Archive for November, 2010

November 29, 2010

On Faithfulness, Glory, and God’s Character

God blesses faithfulness. How do we know this? Faithfulness brings God glory. It is in the very character of God to bring himself glory. It would go against his very nature if faithfulness were not honored. Don’t misinterpret me, dear reader. This does not meet we can expect God to honor our faithfulness by what our limited minds deem just and appropriate for our labor and toils. But we can expect God to show up in our lives. In fact, we can plan to be surprised by joy. God will give us joy in himself. He is enough.

It has been written that the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. John Piper writes in Desiring God, “what could God give us to enjoy that would prove Him most loving? There is only one possible answer: Himself” (p. 47-48)! The joy of loving God fully brings glory to God. Our faithfulness and obedience to him are the fruit of a deep love and enjoyment in our Creator – lest they not be borne from legalism or perpetuated by a sense of duty to earn favor (contrary to Eph. 2:8-9).

We may not see the hand of God clearly or find ourselves waiting on him to enjoy his favor. Be encouraged to continue walking in faith, serving and loving God.  God is most glorified when we are satisfied in him. Remember that God works for those who wait for him. Faithfulness requires us to wait on God because in seeking and waiting for God’s help we give him the occasion to glorify Himself.

We have often stopped short of understanding the full extent of Jeremiah 29:11. To accurately appreciate this passage we must read a bit further. Jeremiah 29:12-13 reads, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (emphasis mine).”  The Lord will give us plans to prosper us and not harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future but we must seek him will all our hearts. This should be read as a call to faithfulness to seek God and cry out to him. In doing so, He will be glorified and guide us to plans for our future (possible future blessing).

So take heart my friends, God will bless your faithfulness because it brings glory to Himself.

 

November 25, 2010

Hide and Seek

Sometimes it feels as if we’re playing hide and seek with God. We wait for Him to speak and show us where to go next. But, how do you know what His will is for your life? Do you ever wonder if you’re making the right choices for your life? What if you make the ‘wrong’ choice and end up somewhere God didn’t intend for you to be? Can you really walk out of God’s will if you’re seeking after him? These are questions I’ve been asking myself over the last year or so. Overwhelmed by the amount of transition and change on the horizon, I froze dead in my tracks. I figured I should stop and stay put until I could hear God speak. Then, I realized something profound. Free will. God has given us freedom in the spirit.  He did not give us a spirit of fear and timidity (2 Tim. 1:7). If we have a desire and we have examined our reasons for making a decision – a move, a job, a relationship, a you–fill-in-the-blank – and they are not contrary to God’s Word there is freedom in pursuing these things.

“What if I make a wrong choice,” you ask. Do you not think God is big enough to meet you there? The question then becomes one of faith and trust in God to rule over ALL things. This realization came as one of my mentors challenged me to read Psalm 139 daily as I sought God’s will for my life. Psalm 139:5-12 stuck with me. There is nowhere I can go that God is not already there. If I truly seek God in my life, he will be with me always (Matt. 28:20) and never leave me or forsake me (Deut. 31:6). What do I have to fear?  He goes before and behind me with his hand of blessing on my head (Psalm 139:5)! ­

Psalm 139: 5-12 “You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night – but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.”

My challenge to you (and me) is to not fear our tomorrows. He is already there! So whether you move, take a new job, start or end a relationship or whatever is on the forefront of your mind – God is there. He is greater than our decisions. He is sovereign. He has never left his throne. Take comfort in that. And in the right time, he will guide you. Keep your eyes and ears open but don’t be afraid to move forward.

Isaiah 30:21Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”

November 23, 2010

Watch My Feet

At one point in my life I felt fairly confident in being trained in evangelism and discipleship. I took classes, read books, and went on missions’ trips. But it’s been years since I’ve been enrolled in these classes and I’ve grown rusty. Sharing my faith with words has become a bit of a challenge (one that I am convicted I must change). Yet, I realized that evangelism and discipleship may not always look so formal. It might simply be how others watch how I live my life.

We often under-estimate the power of the example we set for others. I know I frequently live my life without regard to how I influence others. But when we live healthy lives and strive to follow after the Lord we make an impact. People notice. I came to this conclusion a few weeks ago when I had a few different people approach me independently and reveal that my attempts to live a healthier life have influenced them. While proud that they were taking some great steps, I was also convicted that I need to be careful to always live out my faith.

But it’s more than habits. Our lives are examined when we enter into difficult seasons of our lives too. People watch how we handle the challenges that are placed in our lives. Allow others to observe you seeking after God as you work through whatever has been grieving your heart. Transparency can be key to showing people your faith and making disciples without ever formally doing so. Be honest about your questions and struggles. Continue to glorify God in your pains and challenges. Don’t be afraid to show others the difficult side of faith. They may find this refreshing. Personally, when I need counsel I don’t want to talk to the person who always has it together. I want to talk to the person who has been through hard times and was able to come out the other side. God can use our honest cries in our lives but also in the lives of those around us. Never forget that the impact of our lives on others is astounding. Don’t under-estimate your walk. People are watching your feet.

Matthew 28: 19-20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

1 Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

November 16, 2010

The Blessing of Friendship

I’ve noticed a trend in my thankfulness journal (It’s been a great challenge to consciously pursue joy in my life – try it with me!). Most days I end with “I’m so thankful that I got to talk to ____ today” or “Lord, thank you that I was able to spend time with ____.”  Relationships are such a key part of our lives. We are meant to live in community –  holding each other up in prayer, enjoying each other’s company (read drinking coffee if you’re MY friend!),  laughing uncontrollably, sharing in each other’s sorrows, etc. I believe friendships are often God’s way to physically be near to us.

We also have this amazing chance to be refined. (How often have my dearest friends told me I’m screwing up or to step it up?! And I love them tremendously for telling me so!) Proverbs 27:17 is a notoriously quoted verse – “as iron sharpens iron, so does one person sharpen another.” But my favorite verse on honesty in relationships – Proverbs 28:23 “In the end people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.” If you’re my friend, speak the truth in love. I will do the same for you. I cannot grow and change if I do not see what I should see. The opportunity for growth and accountability is great. My friends are often the people who I let into my life- all of it. Most of the time, I’ve hand-picked you to be a part of my life.

Each friendship I’ve had over the course of my (not-so-long) life has left an imprint on my heart. Whether or not there have been hurts and pains accompanied with some of those friendships, I am so grateful for the lessons I’ve been able to glean from them. All my friendships have allowed me the chance to grow into the person I am today. I carry the lessons learned in my heart and I still apply them to my life.

My college roommate (Hi! If you’re reading this!) has had an ever-lasting impact on how I view friendships. She was one of the first people to model intentional friendships. This sweet, sweet friend would make it a point to ask me every few days how she could be praying for me. It sounds so simple but I remember being so startled by that question. Over time I began to get used to her asking this. I noticed our friendship deepened. I allowed her to be close to my heart, to challenge me, to hold me accountable. I’ve now adopted this question. I ask because I care. I ask because I want God’s best for you. I ask because I want to see you grow.

I am so thankful that God created us to be in relationship with one another. It is incredible that God uses our friends to be His hands and feet when we need a tangible taste of His love.  I am grateful for the way that I am edified through my friendships. I find joy and delight in the blessing God has given me.

This post is dedicated to all my phenomenal friends – new and old who have so graciously shared your lives with me. You truly are a blessing.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

November 10, 2010

Choosing Joy

I am convinced God wants us to experience joy. (See In Pursuit of Joy for further reflections.) Joy is one of fruits of the Spirit after all. But joy doesn’t always come easy. It may take an intentional effort to focus on what we’ve been given in our lives. Recently I’ve been making an effort in my life to appreciate the small things. I’m trying to find the beauty in life throughout the day. One of the ways I’ve been able to experience a piece of joy in the middle of my day is through my Etsy newsletter subscription. I love my little mental breaks from work when an email arrives in my inbox. It’s like present just waiting to be opened – crying out, “read me!” I find joy when I look at the amazing items so many talented people have made and enjoy thinking creatively for a few moments before returning to my regularly scheduled work routine.

Yet another way I allow myself the opportunity to reflect on joy is through a thankfulness journal. Each morning I start my day by listing at least three things I was grateful for the day before however large or small the item is. Some days it’s as simple as having flavored creamer in my coffee. Other days it’s feeling God’s presence throughout the day.

I know many of you are thinking this sounds nice and all but it’s is a bunch of fluff. Well, just like anything we have to work at it to develop new skills. Practice makes perfect. Most of us don’t get up in the morning and think, “Today would be a good day to run a marathon – without any training.” We start small. Take a run around the block, then work up to a mile and so on. But just like exercise, we have to train ourselves in the fruits of the Spirit in order to continue to develop them.

As a mental health professional, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Ready for it?  This is a highly effective therapy method. (Disclaimer: this method is actually much more complex. For discussion sake, I have simplified it. This does not replace professional counseling. Please seek professional help if you are experiencing deeper issues.) Essentially, we are to change our automatic thoughts (read gut-reactions) and replace them by focusing on what is true and positive. As a Christian, I can stand behind this method because God tells us to renew or minds and focus on the things above (Rom. 12:2). We are also to focus on what is true, admirable, right, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). By choosing a right perspective and focusing on joy, we can give God glory by seeing the blessing in our lives. Thus by taking the small steps to identify and appreciate joy throughout our day – in emails, sunsets, a smile from a stranger etc. –  we are able to experience the fruit of the Spirit on a deeper level, stand in awe God’s glory, and understand blessing in a profound way.

What about you? What are some ways you experience joy in your life – in big and small ways?

November 4, 2010

Glimpses of Passion

As I write this post, the David Crowder Band is playing through my laptop speakers. There has always been a clear sense of passion that accompanies their music. I long for that passion. At times I’ve been blessed enough to get glimpses of this amazing intensity that comes from the nearness of the Lord. However, it is unrealistic to think we can keep up this pace. There are seasons in our life that are meant for various purposes. Frankly, there may be times in our lives that we are supposed to feel despair and brokenness. It is at these times God can tear in order to make something beautiful, to cause unrepentant hearts to turn to him, or to bring Him glory. There are other times, we are simply meant to rest. We cannot expect to live on a spiritual mountaintop.

There was a time in my life where I was on one of the greatest spiritual journeys I have encountered thus far. As I prepared to depart from this place, a wise mentor cautioned the group I was with to continue to walk in the only direction we could go – down.  Our spiritual descent was inevitable but we could choose to descend with our arms linked. We could choose to remain in community – continuing to encourage, remind, and keep one another accountable for the lessons we learned while on the mountain. We cannot after all live on a spiritual mountain top. We spend most of our time on a journey up or down the mountain. And, at times we find ourselves in dark valleys. Passion will ebb and flow in our lives. Rest when you can and take comfort in knowing that glimpses of passion will come.

I leave you with a Bebo Norman song that reminds me of what it means to leave a spiritual mountain top.

 

November 1, 2010

The Ugliest Four Letter Word

Wait. Yup, that’s four letters and it’s usually met with disdain. No one likes to hear “wait.” We live in a world of speed and expect instant results. This often transposes itself to our spiritual lives. I recently had a discussion with a mother at my church. She explained waiting in this way: “It is better to wait on God for his answer however unclear you feel at the time. As a mother, if one of my children were to ask me for something and I respond that the child needs to wait – if the child continues to push for an answer, it is automatically ‘no.’ Waiting on God’s direction or answer is often like that.” Yikes! How often do you and I push for an answer instead of letting God’s plan unfold in our lives at the right time? At the root of our impatience, I often wonder if the real issue is lack of faith and desire for control.

Hebrews 11:1 reads, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” If we really have the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction or things not seen, would we so impatiently wait for the Lord? Kay Arthur wrote in Lord Where Are You When Bad Things Happen, “In a world like this, a man or woman who lives by faith is a rarity. Living by faith requires patience because the one who lives by faith becomes dependent upon God. You no longer call the shots. You no longer operate on your timetable. You don’t just rush out to get, to do, to have, to satisfy. You pray. You ask. You seek His will, His counsel. Then you wait for God’s leadership – His insight, His wisdom, His provision, His answer.”

Relinquishing the control can be difficult. Knowing God has a plan and will not fail you is something we must truly believe in order for us to let go and have faith. Our faith grows in these times of waiting. We become even more dependent on Him. Our ability to seek His leadership, insight, wisdom, provision and answer becomes stronger when we are required to wait upon Him. After all, what we think is best for us might not be. You may be praying for a shack in the woods but He wants to give yo­­­u­­ a castle by the sea. Whether He’s answered you quickly or allowed you the opportunity of waiting trust Him, grow in faith and relinquish control. He has your best in mind.

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