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.

What Is Our Identity?

Handprint

(FreeImages.com/BSK)

As I was studying I John chapter 2, I was amazed once again by the depth we see in Scripture!  The topic of identity has been greatly on my heart because how we perceive ourselves is how we will live.  This is why it is so important that our thinking is truthful when it comes to how we see ourselves.

As a Christian, I know that my identity is in Jesus Christ!

Who He is is my position and also is what He is revealing, transforming within me (because of Him).

The following verses reveal the nature, the premise, the foundation, and the purpose of our identity:

1 John 2:10-15

10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Their Spiritual State

12 I write to you, little children,
    Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.
13 I write to you, fathers,
    Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
    Because you have overcome the wicked one.
I write to you, little children,
    Because you have known the Father.
14 I have written to you, fathers,
    Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
I have written to you, young men,
    Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you,
    And you have overcome the wicked one

1. First, we need to know that we are forgiven.

The forgiveness Jesus offered to us at the cross frees us from Satan’s and sin’s dominion.  Sin and Satan no longer have authority over us because Jesus defeated them at the cross.  This means, Satan has no authority to condemn or accuse us.  We do not need to listen to his lies/false accusations.

2. Second, we have “known the Father” is emphasized several times.

The point being made is that we need to know our Heavenly Father.  Children will often talk, walk, eat, and have similar personalities and even posture to that of their parents.  The same is true with us.  We need to know our Heavenly Father so we pick up on the “family resemblance” and know what it means to be a “Christian.”

Who we are is completely tied in with who He is.  We need to know our Heavenly Father so we can understand better who we are.

3.  Third, we need to understand that we can overcome the evil one.

“God’s truth had a place in their hearts.  And that truth made them victorious in the spiritual battles they faced.” (from Community Bible Study on Christian Living)  God’s truth illuminates the “darkness” and strengthens our faith, keeping us rooted and grounded.  We can overcome by understanding the authority we have in the name of Jesus and in the promises of God’s Word.

4.  Fourth, the Word of God needs to abide in us.

The Word of God will give us insight into our Heavenly Father, into our inheritance, into our standing as His Beloved children, into His promises towards us, and into right thinking in order to have our thoughts transformed by the light of His Word.

5. Fifth, we need to understand the new natures we have been given as His children.

In First John 2, the young men are told that they are strong.  This reminds me of when God called Gideon out and called him a mighty man of valor when Gideon was actually living in cowardly fear.  Once God called Gideon into his new calling and into his new identity, Gideon actually began to live out the truth of what God was actively creating within Gideon.  The same is true with us.  God calls us “children of light” and calls us His beloved.  He says we are overcomers.  It is our inheritance and our new natures to overcome, to live victoriously, to understand we are forgiven, and to understand that Satan and sin no longer have the right to have authority over our lives.

What does this new nature look like?

The distinctive characteristic of God’s true children is the love that they manifest and live out towards one another. 

To walk in light/truth means that we are walking in love.  The truth/light can only be correctly discerned through the eyes of love.  Authentic truth/light is never separate from love.

We receive abundant love from Him that we in turn pour out on others.

The Dance Card

dance

(FreeImages.com/SriVatsa)

I sat there in church, soaking in the worshipful music and lyrics, allowing the music and words to soothe my heart.

My heart was saddened with a weighty decision ahead of us.  Either outcome required sacrifice and a sense of loss.  My husband and I were torn…

Each word of the message seemed directed right at us: the entreaty to trust the Lord, to not avoid the discomfort of the hard decision, and to not neglect His will and calling upon us.

The night before, I had sat in a meeting and kept seeing this picture of Jesus stretching out His hands to me.  I saw the beautiful, nail-pierced hands.  For some reason, I kept getting this impression that He was imploring me to take His hands.  I didn’t realize the significance of that until more than a day later.  He was asking me to walk with Him, to “take His hands,” to trust Him.

As I sat in church Sunday, suddenly, I saw this picture of a dance card (odd that such would come to me), and then it was as if I heard His voice.  He spoke to my heart, and I “heard” these words: “[…], may I write my name on every slot on your dance card?  Will you dance your life with Me?”

God knew my deepest needs.  He knew that in order to take His “hand” and to trust Him, I also needed reassurance of His love.  He didn’t command that I obey Him, but He asked me, while at the same time, reminding me of the depth of His love for me and that there is also joy in His will.  He wanted me to dance with Him…!

I am still pondering that one…  It was so unexpected!  After something like that, I want to question this and wonder if it was all in my head, and then I remember that He does love me that much!  He does ask me to trust Him but never without reassuring me of the unceasing merits of His love — the depths that have no end and the heights that have no ceiling…!

The question for you and I is:

“Do I want Him to claim me for every dance on the dance card of my life?”

There is freedom there!

wedding

(FreeImages.com/LioraZakai)

Save

The Brave Voice

shadows

(FreeImages.com/GerardoAlvarez)

The woman, brushed back her brown hair, pensively looked at the computer screen one more time, and bravely wrote the words.  With a simple click of the mouse, her words were posted.  They were words, expressing something that she cared about and appreciated.  She had asked for feedback on her post, and she was not disappointed by the amount of comments she received.  They poured in.  The post had definitely “plucked a few strings.”

The feedback was very honest.  Some was super positive, some was very doubtful, some was skeptical, and some was clearly negative.  She had asked for honest feedback, and she had received it.

At first, some of the feedback stung.  The words were raw in their honesty.

As the woman read all of the comments, she realized that she could view the responses two ways: she could take them as rejection and/or harsh criticism, but that wouldn’t be fair because she had asked for honesty.  The other choice would be to feel honored that people felt safe enough to voice their opinions to her.

One commentator even apologized for voicing some skepticism, and she quickly assured that person that they should never apologize for having a voice.

Every day, we have these moments — these encounters with others — when we choose how we will respond to the voices around us…

Over the past year, I have been feeling called into this place of freedom — a place where I can have the courage to speak and to not feel it necessary to apologize for my voice.  …apologizing for my existence.

It is not a matter of being offensive with my voice because that would be a different matter.

It is a matter of answering this defining question: 

“How will you respond when the temptation is to shut down, to hide, to walk away from freedom because of the fear of the risk and the fear of rejection?”

Here are thoughts that I recently wrote:

“There is an enemy that wants us to apologize for existing, wants us to fade into the background, wants us to hide behind our fears and insecurities and rejection, wants us to not exist…

There is a Lover/Creator who keeps telling me to not apologize for being, thinking, believing, and feeling.

He keeps telling me that He placed His voice inside me, and that regardless of who agrees or doesn’t or who likes me or not, that I am to stand bravely and securely because I am unfathomably, completely, lavishly loved!

This entire past year, the Lord kept telling me, “[…], you know your freedom; now walk in it.”

It brings tears to my eyes every time I am made aware of how He is changing me, making me brave, helping me to become His warrior-princess!

Am I perfect? Far from it!

Do I make mistakes? Daily.

BUT, this I know: I am learning the freedom of being completely secure in eternal, unceasing, undeserved Love!

…and I am learning the beautiful humbling merits of His grace!

This Is My Worth!

shadow

(FreeImages.com/HansWidmer)

The book lay open in my hands.  I had been given the privilege of reading for a few uninterrupted minutes, and the book I chose to read told the story of Jesus’ life, ministry on earth, and His death.  It was a story that I had read many times.  Yet, reading it again was like hearing it for the first time.  I read again about someone who lived so purely, so sacrificially, and so lovingly.  His humility was such a stark contrast to the showiness of the religious leaders and to those who sought Him for His works but not for Himself.  Yet, He gave and healed so freely, and what was given and done for Him?  A few rugged and uneducated men followed him, often bickering and then finally abandoning Him when it became dangerous and unpopular to follow Him.

Then, my mind’s eye could picture Him in all the gore of His beatings, the pain of the betrayals, but even more the weight of all the shame He bore.  Do you know how horrible it is when we needlessly carry the shame of our mistakes?  Yet, Jesus carried all of those horrendous sins — from Adolf Hitler to ISIS to the Ted Bundy’s of this world.  He carried every abuse, every lie, every lust, and there was no one to shoulder the burden for Him.  We don’t have to carry the weight of our sins, but He did.  He carried the crushing weight of EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. THOSE. SINS.  Yes, EVERY. SINGLE. ONE!

And God, His perfect and incredibly loving Abba Father had to turn His back on His Son.  Jesus had never experienced that — ever.  We don’t understand that because God pursues each of us and loves us.  Yet, Jesus didHe experienced what it felt like to have to carry every last sin and carry it all upon Himself.  He carried all of that for me.  …for you.

Then, it struck me.  It struck me how incredibly I am loved!  Such a price was paid for me… for you!  It was a price of infinite worth!  The price paid was God Himself.  He gave His all.  He gave Himself.

Then, I realized this:

We don’t understand our worth because we don’t understand the depth and magnitude of the sacrifice He made for us.

I don’t deserve it.  I am absolutely humbled and incredibly grateful that God Himself gave His all to redeem me and to give me an inheritance with Him!

To be honest, I can’t wrap my mind completely around that thought.  It’s overwhelming!

As the truth of this sinks in, I raise my face, slick with tears, to look up, knowing He sees and hears me.  Into the holiness of the realization of Who He is, I whisper these simple words, “Thank you, Jesus!  Thank you!”

This is what it means to be His daughters and sons: it means to have infinite worth because an Infinite God loved me that much!

He gave His everything for me… for you!

Thank you, Jesus.

Your Ministry Is Where Your Heart Is…

beach love

(FreeImages.com/sunshizzle)

This past Sunday was one of those “light-bulb” moments.

I was sitting in a gathering with many people, listening to a powerful testimony and under the truth-piercing Word of God.  My heart was being convicted — not in a shameful way but in a way that caused me to repent in order to receive from God.  I was being convicted of selfishness, pride, and self-seeking within my heart.

God had placed within my heart a calling to reach out to people and to share with them how God changes hearts and what it means to have an authentic and personal relationship with God.  The problem is that my calling had turned into self-seeking.  I was looking for a ministry out there, when the ministry was in front of my face.

On Sunday, it was a powerful moment when I recognized my pride, selfishness, and lack of faith.  Because of these soul issues, I was often unwilling to do the “scary” thing, to step out of my comfort zone, and reach out to others.

As soon as I repented of this, the “light-bulb”moment appeared.  I, all of a sudden, realized that God had placed His love in my heart for several strangers surrounding me, and those were my ministry.  I suddenly realized, that when I follow the love, my ministry will be found.  I know this may sound “cheesy,” but it’s the profound truth.

So often, we follow after a ministry, but instead, God wants us to follow after Him and to be so filled with His love for others that “ministry” is the natural by-product.

Ministry is where the love is.

Loving God through others is the ministry

God doesn’t call us to be in full-time ministry.  God calls us to love Him and to love Him by loving His people.

When you follow the heart of God, you will find the “ministry” He has in store for you.

This past Sunday that happened in a huge way for me, I began to reach out to strangers with whom I had fallen in love.  God led me to pray over a couple, their sick child, a young woman in a wheelchair, and other hurting people.  Why did I do this?  Because He gave me His heart for them.

So often, we get it so wrong!  We want the glory or this sense of purpose by doing things when God just calls us to give His heart to others.  Suddenly, the self-glory and the fear that holds us captive are no longer snares, and we are able to step out in joyful abandon, following Him.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

Luke 4:18

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

“Do You Trust Me With Your Dreams?”

dreaming of

(FreeImages.com/EvgeniaPronina)

I was struggling…  Life was pulling me in many directions, but my real struggle was with something greater — the root of my struggle.  I was trying, pushing myself, and oh so stressed!  I was trying to force something.  That something is my dreams.

Then, God and I had a talk.  Well, it was more like He spoke conviction into my heart, and I knew it was truth.  It was this penetrating question, “Do you trust me with your dreams?”

I knew then that was the struggle.  I was trying to force my dreams in my strength, my time, and my way.

God was asking me if I trusted Him enough with my dreams.  I then realized that was the issue.

That question helped me to recognize again that all of life comes down to one penetrating question, “Do you trust God?”  And the answer is almost always a definitive “no” if you don’t really know He loves you.

God then flooded my heart with so many reminders of His love, but the greatest one was the cross.  This is what He spoke to my heart, when I asked myself, “Do I trust Him/believe He loves me enough?”:

He spoke this to my heart: “Because I was willing to give my life for you.”  If He was willing to sacrifice everything, including His relationship with His perfect Abba Father and suffer the ultimate of all suffering for me, then I know.  I know He loves me enough.  He loves me enough for anything life might send my way.

The point is, dear ones, the problem is not with our faith — our faith in His power.  The problem is with our awareness of His love.  The truth is we often don’t really believe or comprehend His love for us.  We are still measuring it by the tragedies of our life, by the false earthly representations, and by the twisted thinking of those who claim to represent God.

What God spoke to my heart this morning was this:

As the parable of the father in the Prodigal Son, so He will always pursue me — no matter what I’ve done, always desiring to bring me back to Himself.  And with that, I whisper, “God, don’t ever stop pursuing me and bringing me back within the security and fullness of your Love.”

Wrote this to friends this morning:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgGUKWiw7Wk — And then I finally found Love — Love so perfect, so infinite, and I am reduced to an unashamed curtain of tears … to this overflowing, overwhelming awareness that I am “found,” “seen,” “heard,” and complete within Love. We all yearn for perfect, infinite Love… we want someone or something to truly know us and to truly love us within that vulnerability and transparency, allowing us to blossom within the security of unfathomable, immeasurable Love! Within the embrace of lavish love, my heart unfurls, and the fragrance, vibrancy, and life blooms!

My heart is coming unfurled.

I may be accused of being more emotional, but the truth is my heart is learning that it can be more vulnerable.  My heart is being allowed to feel more because I have found a “Safe Haven.”  I can “risk” my heart when I know there is truly no risk with God. 

How about you?

Do you trust God with your dreams? 

Do you trust Him with your heart?

Who You Are…

Swallowtail Butterfly

(FreeImages.com/Daniel Eurenius)

On numerous occasions, I find myself either reminding another sweet “sister” or “brother” in Christ or myself the truth of who we are.  Why do we need to be so constantly reminded of this?

Most of us can recite to one another the truth of who we are (who we really are), but when it comes to believing it and thus living it, that’s an entirely different story.

Perhaps to understand why this is such a constant battle — knowing who we truly are — we need to understand why this is so important.

It’s simply this: what you believe about yourself will ultimately influence the person you will live out or be.  Let me say that again:

What you believe about yourself will ultimately determine the person you are living as and the person you will become.

If you are constantly feeding your mind with the lies — that you are worthless, ugly, stupid, fearful, rejected, unloved, unwanted, inferior, etc…, you will self-fulfill those very lies.  You will unknowingly self-initiate the very things you believe about yourself.

You may have experienced rejection in the past, but instead of healing and knowing that what you experienced is not the truth of who you are, you will continue to live rejection.  Instead of not allowing the opinions and lies of others to “roll off” you, you will “take them in.”  As a dear friend said, “You’ll make a pet of them.”

Perhaps, this is one of the biggest reasons why there is a constant attack on our “identity” — who we are.  It’s because we can waste a lot of our life living from the wrong identity instead of living in the freedom of who we were created to be.

Some of us live from a more subtle identity of lies.  We are living from the “good” identities.  We think our worth is based on how “godly,” spiritual, and kind we are.  We think our worth is performance-based.  We try to impress everyone around us with how wise, faith-filled, serving we are.  We can so easily fool ourselves into thinking the motives are all good because we are doing good things — Bible-approved things.  Plus, we receive affirmation and praise from others.  Oh how subtle the deception can be!

Godliness though is not something we do for God.  It’s something we do from God.  Godliness is us submitting ourselves to the sovereignty of God’s grace and power at work in our lives.  It is His initiation and our surrendered response.

Galatians 5:4

You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Some of us are deriving our sense of worth from our beauty, our independence, our accomplishments, our intelligence, our possessions, and our education.

The truth is: your worth has never been about what you do — how “profitable” you are to the world or even more to God. 

Your worth is about Whose you are!

It’s not about your earthly parents — what they are or aren’t.  It’s not about how horrible or not so horrible they were.

Some of you are hurting right now because of the painful things people — even people you respect or love — have said about you or to you.  Perhaps, they were speaking from their own fears, their own experiences, and their own deception.  Whatever the case, these wounds are real.  (In my next blog post, “Offenses,” I plan to write more about what to do with those wounds.)

The first thing you need to understand is that God alone creates reality.  He is truth.  The opinions of others don’t create reality.  There may be truth they have gained from God’s world, laws, and Word, but this doesn’t mean everything they say or think is truth.

So often we base our own sense of worth and identity upon the opinions of others.  The truth is they have no power over you — unless you give it to them by believing what they say or think about you.

Remember who you are!

Jeremiah 31:3

The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you.

You were created for a purpose by a loving and good God.

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Perhaps, you have never accepted God’s gift of salvation for you.  Here is a fairly familiar verse:

John 3:16

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.

He loved you that much!  He desires your presence, your fellowship, and a relationship with you because He loves YOU!

Remember…

You were created for a purpose with inherent worth because you are infinitely loved by an all-loving, all-powerful, and all-wise God!

To Behold

Skye Island, Scotland

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=2518178&searchId=6cad826248cd3f4e93da71e7b49928e3&npos=29)

The words seem to spill out of their own volition.  My heart is overflowing.  There is this awareness of so much goodness — overflowing abundance of goodness…

There is this insatiable hunger.  I can’t seem to get enough of Him.

I met Him and became aware of His love for me, and I fell in love with Him… not the passionate selfish kind of one’s youth.  Instead, it’s a love that makes me complete, content, overjoyed, awe-struck, captivated, inspired, strengthened, at rest.

Before seeing His love for me personally, I had a relationship with Him but it was distant, based on what I had heard or read.  It was built on a lot of “theories” and “head” knowledge.

My worship was related to what I knew about Him with my “head.”  It sounded nice with many fancy-sounding words, but it was a worship of knowledge.  Oh, I had my moments when there was some heart to it…

I was His after all.  Yet, something was missing, and I didn’t know what it was.  I didn’t even know really for awhile that something was missing — how can you when you haven’t had it before?

Then life happened, and with it came pain, hardships, and the ever seeking for a new sense of being.  I tried to be something alright.  I tried to be the most “godly” daughter I could be.  I thought I could be more acceptable to Him if I was more.  I thought He wanted my performance.  Later, I would find out He wanted my heart.

I knew I wanted Him.  I wanted His approval, but most of all, what I was really seeking was His love.  I wanted to feel loved.  So I did or tried to do all the right things.  I was the “good girl”.

What I didn’t realize was that my “godliness” was only “godlified-moralism”.  I would discover that godliness isn’t something you can put on or wear.  True godliness is from Him. 

I didn’t realize that every time I tried to be godly I was doing it in my own strength, with my own ideas and perceptions.  I carried a heavy weight of guilt because I just could never be “godly enough” on my own.

I had trusted Him to be my Savior from my sins, and I knew He loved me enough to die.  My love though was based more on a past-tense event then on a present-day awareness of love.  I didn’t fully realize that He didn’t just die for my sins (which was more than enough) but that He also wanted to take the sinner and transform her to become like His Son.  I didn’t realize all my “inheritance” as His daughter — all that I have in Him.

As the years passed, I became more and more hungry to experience fullness of life in Him, but all I knew was this endless struggle of trying to be godly and falling short.

Then came the day when it all changed.

I remember those moments like I am watching a Cinema movie.  I can recall myself trembling as I awoke to God’s Spirit convicting me and telling me what needed to change — that I needed to find my identity in Him.

I remember crying out to Him and begging Him to tell me what He thought of me because I was forever trying to prove myself to Him, trying to win His acceptance — even though I already was His child.

Then, I remember.  I remember standing there singing those beautiful words to the song “I’m Overwhelmed” by Big Daddy Weave and then it was as if He was singing them to me.

I remember getting up and leaving in the middle of the song to go to a private spot where I could pray.  I remember those gut-wrenching sobs as I began to cry out to God.  As I began to cry out to Him, He began to answer me.

I “saw” that I was no longer running after Him, begging Him for His love.  I saw that He was running towards me.

It was then that my heart ran smack into the heart of God, and I truly came home.

I have never been the same again.

I have this sense of completeness, strength because I have experienced His love for me — so perfect, complete, unconditional.  I no longer live to prove something.  Life no longer has to be a struggle.  It is instead a surrender.  As I surrender to a God I know personally and can trust because He loves me completely, I find all of His gifts and resources at my disposal.

Godliness is not something I achieve.  It’s something He gives/bestows on me as I simply abide in Him. 

Godliness comes from being in His Presence.  Godliness isn’t something I produce.  It’s something He produces in me.

He just wants me — me yielded to Him so that He can transform this broken vessel into something out of which His glory can spill.

My heart yearns to forever be in His physical Presence.  I can’t wait to behold His smile and to look into His eyes and to be lost in them.

I can’t wait to dance in the Presence of the One who made me.

I can’t wait to sit at His feet and to simply soak up His Presence.

I can’t wait to walk with Him and talk with Him… to see the nail prints and to know they are an eternal symbol of His eternal love for me.

His love has changed me.

I wish there were adequate words to describe the depth of my gratitude for Him.

I wish I could help all to see and recognize His love for them — for each and every one of His creation.

With every waking breath, I can’t seem to restrain myself from wanting to share the wonder of this with everyone.  Think me strange or something else, but what I know is once I was “blind” but now I “see.”

I personally see His goodness, His glory, His grace, His love, His transforming truth, His life…  I see Him!

Job 42:5

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

And this…

Does God Ask Too Much Of Us?

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=354752&searchId=4641999a7679fcaef2df0e26d11e3c72&npos=10)

The passage of years told their story in the lines across his brow, “age spots” dappled generously across his body, and skin as fragile as parchment.

He had known the sorrows and joys of a living a full life.

The enthusiasm of his youth had mellowed into the resolute faithfulness of the experienced.

He knew what it meant to watch all his dreams crumble and then at the last to watch them miraculously be fulfilled.

He had experienced the humbling lessons of trying to “intercede” for God and then to see those alternate plans “smack him back in the face.”

The passage of time had taught him that the truthfulness of God’s character is dependable.

The old man had learned that “God doesn’t just speak to be heard but to be obeyed.” (quote taken from Discerning The Voice Of God)

Through both failures and victories, the old man had learned that obedience to God’s voice requires a resolute and total commitment.

Through “trail and error”, the old man had learned that God’s resources and blessings always follow His will. 

In the seasoned years of his life, the old man finally felt ready to relax and to enjoy the benefits of years of toil and sacrifice.

He was ready to enjoy the blessings of spending time with a son that hadn’t come until all hope seemed hopeless.

This son had been promised by God a long time ago, and when the old man was still young, he and his wife had anticipated God’s promised blessing.

As the years had turned into decades, the “blossom” of their dreams and hopes had crumpled along with the vitality and fertility of their youth.

The man and his wife had even tried to devise a contingency plan for God, but had discovered the hard way that God’s blessings follow God’s will — not their own.

In God’s mercy and according to the faithfulness and truthfulness of God’s character, the man and his wife did at last see the full fruition of all their hopes and dreams!

A son was born to the two of them at last!  Miracle of miracles, their son was born in the autumn of their lives!

Where there had been “decay” and “deadness”, God had brought vitality and life.

Now, the old man could enjoy his son turning into a young man, anticipating the “handing over of the reins” of leadership to his son.

Feeling the creak of arthritic knees and the pain of swollen joints, the old man sat for a few minutes, marveling over the extent of the “spread” of his camp.  The tents of his servants spread out across the plain, along with the herds of sheep, cattle, and camels.  Wells, his servants had dug, pumped refreshing water to sustain the life of his household.

The colorful array of exquisite tapestries decorated the outside of their dwellings, while the beautiful designs of intricately-crafted pottery, mosaics, vases, and jewel-like creations decorated the interiors.

The old man felt a deep satisfaction welling up inside him.  It was time to rest and enjoy this “autumn” season of his life.

Into the quiet of his soul came the Voice that he had come to recognize with clarity over the years.  It was the voice of God, compelling Him to once again obey with resolute commitment.

The old man had known what it meant to follow God with unyielding obedience.  He knew what total commitment to God’s will looked like.  He had left the stability of his home lands, the “security” of loved ones and resources, the “protection” of armies, the “provision” of fertile valleys, and the companionship of friends in order to follow God.

His commitment to God was radical in its resoluteness and thoroughness.

In spite of all the “sacrifices” the old man had previously made to follow God, this new command would test everything he believed concerning God.  This latest command would be the ultimate test of the fortitude of his commitment to God.

“Was he all in for God and willing to go all out for God — even when it meant allowing the ‘blessings’ and ‘promises’ of God to ‘die’?”

In all honesty, the old man did have the fleeting thought that ran through his mind initially, questioning God’s “right” to ask so much of him.  The thought was no sooner there than the old man discarded it.  If nothing else, the old man had learned that God is a God of the impossible.

“If God required the ultimate sacrifice, then God would provide the ultimate provision.”

The old man pushed himself up. On legs, shaking not just from the weakness of age but also from the emotions of the moment, he limped his way to the animal corral.  It was time to prepare his donkey and pack provisions for the grueling journey that he would undertake in the morning.

Relaying few details, the old man kissed his wife good bye and set off on the journey, taking several days’ worth of provisions, his donkey, a stack of wood for an offering, two servants to assist, and his most prized possession of all — his promised son.

The arduous journey would take three days of bone-wearying, mind-numbing, and emotionally-draining fatigue.

During those three days, the old man continued to trudge along in his task to fulfill God’s command.

This time, he had no contingency plans.  There was no sacrificial animal that he had brought “just in case”…

Upon reaching the foothills of the mountain that was to be their destination, the old man instructed the two servants to wait for their return.

Then with one hand leading the donkey, loaded with firewood on his back, and the other hand clasping his son’s hand in his own, the old man set out.

With the carefree nature of youth, the son soon was scampering along the path, excitedly pointing out the insects, oddly-shaped rocks, and colorful flowers long their path.

The steep path ascended up the hard face of the mountain, ending at the top.  At the top of the mount, the man and his boy stood.  It was just them and God.

With unwavering dedication to following God’s commands, the old man began to untie the firewood and began to carefully stack the wood upon an outcropping of rocks.  He placed each log carefully so that it would quickly and efficiently burn the sacrifice.

Each action he performed was resolute.  He was committed to seeing God’s commands through to the end.

Then with unwavering devotion and trust, the old man hardly flinched as he turned to his son and began to tie his sons’ arms and legs together, preparing his son to be the sacrifice.

The son had heard the story of his miraculous birth over and over throughout his young years.  He had heard repeatedly how God had promised that He would raise up a powerful nation through the boys’ descendants.  The boy did not fully understand what was going to happen, but he too believed that God could and should be trusted.

With bated breath, the boy watched as his father raised a long knife over his body.

Into the silence of time suspended in an agony of hopes, the compelling voice of God spoke.

With trembling hand, the old man lowered the sharp blade.  While salty tears trailed down weathered cheeks and gnarled hands grabbed the hand of his beloved son, the old man listened as God commended him for his obedience and then revealed His provision.

A ray of sunlight caught the glint of the metal and threw a dazzling beam of light out across the mount where they stood.  As their gazes were drawn to the blinding reflection of sun, the boy and the man saw where the beam of light seemed to point.

There, standing in a tangled mass of weeds and thistles was a ram.  The strong and beautiful animal would become the sacrifice instead.

God had provided!

The old man swept his son up into his arms and quickly cut the restraining ropes, binding the boys’ arms.

Later as the old man and his son watched the last embers of flame burn out, they heard God’s compelling voice once again speak. This time, God’s voice spoke words of praise and blessing, reaffirming the promises that had been made decades ago that God would bless the progeny of this faithful old man and his son.

As the old man and his son descended the mountain, their eyes were drawn not just to the beautiful vista below but also back to the altar.

Something powerful had happened that day in their lives!  It wasn’t just mere excitement over seeing a ram and the huge relief of knowing that God wasn’t going to require the sacrifice of the boy.  It was something greater… It seemed a truth, a message greater than the moment, greater than themselves had been relayed. 

And the old man returned home to his wife, while the youthful son, exuberantly ran off to explore a new adventure.

Though presently distracted by youthful interests, the boy would later recall that powerful moment and would ponder the deeper message of God’s faithfulness and truthfulness to His promises.

Over a thousand years later, a Father would once again be required to make the ultimate sacrifice.

This Son was the Father’s only and beloved Son.  This Son would willingly lay down His life as a sacrifice, but this time, there would be no substitution. 

The full crushing weight of becoming the sacrifice for all sins, for all of mankind, for all of time would be laid upon this Son.

God Himself was the Father, and it was His precious Son who died, carrying the weight of a sin-burdened, sin-guilty, sin-weary world upon Himself.  With the bowing of His head in surrender to death, He “crucified” the record of sin against us. 

His death became the means for the death of our own sin: its guilt, penalty, and crushing hold.

Three days later when this same Son arose from the dead in miraculous risen life, He offered the means by which we too can experience a new life of complete and radical transformation! 

The life He offers to us through His own life is that of abundant grace — the grace that brought the Gospel of salvation to us and the grace that keeps us sheltered within the embrace of lavish love.