Waiting for Hope

A friend gave me Sarah Young’s Jesus Today: Experience Hope Through His Presence (Jesus Calling) for Christmas. This is one of the Jesus Calling books, which Young wrote while battling a long-term illness. Interwoven into the daily devotionals are quotes about holding onto hope while suffering. This one deeply resonated with me:

Waiting with hope is very difficult, but true patience is expressed when we must even wait for hope. I will have reached the point of greatest strength once I have learned to wait for hope.” ~ George Matheson

Not surprisingly, I was immediately tested on this principle and learned that I definitely have much opportunity for improvement in this area. That being said, this quote did come to mind, so I did think to pray for God to give me hope. I had to wait on receiving that hope and did not do it gracefully. However, once the hope came (after asking the ladies in my small group to pray for me), God restored me to a place of peace within hours. So, I wasn’t in a place of waiting for hope too long (a couple of days), but I sure felt every minute of it!

As I sit and write from a place of renewed hope and peace, I am disappointed in myself for “going down the emotional hell well” again. And yet I am also cognizant of how “below the belt” the spiritual attack was that led me to a place of feeling hopeless. It’s humbling to know that even after many years of walking closely with God, I’m still vulnerable, but I’m in good company. After all, Elijah went down the “emotional hell well” immediately after God led him to a huge victory. I’d like to take a look at this story from the perspective of having to wait for hope and talk about how we can apply what we learn to our day-to-day lives.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Jesus Today: Experience Hope Through His Presence (Jesus Calling) Courtesy Amazon.]

 

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The Effort of Being in a Relationship with God

 

barbellI previously shared that I am reading Janet Brooks’ book, Enjoy!: More than Surviving Life’s Transitions. She caught my attention when she quoted my favorite Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, as saying,

We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” ~ C.S. Lewis

I had not heard that quote before reading it in Brooks’ book, and I have been meditating on this concept since reading it in one of the early chapters of her book. I also decided to return to reading another of Lewis’ books (I had taken a break after spending a year in divinity school – needed a break from reading theology books). I recently started reading his book, The Problem of Pain, which I’m sure I’ll be blogging about in future weeks. But I digress…

In her book, Brooks asks why we find it so hard to trust God even though we know how intimately He loves us. She postulates the reason is that we know how much work it’s going to take to transform us into the image of Christ in his perfection. She then weaves in the above quote from C.S. Lewis. I think Brooks has hit the nail on the head – Far too many Christians never grow up because they see how much work is involved and simply don’t want to do it.

Think about it. Becoming a Christian requires nothing of us other than belief. While this can be a blow to our pride, there’s not much to do. I say, “Jesus, please forgive me for my sins and come into my life,” and just like that, I’m a Christian. This requires very little effort on my part because Jesus did all the work. The reason I can say a simple prayer and be reconciled to God is because Jesus did everything else. Effort was certainly required to reconcile me to God, but Jesus expended 99.9% of that effort. He allowed himself to be tortured, killed, and temporarily separated from God so that minimal effort would be required on my part – simply believing – for me to be reconciled to God. However, that’s not the end of a relationship with God. It’s only the beginning.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace lifting a barbell. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hi, everyone.

I am taking the week off for Thanksgiving, but I will be counting my many blessings this week. I encourage you to do the same. No matter what is going on in your life right now, you are richly blessed by a God who loves you!

thanksgiving

Will You Spend 15 Minutes of Quiet Time with God Every Day?

no_timeContinued from here.

Now that you know the three most important components of quiet time with God—prayer, studying God’s word, and praise & worship—are you prepared to commit to engaging in all three of these fundamental practices daily? You can start by following the lead of what Lysa TerKeurst shared in a video for her Bible study, Finding I AM: How Jesus Fully Satisfies the Cry of Your Heart: set aside 15 minutes as day to engage in each practice for five minutes. That’s really not a lot to ask. How might getting up 15 minutes earlier each morning revolutionize your life as you dedicate your first 15 minutes to God?

Now that I have begun my day with God for well over five years, I cannot fathom starting my day without doing so … and yet, that’s how I lived my life for decades. Why did I resist doing something so basic as saying a prayer, reading a few passages of scripture, and singing a song to God each morning? The truth is that I did not value Him enough to do it. From my perspective today, I’m appalled that I ever thought that way, but it’s the truth – I valued more sleep, watching TV, and playing games over setting aside a mere 15 minutes a day with the God of the Universe. The sad truth is that I did not love Him or care about Him enough to commit only 15 minutes of my day to Him.

When I made decision in March 2013 to tithe the first hour of my day to God, I discovered how much He loves me, which radically changed me and led me to fall head over heels in love with Him in response. Now, an hour is not long enough – I yearn for more and more time with Him. Activities that I used to view as more important than spending time with God are now meaningless to me. Truly nothing compares to God! I encourage you to set aside 15 minutes a day for God, including the three components of prayer, studying the Bible, and praise & worship and see for yourself!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hands on her hips, saying, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Quiet Time Component #2: Studying God’s Word

Continued from here.

A second component of quiet time that Lysa TerKeurst mentioned in a video for her Bible study, Finding I AM: How Jesus Fully Satisfies the Cry of Your Heart, is studying God’s Word. If you want to get to know God, you need to learn more about Him – how He acts and reacts, what matters to Him, and what He expects from us. All of this information is available to you in the Bible.

God’s ways are counter-cultural, and He does not change. Everything that you allow into your mind shapes how you think. If you don’t spend lots of time studying God’s Word, then the culture will shape the way you think, which will lead you farther away from God. Conversely, filling your mind with Scripture – not only reading it but also studying it and meditating on it – will change the way you think to better align with how God thinks.

In addition, Joyce Meyer frequently points out on her television show, Enjoying Everyday Life, that the Bible is like medicine. For example, let’s say I struggle with anger. I need to meditate on passage of Scripture that teach me how to deal with anger – to pray for my enemies and forgive them. Reading those passages is not enough – I need to actually DO them. If anger is my issue, then meditating on passages re: prosperity isn’t going to heal this area of my life. That would be like putting a Band-Aid On my head instead of taking an aspirin for a headache.

I find Beth Moore’s book, Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds, to be particularly helpful with this. For example, if I am struggling with feeling rejected, I will pray scripture prayers out of the chapter entitled Overcoming Feelings of Rejection. As I pray God’s Word about how He views the situation, I reprogram my mind to agree with God’s perspective. I cannot emphasize enough how powerful this has been in my personal life and personal spiritual journey.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Motivation for Discipleship is Always Love

love_youContinued from here.

Radical discipleship is not possible without love, which is why it’s so important to invest quality, one-on-one time with God every day. Humbling myself to apologize to the mother of my son’s bullies was not easy for me, and there’s nothing in my natural self that was inclined to do it. I chose to say, “Yes, Lord” because I loved God more than I hated the thought of having that conversation. I don’t know if God will use that conversation to change the mother’s life, but my obedience certainly changed mine.

Each time we say “Yes, Lord” to something we REALLY don’t want to do, we deepen our level of intimacy with God. We get the opportunity to experience Him in ways that most other people do not. God rewards those who earnestly seek Him, and the momentarily pain of obedience is more than compensated for in the long run. Joyce Meyer words it this way: obedience first causes pain to the flesh before it results in pleasure to the spirit.

Radical discipleship is what Jesus called us to. All of his disciples were radical in how they lived their lives and how they interacted with others. Their priorities were not the same as the World’s. They weren’t concerned about saving up for retirement and making sure their kids got into the right college. Their focus was on Kingdom purposes, doing the will of God and sharing their faith with anyone who would listen. They loved God more than their own lives, and they gave up their right to live as they pleased to become slaves of Christ. That’s the same level of radical discipleship that God calls us to as well.

Are you a disciple of Christ? Or are you just going through the motions to avoid going to hell when you die? Do you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? Or is going to church simply an activity you do on Sundays that you check off your to-do list each week? God isn’t looking for pew warmers – he’s looking for people who will radically follow Him, loving Him more than they love their own lives. Is that you?

In March 2013, I became a radical disciple of Christ, and my life has been completely transformed. Anyone who knew me before then will testify that this is the case for me. I have made many sacrifices, but I have gained so much more in return. God IS the gift. Chase Him! Cling to Him! He is worth it!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding up a sign that says, “Love You.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]