Ever stop and listen to people? Most of us are blessed with great things, yet we complain about the most ridiculous inconveniences. This light-hearted video from Journey Box Media made me laugh out loud yet challenged me to answer the question in my own life, “When is enough, enough?”
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. (Philippians 4:11)
Just checking in today to see how everyone who decided to take the “Journey to the Cross” is faring now that we are one week in. As I have been studying and praying and listening I have come to a realization. God has been at work on me peeling away my layers of “yes, buts” and showing me that in this season of sacrifice, while chocolate was a nice thing to give up, unless it draws me closer to Him it’s just stuff. The sacrifice that I have been more and more convicted to lay over is that of self.
Deny thyself. It was at the heart of the very first post of our Lent journey.
If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10:39 NLT)
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! (John 12:24-27 NLT, emphasis mine)
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1, 2 NLT, emphasis mine)
Lead me to the cross
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You.
A.W. Tozer said, “among the plastic saints of our times, Jesus has to do all the dying, and all we want to hear is another sermon about his dying.”
Here are C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on this subject from Counting The Cost.
The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self–all your wishes and precautions–to Christ.
Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked–the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: My own will shall become yours.’…
The goal toward which He is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except you yourself, can prevent Him from taking you to that goal. That is what you are in for. And it is very important to realize that. If we do not, then we are very likely to start pulling back and resisting Him after a certain point. I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted Him to do. And we should be obliged if He would now leave us alone.
But this is the fatal mistake… The question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us….
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you know that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of–throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself!
“Yes, but” cottages are cute and chocolate is so much easier…
If you gotta start somewhere why not here
If you gotta start sometime why not now
(TobyMac, City On Our Knees)
Start something…do something…be something. It’s a pressure I feel on a daily basis. One that I quite admittedly make much larger by my obsessing on questions like…Am I living up to my potential? Am I following God’s leading and teaching? What is God’s will for my life? Start something…do something…be something. My self-talk mantra.
In trying to answer those questions I continually fall short in the answer department. I have had this image in my mind, the way I have felt lately and I haven’t been able to reconcile what it, until just recently.
I find myself standing in the middle of the subway station platform during the early morning rush. Frenzied chaos with people swarming, rushing, getting on trains and headed out. Confident people who know where they are going and how to get there. But not me…I am standing, jostled, stuck, and confused, not sure which train to get on because I don’t know where I am supposed to be going, but I really feel like I should be moving, going somewhere, anywhere. I start towards one train and stop, second-guessing. I am feeling helpless, another face in the sea of people. This was me, inside…
If you know me at all you will know that I am a fan of big gestures. Go big or go home. So part of what I was looking for in my subway destination was influenced by this. I was ready to embrace Ephesians 3:20, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” To infinity and beyond…God definitely knows how to accomplish the “big gesture.” This is the pressure I was putting on myself…Start something (big)…do something (big)…be something (big.) Instead I have felt like I was languishing, particularly in regard to my book and this nebulous idea of a “ministry.” But recently the sand under my feet has begun to shift and I am seeing things in a different light.
Have you ever heard the phrase “grow where you are planted?” That is where this change began.
If standing in the middle of a subway is where I find myself then I will become a “subway preacher.” I say that in jest, however, the “ministry” that I am so desperately searching for has been right in front of me. It just doesn’t look like what I had pictured in my head so I overlooked it. I have also realized I need to release myself from the burden of “greatness” (that is founded in my own definition) and just be who God has created me to be at this moment, with these circumstances, in this place.
There is a Part B to that as well. Not one that is particularly pleasant to admit. That is releasing God of the expectations that I have for Him, the quiet undercurrent in the self-talk. You have big plans for me God, right? We are going places, right? Surely we haven’t come this far to just hang out here, right? It is putting my agenda on God’s plate and I know that isn’t how it works. Chalk it up to being a slow learner…
So I have begun pouring myself into the here and now instead of looking ahead to the future and waiting for it to happen. I need to throw out the idea of “ministry” by my definition and walk in faith. Maybe I will walk in place for a little while. Maybe I will feel like I am walking in circles but God is in control. He has me exactly where I am supposed to be right now. I can’t second guess that. Maybe someday we will jump on another train and head out, but for today I am going to grow where I am planted. And suddenly, I have found myself at peace in the subway.
Today, I challenge you. Are you growing or are you spending your time wishing you were being re-planted somewhere else? Are you giving God your best in the here and now, wherever that may be? Have you placed expectations on God that He isn’t meeting and you find yourself frustrated? A lot of questions that dig a little deeper than we are sometimes comfortable looking. I have one last one…do you believe the words of Jeremiah 29:11? “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God has plans for us, sometimes they line up with ours, sometimes they don’t. But He knows what is best, His plans are for our good, even when we can’t see it and we don’t understand it. I challenge you to trust God to do what is best for you and to use you for His purpose and for His glory. And if you do, look out. You may get to experience “more than you could ask or imagine” and never have seen it coming!
If you gotta start somewhere why not here. If you gotta start sometime why not now…even if it’s in the subway!
I was reading through some old journal entries and came across the following that I had written in 2012 just before the new year. In light of the last few days it buoyed my spirit. I guess I need to take my own advice and encouragement. Maybe you can find some truth in it as well…
As I look towards a new year I find it amazing how much can be accomplished and changed within the scope of 365 short days. (Although some don’t feel so short at the time.) The small steps that we take every day will eventually add up into something bigger. My steps have definitely added up as I reached a personal milestone yesterday – mile 500! I would have never thought that possible except that all of those steps, sometimes painful, tired, and monotonous, did add up into something bigger and to look back and see it in its entirety up gives me a rush of excitement, and accomplishment, that is unparalleled! But that comes in part because of what my runs signify. A healthier me, mentally, physically and spiritually. When I was running yesterday, I heard for the first time, I Am A Seed by David Crowder Band (they are one of my favorites for running) and I couldn’t help but identify with the seed…
Oh I’ve been pushed down into the ground
Oh how I’ve been trampled down
So many feet on top of me
I can’t help but sink, sink, sink
Oh I’ve been pushed down into the ground
Oh how I have been trampled down
Lord I put my trust in thee
You won’t turn your back on me
Oh I am a seed, Oh I am a seed
I’ve been pushed down into the ground
But I will rise up a tree
There have been many times that I have felt trampled down, none of us are exempt from that. But this song shifted my thinking and the thought of this tree, stately and strong and beautiful, bursting forth from a seed trampled into the ground, gave me a wonderful feeling. It was such a powerful image. I stopped and thought about that process for a second. A seed is tiny and appears so inconsequential. It represents the beginning or starting point of all living things but inside of the seed is all that is needed to grow into something magnificent. And the most amazing part is that, given the proper conditions for growth, one tiny seed will produce so much more than itself. I also thought of Matthew 17:20, “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” Oh to have the faith to suspend all that we know and understand as reality and embrace the impossible…
How much more could God do with us if by His grace He can move mountains with mustard seed faith and He causes great oak trees to spring forth from tiny acorns? This next year, stop wondering “What if?” and induce your faith, let God take the reins, and continue putting one foot in front of the other even when you are weary, and I promise you, if you do, you will see that mountains were moved when you look back over 2014. Let this be God’s year and you will be able to accomplish more than you ever thought possible.
As I look back I have realized we don’t always see the mountains moving in front of us, sometimes
it’s a slow process and it’s only as we look in the rearview mirror that we are able to appreciate how far they have moved and how far we have come. I find myself continually amazed at God’s goodness and provision, in sickness, fear, and grief for certain, but also on the good days. He is right in our midst, everyday, if we open our eyes and ears, and soften our hearts to His presence.
My challenge for you this year, Be A Seed!
What can God accomplish through you this year?
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more that we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20, emphasis mine)
I will rise up a tree!
If you want to check out the song, I can’t promise it won’t get stuck in your head.
Here is my goal for the week. May you be challenged and encouraged as well.
“Let us be very sincere in our dealings with each other and have the courage to accept each other as we are. Do not be surprised or become preoccupied at each other’s failure; rather see and find the good in each other, for each one of us is created in the image of God. Keep in mind that our community is not composed of those who are already saints, but of those who are trying to become saints. Therefore, let us be extremely patient with each other’s faults and failures.” Mother Teresa
Love is patient. Love is kind. Father, fill me with your loving patience and kindness this week as I seek to reflect you to a world that is searching for love. Amen
As I sit in the waiting area of yet another doctor’s office on this Friday morning I am feeling a bit worn down. I have already had three blood tests this week to verify some abnormal test results which takes a toll both mentally and physically. Today though, I am not here for myself. I am sitting in prayerful support of someone near and dear to my heart, and in some ways I think that is more difficult. It’s been a week of halting stops and starts, quite literally, as even this morning when I went to start my car I found the battery dead. It turns out the light was left on all night, slowly draining all the life giving force from my car. Sitting here in the waiting area my mind began to wander and I couldn’t help but connect the dots in my head…the light left on in the car drains the battery. Our light left constantly burning, will also drain us. Even if lit as a lighthouse, shining as a beacon of hope for others, and guiding them towards a relationship with Christ. If we don’t take some time to be still, to refill our battery’s charge, we will soon become weary. Our light will burn out. I came across this enlightenment from Watchman Lee this week in regards to Daniel 7:25 and the idea of how we become worn out.
Satan has, in fact, a plan against the saints of the Most High, which is to wear them out. What is meant by this phrase, “wear out?” It has in it the idea of reducing a little this minute, then reducing a little further the next minute. Reduce a little today, reduce a little tomorrow. Thus the wearing out is almost imperceptible; nevertheless, it is a reducing. The wearing down is scarcely an activity of which one is conscious, yet the end result is that there is nothing left. He will take away your prayer life little by little and cause you to trust God less and less and yourself more and more, a little at a time. He will make you feel somewhat cleverer than before. Step by step, you are misled to rely more on your own gift, and step by step, your heart is enticed away from The Lord. Now, were Satan to strike the children of a God with great force at one time, they would know exactly how to resist the enemy since they would immediately recognize his work. He uses the method of gradualism to wear down the people of God.
I found such truth in these words. Little by little, day by day, a few excuses, a few rationalizations, and suddenly we look up and wonder how we managed to wander so far from the path we thought we were on. We suddenly find ourselves exhausted. Rest in the Lord, spend time with Him. Carolyn Lunn says, “There is a difference between living in Christ and living for Christ…He is more interested in the time you spend with Him than with the works you accomplish in His name.” You will wear yourself out working for Him if you aren’t living in Him. Satan will have won and it will have been all in the name of Jesus. This weekend my challenge to you is that you spend some time in Christ and allow Him to begin fortifying the areas that Satan has been wearing thin.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31, NLT)
Pray without ceasing…this is a phrase we like to throw around. “Oh, you are going through some tough times?” After we get done telling others that God will work all things for their good (When You Need More Than A Band-Aid Verse,) we tell them to pray without ceasing. Or we guilt people into prayer. “How is your prayer life? How long do you spend a day in prayer? You know, we are called to pray without ceasing.” So what does this even mean? I am glad you asked. Here is my take on it…
What I believe this verse to be talking about is a lifestyle, an attitude. Prayer is so much more than us thanking God and then dumping a list of requests at his feet. This attitude is relational. Praying without ceasing is letting God into your day. It’s including Him, throughout the day, thinking of Him, thanking Him, meditating on His promises, asking for His help, and worshiping Him.
Pastor Matt Chandler has a wonderful take on this. He talks about the rhythm of our day, this ebb and flow of communication that should be happening. Pulling aside time to spend in prayer and in God’s Word are integral but so are what he calls the “rifle shot prayers.” These are the prayers we throw heavenward during the day. This is when you say, “Hey God, this is it. I prayed about this earlier. I really need you to be with me now as I face this co-worker, this trial, this temptation, you fill in the blank.” I would venture to guess that most of do better with the “rifle-shot” requests than recognizing and offering thanks for the blessings, both those big and small throughout the day. It’s this constant flow of communication, carrying God with you throughout your day. Both forms are necessary for the vibrancy of your relationship. One type feeds the other.
Today, make a concerted effort to pray without ceasing. Invite God into your day. Listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to pray and know that God is with you and for you. And if you don’t do so well? It’s ok, tomorrow is a new day.
There are two kinds of Christians: those who say to God “Thy will be done” and then those who say to God, “All right then, have it your way.”
This was based off of a C.S. Lewis quote that I misread yesterday. As I was preparing to share it this morning I realized that I had read it wrong. Because the wrong version really struck a chord with me I have shared my version. It made me stop and think, what do we say to God, what message does our attitude and action convey, when we are faced with situations or circumstances that we don’t like? For just a moment today think about how you would answer that question. What is the condition of my heart, that of a humble servant or that of a spoiled child?
I have a question for you today. What would you say most people spend their days longing for? Happiness? Where would you find happiness? In success? How do you define success? Would you find contentment in more money, time, or possessions? Is your joy held captive under someone else’s power? In search of unconditional love have you given away the keys to your kingdom?
Like a junkie, in need of a fix, we compromise what we hold dear, we give away the very best parts of us, in search of love, happiness, contentment. If I just have this person’s love or approval, this possession, this amount in my bank account, you fill in the blank, then I will be happy. I promise you, if the “this” that you are searching for is found anywhere but at the foot of the cross you will keep searching. Your “if, then” statement will never be complete. People will let you down, there will always be something newer, shinier, and fancier to lust after, there won’t be enough hours in the day to climb the ladder of corporate prestige.
There is a bible verse that I bet we have all heard Luke 12:34, wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. I challenge you today to look again at that verse and commit it to heart knowledge instead of just head knowledge. To do that, answer this question for a quick litmus test. What is the last thing you are thinking about when you go to bed and the first thing you think of in the morning? That will begin to tell you where your treasure is. I am not saying that you have to be super spiritual, we all have things on our minds and hearts that weigh heavy on us at times and become overwhelming. God wants to share in all of these things with us. He wants us to treasure a relationship with Him. We need to begin to allow God a voice in our day, in our thoughts, in our plans. Begin to take back control of your life from those external circumstances that we have no control over. Allow Him to open your eyes to true joy, contentment, and love. I heard a great quote this week from Matt Chandler. “You will live your life or it will live you.”
So today, I ask you again. What do you spend your days longing for? What do you treasure?
Have you ever tried to pray when you are busy? I don’t mean a little busy, but the busy where you are trying to be in two places at once, bake (not burn) cookies for a school event, and not only manage, but try to actually meet, deadlines for work. On those days I can barely form a coherent thought and my brain is a hurricane of activity. So, prayer? Unfortunately, those days when I could use the peace that prayer provides the most I find it the hardest to grasp.
In the 1960s Charles Hummel wrote about the “Tyranny of the Urgent” and it is a timeless piece.
Don’t let the urgent take place of the important in your life. Oh, the urgent will really fight, claw, and scream for attention. It will plead for our time and even make us think we have done the right thing by calming our nerves. But the tragedy of it all is this: while you and I were putting out the fires of the urgent (an everyday affair), the important thing again was left in a holding pattern. And interestingly, the important thing is neither noisy or demanding. Unlike the urgent, it patiently and quietly waits for us to realize its importance.
The problem is not a lack of time: the problem has to do with priorities. If we have more time, we will simply fill it with more things. (I know this well from experience!)
I have heard the acronym B-U-S-Y, Being Under Satan’s Yoke. The Urgent is Satan’s trick to distract. Satan’s ploy is to get us so caught up with the little – and not so little – details of life that the things that God actually wants you to be busy with are left undone. If we get caught up in the busy, even for a noble cause, and we don’t spend time in prayer we will have no idea if what we are so busy doing lines up with God’s will for our lives. We will simply wind up exhausted, having in our busyness, handed Satan a victory.
I was challenged today to take an inventory of what was usurping my attention, my energy, my time to pray. I would challenge you to do the same.
What, or who, will you fix your eyes on this week?
Father, forgive me for letting my days run my life. I never want to be too busy for You. Especially when I am claiming to do things in your name. Please open my eyes this week Lord to what is important, and to what is simply clammoring for my attention. I want all that I say and do to be pleasing to you. In your holy name, amen.
Cease Striving…Be still…Know God (Ps 46:10) Sounds peaceful, right? Peace-filled is more accurate. "Still" has little to do with activity and everything to do with state of mind. Welcome to my crazy life!