Saturday, April 28, 2012
Long-term history contributed to my insecurity and uncertainty. I picking up a little here and there. Things people said. Things people did. Ways people looked at me. It all added up to me not feeling good enough. Add to all of that, the world’s view of a warped perfection—no physical flaws, not one pound overweight—actually underweight seems better in the world’s eyes, having every goal met, having all your ducks in a row, seeking to have it all. It’s no wonder that I didn’t measure up.
But God speaks differently. He speaks of a love that loves me in the middle of my messes. He doesn’t wait for me to have it all together. He loves me instantly and completely. He doesn’t want me to stay sinful but He gently leads me to change. Not to measure up to what other people consider worthy but to measure up to His plan for me. His plan is attainable. With His help, it’s attainable one day at a time. Unlike the very unattainable perfection that the world offers, God’s plan won’t keep me striving and striving on a treadmill that’s going nowhere.
I need God’s power in order to live fully. If I do everything in my own strength, I'll never be out of my comfort zone. If I feel comfortable doing something, I'm probably in my comfort zone. I should require more of myself and reach above my strength into His strength. I can just to do the best I can and that’s “okay.” But it isn’t living fully and abundantly. Living fully and abundantly requires a constant reliance on His strength. Doing things that are beyond my own capabilities. That is when God shines through me.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
I tend to think of producing fruit for the Lord as doing things for Him. But the bible defines fruit as nothing like that. It defines fruit as character qualities such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Chances are, Chuck Colson recently heard those words that all Christians want to hear from their Lord, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” But he didn’t necessarily hear them because of his works even though his works were great. He heard them because of the motivations for his works—love and kindness for people.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
2 Peter 1:2-8 tells me that the Christian life is a steady progression that always requires diligence. It begins with faith. I pursue virtue. I gain knowledge. I hold myself back with self-control. I persevere onward and upward toward godliness. I try to be kind and seek to grow in my love for others. As I walk in these ways, my life will be fruitful. The Lord will make sure of that. He has given me everything I need in order for me to live in this manner. May the God of hope fill me with all joy and peace in believing, that I may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
If I have felt comfort from the love of Christ, I need to share it. In addition, trust that God can use my willing heart and fingers to bring hope to others. Christ can be magnified in my actions, my speech, and me. Where there is Living Water, it should flow. His Spirit should come into us like a waterfall but it also needs to have an outlet—a stream of constant encouragement, words of hope, and two listening ears for people that God puts in my path. Don’t let that water just sit stagnant like a swamp.
Eagles soar. Soaring means to rise, fly, or glide high and with little apparent effort. Soaring requires very little wing-flapping, enabling eagles to conserve energy. In my own strength, I just expend a lot of energy with minimal results, tend to go in circles, and burn out quickly. In His Strength, it is possible to soar like an eagle. What does it mean when walking with the Lord is compared to soaring like eagles? I have always loved this Scripture but the idea of soaring like an eagle rather alluded me. I wanted with my whole heart to live my life for the Lord in that way but most of the time it didn’t feel like soaring. It did not feel effortless. It felt a bit rigid and even legalistic. I read and studied about grace and God’s love and I believed wholeheartedly that nothing I can do would make Him love me less or more. Nevertheless, in my mind, I was still trying to do things in my own strength so it didn’t feel effortless. When I am living daily in my strength, it will never feel effortless. I will always be trying to do better and using a lot of energy worrying over the things that I’m not doing. When I am living in His strength, it will feel effortless. By effortless, I don’t mean that I do not do anything. A good definition of effortless is apparently requiring no effort. It looks like there is no or little effort. Actually, the effort comes from another source that isn’t seen. An eagle soars by the effort of the wind but it does have to open up its wings. When I let God take control, life becomes effortless in the same way.
A self-conscious thought life is a downfall to me. Do I look all right? Do I feel okay? Do I fit in? Am I too fat? Am I pretty enough? This is a basic emphasis on: Am I good enough? Jesus didn’t care about being good enough. He said that no one was good except God the Father. The opposite of self-conscious is not self-esteem. It’s unconscious. I want to be concerned with others more than myself. The more I think about God and doing His Will, the less time I will have to think about myself.
In Matthew 14:22-33, the disciples were scared when they saw Jesus walking on the water but immediately Jesus told them that he was there and to not be afraid. Peter began to walk on the water toward Jesus but soon feared and began to sink, Jesus immediately reached out his hand to catch him. God is always there for us—even before we get around to asking Him for help. Even though he feared, Peter still got the sheer delight of walking on the water however briefly. When Jesus told him to come to him on the water, Peter immediately got out of the boat and tried to do it. His obedience was immediate. Mine should be as well.
I can’t get too far off-track with my life if I’m following Christ. He’ll guide me and when I make mistakes, He’ll turn me in another direction. He also delights to give me the patience I need along the way. When a seed is sown, it must first take root, then break through the ground, then it grows and buds, and eventually fruit is born. I cannot rush this process just as I can’t rush how God works in me.
I can delight in the fact that I don’t have to be perfect. I am not called to perfection. I am called to point to God even when that means repenting when I do wrong. God brings delight even in repentance. That delight is called grace. If I repent, I have God’s forgiveness and the grace to go on and do better.
There’s also a delight and a freedom that “rules” can be altered a bit as long as I don’t change the “principles” of God’s word. Peter, the Jewish disciple, was called to go to the home of a gentile named Cornelius. Peter always ate what was kosher–approved and prepared by God’s rules—but Peter ate what Cornelius set before him–even though it wasn’t kosher. He learned that the principle of loving others and preaching the gospel to them was more important than what he ate (Acts 11:7-9). Sometimes it’s not what I do, it’s my mindset as I do it. God’s love and forgiveness work in me to change me and I need to apply that same grace when dealing with others.
The Father God delights me with his glorious creation. The whole earth is full of his glory (Isaiah 6:3). I love to see beautiful landscapes and nature’s beauty. It gives me a glimpse of something that is beyond myself—something that in my wildest dreams I couldn’t create. However, I find joy and delight when I attempt to imitate God and strive to create something beautiful.
“Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time,” said Oswald Chambers. I don’t necessarily see but I know He’s good and so I continue on—that’s faith. God places things in my life to encourage and even delight me along the way. Those things keep me on track and going forward. God doesn’t want me to get stuck.
God sent his only Son, Jesus, to show us how to live. He also lived a perfect life and became the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. Then, God sent his Spirit to dwell within those people who believe in the sacrifice his Son made. The Spirit helps me to obey the Bible. God also used his Spirit to dwell in multiple writers so that the Bible could be written. Three things that God did to delight his children were: 1.) to cover their sins, 2.) to show them the way, and 3.) to help them to obey.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. ~ Psalm 107:1
Gratitude is a way out of all kinds of stressful situations. There’s always something to thank God for—even in the midst of a burden. It’s not a magic wand that I wave and the problem disappears. But it is a way of focusing on God. And when I focus on God, I see things more clearly because my heart shifts. I may not see an answer right away but I do see the God who has this and every answer.
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18