The Trade-In

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. Romans 3:27

If you are anything like me, you can often catch yourself striving for God’s approval. But trying to gain worthiness is the way of Hell.

I am hard on myself, so much so that my friends and family worry about me from time to time. While I’m not nearly as hard on others, I hold myself to a ridiculously high standard. That is one of the reasons I believe that God has allowed an autoimmune illness to come into my life. It has been creeping in slowly, beginning with migraines at age two. I’ve never known what it’s like to not be exhausted and in pain. To compensate, I’ve pushed myself above and beyond to become an over-achiever. I do not have the time of day for laziness and whining. So, some of this is good. Very good, even.

But, do you smell the sulfur of legalism here? I do. I’ve lived it. Illness has forced me to be so dependent on God that I am daily aware that my heart can’t beat even once without Him. While my life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, I have joy and know that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. There has been very little room for me to get off the right path, but there have been times when somehow I’ve managed to veer off anyway. Through it all, I have come to know that my Heavenly Father boxes me in out of love. I have nothing good to give Him. I have less than nothing because all I have is flesh.

I was grieving in prayer the other day that I didn’t have lovely things (like gold, frankincense, and myrrh) to give the Savior, the One who gave me everything. Then I heard the softest, sweetest reply in my spirit, “Just keep giving me what you have. Trade in and I will give you something better.” The point is that if we give Jesus the soul junk that we harbor, that makes room for His heart to connect with ours. The fact that we care at all means that we belong to Jesus Christ, the ONLY originator and definition of goodness.

Heavenly Father, I look up out of the mire to Your glory. I praise You and am so thankful that You clean me up to be shiny and new. You live in me, making me precious. Being unworthy makes my spiritual adoption all the more lovely.  In Jesus Name, Amen

Journal:

Do you have parts of your life that look holy but are just legalistic?

How do you discern the fine line between disciplined holiness and fleshy legalism?

Write out a prayer thanking God for His adoption, through Jesus, our big brother.

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Tests of Humility, Tests of Friendships

Tests of Humility, Tests of Friendship

Job 1:22
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

We know Job for the incredible testing he endured: loss of property, riches, children, and health. But what about the less tangible yet equally devastating losses?

Job was laid low with his head bowed, and surrounded by his closest confidants. They chose to believe the worst of him despite everything they knew about him. Everyone had an opinion. Fools even ridiculed him. On top of that, he felt more than one evil presence near him when he was alone and trying to sleep. Can you imagine it?

To some degree its human nature to try to figure out why something happened. In arrogance, Job’s friends hurled accusations at him because his life had been destroyed. They believed he had to be at fault somehow. But before we get too hard on Job’s friends, lets remember that they sat with him in grief for seven days. I don’t know many people who would do that. And from what they said, they were true followers of God. They were just not humble in this area and were grasping at straws because they wanted an answer. If Job were guilty of some terrible sin, then all of this tragedy would make sense by their standards. He could have at least had peace that he deserved all of this heartbreak. I can hear them saying, “Job, man, just admit your secret sin and everything will be okay.”

One of the worst experiences ever is to witness a loved one in pain. You would do anything to stop it or, at the very least, make some sense of it. The act of watching can be its own test. We know that Job was innocent but it would be so much harder for his friends to admit that. If he could lose everyone he loved, all his possessions, and his health, then it could happen to any of them.

Heavenly Father, I can never completely know what is in Your head or heart. You alone are God. Give me eyes of discernment to know what to say to friends who are in pain. In Jesus Name, Amen

Journal

What is the worst thing that you have ever experienced?

What did people say to comfort you?

Do you feel that you were judged fairly?

Worthless Idols

Worthless Idols

“They worshiped worthless idols until they became worthless themselves.”  2 Kings 17

We want people to believe happy lies about us or just see us as we see ourselves.  Of course, that is sin.

I grew up in a few different Christian communities and attended a number of Christian schools.   It was a mixed experience for me.  The education from a Christian world-view was beyond enriching and I will always be grateful for that.  But there was a downside.   The spiritual environment was such that most everyone policed one another.  Most of the acting was done off-stage.  Appearance, both physical and spiritual was, and remains to this day, the popular idol.

God is sovereign which means that God is in charge.  He can choose to intervene at any time.  In spite of this, we live as if our lives belong to us:  our bodies, our children, our spouse, our dwelling place, our church, our children’s school, and even our country.  And, we’re fixated on the things we want. (Thinness, perfect health, happy marriage, well-behaved children, a clean and well-decorated house, a well-respected reputation, a giant degree from an Ivy League school…)

What I’m learning is that God sometimes withholds our idols to grow a kind of humility in us.  We realize that there are some things we can’t control.  That’s been a tough one to learn.  A few years ago, my own body revolted against me.  For around 18 months, every time I had blood work done, the lab found something bad.  I did all of the right things to take care of myself but my body was not having any of it.  I wanted to be a glowing model of radiant health to prove to the world that I really was being diligent!  Pride anyone?

The other reality is that we can’t control what other people think about us. So, I ask myself, what lies do I value?  What image do I want other people to see when they look at me?  These are idols.  I will always work to be better, by the grace of God, but until Heaven, I will always fall short.  My idols are worthless and if I spend my life pursuing them, my God-given purpose on this earth will be wasted.  I want to be consumed with the things that comprised Jesus’ passion.

Heavenly Father, even Job grieved how he was perceived by others but he always kept his eyes on You.  I give You my worthless idols.  I don’t want my pursuits to be worthless in Your kingdom.  Change my heart and my mind so that I follow You, only!  In Jesus Name, Amen

Journal
Ask God to show you any worthless idols in your life.
What are they?
Find and write out specific scriptures that fight those idols and meditate.

Hearts Of Flesh

Hearts of Flesh

So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. Psalm 81:12

A soft heart is a characteristic that our culture flings out the window. Our world desires kindness but a kindness that only goes skin deep.

We live in a politically correct culture, where everyone, including myself, suffers from hurt feelings. (I’m a Christian woman, an adoptee, and of Mexican background so it’s not difficult to figure out what bothers me.) Instead of taking what people say at face value, we ask, “Wait, what do you mean by that!” We read into everything, valuing our very subjective and changeable emotional responses above everything else. Our skin is thin but our hearts are hard.

Thin-skinned people often tread lightly with others out of selfish motivation. Do we actually care about the feelings of others? Not always.

For instance, we don’t want people to be mad at us.. We value the inverse of what God wants. In my family, we pray every day that God would give us a heart of flesh, not of stone. A heart of flesh is tender and teachable, capable of loving. Not like Pharaoh, who defiantly hurt God’s people. It’s the kind of love that desires the best for others, a heart that says, I’m sorry,” not to placate or diffuse a situation, but because there’s true remorse. No one is guiltier of a false apology than me. It’s become such a bad habit, almost like a figure of speech. It’s anxiety driven and not heart-felt. I have bowed before the altar of acceptance and calm instead of rending my heart and weeping over my city.

Oh, God, let my heart be tender and teachable. Never give me over to the gray of a stony path. If being close to You means the discomfort of conviction, I choose you! In Jesus Name, Amen

Questions

-Have you held back on saying something you should to someone you know?

-Why?

– God created feelings so they are important to some degree. Are you ever reckless with your words or even your silences?

Does God Love Us More Than He Hates Sin?

And there I will meet the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory. Exodus 29:43

If God hated sin more than He loved us, He would let us burn. But instead, He made a way out. Sin and death will be defeated, but we will live with Christ forever.

God wanted a relationship with people, so He created them, us. Sin is the enemy’s attempt to separate humankind from their Creator and bring about their destruction. So of course, God hates sin. It twists all that is good and hurts people while promising to be a balm. It is a product from the father of lies.

In our culture, we have become the “whited sepulchers,” creating rules that God did not create and deciding, based on our own personal biases, who can be included. We’ve fallen into the trap and dragged along throngs of others with us. Sin does a good enough job putting distance between God and us, but we feel that we need to add more rules and barriers. This does not point the way to God, but instead gives the push to slide into Hell.

Does holiness matter? Absolutely! But it’s not something we can attain. God gave Moses sharp and clear instructions on how to build the temple, the earthly representation of the human heart. And then He said, “My glory will sanctify the tabernacle.” HIS glory. There is nothing that we can put in there to improve upon the temple. All we do is sully it. We bring nothing. And without our Creator, we are nothing. He is the source of worth. He makes us worthy of love and forgiveness. He makes it possible for us to resemble His Son, Jesus. What a miracle! How marvelous! So, I ask today, can we ask Jesus for a barebones faith? Oh, Savior of my heart, remove the dross of artifice so that I may resemble You!

Heavenly Father, Forgive me of ever thinking that I don’t need You. I praise You for every weakness in my life because they are reminders of how much I need You. I bring nothing but myself and I acknowledge that I can do that only because You empowered me to draw near. Fill me with Your glory so that I may be full of Your love. In Jesus Name, Amen

Questions

What does it mean to be saved?

Is salvation about anything that we can do?

Do you believe that God loves us more than He hates sin?

Gentle Revelation

Gentle Revelation

…He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will… Ephesians 1:5

I want answers now. I feel like I can handle all of the facts! Do you feel this way about anything in your life? I want to share some thoughts about what I’m learning while searching.

Most people know whom they come from and where they come from. For me, this has been a giant question mark. As a lover of history, genealogies, and an asker of questions, this has been frustrating. I enjoy nothing more than tracing God’s gospel of love and salvation through the Old Testament only to see it fulfilled. This revelation began in Genesis. Over thousands of years this truth unfolded. That is how precious this is to God. Would we believe if He handed us all of the information at once? Would we value it? That said, my two-year search for my birthfather is a short, simple, and unanswered thing. It is a slow revelation. Thanks to all of the DNA testing I’ve done and all of the connections I’ve made to distant relatives, I am finding out about the past that has helped form me into this person. I’ve known things about my secret history that there has been no earthly reason for me to know. God graciously put in my heart hunches that have turned into actual facts on paper. He walks this journey with me. And while I still have moments of frustration with what has not been revealed, this whole process has drawn me closer to Jesus. More importantly, I’ve learned more about my Heavenly Father in a way that I wouldn’t have without the mystery of my origins. This marvelous slow revelation is precious and merciful because only Jesus knows what I can handle.

So if you are frustrated with unanswered questions, just know that I’m with you. But let down your guard because in the meantime, there are wonderful things that God wants to share with you.

Heavenly Father,Oh, God, You are my father! My soul is satisfied in You knowing that I can trust You with my questions. I believe that You will show me the truth in Your way and time., In Jesus Precious Name, Amen

Journal

What questions do you need Jesus to answer?

What questions are we as the Bride of Christ waiting to be answered?

What can we do while we wait?

Bitter Delight

When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. Exodus 15:23

Bitterness is a warning to us both physically and spiritually. But can bitterness turn sweet?

I love bitter vegetables. Bring on the kale, cabbage, and radicchio. I wasn’t born that way but developed a taste for them over time. It’s also important to state that I don’t eat them without preparing them in some way. Bitter vegetables turn sweet when they are crushed, grilled, or roasted. Making a kale salad involves sprinkling the leaves with a little salt and crushing the leaves for just under a minute. This tenderizes the leaves and deals with the bitterness.

Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, told her old friends to call her Mara, which means “bitter.” God did not leave her there. He had plans to use her past to redeem her. He did not forget that her name, Naomi, meant “my delight.”

I’ve been bitter. It was my way of dealing with pain. Anger energized me in a way that grief could not. I felt like there were things that God would not require me to forgive. Of course I was wrong. Bitterness led me down the wrong road for a while. Sin has a way of doing that. It distorts our vision and mutes our ears to God’s sweet voice. It takes crushing or a flame to remove the bitterness. That fire comes both out of God’s holiness and His love for us. And while I can attest that the crushing was painful, I feel more loved than ever. Jesus brought back a sweetness to my life that had been missing for a few years. Now I look back and can smile and say to others, God won’t leave you where you are. Let Him crush you because it will heal you. It will put a new sweetness in your heart because like Naomi, you are God’s delight.

Heavenly Father, Thank you for rescuing me from myself. I’ve been one of my worst enemies. You put peace in my heart. In Jesus Name, Amen

Journal

What are the traits of a bitter person?

Is Jesus bitter towards us?

What is the opposite of bitter?