With Both Hands

I was lying in bed last night and got to thinking and praying, and I felt my heart breaking a little bit. The past few weeks I’ve made excuse after excuse as to why I’ve only had a few minutes to read Scripture or pray (but plenty of time to do everything else) and I’ve felt the distance between myself and God growing and growing. It’s as if I thought that because I had encountered God in a very intimate way a few weeks ago, that that would keep the intimacy between me and my Father. What I failed to realize is that by failing to spend intimate, quality time with Him, I was doing anything but keeping the intimacy. It was as if I knew that there was distance between God and myself, and I knew the solution, but I just didn’t do anything about it. I had the head knowledge that this isn’t how it works, but I didn’t let it affect me. And like I said, this realization broke my heart.

After a few minutes, however, my laments turned to praise because I knew that God was patiently waiting for me with open arms. Lamentations 3:23 says it best:

Great is His faithfulness;
    His mercies begin afresh each morning.

While I was faithless, He was faithful. And His mercy was waiting for me to grasp onto it. I am not going to feel guilty or shameful for the past few weeks, I am going to hold onto mercy with both hands. As soon as I admitted, to myself really, that I had been neglecting my relationship with God and expecting to get by just fine, it was as if the deepest part of my being just cried out to God. A cry of praise, of homecoming. I turned my head from the distractions of the world and looked at my Father once again.

This post is a bit of rambling, I know. But I had to share my encounter with God and His mercy, because it shook me to my core. He is so good, friends, so good.

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Photo Credit: Jeremy Yap

Stealing My Song

This morning at church we sang 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord), a song I have sang dozens upon dozens of times at church, at home, as a lullaby to kids I babysit. This morning when we sang it, however, the first verse struck me in a way that it hasn’t before.

The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing
When the evening comes

It made me think of how some days I wake up singing praises to the Lord, but by the end of the day, something has stolen my song. But this verse, this prayer, says “whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes.” Did you catch that? Whatever.

I can’t let circumstances steal my song of praise.

I can’t let my feelings steal my song of praise.

I can’t let other people steal my song of praise.

This really woke me up. It’s time to praise no matter what the situation, I can’t let Satan steal my song.

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Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle

Real Life

As time goes on, I realize that life isn’t always what I think it should be. It seems that the Christian life is portrayed as a life with no problems or that if problems do arise, we are sad for a moment and then are miraculously  better. I’ve come to realize that this is not true in the slightest. Life as a follower of Christ can be just as difficult as that of a non-believer. Tragedies still happen, depression is still a real thing, stress still exists. The list goes on and on. The difference is that having hope in the Creator of all things, having hope that the One who paints the sky and crafted nothing into a functioning universe holds our lives in His hands, having hope that He can make beauty out of ashes brings us peace. But even as followers of Christ we sometimes still have a problem with holding onto that hope. We let the problem consume us and it enslaves us, making our God seem small. Our God is so much bigger than any problem or circumstance, but if you hold onto the problem, your heart hardens, when all you can talk or think about is your situation, you become bitter. God waits with open arms and I bet it breaks His heart to see us clinging to our problem instead of Him. God has shown me to worship Him through the storm I’m in, because the thing is, worship isn’t based on how we feel, it’s based on who He is, and He is good and deserving of our praise. Bad things happen in real life, but we get to choose how to handle them, we choose what to cling to.

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Photo Credit: Daryan Shamkhali

Psalm 100

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
  2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before Him with joyful songs.
  3 Know that the Lord is God.
    It is He who made us, and we are His;
    we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

  4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving
    and His courts with praise;
    give thanks to Him and praise His name.
 5  For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
    His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Psalm 100

This short psalm tells us so much about how we should approach praising and worshipping the Lord.

  1. We should worship the Lord with joy in our hearts. Worship is not a solemn or somber occasion at all, we should be glad (verses 1,2)!
  2. We should acknowledge and marvel at who God is and what He’s done (verse 3,5).
  3. We should approach him with thanksgiving and praise – not just our needs (verse 4).

Worshipping God is more than singing to Him and praying, it’s a lifestyle. Let your life be one of worship. No matter the season, the problem, the struggle, remember that the Lord is indeed the Sovereign God, and approach Him with praise. The hard times won’t last forever, but the Lord will never stop loving you and being faithful to you, even when you aren’t necessarily feeling Him at the moment.

Photo Credit: Carsten Stalljohann

Victory in Jesus

I woke up this morning with “Victory in Jesus” stuck in my head, which is no surprise because it’s one of my favorite hymns and often ends up rolling around in my head for hours.  This morning, however, the words were really just resonating with me.

Hebrews 4:15 in the Voice says, “For Jesus is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our weaknesses and flaws.  He has already been tested in every way that we are tested; but He emerged victorious, without failing God.”

Jesus was completely human yet completely God.  He walked, breathed, and lived on our very Earth.  The verse says that He was “tested in every way that we are tested.”  Jesus was tempted as we are, but He defeated temptation, as the verse says “He emerged victorious.”

After Jesus is resurrected but before He ascends to Heaven, He tells the people in Luke chapter 24 (NLT) that He is sending the Holy Spirit to them.  In Matthew 28 (VOICE), Jesus tells the disciples that He will be with them “to the end of the age.”

When Jesus left this Earth He didn’t leave us all alone, He left us with the Holy Spirit to guide us, to give us the strength to fight temptation just as Jesus did when He was living among us.

Jesus’ death didn’t just give us the ability to find victory over temptation, but over the everyday situations in life.  Because Jesus died and sent us the Spirit, we now have a personal connection with our Creator.  Philippians chapter 4 tells us that we don’t have to succumb to the harmful clutches of worry and anxiety; we can go to God and exchange our worries for peace.

There is definitely victory in Jesus, and I am so thankful for it.  I do not have to live my life chained to sin or circumstance.  I know that Jesus understands my struggles, He understands my pain, He wants me to come to Him with my problems – and my praises – and He wants to give me peace that can only come from Him.  Such a sweet message my God gave me this Saturday morning.

“So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16 (VOICE)

Photo Credit: Japheth Mast
 

Lessons from Job

I briefly mentioned in my last post (“Journaling Through Life”) that I was near the end of the book of Job – I also admitted that it has been the most difficult book in the Bible for me to read so far.  So here are three things I learned from Job.

Throughout the book, Job has been struggling with his circumstances and his friends aren’t giving him the best advice in the world, but in chapter 38, God speaks.   The Lord pretty much brings it back into perspective that He is God and Job is not, and it humbled Job – and me, too.  Too often we get caught up in our problems and slowly the center of our universe starts to shift from being God to being ourselves, and no wonder we become miserable! We were not created to be self-centered beings, we were created to be God-centered. At the end of the day, no matter what we are going through, God is still God and He is worthy and deserving of our praise.  Psalm 99:3 says “Let them praise Your great and awesome name— He is holy.”  We praise God not because we always feel like it, but because He is deserving of it.  

Alongside Job 38, a verse in chapter 42 really struck me.  Verse 5 says “Before I knew only what I had heard of You, but now I have seen You.” Job finally experienced God for himself, and that’s the thing, you can tell someone about God all day long, but until they experience Him for themselves, there won’t be a heart change.  I’m not saying don’t tell people about God, actually I’m saying quite the opposite: let people experience God’s love and goodness through you.  Love people without limits. Speak life into people.

Let yourself be humbled like Job.  Don’t refuse correction.  Don’t let your heart become hardened towards God when He convicts you.  Have the boldness to admit that you are wrong.

Even when you’re struggling with God’s Word, expect Him to show you things.  He will.

Photo Credit: Colin Carey