August 20, 2012

more rest

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
- Colossians 2:13-15
Whenever I return my gaze to the Gospel, my heart comes alive. 

I tend to derive my self-worth from busyness, productiveness, trying to hold it together, etc. It's so easy to think that I have to keep going, keep adding more to my schedule, keep pouring out, keep working. 

But in that, I lose my focus. I lose perspective. I gravitate inward and try to be self-sufficient and do life on my own. I quickly run out of steam, but keep going . . . thinking that I have to do more for God, do more in order to gain approval - whether that's approval from myself or approval from God.

It seems counter-intuitive to just sit, to soak up the Gospel. To rest in Him. But once I am completely filled with Him, I overflow - and it's a natural process. It's effortless, even.

And in returning to the Gospel . . . you are reminded of so much. If God saved me and made me alive when I was dead . . . if I know that I did nothing to obtain His love and salvation, then why do I think I have to work to keep that love? 

Oh, to rest in truth. To set your gaze upward. To quit listening to yourself, but preach truth to yourself. To ask your Creator who He says you are, not who you (or other people) say you are.

He must increase . . .

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
   he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.
-Psalm 23:1-3

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
- Colossians 1:16-17 

These two passages stuck out to me over the past few days.

The fact that God has created us, guides us, and holds all things together . . . for His name's sake, His purposes. Our God has ways and thoughts that are far higher than our own . . . so much better and beyond imagination or anything we could ask.

I can rest there. 

I am not holding myself together, He is. 
I am not holding my small group, my family, my friends, my job, or my future together - He is.

And He is doing it for a greater purpose - it's for His name's sake.

That's a promise that I can hold fast to.

His purposes will never fail. He will never grow tired or weary. Nothing is beyond His control.

That is exceedingly greater than any purposes of my own design. Far greater than doing anything for my name's sake, for humanity's sake, for anyone else's sake.

When you know that the One who never fails and never grows weary is holding things together and working in your life . . . for His glory, you can let go. It's an absolutely stunning realization.

You can finally rest there.

August 13, 2012

it's ugly

I . . . am feeling frazzled.

Sometimes it helps to write out what's bothering you, then you can start to sort out your thoughts and see how silly your stressors are.

Well, I don't want to be human - I think that's my underlying problem.

I want to . . . (all today)

  • wake up early in a good mood
  • get all of my grocery shopping done
  • cook for the week
  • bake
  • clean my house, or at least do all of my laundry
  • get a good workout in
  • be prepared for small group
  • keep my budget under control
  • read 2 or 3 books - or at least a chapter in each, right?
  • spend a good amount of time with God
  • did I mention working out? I also am analyzing everything I've eaten in the past 24 hours and that makes me feel a liiiiiitle more antsy about getting to the gym
  • know that I'm honoring God with my life
  • fix the pasta salad that may be irreparable 
  • hmmm - I really should start working on that rosetta stone I see in the corner
  • Where is my life going? What if I turn into the cat lady?
  • I need to pursue holiness. What does that mean? Am I doing that?
  • I'm worried about things outside of my control . . . I should work on that.
  • I mean, I just want to be perfect . . . is that too much to ask?
I am rolling my eyes at myself. I want to just let go and relax, but for some reason I can't. Maybe if I realize that I'm not a robot that would help.

We weren't made to be perfect . . . God wants me to be human, to rest in Him, to abide in Him and quit trying to do it all on my own. Am I doing that? Some days I'm better than others. Today just happens to be an off day.

August 9, 2012

Everyone should read this book, that my friend so graciously has let me borrow (for almost a year, I have a problem with picking up things and not finishing them, hah)

Anyway, several things in it have really struck me today.

If Jesus needed to pray, how much more do we need to pray? (just think about it)

The longer you experience life, the longer you realize how you're not in control . . . and the more you realize your own dependence and desperation for God, it's actually freeing.

I live with this false sense of control and self-sufficiency . . . but once I am aware of how God is really in loving control, how nothing happens outside of His knowledge or sovereignty, it changes everything.

When you pray over a problem or surrender it to God, you are releasing that burden. That problem is no longer holding you captive, you are no longer bound by fear - you choose instead to trust Him. And who is more capable of handling your problems and your life? You or God?

Living in constant communication, constant dependence on God . . . that is what I long for. To know that He is in loving control - no problem is outside of His care, to trust that while I don't know the future or even have a hold on this present day, He does . . . and He promises to never leave or forsake us through it all.

"When you know that you (like Jesus) can't do life on your own, then prayer makes complete sense."

"You don't create intimacy; you make room for it. This is true whether you are talking about your spouse, your friend, or God. You need space to be together. Efficiency, multitasking, and busyness all kill intimacy. In short, you can't get to know God on the fly. If Jesus has to pull away from people and noise in order to pray, then it makes sense that we need to as well."

"You don't need self-discipline to pray continuously; you just need to be poor in spirit."
-Paul Miller

O God, you are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
    my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
    where there is no water.

 I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory. 
 Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands. 
 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
 On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night. 
 Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
-Psalm 63:1-8

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
-Luke 12:6-7 

August 8, 2012

one real thing

Speak - and my heart starts aching,
Reach - and the numbness dims
Beat - still my mind's uncertain,
Breathe - it begins again

You are the One Real Thing
You are the One True Thing that I know
You are the One Real Thing
No matter what the future brings
You're the One Real Thing

Stay locked within Your presence,
Truth renew in my mind again
Rest 'cause I know You're faithful and I
Trust 'cause I know Your name

I get down on my knees and I feel Your love wash over me
"One Real Thing" - Skillet

August 7, 2012

white knuckles

I write this as a reminder to myself, and to you.

Keep holding on.

When the storms are raging and you can't see past your face. When the ground is dissolving around you and you can't find your footing.

Keep clinging to truth.

White knuckled.

I, we, are searching for stability in an ever-changing world. Our hearts yearn for rest and satisfaction. Let your weariness draw you to your Savior.

He is the only one who . . .
  • will never leave or forsake you
  • cannot be stripped away
  • will never change
  • pursues us and pours out His love when we are unfaithful
  • is greater than anything we can gain in this life (or think that we need)
  • is completely constant, a firm foundation, a refuge and strength to all who seek His face
  • is working in the details of your life for your own good, to draw you closer to Him 
  • will never leave you disappointed or empty
  • Will carry you through adversity (because we are not always delivered from it)
And this is only the beginning of a list of His attributes. He is closer to you and I than we know. Seek Him.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith 
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
   "For your sake we face death all day long;
      we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
-Romans 8:35-39

 Because your love is better than life,
       my lips will glorify you.
-Psalm 63:3

"The pursuit of independence always leaves me addicted to a list of things that I’ve looked to for hope, life, strength and rest. In a vain attempt to distract myself from the evidence that I’m not, in fact, independent, I get hooked on things that have the ability to distract me but can never give my heart rest."
-Paul David Tripp 

August 6, 2012

Every now and then . . .

. . . funny things happen when you talk yourself into going for a jog . . . outside, in the middle of an August day in North Carolina.

I mean - no biggie, right? Suuure the forecast says it's 92, but I'm sure there will be plenty of shade and breeze along the route. I got this.

You start to do things like draw parallels between your running route and walk with God.

You contemplate crossing hillsborough street to get some Chinese food. You start to weigh the dangers of poison ivy and ticks against the probability of losing bladder control from all that water you drank earlier.

When the route starts to get less than easy, you have to speak truth to yourself . . . whether that's thinking yes, my car will still be there at the end of these 5 miles and I will make it . . . or preaching to yourself that Christ is better than anything in this world, and that facing adversity with Him is better than an easy road without Him.

Sometimes you wonder if you're just going to lose it, and someone's going to find you spread-eagle on the side of the path.

When you face adversity, you know that the road isn't going to be easy. You see that steep hill in the hot summer air, with the sun beating down on you. Yet, you choose to say, OK God - let's go. It's never promised to be without struggle. In fact, those trials are guaranteed.

But it is worth it. So keep holding on.

August 5, 2012

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
-Hebrews 12:1

JD preached a very powerful sermon this weekend on Hebrews 12 . . . and there were some things that really stuck out to me that I wanted to share.

Notice how the writer of Hebrews in this verse is distinguishing between sins and weights (everything that hinders). When we become joy-driven in our walk, we realize that it's not just about getting rid of sin. There are also things that are weighing us down, holding us back from knowing Jesus more and being more involved in the mission of God.

What are those things? We all have distractions and things in our lives that are hindering us in some way, keeping us from delighting in Jesus more fully.

It becomes less of "what am I allowed to keep" and more of, "how can I give this away?"

These things that are weights could be distractions, hobbies, possessions, etc - that are not sins in and of themselves, but hold us back from that deeper relationship.

This exercise has to be done carefully and under guidance of the Holy Spirit, because I know how easy it is to fall into legalism, checklists, religion, etc . . . it's all about a heart change and understanding the Gospel more fully.

 Good food for thought . . .

August 2, 2012

beating heart baby

 I was reading something interesting last night . . . I'm trying to finish J.D.'s book, Gospel, and there is a section that discusses spiritual disciplines. Basically, he was saying that the more you encounter God, the more you're heart is changed to be like His. The more you practice those disciplines - studying His word, communicating with Him in prayer, etc. etc. the more He changes you so that you start to desire those things. And the more you start to have a distaste for things that are not good.

Over time, I have seen God make dramatic changes in my heart and in the things that I desire.

Years ago, I would drown my sorrows in music. I would listen to AFI, The Used, Senses Fail or anything with a lot of screaming when I was feeling upset (or emo) . . . which, in turn, would only feed my anger/depression. I would allow myself to wallow and feel justified in my emotions. However, at my lowest points I could sense something holding me up - protecting me from slipping into the deepest pit of despair.

I realize that it was the Holy Spirit protecting me from those lows. Even when I wasn't adamantly seeking after God, He was guarding my spirit.

Anyway, fast forward to present day. Only by God's faithfulness and grace has He brought me this far, and changed my heart.

I realize that I've lost a taste for former coping mechanisms.

I tried to watch Nicki Minaj's new music video today when I started to acknowledge this. The video just oozes of sex, drinking, and self-glorification. I couldn't get through it, I had to close it out. I used to listen to only hip hop when I was in high school and would watch 106 and park, MTV, etc . . . and granted, music videos were a lot tamer back then . . . but I just can't do it anymore.

Anyone who has met me knows I love some Nicki, but I see it for what it is . . . and I usually can only handle it at the gym . . . that kind of music makes me go cray on the spin bike :)

I clearly am not perfect . . . but those places that I ran for comfort in the past, or for entertainment just don't cut it. I am no longer amused. I love some Linkin Park when I'm upset, but I can feel God convicting me of even that - because it's so easy to get sucked into a little emo black hole of despair.

That's not where God wants us to run when we're facing difficulties . . . He wants to heal our hearts and direct our gaze to Him . . . to set our feet firm on something real.

I want to run, I want to go crazy with music, I want to numb myself to whatever life is throwing at me . . . but I realize we are called to something different.

Again, the question remains - am I teachable? Do I realize that there is One whose ways are higher than my own? Do I realize that my preferences and desires can be very errant?

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:12

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  
Philippians 4:8

"Gospel-centeredness is about saturating your heart in the good news of Jesus - letting it so remake your mind that you see everything about yourself and your life through its lens . . . Make the gospel the center of your life. Turn to it when you are in pain. Let it be the foundation of your identity. Ground your confidence in it. Run to it when your soul feels restless. Take solace there in times of confusion and comfort there in times of regret. Dwell on it until righteous passions for God spring up within you."
-JD Greear, from Gospel
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