Seeking God: What a relief!

Seeking God: What a relief!
He who keeps you will never take His eyes off you and never drift off to sleep..jpg

Reading: Psalm 121, Psalm 34:22

Christ: Taste and see that I am good. Meditate on Psalm 121 and believe it.

I look up at the vast size of the mountains—
    from where will my help come in times of trouble?
The Eternal Creator of heaven and earth and these mountains
    will send the help I need.

He holds you firmly in place;
He will not let you fall.
    He who keeps you will never take His eyes off you and never drift off to sleep.
What a relief! The One who watches over Israel
    never leaves for rest or sleep.

The Eternal keeps you safe,
    so close to Him that His shadow is a cooling shade to you.
Neither bright light of sun
    nor dim light of moon will harm you.

The Eternal will keep you safe
    from all of life’s evils,
From your first breath to the last breath you breathe,
    from this day and forever.

Think: Each day brings its own worries that attempt to distract you from the Spirit’s longing embrace. Like the sun which always shines above the clouds, God never ceases to watch over us regardless of how it appears to us down here.

Pray: Lord, we long to know we are safe. Our whole lives are centered around finding contentment. Let us find our contentment in the right places – in you and in your son Jesus and in the Holy Spirit. If we do not chase after You, we are only chasing after the wind. Keep us this day and always, Amen.

Seeking God: Safety in his arms

Seeking God: Safety in his arms

Reading: Psalm 31:1-5, Ezekiel 34:15-16

Christ: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:9-10)

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full..jpg

Think: God has promised restoration to those who turn to Him in belief. When I’m overcome with fear, does my heart remember my true safety? Or am I quick to forget the power of His promises?

Pray: Dear Lord, Thank you for being our rock and fortress. We entrust our spirits into your hand. Amen.

Don’t (necessarily) follow your heart: Making faithful decisions that agree with the will of God

STRICTLY

Commonplace stock phrases like “follow your heart” are so prevalent in our culture that e don’t think twice when we see them plastered on greeting cards, posters, and children’s clothing. They sure sound positive, upright and true, but Jesus says something different. The sins that defile us, actually start with your heart.

“Out of a person’s heart come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness” (Mark 7:20-22).

The heart loves comfort & convenience above all

In school I had a friend whose parents were divorced, but had agreed to live together until the kids graduated. From where I was standing, they loathed each other and the air inside the house was fraught with tension. Their reasoning was that it was easier than having to deal with custody and cheaper than living apart. It may have seemed to work on the surface, but the arrangement still left deep wounds on the whole family. The heart does not want to be challenged or disturbed, and that shuts out any possibility for redemptive, albeit painful, work to be done. 

The heart can be blind to its own sin

Jeremiah 17:9 calls the human heart the most deceitful of all. Jesus talks about this too, in Luke 18:9-14 when he tells the parable about 2 men who prayed at the Temple. One, a Pharisee, proudly stood in a place of importance and prayed like this: “God, thank you that I am not a sinner like everyone else. I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I fast twice a week, and I tithe 10%.” The other man was a despised tax collector. He prayed with eyes glued to the ground and beating his chest in sorrow like this: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Jesus explains that it was the tax collector, and not the Pharisee who stood justified and innocent before God.

The Pharisee’s blindness to his own sin came from within in the form of pride and foolishness. I believe that the Pharisee honestly believed himself justified, but that’s not enough. By fully trusting his own heart’s judgement of himself (we always tend to minimize our sins to ourselves, don’t we?) he lost an opportunity to be made right before God.

To be successful, our hearts need solid truth for direction

The basis of the gospel is that we (and our hearts) are not good or innocent by default (Romans 3:10). Thus, we cannot be trusted to follow our hearts unless what we desire matches up with God’s will for us. How does one do that, exactly?

  1. Believe First, take heart! (ha) Remember that God has said, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”(Ez 36:26). He can do amazing work with our old broken hearts.
  2. Commit There is a decision facing you today. It may be large or small, but to the Lord, size doesn’t matter when it comes to obedience. Make a commitment to seek the right path to take. “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
  3. Seek The first place I go when I’m seeking wisdom from the Bible is usually the concordance in the back of my Bible (many popular bibles have them). Biblegateway.com and openBible.info are also excellent for quickly finding what you need.
  4. Ask This one sort of goes together with #3. Often it’s not the finding of the information that’s difficult, it’s the application of it. Even if you are pretty sure you know what you’re doing to do, it’s important to check yourself with the wisdom of another older believer. Stay in fellowship with one another through a church, a small group, and/or with a spiritual mentoring relationship with an older and trusted believer. I’m personally so thankful to have several such wise men and women in my life to whom I can go for direction.

Do you have a person or church family you trust for support? If not, I challenge you to reach out this week to someone like this. Remember that we all get off the path and need the support of our church family. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

God’s Word never changes and “all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 timothy 3:16).

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Prayer: God, we praise you for your mercy on poor sinners like us. We pray that your Holy Spirit would help us to discern the difference between your direction and our own sinful direction for our lives. Show us how to recognize our need for your mercy. Let our hearts consistently move forward toward that perfection that we will have in Heaven with You.

Application Question: What decision is facing you today, and how are you going to search for the right way to go?

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105

99 sheep

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ Luke 14:5

Which is greater, 1 sheep or 99 sheep?

What strikes me about this passage is the shepherd’s ability to notice that one sheep is missing. I’m not so sure I would be able to tell the difference between a herd of 100 and a herd of 99. They would look pretty much the same to me. If I were a shepherd in charge of 100 sheep and one got lost, I probably wouldn’t realize it for a long time. Furthermore, I probably would be more eager to cut my losses than to try to find it. After all, a sheep lost for who knows how long, could very well have been long since digested by a wolf. I could leave my herd exposing them all to vulnerability to search, but it doesn’t seem like a great payoff.

For God, though. He knows every single one he has made and he keeps watch over us. Not in the creepy santa claus way, or the judgmental court reporter way. He protects and oversees.

We all are so valuable to him he will not risk losing even one of us. The less fortuate, the more fortuate, the lazy, the downtrodden, the super rich, all the different types of us.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely. Ps 139:1-4

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 cor 13:12

You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Oh, Jesus, you’re my God!

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

A Spacious Place

renewing-lifeI recently learned that the Greek word for “Trial” (as in, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds”) means “restricted and bound”.
Many people consider “religion” to be just another set of restrictions, a big list of DON’Ts. But actually, God wants us unrestricted, set free. He understands that we are restricted and bound by the general presence of sin in the world. and our penchant to turn away from his ways which are better and higher than ours.
Listen to what he promises:
He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

“He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.

When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place.
Nowhere here does it say, “I was a perfect believer and followed all the rules, therefore God saved me.” But, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.
He delighted in us first and set us into the spacious place where we could be given another chance to know the truth.

A party becomes a mission field

I dreaded going out to the party last night. Back home I practically never go out at night because I have a job that requires an extremely early start time. In addition to that, I don’t really care for being around large groups of people who are drinking. It’s just not my favorite thing; I much prefer a book, or at the most, hanging out with 1 or 2 people. But not a huge house party, and not with people I don’t know. But while I’m on vacation with my friend, I am hardly in a position to say no to a party.

Not wanting to have a miserable night waiting for it to end, I decided to ask God to give me a purpose for being there, and to minister to whomever he put in my path. Which is silly because he does that all the time. But I just tried to be aware of it, and as always, He came through!

I spent some time talking with 3 different girls during the course of the party. I don’t remember all of their names, but one was from Colombia, one from Argentina, and one who had just moved here from Santa Monica (talking to someone from LA made me feel much more at home!). They all had vastly different stories but all struggled with similar pains: moving away from home, and trying to figure out how to fit in. I didn’t have giant pearls or wisdom or anything, but I ministered, as the varied grace of God permitted (1 Pet 4:10) which means I gave them my whole attention and listened. The one girl from Colombia said she desired to find a church community. I found her a bunch on my iphone, and then because we’re in the South, and she’s Catholic, she asked me my opinion on the general religion in this area.

I would say in general the US is probably more protestant, but in the South, it’s even more so. Then she went on to ask what the difference was. This is the second time I’ve had the opportunity to explain the difference. Not wishing to persuade her for my own agenda by making one sound attractive and the other unattractive, I simply stuck to the basics of salvation, nothing more. It can get very convoluted if you hang on to the details, and this is something I have and still have a hard time with but at the root, it’s like this. Protestants believe you are justified as soon as you believe in Jesus’ grace; Catholics believe you are only justified if, after living a life of faith and works (which of course are not possible on your own), you die in the state of grace.

It’s crazy to think that God had planned it from the beginning, that little ole me, who is so ignorant and so struggling, could fly 2,000 mi away from home just to be a listening ear to someone who wanted to find a church but didn’t quite know where to start. I’m pretty comfortable finding a church wherever I am and just going by myself. It was wonderful to share that confidence with someone else. Praying for many more opportunities like that this week!

Quality, not Quantity!

“The enemy wants to put guilt on us, so that we think only spending three minutes in God’s Word or having a card with a Scripture verse pasted to a mirror is trivial and won’t make a difference. But God knows where we are and delights in us. He loves that one little verse being inscribed on our hearts and is using it to speak to us in the regular rhythms of our lives.” ~ Priscilla Shirer

I don’t have a lot of time to write this.

I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t even had time to eat properly or get my normal quiet time in. I spent my lunch break trying to write and came up with nothing but distracted eyes and a restless heart (partially thanks to free coffee at work!). So now, I have a 15 minute break to drop a line to you lovely people to say, God is Good!!

This unexpected quote came from this article and I’m continually amazed at His incredible ability to comfort me wherever I am, whenever I need it! My cousin gave me a bible study book by her that I have yet to delve into, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to love it!

Whatever you’re doing today, it’s my prayer that you are able to have some time with Him today. Whether it be 5 minutes or an hour, don’t forget what it’s all about – living a life of thankfulness to the awesome creator who loved us enough to pay our wretched debt. And we are wretched no more! Praise God!

I hope you like the quote and I can’t wait to finally be able to sit down and share all the wonderful things Jesus has been doing in my life!