A Religious Spirit

shame

(FreeImages.com/KatherineEvans)

The Religious Spirit…

But first my story…

I grew up in a loving, Christian home.  I read my Bible, attended Sunday School and church services whenever the doors were open, prayed, studied the Bible…  I attended a Bible college, got involved in mission work, did everything I could to honor and pursue the Lord.  My heart was to please the Lord.  All good, right?

As the years passed, I began to realize that my life consisted a lot in doing.  The Christian life had become a struggle — a struggle to do and trying to be by doing.

“…trying to be by doing.”

I felt more like an onlooker rather than a participant in the realities of the love and power in the “Kingdom” of God.

“…felt more like an onlooker rather than a participant…”

I remember crying out to God for Him to increase my love — to return me to my “first love.”

I knew all of the right things (for the most part), did all of the right things (for the most part), but inwardly, I knew that something was lacking.

God began to reveal to me that I was trying to relate to Him intellectually and through self-righteousness.

Relating to God on an intellectual basis is very easy to do!  It’s especially easy if we are more analytical in our approach, more fear-based, only allow what we can understand into our lives, prefer security, prefer predictability, avoid vulnerability, etc…

I am going to step out on a limb here and say that a religious spirit summarizes this pursuit of God by doing.

The religious spirit is a struggle to be enough by doing enough.

It is looking to self and relying on my own actions to measure my worthiness and His approval of me.  It is all self-focused.

Intellectualism ties into the religious spirit because it is trying to convince myself, God, and others that I am worthy, spiritual, and have a relationship with God, based on what I know about Him.

I am very thankful for all that I did and still do in my life to seek God and to learn more about Him, but what I was lacking before was knowing Him intimately instead of as an onlooker. 

Note: I was a Christian at this point.  I was pursuing God and loved Him to the best of what I knew as love.  The point is, my love wasn’t very great because I didn’t understand and hadn’t received the fullness of His love for me.

I wasn’t experiencing the full reality of God because I didn’t fully understand His love for me. 

I still don’t.  It will take me a life-time and an eternity to comprehend the vastness of His love for me because it is infinite — without limits.

What happens though when we have a religious spirit is we truly don’t comprehend that His love is not based on us/me.  It’s not given in measures, based on how I perform or don’t perform.

His love for me has nothing to do with how I perform, how I pray, how I worship, how much I know about Him, how much I serve Him.

His love has everything to do with Him!

We define love by our own experiences or the lack thereof.  We think that God’s love is like what we have experienced and how we operate: given to those who like us or treat us well or that we like for some reason.  This is why we so easily “fall in and out of love.”  It’s really not love out all.  It’s self-gratification.

Within us all is this longing to be loved like what God offers: unconditional, infinite, lavish.

We want someone to love us — I mean really love us.  We want someone to know everything about us: all the good, bad, and ugly — and to love us anyway.

We are tired of trying to be enough by doing enough.  We are tired of trying to earn love.  What an agonizing struggle!  What a sure way to suffer defeat, discouragement, shame, and guilt!

Does that mean there are no actions to our love?

Absolutely not!  Authentic love will flow out into actions.  It always is seeking to serve, to minister, to heal, to help, to release, to free…

The difference though is the root/heart motivation.

Is what we do motivated by trying to “please God” by doing?  What we really mean by this is: “We don’t believe God is pleased with the way we are — that we are enough or loved the way we are — so we are trying to earn His love.”

This doesn’t mean change won’t occur. In fact, real change — real life transformation — occurs when we begin to live from the flow of His love for us and allow it to change the entire reason for the way we live. 

Living for God no longer becomes about earning or doing enough to be enough.  It becomes about surrendering to Him with full trust because we know He is good because of the reality of His love for us.

People can preach, teach, and tell you a lot about God’s love.   You can preach, teach, and define God’s love, but until you have experienced the depths of His love personally, you will always be an onlooker to the realities of the wonder of God and His love for you!!!

As I blogged awhile ago now, Job learned the reality of God in the middle of His sufferings.  He was a righteous and faithful man before his sufferings and honored by God, but as he states later in the chapter, it was through his sufferings he experienced the reality of God.  His understanding of God was no longer intellectual and from an onlooker’s perspective.  He now had a “front-line,” reality of it!

Job 42:5

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.

What is your reality today?

What is your motivation for living and for what you are pursuing?

Do you really comprehend that God loves you completely just. the. way. you. are?

Do you understand that He wants you for your sake?

Do you understand that His love isn’t constraining or confining?  It sets your soul and spirit free to truly soar!

Do you understand that God isn’t interested in what you know about Him?  He is interested in you knowing Him.

God doesn’t want you to be a spectator to the realities of His love for you.  He wants you to be “reveling” in its bounty, wonder, and overflowing abundance!

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Seeing Through A Different Set Of Eyes…

Child

(FreeImages.com/ArturoGarro)

It’s VBS (Vacation Bible School) at our church this week.  Whether serving food, helping with crafts or games, or helping to keep an eye on kids, I am constantly surrounded by children.

One child stood out because she has constantly been a discipline issue.  She is nasty to the other children, disruptive, and carries a boatload of attitude

Yesterday, I had to separate her from another girl because they were involved in an argument that was quickly turning ugly.  I began to talk to each girl individually while other staff mingled nearby.

With the first girl, it became obvious that she was fearful for her sister.  By the end of our talk, she was calm and comforted.

As I walked over to talk with the other girl, I silently “flare-prayed” to God, asking Him for wisdom.

The girl was intimidating. She was defiant, nasty, and angry!

As I began to talk with her, I knew immediately she had a lot of anger bottled up inside. I began to ask her why she was angry and hurting.  At first, she denied it, but with gentleness, I told her that it was obvious that she had been hurt because she is a little girl full of a lot of anger.

The Lord then directed me to ask her if she knew that God loved her and if anyone had told her that.  Her answer was “No.”

I took her to the Bible and began to have her read a few verses that spoke of God’s love for her, such as John 3:16-17.  We talked about what the verses meant, and as she read, her anger began to dissipate more and more.

John 3:16-17

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

It wasn’t long before we were talking about Heaven and why God wants her to be there and how special she is to Him!

I asked her if I could pray for her, and she said “Yes.”  I then asked her how she wanted me to pray for her.  She said, “For God to watch over me.”  Right then, I prayed for this precious girl, and my heart broke for her.

At the end of VBS, my hands were full of crafts to distribute to the children, when this girl ran over and gave me a huge hug.

It amazed me how simply telling a child that they are loved, turned an angry, defiant child into a child who was affectionately giving hugs!

My heart broke when I realized how many hurting children there are who are never told they are loved, who have no idea the worth/value they have, and who have never seen or experienced kindness in their life!

I was so convicted that it is easy to judge a book by its cover when in reality maybe we need to see with a different set of eyes… maybe we need to look inside the pages and listen to the stories that are needing to be told…

Why Summer Is A Quiet Blogging Season For Me…

Summer landscape

(FreeImages.com/mimiliz)

I know.  It’s been awhile.  This is why:

I have a love-hate relationship with summer.

Hate is probably too strong of a word, but I am using it more as an expression…

I love the flexibility of the summer and weekends that are no longer spent grading and preparing for the following week’s homeschooling schedule!

I love getting together with lots of friends and catching up on each other’s craziness and blessedness!!!

I love playing games with my kids, ice cream, sprinklers, piles of books from the library, kids splashing in pools, and gorgeous flowers!

On the other hand, I dislike the constant busyness and the challenge it is to say no to so many good things.

I dislike all of the noise and constant activity that gives me sensory-overload.

Life isn’t perfect! There is so much to love and so much to “hate” about it, but the joy we experience is often more about our focus than our circumstances.

Summer may be exhausting for me, and some days, I really want an excuse to be “lazy” — to simply sit and savor.

Even so, I am filing away these wonderful, wild days with my kids in my memory bank. I wouldn’t trade this season of craziness for anything. I am in a season of abundance. It’s a very, full season — overflowing season, but I am thankful.

Legalism Versus False Grace Versus Authentic Grace

grate

(FreeImages.com/Krishken)

Legalism/Religion sees a person stuck in a pit and points out all the wrong choices that got them there, what they are doing wrong that is keeping them from getting out of the pit, and then instructs them on techniques and the best effort to get themselves out of the pit. It watches to see the repeatedly failed attempts and then tells the person in the pit why they (the person watching) never fell in the pit, reminding the person in the pit of their shame and failure and emphasizing their own (the person watching) “success.” Legalism/religion focuses on personal effort.

False grace sees the person stuck in the pit and says, “I don’t think you are in a pit. I think you look really good where you are. It’s no one’s right to tell you you are in a pit. That sounds like judgment! Let’s host a party and celebrate and show all of those religious people how wrong they are!” False grace never produces true freedom.

Authentic grace sees the person in the pit and says, “Hey, you want a hand up? It’s no fun being stuck in a pit; I should know — done that plenty of times. No more pits!!! You and me, we don’t belong there any more. Pits are too smelly, too confining, too soul-estrangling, too lacking in air. We were meant to be free!!!” Authentic grace is the hand reaching down to pull the imprisoned soul from the snare of bondage.

In The Shadows…

Shadow

(FreeImages.com/PetraStarke)

Ever felt like you are living in the shadows?

Something I have heard repeatedly in my mind is the line: “You are in the shadows.”  I believe that repeated thought was a lie from the enemy to get me to believe that I was inferior, insignificant, and overlooked. 

I remember when the lie first started.  Part of it happened when I had a best friend at age 12.  I remember when she gave me one of those Best Friend necklaces, where I had half of a heart, and she had the other.  Then, I remember not long after she gave me the necklace that I introduced her to a girl who had recently moved into her neighborhood.  I remember the pain of discovering they had become each other’s best friends.

The pain of rejection is something that you don’t easily forget.

I remember having birthday parties and my friends attending, but I remember the pain of feeling overlooked.  My older sister had a fun, outgoing personality, and my friends couldn’t help but like her.  My birthday party was spent with my friends hanging on to my sister’s every funny statement and her winning smile.  My sister didn’t mean anything by this; it just happened, but I felt forgotten and overlooked.  It was painful to know that the birthday girl could disappear, and no one would seem to care a whole lot.

I remember the time when someone said to me, “It must be hard to live in your sister’s shadow.”  And the time when a friend said (was meant as a compliment): “You are almost as pretty as your sister.”  Those statements stuck with me, and I began to believe that I was less than and in the shadows.  I concluded that God must not love me as much because He decided that I didn’t need as much charisma or to be as beautiful on the outside.  That was the beginning spiral of coming to resent who I was, how I was made, and added to the lies already in place that I wasn’t loved as much.

Fast forward a few decades, and God had done a lot of healing in my life, but there were still layers, and the old wounds of rejection could be a memory quickly resurrected.

I remember how not that long ago, I was sitting with friends, feeling those old lies of insecurity, knowing that I was not the central focus and taking the sideline position once again. The problem is I hadn’t chosen to stay on the sidelines because of loving others and being other-focused.  I was partially taking that position for that reason, but I was living the lies of insecurity, inferiority, and rejection once again.

God pulled me from that low place, and my focus was re-centered once again.  I was once again walking from a position of wholeness rather than brokenness.

As life goes, it doesn’t take long before a circumstance or person triggers a memory from the past, and we are quickly swept back into the feelings of rejection and inferiority. 

I wasn’t swept away in the avalanche of old patterns, but I knew that I had to replace the old lies with truth. 

This morning, I opened my Bible with the anticipation that God would minister to my aching heart.  I asked Him to speak to me where I am, and He did!

God began to answer the lie about shadows with the truth.  What He showed me is this:

“I am not set aside; I am set apart.”  He began to show me that “my situation is not about me being overlooked but about me being prepared.”  (Borrowing these quotes from Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited.)

God keeps bringing John 3:30 back to my mind this year, and He did once again this morning.  What God was reminding me is that “when we decrease God has room to make big things happen.” (Borrowing these quotes from Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited.)

God is preparing me for authentic ministry, and authentic ministry comes from a full place in God so that I don’t look to others within ministry to validate me.

Authentic ministry means I need to be God-aware and others-focused so that I don’t worry about me.  Until I get this, I cannot be in a place to adequately give to others.

Ministry isn’t about me receiving.  It’s about me giving.  I don’t need to receive from a ministry when I have entered into authentic ministry from a position of having been filled and being filled.  Out of that fullness or abundance flows life and love to others, and that is authentic ministry.

I have an entirely different perspective on the term “shadows” now.  Satan has been attempting to speak defeat into my ears.  God though is saying the sidelines is a good place to be if it means you have let God have the limelight. 

If I am constantly trying to step into the limelight, then it becomes not about me claiming my rightful place or showing others I have worth.  Rather, it’s me taking God’s place. 

This doesn’t mean I won’t ever be in the “limelight” physically, but within my soul, there must first be this bowing to the One greater than me — this realization that the limelight is not mine, but to stand there to bring Jesus into the limelight.

I let self take a shadowed or dying position so that Christ’s life in me can grow.  It’s the death of self.

The real me — the life and identity of Christ, uniquely represented in me — is what will grow and flourish and have room to breathe the more the false identity and false self dies.

I no longer need to fear the shadows because I have not been set aside but set apart to a significant and special calling!

God is helping me to live out the reality of the verse He gave me for this year:

John 3:30: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

My Former Life In A Nutshell…

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/growing-up-gothard

I am going to link to this guy’s blog post because it summarizes in a nutshell what it was like growing up under the influence of ATI (Advanced Training Institute/Bill Gothard program).

I love how this guy describes his home as a loving home!  Mine was too, and I love my parents!!  They did a lot of good, but we were raised within the ATI culture.  This guy’s article explains a lot of the issues I have with the philosophies of the ATI movement/teachings.

This guy is right on when he explains about the constant pressure to be perfect.  I remember that so well and my twisted view of God, as a result.

I didn’t want to get close to a God who seemed to be always waiting for my next moment of sin/failure and who seemed like He only punished with no full restoration or hope of redemption in sight.  It was taught that consequences were God’s judgment on us; there was no concept of redemption for even our consequences.

It was definitely a place of much fear!  Parents wanted to raise their kids to turn out godly.  So in fear, they pulled them from the world, even from among other Christians, sometimes family members, and society.  They thought that by secluding them, they could produce a more godly generation.

As I wrote in a previous blog post, the issue with this is, they forget that there is evil within not just without.  The heart is what matters!

They also lived from fear.  What they didn’t realize is that reacting to our fears will not lead us into freedom but just into another form of bondage.

We never want to raise our children from a position of fear but from God’s leading.  The safest place to be is always within the center of God’s will.

An interview with a former ATI student that really explains what it was like growing up Gothard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WQy4LGUQRg.

 

Is Religion The Only Offender Against Women?

praying woman

(FreeImages.com/BrendaMihalko)

I recently saw a friend’s comment on Facebook about how a lot of issues within the church are based on gender issues.  I understand the validity and even pain of what she is saying because I certainly saw the reality of some of this personally.  Yes, the Church has allowed some of those false ideas and lies from the past to remain.  They are just labeled with “religious-sounding” terms so it sounds better or more Biblical.

Just because I call a dandelion a flower doesn’t make it so.

So often, terms have been falsely defined, and so we reject the term without understanding that within every lie, there is often a nugget of truth.

When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he took God’s Word but twisted it and misapplied it in the wrong context, making it a lie.

There is the term submission mentioned in the Bible, but it has been often twisted and misapplied in the wrong context.  Within the same passage as submission is also God commanding husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church.

How did Christ love the Church?

How did Christ love the Church?  By domineering, forcing submission, commanding their service while lording His position over them, devaluing them, ruling with harshness and unrelenting pride…?  No!  Rather, Christ served.  He laid down His life.  He listened.  He healed.  He cried.  He restored.  He forgave.  Everything He did, He did for them.  Christ did not come to the Earth to be served and but instead to serve.  His was an example of humble, servant leadership, always seeking the best for the other person.  He saw the value of the weakest, most vulnerable in society and acknowledged them and gave them His time and attention.

What Scripture shows is not one ruling, and the other serving and submissive/subdued.  What Scripture shows is both husbands and wives are called to lay down their lives to love/serve another one.  Both are called to put the others needs first.  Both are called to Christ’s example of Agape love, which is the most selfless and humble love of all.  Both are required to lay down their life for the other.

I wrote the following in response to my friend’s FB post, with some additional thoughts:

It is sad the way religion has abused women. It is also sad the way the world abuses women. One tells us that we are inferior to men. The other often continues to promote the same thing by taking it from a different angle, telling us that to be important we have to prove we are like men or better than men, which only says, “We are only important if we can prove our worth by being like a man or better than a man.”

What if the truth is, our uniqueness is part of our amazing, beautiful package of worth?!!! It’s not in being like a man or better than a man, because that actually feeds into the lie; it’s merely a reaction to the lie rather than the authenticity of the truth.

It’s also not about us being a sub-category, inferior, subdued, oppressed, or dominated.

The truth of what I see in Scripture is God restoring the broken image — the bad rap. women got at the Fall (false teaching, BTW). In religious circles, women are often blamed for the Fall.

God always noticed the down-trodden, the wounded, the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the undervalued.  That is why I believe He made sure He restored that broken image by how He demonstrated His thoughts concerning women in His life on Earth.

Jesus revealed Himself to women who in that society often felt unnoticed, unloved, undervalued. He demonstrated that He saw, heard, and honored them.

Jesus allowed women to be the first ones present to testify of His resurrection. Women were the first ones to see and hear Jesus in His resurrected state.  Interesting how the very things that women seem to feel within in religion — not seen or heard — are the very things Jesus did for them.  He saw them and revealed Himself to them.  He spoke to them and heard their cries.

God speaks of many women in the Bible whom He showed He valued, regardless of how society at the time regarded them. By lifting these women up and telling their stories, God shows that He heard and saw their worth. (See Abigail, Hannah, Sarah, Rebekah, Eve, Esther, Miriam, Jochebed, Rahab, Bathsheba, Deborah, Lydia, Priscilla, Dorcas, Mary Magdalene, Mary, Elisabeth, Mary and Martha, Samaritan Woman, woman caught in adultery, Tabitha, Damaris, Naomi, Ruth, and the list goes on.)  Entire books of the Bible were dedicated to telling some of these women’s stories.

He showed in the Proverbs 31 woman a woman of amazing dignity, strength, resourcefulness, honor, and trust. She made the decisions for the running of her household, for doing business, for buying land. By sitting with the elders, her husband demonstrated great trust and respect in her abilities. She had freedom, responsibility, and the trust of her husband.

That’s the kind of woman God has called me to be, and I am thankful that His picture is of strength, dignity, honor, trust, resourcefulness, intelligence, wisdom, etc…!

God has restored in me so much of the image that was broken. God alone knows what our purpose looks like — religious doesn’t, and the world doesn’t. Each are just vying to react against each other — too busy pitting against one another.

The authentic image steps out and away from the mess and is secure in knowing her worth.

Religion rejects our image and undermines it.  It says we are inferior and meant to be controlled and dominated by men.

The world rejects our image and tells us there is no value in the way we were created unless we compete to be like a man.  This is nothing more than once again undermining our image.

Christ shows the Father’s heart, and what we see is that women are unique, a glory to God, they are clothed with strength and honor, virtuous, and our voices are heard.  We are seen, we are heard, and we, as women, are valued.  We don’t have just a place in God’s Kingdom.  We are an integral part of His Kingdom!

If we want to know our value, we won’t find it in the world, and we won’t find it in religion.  We will find it in the God who made us, who loves us, and who shows the greatest servant-leadership by lifting us up and calling us into positions of amazing influence and honor.

We don’t have to be more or different to be validated!  We already are of infinite worth!

Don’t Let Envy Keep You From Skating — From Living With Joyful Confidence

roller skates

(FreeImages.com/LukePartridge)

Last night, our family got to roller-skate with our church family.  What a blast!

It brought back so many fun memories of skating as a child with my sister in our unfinished basement.

As an adult, it is so much fun to be able to skate now with my own kids!  Last night, I loved being able to clown around with them, embarrass them a little, and just plain have fun!

As I was skating, I saw a kid that was really impressive in his skating abilities.  While watching him, I overheard some of our visiting kids say, “He is a show-off.”  I wish I had thought in the moment of an appropriate response, but I kept thinking later that evening: “It’s okay to let someone enjoy themselves, to enjoy something they are gifted in, and to not feel intimidated by someone else’s talent/gifting.” 

I was thinking how easy it is to judge another person.  Maybe the kid was showing off, but if so, maybe he was looking for someone to validate him.  Either way, enjoying someone else’s talents and abilities doesn’t cost us anything except our own insecurity and pride.

Why does it bother people so much when someone is displaying skill and talent?  Should we tell them to hold back or hide their skills?  Is the issue really about them displaying too much skills/gifts, or is it more about us — our insecurity that doesn’t want someone to outshine us?

Why not let others shine?

I was impressed by one woman, whom I respect, who recently stated, “I get my good looks from my mom.”  I have been raised to think that such a statement is arrogant, and it’s better to imitate weakness or to hide talents — to display false humility.  It was such a different perspective to see someone own their blessings and gifts.  Sometimes, it seems like we feel like we have to apologize for the blessings God has given to us.

A friend told me how someone recently said to her: “Humility isn’t the same as meekness.”  How true!!!

In other words, you can be humble but also be bold at the same time.  Just because you are “meek” or quiet doesn’t mean you are humble.  You can walk around “passive” and “submissive” but be full of pride and a sense of superiority.

Last night, I decided not to worry whether someone would take it as arrogance or not but to skate my best and to have fun, to be silly, and to skate with joy and confidence.

There is so much freedom when we quit living our lives to please everyone around us but live to please the Lord!!!

The result was I felt more confident on my skates, I had a blast with my husband, and I had fun with my kids and the other kids on the rink.  During a couple of the songs, as I felt the freedom to skate confidently and to allow myself to skate my very best, I couldn’t help but feel Abba-Daddy’s delight in me.  I couldn’t help but feel the pure joy that comes from living my life to His credit and to know that I can live my life with bold confidence because I live in the assurance that I am beloved and cherished by my Heavenly Father.

Running On Empty?

glass

(FreeImages.com/MargaritRalev)

I started this year with a theme/verse that God had given to me: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)  The theme was freedom from self.

Let me tell you, when you know you are called to a place of dying more to self so that you might live more in Christ, the battle is not going to be easy!  This entire year so far has been full of many wonderful God-moments, but it has also held some huge attacks against my identity.

I have written numerous blog posts about identity because this topic is so incredibly important and is very dear to my heart.

You might be asking, “What does identity have to do with feeling like I am not just running on empty but I am dried up, cracked, and brittle?”

Talk about busy!!!  We are down to 5-6 weeks left in the school year.  The end is in sight, but there is so much to accomplish at the end.  Summer sounds like a “breather,” but for those of you who have some or all of your kids in school, it’s a different kind of busy.

In the 21st century, “busy” is such a common description that if you ask someone how they are doing, 95-percent of the time, they will answer, “Busy!”

I understand that we can’t ignore busyness all together and live.   I have five kids.  I home-school two of them, two are in private school, and I have a 3-year-old who desperately needs to be potty-trained.  I have a side business.  I try to stay connected with people.  I am a soccer-mom, basketball-mom, and swim-mom, during the typical seasons.  I run to allergy shot appointments every 3 weeks, orthodontist appointments for three people regularly,  and at least 22 other medical appointments in a year that are just for regular maintenance (optometrist, dentist, gynecologist, dermatologist, and ophthalmologist).  I run to fix retainers and glasses that seem to constantly be getting bent or stretched.

So, if busyness comes with the territory of living, how can I avoid the never-ending feelings of emptiness that result so often?

Is the issue the busyness, or is it something else?  Is busyness the root cause of my emptiness or merely a symptom of the root cause?

To start to answer these questions, let me share a little of my recent experiences with you.

I knew I needed a spiritual “re-alignment” recently.  When I started to feel those old feelings of insecurity rearing their ugly heads, I knew I was it was time to come in for a “tune-up.” 

Feeling hyper-sensitivity, feeling really “low,” feeling jealous, feeling insecure, feeling a desperate need for validation and affirmation?  Those are dead-giveaways that there is a core problem that can’t be fixed with more pats on the heads, a platform, a position, a vacation, a new outfit, a horizon, a new vocation, or a new decoration.  In fact, those very things will continue to feed the feelings of emptiness and discontent.  They will satisfy fleetingly, but there is a never-ending need for more…

The other day, I took the kids to a nature center/park.  My 5-year-old daughter was immediately drawn to the shiny appearance of Pyrite (Fool’s Gold) that they had for sale.  I decided to purchase the large rock because I knew it would make a great object lesson and also would be a good reminder to me.

Pyrite has the appearance of something of value, but the reality is that it doesn’t hold the core qualities that distinguish it from the similar appearance of real gold.  See the following article on differences: https://www.thermofisher.com/blog/mining/pyrite-the-real-story-behind-fools-gold/ and http://www.minerals.net/mineral/gold.aspx.

It is interesting that Pyrite is brittle and can’t bend like real gold.  The mineral structure of Pyrite is mostly sulfuric.  The appearances of gold and Pyrite is similar, and they can be found in similar rock-beds, but the structure is different and thus is their use.

Pyrite reminded me of how we often search for the value of something, based on its appearance.  Does it look like success?  Does it look like prosperity?  Does it look like affirmation?  Does it look like security?  Does it look like beauty?  Does it look like fame?  Does it look like comfort?

What if the value of something isn’t in its appearance but in its core?  What if it’s the structure of the thing itself that determines whether it will hold up or whether it will crumble under pressure?

During part of my “re-alignment” time, God was showing me that I had been following after fulfillment based on the appearance of things: their appeal.  What He reminded me is that the most important things — the real blessings are not out there.  Rather, they are always right in front of us. 

God doesn’t dangle His blessings on a string and then keep pulling them back further the closer we get to them.  Rather, His blessings are often the gems hidden in the foundation of our every day lives.  God places His most priceless treasures in the framework of our daily lives — within the gritty, dull, hard surfaces of our lives.  It’s mixed in the hard grind of our daily and in the muddy, messy of authentic ministry.

Why do we rush after the appeal of appearances? 

What drives the empty to pursue the empty?

A friend recently gave me the book Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst.  I want to share a few powerful quotes from her book:

Indeed, the world entices your flesh but never embraces your soul.

We run at breakneck pace to try and achieve what God simply wants us to slow down enough to receive.

Imagine a little girl running with a cup in her hand, sloshing out all it contains.  She thinks what will refill her is just ahead.  Just a little farther.  She presses on with sheer determination and clenched teeth and an empty cup clutched tight.

She keeps running toward an agenda He never set and one that will never satisfy.  She sees Him and holds out her cup.  But she catches only a few drops as she runs by Him, because she didn’t stop long enough to be filled up.  Empty can’t be tempered with mere drops.

There’s no kind of empty quite like this empty: where your hands are full, but inside you’re nothing but an exhausted shell.

He’s into the slower rhythms of life, like abiding, delighting, and dwelling — all words that require us to trust Him with our place and our pace.

Why do we run to agendas, people, things, and appearances?  What is the draw?

The answer is you look for fulfillment out there when you are empty inside.

Remember, the verse I mentioned at the beginning?  …the one about Him increasing and me decreasing?

You know what truth came to me as I was getting my “tune-up”?  It was that I had been trying to find my worth again in myself. 

You see, it’s not about the agendas, people, things, fortune, fame, and appearances out there.  What we are really seeking is to find something out there to satisfy me, to validate me, to fill me, to secure me, and to give me a sense of worth.

That’s why it is so dangerous to pursue those things from a place of emptiness.  You are not after those things necessarily because of the thing or people themselves.  You are after what you hope to get from those things or relationships.

Look at relationships.  Know what happens when we try to pull from people our sense of worth?  This is what happens: rejection, shame, pride, insecurity, judgement, selfishness, comparisons, jealousy, labels…

As Christians, the deception is even more subtle sometimes.  We look to ministries and service for our fulfillment.  It is so hard to see through to the truth of our motives because we can cover them in so many “right-sounding” words.

I believe this: I believe that God’s invitation isn’t to serve Him.  I believe the invitation is to be loved by Him and for Him to love through us.  The focus really isn’t on serving; it’s on being loved by God and letting His love flow through us to others in tangible ways.  Otherwise, we’ll attach “strings” to people so that we can attempt to pull from them what we lack and which only God can fill.  This kind of “love” isn’t really love but selfish manipulation of people to ultimately feed my sense of worth.

This profound truth recently “struck” me: Authentic love produces authentic righteousness.  If we try to live righteous lives to find worth, to attempt to prove our worth before God, we will only produce self-righteousness, which isn’t righteous at all.  When we are still trying to figure out our own worth, we will bury ourselves under layers of ministry, “righteous” labels, and appearances, but the core motivation is once again an attempt to persuade ourselves, others, and God (we think) that we are worthy of His love.

The truth is this:

“God’s love isn’t based on me.  It’s simply placed on me.”  — Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited

And this…  Authentic love that comes from a place of being filled by Him will always flow out.  It’s like a stream.  There’s a continual reservoir of being filled and pouring out but never running dry because the source of the water is from deeper and higher up.  By pouring from a place of abundance, there’s not a need to be concerned with running dry.

The place of abundance — the abundant life — is God Himself!!!

Living loved isn’t deciding to be loved…  it’s settling in my soul, “I was created by God because He loved me.”  — Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited

You don’t have to win God’s love.  It was poured out on a cross for you.  It ran down in rivers of blood from a crown of thorns and spikes driven into His hands and feet.  It gushed out from His side, where a spear was thrust to determine His death was real.  It revealed itself in a myriad of colors, shapes, sounds, and fragrances at Creation.  It reveals itself in an eternity that is planned just for you to experience the fullness of life, love, joy, and peace like you have never known before.  Even now, it shows itself in the daily grind where He offers His Presence to be the “Gem” that is found in the midst of the hard and muddy of life.