Friday, March 13, 2015

On the Things I Already Have

If I asked you, “What is the one thing you pray for the most?” or “If you examined all of your prayers, what do you ask from God the most?” The honest answer for me is strength… at least it used to be. I often feel weak, so I find I often ask for strength, but over the last few months, I've learned I've been doing this whole prayer thing wrong.

A lot of my prayers have a heart of asking… and asking isn’t bad. In fact, asking is good, and we should ask for things, and we’re supposed to ask for things but in my case, I realized I’m constantly asking for the wrong things, “Give me strength… give me comfort… give me grace… give me faith.” And maybe those aren’t necessarily the wrong things to ask for, but I could be asking for something better.

I keep asking for things I already have. I have all of them, and so much more. I have strength, the kind promised to me to make me mount up with wings like eagles. I have comfort, the kind that allows me to comfort others as I am comforted by the Spirit in me. I have grace in Christ crucified for me. I have faith in that I believe.

So why do I keep asking for those things? Sure, maybe it’s because I need more of those things, more peace, more joy, more whatever, but I think I keep asking for them because I keep forgetting that I already have them. I mean, if I had a mansion full of all good things and I could come and go from it all I wanted, and could take from it all I desired, I really don’t think I’d forget about it. I don’t think I’d go through my day barefoot, wishing I had a pair of shoes, if I remembered that I had a walk in  closet full every kind of shoe I could ever dream of.

If I did a better job of knowing Christ whom I have, I'm pretty sure I’d do a better job of holding on to all the promises I have in him.

I’ve learned when I'm asking for those things already promised to me, I’m really just asking for more of Jesus. So now, instead of saying, “Father, give me an extra dose of peace today,” I've started saying, “Father, give me more of Jesus, who has reconciled my yesterday, today, and tomorrow; who has worked out all things for good, whether today or in that final day.” It kind of shifts your perspective when all you’re concerned with is more of Jesus.

Now, I’m not saying forsake your responsibility in the name of Jesus. I’m not saying, “you don’t need discipline, or self control, or gentleness… you just need Jesus.” What I’m saying is, if you seek Jesus, you’re going to get those things thrown in, but if you only seek those things, you’re going to miss Jesus and the point. So, don’t miss Jesus, cause he’s the solution to what you’re seeking. If you’re seeking encouragement, he has it. If you’re seeking restoration, he has it. If you’re seeking strength for the day… or week… or long years ahead… he has it, and if you have him, you have it. So, just go to him, spend time with him, and remember that you have what he has already given to you. Then live in that confidence... in that boldness... in that freedom.

"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace."

Monday, January 5, 2015

Grace Upon Grace

I desire the sweetness of satisfaction. I desire wholeness... and the fullness thereof. I desire earnest embrace. I desire to hear the voice that speaks and calms the turmoil of a soul. I desire to feel the touch that rouses the confidence to challenge the darkest sea. I desire to be known... and not left alone. I desire to be known... and loved even still. I desire a legacy that's long lasting and empowering.  And more than dying accomplished, I desire a life fully lived. I desire a potential fully met.

I have always been desiring a holy pursuit... and I have found Him.

"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Some Thoughts On Peace

I am not a person often at peace in my soul. Peace is one thing I just cannot seem to hold on to. It's the easiest to take from me. It is the most wavering within me. The fact that I hate how unstable and inconsistent my peace is makes me more full of anxiety. Somebody help me.
(and I think peace is not unstable or wavering... which means my issue isn't an inconsistent peace, but rather a lack of it.)

"Peace I leave with you; my [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid [stop allowing yourself to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled]."
John 14:27 (AMP)

God is the god of peace. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the source and the supplier of peace. He is gracious, and he is generous in giving peace. I know that if I ask for peace, He will be faithful to provide it. He does not hesitate in giving me peace. He is willing and able to give me peace... It's just that most of the time He's not giving me the kind of peace I want. 

I want the peace that comes from my circumstance resolving. I want the peace that comes when everything that's bothering me get's figured out. That's the kind of peace I want.

That kind of peace sucks because it's not really peace at all. Peace is a matter of the heart and matters of the heart don't just resolve with a change of circumstance unless that change of circumstance is named Jesus. Real peace goes deep; it changes the heart.

Peace that comes from Christ provides stability; it supplies an inner confidence in the character of God. If I don't trust God's character, his goodness and sovereignty, you can better believe I lack peace. His peace alone brings rest to a weary soul.

When everything around (or within) me is chaos, when nothing makes sense, when things fall apart (or feel like they will), His peace is the only thing that can calm my heart and mind. I've learned that without peace my whole being is thrown into crisis. My whole life and every circumstance can be as good as it gets, but if I don't have His peace, even the best of days are full of anxiety and misery.

Lack of peace will do that to you... at least it does it to me. It takes a beautiful day and tells me that it's terrible. It takes a day that could be spent enjoying the sun and locks me in my dark room to sit alone and self absorbed. 

But here's the thing, because Jesus said, "Peace I leave you," though relationships or circumstances may be in turmoil, out hearts and minds can be kept steady and stable. His peace, kept in the heart, and mind, and spirit offers me confidence and unwavering security. It makes me bold and courageous.

His priority is not our situations, but our souls. The peace He leaves with us isn't to resolve situations, but to give resolve to the soul in the midst of them. Our hearts and minds are changed by His peace... not always our circumstances. He doesn't abandon us in our condition; he doesn't deprive us in our plight. He offers what the world cannot... and it's rest in our soul. And I think that's all I'm really ever looking for...

I need to lean into that peace when I am upset and broken for no reason. I need to lean into that peace when I am lonely or afraid. I need to be reminded that He has not left me. I need to be reminded that He is fighting to strengthen my heart and mind and love for Him more than He is fighting for me to just get through the day. But a lot of this is a conscious decision I have to make for myself.  I have to choose peace of heart and mind when it's hard. I have to decide to rest in his peace when I would rather be agitated or frustrated. I have to resolve to rest in his peace when I am afraid, I have to choose to have His peace instead of giving into cowardice, instead of being intimidated by life, instead of being anxious. I have to choose peace over being unsettled. I have to choose to look to and rest in Christ.

It's in Christ alone that my peace is found. If I can trust Him with my situations I'm assured that I'll have peace where it really matters.

Monday, November 3, 2014

On Idolatry, but more so, Love.

Obviously idolatry is a big deal. I mean, no one is going to deny that God doesn't take it lightly. This thought has had be me going.

"It is still idolatry to want God for his benefits but not for Himself." - Matt Chandler

Would you still love God if he didn't give you anything in return? As in, even if he didn't offer to save you, even if he didn't help you, even if he wasn't present, even if he didn't love you... would you still love him just because he is God and because that is what you were made to do?

Well, first, the answer is no. I would not still love him, because I only love because He first loved me (1 John 4:19). But let's say I could love apart from his love, would I still choose to love him?

We should want God simply because He is God. Yeah, he gives us good things, and that's great, he opens incredible doors of opportunity, he provides for us, and he's constant- yes those things are awesome and great, but we should not be worshiping God for those things. We shouldn't be worshiping God simply because of the benefits we gain from Him, because then we're really worshiping the benefits. We should be worshiping Him because He is God, and that's it. Yeah, the benefits are great, and thank God for the grace of his benefits, but we should never want God for his benefits and not for who He is.

So I got to thinking...

How would I feel if my friends or family only wanted me for what I offered them? What if they didn't value me as a person or for who I was, but only for what I gave to them, how I spoke to them, how I made them feel? My whole world would become performance based. Every relationship would be completely founded on if I did enough, if I gave enough, if I benefited them enough to fit into their schedule and lives. My whole world would become a miserable way of living.

That's when it hit me. I should be loving God because He is God, unconditionally.

But then something else hit me. God loves me, and it's absolutely not because of what I can offer him. He doesn't love me because I benefit him. He loved me when I did the opposite of benefit him. He loved me even though I cursed him and hated Him. He doesn't need me, not even in the smallest amount... but he wants me. He loves me apart from what I bring to the table. And that's absurd... and it's true.

So, God loves me and it's not because of what I can profit him, but also, God loves others and he doesn't love them out of what they benefit him.

If God loves me, and it's not performance based, and if God loves others and it's not performance based, and if I am supposed to love God with it not being performance based, then it would make sense that if I loved people, it would not be performance based either.

If I were to really love people I would love people for who they are. I wouldn't base friendships off of how comfortable I am or how easy it is to hang out, or if they are the kind of people who encourage me, or if they're the kind of people that make me feel good about myself. I mean, if I were to really love people, I wouldn't even have to have anything in common with them- I would just love them because who they are is valuable and who they are is deeply loved by God. If I were to really love people, I wouldn't need affirmation from them, or time from them, or gifts from them, or anything from them, I would just need them to be-

I was thinking about how incredibly secure God must be in himself. He needs zero affirmation from anyone ever. He knows exactly who he is. He knows exactly how much he is infinitely worth (and that's a paradox in itself.) He has never had, nor will ever have any sort of identity crisis. He will never question his value. He is secure in who he is and I think THAT is one of the reasons why he loves so well. He doesn't need anything from us, so giving becomes an act of love instead of an act of expecting a return.

I should be secure because he loves me, and not because of how I might benefit him. But this is a constant struggle for me. It doesn't make any sense, because unconditional love isn't natural and it's certainly not something I have ever been able to do completely. And maybe that's the issue, maybe I feel like I'm not capable of receiving unconditional love because I don't haven't ever unconditionally loved someone- to love in such a way that is completely selfless and wholly just for the sake of loving the other. I can't do it, and that doesn't mean no one can, but it just means that I'm definitely not deserving of receiving it myself.

But that's the thing about God, he loves me even though I don't deserve it... just because He is good... and his love is unconditional. (these things are over my head- see also Romans 5:8).

Anyway, I should be secure when it comes to loving others. I am completely loved by God and accepted by him, I do not need others to benefit me. I do not need them to accept me, I do not need them to tell me I'm awesome, I do not need them to make me feel good about myself, because all of my identity is not wrapped up in loving people to get worth from them, but my identity is wrapped up in knowing that they cannot offer me anything that I do not already have in Christ. All I can do is give, all I can do is love. But, first and foremost I must know I am wholly and completely loved by God. Then I can love.

That changes how and why I love the Lord, it changes how I deal with knowing my own value, and it changes how I approach people.

I should love God because he is God, not because I gain from loving him (because if I only love for what I gain, I really love what I gain and not whom I gain it from ... and that, as Chandler said, is still idolatry). God does not need me to love him in order for Him to love me so I don't have to worry about performing well for him in order to gain acceptance. I am secure in the unconditional love that God gives me and I love others out of that with the same type of love with which he loves me- with the kind that does not require benefits from others, with the kind of love that is already secure in myself, with the kind of love that is unconditional.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Not Good Enough

I wanted to write a blog today. Instead I finished an old draft.

I feel like I walked so securely this last year (see this). I didn't care what people thought of me; I didn't care if I failed. I mean, maybe I did care, but at least it didn't stop me from acting on things; it didn't cripple me.

Somewhere along the line something changed. Somewhere along the line I crumbed. I lost that security and I didn't even notice it until it was too late. I didn't even notice until I looked up and the hole I seemed to dig for myself had caved in, leaving no sense of which way was up and leaving no light to guide me.

Suddenly everything mattered. Suddenly there was a question attached to everything I thought, everything I did, everything I even thought of doing.

I lost my security. I lost my joy. "What will they think of me?" was the question always on my mind. The answer undoubtably, unchangeably, always, "not good enough."

Your work, not good enough.
Your worship, not good enough.
Your friendship, not good enough.
You, not good enough.

Somewhere along the line I misunderstood the purpose of everything I did. I misinterpreted what success was.

And the thing is, I know success is not what others think, it is not perfection, it is not what I think. Success can be summed up with the answering of this question, "will this go on into eternity?"

This is where I got off track- when, "will this go on into eternity?" turned into, "not good enough."

I lost my identity, I lost my security, I lost all of my joy when "will this go on into eternity?" became not enough, when I chose to trade in the eternal worth of what I did for my temporal inadequacies. I decided at some point along the way that eternal value wasn't good enough. I started defining myself as "not good enough," or "never measuring up."

The thing is this-

This is a miserable way to live, and though I live in it so many days, and though it's my daily default, it's not the way my life HAS to be lived.

I asked the question, "why do I have to deal with these problems?" to a friend, and the answer hit hard, the answer was real, and honest, and true, "because you think about yourself more than you think about Jesus."

Now I'm not saying that pain and grief and hurt should simply be done away with because "you should be better than to think that way," because those feelings are real and they are hard, but I am saying that when we deal with those things we should be quick to 1) pray, because even if it sounds like complaining, and even if God already knows what we're thinking, we should call out to him anyway, because he can handle it, and because he'll show us things we didn't see before. He'll reconcile our hearts, or at the very least be the very best listener. And we ought to 2) look to Christ as our sufficiency. I could do better ALL THE TIME to refocus my motives and realign my heart to the things above. If I'm caught up in every area that I don't measure up and in the pressure of every potential failure of course I'm going to be miserable. But if I can find myself in those moments in which I KNOW that no matter how I perform and no matter what I produce, I am fully and completely loved the exact same... well, that makes a difference.

But that also is more than just a mind set. Knowing that doesn't do a whole lot for me, but living from that place of being loved, by the grace of God, is what changes things.

So each day, I've got to wake up, I've got to remind myself that no matter what happens in my day, no matter what is coming up in the future that is completely breaking me apart inside, I have to remember Christ is enough, and he is present, and he listens, and he loves me, in my sorrow and in my pain, he loves me in my sin and in my shame, and he loves me enough to call me out of those places into better lands.... and he is enough.

And each day is different. Some days I have to get up from my desk and go take a walk to my favorite dream house mansion while praying aloud, and some nights I have to drive around for a long time listening to music that reminds me of the character and love of Christ, and sometimes, when days are beautiful, I have to just thank God that he's given me really good days.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

On Beauty

There are moments when I look up and I'm astounded by beauty... a nameless something that stops my heart. Maybe for you beauty is found when you find yourself standing at the top of that mountain overlooking the valley and you just feel so small. Maybe for you beauty is found in the sound of the rain falling as a someone is strumming their guitar on the porch. Maybe for you beauty is found when you hear your child's heart beat for the first time. And perhaps, more than the aestetically pleasing moments, beauty is found when you see a wholly broken person, crushed of the heart, yet still strong in the spirit... maybe that's beauty for you.

I took this picture a while ago- and something about it got my mind going. I determined much of life is like this picture... well, the bottom half of this picture. Much of life, if not all of it is a reflection, it's glassy and unclear, it's a dirty marred likeness of reality. It's an imperfect portrayal of what's actually there. It is, however, somewhat of a beauty in and of itself. You see it and you know, there's something special about it... it is beautiful. But it's not a complete beauty.

Whatever it is that you see and you think, "this... this is beauty..." that thing is  just like this muddy water. It's dirty, it's foggy, it's stained, it is... imperfect, but it's still beautiful. I see the people in my life and I think, "These people are kind; there are no other people I would rather live my life being around." And it's true. They are exceptionally beautiful. Their hearts are genuine and alltogether wonderful. I see nature and I think, "This is incredible. This is unreal. This is truly beautiful." And it's true. It is exceptionally beautiful. But all of it, though beautiful to me now, and beautiful indeed, is not beauty in it's purest form.

But the point of this post isn't to make you feel like everything in the world sucks and really nothing is beautiful. The point of this post is to point out that there are things in this world that are small glimpses into Heaven. What I'm getting at is this:

Sometimes I may think, "Dang God, you did a really good job." And it's true, He definitely did a really good job, but I'm only seeing the half of it. Right now I only see through the reflection of what it was intended it to be. I see everything with a gloss over my eyes. I see everything as it is a result of the fall. I see everything as death has corrupted it. I see everything as it has been marred. It still has a beauty to it, but it is only a fraction of the beauty I will see it with once He restored all things to Himself.

If Earth and the life we live here is the bottom half of this picture in some repects, the top half is Heaven and what is to come. It's the real deal. It's the real sky, full in color and clarity, it's the person, crisp, unclouded. It's not the resemblance of something... it is that thing- wholly, completely, and physically. It is beauty in its entirity.

We live in the mirror... and though sometimes we fall in love with the reflection or parts of it, we need the real thing, not merely its likeness. We long for the real thing, not just something that bears semblance to it.

As C.S. Lewis once penned, "I need Christ, not something that resembles Him." And that's what this post is about. We get to look upon beauty, but one day we will behold beauty in it's whole form. We see Christ in His Church, but one day we will behold Him face to face. What we have now is wonderful, but one day we will have wonder upon wonder. I long for that day.

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."
- 1 Corinthians 13:12

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Something about being filled

You can be filled with a lot of things. 87.2 percent of the time I'm filled with, coffee, too many Dairy Queen cheeseburgers, and too little sleep. (My statistics may be a little bit off on that though)

This is speaking literally of course. Figuratively though, we are filled with something all the time. It could be joy or grief, selfishness or humility, anxiety or peace, cynicism and bitterness, or optimism and patience.

About a week ago I had a friend text me and inquire as to my thoughts on us being "filled with the fullness of God" as referenced to in Ephesians 3:19. 

That sort of text would typically catch me off guard, but just the week before I had written down my thoughts on that passage, just by chance. I wasn't studying Ephesians, nobody pointed the verse out to me, I just happened upon it as I was praying. I've been thinking about what I wrote that initial night, and again when I responded to the text. Here are my thoughts:

Ephesians 3:15-21 
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Our God is able and mighty. The fullness of His grace and the fullness of His mercy are incomprehensible. They are so very far beyond us, yet even still, if we were to ask all that we could possibly think to ask of him, the most audacious, the most outrageous, the most unbelievable- HE could still do EVEN MORE than that. His ability does not ever run dry. It is unending. There is always more. Just when I might think no more of his goodness could possible come, when I think it's been capped, He is still in a position to show me more. Just when I think something of His character comes to an end, He keeps going. Just when I think I could not possibly experience any more of him, he continues to reveal himself. He is ever-glorious; He is ever-faithful, He is just EVER EVERYTHING.

What I'm saying is He does not come to an end. His goodness goes on even more. His compassion extends on even more. His faithfulness continues on even more.

The things which we have already asked of Him, He can do more. When we intercede on behalf of others, He can do more. He is mighty to do more, abundantly more, exceedingly more- because He is God. Because He is God-eternal, the God-everlasting.

My prayer is that he would make his people, his church, his children, this nation, this generation, and myself to see more of his glory. To make us to know even more of Him. To mold us into his likeness, work us to more fully bear his image. To sanctify us today into who we will be when we enter into eternity. He has worked salvation- may he work even still more sanctification. May he have us to know him more fully, see him more fully, experience him more fully, commune with him more fully, glorify him more fully, share him more fully, trust him more fully, see him provision more fully, rejoice in him more fully, walk with him more fully, be led by him more fully, obey him more fully, encounter him more fully, be strengthened by him more fully, be able to press on because of him more fully, pursue him more fully, and he would have us to relentlessly and passionately love and know his love more fully.

He is the God who has given to us himself, all of himself. By His Spirit, may he fill us that we may experience his fullness, walk in it, and display it to the world around us.

So to be "filled with the the fullness of God" I think goes something along the lines of how He is continually opening up more and more of himself to us; something along the lines of how He as already saved us and made us righteous and filled us with his spirit. In terms of eternally- we have the fullness of him in that we who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13).  However, in terms of now, we have sanctification in that even though we have him fully, we are still coming to know Him more and more daily. 

Each day, live in the knowledge that He is filling you. If you feel like you've run dry, call upon Him. He is able to do more than you could ask. He can fill you according to all you ask, but even better than that, he can fill you even more than you ask... or think to ask.