Monday, August 27, 2007

Even the Simple Things

Philipians 4:11-13 "...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

I love this passage of Scripture. Such encouraging words. As I have listened to so many pray over the years, and heard people give encouragement, I have often heard Phil. 4:13 quoted. It is one of those verses we hold onto, sometimes for dear life, when things get rough. But even more than the way it encompasses "everything", I love this verse in context of what Paul is saying.

He's thanking the Philipians for their concern for him. Most likely they had sent him a gift, probably money, to support his ministry. He goes on to talk about how he's not asking for more; He knows that he'll be taken care of. Then he speaks of contentment. His statement "I can do everything through him who gives me strength," is in direct reference to being content in any and every situation.

The reason this strikes me is that we often use this encouraging phrase when life is really hard, and things seem to go from bad to worse. But what about everyday life? What about when you have to get out of bed in the morning and it seems like the hardest thing in the world? What about when you have a family to feed and you feel you just can't go to that same old job again? What about when your spouse and your children are the last people in the world you want to wake up to? This is what Paul is speaking of: everyday life. If we can learn to rely on God in the everyday things, how much easier will those once-in-a-lifetime catastrophes be?! We have to practice contentment and trust on a regular basis, so we can stand firm when the storms of life rage.

In our society it is so easy to become discontent with what have. There's always something or someone better. We compare ourselves to the proverbial "Joneses", and we never have enough. It's sad really. The enemy keeps us so preoccupied with what we don't have or what we hate about our lives, we scarcely have time to enjoy the wonderful things God has chosen to bless us with. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that God has given us everything we need for "life and godliness". This is the truth. We have all we need. And when we don't, we need not fear, only stand firm and remember: "my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Older I Get...

It kind of sounds silly to me to say, "The older I get..." But it's true, you learn things as you grow up, no matter how old you are. So here I am, young, but older than I was last year! Something God has been showing me is in relation to my marriage. I am a newlywed, and I find it amazing how much God has taught me through my marriage to the most wonderful man in the world! I am astounded at the comparison between the earthly marriage relationship and the relationship God desires to have with us, His bride. Now, I knew before I got married, that this is a comparison drawn in the Bible, but I don't think I fully understood the magnitude of it.

God's desire for intimacy with us goes so far beyond, "Hey, how's it going?" It even goes beyond, "I love you sooooooooo much!" It's more like, "You're on my side of the bed...Why do you have to sit so close?...How can you possibly think I'm cute while flossing?!" And so much more! God's desire is to know every aspect of our lives. To be intimately involved in everything we do. His heart is to love us to the depths. His love for us is deeper than we can imagine and He wants to love us in the deepest parts of ourselves.

I don't think anyone knows me the way my husband knows me, nor could anyone else still appreciate me after knowing me so well! Except one: God. He knows me better than I know myself. He knows everything about me, even the things I try to hide! I think the clincher for Him is when we turn that around, and begin desiring to know Him that way. When we miss being with Him after a long day of chores and work. When we ask Him to come close and to "kiss me with the kisses of your mouth. For your love is more delightful than wine." When we stop and ask, "Hey what's your favorite...How can I love you better?...What are you thinking?"

God's desire for us to love Him is beyond anything we can even comprehend. And His love is beyond our capability to understand. But it's still available to us. All we have to do is ask.

Monday, August 20, 2007

It's a Battle!

My husband and I are reading the book Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. It's a great book. Sometimes as we are reading I just have to laugh because she gives examples of lies the enemy tells us, and the words are so familiar because I've just heard them come out of my mouth that very day. And we think we're all alone in our struggle.

The truth is that spiritual, not physical, reality dictates who we are. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

This is something I am in the process of re-learning. Every word we speak either helps or hinders us. We can choose to speak the thoughts the enemy plants in our heads, and in doing so agree with what the enemy has told us. Or we can choose to speak the truth of God's word, agreeing with God and standing against the lies.

Sometimes we don't even realize the thoughts we speak are lies. Here's an example: "That's just the way I am." This may seem like a normal thing to say; we use it as an excuse all the time. But when we say it in response to a question like, "Why are you always mad?" or "I wish you would have more self-confidence," it shows that we have not only believed a lie, but have allowed it to dictate who we are.

God's desire for our lives is freedom. Freedom from the lies of the enemy. In her Bible study Breaking Free, Beth Moore says, "...deception is the glue that holds a stronghold together." When we realize the lies of the enemy we can "take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Eph 6:17) and fight like the victorious men and women God destined us to be! When we realize the truth, God's truth, it can set us free!

Just do it!

One of my biggest goals in life is to trust God. It seems silly to me to not trust Him, seeing as how He's proved Himself to me over and over and over again. But I constantly find myself not trusting. Or even better, thinking I'm trusting all the while trying to take care of the situation on my own. The thought process / prayer process usually goes something like this: "Ok, Father, so here's the situation...[At this point I spill the beans and let God know everything He obviously doesn't already know about my situation.] And I'm just so upset, I don't know what to do! [I proceed to whine and complain and throw my pity party. And once I've finally exhausted myself, I say] I just lay this down right now Father. This is what I'm going to do about it..." You see the problem? I've laid it down in words, but not in my heart. I'm still trying to fix it! Kind of like, "I trust you but..."

I read these words and I think, "HOW LAME!" But I believe this is a common struggle, even to those who may have already learned to trust God. We constantly feel like there must be some way I can fix this. And when we realize we can't, we work ourselves into a frenzy trying to give it to God.

Isaiah 30:15 says "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength...." This is a hard lesson to learn, especially when you're a control freak! But here's the key: rest and be still. He's taking care of you! This is the truth. We can let go of our burdens because we have a Father who is intimately concerned with our lives. He's got us in the palm of His hand and He's not letting go. When we can't do it--and even when we can--He can do it. And He'll do it better than we could anyway!

This is not an easy thing to learn, but as we get to know our Heavenly Father, His character shines through and we begin to trust Him as much as we would the best physical father in the world, and even more. The more I get to know Him, the more I long to trust Him, because I know His ways are best. They are higher than mine. I think for now this is acceptable to Him, because it's all I have to give. He knows. He takes us however we come and He loves us till we can't stand staying the same, and begin the process of becoming like Him. Will you commit with me to stop trying so hard, and just let Him take care of you. He can, you know. He's greater.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Even if you don't feel it!

Something God has been teaching me is that what I feel is not always the truth. This lesson has taken a long time to learn, (at least it seems that way to me) but I think I'm finally starting to get it. It goes both ways, "I don't feel this" and/or "I do feel this". What's the truth? That's the question. I've had to ask myself this question so many times, and I fear I may never stop. I don't think I want to.

So here's the deal: Our emotions can lie to us. I think it's kinda funny that I'm writing this the day after I talked about allowing God to touch our emotions during worship. But these are not the same! I'm talking about persistent feelings of worthlessness and doubt. Feelings of bitterness and anger. Feelings of being unloved or unlovely. Hatred, self-doubt, fear, etc., etc.

Sometimes we can refuse to "feel" saved, forgiven, holy, pure, loved, new. When the reality is all these things are true about us if we belong to Christ. You are saved, forgiven, holy, pure, loved, new!...EVEN IF YOU DON'T FEEL LIKE IT!!!!

Beth Moore, in her Bible study Breaking Free, says that when we refuse to believe something God says is true, this is a sin! (She talks specifically about failure to believe God loves us.) So although we may not feel something is true, if God's word says it's true, it is! If we refuse to believe it, once we know the truth, we are choosing rebellion towards God! We then need to confess our unbelief as sin and ask God to help us! I love that God is so tender towards His children. We can say, "God I've sinned. I'm sorry. Help me." And he not only instantly forgives us, but He reaches out to help us. Isaiah says that God actually begins answering our prayers as we are asking them. He knows what we're going to ask...duh! He knows what we need! And He rises to rescue us even as we speak.

"To be transformed by the renewing of your mind" simply means this: let the Word of God change the way you think. When you feel something that just doesn't seem right, look for the truth and let it change your mind. And when the truth just seems beyond your grasp cry out to Him, "Lord I believe; help my unbelief." (see Mark 9:24)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Thoughts on Worship

In my Music and Worship class in college we learned that worship is exalting God in our minds and hearts. It's something we do on both levels: knowledge and heart...or "spirit and truth". I'm reading Manifest Presence by Jack Hayford and he talks about how God deliberately says "spirit" first. He wants our hearts before our heads. Dr. Hayford states that while our worship should be theologically accurate, it should first reflect a heart devoted to God.

The first time I read this I nearly burst out of my skin! I have always been more on the expresive side than the intellectual, and when it comes to worship I've always believed that when God touches my emotions, it's a good thing! I'm doing a Bible study by Beth Moore. On the video yesterday she said, "We need to stop being so sophistocated in our worship. That's not agape!" Once again skin was bursting!

I love that God desires our hearts more than He desires our intellect. The Bible says the foolishness of God is wiser than the greatest wisdom of men. With this in mind, it seems almost silly to try and comprehend Him! I know that God wants us to know Him and know about Him. (Eph 3:16-20 is a great example of this.) But I truly believe that comes through revelation from Him--obviously including the study of His word. He wants our hearts! He'll show us the rest. All intelligence, all wisdom, all knowledge comes from Him. How can we even begin to think it wise not to let Him have the rest of us! He says himself that He rejoices over us! If God is that excited about me, shouldn't I get just a little bit crazy about Him!

Here's what I'm saying, next time you get into God's presence, rejoice. He's a great God and he wants to bless you and see you excited for Him. Worship Him with your heart not just your head. You'll never fully know Him until you are with Him in glory and see His beautiful face!

2 Samuel 6:14-15 "David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Prayer really does change things!

If you had asked me a month ago what prayer means, I may have said “communication with God” or something like that. But now, only a few weeks later, my definition of prayer is much expanded. Now when I think about prayer, words like "essential, my very breath, my existence, and everything I could ever need" come to mind. In a little less than a week, God totally changed my perspective of how He desires that I communicate with Him. I, as I believe many others, have spent my life thinking of prayer as something I did so God doesn’t get mad at me, so I can feel like I’m a good Christian, or so others will know that I know God when they see my prayer life.

But today it's so much more than that for me. I need prayer. In order to survive in this crazy world, I need to know God. Here's what He showed me. Prayer isn't just something we should do as a Christian, it's something we must do. It's like brushing your teeth. When you're little you do it because someone makes you and tells you it's good for you. But as you grow up you continue to do it because you realize the value of it. It is necessary. In the same way, as young Christians we pray because we are told to and that it's good for us. The problem is that we often get stuck in that mentality. We don't realize the great value of prayer and how truly important it is for us to become mature Christians.

I realize there are many out there who pray continually and know that prayer is important. But what about the rest of us? Those who struggle to get two words into a sentence when they pray? Those who are lost after about 5 minutes?! Here's the remedy: change the way you think about it! You would never choose not to breathe just because you didn't have time. Nor would you ever stop breathing because you forgot. Likewise, don't stop praying! Talk to God. He loves to hear you.

Look it up!