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Knowing God’s Intentions Toward You

We have good days, we really do, and ever so slowly the good days are outnumbering the bad ones.

It’s when the bad days come along that I have to dig deep and draw upon truth. These days I ask her the simplest of things and she shuts down, pulls away, wonders what I really want from her.

I give the slightest instruction and she stares me down, draws a line in the sand, gears up to fight for control.

It pains me that after nearly three years, she still does not trust my intentions towards her.

It smacks me between the eyes, that insight. Because my LORD wants my full and complete surrender but how can I give it if I do not fully trust His intentions towards me?

Yes, I know about doubt. We adopted not because we wanted another child, not because we had some silly notion of “saving”  a “poor child,” but for the simple reason of obedience. We asked God how He wanted us to fulfill James 1:27. “Adopt,” He told us.

We did. So things should be okay, right? We are being obedient to God and are joyfully following the Lord…things surely won’t blow up in our face. Right?

Wrong.

It’s sort of like the Israelites leaving Egypt. They are tired and weak and the unknown hangs over their heads, presses them from all sides…and suddenly they are attacked. From behind, where the weakest ones lag. Dirty low down enemies. Surely they would at least fight fair. (See Exodus 17)

Wrong.

Where is God in all of this? Hello? God? We didn’t do this because we set out on our own and paved our own path. We are here because of You, God. We are following You by pillar and cloud. What gives? We aren’t supposed to get bindsided by a foe we didn’t even know existed right when we need rest the most.

Then when child #4 came along, the third one to arrive in a span of 23 months, I started asking even more of those questions. “Don’t you know I’m overwhelmed already, Lord? What are You thinking?”

Like in Exodus 17, God’s purpose for me was/is to train me how to do warfare. If we’re going to take our promised land, we’ve got to know how to fight.

But before we can fight, we’ve got to trust, because how can one willingly submit herself fully to God if there is even a trace of fear regarding His intent?

He wakes me one morning with the words, “Understand what the will of the Lord is,” and I know what His Spirit is getting at, how I historically define God’s will in terms of what He wants from me, what He wants me to do.

{And I’ve done this part well.}

There is something more. His will starts with His intentions.

This I have missed.

I’ve been taught to do the right thing, to please God, to obey His will…but I’ve never really understood the intentions of my Lord, the One who is supposed to be Master.

But isn’t that what faith is all about? Believing?

A word study on “will” leaves me in awe. Understanding His will means believing His heart.The same heart that birthed spoken eulogies and Word made flesh and still lives among us. The same heart who can’t help but be loving to all He has made and whose deeds are all done in faithfulness.

How have I missed this?

I’m saddened by all the grace I’ve missed.

But there are new graces for today and failing to embrace them by mourning those forfeited only compounds the loss.

In my study, I stumble upon the verse that grounds me when changing dirty diapers…when sick children keep me up all night…when I feel overwhelmed by the emotional demands from children whose hurt runs deep…when I wonder where God will send us next, and when…where the provisions will come from… the verse that I take up like a life raft and heave myself upon and calm myself with and rest and bring myself first to my knees and them, shaky, to my feet.

“Stand fully assured in all God’s will for you.”

Fully Assured. I can face each moment fully assured of God’s good will in all, and for me.

When the dirty rotten enemies come at me from behind when I’m just trying to follow God, I can stand fully assured. I don’t have to add God’s intentions to my list of problems.

“This is God’s best for me,” I tell myself. THIS moment. Right here, right now. With all the unknowns and the problems that don’t have answers yet and the inadequacy of me,

This is God’s best for me.

I can stand fully assured in all God’s will for me. There is not a moment that I have to flounder. There is not a season or a single half- second that I have to doubt His intentions towards me.

Fully Assured.

In All.

God’s Will.

For Me.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans for your welfare, not for disaster; plans to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

 

This month, we are learning the Habits of Love: How to be Rooted and Grounded in Love; How to Walk in God’s Eulogy; How to Really Know God Loves You. Join us next Monday for a wrap up and special printable for your fridge. {You can also find a printable bookmark of the 3 Love Habits I’m taking with me this year at the bottom of this post.}

God Surprises

I knew I was in trouble when I got in the truck with them.

This was not the way things were supposed to go. I was supposed to go visit the new family with my husband. The two ladies were supposed to go visit Amber on their own.

Instead, I was with the two ladies going to visit Amber and what was more, I was to head the visit up. I was the one they were all counting on.

I told them to be ready to present the way of salvation, to be sensitive to what God wanted to do. But I never intended to be the one doing it.

I got in the truck and they chattered away.

I was silent. I was praying.

“Lord,” I prayed, “I know I’m a missionary and I should know how to do this and everyone else thinks I do know how to do this, but you and I know the truth: I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t know why someone like me has been entrusted with such a precious message and without You, I will ruin the whole thing.”

We arrived at Amber’s house and I wasn’t relying on myself…but I wasn’t sure my feet had found their confidence in God either. I didn’t feel confident.

She welcomed us in, this woman who has been attending our Bible studies.

We chatted for a minute or two and then I asked the question. “What is God doing in your life? For you to be coming to ladies group, God is doing something and we’d like to help however we can.”

I’m not sure how it all went from there, but she was open. She responded. We talked about the way God works and how He provided for us in Christ.

She told us she had never given her life to Christ and we talked some more. We talked about reasons not to believe Jesus, the costs involved, what it really means. Then I asked her, “Is there anything that is preventing you from giving your life to Jesus?”

“No,” she said.

They turned to me, expecting me to go through the scriptures and lo and behold, I hadn’t even brought my Bible!

We all laughed at the surprises of God, me most of all.

I didn’t have my reading glasses either, and couldn’t make out the words on the page, so I just handed my companion’s Bible to Amber and told her where to turn and she read the truth for herself and cried over the free gift of God.

Amber prayed, joining in this circle of women. She confessed Jesus as Lord of her life and I wondered at how easy it is to go from life to death. How difficult but how easy at the same time. How faith comes by hearing and hearing happens when there is one to share the truth and we each are sent to do that.

Because it started with Him. He authored salvation, made every provision necessary for it.

He desires salvation for a lost world. Let’s make it more real: He desires salvation for that lost neighbor. It is from this birthed desire that He sent me, each one of us. He has given us of His authority and His presence and all we need do is go. We need not make anything happen. He’s already done that. “It is finished.”

We just need go.

Lord, we will. We will.

How To Really Know God Loves You

Disappointment seeped in and disguised itself as a knot in my stomach. Its companion, insecurity, was bolder, creeping up my neck and coming out in my words, my actions.

It wasn’t until the next morning when quiet time found me withdrawn and struggling to believe that the “aha” moment came…my perception of God’s love for me was tainted by the incident of yesterday that caused such disappointment.

“If nothing separates me from Your love (Rom 8),” I prayed, “and if Your loving kindness towards me fills the entire earth (Ps. 36:5), extending even to the heavens (Ps 57:10) to form a canopy over me, a crown on the head (Ps. 103), then it is not Your love for me that is in question; It is my perception of it. My perceptions are faulty and need repairing.”

How like the Israelites I am! A dry spell in the wilderness makes me forget the parting of the Red Sea! New challenges today make me mindless of the miracles He performed yesterday.

Identifying hinges on which my understanding of His love for me swings… the response from others… success (or lack of) in ministry…whether or not things go well…smooth paths… acceptable performance from me… on and on. Knowing these false hinges helps me stop the downward spiral. 

It doesn’t take long to realize that basing my perception of God’s love on these things means sure disaster. But I feel lost. Where do I begin? Just believing the fact that “God loves me” seems impossible when emotions are so strong.

I look to scripture for someone who can show me how to do this, give me a model to follow. I find David.

David knew God loved him. It was his backbone when facing Goliath, his wisdom when he was king, his hope when he had failed, his refuge when attacked, his strength when he woke mere man.

How did he do it? How did he ground himself in God’s love? What spiritual disciplines did he exercise that imparted this rich knowledge that served him well all his life? Did he just wait around to be zapped with his spiritual “AHA!” moments?

I was eager to find the answers, to take them as my own, to shape my life around them. In the story of a life lived thousands of years ago, I found answers… and a strong word of instruction:

 I have a responsibility in knowing God loves me.

 (No waiting for an “AHA” moment.) Because over and over the Bible says He loves me and He wants me to know it (Eph 3: 17, I John 4:17) and He shows me how to know it.

I am not the only one to have tainted perceptions and painful pasts and need help day after day knowing God’s love. The Israelites… well they were slaves, driven and beaten and not given a voice either. How could they claim to be God’s people, to be the recipients of His love and favor when they had been so abused and mistreated?

The evil one asks this of me, too. The only weapon is the Sword of Truth, kept sharp by spiritual disciplines that ensure my perceptions are pure, accurate, true, SOLID.

Piece by piece, bit by bit, I am mentored by a man who did it right. I sketch David’s habits, learning his ways from the Psalms. I take on his habits:

~~Start first thing in the morning.

When David rose in the morning, tapping into God’s love was his priority. (Ps. 108:1-4) He expected God’s love. He listened for it. He looked for it. (Ps. 143:8) He believed it would be there and he trusted it to guide him. Day after day, morning after morning, he was satisfied FIRST with God’s love for him, drank full up with it.

 So it will be for me.

~~Develop eyes for God’s love.

The ancients considered the specific loving-kindnesses of God by listing them (Ps. 107). Our ancestors show me that consciously recognizing and recording God’s expressions of love is a vital discipline for remaining intact spiritually (Ps. 48:9). Great demise and loss came to those who failed to develop this practice Ps. 106:7.

Ps. 107:43, “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.”

I make a lifelong commitment to recognize God’s expressions of love, record them on paper, and recall them to mind throughout the day.

~~Start speaking of His love aloud.

After learning how to recognize God’s expressions of love and consciously considering them, pondering them, and remembering them, David spoke of them to others (Ps. 40:10, 63:3, 92:1-2, 59:16,) . He declared God’s goodness through testimony, giving thanks, and singing. I look for outlets to share of God’s love, even if it is simply with my children.

~~Find “triggers” to remind self of God’s love.

Two triggers mentioned repeatedly in scripture are the sun and birds. If the sun comes up, it is because God is still faithful, because His covenant of love still stands (Ps 89:2, 36-37)! We can know for sure that His mercies are new with the rising of the sun. (Lam 3) { I will often exclaim to my husband in the morning, “The sun came up!” and we rejoice together that God is still faithful.}

Scripture tells us that God feeds the birds, cares for them, and knows when each one of them falls. He satisfies the desires of every living creature (Ps 145:15-16) and if He cares for the creatures, He certainly cares for me. When I see a bird {which happens multiple times a day} I think, “God fed that little thing today and His eye is on him. How much more is His eye and affection upon you?”

The wise man said, “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Prov 3:3

These habits help me see God’s love in daily life, wrap myself in it, and write it onto my heart. For additional scriptures on recognizing God’s love in everyday life, see:
Psalm 147
Psalm 104
Psalm 89

Related posts on Developing the Habit of God’s Love:

Rooted and Grounded in Love

Walking in God’s Eulogy

Join us next Monday for more on developing the habit of “Love.”

Waiting for Clothes

I drive oldest to school and wonder at the line of trees, stark naked, twigs bare, arms lifted to heaven.

I wonder if they feel it too, the ache for clothing.

There is a beauty to the unsheathed truth… the stripped foliage… the removal of leaves and berries and that which we measure output ~worth?~ by.

I’m like those trees, waiting for God to re-birth and re-bud and re-make and re-clothe.

And like those trees, I will not hide my starkness. I’ll not pretend to be something I’m not. I will not rush to be Spring when I am Winter yet. And I will stand tall, branches outstretched reaching in dark beauty for Heaven.

I will let Him strip me…of all our silly ideas about what beauty is. I will let Him de-leaf me…of all the worldly definitions of worth and value.

I will let Him take from me output and produce so that I can see that even without it, I stand. Grounded in Love.

I will let Him whisper that I ~ bare and unproductive ~ I, am what He is crazy about. Not what fluff I can come up with, not what I can do for Him, just me.

So as I wait for clothes, I will lift arms and rejoice in Creator who loves crazy and makes beautiful and imparts no shame.

I too, will be Winter unashamed.

This Day

Five days in bed sick, head hurts, body aches…

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Last night’s dishes piled high in sink…

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Toothpaste smeared in hall bathroom sink and skid marks in toilet…

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Loads of laundry to wash and house to sanitize…

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.

The sun came up today. Again. The witness in the sky testifies to God’s faithfulness.

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.

The birds are outside finding their breakfast from the Father’s hand.

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.

God’s love never fails and today is a gift from His hand and I will take it.

Walking In God’s Eulogy

On my knees on the red carpet, the one with the play dough ground in.

“I’ll be your hero, mom,” he had told me. The girls had smeared blue play dough into the carpet and I had fussed and he had found a solution.

 He took the red play dough and smeared in on top, covered up the blue.

I had laughed and hugged his sweet body close and decided to leave the play dough just like that, hero style.

On my knees, I was face to face with that play dough as I prayed the verses for the very first time.

I’ve never sensed a greater “Yes!” from the heavens as that day when I prayed those scriptures. I knew the affirmation of God.

And when I returned to the states and walked the ladies bible study through the verses, we all felt the “YES!”   It was a powerful time, a sweet time, a glimpse of heaven.

We had all stilled our hearts and closed our eyes and imagined the scene, the birthplace of God’s love for us:

There’s God. Before the foundation of the world.

Before the earth existed and before the first man was created and before there was a twinkling in the skies.

Just God.

And He’s there, pacing among the men and women, boys and girls, the thoughts and plans of His heart before yet one of them was.

He’s walking back and forth, to and fro. Then He reaches you.

He pauses.

He turns.

And He stretches out His hand.

He touches and He begins to speak…

And as we imagined together as a group of sisters, I reach out and place hand on heads and utter words that were uttered by His mouth, intentions of His heart spoken long, long ago.

…for when He spoke, perhaps it went something like this:

“I bestow upon you LIFE! I grant you full freedom and liberty in My Son Jesus Christ. I speak over your life victory, fullness, and give you the title “overcomer.”
“To you, I give the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
“I decree that no weapon formed against you will prosper.
“I give you full access to the throne of grace.
“I call you by a new name. I grant you forgiveness. I call you holy.
“You are set apart, precious, special.
“I delight over you.
“You are sealed and protected forever.
“Greater is the One who is in you than he who is in the world.
“I grant you everything you need to live godly in Christ Jesus.
“I seal you with My Spirit, who will spring up in you like wells of living water and produce love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control.
“You are My Beloved. Nothing will ever seperate you from My love.
“I am Yours and you are Mine. Forever.”

 

And the tears flow and the hearts are soft and we feel the presence of Love God.

As I did that morning on play dough carpet.

Ephesians 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed ~ eulogeo ~ us with EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING ~ eulogia~ in the HEAVENLY PLACES in Christ, just as He chose us in Him BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD…”

Before time began and man was created, God eulogized over you every spiritual blessing, every possible eulogy there was.

Amazing.

Incredible.

Mind-boggling.

And now, here we are, with a chance to live it out, to make it our reality.

And that day when I realized it, I went to the throne room to claim my blessings and I said, “Lord, You have spoken over my life every spiritual  blessing in the heavenly places and I’m here to ask that Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, right here in my heart, right here in my life, right here in this world, as it has already been spoken in heaven.”

And He told me, “Yes! You’re beginning to understand.”

Many times I’ve combined those two passages in prayer… but only recently did it take on another dimension.  Because the eulogy of Ephesians 1:3 goes two ways, like Valentines exchanging love notes.

“Blessed be the God and Father…who has blessed us…”

He eulogized me. Now I eulogize Him.

“We praise You, Father; we thank You and bless Your Name. For You are Good and Your Gifts are perfect and Your Love, it never fails.”

Walking in God’s eulogy is a two way street, where I receive first, then I give back. It comes down and I receive fullness and I send it back up.

Walking in God’s eulogy is the way of life, the habit of love, the cord that connects.

This month, we are discussing the habit of love and how to be rooted and grounded in God’s love for us. The best place to start is at the beginning, before time, in the heavenly places, with God’s eulogy.

Why not sit down with Ephesians 1 and imagine for yourself what happened? 

Then walk today in God’s eulogy.

Next Monday will continue the habit of love and how to root and ground ourselves in God’s love. Praying today you live a powerful eulogy…

Egypt’s Whip and the Shepherd’s Staff

“Just Stop It!” I nearly bellowed the words, mad woman swinging crazy.

The bickering, the whining, the children who demand and wear and exhaust.The chaos starts and an inner valve is opened and out drains all my inner resources. I’m limp. To fight the draining away, I turn on my kids.

The children I love dearly. The children who need guidance and training, who need a healthy alternative to their inborn sinful habits. The children who need a parent.

Maybe I’m the most childish of all.

Childish or not, it’s still my job to shepherd these little ones, and I ask Him once again, “How, Lord?”

The truth is that all I’ve ever known is Egypt’s whip, the driving slash of expectation without mercy. It’s the way I was parented: the task-mastering, the demanding, the condemnation.

It became the way I parented myself, the berating self that kept a body broken pushing forward.

I didn’t realize that until I was faced with the deep issues of parenting. That is when I kept reaching for a tool to deal with hard issues and Egypt’s whip was the one I kept coming up with.

How does one parent a different way than one has led herself?

It was all I knew.

I wanted change. I wanted something else. I hated the strong words, the high emotions, the use of force. I looked and grasped and tried for something different, but there was just nothing else there when the moment came and I fumbled for a response.

Yet what parent hasn’t tasted the effectiveness of condemnation? Shame? Guilt? Anger? Strong words? A Biting tongue? What parent hasn’t learned that control holds a degree of power? After all, Egypt was built on the backs of slaves.

It’s the taste of blood, the sting of tearing flesh that says there has to be a better way.

How does one become untrained in Egypt’s whip? How does one become un-duped…after she has fully believed that more stringent demands and less provisions of grace will result in harder work and double the outcome?

And then came the day when I saw it, right there in scripture, clear as day, the instruction for all those who like me, have been tutored under taskmasters.

I’m reading Exodus when I see it, how Egypt finds its strength and power in the crack and slash of the whip. The Israelites had only known control through force.

So God sent a shepherd.

A shepherd who beheld God in holy bush, who heard sacred truth, who was given one tool to lead the people out, handed one key to single-handedly bring freedom to a nation: “Take up this staff, for with it you shall… do… My…wonders.” Exodus 4:17

When God sent deliverance, He started by giving a completely different model of leadership.

The whip is replaced with a Shepherd’s staff. The rod and staff of the Shepherd bring comfort, not pain. (Psalm 23:4)

The driving from behind is replaced with a Shepherd who leads from the front. Follow, not force. (John 10:4)

And the Shepherd? He leads with His voice. (John 10:27)

How precious a truth!

Understanding these truths about God changed the way I led myself. The self-condemnation, shame, brow beating, they all ebbed away.

My parenting style began to change as well.

Once I understood the temptation to believe in the power of the whip, I knew how to fight back. I began rejecting the lie of the whip and the strong emotions it evoked and began to embrace the power of the staff instead.

What power? you ask. Indeed, a Shepherd’s staff looks impotent. But in Exodus 14:16 God told Moses, “As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry ground.”

The staff is the tool God has blessed to part the waters.

A revolutionary truth in my life, that one.

The simple, unpretentious and humble is the blessed of God to part the waters in our lives, our homes, our world.

So today, I will set down the whip and take up the staff, the instrument with which we do God’s wonders.

Rooted and Grounded in Love

It was the comment that changed everything.

The kids were down, husband was out, and I was washing dishes.

Alone on the other side of the world, standing barefoot and pregnant at the sink,  kitchen door propped open with a jug of laundry detergent to beg a breeze in.

It was stifling hot.

And there I was. Trying to learn all I could from those who had gone before, trying to imitate those who through faith and patience inherited the promises.

Trying to figure out how to do this thing.

God heard my silent cry, the cry of my heart that I couldn’t even articulate. Doesn’t He always?

I had downloaded the content from the internet, blessed gift, cord of connection to the outside world.

Derwin Grey was sharing his testimony…but it was God who had a message for me, because the words that came from Derwin’s mouth pierced such that they lodged in my memory { and that is saying a lot for this mommy brain that has put the cheese in her purse instead of in the fridge and that can’t remember the book she read last month. }

He said, “A false god is never satisfied.”

It entered and pierced and shook me up and turned me inside out and exposed what I was already beginning to suspect: that I didn’t really know God. Sure, I knew what church had told me. I knew what everyone else knew about God. But I didn’t really “get” Him. I didn’t really understand His heart.

I thought I understood. But I was, in fact, dead wrong.

Because God is satisfied. He said “it is finished.” He fulfilled Heaven’s demands Himself. He took our matters into His own hands so that once and for all it would be completed and the job would be accomplished without fail and He sat down at the right hand of the Father upon its fulfillment and as an act of cessation.

And He still sits.

But the God I worshiped never seemed to be satisfied.

That was the beginning of a sifting process in my life…the sifting out of all the worthless views, ideas, and notions of God I held. Beliefs passed down to me from my past church experiences, from others who had modeled un-truth cloaked as truth, from life experiences that had communicated messages about God and His goodness (or lack thereof.)

I had a lot to sort through.

It wasn’t easy, but God was faithful. {He still is.} And the wonderful thing is that each worthless view gets replaced with a precious one…a true one I can stake and center my life around, such as…

If God doesn’t chiefly desire my obedience…then God chiefly desires relationship….with me! I don’t have to perform.

If God doesn’t taskmaster me…then God leads me as a Shepherd. I can view His commands as a loving staff, not as Egypt’s whip.

If God doesn’t condemn me into good behavior and works…then God can give me a greater motivation to serve Him than self-condemnation. I can let go of berating myself and be motivated by God’s love instead.

If God doesn’t coddle me as a victim…then God empowers me to get off my mat and walk. I can define myself differently.

If God loves me based solely on His own faultless, unfailing ability…then God does not turn His nose up at my failures. I can receive God’s forgiveness even in the stinking-est of sin.

If God is for me…then who or what can be against me? I can be confident of God’s YES on my life.

It became clear that the root of all my misunderstandings about God could be traced back to one thing: I didn’t really believe that God was love and that He loved me unconditionally and that He was fully, without a shadow of turning, completely and utterly committed to my good.

Sure I knew it theologically. But I didn’t know it in life methodology, in ways that my life could grab a hold of  and stand on and be centered around in my coming and my going.

Isn’t this the problem of us all, from first Eve, to me, Arabah? Knowing something in our heads is completely different than trusting it fully with our hearts.

Doubt and Distrust lead us to self-direct our lives. Make our own choices. Rely on our own resources. Believe it is “up to us.”

And that great cloud of witnesses, those that I have watched carefully to see how they inherited the promises, they tell me the chief responsibility of the overflowing believer is to be rooted and grounded in love.

“And be Rooted and Grounded in Love…so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

Our “precious faith” is to find it’s footing in this one thing: the Love God has for us.

We cannot be filled up with God’s fullness, overflowing with His bounty, pouring out with His lavish grace, without being rooted and grounded in His love.

That is why Jude, that brother of our Lord Jesus, instructed us to “Keep yourselves in the Love of God.” (Jude 21)

This is our duty. This is the discipline of all who have come to understand the essentials of the faith, from saints like Thomas Aquinas to contemporaries like Francis Chan and Ann Voskamp.

This journey is the journey of faith in Love, the unending cord that weaves through each of our lives, stitching us all together as the bride of Christ, the garment of Love.

This is the journey I started in that overseas kitchen with hands dipped in soap suds, swollen feet leaving damp prints on the floor. I began learning the habits of love. It is a journey that continues…that I look forward to walking every day of my life.

The Habit of Love

For the next few Mondays, I will share from my journey the habits of Love. How does one root and ground herself in love? How does our theology work out into our methodology? How can we make it practical so that God’s love for us is something we LIVE?Join us this month to find out how and to share how you do it too.


One additional thought for those who have an extra moment?… {this is the double feature post}

I’ve often wondered why believers I have seen and worked with in other parts of the world seem to be so full of Jesus, so full of life, so powerful in witness?

In local language, it’s “mei you banfa.” “There’s no other way.”

It’s either full trust in Jesus or utter ruin. There simply is no other way.

There is no daily Starbucks fix.

There is no cush furnishings to come home to, no comforts to pad life with.

No SUV to retreat to and run off in, no vacation to entertain, no weekends off to look forward to.

No pill to pop.

No money to spend.

No rectangular screen to go numb in front of.

No resource but Jesus.

No provision but Grace.

And most of us don’t want to live that kind of life. {Just stark honesty.}

We (me included) can be afraid to give up our perks. We can be unwilling to live without our comforts. We can be scared stiff of letting go of everything and clinging solely to His love. We don’t know what that will mean for our lives.

We’ve been duped into thinking that our way is safer. Better. More fulfilling.

When did we begin to believe that these things are life’s “can’t live with-outs?” How did we become so duped and blinded?

Have I reached the place where I don’t really need only the love of Jesus because I have so many other little things that can step in the gap?

I mean, I have the bag of chips that man has created for my satisfaction, why reach for the goodness of a carrot? Grown from love of Creator God just for my nourishment?

I have the screen and the clicker and the earphones and the touch pad that man has invented to make me laugh and entertain me, why open my eyes to the birds outside my window or the faithful witness in the sky that instructs me of the unfailing lovingkindness of my God?

In a million different ways, the tragedy is not that we have these man-made things, it is that we let them replace the love of God.

This is what living overseas among brothers and sisters who have nothing but Jesus has taught me.

God warns us not to remain blinded and numbed by our so called “resources” but to approach Him for true treasures, for real provisions. He tells us how to break free. (See Revelation 3:17-20).

Then we can be filled up with the Fullness of God and we can live lives that really count and we can use the resources He has blessed us with on behalf of others, to promote the name of Christ, and to carry forth His Kingdom into all the world.

Amen and amen.

 

Ridiculous

It is ridiculous the way He treats me, it really is.

Kids have been sick with a stomach bug, ear infections, and more. I’ve been trying to keep up on the piles of laundry and the bleaching to keep germs from spreading, fighting off sickness myself.

And through it all, yesterday’s mail sat in the box all night, getting soaked with the rain that’s replaced the snow of late.

This morning I splashed through the puddles in house shoes. I retrieved the soggy mess and flipped through the ads and solicitations.

A hand addressed envelope.

I opened that one first.

I scanned the letter. Jaw drops as something flutters out. A large check. From someone who does not know us but “got our name” from someone else.

Like I said, it is ridiculous the way He treats me.

I go back and re-read the letter. What I find there is even more surprising, the un-mistakable “God print” that speaks of His authorship of this generous gift: Joshua 1:8-9, part of my key passage for 2011.

The kids are listening to K-Love and one of my favorite songs is playing. “And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?”

I get down on my knees and thank Him, awestruck.

Sure, the financial gift is a tremendous blessing. But this scripture? The timeliness of this song? This message piercing my heart from all directions?

A reminder from the hand of God through the pen of a stranger that this is the year of conquest and He is behind me, in front of me, above me and beneath me. He is FOR ME!

Right here, right now. With the rain puddles and the sick babies and the sleepless nights and the pharmacy runs.

Thunder shakes my window pane and I inhale His sound. My heart thumps to His rumble. I hear His heart.

It is ridiculous the way He treats me. Ridiculously Lavish. Ridiculously Good. Ridiculously Loving.

Ridiculous.

Trusting God Again

“God’s let me down,” she cried the words and I cried with her.

We wept over the pain of doing everything “right,” of being confident of God’s presence and blessing and even having a word from Him that you just know means victory.

You go  in strong in the Lord…Then you face your trial head on and things go wrong. Way wrong. God doesn’t show up.

All those promises and all that faith you had seems to abandon you like a paid soldier.

God just doesn’t come through.

These are the times that one very particular and deadly sin can side swipe us and render us completely ineffective, sometimes for the rest of our lives.

It’s called the sin of “stumbling” and Jesus tells us about it in Matthew 18:6-9.

“Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks? For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come… If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you…”

The word “stumble” Jesus used here is a very specific word, with a very particular meaning. It means, “to cause a person to begin to distrust One whom he ought to trust and obey.”

We stumble when we allow something to sow a seed of distrust towards God.

 

It can start small, almost un-noticeable.

But it is deadly. 

It is so deadly that it prevents many from ever entering heaven.

It is so dangerous that Jesus specifically speaks woe regarding this one particular sin, this sin of distrust.

It is a BIG DEAL to our spiritual health.

Furthermore, stumbling blocks, those things that cause us potential stumbling, are “Inevitable” according to Jesus. We can’t live life without ever having to face this temptation.

Some of us had to face this in childhood (see verse 6) and because of immaturity simply had no idea how to deal with it. In fact, we may not have known of its presence.

Satan is crafty and does not fight fair.

But Jesus gives us strong words in order to show us the path of life. Stumbling blocks are inevitable and the sin of distrust is deadly…but it is not irreversible!

Jesus tells us how to deal with the sin of distrust: Remove it! We are to deal drastically and decisively with anything that causes us to distrust God and His good intentions towards us.

We cannot expect things to impove over time or to go away on their own. We cannot even expect God to miraculously remove our distrust. We must deliberately act to get rid of it.

Okay, we are all asking HOW?

If you have walked down this road of dealing with stumbling blocks in your life, I’d love to hear how you have dealt with them. All I can offer here is how I have dealt with mine and I say that this works. This process has restored my trust in God.

1. Identify the stumbling block as clearly and specifically as possible.

The more closely you pinpoint where the seeds of distrust began, the more targeted you can be with your “removing” in the next two steps. It was helpful for me to see in Scripture where others “stumbled” (during times of loss, hardship, difficulty, loss, grief, and un-met needs.) This aided me in going back to seasons where distrust was birthed.

2. We remove stumbling from our lives by changing the way we see stumbling blocks.

Remember the optical illusion from two weeks ago? Our perspective is everyting in life. We cannot change what happened to us…but we can change the way we SEE it.

We do this by viewing stumbling blocks through the lens of God’s Word.

Once we have identified the “block” that caused us to distrust God, we take it, sit it down in front of us, and take the microscope of specific scriptures and look at it through those verses. For example, our God says, “See? I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans for your welfare, not for disaster, plans to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremaih 29:11

By taking scriptures like this and using them as a lens, we can start bringing health to our “eye.” Here are a few scripture “lenses” that have helped me:

Proverbs 3:5-6;    Romans 8:28;    Romans 8:31-32;     Jeremiah 29:11;     Psalm 145:13b (this whole chapter is good)

Isaiah 55:8-9;       Hebrews 13:5

This step is a simple choice. We have every blessing of God given to us. It is our job to appopriate the truth. Until we reach the point where we are ready to do this, we will not get over our sin of stumbling.

My friend told me that she is going to try fasting to deal with her distrust. She told me she is going to work harder to deal with it….to which I responded, “this has nothing to do with trying harder or doing “stuff.” It is a matter of simply rejecting the lies and distortions and choosing to see all of life through the lens of scripture.”

Sometimes getting to the point where we are ready to do that takes time (and a lot of tears!) We’d rather do just about anything but settle ourselves down on God’s Sovereignty + His goodness = Things I Don’t Understand and That Is OKAY.

Been there and don’t ever want to forget it. I left a wake of destruction while I tried to do anything but accept the truth and do the work of trusting.

Trusting is a choice.

3. Trust is restored through Giving Thanks.

Have you ever wondered why God commands us to give thanks in ALL things? Is it because He is miserly and wants us to be grateful for whatever He decides He can give us?

No.

We are to give thanks in all things because thanks-giving is best for US.

Giving thanks assumes God is good (which is the Truth) and everything from His hand is a gift of grace (which is the Truth), even when I can’t understand how or why. Thanks giving then does not allow for stumbling.

When we fail to put God as Sovereign over the big and little events in our lives, and when we fail to give thanks, we inevitably become futile and darkened in our thinking.

“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God nor GIVE THANKS, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Romans 1:21

 

If we can come to the place where we can give thanks for _______________________, thanking God that His intentions are for good and that He never means for our destruction, we can overcome stumbling.

Dealing with past points of stumbling is essential in order to go forward in our faith. I have found I cannot face today’s stumbling blocks in faith and confidence without first removing yesterday’s remnants of distrust. Practicing these three steps has brought much healing to my spiritual eye. I hope it is helpful for someone else as well.

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Every Monday for the next several months, I am sharing from my journey and (trying!) to articulate the spiritual habits that God has been weaving into my life.

This month, we are developing the  habit of “know.” We are taking baby steps, walking this path one leg at a time. We are doing some hard work this month, digging trenches, cleaning out old “junk,” making space for Truth, so that next month and the ones following, He can come fill them with Himself. Next week we will be ready to start our new habit, the Habit of Love!

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