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Archive for the ‘God’s will’ Category

In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
-John 3:3 (NIV84)

I am having a lot of fun planting my garden this year. It is very satisfying to turn a plot of weeds and dead plants into new life. We have had really great spring weather here, warm and rain at the right time. So my little baby seedlings are sprouting up everywhere and thriving. I’m so excited to see them grow! But I remember that for those babies to grow and thrive, there first had to be death. The plant from last year had to die in order to make new seeds that have the potential for life.

We have been doing a study at church called Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. He says that many Christians just want to be fans of Jesus and not really followers. Fans really like Jesus and think He is great, but they don’t want to give up their lives to Him.

I completely understand how that feels. It is very scary to give up your life! Especially if you are not sure you can trust the Person to whom you are giving it. But as we learn that Jesus is good and righteous and loves us beyond our imagining, then we can begin to trust and give ourselves over to Him.

In his book, Kyle refers a lot to the verse “Then [Jesus] said…“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Lk 9:23) This verse and others that talk about dying to yourself have always bothered me. They seem so harsh, and so I would try my best to avoid them!

But this study has been pushing us to look at them. What I have found out is that when I am trying to live for myself and to get what I think I want, to try and force life to work out according to my will, then I live filled with anxiety, the feeling that things are wrong, discontent, and even depression. But when I choose each day to tell God that I give my life up to Him and want live for His will, amazingly I find peace. I find contentment. I don’t have to try to force anything to work out. I just simply follow God, and His will is done. And whatever happens to me is under His control and therefore is ok. I’m relieved from anxiety and instead experience peace and even joy, because I am doing what I was created to do: follow God. To try to live any other way is going against the grain of who I was created to be.

So like my little baby plants who experience new life this Spring as a result of death in the Fall, I also need to die to my old self so that I may experience the new life that Jesus offers me now. I hope my babies will grow and thrive as i hope each of us will grow and thrive as we give our lives up to God each day!

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Fiery Gizzard Trail

Yesterday I wrote about how amazing our trip was to South Cumberland State Park, how amazing the area is with all the rock cliffs and waterfalls and boulders to climb over.  I joked that we were forever ruined for the local trails at home!  Well that phrase stuck in my head and I realized it is a quote from a book about God written by Joy Dawson called Forever Ruined by the Ordinary.  She says,

“I was tuned in and turned on to God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. I took off on an adventure of a lifetime… hearing and obeying God’s voice. I was forever ruined for the ordinary.”

In the same way that I was so amazed by the trails at this park and how much more amazing they were than my everyday trails at home, I want to be amazed by a life with God.  I want to follow hard after Him, seeking to follow wherever He goes.  I want my life with Him to be as an amazing adventure as my hikes have been.

God you know how distracted I get by the “ordinary life” and how I wander from this life of adventure with you.  Help me to follow you on the great adventures you have planned for me, to forever be ruined for the ordinary.

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If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.  Luke 9:23

We are doing a new Bible study at church, Not a Fan, by Kyle Idleman.  At first this guy really gets under your skin because he’s pretty blunt about giving up your life for God.  Of course, I know we are supposed to do that, but I prefer the more gentle approach! lol  We are also using the Follower’s Journal which has something for you to do with God each day, that I am actually really starting to like because it leads you to intimate fellowship with God.

The first day we were to take five minutes to close our eyes, picture Jesus saying the above quote to us,over and over, and then write our reaction to His invitation.  I was really annoyed by this assignment because this verse is so in your face.  I have always tried to avoid it!  lol  But I begrudgingly did it.  Eventually God made me aware of the end of the verse: “follow Me”. I realize this is what God has already been leading me to do.  Stop trying to live for myself, but instead follow Him.

I have been struggling with anxiety, feeling like things are always wrong.  God has been showing me that what I needed to do is choose to live only for Him.  Get my eyes off myself and onto Him.  He wants me to follow Him with tunnel vision, to look only to Him for His approval and not try to human approval.  He wants me to look only do His will each day, for my only goal to be to follow Him, not to try to make my own plans work out.   If I do that then everything is not wrong in my life because I am seeking to do God’s will and follow His plan for each day.  Then no matter if I succeed or fail from an earthly standpoint, I have automatically succeeded from God’s standpoint and His is the only view that matters.

So when I go throughout my day and I find myself wandering down into the negative pit,.  I may be thinking something didn’t work out the way I thought it was supposed to or that I am doing something wrong.  I wander farther and farther into negative thinking about all the problems in my life.  I need to stop myself and purposely redirect my thinking to choose to look at God and what He wants me to do.  I need to remember that if I am following Him then everything works out the way He wants it to.  So nothing is wrong.  If I can learn to think this way on a regular basis, develop a new habit of it, then I become a conqueror in Jesus.  I can live above the ups and downs of circumstances and emotions. I can be free, flying above it all with Jesus.  So God help me to do that because You know I can’t do it without You.  But I can do all things through You who gives me strength.  Help me to fly with You.

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Jesus loves me. He delights in me. He is affectionate towards me. He lavishes His love on me. I am deeply, affectionately loved! No matter where I go or what I do, His love is always with me and surrounds me. He is always in love with me. What a sense of belonging and security! My identity is the beloved of God. No one or nothing can change that.

So what could be wrong? I think my big mistake is trying to live for myself instead of Him. Living for myself, trying to make things work out my way, is anxiety. Living for Him is freedom. I only follow Him and no matter what the earthly results, I succeed.

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
-Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV84)

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During my women’s retreat this past fall, I picked up a new devotional book, According to Your Word, by Stephen F. Olford.  It has really been an interesting little book.  The author has you read a chapter a day out of the New Testament and then he has a short commentary about it.  Today I read Mark 15 about Jesus’ death.  I’ve read and heard the gospels so many times, especially the parts about Jesus death, that it is easy to just gloss over it, like, “Yeah, I know that already.”

But today I guess the Holy Spirit was helping me pay attention! lol  It struck me at how unfair the trial was.  This was when the Romans ruled and employed somewhat of a democratic system.  They did put Jesus on trial and they allowed him to defend himself.  They even allowed his peers to have a say.  But you can just see evil influencing everything that happened.  First, its like the Jewish religious leaders had lost their senses and just became obsessed with killing Jesus.  They couldn’t hear his message or believe anything other than that he was evil…or maybe more the bigger issue was that he could challenge their authority.

You can see the evil at the trial when Pilate asked if the people wanted Jesus released.  The Bible says that Pilate knew that “it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him.”  So he thought the people who seemed to love Jesus in the past would free Him, and that would absolve Pilate from angering the religious leadership or having to kill an innocent man.  But the people had been persuaded by the chief priests and chosen to free another man.  Then Pilate asks what should be done about Jesus, and they shouted, “Crucify Him!”  Wow, the religious leaders had really gotten to them!  Then Pilate asked, “Why?”  But they had no answer and didn’t care.  They had become a frenzied mob with no sense or reasoning.  They just shouted, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  And Pilate gave in.

So pretty much, all human government and so-called democracy failed Jesus.  The justice system failed.  If something like this had happened today to someone we know, like our son or daughter, we would be outraged!  It is unfair, unjustified, undeserved, unjust!  But that is just the story that we’ve become accustomed to reading over and over till it loses it’s outrage in us.

After that they took Jesus away and basically humiliated Him.  They made fun of Him and hit Him.  Its awful what humans can descend to.   And then even after Jesus was hung on the cross, the people and religious leaders continued to make fun of Jesus.  I mean, really, isn’t it enough that the poor guy is nailed to the cross and suffering to death?   Do we really need to make fun of Him too?  Isn’t that just cruel? What kind of people get off on humiliating another who is already in the lowest position he could be in?   Only after he died, one centurion said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

I can see how evil had its day and was controlling most of what went on there, making people unjust, unfair, even irrational and crazy.  The whole thing didn’t even make any sense, that is from an earthly point of view.  But ultimately this was God’s plan from the very beginning to save us.  Jesus was accused of all sorts of sins and humiliated and finally killed.  But none of it was true.  He was completely innocent and sinless, totally unworthy to experience any of that.  But He did it for us. Really it was us that deserved to be up on that cross.  He took our humiliation and our sin on Himself.  He suffered the disgrace from the people, governments, religious leaders, and even God Himself.  He took on our sin and humiliation as if it were His own, so that we could take His righteousness and holiness.  So while it was the unfair trial of the millenia, it was God’s will to save us.  And so we are eternally grateful that God, the Father, was willing to send His precious Son to die in our place.  And that His Son, Jesus, was willing to experience the unfairness of it all for us.  Because He wanted us!  Both of them wanted us!  And so the unfair trial was for us, and we are forever grateful, dear God.

“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor. 5:21

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I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Eze. 36:26

There are two things I’ve learned recently about my relationship with God. He has taught me that He is good and has good plans for me, but I have learned through experience that I am in deep trouble if I let myself to begin to doubt His goodness. It sends me into a really dark, hopeless place. I had to ask God to help me believe that He is good again and pray, “You are good and You have good plans for me.” Soon He began to change my heart and though I didn’t feel it when I prayed, I began to believe that He is good again.

My second, most recent lesson is that I cannot live outside of His will. In the past, I have learned what a pleasure it is to live in His will, but recently have gotten off track and distracted. I was so frustrated with myself that I couldn’t seem to stop blowing Him off. But He finally showed me that my answer was to pray my old prayer, “God, please make Your will my heart’s desire. Let me be pleasing to You.”

And slowly He began to change in me what I could not change myself for months. He began to make my desire to please Him again. With that came the remembrance of His great Love for me, and the desire to please Him comes along naturally with that awareness.

Here I thought I was pleasing myself by doing what I wanted, spending my time how I wanted, ignoring Him, minimizing my time with Him. But this was a cheap substitute for the real thing, hollow, lifeless, and glaringly unsatisfying. It was making me miserable. I knew I was in the wrong place.

So it turns out that my much greater pleasure is actually living in His will! Who would’ve thought that doing His will was more enjoyable than striving for my own? The crazy thing is I still do some of the things I enjoyed before. I don’t think it is the things themselves that are wrong, but the focus of my heart. My determination to ignore Him, to leave Him out of my decisions and plans was wrong. And while doing some of those same old things, I also sometimes find a gentle nudging to make better choices. And now it is not so hard to do what He wants because He has softened my heart, reminded me of His love, and how being with Him and pleasing Him is a far greater pleasure. It is the real thing and truly satisfying.

I have to continue to ask Him every day to make me desire His will and to make me pleasing to Him because I can’t do it without Him. And I’ve found that once I’ve tasted living in His will, nothing else is quite the same. Nothing else can satisfy. I cannot go back to the lukewarm relationship I had with Him before and lose what I have gained with Him without deleterious effects on myself. I have realized that it feels very good to be in God’s will, and that is where I belong.

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May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us.  Psa. 90:17

I’ve been getting off-track lately.  I’ve found myself distracted by worldly things that have taken my attention away from God.  I found myself fighting with God, resisting Him and wandering out of His will.  I began to choose my will over His too often.  Its hard once you get in this place to get back out again.  I was so frustrated with myself for doing this but I could not seem give up doing what I wanted to do and making bad choices.

Then a couple of readers lately have made comments on the same post I wrote from almost three years ago!  I was wondering why, and then finally God got through to me.  The post is entitled, “Making God’s Will My Heart’s Desire“.   I need to listen to my own message!  lol  I need to again pray for God’s will to be my heart’s desire.  We don’t naturally want to give ourselves to God and to choose His will.  We have to pray for Him to give us these desires.  So I began to pray that prayer again.  Why did I stop?  It seems so obvious now.  But yet it eluded me until God reminded me.

Then I opened up to this verse: “May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us…”  That spoke to me, and suddenly I felt a great urge for it to be true of me.  I wanted God to find favor in me and be pleased with me.  I was not acting in a way that was pleasing to Him, but yet I wanted to be pleasing to Him.  And somehow by praying that prayer seems to make it true or make it able to be true.  Maybe just the desire to please Him is pleasing to Him!   And of course the other side of this is praying for it makes it possible for Him to begin to change us so that we actually do pleasing things as well.

So I have prayed for Him to find favor in me, just like the man who wanted Jesus to heal his son who had an evil spirit but had trouble believing that Jesus could do it.  Jesus in effect asked if he believed He could heal him.  Knowing the truth about Himself, but wanting to do what was right, he said,  “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”  (Mk. 9:24)  I love this man’s honesty.  He didn’t currently possess what would please Jesus, but asking Jesus to help him overcome that which he lacked was in itself pleasing to God. 

So I pray Jesus, make me pleasing to You.  May I find favor with You.  Let me see with Your eyes and hear with Your ears.  Make Your will my heart’s desire again so that my only pursuit in life is to please You and to obey You.  Living outside of Your will is scary and miserable.  I enjoy being here with You, safe within Your will.  Help me to not be resistant to You, but to stay in Your will and seek to please You each day.   In Your Name, amen.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty…He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge…  Psa. 91:1-2,4

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