But First, A Word from God

I love books. The fact that I currently have a stack on my bedside table just to read in the next couple of w

I review books as a blogger for a publishing company and I find solace in roaming through bookstores and piles of old books in thrift stores. My library card could have caught fire with how I burn that thing up using it so often.

scripture-and-psychologyBut the problem occurs when I put the words of even well-intentioned Christian authors ahead of Scripture. I can read about getting out of a pit, about loving others through what I do, and realizing the freedom I have in Christ. Yet, if I am not digging into His Word first? Well, then I am robbing myself of actual Truth.

Since Secret Church I have kept coming back to one particular area that David Platt taught on-the goodness of the Bible. And y’all, it is good. It brings us to Him directly instead of us relying upon another to reveal something to us. Just this morning I was really wanting to pour back into the book I am currently reading on friendships instead of the digging back into the book of Acts. Then I realized that I was placing more emphasis on someone else’s words, even a fellow sister in Christ, instead of Scripture itself, God’s very word to me.

There are days when I don’t feel like digging into His word, the hard of it. The messy of it. But it’s His truth, His divine words for me and for you for our lives and for His glory. When I put other’s words ahead of His? Well I start making myself a disciple of that person rather than of Him. (p. 125, Secret Church) I also miss out on the purpose God has for me for my life, because it is right there in Scripture. I give the glory that He is due and give it to that author, that writer, even to myself.

Please don’t hear me say that reading is bad, or that using resources by authors to draw God’s word out is a bad thing. But we first must come to His Word instead of that book. We have to devote ourselves to digging into what He says about Himself to then see how to become more like Him and less like ourselves.

Curses, Donkeys and Truth

God is not a man, that He should lie,

Nor a son of man, that He should repent.

Has He said, and will He not do?

Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Those words from Numbers. Words spoken by Balaam to Balak, a man unwilling to listen. Balak had come to Balaam to curse the nation of Israel, but God has His plans and His words. He used Balaam, who just verses before seemed to be attempting to channel a curse against the people of Israel.

This goes further back to Balaam being summoned by Balak, and thus giving his words to the highest bidder, regardless of their intent or content. Yet God would not allow it. Back in the 22nd chapter of Numbers, God tells him flat out “only the word which I speak to you-that you shall do.” This evolves into the encounter with the donkey and the Angel of the Lord, where Balaam is confronted with the state of his heart on pursuing his own way instead of the one in which God sent him out on.

So we come back to these words here, Balaam’s second prophecy from God to Balak. These words y’all…

I don’t know about you but today my very soul needed to shout them. To myself. He doesn’t lie to us. We may do that to ourselves, but God most certainly does not. And we are really good at lying to ourselves on alot of things that God has never said. Then we turn and look to what He has said and have the audacity to doubt and question if what He said was true. Y’all, I am standing right in this guilt along with you…because we are all guilty of lying to ourselves and then turning the tables on God on what He’s said to us.

I know that there have been times I have put God in human form that is nothing resembling Christ. That I stand in reverence one moment worshiping Him and then turn and act like nothing He has said is true. I don’t love others as I love Him, I don’t honor my parents as I should, I grow jealous of others and their wisdom/platform/ministry. I don’t see the good He’s working in me because I turn my lies into solid truth about all things.

When He speaks, He makes good on it. He has proven over and over again that He is trustworthy, faithful and so very good. He cannot be pulled down to human form as we deem it and then question whether what He says is right, good and true. It’s us that needs the work, that has to rectify that while we cannot understand it some of the time, He is able. He is unchanging. He cannot renege on the promises He has given us. It is our responsibility as those who live in Christ to take those promises as truth, conforming and transforming our thinking to view life through that lens and not the human lies and doubt we so often jump to believing instead.


 

What truths do you need to believe from God today? What doubts have you supplanted in your heart, your mind that He’s told you to have no fear in?

These are things I wrestle with still, but know no matter what your heart and mind attempt to tell you that He is not us, He is God. He is good and true. He will make good on what He says and He will do what He says He will.

Saul, Pride and The Wait

A while ago, the exact date I cannot recall, I remember praying for deliverance from a situation. It was a situation that I had wrestled, fought against, and made myself low in simply to find the means to get through it and into a new season. I kept finding myself back there, back in the situation that brought hurt, frustration and humiliation to some degree. As I asked God for deliverance, I defined how it should come forth. How He should provide it and what it should look like. I gave Him the story of deliverance to bless it, even in my most broken and convicted state.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of  the situation long enough to see how He was going to deliver me. I wanted the situation shuttled away, the person that was at the core of the frustration removed, all the while He was using me to refine and grow.

As I read through 1 Samuel this morning on the anointing of Israel’s first prince (Saul) and his reign over the course of five chapters I couldn’t help but see some of situation play out. What struck me was in the waiting on God to go before him in battle, Saul decided to take matters into his own hands. Specifically, he manipulated godly offering to justify his own inadequacies and fears. Moments after doing so, the promised arrival of the prophet and priest Samuel comes to fruition, laying bare Saul’s foolhardiness and prideful disobedience.

Years later, looking back on that season of life, I see that I was trying to manipulate my offering to God. Yes, you can have the situation and circumstances but only if you bless this specific outcome. Yes, I give this over to you, but only in this way and only if you deliver me in the way I have laid out for you. 

And I can honestly say I have done it since then, but not in such a large and bold manner. Not with such prideful disobedience to say that I would take the very thing God has given and use it for my own gain. It’s the evidence of a heart that still battles the sinful nature, a heart that desires control and knowledge beyond understanding. It’s the heart that tries to put itself on equal footing with God, when in fact it should be bowing in reverence, fear, and praise to Him.

When we define how God should work in our life, putting parameters and our limited thinking over His sovereignty we tell Him (and those around us) that we know better. We box Him into this far off God who does not care about the lives of His children instead of the truth that He does care, He does hear, and He does actively work in our lives for the good of all of us. That good doesn’t get defined by us in one moment/season/stage. We would choose the lie of our heart’s prideful disobedience rather than Truth which has redeemed us, carried us, and led us for far longer.

Maybe you haven’t dealt with this, or maybe you are smack dab in the middle of praying your way through a situation but giving God the directions as if He needed them. Instead of diagrams and manipulations of His will, today let’s release ourselves from the pride, the disobedience, the control and with open hands give God the entire situation as we wait. Waiting in obedience for Him to work as He deems good, and not how we define it for ourselves.

The Manger

You know the song we sing around this time of year, “Away in a Manger”? Well that song has been on my mind for weeks now. Odd, I know. Of all the Christmas carols, hymns, songs to have, that one isn’t one that truly sticks out as a mind-grabber. But alas, here I am this morning humming it while I clean up breakfast and look at the tree partially lit up (half the lights at the top went out, it’s a thing I just don’t have the will to drag out new lights for).

The line “the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head” is what keeps popping into mind and I am having a hard time here with it. Here’s why…

I think we like to look at Christ as this babe in a feeding trough there in a stable-structure. We like to see Him as this babe that shepherds came to marvel and wise men sought to honor with gifts, but we keep Him there in this context throughout our lives.

jesus-in-the-mangerWe have this concept that Christ is infant-to wonder and lavish love upon, but we don’t like the reality that His Presence commands of our lives. We don’t like that when He came with us, our selves got a bit too uncomfortable, our lives got rocked by Emmanuel. God with us.

Because that meant we couldn’t point to His absence, His silence, as excuse. He physically laid out His life, relinquishing the glories of heaven and His right in order that we might be in relationship with Him. In a few months we’ll look to Him on the cross, but I think we often upgrade the image of Christ as a babe in order to downplay our need for Him.

When we put Christ only in the image of the manger, born in a stable as a helpless babe, it appeases our self to think He can’t do it all, He can’t be relied upon and maybe He needs our help instead of the other way around. We don’t greet Him with welcoming in our lives often, but instead stare in wonder at this humanness of God Incarnate instead.

In reading Luke’s account of Christ’s life, I love the honesty of Mary with Gabriel. Just yesterday  we talked about Zechariah’s response to him as he hears the news of an impending birth. Then just a few verses later, we see Mary greeted by this angel (y’all he wasn’t some little cherub all cute and fluffy, this was Gabriel, mighty angel come to bring the news). Same truth of a birth coming, only this one is the Savior of the world, God Himself. Mary’s initial response is one of confusion, not doubt. But how can she get pregnant as a virgin, unwed? She wasn’t doubting his news, she just couldn’t see the possibility of it with her.

But her response to Emmanuel coming to her, coming to us?

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.

“May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Is that how we respond to Christ the King? Is that how we address Him even now, knowing His redemption of our souls was purposed through this very season we celebrate? Do we look to Him as the authority of our lives even in the context of the manger? Because y’all, He didn’t stay in the manger. He didn’t stay in the tomb. He reigns, rules and intercedes for us…

He’s not away in some manger, helpless and in need of us. It’s us that needs Him. We needed Him thousands of years ago, in that manger, to herald a new hope, to rejoice as our weary souls cried out for a Savior. We needed the new morning, new mercies, redemption and grace. There it all came, in the form a baby, heralded by an angel and under all authority given by God Himself, so that we may say “I am the Lord’s servant.”

Do The Thing.

Tap.

Scroll, Scroll, Scroll.

Tap.

Scroll, Like, (Ugh, why would you put that out there?), Scroll, Scroll. LOVE.

Tap.

I think the majority of you can ascertain what that is describing, as we all seem to tap and scroll, like and judge on our phones these days.

We see people doing amazing things, putting themselves out there and jumping at opportunities. We see people out having fun, pursuing dreams, and everyone seems to be in a happier place than us. Am I right?

Lately for me, I have used social media as a means of procrastination. I have read posts, looked through photos, found streams of hashtags all in the name of research for my writing. But not much writing has been going on. Instead it’s a whole lot of scrolling and a whole lot of unproductivity. It’s lost time and momentum, and instead supplanted a whole lot of self-doubt and questions.

I wouldn’t say I have become jealous or envious of others’ pursuits as several years ago I prayed through that as I saw others advancing and decided to celebrate them over feeling left out or rejected in any way. (I’m mature, I know)

No for me, it’s getting bogged down in the distraction of it all. In the taking a break to clear the mind and finding myself flipping through four forms of social media I have at the ready of my finger tips. Trust me when I say I do love it, it has connected me with people and broadened my perspective on certain things, discovering new ideas and thoughts that I wouldn’t have been challenged to see.

But y’all, it’s my excuse these days. I use it when I should be fighting through writer’s block, when I should be digging into His Word, when I should be sitting in the quiet stillness of life. This isn’t a proclamation of social media fast (you all can stop that at any time because it’s okay to just do it). It’s a call to accountability, that I need to do the thing I am called to do instead of choosing distraction.

you-must-do-the-thing-resized

Distractions are so good, they feed our selves in such ways that bring us delight in the moment, a reprieve from the hard/difficult/uncomfortable/quiet. I am chief of these in pursuing y’all. I even said last night to my friend that I watch entirely too much television, and then commenced to starting the next show on my DVR. Instead of writing. Instead of taking time to dig into Scripture that God has put on my heart. Instead of praying for that friend who came to mind earlier in the day. Instead of cultivating relationships in and around my life.

Maybe you’re like me and seeking out distractions from dealing with life, a call that has gotten to be difficult, loneliness in the midst of a season of quiet, expectations unmet or unrealized…a place where God isn’t providing how you expected or how you defined. It’s gotten hard or quiet and you just want to be distracted by the noise of the world-good intentioned, but still distracting.

For me, I have to do the thing. Not what my flesh desires but what I know deep within, obedience. Obedience to the thing that is greater than what I desire in social media, television, inherently good things…to the Lord in this moment, just now…for today. It’s not easy, nor will I get it right 100% of the time, but for just this moment when I’d rather reach for my phone or remote, I go empty-handed to Him. To His call. To His Word. To time spent with Him.

Living Your Dream

Y’all know, if you’ve been a follower of this blog for long, that I have a Bible crush on Paul. I think he and I would roll well together and frankly a large part of me is really looking forward to meeting him in heaven.

Lately I have been enamored with Joseph. His entire story, from beginning to end, has just enraptured me in some ridiculous way. Over the last six weeks or so, we’ve been studying him in church. We’ve looked at what most would deem a mess of his life and ultimately God’s message throughout.

I think about Joseph talking about his dreams, there in the beginning as a young teenager with his brothers and dad. I cannot help but think if he’d only kept his mouth shut, if he’d just not been so transparent with what his head was speaking then maybe he wouldn’t have ended up almost killed, in prison…but then he wouldn’t have been advisor to Pharaoh. Would the grain have been stockpiled? Would the famine have claimed the entire land?

So I look at Joseph’s story, the entire thing, and think that in the moment say year four of prison, his dreams were looking awfully foolish and mocking to him I am willing to bet. Or maybe he’s dwelling on the fact he was a man of faith and rebuffed the advances of a woman seducing him and wondering where God was in that mess. For thirteen years Joseph was a slave or a prisoner, a life that looked like a mess. He was in it every single day, living it, and choosing faith over and over.

So we come to the backside of his story, where he gets reunited with family. He gives out forgiveness because that is what his faith tells him to do. He sees that what his brothers meant as harm, God wove into beauty. A mess turned into a message. But we don’t see that when he’s thrown in the pit. We don’t see how God can use him in prison. Or even in the famine. No, it’s a continual working of God in His sovereignty to weave a story that is threaded through with faith. One side we see a mess of threads for years, but on the other a beautiful tapestry from beginning to end.

So I am drawn to Joseph’s story, his life, because He wrote it. He crafted it. He spoke into his story over and over. Just as He does mine. Though I struggle at times (okay, most of the time) to see it in the moment, I see how He works when I take stock and look back over my story, a faith journey of 17 years now…a little longer than Joseph was in bondage but living in faith. So often I want to choose bondage over faith because my story isn’t looking how I thought it should. I am sure Joseph’s wasn’t either, but God’s pen wasn’t finished with His story being written for Joseph. And He’s sure not done with mine either.

So I live the dream, in faith, knowing the Author of my story has a far greater ending that looks an awful lot like an eternal beginning.

Over All,Even the Small

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It’s hard to fathom an “over all” ruler sometimes, especially in America where we cling desperately and aggressively to our democratic ways. We are the rulers of our choices. We are entitled to the rights and privileges, we get to vote for goodness sakes! We get a say in it all!

Believe me, I’m not advocating for a dictatorship in any way, but it’s funny how it shapes how we view so many things.

This week I have been especially drawn to the sovereign nature of things, of life, of Christ specifically. For me I see His sovereign nature as this big nebulous, orchestrating large movements and shifts in cultures and peoples. As I have dug deeper in study I am seeing that “over all” means over all. It means the big and the small, the minute detail and the largest scope of life.

Often we get it, but we don’t believe it in our daily life. We see the sovereign God of all at this 3,000 foot level where He’s reigning and weighing in on the big stuff-creation, judgement, salvation, redemption. But He’s also very present in His sovereignty in the small that I see as my life. He heals miraculously both in my broken heart and the terminal illness of another.

I often discount His character in my life, His presence of the nature that He can never not be. All of God’s character is present all of the time in the big, and my small. For He is Lord of all, meaning that decision I am making and the circumstances of my life. I see Him in the long game, but He’s in the short game as well with me.

It means He is sovereign, Lord of all, in the now of life. In this moment. In this thing. In a diagnosis. In a heart break. In an interview. In a birth. In a death. In my writing. In your hobby.

He is over it all. All.

Maybe I’m alone in realizing this, that He cares and reigns in my smallness. That is matters to Him, being over all in my small.

“In the presence of God, who gives life to all, and of Christ Jesus, who gave a good confession before Pontius Pilate, I charge you to keep the command without fault or failure until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God will bring this about in His own time. He is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings,and the Lord of lords…” 1 Timothy 6:13-15 (HCSB, emphasis mine)

So I look at Paul’s words now as he’s encouraging Timothy in the small of the work before him, to pursue righteousness and fight the good fight of faith. And I see these words below. The giving of life, the keeping of His commands…because He is Sovereign. He’s the God of BIG and small. In the fight and the rest. In salvation of all, and redemption of me. In each and every moment of my perceived smallness. Because He is a BIG God, He’s also the God of all..even in the small.