Expectations, Fear and Obedience

Last week I shared about some disobedience I had been living in for the last bit. I will admit the struggle is very real in living an obedient life in Christ. To listen diligently for His voice, the Spirit’s prompting and digging daily into God’s Word to guide us. The tensions that therein lie against the world, our desires, and the pull of culture can almost be too much (and sometimes are) for this soul.

Over the course of the last two years I have faced some pulls I wasn’t expecting, coincide that with losing my job unexpectedly and launching into a whole new sphere of work has led to some self-assessment and a whole lot of self-pity. Most of the struggle has been in the realm of pride though if I’m honest. I like to list off (to myself and God mainly) that I have this list of accomplishments, these degrees, and yet here He’s put me, in this situation. I remind Him that’s He’s called me to more, all the while not really confessing my pride and willingness to be obedient in the wait, in the work I now feel led to fully.

I realized so very recently that I have been lining myself up with the world’s pulls of life, the world’s expectations of myself and my list of “to-dones” instead of falling flat on my face in repentance before God. I have pursued after jobs, locations that I felt I should be pursuing rather than what I knew without a shred of doubt He was leading me towards.

In all honesty, I wasn’t being brave in the face of false expectations.

I wasn’t being courageous to live in the wait He wants me in currently.

I am not being obedient to the fullness of life He has for me by filling my time with distraction of expectations and the need for approval.

When I turned the pages of a book in the early morning hours of the day I saw these words call out, God’s way of saying, “I’m talking to you right here, in this moment.What are you going to do with it?”

“There comes a moment for each of us wherein we must decide-will we be brave, or will we remain enslaved to fear? Will we be brave enough to confess? Will we be brave enough to walk into God’s calling?”

The calling terrifies me…because I am thinking it’s about me and my strength (and very present lack thereof). But when I bravely confess that I have relied too much on the world’s expectations and my own willingness I step into the area of obedience. I step out of my own lies and those that I have believed the world is telling me to see that I have to choose this for myself and not for the approval of others, or for anything short of God’s glory in obedience.

I am still walking in this tension of choosing bravery in the face of the world’s expectations of me and obedience to the calling He has given me. It means I have to choose trust in every single moment, in every single step even when I don’t know what that looks like or how long I will have to wait.

Fear will always tell me to not make a decision, it will always remind me of what others would think or say. But bravery in obedience and choice means my faith is bigger than my fears, my God is bigger than the world’s reminders of failure or expectations. Because I am already approved, already loved, and called to obedience in a sovereign God Who doesn’t leave me to figure this out alone but to have seasons of wait, rest, grief and freedom in Him.

Here’s to shirking off the fear of the world’s expectations and living fully in the freedom of bravery in Christ, knowing He went first so we wouldn’t have to be enslaved any more to it all.


The quote above is from Rebekah Lyons’ new book out this Tuesday, You are Free (pg. 198) Pick it up at your local LifeWay Christian Stores. 

Living in La La Land

rs-la-la-land-3d3a431a-8329-4539-b953-51e2d61a396cInitially I wanted to see La La Land, but then when the hype and awards buzz hit peak level I slowly started backing away from it. Opting instead to see new favorite Hidden Figures (it’s amazing, you must see it). But alas, I finally saw it in the last couple of days.

And y’all, I loved it. LOVED. Here’s a caveat, I keep a skeptical eye on musicals. I am really not a fan when people break into song for no apparent reason. They also tend to be overly sweet in nature, sometimes not, but often so.

Back to the matter at hand, La La Land…y’all it is a great telling and portrayal of the tension of ambition and love with the backdrop of Hollywood. But to see the tension fully of the two individuals play out was something that really pulled the story together. I love me some Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (hi Crazy Stupid Love, anyone?) but more than that, they showed the conflict they were both living out so well.

Because often the struggle of pursuing dreams, dreams that break you and hurt you, can be in direct conflict with love and a relationship because we like the idea of a clean separation of both, of handling both, but what often happens is they are pulling and tugging us in directions that come across as opposing. I could not help but see the beauty in that mess on the screen. The messiness of life in general can cause us to hurt and emote in ways we wish we didn’t, or even lead us to give up on that pursuit simply out of the need to not be hurt anymore by it, choosing instead the more solid route of comfort and security.

Seeing La La Land was a reminder that messy can be beautiful and it can be both temporary and permanent, it can leave us longing and wondering, but it can lead us to places we’d never thought possible if we recognize the tension of both and allow the tugs and pulls to be in the right direction. But we may not get it all the way we thought we would, and there in lies the rub of it all with our own selves.

We struggle against the path of perfection, of our ambition and love both intertwining easily in order to get all that we expect instead of living out the hard tension of hurt, heart break and wrong timing. When we are able to face them we understand more about who we are and how we resolve those. Maybe we shouldn’t be living so much in la la land with our expectations and instead find a way to live in the tension of ambition and love a bit more.

The Struggle is Real

Do you have those moments where you just know that it’s God talking through a friend specifically to you about something buried deep that you keep pushing back down?

No? Just me.

Oh well good.

Recently with a friend, who did not know what I had been killing and burying repeatedly within me, they brought up the struggle of the flesh with obedience to God’s prompting. I thought it interesting because I wasn’t prepared for that wallop at the time, since I myself had spent the better part of two weeks avoiding dealing with this rising notion of disobedience because of the flesh whispering the very thing it knew would get me, what others would think.

real

Most of the time I am good at really not minding what is thought of me, but the grooves of my old self, an approval addict to the very core, found some footing in my heart as I sought to be obedient in what I still feel is God prompting me on about discipleship and women’s ministry. Then this verse came up when listening to a sermon first thing today and I knew it. I knew exactly what the flesh was after and the struggle I had not been fighting but just burying to avoid.

For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. -Romans 7:15 (HCSB)

I was right back in my approval mode of life, looking alot like the habits of my old self and wondering what people would think of me if I asked, if I stepped out in obedience. I didn’t realize it in the moment, or over the course of the last few weeks but I knew for certain this morning that I was pursuing the things which I hate-old habits. A life that I had crucified to the cross because I was already approved, loved and adored by the One who went to the cross for me. Who took it all on Himself so that I would not have to worry about such things but live in the abundant approval of the King of the world.

But just because that approval addiction has been nailed to the cross doesn’t mean it still doesn’t wiggle off, limping and broken to come right back to me in the moments when the flesh wants to remind me of what I used to be, habits I left a solid tread mark for in my old self. I didn’t need a CSI team to tell me where those tracks led, but somehow I was willingly off the path that the Spirit had been leading, all too quickly simply out of the worry of approval.

Y’all, let me be the example to tell you that you cannot be living in obedience with God, walking in step with the Spirit and not expect your habits of old self to attempt to distract you. Because they do. They want you off that path, even with the lie as the pastor pointed out this morning, “that you’ll get back in step and on that path later.”

The struggle is truly real, not with our old selves but with those habits that wore deep paths within us from that prior life…ones that are often easier to find than the step in front of us that is with the Spirit. Maybe like me, you needed to hear today that even when we believe we are in step with the Spirit that our habits can distract us, can pull us into an old way that feels comforting and familiar but is blatantly disobedient to where we are supposed to be, where we are called to be by God. But we have the choice to recognize it, to see the old path and know that the outcome leads to death and hurt. So we can then choose repentance, obedience and placing that foot back on the path with the Spirit leading. Back in tune with “the desire to what is good” and knowing “there is no ability to do it” on our own. (Romans 7:18(b) HCSB)

Where is it today that you need to  step out of that habit of your former self to boldly step in the path with the Spirit? To choose obedience and the power of God in you rather than the flesh that reminds you of your old self?

The struggle is hard, but the continual sin of fleshly habits is real. And eternally tethered.

I cannot stop listening to Ellie Holcomb‘s album, Red Sea Road. For almost two weeks now I have been playing it on repeat and having a good ol’ fashioned worship with it. Particularly I have been dwelling on the title track itself (Ellie shares more about it’s origination here). These very words are the prayer of my heart these days when it seems like everything wants to break the hope I have, even my own mind:

We will sing to our souls
We won’t bury our hope
Where He leads us to go, there’s a Red Sea Road
When we can’t see the way, He will part the waves
And we’ll never walk alone down a Red Sea Road

 

I am not facing a death, a health battle, a family falling apart…but there’s been a season of hope dying in many ways in my life. I hadn’t been able to put my finger on it until recently when the dry bone season changed me to thirst more and more for Christ. When I had exhausted all of my means and went back to the God Who just asks me to be still. In retrospect I had decided to bury hope for some dreams I had carried, that I thought were God-given but felt were all but lost.

Prayers had gone unanswered, unaddressed, or they had simply been told no. I wanted to pack it all away and go on living with buried dreams, a hope left by the wayside. I didn’t want to see God as faithful and with me. In fact I was so dry that I just didn’t feign to look at all towards His direction.

I could write more on justifying how God used this song to convince those who may not believe He can do that, but I won’t. What I will do is say that I trudged through the dryness to a night in January where I was trying to give every excuse not to be at women’s worship night that I could. But a new friend from this last year was going with baby in tow, so I thought I’d better go if for nothing else than to be where I said I would. Then Ellie comes out to lead part of worship with Christy Nockels, and they sing this song they co-wrote. Y’all, I couldn’t…God was slowly reaching down to give me water with it. Then Ellie sings Red Sea Road. It was God’s heart cry to my hope, a Hope that is everlasting and unfading. One that I had attempted to bury was now calling me to sing, to unpack it and allow it to stand in the face of fears, doubts, lies and brokenness.

It reminded me of the very story Ellie wrote her song from, of the Israelites facing opposition chasing them and a wall of water before them. What could have easily been a dead-end for them, their hope and even their lives. He provided the way then, and He does so now. It may not be conventional, but the God who made a road out of the dry land of the Red Sea will be with us on our road we walk.

Is it easy? Absolutely not.

Are there days when I want to bury that hope? Yes.

But the last two weeks I have seen that hope that is Christ-driven, God-ordained and Spirit-led is Hope that cannot be buried. It can only be grasped fully in the obedient walk with God, knowing we only need to be still, He goes before us.

Review of My Heart

Recent51udk4afeel-_sx321_bo1204203200_ly I was given the opportunity to read My Heart a new book out from Julie Manning. I was intrigued at first by the book and it’s title. Once I received the book I took the time to dig in a bit further to read Julie’s story and how this impacted her view of God.

In reviewing the book I have to be honest here that I wasn’t a fan of it. Maybe because I am not the ideal audience for this book (single) it felt very repetitive. I felt she didn’t have much direction on the writing in the early chapters nor was there much reflecting. As you get to the crux of the book is when her voice shifted into telling us how to go deeper with God. But there wasn’t much application there, only excerpts of journal entries during her time post-heart surgeries.

I was shocked at how I kept coming back to the book wanting more and not really finding much. She seems like a great woman whose faith was solidified in navigating the difficulties she faces with her heart situation. For me, it just didn’t click and I didn’t see beyond the emotionality of her faith journey during all of it. It also felt a bit disjointed having her notes to her sons at the end of each chapter. I couldn’t tell if this was a memoir, a letter to them, or a book on exploring faith and finding an unchanging God in the midst of difficult circumstances.

I recommend others to check it out for themselves, but know that it just wasn’t for me as a reviewer.


The book was provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

Deep Diving David

exposition Over the last six weeks I have been utilizing the Christ-Centered Exposition Series from B&H Publishing during my quiet time each day. This particular one is focused on two books of the Old Testament, 1 and 2 Samuel.

These two books focus intently on the life of the first king of Israel and then the second which many of us know as David, the man after God’s own heart.

Throughout this very in-depth look at these two hefty books of the OT we find the juxtaposition of the first two kings that Israel has asked God to give them, and much can be said about how they rule very differently. We see the turmoil of a man who turns to pride and jealousy, who chooses how he looks rather than listening for God in all circumstances. We then see the rise of David, a man God chooses not for his appearance or military prowess, but for David’s heart.

In this Exposition, you hear the voices of J.D. Greear and Heath Thomas come through the writing. They speak from experience, a firm Biblical perspective and a deeper understanding of these two books of the Bible. I had previously reviewed another in this series that had two other authors, and found I enjoyed these two as well as I dove into in-depth study of Saul, Israel, and David. It gave me further understanding of how David truly pointed to the Messiah eventhough this is the Old Testament.

I would highly recommend this particular one if you are weary of studying the Old Testament, or even reading it as a daily quiet time, but desire to still learn and grow in Scripture. The authors give in-depth analysis and applicability to what would seem like very unapplicable circumstances. Also at the end of each section there are questions for reflection which would also provide a great means of use in a small group setting as well. For around $14.99 you get a great tool to use in your own personal study, for teaching, or leading small group, and also for pastoral research if that is your need. It’s not too heady and can be used in spurts as reference material as well.


In exchange for this review, I was provided the book for free by the publisher as a part of the B&H Bloggers program. You can sign up too!