight for heartache.

~   One that I have felt every time I have watched someone I love and want the best for walk in a way that leads to destruction.

~   I have a front row seat to that right now. I am watching someone I love make choices that will lead to death, not life. I am watching this person I love pull others down this path of death alongside them.

~   It is utterly unbearable for me.

~   I feel as if the words I should say are fighting to break free from my tightly concealed lips.

~   What is the right thing to say when someone is making a conscious choice to walk in a way that totally contradicts God’s character and His heart? What do you say to someone who claims to want to walk in the fullness of God’s love but they know what they are doing is wrong and selfish and will only bring forth a separation from the Father?

~   I’ve been praying about this for days. Is this a time to be silent or a time to speak up? Does my silence condone the sin?

~   It hurts my heart to see people choose to indulge in the pleasures of this world instead of indulging in the pleasures of our awesome Warrior God. It frustrates me that there are no words that I can say to change the hearts and minds of people around me. I don’t speak from judgment or condemnation, but from a heart that has known the pain of separation from my God because I chose my flesh over my Fathers plan for me. During that time, I searched for happiness and found depravity. I searched for acceptance and found rejection. I searched for love and got a cheap imitation that left me empty, broken and thirsty for the real thing.

~   I wish I could adequately describe the joy I have found in contentment. I wish I could describe how it feels to be secure in my Saviors love and see my worth through His gracious eyes for the first time in my life. I wish I could explain what if feels like to know that my whole heart, all my hopes and dreams, my present and future battles, my insecurities and my imperfections, are all in the hands of the Lover of my soul.

~   We so quickly forget who the Author of our worth is. We search for it in relationships and friendships and careers and social status, but that will never make us worthy. In fact, all of those things will make us feel worthless eventually. We run after things that we think will fill that void that has been left by a past shattered by abuse, or a heart that has been used and beaten and broken by someone who claimed love for us, or by parents who neglected to see our worth, or by a church filled with people who turned a blind eye to see our pain. We fill it with one pointless sin after another. Maybe it’s a new relationship and you think to yourself, “Finally! Finally I have found someone who loves me and wants me for who I am”. Maybe it’s a new career with the promise of a luxurious lifestyle and the respect you believe you’re due. Maybe its drugs or sex or alcohol, where you can lose yourself for just a little while and forget all the heartache you have endured.

~   Emptiness, all of it.

~   Most of these things aren’t bad things. In fact, most are things God created to bless us and sharpen us and help us to grow in His love. But a good thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing. And even worse, we have taken a precious gift, cheapened it and made it a sinful thing that hurts the heart of our Beloved.

~   I don’t know what to say to my loved one. But I do know this; my beautiful Savior is the only one who will bring you joy. He is the only one who will love you unconditionally. He is the only one who sees every single scar, every single tear you have ever cried, every hurt, every betrayal, every happy moment, every blessing bestowed upon you by His unfailing grace. He calls us His beloved and pursues us with a relentless ferocity that overwhelms my heart and sweeps the romantic inside me off my feet. Please fight. Please know that whatever you are looking for will only bring about death if you do it outside of His perfect will. Please know that His will far exceeds what your eyes tell you are good or your fickle heart tells you will make you worthy. Please, don’t be ruled by your desires, but let the Ruler of heaven and earth be your desire and hope in the desires He has given you, desires He will bring about in His time and in a way that will bring honor and glory to Him. And please, PLEASE, know your enemy! Know that he wants nothing more than to separate you from the Father and he will use anything to do just that. Our enemy will present us with the desires of our hearts to lure us away from the shelter of our Fathers arms. Don’t ever forget Satan knows our weaknesses, and he will use them to cripple us. That’s why I will say again and again and again, lay your desires at Jesus’ feet and let Him bring them to pass WHEN IT’S RIGHT. Not when it feels right or the opportunity presents itself or when it makes you feel happy and loved and secure.

~   Please, choose life. Choose to be filled with His love, with His words, with His praise. Please, run hard after contentment and joy. Please, pray for wisdom and become so familiar with God’s word that you know the truth and can fight the manipulations of the enemy.

~   I beg you to apply this to your life. I beg you as a sister in the Lord, a sister who has been where death and depravity lie and wants so much more for you all. A sister who longs to see people strengthen themselves in God’s love and be a mighty force for His kingdom. A sister who faces this same battle, day in and day out. I know what I’m asking isn’t easy. It will require everything you have, and more. So ask yourself this, do I want to be used for good and be a light that shines so brightly for the King that people are drawn to His grace through me, or do I want momentary happiness that will only be a cheap imitation of love that will leave me feeling empty, worthless and devoid of value?

~   Whatever you decide, know that He loves you regardless. And He will pursue you to the ends of the earth because that is who He is. He will win your heart back if you choose to give it away in vein. And, if you let Him, He will love you so completely, so passionately, so fully, so relentlessly, no other earthy thing will ever compare to the magnitude of our romantic Warrior King.

Delighting In Our King

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Psalm 37:3-5 “Trust in the Lord, and do good: dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.”

~   The Lord has woven these verses intricately into every fiber of my unpredictable journey. Don’t we all have one of these verses, one that breathes life back into doubting hearts?  Whenever uncertainties about my future cloud the fragile corners of my wandering thoughts, this verse shows up in a teaching or a conversation with a friend. When I’m struggling with those situations in my life that seem to hang in limbo and I don’t know what the Lord is going to do or even how He would have me to deal with them, I see it written on a coffee mug or catch a glimpse of it on the TV screen. When I’m at my end and feel as though I’ve been completely emptied, I hear it on the radio or read it in a book. He brings this verse before my eyes when I least expect it and it fills me with hope and renews my failing spirit. 

                                                     “Feed on His faithfulness”

~   There is something so comforting in these words. He is asking us simply to be still and rest, watching Him come through for us. We think of being faithful in more shallow terms, I think. We think of it as being committed and not straying in a romantic relationship or having a friend’s back in a complicated situation. Because we base so much of our lives on ‘feelings’ and judge our situations the same way, we become quick to doubt God’s faithfulness. We fail to see the immensity of what true faithfulness is and how often He comes through for us without us even realizing He was at work. It is literally who He is, not just an aspect of His character. 11 Timothy 2:13 says “If we are faithless, He remains faithful-for He cannot deny Himself.” His commitment to us isn’t dependent on what we bring to the table (because lets be real, we have nothing of worth outside of Him). He is or Knight in Shining Armor, our Warrior, and the Lover of our soul. He is fighting for us and going before us and interceding for us. He is faithful to close doors that will take us down paths that will harm us and gently direct our unsteady steps on this uphill journey we are all struggling though together. These few words remind me that, even if I can’t see Him moving, He is hard at work keeping His promise to supply all my needs according to His good grace and all I need do is rest in His strong arms.

                                                    “Delight yourself in the Lord”

~   Sometimes I tend to skip over this profound statement and go right to “and He shall give you the desires of your heart”. I mean, we all want that, right? We want God to give us everything our desperately wicked heart yearns for. But, if we neglect to fully understand and really learn how to apply those first 5 seemingly insignificant words, we are never going to understand how much God really wants to give us.

~   To delight means to be enchanted with, captivated by, find joy in, take pleasure in, be entranced by, ect. Can we honestly say this is how we feel about our Savior? Are we so captivated by Him we think about Him for hours and crave time in His presence? Are we enchanted by the beauty of His character and strength of His love?

~   So many times I’ve gotten tripped up by trying to figure out how to delight myself in the Lord. It’s easy to talk about the importance of it, but not so easy trying to understand it and live it out. It often seems like a cruel riddle we will forever be trying to understand but never quite attaining the answer to. One of my closest friends and I have hashed this one out several times. One night, she texted me and shared a verse with me, and this verse was the key to our deep musings. Isaiah 58:13b-14 “Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly. Then the Lord will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor, Jacob. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

~   To truly delight in Him, He only asks three things of us…

~   1. To take a day to celebrate Him and take rest in Him. We make light of this day so often, we forget how important it is to our Savior. Over and over in the Bible He asks that His people just give Him that one day, one day to be refreshed and filled up, one day to sit quietly and listen, one day to get lost in praise to the Father, one day to fellowship with other believers. The Lord puts great weight in this because He knows how badly we need to be encouraged and renewed. We somehow have adapted this mindset that is if we aren’t constantly on go, if we aren’t constantly stressed out by the plethora of demands we have allowed to be placed on us, we are in some way failing. Please rest. Please let Him breathe life back into your weary heart. All He asks is for one day.

~   2. Don’t follow after our own desires. I love that He didn’t say don’t have desires, He says don’t follow after our own desires. It’s not wrong to have hopes and dreams, it’s what we do with them that define whether or not we make them an idol that causes us to stumble or whether we bring them to our Perfect Provision and leave them in His capable hands. His hopes and dreams for us are so much grander than our fleshly minds can imagine. The desires I had as a child and teenager are still there. I still hope the Lord has written them into the poem of my life. But I no longer seek them out in my own strength. Please believe me when I say that giving them into His compassionate hands takes this weight off you and allows you to see things through refined eyes. Letting the Author of creation hold the pen that lovingly composes the sonata in which your life plays out is beautiful. I know what I’m asking isn’t’t easy. Giving up control is one of the hardest things to do. I’m sure your thinking, ‘how the heck do I just let go of the desires that I’ve held on to so tightly?” that’s the question we all ask when confronted with this arduous task. I can’t give you a step by step instructional on how to do this, but I can share with you my own battle. The things I did (and still do) were very simple really. I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. I also removed whatever I needed to that cause me to stumble and fall back into making this an idol in my life. I seek encouragement from godly friends when I’m feeling weak and need to be reminded of why I’m in this battle. I ask the Lord to renew my heart, to make me a force to be reckoned with for His kingdom and grace to continually bring my heart’s desires to Him and not search it out in my own strength.

~   3. Don’t talk idly. Oh boy. This one is just as tough as not following our own desires. Idly means ‘with no particular purpose, reason or foundation’. Our words should mean something. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness. No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity. They hatch adders’ eggs; they weave the spider’s web; he who eats their eggs dies, and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched.” Isaiah 59:1-5. Our words are taken so seriously by our Savior. Especially because we are His representation to the nations. If people were to answer honestly, would they say that you are an encouraging person, always edifying and lifting others up? Would they say your words are laced with kindness and sincerity? Would they say your words are vulgar and occasionally offensive? Would they say they are hurtful and abusing? We need to ask ourselves these questions and guard the words coming out of our mouth like the souls of those around us depend on it.

                                                    “Trust in the Lord”… “trust also in Him”

~   This is said at the beginning of verse three and the end of verse five. I think this is something the author knew would need to be constantly repeated because of how very hard it is for us to trust. Most of us have lived enough life to have become very guarded and distrusting, and I have seen in my own life how often that carries over into my relationship with the Lord. Trusting in God is our anchor. When we trust Him, our faith doesn’t get rocked easily. When we trust Him, we can hope in His promises. When we trust Him, we can see the wonder of His faithfulness. When we trust Him, we get to rest in His peace. This word that we often don’t take time to really think about in regards to our relationship with our Father is the key to our growth, our contentment, our understanding, our ability to stand on His promises and be bathed in His mercy and grace.  Isaiah 26:3 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”

~   These scriptures are so full of life and knowledge and encouragement for me. The words so thoughtfully written flood my weary heart with conviction and hope and truth and grace and love. The beauty of its simplicity and the weight of its complexity lead me to the foot of the cross where I receive healing and restoration and an overabundance of mercy that He gives unreservedly to His beloved.

The Beauty Of A Psalms Prayer

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~  Growing up, one of my biggest giants as an insecure young Christian girl was being so unsure of how to pray. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? I mean, who doesn’t know how to pray, right? Well, I didn’t. I was so afraid of being a Christian “wrong”, I always wanted someone to break down the simplest of things and thoroughly explain to me how it’s supposed to be done biblically. (This either sounds incredible ridiculous to you, or you completely understand where I’m coming from.)  During a women’s conference one beautiful weekend when I was 16 years old, I was finally granted my wish. A wonderful, beautiful lady whom I’ve always admired was teaching on the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6. I wrote down every word she said, soaking it up like a thirsty sponge. I remember she said we need to organize our prayer time just like Christ did. First, you take time to praise the Lord. Then you move on to personal requests, go through the people you wanted to pray for and so on and so forth. I went home and put that into practice, thinking that finally I was going to be the prayer warrior I always wanted to be. But still my prayer time always felt so wooden and disingenuous, and I honestly hated ‘prayer time’. Prayer was something I did because I HAD to, not because I WANTED to. It all just seemed like an act in this system of prayer I followed.

~  About a year and a half ago, I started reading through Psalms. It had been almost 2 years since I’ve read this book and I was craving the wisdom that lies within. I made it through about 4 chapters when a thought hit me and instantly changed my heart on prayer. You see, Psalms is full of prayers. They are pleas made in times of desperation, brokenness, trouble, anger, resentment, and praises given from hearts that are flooded with love and praise for the King. They are the overflow from the hearts of those who were not afraid to be genuine in their faith. This is the kind of prayer warrior I so badly wanted to be. To be free to lay my heart bare, to cry and beg and plea for His hand to move, to be real in my prayer life and move mountains for His kingdom.

~  Christ gave the Lord’s Prayer as a guideline to His disciples to help them learn to pray and show them the kind of things He wanted them to bring to the Father. I don’t believe it was meant to be taken as the system in which it must be done in order to communicate with Him. I don’t know about everyone else, but there are moments when I’m so blessed and joyful that all I want to do is praise God for His love. Then, there are times when I’m hurting and weighted down by confusion and feeling condemned by my constant failings and I want to understand why He is allowing these trials in my life. We have the freedom to do that! We have the freedom to bring our hearts to the throne of the Savior whenever and wherever, in whatever condition it’s in and not have to worry about doing it ‘wrong’. His love for us isn’t dependent on our worthiness and our worthiness isn’t dependent on how well we follow the Christian ‘rules and regulations’ that we have all become acquainted with. If we base any part of our relationship with Christ in legalism than it will always feel ‘wooden’ and ‘disingenuous’ and we will constantly feel like we are failing.  Once I understood God’s love and recognized my value and worth in His eyes, my relationship radically changed. I understood prayer, the importance of it and Christ’s heart in giving us this open door to lay all our cares upon Him whenever we needed.

~  We can talk to Him just like we talk to our best friend. We can chat about the trials of the day, or the big exam we don’t feel prepared for, or the person in the car next to us who just cut us off in traffic. We can ask for wisdom and understanding when a situation comes along that shakes our faith and we can sit before Him in silence just content to be in His presence.

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16.

~  I love that I can be a Psalms prayer. I can lay my heart out as I feel it and let the Lord make sense of it. Be real with your Creator. He sees and hears your heart. He wants it just the way it is. David is called a man after God’s own heart, and he never shied away from being real with his Father. Don’t confine your prayer time to a list of things you think God wants to hear. Bare your soul to Him, whatever state it’s in, and let Him take your breath away with the depths of His love and the beauty of His gentle and gracious heart. Be captivated by Him. Let Him show you how to truly desire Him. Let Him allure you and speak tenderly to you. Let Him show you your immense worth as you deepen your relationship with Him through prayer.

The Inherent Value Of Forgiveness

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~   Forgiveness. It’s such a complex thing. Such a necessary thing. It’s something we long for from others when we have wronged them. It’s something we struggle to do when we feel we have been wronged. It’s something God the Father gave us freely, unconditionally, lovingly, sacrificially. And if anyone knows what it feels like to be wronged, it’s Him.

~   Today, I was thinking about hurts that happened years ago. I was contemplating all the horrible things I would say to the individuals that hurt me so they would understand what they did. Then, in the midst of this heated, imaginary argument taking place to appease my pain, I had a sort of revelation, if you will. I realized I needed to forgive. I had never even acknowledged that I was struggling with unforgiveness. It had never once crossed my mind.

~   How often do we stew over things; words said in anger, silence from a dear friend, manipulations inflicted on us by others, back handed words spoken from a loved one, deception from a trusted confidant? We play these events over and over in our tortured minds trying to make sense of them or plot how we can set the record straight and be vindicated.

~   Yet, we have a Savior that forgave us every horrible thought, every lie told, every heartbreak inflicted, every fornication committed, every pointless idol we bow our knee to. A beautiful, wonderful Man who took every sin we would ever commit and bore the weight of it. Allowed Himself to be tortured, belittled, disrespected, disgraced, shamed, and hung on a cross while painfully dying for the love of His life. The last thing He saw and heard where the happy faces and the cheers from His beloved creation reveling in His torturous death. “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” And He forgave. Without thought, without question, feeling and understanding every emotion this failable race experiences.

~   And failable we are. I wish forgiveness was easy. I wish I could close my eyes, count to ten and let it all go. But it doesn’t work like that. In fact, I don’t even know where to begin. They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. So, I have a heart of unforgiveness. I hold grudges and plot my revenge and pray someday those who hurt me will feel my pain and know just what they have done. But I also desire to let it all go. To be met in that place where I can begin to put it all behind me and give the same grace that was so lovingly given to me.

~   Forgiveness for us mere mortals is not a onetime thing I’m afraid. It is a battle. A battle we fight every time those memories service, or we run into a person who has wronged us, or we indulge in some self pity for a moment. We need to arm ourselves for this battle and be aware of just how easily we deceive ourselves into thinking our unforgiveness in justified. How arrogant we are! We rank sins so often. We think the lie we told our friend is far less hurtful than the depth of the deception they inflicted on us, so therefore we are entitled to hold bitterness in our hearts because they deserve our resentment.

~   I have a friend I’ve known since my early teenage years. She and I were quite close for awhile but have recently drifted apart. I tried to make amends for whatever had happened. I tried reaching out and restoring what we once had. But it was rejected. She threw her anger and bitterness at me while trying to manipulate my guilt. So I stopped caring. Stopped reaching out. After all, I was the one trying to be a friend, here. She could die alone surrounded by all her cats because obviously with her attitude she wasn’t going to have friends surrounding her.

  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:12-15

~   Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love… these things bind us together in unity. In Acts, one of the running themes is unity and how deeply God wants His children united together as one undeniable force, proclaiming His name!  If my heart is flooded with unforgiveness, it cripples me. I can’t give the other six without a heart of forgiveness.

~   People are going to hurt us, hate us, wrong us, belittle us, reject us and condemn us. We aren’t in control of their actions, but we are in control of ours. Why allow their sin to cause us to sin and fall short of experiencing the unity we can have with the Lord of Creation and our brothers and sisters in His name? We aren’t hurting them; we are wounding our own hearts.

~   My friend may not ever know how she hurt me. She probably will never think back on it all and feel sorrow for the loss of our friendship. And I sincerely pray my heart is brought to that place where I can look back with love and compassion, instead of resentment and unforgiveness. I pray that every time I’m faced with showing grace or inflicting condemnation, I would take pause and listen to that still, small voice of my Savior reminding me of what He has forgiven me from.  “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Luke 7:47

~   We have been forgiven SO MUCH!!!!! How beautiful would it be if we all stopped worrying about our own selfish agendas and started mimicking the heart of our gracious King?

The Author Of Guilt

Image ~   Why is it, as people who know Jesus and are trying to walk in His ways that we are so naive to Satan’s ways?

~   I was raised in a home where Christ was the center of our family and I chose to make Him my Savior when I was very young. I struggled through my teenage years, genuinely wanted to know the Lord and really have a deep relationship with Him but I had placed myself under such intense legalism and condemnation all I felt was failure and disconnect. In my early twenties, I made some pretty horrible decisions based in anger and brokenness. During my ‘Prodigal’ years, I was amazed that I never felt guilt over my actions. I did so many things opposite the character of Christ, yet not once did I feel that stab of guilt you would expect from someone whose parents raised them up in God’s Word and who knew the truth. Yet, as a Believer whose heart was to follow and serve Christ, I felt an overwhelming presence of guilt over my struggles and short comings.

~   Today, as I was thinking over the conversations I had with a good friend of mine, these thoughts kept resounding in my mind: how did I never feel guilt? Wouldn’t Jesus ‘prick’ my heart if I was truly His? Why is it that now I feel such sorrow and guilt over my actions, when I’ve come back to Grace?

~   And then Jesus brought an understanding before me that opened my eyes. What is guilt? Guilt is a form of manipulation. We, as weak, sinful humans, guilt people into doing what we want. Satan brings our grievances before us so we are frozen in our guilt and can’t move forward. Guilt is a tool of Satan, not of God. When we are walking in sin, Satan has no need to impose this form of manipulation on us, because he has us right where he wants us. When we are walking with Jesus and the weakness of our flesh rises up and gets the better of us, Satan is there to tell us what horrible Christians we are. He reminds us of our failures to keep us from growth, and we give him the power to do so because we feel we deserve the punishment.

~   Yet Jesus sets us apart. He called us in love and gave us a free will to do as we wish, even if it breaks His heart. Satan holds us captive by the weakness of our flesh, Jesus set us free by allowing His flesh to be brutally beaten and nailed on a cross for all to see. When He rose He set the captives free. Jesus gives us immeasurable worth. From the moment we acknowledged our need for a Savior, we were forgiven for every thoughtless act, cruel word spoken, malicious sin, evil thought… His forgiveness has no limits. It keeps no record of wrongs. And still we fall for Satan’s trickery every time. He is nothing if not consistently predictable.

~   So next time you find yourself in a place of weakness, whether your faults are being paraded before your eyes or you have succumbed to the temptations of the world, remember that Satan’s only wish is to drive you away from the feet of Jesus. If you are walking in the world and you wonder why it is that you feel no remorse for your actions, it is because Satan wants you there. He wants you to indulge in the hopelessness therein. And it will feel good. You will feel no guilt, no shame. You will feel accepted and loved. You won’t struggle with feeling like you have failed your Heavenly Father. You will feel relief! Sin is so easy to fall into. But sin only tastes good for a time. And when the grace of our Savior ushers us back into the fold, like He promised over and over that He will do for one of His lost ones, Satan WILL be there waiting to destroy us with the overwhelming guilt of our choices.

~   I don’t have a ‘Christian cliché’ to offer you with this one. I won’t tell you things like ‘take your thoughts captive’ or ‘’leave it at the foot of the cross’. We all know what the scripture says. The problem is not that we don’t want to do this; it’s that we don’t know how. It’s a place Jesus meets you, after much prayer and tears and heartache.

~   Please recognize that conviction is not guilt. Conviction is Jesus whispering His truths and His wisdom to you. Conviction invites you to be better and is coupled with a joy that we have a Father constantly perfecting us into His likeness. It gently corrects you and brings you insight into your failings, not hopelessness because of them.

~   So pray! Pray for the wisdom to see the manipulation of our enemy and wise up to his ways. Pray for God to remove those feelings of guilt and worthlessness that Satan spends too much time breathing in our oh so willing ears. We fight a different battle. And our weapon is Jesus Christ. So get on your knees. Be real with your Savior, for He knows your heart and longs to hear you confide in Him. And in His time and by His perfect grace, He will fight and conquer these battles we are daily immersed in.

~   Right now, my struggle with guilt lies in my feelings of failure and worthlessness because of my choices and how easily I allowed myself to dive into the pleasures of the world to escape my broken heart. So I’ll pray. I will pray for healing. I will pray for strength. I will pray until Jesus destroys this giant and once again plays the conquering Hero in my life. 

~Romans 8:1-9~ 1. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2. For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death. 3.The law of Moses could not save us, because of our sinful nature. But God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent His own Son in a human body like ours, except that ours are sinful. God destroyed sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4. He did this so that the requirement of the law would be fully accomplished for us who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. 5. Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6. If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace. 7. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. 9. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them are not Christians at all.)