Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Crash Landing

Recently, The Lord seems to be working overtime to teach me. And let me just say that the lessons He wants to teach us and that we so desperately need never come without some pain and suffering. Over the past several months, I've felt more and more of a call to pray that He cleanse me of my selfishness - no matter what it took. I know what you're thinking - "That's real smart of you, Jennifer. Why would you pray for that?!?!" But when God works on your heart, you can run and get swallowed up by the whale or you can go ahead and do what you're told.

As I began to understand what God has ultimately called believers to do - serve Him by serving others - I began to see how much I stand in my own way. My heart was always being broken over something I thought I needed but didn't get. My own wants were always interfering with with what someone else wants or even needs. I tend to start out serving God but somewhere in that service I start thinking about me. Me Me Me Me...

As the journey began, I had my sporadic bouts of "me spells" and then they became less and less frequent. Just when I thought I could balance this "bicycle" called ME without thinking about myself, I got overly confident. I must have unknowingly said, "You can let go now, Lord. I think I can do this." And then, almost instantly I slammed my bicycle into the Great Wall of China and the crash landing wasn't very sightly.

I found myself angry with people close to me, feeling like my poor old self was overlooked and insignificant. I started focusing on what they weren't doing for me and how I wasn't being thanked enough. I voiced it many times and threw a few mini-tantrums as this thing ran it's course. I was so full of anger that I could have burst. But the Lord never stopped working on me even in my selfish feelings and shameful attitude. He was there talking to me even when I was drowning out His voice with such loud thoughts of myself.

Now some would have me think I was just neglected and was suffering from giving too much of myself - or some explanation that would only make me feel better about my feelings / attitude while excusing my actions. But I tell you that when I weigh it in the Word of God, I am flat guilty of selfishness. There isn't any way to feel good about that!

Please tell me you can relate because this story doesn't reflect my "shiny side" but it does reflect something deep in me that needs to be addressed. And as I look around I think other people must struggle with it too because we're all broken from sin. And since the root of sin is selfishness, I know I do not stand alone.

But it doesn't mean we're stuck with it. If God calls us to do it, He has already given us what we need and we need to focus on believing Him. If we fail, it's because we ceased to believe God's way is better than our own. He doesn't give us a calling and then say, "Here, go do it while I sit and watch." He goes with us and when we fall, He encourages us to get right back up. He cleans our scrapes and off again we go.

And I close, I want to share with you some things that always encourage me in a godly way. I hope if you can identify with me in any way, you will not let discouragement take you out of the battle. Continue to get back up no matter how long it takes.
  • But what I do have, I give to you. --Acts 3:6b ESV
  • We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up but love builds up.-- I Corinthians 8:1 ISV
  • Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.--Proverbs 3:5-6
  • So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. --Isaiah 41:10
  • Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. --John 14:27
  • Don't try to take credit for what only grace can do. --Rick Warren
  • We get into bondage because we don't trust Him. --Beth Moore
  • You grow when you do the right thing when you don't feel like it. --Joyce Meyer.
  • Our gifts were given to us to help others. --Rick Warren
  • Faith is acknowledging your brokenness with hope. --Paul Tripp
  • When I forget who I am in Christ, I quit pursuing what is mine in Christ. --Paul Tripp
  • There is no such thing as love without sacrifice. --Rick Warren
  • Success is never God's endorsement of your character but His revelation of His.--Rick Warren
  • Don't beat yourself up over how far you have to go but be encouraged about how far you've come. --Brian Batey

Monday, April 8, 2013

Finding True Fulfillment

Life provides an equal opportunity to suffer for each and every one of us. It does not discriminate based on color, creed, or even financial status. Nothing you own and no human in your life can protect you from the hurt life brings. But yet we try to fill that hurt with things and people who weren't intended to fill it.

We so badly want to have our own way and not feel the pain at the same time. We so quickly run to things of this world to fill our voids and even when we come out disappointed repeatedly, we run right back to it. But God's word reminds us that He is the only One who can fill our voids and that filling them with anything else will lead to disappointment.
"He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanityWhen good things increase, those who consume them increase. So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on?  The sleep of the working man is pleasant, whether he eats little or much ; but the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep."   Ecclesiastes 5:10-12

At the same time, we buy into this lie that we aren't meant to overcome our struggles nor are we to try. I've bought it, I'll be the first to admit. Suffering is part of life and it was hard for me to comprehend how God, the One who hates sin, can also want to deliver us from it and the consequences thereof. But He does. And His word says that too. Even better -  He leaves proof of deliverance in my heart consistently.

I believe it's important and urgent that I remind you that we don't have to live our lives defeated. If you are saved, you have the Holy Spirit in you seeking to obey God and taking joy in all that He is. If you believe that Jesus Christ died a torturous death on the cross for you, do you not also think that He also wants to heal your hurts and carry your burdens? If you are struggling, hand those burdens over to Him and let Him handle it - trusting that He knows what's best. Don't let your feelings talk you into giving up.

And if you aren't yet saved, I need to tell you that God is very real. The proof of His existence is on your heart whether you know it or not. You long for something more, something real to fill those voids that you've tried and tried to fill with other things. That very longing was placed on your heart by Him, for Him.Some of you have been hurt by religion and want no part in anything faith-based anymore. Let me just tell you that God's approval is a lot easier to get than man's because we can never be as merciful as He is. And if He were not, He would not come to Earth to die so that all sin may be offered forgiveness through His sacrifice.Why not end the cycle of filling your voids with things that won't heal you and call out to the One who can, and will?
“Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will you perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will you do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” John 6:27-35

Our God loves to rebuild us when we've come to the end of ourselves because it's then that we can't claim any change in us as our own - believe me, I know. He loves to make us things that we cannot be on our own, because then there is no mistaking His mark. Therefore don't expect that He will build you into to what you want to be or make your life the way you want it. If brokenness doesn't teach us anything else, it should teach us that our way doesn't work (it's a hard pill to swallow). When He heals us, the hurt is gone because the wounds become scars. The scars then merely serve as reminders of our journey.

Our feelings try and get in the way of what we know to be true about Him, so I encourage you to keep them in check. As believers, we cannot afford to be placing emotions with any level of high ranking. We've got to learn to rely on what we know to be true. And when you don't know, seek it. But in seeking, keep your focus on Him because nothing else will fill your voids and heal your brokenness as God will.This I know. Be encouraged!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Throwing Rocks

It’s been said that many, if not all, of the Old Testament laws were written to reveal our own hearts and our need for a savior. I’ve come to believe that. I was watching a stoning scene in the series, “The Bible” recently. Seeing it visualized served to teach me the intention I believe stoning was meant to fulfill – to serve as a mirror of our own hearts.

You see, to pick up a rock and throw it at someone takes arrogance, nerve and mean-spiritedness that hides itself deep inside the human heart. It takes blindness to our own sins and complete focus on someone else’s to start with. Even more so, it takes intent to hurt someone that only a hard heart can follow through with. Think about it – the rock is being thrown with full intention of killing “the offender” due to an injustice that those throwing rocks were just as capable of.

I don’t know about you but I’ve learned that focusing on others or the wrongs that have been done to me always causes me to stumble because it takes the place of my focus on Christ. The ugliness in our hearts simply exists because sin can only thrive in the dark. Therefore, our focus on others becomes nothing more than a scapegoat for us since it changes the focus on someone else and allows us to feel better about the junk in our own trunks. We become more and more blinded, as we look at others, about what’s in us.

Oftentimes, I judge others so quickly and so harshly when I really don’t know what circumstances led them to what they’ve done or how they live. Subconsciously, I have this idea that the way I do things is right and I’ve earned the right through my decisions to be hard on others. Yes, it sounds a bit delusional but if you are honest I bet you can identify with it.

Of course none of these thoughts are at the forefront of my mind since they hide behind prettier, more reasonable thoughts, but they are the indeed the foundation on which my thought system has rested for so long. And I think that’s what Jesus Christ meant in the Bible when He referred to the concept of surrendering all. If we are going to be overcomers in Christ Jesus, we must surrender not only our lifestyle but also our thought system and be willing to search it for gaps repeatedly.

We have to be willing to ask ourselves the hard questions. We should ask ourselves things like:
  • Does this stuff I am doing, saying and living match up to the word of God?
  • Am I being a tool of grace for someone else?
  • Are my motives holy?
  • Am I judging others for something I, myself, do?
  • Am I really seeking the best interest of another person or am I seeking my own interests and glory?
  • Do my words serve as an ambassador of Christ, meaning do they show others the love of God?
  • Would the way I want to respond to this person bring them closer to God or push them away?
  • What would/did Jesus do in this situation?

As I search my own heart, I realize that I’ve denied others the grace and mercy that I so whole-heartedly desire, and that has been so freely given to me. As much as I hate to know these things are inside of me, I rest knowing that when God reveals something it’s because He wants to cleanse it.
We throw rocks every single day, as believers. They may not be real rocks that kill but they do hinder and they do hurt. And that’s not the testimony we are called to live out. I don't say these things to scold anyone but as a lesson I feel I've regrettedly learned the hard way. If we are going to say we take our faith seriously, we must examine ourselves consistently.