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My Idols, The Lies I Tell Myself to Hold oNto Them, And…His GRACE

A Little Backstory…My Idols

Lately, I have been wrestling one of the most intensely strong idols of my life. Painful as it is to be reminded of the true passion of my heart, this wrestling is truly a blessing from God, reminding me that He has not given up on me…

Up until very recently, I have unwittingly worked for the enemy, constructing a wall in my heart built on pride, unbelief, and fear.  I pulled my eyes off of the Lord—without even knowing it—and feasted them on the lust of the world. In my pride and unbelief, I trusted in the illusion of my own control and denied the truth that God is the King of the universe, that He knows far better than I do what is good for my life. This trust in my own ‘power,’ of course, lead to fear because deep down I knew that I was not in control. Yet, my unbelief forced me to hold onto this lie—which lead, of course, only to more fear as the battle raged in my head:

The Lies that FEED My IdoLs

Pride: If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself! I could trust God, but then he might not make the ‘right’ choice for me {Translation: I know what is best for me, God does not.}

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Unbelief: I know I should just let go of this…I know I should trust the Lord with the desires of my heart—But what if He does not do what I want him to? {Translation: I cannot trust that God cares about my good.}

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Fear: I’m supposed to be taking control here…it’s too scary to trust God with such big issues in my life…But, now I only feel more afraid—why do I feel even more out of control than before?? {Translation: my heart knows that I’m out of control, but my pride, unbelief and fear will not allow me to let go and trust God…}

These were the types of thoughts that ruled my mind, although it may have been a much quicker process if they had come through quite so blatantly, lol! I wanted what I wanted until I could see little else. Yet, I felt annoyed by anyone or anything that seemed to indicate I was in sin, inflicting suffering upon myself.

“These desires aren’t sinful,” I rationalized. “There are no commandments against wanting these things, so it can’t be wrong. Surely God understands and will bless my pursuit!”

But the more I reached for my idol, the more I realized how out of reach it was, the more I knew I had to take control, the more I saw that I had no control, the more I panicked in mock control, the more I trusted God less and eventually chose instead to live in anxiety and lies that whispered I knew what was best.

Dredged From My Self-Inflicted Mud Pit: Saved by the Gospel!  :P

Even in my idol worship, God is ever the hero of the story. Once again, He has left me amazed as He further reveals the depths of my sinful heart and the even greater depths of His forgiveness. He comforted my spirit, lovingly tearing down the wall of lies I’ve once again built for myself.

The other day, while sitting in church, hard-hearted as ever, the Lord broke into my heart asking me to step off the throne and give him back his crown. And I rejoiced as I repented because—FINALLY!—my peace began to return.  He is teaching me—as He must, again and again and again!—that, in spite of my desire to believe that I’ll find more peace when I’m in absolute control, THE GOSPEL TURNS EVERYTHING I THOUGHT I KNEW UPSIDE DOWN! After all:

Why do I seek control: for fear that I can’t trust anyone else to help me attain the things I desire.

Why do I desire the things I do: I believe in the lies that they will bring the satisfaction I crave—I forget that Jesus has satisfied all my needs in the cross and I am looking for a cheap replacement.

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I Choose LIES!!!

I FORGET the Gospel – And Lose the Peace it Offers!

How could I ever believe something is more fulfilling than Christ’s love: I certainly manage!! For example…I think that if I can gain enough riches, be successful enough, look beautiful enough, say the right things, etc. that I will matter more—that I will gain the accolades of others, that I will feel special and valuable. I think that if I eat the most delicious foods, I will be comforted, I will be reminded of good times, I will create better times, I will feel happy. I think that if I deprive myself of those same good foods that I will feel powerful and self-controlled for not gorging as I have in the past, as though I have ‘arrived’ and this power will make me feel successful and valuable—and then I’ll subsequently become ‘beautiful’ enough to matter to others (circular, I know!). I believe that if someone loves me enough to treat me well, take me out, buy me nice things, tell others how wonderful I am, etc. that I’ll feel validated, that the world will finally notice how special I am, that I’ll feel loved and important—that I’ll feel fulfilled, satisfied, complete through all of these things—Yes, even all of these good things I have learned to turn into false idols that lead me away from the Lord.

BUT…The TRUTH is:

Nothing could ever fulfill more than the love of Christ: the TRUTH is that I will never matter more than I do right now—and, to Jesus, I matter a lot! Because the TRUTH is that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). My idolatry is rooted in the fact that I forget how holy and awesome God is—I forget that He is so holy that it should be impossible for me to know Him, that I should have no future at all. Because if I really understood God’s holiness, I would understand:

  •  how loved and valued I am to the God who gave his only Son so that I could have a relationship with him.
  •  that nothing can compare to being loved and forgiven by him—that the silly ways I have to work to make myself ‘matter’ to the world are irrelevant to a God who loved me at my worst
  • that if such a great God would go so far to save a sinner like me, surely I can take comfort in knowing that He truly is good and will work all things for my good (Rom. 8:28)
  • that Jesus is the only one who can make me feel fulfilled, satisfied, and complete, because He is the only Rock, the only unchanging one whom I can keep my eyes fixed on. He doesn’t make me whole with his love on Monday and then sin against me on Tuesday, leaving me empty. Jesus’ love is forever and steady, unlike any other.

 He is GOOD!!!

…And I am THANKFUL for His GracE!

After church that day, I felt both great joy and heavy grief. Joy: because the Lord restored my sight, because I could finally repent and see God as the King—not myself! Grief: because, let’s be honest, these idols, while perhaps not as entrenched, will probably be back time and time again. Part of me just longed to stay there in that moment of worship, knowing that not long after walking out that door my view of God would slowly become eroded again as I slowly and subtly hoisted my idols back upon their pedestals.  

I don’t even think that it’s necessarily that this particular idol I’ve been wrestling has any more power than any of the countless others I’ve looked to.  But what I do believe: this wrestling is the grace of God pouring into me and blessing me with a deeper longing for His righteousness. Whereas before, I may have recognized an idol and told myself,

It’s wrong to worship idols. The Bible clearly says, ‘Thou shalt worship no other god before me…,’”

by the power of the Holy Spirit, my heart is offended by something far deeper than broken rules. Now, instead of immediately worrying that my idol worship is a red flag that I have broken the rules and better clean up to be approved by God, my heart feels the ache of knowing that my idol reveals an unfaithfulness to a Savior who loves me, who died for me knowing that I would be this way. Even as I reach for the empty promises of my idols, Jesus’ blood covers me, allowing God to see me in the same light as the sinless Son. The thought of his perfect love on the cross draws out both an awareness of my wayward heart and a deeper sense of gratitude for this unearned forgiveness. And it makes me long to love as he has loved!!

So much grief…so much joy!  

GRIEF: Will my heart be drawn back to these idols? Probably. If not these, surely others. I’m not proud or excited about it, and I definitely want to strive after the Lord as hard as I can.

JOY: But even as I inevitably fall, He is so good. He draws me back to him with each crashing fall, making me stronger, slowly sanctifying me to kill sin—and most importantly, filling me with a deeper understanding of His grace and my need for grace. After all, even in my brightest hour, sin lurks underneath. I need the Lord—desperately. Thankfully, He satisfied that need, anticipating my brokenness when He died on the cross and rose victoriously, claiming the defeat of sin that I could not, and graciously, lovingly covering me in that victory. Thank you, Jesus.

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More Personal Ramblings: Talking Myself Off the Cliff of ‘Despair’

I am blown away by Jesus’ calling to hold onto Him and Him alone. Looking back at all of the times when I have thought, “if only ‘x’ were different, everything would be so much better!” I am reminded of how much my heart stays the same. Because though my spirit sometimes cries, “Nothing ever changes!!” circumstances and things are always coming and going, while my heart on the other hand never ceases to see the shortfalls of life. 

I love to fixate on these distractions to feel like I am getting somewhere: I find great relief in one thing changing, only to create a new desire or resurrect an old one. I just keep chasing, chasing, chasing—-chaos!—false solutions. But I don’t want to live perpetually trying to fine-tune the floating target! Clearly my heart will never be satisfied with stuff and carefully crafted situations, and I know that if I’m not careful, I could easily follow the rabbit trail of fear/desire/fixing/fear/desire/fixing… .FOREVER were it not for Christ’s loving reminder:

  1. that He is the true need—the one who shows me what really needs to change (MY HEART!) & the One who equips me for genuine heart-change.
  2. that He has already met this need, giving of Himself—He has already provided me with all my needs through the Gospel!!!—my greatest need has been met: my need for a savior from my own tendency to go the wrong way, to want/do evil instead of right, to trust in myself & reject God—He has saved me from my sin, redeemed me, and reconciled me to the Father—My desire ought to be to walk with Him, learning to live as the person He has already made me…!

And right now, as I am feeling so anxious about the future, I am actually thankful for this reminder of how distorted the thoughts of my heart are. It is comforting to know there is a higher priority to listen to: The main concern of my life should be learning to trust in Christ for all of my needs—in seeing the Gospel as enoughin seeing Him as enough!! 

So, though I must admit that my heart is still struggling to be at peace, while I still long to know what the future will bring — I am begging God for the grace to trust in Him with the knowledge that I need not know if the future will hold the desires of my broken heart [so broken that it does not know what it should want]because no matter what, I can know that the future will hold what He has determined is for my good.

He knows, desires, and is working out my life to this end. He has all my life planned out—and His concern is to perfect the good work that He began in me.

Father, please help me to trust in Your great and perfect plan. Teach me to long for holiness, wholeness in Christ, a pure heart for God—teach me to desire after being more like you; heal me from the distorted sense that I am entitled to my own checklist for “fulfillment”—mold my heart to realize that, even if I reach none of these goals, that the greatest joy will come in trusting and knowing you. Help me to let go of the need to control what I really cannot even control. Help me to repent of the belief that I must control everything—help me to repent of my inherent belief that I am the one who knows best. I repent!!! Help me to repent again five minutes from now…Help me to put my TRUST in YOU!!

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Longing to Love

MY BROKEN NATURE; JESUS’ PERFECT LOVE

It seems lately that everywhere I turn in the walls of my spaghetti brain I am confronted again and again with a glaring hypocrisy between who I long to be and who I am. There’s a deep, dark secret—one that I barely even know enough to hide because I’m so busy convincing myself otherwise: I do not love others—like really, genuine, self-sacrificial love—the way that Christ is calling me to.

Now, as soon as I’ve said it, even I want to correct myself. But the evidence is lacking to say the very least. I think, “I’m loving. I stop for squirrels running in the streets. I care about my friends. I cry when I see hurting people on the news.” But if I’m honest with myself, I must admit that my love has some heavy limitations. I feel compassionate toward others, but something about having to leave the comfort of my sofa dampers the call to action more than I like to admit. And it’s probably easier to slow down for that squirrel because there’s no risk of the squirrel saying, “Who do you think you are, trying to minister to me!?! I can take care of myself!!” Here there’s no rejection for caring, just a risk of a fender bender—and, sadly, that’s far less scary to me.

So, while it would be easy to cheer myself on for the small acts of kindness in my life, I must admit that my actions fall far short of the transformation I long to see Christ working in His church. When it comes down to it, I have not allowed the gospel to penetrate beyond my own anxieties, insecurities, and self-absorption. I love those whom I choose to love; I love when it is convenient; I love in a legalistic sense, doing what is accepted and refraining from what is not—I love those who generally love me back. My love, however, is shockingly contrary to Christ’s love. I love with self interest; He loves with my interest. I love in comfort; He loves at a price. I love for acceptance; He loves in spite of my rejection. Thankfully, however, Jesus is not surprised by these differences. He knows our hearts; He knows our weakness and the darkness of even my best intentions. BUT His gospel is sufficient for the change I long for—to love more fully, to give of myself more wholly, to be Christ in the lives of others.

NOT CLEANING UP, BUT SEEKING HIM

I’ve been praying for a while now that God would teach me to love. Some days are better than others. But His Spirit presses me to take hold of the gap Christ has bridged. Isn’t that the point? If we truly grasp the depth of what Christ has done for us, are we not forced to acknowledge what an amazing gift it truly is? Because it’s so much more than just someone dying so that we could live. It’s not just breath in my lungs, but joy and freedom beyond belief. Because the more I can remember His goodness in exchanging my depravity for His perfection, the more my lack of love doesn’t make sense. He had no reason to love me, but He did. He can tear down the walls that keep me from loving! For example, what could I hold against anyone that weighs more than my sin against Christ? Whose anticipated rejection could have more power than Christ’s acceptance?

Clearly, in His power, we can love. Alas, however, I must admit that I still don’t. I am still struggling to wrap my mind around this possibility. I am trying to learn to walk with Him from day to day. Yet, even as I constantly fall off course, He is good enough to use my weakness for my growth. Because the more I realize my brokenness, the more I realize my brokenness—and slowly grasp my desperation for Him. His Spirit is teaching me that I need to love, but it is also teaching me of my complete inability to do so. The more I come to know Him, the more I begin to see how much He has to offer—if only I would trust in Him instead of myself. The more I come to know Him, the more I see my own desperate need for Him, the more I long to be different, the more I am drawn to Him for change. He is so good. He points to my need; He longs to be my help. All this time, I’ve been so frustrated at my lack of love. I’ve tried harder; I’ve felt ashamed. I’ve tried harder. I given up. I’ve been afraid, and I’ve tried harder. I thought I should be able to love, but I forgot that my ability to love comes only through Christ and His gospel.

So much of my life, where I have even somewhat learned to love, is compartmentalized into realms of comfort. But I long to move beyond my own comfort, to move into the realms He would have me go—and to love His people, not just in word but “in deed and truth.” At one time, I was afraid to love in the realm of my own home. Christ is redeeming this. Not too long ago, I was afraid to reach out to my church. He is redeeming my life in this area, as I slowly learn to work with him. Lord, help me to press out further, for you and through you. Teach me to move into the utterly terrifying realms that I avoid. Not that anyone is unlovable, but that I am so afraid. It is so easy to get sidetracked by my own fear of rejection, neglecting the true calling to love—self-sacrificially. Christ can and will redeem this—if only I allow Him to, if only I am willing to let go of my own ideas about what is best and begin to trust in His.

Lord, teach me to rest in the power of your gospel. Penetrate these realms—not with any “righteousness” on my part, but with the love rooted in your sacrifice on the cross. Teach me to love in response—let good deeds—acts of love—be rooted in an outpouring of your love to the point that they are not mine, but your acts through me. Make me a vessel that cannot help but to do your will. Help me to love others, that you might receive all the glory!!

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Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.
"Be Still, My Soul"
by Catharina von Schlegel

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Jesus really is enough!!

He is Enough? YES. HE IS .

This week, for the millionth time, I find myself utterly amazed by God’s patience with me. I find myself amazed at His consistent love for me. I praise Him for His mysterious ways—and the way He knows exactly how to reach through my broken spirit time and time again. Thank you, Jesus!! As impossible as it is to ever fully recount God’s blessing, I’ve made the best attempt I can…

There’s a verse in the Bible I’ve heard quite often but never really knew personally. A dear friend of mine regularly references this verse, especially as we frequently discuss the ways we are tempted to focus upon our shortcomings, doubting our value. Her heart is so full of His word, she is always referring to the idea that God has “lifted [us] up out of the mud and mire,” that through the gospel we are redeemed, unlovely as we may feel.

As with so many of our conversations, the end point of the discussion always comes to the ways our focus on the gospel is being distorted. Here, the conclusion is always that the world measures us by our achievements and failures, by what we have or don’t have to “offer” while Jesus Christ operates in sharp contrast. Although God knew our sin in advance, although He knew that we would not “measure up” to God’s holiness, that we could never be “good” enough—He loved us anyway. He loved us so much, in fact, that He sent His Son to die on the cross to pay for our sins. He died to pay the price, was buried and resurrected proving that our sin has been dealt with—so now we need only trust in His gospel. This means that no matter what we do, we cannot change our value in Christ’s eyes. We can do no good that increases His love; we can commit no sin that decreases His love for us. Wow. There is indescribable joy every time I come back to that realization!

Nevertheless, even as I’ve grown more passionately thankful for the gospel, God has been drawing my attention to just how often I still don’t get it. The other night, emotions were raging in me. I had been feeling called to pray and draw near to God for about a week. Yet, as I so often do, I made the task astronomically large and overwhelming in my mind to the point that the thought of praying at all seemed impossible. That old verse kept running through my head again: “Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6). And I even happened to listen to a sermon that focused on this exact message—yet my heart would not crack. I fought the longing, neglected the urge to STOP, get on my knees, and PRAY.

Once again however—how could I be surprised!?!—God has proved Himself faithful, even and especially in light of my weak faithlessness. Though I knew the imperative to “call upon God while He is near,” I continued to neglect Him. I was willing & hungry for His word. I kept studying and seeking out the scripture, yet I was unwilling to pause and pray. I remained passively comfortable. But God would not let me go.

This past year or so has been a roller-coaster ride of faith. There have been some pretty high points where I pursued Christ intensely and faithfully, earnestly praying what I felt were very “BIG” prayers. In the past I’d never been so faithful, never been consistent enough to say that I had walked with God through my troubles. So I felt like I was finally taking a step forward in my faith, learning to become more fully dependent upon Him. And I was. I began taking anxieties that had troubled my heart for nearly a decade: hopes for change, for trusting in Him with big dreams, for some stability, healing, cleansing. I prayed through some complex combination of interceding for others and myself—begging God for changed hearts in countless ways. I was learning to trust Him. Yes, this was definitely a good thing. Yet God would not leave me there; His purposes were for taking me even further into His heart.

I began to notice amazing things happening around me—clear evidence of God’s healing change in and around me. I praised Him excitedly. What an exciting time! I really felt that I had made a breakthrough in my faith and that He was graciously stepping in and working the miracles I’d longed for.

Then a few months went by. Life happened…busyness took over…I grew less fervent and more stressed and distracted by the demands of daily life. But somewhere in there, I began to come up for air. Gasping, I began to notice that one by one the ‘miracles’ I’d witnessed taking place seemed to have fallen away. The changes I’d praised God for had faded greatly. The dreams I’d expected to come to fruition had slipped away, far off and unreachable.

Even still, it took a while for this realization to sink in…I have an uncanny ability to deny reality. Though I saw that life was not panning out the way I had expected even three or four short months ago, I easily slipped back into “survival mode.” A discouraging conversation would jab at me, threatening the view I needed to keep. A hope was dashed and my heart trembled, tempted to despair. Prospects were falling through. But I continued to strongarm life with unconcious, self-enforced ‘optimism’ until slowly everything somehow rose to the surface at once. I cannot remember what it was specifically: A piercing comment—An encouraging word that didn’t come when I’d needed it to—A changed heart unravelled—who knows…?

What matters is that all of a sudden my heart awoke and cried out. I gripped around for footing, for proof that I was wrong—that my hurting heart was the illusion, but the pain throbbed. I felt alone, abused, disappointed, ashamed, afraid—disillusioned. How could all that wonderful growth, all that beautiful transformation into hopefulness have been dashed without my notice? I wondered, “Have I been wrong to see all this as answered prayer?” But, as I was about to discover, it was all a part of His plan to show me that He is the prize, not what He can do for me. I didn’t know it, but I needed God to shake my world back up a bit, lest my eyes continue to be drawn away from Him.

Thankfully, my disorganized heart loves to play the student. Drawn to study the scripture, more out of habit and desire to know the Lord than of an understanding that He could comfort me, I pulled out my Bible study notes. And I continued on in my passive study of the Word. Don’t get me wrong, it was exciting. I felt the Spirit teaching me and talking to me, guiding me in truth. But up to this point, my heart was still unwilling to dialogue back—to surrender in prayer.

That is, up to this point…I finished reading. I closed my notes. That familiar longing returned—that hunger for more—the desire to know the Lord beckoned me. At that moment, I was finally pushed far enough to press back. The Lord drew me in and I did not resist. Now, I do not know the Bible too well, so I am all the more certain this was purely the work of the Holy Spirit. I was ready to pray, but still overwhelmed by my perfectionism, not knowing where to start.

My dear friend’s words echoed in my mind and I was drawn to search for them. I discovered Psalm 40:

Psalm 40:1-3 “I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD.”

At first, I just read and reread. I was flooded with amazement, and flipped through excitedly reading a few other Psalms as well. I felt the deepest sense of relief I can really ever remember. The Word assured me, reaching the emptiest parts of my soul—comforting me. Clearly, God understood exactly how I felt. Wow. I’d heard it from so many Christians throughout the years, but I don’t think I had ever fully grasped the sufficiency of His word. I was about to learn for myself the power of God’s word to teach us that He is enough. The scripture comforted me—but far more importantly, it built a bridge between my anxious inability and my desire to pray—it taught me, freed me to commune with the LORD.

Tears clouding my eyes, my inner student began to take over, ready to extract every last nutrient from God’s word.

I read each line and discovered that God was miraculously changing my heart through His gospel. I had moved from depending upon my circumstances to validate God as worthy to be praised, to praising Him for His saving grace via the gospel. I began to understand that He could use circumstances to draw me near to Him. Although my understanding is weak, God is unchanging—He is good—He is always good.I began to see that if I only deemed God ‘good’ when I approved of my circumstances, I missed out on the opportunity to worship God for God—instead, I wasn’t worshiping God, but rather idolizing the changes He might bring to my life.

God used Psalm 40 to solidify a deeper understanding of who He is. He moved me from seeing my life in two spheres: the gospel that saves me vs. the “rest” of my life. He moved me closer to seeing that He is enough to satisfy me, no matter what state my life is in. Because God has already satisfied my greatest need through Christ, I know that I can trust Him to work all things for good—no matter what it looks like from my limited perspective.

PSALM 40: My “pre-gospel” response:

Psalmist: “I waited patiently for the LORD;”

My response: I have not waited—I do not wait patiently upon the Lord. Even when I do pray, I always want my way, right now.

Psalmist: “And He inclined to me and heard my cry.”

Me: Has “He inclined to me and heard my cry”? So often it doesn’t feel that way…yet, He did draw me to this psalm…

Psalmist: “He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay”

Me: Well, my life has definitely felt like a ‘pit of destruction.’ Whether being entrenched in the ways I’ve been sinned against or in allowing myself to sin in response, I have been drowning in the mud for years.

Psalmist: back to that line again— “He brought me up out of the pit

Me: Wow! He brought me out? Why does it feel like I’m still living in the pit? Every time I turn around, it seems like I’m dealing with all the same issues that have plagued me for years. Nothing ever changes. Has he really brought me out? When will he bring ME out of the pit?

Psalmist: “And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.”

Me: So why does life always feel so uncertain? I don’t feel like “my footsteps [are] firm” at all. I am weak and wobbly, broken and prone to changeability. My life is a mess.

Psalmist: “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;”

Me: It’s hard to praise God when life still seems so difficult. Where is this “new song” supposed to come from?!?

Psalmist: “Many will see and fear, And will trust in the LORD.”

Me: Yes, I am “seeing and fearing” that God never changes things. What’s the point? How can I trust in the LORD when He seems so aloof to my needs?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

PSALM 40: My “post-gospel” response:

Psalmist: “I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry.”

My response: I have not waited—I do not wait patiently upon the Lord. Yet, Though I have not waited patiently, He has heard my cry. He heard my cry even before I knew the hopelessness of my situation. Long before I ever existed or knew to cry out, Jesus knew that I would struggle, that I would need a Savior stronger than myself—and He saved me!

Psalmist: “He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,”

Me: Though, my life has definitely felt like a ‘pit of destruction,’ God knows that the true ‘pit of destruction’ is the despair in my heart every time I try to “be good” and earn my righteousness only to fail in the end. The true ‘pit of destruction’ is the hopelessness of recognizing that I am a sinner and yet continually failing in my own attempts to redeem myself. The ‘pit of destruction’ is life without hope—life without the gospel.

Psalmist: “And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.”

Me: God has inclined His ear to me—to my weak, impatient prayers. And He has pulled me out of the mud. AND He has placed me upon solid ground. I don’t have to slosh around, drowning in the mud. I don’t have to live the roller-coaster ride of trying to earn God’s love by trying to be good while concurrently fighting not to lose any of His love when I fail to earn my way. God has made “my footsteps firm.” He has set me upon the “rock” of Christ’s gospel! No matter the circumstances of my life, I am safe, secure, and whole in Christ. I don’t have to despair. I don’t have to wait for things to change to feel better because my security comes not in an improved life but in knowing that I am always accepted by Christ—no matter what. His sacrifice on the cross has lifted me out of the mud. Christ has placed me on solid ground—no circumstances could ever change that.

Psalmist: “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;”

Me: How could I not praise my God? He has saved me from counting on myself and my rocky circumstances for hope and security. He has brought me peace through His steadfast salvation. He has changed my song from fear and despair to thanksgiving; He has helped me to see hope in the gospel, even when circumstances are less than favorable and change feels impossible.

Psalmist: “Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD.”

Me: I can trust God. His understanding is far above and beyond my own. I put my hope in Him! He is working all things to the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28), and this is clearly evidenced beginning with His concern for my salvation. He has provided for my greatest need through sending His Son to die for my sins—for my redemption. Thank you, Jesus. I long to see others come to this same dependence upon you!!!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Like all of us, I am and always will be a work in progress. But tonight, I just want to rest in the LORD. Thank You, Jesus, for every glimpse of insight into your heart. Please draw me back to you every time I am tempted to despair—every time I am tempted to believe that anything other than you could ever satisfy more. AMEN.

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"BE READY IN SEASON AND OUT OF SEASON" (2 Timothy 4:2)


Many of us suffer from the unbalanced tendency to ‘be ready’ only ‘out of season.’ The season does not refer to time; it refers to us. This verse says, ‘Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season.’ In other words, we should ‘be ready’ whether we feel like it or not. If we do only what we feel inclined to do, some of us would never do anything. There are some people who are totally unemployable in the spiritual realm. They are spiritually feeble and weak, and they refuse to do anything unless they are supernaturally inspired. The proof that our relationship is right with God is that we do our best whether we feel inspired or not.


One of the worst traps a Christian worker can fall into is to become obsessed with his own exceptional moments of inspiration. When the Spirit of God gives you a time of inspiration and insight, you tend to say, ‘Now that I’ve experienced this moment, I will always be like this for god.’ No, you will not, and God will make sure of that. Those times are entirely the gift of God. You cannot give them to yourself when you choose. If you say you will only be at your best for God, as during those exceptional times, you actually become an intolerable burden on Him. You will never do anything unless God keeps you consciously aware of His inspiration to you at all times. If you make a god out of your best moments, you will find that God will fade out of your life, never to return until you are obedient in the work He has placed closest to you, and until you have learned not to be obsessed with those exceptional moments He has given you.

My Utmost for His Highest —Oswald Chambers

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"Resting in Christ’s Righteousness"**

     The gospel encourages me to rest in my righteous standing with God, a standing which Christ Himself has accomplished and always maintains for me. I never have to do a moment’s labor to gain or maintain my justified status before God! Freed from the burden of such a task, I now can put my energies into enjoying God, pursuing holiness, and ministering God’s amazing grace to others.

     The gospel also reminds me that my righteous standing with God always holds firm regardless of my performance, because my standing is based solely on the work of Jesus and not mine. On my worst days of sin and failure, the gospel encourages me with God’s unrelenting grace toward me. On my best days of victory and usefulness, the gospel keeps me relating to God solely on the basis of Jesus’ righteousness and not mine.

** From A Gospel Primer for Christians, by Milton Vincent

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mohandasgandhi:

“An individual who breaks a law that conscience  tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of  imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its  injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

mohandasgandhi:

An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.

Martin Luther King Jr.

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VISIONS BECOMING REALITY


We always have a vision of something before it actually becomes real to us. When we realize that the vision is real, but it is not yet real in us, Satan comes to us with his temptations, and we are inclined to say that there is no point in even trying to continue. Instead of the vision becoming real to us, we have entered into a valley of humiliation.


‘Life is not as idle ore, / But iron dug from central gloom, / And battered by the shocks of doom / To shape and use.’


God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision. It is in the valley that so many of us give up and faint. Every God-given vision will become real if we will only have patience. Just think of the enormous amount of free time God has! He is never in a hurry. While still in the light of the glory of the vision, we go right out to do things, but the vision is not yet real in us. God has to take us into the valley and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the point where He can trust us with the reality of the vision. Ever since God gave us the vision, He has been at work. He is getting us into the shape of the goal He has for us, and yet over and over again we try to escape from the Sculptor’s hand in an effort to batter ourselves into the shape of our own goal.


The vision that God gives is not some unattainable castle in the sky, but a vision of what God wants you to be down here. Allow the Potter to put you on His wheel and whirl you around as He desires. Then as surely as God is God, and you are you, you will turn out as an exact likeness of the vision. But don’t lose heart in the process. If you have ever had a vision from God, you may try as you will to be satisfied on a lower lever, but God will never allow it.

Oswald Chambers

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Heeding the truly urgent call

Isaiah 55:6-9

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

This verse has been on my mind for a while now…I’m certainly nowhere near being any type of biblical scholar or anything like that, but the verse keeps speaking to me in a simple sense of reminding me of just how pressing our need for God really is.

I don’t like to admit how smoothly I tend to transition from hearing God calling me to prayer, only to quickly move onto some more “compelling” need. You know, like folding clothes in the dryer, going to bed, checking my facebook—anything to avoid the mental and spiritual effort of connecting with the LORD!

Sadly, what is clearly built into my avoidance of spiritual discipline—and ultimately of God himself—is an unconscious belief that I have life under control. I can handle this one. I could go to God right now, but I really don’t think that’s necessary right now…I’m doing just fine on my own. Am I really!?!? What a joke! I am continually shocked at how easily I deceive myself.

If I were to access these thoughts directly, I’d probably laugh and quickly reject such lies and the way they dishonor Jesus. Yet that’s the beauty of self-deceit. Sometimes Satan doesn’t really even have to do much work to get us off the path of following Christ. At least in my own personal experience, I find that I can handle that one pretty well on my own! I allow these self-centered, self-idolizing thoughts to become so common in my mindset that they are merely a part of how I operate. I’m in control & I don’t think twice about asking for God’s guidance because I don’t realize that I’m running the show without him. Without God’s prompting, I could surely deceive myself indefinitely. I could go to church, try to do “good things” for others, read my Bible once in a while etc., all the while only vaguely following the Lord, asking for his direction as I proceed through life. 

Okay. So, I’m really going to make a point soon :)

Lately, I’ve been trying to follow the Lord with all my heart. I’ve learned that I can’t do it on my own—I need the Spirit to guide me through every step! Ironically, as I’ve felt the Lord pushing me toward an exciting future of serving him, I’ve felt more afraid and anxious than I have in quite some time. At first, I was ecstatic to think that perhaps the Lord could use me. But that didn’t last long! Immediately, distrust began to seep in. I felt like Sarah or Zechariah, asking, “How can I be sure of this?” (Luke 1:18).

My mind could not stop focusing on all of my shortcomings. But Lord! I’m not mature enough. No one will respect me. I have no authority. I’m too young. I’m not old enough. I have too many ‘problems.’ I can’t count on my future being stable. I’m too broken!! I don’t have anything to offer!!! I’m too ashamed to admit my desire to lead others; what if I fail!?!? Why me, Lord??? And on and on and on and on… .

But the Lord is strongest in my weakness.

All of these thoughts kept circulating through my mind until I was impossibly anxious. To make matters worse, I had begun to vacillate between trusting and doubting—so at one point I (while admittedly vague) began to reveal the dreams I was sensing that the Lord has for me. This admission was, of course, on an upswing of faith. But then, when I hit the downswing, my confidence faltered terribly. painfully. I came home mentally replaying the tape of my foolish confession. I felt so humiliated. I thought, What a stupid vision. What an impossible goal. What an idiot I am to believe that God could do this work through me!!!

Anxiety oppressed me.

Suddenly, I felt so exhausted with the burden of an impossible vision and the utter humiliation of even having contemplated following through. My lack of trust and confidence was wearing me out—in fact I actually crashed in bed early that night. But then I woke up late in the night, still full of anxiety.

I scrambled for comfort. Who could I call?  What could I eat? What could I do?

And then I remembered the verse that has been in my mind: “Seek the LORD while he may be found.” I felt the Lord calling me to prayer. I am the ultimate comfort, he reminded me. I trusted him. In his grace, I broke a habit of ignoring the call and went to him. And he comforted me!

More often than not, I ignore that nudge from the Lord, calling me to speak with him. I take a scary risk every time I do this. The “nudge” passes and so often, my desire to seek the Lord passes and I miss out on the wisdom and comfort he wants to share with me.

It felt so good to come to him exactly at the moment when I was in pain. I told him how afraid I was. I confessed my sin & how eager I was to trust in my own wisdom. And I prayed for guidance. I still don’t know what will come of the vision I felt called to, but I am so relieved to be reminded that he will always forgive my lack of trust. Even more, that my thoughts are not his thoughts, my ways are not his ways—yet that will not stop him from finishing the good work he began in me. With God, nothing is impossible. I will never be ‘good enough,’ but I pray that God will do the work he desires in this broken vessel.

Lord, I am still afraid. I am still unsure. Please teach me to trust you. Guide me to your vision for my life—and mold me, prepare my heart and mind for whatever is in store. Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of learning to walk with you!