Please Never Forget, Jesus

Happy Friday morning, world! 

This week has spoiled me. Because of the snow we’ve had, I have worked mostly 10-4 days and have so much time to enjoy the beauty of creation!

 Image

 

My two favorite weather elements: snow and sun, working together to show off God’s majesty in His creation. If we don’t praise Him, ya’ll, they will! 

My favorite song by Casting Crowns was on my playlist this morning. “To Know You.” This song is POWERFUL and if you haven’t heard it, it will most likely knock you on your knees.

 

To know you is to never worry for my life, and
To know you is to never to give in or compromise, and
To know you is to want to tell the world about you
Cause I can’t live without you

To know you is to hear your voice when you are calling
To know you is to catch my brother when he is falling
To know you is to feel the pain of the broken hearted
Cause they can’t live without you.

More than my next breath
More than life or death
All I’m reaching for, I live my life to know you more
I leave it all behind, you’re all that satisfies
To know you is to want to know you more
To know you is to want to know you more

To know you is to ache for more than ordinary
To know you is to look beyond the temporary
To know you is believing that you will be enough
Cause there’s no life without you

More than my next breath
More than life or death
All I’m reaching for, I live my life to know you more
I leave it all behind, you’re all that satisfies
To know you is to want to know you more
To know you is to want to know you more

All this life could offer me, could not compare to you
Compare to you
And I count it all as lost, compared to knowing you
Knowing you

More than my next breath
More than life or death
All I’m reaching for, I live my life to know you more
I leave it all behind, you are all that satisfies
To know you is to want to know you more
To know you is to want to know you more

Compared to you
Compared to you
And I count it all as lost, compared to knowing you
Knowing you
And I count it all as lost, compared to knowing you
Knowing you

 

My thought this entire week has not strayed from one particular sentence, spoken by a seven-year-old in prayer in front of 100 other kids. Malcom voiced this prayer at church: 

“Jesus, thank You that some of us get to play football and go to church, and for safety on the ride here, and for forgiveness of our sins, and for eternal life. We love you, Jesus. Please don’t ever forget how much we love You!”

Yes, we know Jesus knows everything. So why tell Him? Well, why tell Him our prayers? Our concerns? He tells us to. He wants a relationship with us. We know He loves us. So why does He continue to give a spectacular sunrise? Why does He prosper us? He’s saying, “I love you,” over and over again. And yet so often we withhold the words He desires to hear above all else.

I don’t know what has happened in your past that makes you resistant to use those words. Maybe you’ve offered them and not heard them back. Maybe you’ve been manipulated, abused, hurt by people who used those words. But I am here to tell you, with tears in my eyes and a huge smile on my face, that HE WILL NEVER go back on those words. He will always love you, regardless of your imperfection or your performance. He will never leave. He will never retreat. He will never find someone else more worthy of His love. 

Jesus, we love You. Please never forget how much we love You!Image

All We Need Is Less

A thought has been brewing in my head since last week: All we need is less.

If you ask God for contentment, He may or may not allow you to build a house. God be like, “That’ll teach ‘er.”

Being content now is one thing. Planning for future contentment is another thing. Commence building a house. There are all the questions: What is the cheapest route? How many floors do we want and how many bedrooms will we need? Do we want to build a nice house so that we lack nothing? Or do we want to still be able to function in society and have money to go do things we want? Is having an open-floor-plan home a ministry or should we build a one-room bungalow and send the excess money to orphans in China? 

I’ve heard people say that if you think you might be guilty of the “unpardonable sin”, you aren’t. Well, if I’m constantly worried that I’m being selfish, am I selfish? I still feel like it. I feel selfish wanting a nice house when I know friends who are struggling. I feel selfish spending money on cosmetic things. I question how often I’m actually at home, and I question if I should build a house to my preferences or to accommodate a large number of people. Or to house an exchange student one day.

Is it true that little is much when God is in it?  Do I believe Him or not? He alone can sort through my mess of motives and desires. He alone can refine me into gold.

When I start to worry that I’m not tithing enough… I remember that my time is money and every second I spend with a widow is an offering.  When I am mad at myself for not giving more time to the things the world gives attention to, He reminds me that spending time with Him is a sacrifice worthy in His eyes. When I think that I am selfish for not cutting our grocery budget in half and eating beans and rice for every other meal, I recall that we are being faithful with what we have and not going above our means.

The question is would I be content eating beans and rice?

In everything, He is trying to get our attention. He is longing for us to enter heaven’s gates with praise instead of swiping our card for something else we don’t need. He is calling us to scan the pages of His Word instead of scrolling through Facebook a second time in five minutes. He is begging to meet with us in our secret place. The home He has made in us–in our hearts– needs far more renovation than our earthly abode.

The things we attempt to change on the outside cannot make a permanent move until we redo the inside. The additions we build to create more room for more stuff get more headline than the addition we should have to build inside our hearts to hold more of God.  Maybe it is in the intentional down-sizing of our stuff and our lives that causes us to pause long enough to consider the Bless-er. Perhaps the noise of all the blessings that clamor for our attention is the very thing keeping us from the One Who gave it all.

All we need is less.

Confession: my Saturday activity was organizing my Pinterest pins. RE-ORGANIZING MY PINS, ya’ll.

We spend far more time dreaming about what we don’t have and what we’d like to have than we do appreciating what we DO have. Focusing on the friends who aren’t in our lives instead of writing notes to the ones who are. Talking about our foes and how tough they make our lives instead of praying for our allies (and our foes if you can stand it). And in my case, second-guessing the decisions instead of claiming God’s truth and moving forward, trusting Him to take care of the end result. Doing the little things, one step at a time. Being faithful in little.

Here’s the rubber: If we outgrow our house, God will give us another. If we can’t afford what we built, then we can sell and start over. We are new at this. But if we attempt to honor God with our home and our money and our lives then He will measure out grace accordingly.

And I can breathe now.

Sometimes I forget that God’s blessing is not a direct result of my actions, but a direct result of my relationship with Him. And if I spent more time being, then the actions wouldn’t be nearly so hard for me.

He is a giver of good gifts. And the best Gift is Him.

.allyouneed

Leaving God Behind

It seemed like yesterday. Only it was 11 years ago. January 12, 2003 will forever be burned in her memory. It was as big of a marking point on her life timeline as a birthday or wedding day. It changed her life. It changed her. It MADE her.

She was 16. The time in a young person’s life when they are trying to figure out who they are and where they belong. This homeschooler had finally found her niche in a church. She finally had friends. She finally felt accepted and loved. She felt… normal.

And then it all fell apart. Suddenly it was her family versus the church. She felt like she was on trial sitting in that auditorium. Seemingly her family on one side: the church on the other. The misunderstanding will always be just that. The details are fuzzy, and it might be better off that way. Sometimes it’s better that we don’t know the nitty gritty. Lies only complicate matters and forge mistrust into relationships. But one thing is for sure: both sides were wrong. Whether in deed or word or pride or reaction, neither was without sin. Because churches are full of people and if we preach that all men are sinners what does that make us?

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God. Sometimes it’s almost just as scary to fall into the hands of an angry congregation. Being at their mercy is one of the worst feelings possible. It feels surreal when the people you love and have made a church family are against you. “If you can‘t row with us, then row somewhere else,” her family was told.

Weren’t we all rowing to heaven? Weren’t we all building God’s kingdom together? Or were both sides secretly building their own kingdoms?

And so her family was kicked out of that place, although, truth be told, they would have left regardless. And she cried for days and months that turned into years because she felt like she had been forced to leave. And had left God behind. Or, more properly stated, left her god behind.

And today, eleven years later, on another less gloomy Sunday, she sat in a church still trying to find God in a group of people. A people building God’s kingdom and not their own. And she feels her insecurity battling with healing. Sometimes it’s easier to sit in bitterness because it’s comfortable. It‘s become a long-time acquaintance. Because being a martyr is easier than forgiveness. Because a chip on our shoulder, though weighty, gives one purpose and without someone to have complaint with what else is there to live for? Because then if we are unhappy we can only blame ourselves. We can’t have that. It’s much preferred to have people we can drive by and not wave at. It gives us authority and control. And it reminds them of how good we are and how good they aren’t. In our eyes. The pastor’s words caught her attention. “We’re big fans of Jesus making us adequate, but don’t want to treat others like they are.” And if we look deeply enough into our souls, we see that erroneous thought there.

She received the message, meekly at first, and then embraced it. “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.” (Romans 5:20) Wonderful grace. But we want to live above the law. We all think we’re exceptions. But those who live by the law die by the law, because the law isn’t sufficient to save. All it’s good for is to show us how far short we fall. If we refuse to show grace to others in their shortcomings, how can we expect God to show us grace? Oh, but you see, my shortcomings are better than theirs. And so we begin judging and not loving and we are oh, so guilty of that. Living by the law lends itself to contradiction, because there is no way that the law can make us as good as we think we are. It condemns others but lifts up ourselves.

“We are afraid of grace, because it might tend toward a permissive spirit when sin is involved. We are far more concerned about that than God was. Because our God kissed the prodigal.” Despite my long list of “what-fors” to give those in whom I see sin, God said not a word. He kissed, received, loved, forgave. To someone who took half of all he owned, and then came back to ask for more after he had spent it all. “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of His wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2) But grace isn’t safe and it’s much harder. There is no way to measure it anymore. And that’s how God meant it to be.

“Grace reigns. But we often live as if the law of sin and death reigns. We are bookkeepers of slights against us,” he continues. Yes, and the people I have the most trouble forgiving are the ones who think they’re above everyone else, and the ones who can’t give grace to anyone else but expect it for themselves. “So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God.” (Romans 5:21) If sin isn’t allowed to lord over me anymore, I am not allowed to lord sin over others, either.

Was it all worth it? She can actually say that the rending of her heart in two gave way to a wonderful season of redemption. She loves those dear people, this many years later, even despite the slight against her family. She understands that we all mess up. And now, as she faces slights inside her family, she can react with more forgiveness than she ever thought possible. She can also react with courage, because she knows the truth and it sets her free. Free from bitterness, hatred, and anger. As James says, human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.

The girl in the pew eleven years ago is not the same girl in the pew today. She is wiser, stronger than she ever thought, and she has more of a grasp on God’s heart than ever before. She is grateful for the path of thorns that grew the roses. And she can promise you that no matter what you’re going through, the Lord is there.

What’s more, when you think you’re leaving God behind, you’ll realize that He’s not in a place. He’s in a person. And that person is you.

Until You

“Oh, man! This is a good song.” He turned up the volume in the Chevy. Some strange organ-like strains came through the radio. I thought, He must be joking. \ The man sang about going to church for the first time in a while. The preacher instructed the congregation to pray for those you hate. And he […]