Yet I Will Rejoice…

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength, he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

Welcoming in a new year is a good time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the year God has in store for us. Some people make New Years resolutions of things that they want to grow or change in the coming year. For about the past 6 years when we first did this in my youth group, I’ve chosen each year to focus on characteristics of Christ that I want to grow in for the year.
Habakkuk 3:17-19 is my theme verse of the year and the way I want to grow is rejoicing in all circumstances.

Read those verses again. What do you notice? I notice that it sounds like every circumstance that could go wrong, has gone wrong for Habakkuk. If these verses were written today it would probably say something like, “Though the COVID war continues, and inflation continues to rise, the hospitals are overflowing, and urgent cares are packed all day. Though this family member has died, or my friend is terminally ill with cancer. Though freedom to preach the truth of God’s word is threatened and our brothers and sisters all over the world are dying for the sake of Christ; yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength.”
I don’t know about you but this world is getting crazy. Even just this week I’ve realized how crazy things are. Circumstances are uncontrollable; they cannot be our hope. Like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:19, if our hope is only in this life, we are the most miserable of people. But thanks be to God, who has given us eternal hope and eternal life with Him through the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3-5)!

I did not plan on being in quarantine this week. I did not plan to be sick this week. I did not plan to spend my days sleeping all day instead of doing the growing list on my to do list both for work and in my personal life.
But God planned this. He knows. He sees me. He is with me. He has purposes beyond my comprehension.
Ah! What blessed peace. I can trust Him! Truly, He is my Good Shepherd. What have I to fear?

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” John 10:10-11

Truly, we can rejoice in all circumstances knowing that Christ, the Good Shepherd, is with us. He is guiding us. He is leading us. He is growing us. He is our strength. God the Father is in control of all circumstances. Nothing catches Him by surprise. The Holy Spirit is in us, empowering us, reminding us of truth, renewing our minds.

The song “Highlands (Song of Ascent)” by Hillsong United has been one of my favorites recently and one that will continue as one of my most played this coming year I’m guessing. Here is the chorus:
“I will praise on the mountain
And I will praise you when the mountain is in my way
You’re the summit where my feet are
So I will praise You in the valleys all the same
No less God within the shadows
No less faithful when the night leads me astray
‘Cause You’re the heaven where my heart is
In the highlands and the heartache all the same.”

I believe rejoicing in all circumstances comes from trusting God and trusting God comes from knowing God. Will you join me this year in growing in intimately knowing God, that you may grow trusting Him, that you may grow to rejoice in all circumstances?

**May I just add…there is definitely a place for lament. There is a place for grief. I’m not saying don’t do those things. I am just encouraging you to always end your lamenting by looking to your loving Creator, Shepherd, and Helper, and rejoicing in the reality that one day we will be with Him face-to-face forevermore.

The Good Shepherd

Well, I have not blogged on what the Lord has been teaching me for several months! But that definitely does not mean He has not been teaching me anything! Rather, He has been teaching me so much it’s hard to keep up!
I write these blogs 1) to keep myself reminded and growing through the circumstances of life. It is so easy to start to just coast through life. I want to “build memorials”–take the time to remember the amazing things God is doing and grow through all He is taking me through.
God’s word instructs us, “I will remember the works of the LORD.” (Psalm 77:11) and “Publish His glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things He does.” (Psalm 96:3)
2) I share them on this blog with my prayer being that even if one soul is challenged or encouraged, it is worth it. I pray you also consider what God is doing in and through you on a consistent basis so that you continue growing and maturing in Him. (Colossians 1:9-14)

A main theme the Lord has been teaching me this month is about taking refuge in Him and what a wonderful Shepherd He is.
There has been so many changes in my life recently, or changes I know are coming but I do not know what they are yet.
Through this God has been exposing my idol of stability. I like things to be in control. I do not have to be the one in control, as long as things are in control, and I know what changes are happening. So yes, I kind of like control.

Take a minute to look with me at Psalm 23 and truly take the time to read and think about this.
“The LORD is my Shepherd; I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.”

This is a well known passage of Scripture to many. But I know at least personally, it can become easy to blow right past this without thinking. Reading it in the NLT translation that I included here has helped me to think about it more since the words are slightly different that more popular translations.

The LORD is my Shepherd. I have all that I need.
Wow! The LORD–Jesus–He is MY Shepherd! The LORD is my SHEPHERD! Think about this really!
This passage God really comforted me with and helped me to keep running to Him many times recently when I’ve felt overwhelmed and tempted to fear and worry.
Do I truly believe that God is my good Shepherd? Do I truly believe that everything He allows to happen is to bring Him glory and to sanctify me? It is such a battle to fight in believing this but I pray daily for God’s grace to help me to truly trust Him and to find peace and contentment walking with Him and abiding with Him. If I am with Christ, what have I to fear?

One thing I started doing is keeping a list of ways I have seen God’s faithfulness to me in my life that I can go back to when I am struggling to trust Him and remember that He was faithful in the past and will continue to be faithful forevermore, regardless of if I am faithful or unfaithful to Him because He cannot deny who He is (2 Timothy 2:13).

I’d love to hear from you! What is God teaching you? How do you stay diligent in reminding yourself of God’s faithfulness?

Get. Me. Out!!!

Stress claws at us from every direction.
Daily we are plagued with pressures that are out of our control.
What is our natural tendency in these times?
Escape. I must escape. We want to escape reality. We want to forget the stress and pressure that is screaming at us.
I see this working with residents at Vision of Hope, I see this in friends and family, and, by God’s grace, He shows me it in my life too. Attempts of escape from reality can be a wide variety of things. It may take place in more socially acceptable forms like watching TV, reading books, listening to music, eating food all the way to a range of more destructive behaviors like sex, drugs, alcohol, any type of self-harm, or even attempts of suicide.

I want to take a side note to address some things about suicide. Suicide is a growing problem worldwide. Approximately 1 million people take their own life every year which makes for about 1 suicide per minute. This blog isn’t solely focused on suicide but it is something people should be aware of the reality of and is many people’s cry for escaping what seems impossible to endure any longer. Our hearts should be gripped with compassion for others. For unbelievers, they are sheep without a Shepherd, without hope and without God in this world. It is impossible to endure on your own. They need the hope of the Good News. But sometimes believers struggle with suicidal thoughts also. Does that mean they are not saved? Not necessarily. We don’t know other people’s hearts but what we do know from God’s word is there are people in the Bible who struggled with suicidal thoughts even as believers in God (Elijah–1 Kings 19:4, Job–Job 3:11, 20-22, Paul–2 Corinthians 1:8 to name a few). The point is this: life is hard for everyone at times whether you are a nonbeliever or a believer. We all need the hope of the Gospel and reminders of the truths and hope found in God’s word.

Maybe you have never struggled with suicidal thoughts but you do seek to escape reality by other means–TV, books, music, or even food.
Regardless of the form escape attempts take, it is ugly and deceitful (sin deceives us to make us think we will feel better but it really can’t). At least I can testify that I see my attempts of escape in my life to be ugly. But again, it’s only by God’s grace that He is changing my heart to hate sins that I once loved. I am grieved and ashamed that I keep forsaking the fountain of living water and digging broken cisterns for myself that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13). I do not do the good I want but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing (Romans 7:15).

And what are Christ’s words to me? What are Christ’s words to you, believer?
“Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37)
What? He who sees and knows everything about the depths of my heart and the ugliness of my sin looks at me and says, “I will never cast you out”? How can this be?
This does not compute. My mind says, if I do X, God will do Y. If I obey, God will be pleased. If I sin, God will scowl.
And you’re asking me to believe that God will never cast me out, no conditions attached? The thing He asks is for me to come? Not pull yourself together and then come, not clean yourself up then come, not stop sinning for a certain length of time and then you can come.
No, just come. “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.
Humility. We have to humble ourselves and admit that we cannot do things apart from God.
We cannot understand the ways of God. Rather, when I learn such great truths such as this, all I can do is,
1) God, help my unbelief! It’s so hard for me to believe what you say is true!
2) Praise Him and tell everyone about the amazing things He does! Preach forgiveness of sins–simply repent and believe!

So now we’ve established God’s love for us and ability to restore us when we do sin by turning to our own efforts for escape, comfort, and relief, instead of turning to God. But what should we do instead the next time around when all this stress and pressure weighs bears down on us?
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-10
In Paul’s letter to the church of Corinth, he reminds them that the pressures of life do not need to drive them to despair. It was true for them and it is still true for us today. God has not abandoned us. Rather, through suffering, we get to be image bearers for God. Christ experienced the greatest suffering ever known to man. He bore the wrath of God, the full weight of the sin of all the world for past, present, and future sin. Jesus experienced being forsaken by God, so that we would never experience that. That is why Paul says in this passage that we are never abandoned by God. It is so tempting to believe that lie. But that is all it is. It is a lie. We must take that thought captive and be diligent to think on this truth right here from God’s word!
Anyways, the point is, as Paul says, suffering offers us the opportunity to represent Christ through suffering.
The question then becomes, how did Jesus handle his great anguish and suffering?

“And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow,  and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Luke 22:39-46

Jesus’ go to in fighting temptation and as He was struggling with the desire for relief was prayer. I think sometimes we forget how difficult going to the cross truly was for Jesus. It was immense suffering. I want to draw your attention to verse 44 where it says, “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Wow. When Christ was in agony, he prayed more earnestly! I know that is not my first response to agony. Jesus exemplified to us how to put what the Psalmist prayed into action
“When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2

This type of desperate prayer in times of agony can be referred to as lament. I explained lament in my previous blog also so if you haven’t read that, or you forgot what lament is, be sure to check that out! But in brief, lament is the honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox and the promise of God’s goodness (Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, pg 26).

You do not have to pretend something is not hard when it is. You do not have to try to escape reality because you cannot deal with the pain. You can honestly cry out to God and tell Him everything that is in your heart and mind–the good, bad, and the ugly.
I pray that you will be led to the Rock higher than yourself when your heart is overwhelmed. Turn to the Lord in prayer. He will never abandon you.

Responding to Suffering (Jonah 2 & 4)

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your statues.” Psalm 119:67

Why is there suffering? Why do loved ones die, people get in car crashes, marriages end in divorce, parents get cancer?
Well, let me start off with this: I do not know.
I will not pretend to have the mind of God because the Bible says His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. We are however, given many possible reasons for suffering in God’s word and God created us with minds to think on these things. So let us cry out to God to enlighten our hearts to His word and then think upon all He has said to us (2 Timothy 2:7). Honestly ask God right now to humble your heart and open your eyes to see and understand what He wants you to comprehend.

The second thing I want to say on suffering is that there are two types: suffering as a result of personal sin and suffering as a result of others sin. Suffering as the result of others sin can include both being sinned against directly in your life, or can be simply the result of the curse of sin upon the earth. Let me provide some examples to clarify these categories. Suffering as the result of personal sin is Jonah. God brought suffering into Jonah’s life after he sinned in a way to bring him to repentance and restoration. Suffering as the result of others sin could be your parents getting divorced. This brings suffering to your life as their child even though your sin did not bring about this suffering. Another example of suffering as the result of others in a more indirect way is getting cancer or other illnesses. It is unlikely that this is a result of your personal sin and more so that because we live in a fallen, sin-cursed world, our bodies are weak and break down and get cancer and other illness.
If these concepts are totally unfamiliar to you, I would encourage you to listen to the following two podcast on the Joyful Journey podcast. Even if you are familiar, listen to them anyways 😉
https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/joy-in-trials/id1544666986?i=1000516353706
https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/unjust-suffering/id1544666986?i=1000514439354

Alright, now that those two things are cleared up, let’s return to the book of Jonah!
To briefly recap chapter 1 of Jonah, Jonah directly disobeyed God, going in the total opposite direction of Nineveh (where God had commanded Him to preach repentance) and “fleeing the presence of the Lord.” Despite Jonah’s sin, God in His sovereignty still wonderfully brought the sailors Jonah was with to repentance and worship of Him, the true, living God. The sailors threw Jonah overboard (upon Jonah’s request), the storm settled, and Jonah got swallowed by a great fish.

Although not the most common method, God will use whatever we need to get our attention, and in Jonah’s case, this was being in the stomach of a fish. Listen to the distress Jonah describes in Jonah chapter 2:
“I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!”

Jonah 2 is a beautiful example of Biblical lament. “Lament is the honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox and the promise of God’s goodness…Lament is rooted in what we believe. It is loaded with theology.” (Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, pg 26). Lament is a way of praying, reaffirming our trust in the Lord, even when we do not see or understand. It helps us to honestly express our feelings and emotions in a given situation, while also recalling to mind the truth we know despite these emotions. About 44% of the Psalms are Psalms of lament. These examples in Scripture pave the way for us to process through suffering.
Jonah laments of the difficulty he was facing but then fixes his mind on truth. He recognizes that those who give their love and worship to idols are forsaking the “Hesed” love of God–the steadfast love that only God can offer.

There are two ways one can respond in suffering: God-honoring or self-focused. Jonah actually gives us an example of each in this short book of the Bible! Jonah 2 is a God-honoring response to suffering where Jonah recalls truth to his mind and meditates on God’s promises. Jonah 4, however, is Jonah’s self-focused response to another suffering.

I will write another blog on how Jonah got to the place of pouting under a plant in the first place and more on chapter 4, but for now I want to focus on how Jonah responds when he is under the suffering of the intense heat of the sun. “When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” Jonah 4:8-9

Where was Jonah’s focus in the belly of the fish versus where is it now? Does Jonah again recall truth to mind about God’s character? Sadly, this is the last words we read from Jonah in this book so it is unclear if he ever resolved to trust God in this suffering. Some speculate that after the book was written Jonah repented because who else would have penned the book? That is one possibility, but again we do not know for sure.
What we do know from the text is that Jonah responded very poorly and self-centeredly to the suffering of the heat of the sun. He was already angry at God for forgiving Nineveh, and now is even more angry for losing the one little plant that was his last source of comfort and hope. God, in His grace, exposed Jonah’s idols to him (Jonah’s desire to be in control, his goal of comfort and ease).

As we read these two passages (and all of the Bible), a good question to ask ourselves is this: What do we learn about God?
1. God hears us when we cry to Him in our distress and He welcomes this.
2. Salvation is found in the LORD. He is the great Redeemer.
3. God is merciful and gracious–demonstrating Hesed love–even when man behaves in pride, selfishness, and wickedness. He recommits Himself to a people who are uncommitted to Him.

What do we learn about man?
1. We will experience suffering.
2. We have two options to respond in suffering–lament or anger.

How would God want us to apply this?
Run to the Lord quickly in suffering. He is always a refuge and stronghold we can turn to. We do not need to be fearful that He will not accepts us, or that we are “too far gone.” He is merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast (Hesed) love to His chosen people.

I will leave you finally with a quote I heard from someone, “Grace either makes a person angry or a person worship.”
I pray God urges you to pour out your heart to Him at all times.

The Sovereign God (Jonah 1)

What a book we so often under estimate. Have you ever thought, “I don’t really need to read the book of Jonah again. I know the story.”?
Well, I know I have thought this. In fact, I thought it yesterday when it came up on my Bible reading plan to read. However, by God’s grace, I actually did read it.
And I am SO GLAD I did!!

I’d like to post a series of blog posts on the book of Jonah.

This first post I want to draw you in to gratefulness and awe for the sovereignty of God.

Growing up my mind basically has known the story of Jonah as this: Jonah was supposed to go to Nineveh. He disobeyed God and went the opposite direction. So he got swallowed by a big fish, was there for three days, then got spit out and repented. Then in the end, he obeyed God by going to Nineveh and preaching what he was supposed to.
This is….somewhat accurate. But very very very lacking in the real details and how amazing God is!

First of all, I’d encourage you to actually go read the book of Jonah for yourself. Right now. Yes right now! Ask God to help you see His character through the book instead of just reading it to read it. Really immerse yourself in his word and look for the hidden details you may overlook at first glance. So go read it, study it, and write down your observations. After you have, you can return to this blog post (whether that’s today, or a couple days later so that you can really seek to discern what’s going on in the book of Jonah!)

Alright, now that you’ve read Jonah, let’s dive into the amazingness of God’s sovereignty!

God is SOOOO merciful, patient, and kind! I hope you saw that as you were reading Jonah!

Jonah chapter 1 starts by God commanding Jonah to go to Nineveh and warn them of God’s coming judgment. God loves His people and wants them to repent. His main purpose and the overarching story of God’s word is redemption! His “Hesed” love for us is incomprehensible! (If you don’t know what “Hesed” love is, be sure to check out the podcast I have linked to at the bottom.) As Peter reaffirms God’s purpose of redemption,
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

Well, instead of obeying God, Jonah starts out with a rough start in verse 3 when it says, “But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.”
Fleeing from the presence of the LORD is not really a great plan if you couldn’t have guessed, and in fact, it never really works (see also Genesis 3:8-10, Hebrews 4:13).
So God, in the passionate and loving pursuit of the redemption of His people, causes a great storm to come to the ship Jonah fled to. Jonah was not alone on this ship. There were other “mariners” who were with them. Did they worship and know the true, living God, Yahweh?
“The mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god.” (Jonah 1:5)
So no, they did not worship, Yahweh. At least, not in the beginning.
Of course, nothing happened in crying out to their gods because they are powerless so they decided to cast lots to determine who was responsible for this terrible storm. The lot fell on Jonah so they questioned him who he was, where he was from, what he was doing. Jonah explained that he was a Hebrew, who was to serve Yahweh, the living God.
“Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.” (Jonah 1:10)
Hmm, very interesting.
Anyways, they decide to through him overboard. Then the next verse something incredible happens,
“Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.”
Wow! The mariners turned from false gods, to vow themselves to the LORD!

Now, let’s think about for a minute, what was Jonah’s contribution to the mariner’s coming to know the LORD?
Well, Jonah sinned by disobeying God’s command and trying to flee from God.
And yet, the mariners turned to vow to the LORD God!

What do we learn about who God is from this account?
God is SOVEREIGN! This means God has complete control over the rule and reign of the earth. He WILL accomplish His purpose–His main aim being redemption. God WILL accomplish this purpose regardless of anything any person does.

“All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”” Daniel 4:35
“I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” Job 42:2

No past, present, or future sin of yours diminishes God’s ability to use you to accomplish His plan in the lives of others. God uses even the rebellious to draw His chosen people to Himself.

God, in His omniscience (knowing all things), knew that Jonah would choose rebellion against God’s command. And yet, God had a purpose and a plan to redeem Jonah’s rebellion and use it for good–to bring the mariners to salvation!
Think about it–if Jonah had originally obeyed and went directly to Nineveh, he would have never ended up on that boat headed to Tarshish and those mariners would not have heard the name of Yahweh from Jonah.
What humanly seems as a failure, God can and promises to redeem for good (that is salvation and sanctification) of His people and His glory! Trust God! He is so trustworthy!

When you are tempted to believe either that 1) You are strong and self-sufficient and don’t need the grace of God or 2) You are too far gone and unqualified to do anything productive for the kingdom of God,
Remember God’s sovereignty. Remember that everything happens by His power and for His glory.

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” 2 Corinthians 4:7


“The Hesed Love of God” by the Joyful Journey Podcast

A Taste of Glory

I don’t even know how to encapsulate into words the awe, gratitude, love and worship for my Lord and Savior, God and Father. He is SOOOO gracious. I’m not just saying this. I really really mean it. I’ve said it many times in my life but wow, have I ever understood such depths as before?

When you look for God’s grace, you will see it everywhere. It’s there. We just often don’t look for it.

I used to think thoughts like “Yes, I need to thank God for my parents.” Or “I should thank God for my car.” Or my health. But in my head am also thinking I’m thanking God giving me the things I deserve. I wouldn’t say that explicitly but that’s what I was believing! That is why I lacked such free-living joy! I believed I deserved the things I had! After all, I returned glory to God this week instead of taking credit for my own. He owes me, right?
No!!!! Even any good thing my weak vessel does that glorified God is ONLY by His grace!!!

Yesterday my earthly father provided a new car for me. He has worked so sacrificially in trying to find me a new car the last week or two. He has given up sleep and energy to provide such a blessing to me! And where had my mind been? Thinking of how selfish my dad was, thinking of his sin instead of thanking God for the small taste he is. I was mad at God and my dad for not living up to MY expectations and not providing ME fulfillment and satisfaction. That is so unfair! No human can do this!

By God’s grace after hearing a talk on Unfulfilled Longings, I realize this:

My earthly father is a taste of my Heavenly father. And WHAT A WONDERFUL TASTE HE IS! when I think of it, my sin, my anger and slander against my dad on a human level definitely deserves absolutely nothing at all! But. Because God is gracious. And because God so graciously worked THROUGH my earthly father, so generously blessing me with a taste of God, my perfect eternal father, I now am incredibly thankful thinking of how my earthly father gave basically all his strength, time, and energy to provide for me!! To give me a good gift of a new car! To offer to pay half of it even! I am so undeserving! All I have left to do and say is gratitude to my earthly and to my Heavenly father.

Today God blessed me with the opportunity of calling my dad and asking his forgiveness for my anger, bitterness, and slander when he has gone above and beyond to love me and bless me. I thanked him for how amazing of a taste of the glorious Heavenly father my earthly father has been to me. If my earthly father is so kind, gentle, compassionate, loving, and gracious, how much more is my Heavenly father! “Will you please forgive me?” I somehow got the words out between my many tears.
“Of course I forgive you!” my father replied.
What sweet music to my ears that made me weep with joy!
Forgiveness. Restoration with my earthly father. I cannot wait to see him again face to face, to hug him, and express my love and gratitude to him.
I want to shout it from the rooftops! I want to tell everyone I know! My father has forgiven me, even having told him the wretch that I am!
And how much greater is the great love of the Father. How much more eager I am to be with my Heavenly Father who is indescribable in goodness, love, and grace! How I long to see Him face to face in glory!!!

Not making up this story friends, this is real life. I am being totally honest to the best of my ability in this account from the last two days. Thank you, God, for giving me such a vivid picture and reality of your heart towards me and your rich forgiveness and grace.

“For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.  So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” Romans 5:10-11

What a new meaning and reality this verse now provides as I’ve seen this literally unfold before my eyes in an earthly context! Oh Lord, may I never forget this. May I never forget how rich and full of grace you are. May my lips declare your praise and exalt you forevermore!

While I can’t promise you a story of earthly forgiveness like this one I just experienced, I can promise you your Heavenly Father’s forgiveness like this and even greater if you simply confess your sin, turn to Him, and embrace His forgiveness! And when you understand that truly, all you’ll want to do is scream it to the world and dedicate your life to expressing gratitude and worshipping this wonderful Heavenly Father! And rejoice that someday you will see Him face to face and know He has fully forgiven you through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ! Please comment, message me, contact me somehow if you have not experienced the great forgiveness of the Father and want this today!

Anyways, to recap…
All the things of earth are meant to be small tastes of the glory we will one day experience of being in the presence of God the Father. He is the only one who can satisfy and, on this side of earth, we will never experience full satisfaction because we are never with Him fully while we live in these bodies on earth. God did not design us to be satisfied by a job, or the best food or drink, or good health, or the “right” spouse, or children, or even the “right” dad. There’s always something more our souls are clamouring for.
And it is God Himself.
We must pray God renews our minds to see every thing He provides as wonderful gifts and small tastes of His glory we will one day experience.
Living with this mindset births freedom, joy, and gratitude! I now truly praise the Father for His grace and any taste of Him I receive from a sweet friend, a father, or whatever it may be. Everything is created to draw me to worship the Savior and thank Him and savor the sweet sweet tastes of Him that tide me over until that wonderful day comes where I will fully taste and see the goodness of God by seeing Him face to face!

The Lord’s Prayer

“Our Father in Heaven…”
Wow, what an honor to call the God of Heaven my Father! Did you ever stop and think about the fact that we are literally never alone? The Holy Spirit lives in us and God is with us always and forever. God sees you at your best and your worst. God knows everything about your heart (Psalm 139:1). This is comforting, yet also terrifying. At first, we think, wow, God knows my heart, how nice. But when was the last time you took a good look at your sin? It is ugly! It is vile! And God knows all about it! More than I even know! But you know what? He still loves! Always has and always will–regardless of our “performance”.

“…may your name be kept holy…”
In the little moments of every day, I must remember that I have a much greater calling than seeking personal glory and happiness. My calling is to magnify the King of Kings!

“…thy kingdom come…”
God is not giving me grace to live for my kingdom, self-rule, and self-reign. “Christ died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” (2 Corinthians 5:15) Christ died to set me free and give me something greater to live for than myself. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

“…thy will be done…”
The good life is not found in the success of my will, but in the submission of all things to God’s will. Every day you and I believe the lie we tell ourselves that our will and our way is better than God’s. Lord, please cultivate in us a fully trust and assurance that what you say you will do, you will be faithful to do.

“…give us this day our daily bread…”
I am not independent or self-sufficient. I am utterly dependent every single day on the goodness and grace of God for all my needs. When things are going well, I am tempted to believe that it is by my strength. I forget that everything that goes any form of good is by God’s grace alone. Independence is a delusion. Everything that happens is a grace gift (James 1:17). My response should be gratitude!

“…forgive us…as we also forgive…”
It is so so important that we daily remind ourselves of our wickedness and of the great forgiveness, mercy, and grace of the Father. As I reflect on that, I will be quicker to extend grace to others! When Jesus tells us to forgive, it is at the same time a call to remember and be thankful for the forgiveness we’ve received! “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

“…lead us not into temptation…”
As sinners, we do not naturally like boundaries and rules. We do not like authority. Only by God’s grace can we thank God for His wonderful authority. The ultimate authority has communicated how to live. However, we still live in this fallen world with moment-by-moment temptation.

“…but deliver us from evil…”
Evil lives inside me and hooks me to evil outside of me. We must pray that God’s grace will come rescue us from ourselves!

“… for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
Christ didn’t die so I can set up my kingdom and glory. Christ came to save sinners. Christ died so those who live would no longer live for themselves but for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15). Daily I am tempted to seek self-glory. It is only God’s grace that allows me to do what pleases Him and point others to God instead of myself.

Dependency

Wow the month of April.
Looking back, I think I welcomed April in tears and also closed it in tears.
Are tears bad? No. For me I believe both instances were tears of grief over my sin.

 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:6-10

I believe this is the only proper response to our pride and sin being exposed. Mourning. Weeping.
I stand so wicked before a holy God.
But then I look up and see the cross. My salvation. My hope secure in Him.

“For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and gift of righteousness for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:17

Wow, what gift of grace is Jesus my redeemer! Thank you, Father!

Do you ever think to yourself, “Wow I used to really struggle with __________. I’m so glad I don’t anymore.”
Ah! Never think that!

That was my thinking pattern regarding my perfectionism. I thought it was something I used to be to a certain extent but thought I was living free from that. Our hearts are so deceitful and desperately wicked! (Jeremiah 17:9, Hebrews 3:12-13). We are so easily deceived. By ourselves! We are blind to our own sin.

Praise the Lord for Him so graciously exposing to me how much I was still enslaved to that! But He’s opened my eyes, and wow! What freedom there is when you face your sin for what it is. Not to get stuck there in one’s unworthiness but to marvel and praise God all the more for His marvelous gift of grace!!!

It’s not that I’ve grown from believing I was perfect, to confessing, repenting, and now living righteously.
No, instead, it is a daily, moment by moment, confessing, repenting, and looking to my Savior.
I am weak and depraved. I sin constantly. I can never attain righteousness on my own. I am totally dependent on Him.
My flesh does not like that. My flesh says, “I want to be strong, look strong.” “I want to be independent.” “I want to rely on myself.” “I want to be self-sufficient.” This is easier to the flesh because it is comfortable. It does not require me to face my fear. It does not require humility or relinquishment of my trust.
But the Bible is clear the desires of the flesh are in clear opposition against the desires of God (Romans 8:1-15, Galatians 5:17-21). God says cursed is the man who trusts in Himself (Jeremiah 17:5).
Going back to James 4:6, God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. God is not going to help me live in idolatry. It will be hard. I will be fighting for myself, my kingdom, my glory. It is worthless and futile. I feel so alone when I try to do things in my own strength. But when, by God’s grace, I humble myself under His mighty power, He gives so much grace. He enables me and empowers me to do what pleases Him!

“Grace allows you to face your sin, to own it and not shift the blame. But it is also grace that forgives what has been exposed. Grace forces you to feel the pain of your regrets, but never asks you to pay for them, because the price has already been paid by Jesus. Colossians 2:14 says the record of debt that stood against us was canceled by the sacrifice of Jesus….So look backward and forward. God’s grace enables you to do both, celebrating forgiveness for the past and embracing power for a new and better future only by God’s grace.” -Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies

My encouragement to you is, stop trying to do it yourself. Don’t rely on man.
Examine your own heart, ask God to show you your sin.
Take a long hard look at your sin and see how ugly it is in the presence of a holy God.
But don’t stop there. Allow your sin to constantly cause you to run to the Savior and depend on Him.
Spend each morning reminding yourself that your fleshly desires are contrary to the Spirit. Admit your depravity to the Lord and ask Him to give you a heart to value what He values and see your sin for what it is.
Then live a life of overflowing praise and gratitude for all He has done for you! Think about it–God knows everything about you (Jeremiah 17:10, Psalm 139), yet still freely gave Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sin and bring about a restored relationship with Him! He loves you so much! Live in the love! Praise His name!

Because He Loves Me

Sin. Rebellion. Pride.
These are my constant companions.
I thought I was performing well.
I thought I was living out God’s commands.
But my heart had deceived me.
No one is righteous, not even one.

Did I understand the Gospel?
I thought I did.
Yet I was still living by law.

Pride was my trademark.
Self-glorification was my tune.
My heart had so deceived me.

I thought I had the knowledge.
I thought I knew the answers.
I thought I could live pleasing to God.

But I can’t.
No one can.

I sit back in dust and ashes and repent.
I am foolish.
I am wicked.
I am arrogant.
I am proud.

At first I just collapse.
I feel entrenched with sin.
I feel so shackled down.

But then I look up.
I see my Savior reaching out.
I didn’t choose Him.
He chose me.

He didn’t choose me because I obeyed.
He didn’t choose me because of my strength.
He didn’t choose me because of my beauty or wisdom.

He chose me because He loves me.
My contribution to Him was absolutely nothing–and always will be.
Even as His redeemed daughter, He still just chooses me because He loves me, not because of my obedience.

So then, I am freed.
I am set free from despair.
I am set free from pride.
I am set free from sin.
Because He loves me.

Scriptures that inspired this: Romans 3, Job 42:6, Ephesians 1, 1 John 4

Comfort

“When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against my enemy.” Psalm 61:2-3

March has been a month full of many blessings, challenges, and surprises!

God has been faithful as He always is in revealing my deceitful heart and teaching me to walk in His ways.

The last few days for me have had a lot going on. There are many decisions to make daily both in my personal and professional life. At times, I feel overwhelmed and anxious wondering what to do or regretting what I have done. I regret the times where I look back and see how I ran to worthless idols for comfort, pleasure, or newness instead of finding it in God alone. The Bible says when we do this we are committing adultery!
“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4
I have promised myself to my perfect Groom, the Lord Jesus Christ, who I will one day be joined with along with the rest of His beautiful bride in the beautiful and everlasting marriage of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9, 21:2)! When I choose to look to other sources for the things God has promised to give me, I am committing adultery. There are many reasons we do this. Sometimes we don’t believe God’s promises to be true. Sometimes we just do what is easy. Sometimes we believe the lies our hearts tell us about what will and will not satisfy us.

The encouraging thing in all of this is, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to purify us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1:9

And this! “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10

God has covenanted Himself to us. He invites us to drink deeply from His well of living water. He does not turn away His chosen people. If you have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, take comfort. Your sins are forgiven! Now repent and drink deeply from the living water that God offers. Stop clinging to worthless idols and forfeiting the grace that is yours (Jonah 2:8)!

If you do not have Christ as the Lord and Savior of your life, surrender now to Him!

I am so thankful that God is my comfort, my greatest joy, my deepest hope. He is an anchor through the daily ups and downs. I pray you choose to cling to Him rather than the fleeting pleasures of sin. I am so thankful for the constant hope that God promises to make all things new someday.

“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5

“But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.” 2 Peter 3:13-14