God IS good … all the time

God is good. Really, really good. All the time. Really.

I wrote a post a few days ago about some of the things I know to be true. The fact that I am absolutely convinced of God’s unchanging goodness probably should have been at the top of the list. I know it like I know my name. I know that I know that I know–God is good. I don’t know that there is anything that could ever convince me otherwise …

Because I’ve experienced His goodness for myself.

When your heart has been undone by mercy — when you’ve gazed into the most penetratingly beautiful eyes in existence and and found nothing but acceptance and love — when you’ve been amazed by His faithfulness, astounded by His kindness, and awestruck by His glory — well, it is pretty hard to conceive that God could ever be anything other than exactly what He is — always good.

But I also know that not everyone is convinced of God’s goodness–and that makes me very, very sad.

I saw a picture a week or so ago that gripped my heart. I can’t even remember what series of mouse clicks led me to that particular picture because it was on the type of argument-inducing site I typically try to avoid. It was a picture of three little boys — from somewhere in Africa — who were clearly starving. The picture was hard enough to look at, but what made it even more heartbreaking was the caption:

“Try telling them God is always good.”

Quite the accusation. I’m sure the person who created the meme felt they had made a compelling and effective case against God. However the problem, of course, isn’t God …

It’s us.

God is always good–but man is not.

In Genesis 1 God gave us stewardship over the Earth. He’s never taken it back. As Creator, He created enough — enough natural resources, enough time, enough wisdom — enough of everything. On top of that, in Jesus, we have supernatural resources. God hard-wired us with some pretty amazing creativity and resourcefulness — so even our natural accomplishments can be quite remarkable — but we don’t have to stop at natural accomplishments. On this side of the cross, we can live supernaturally by accessing the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus not only overcame all sin and sickness, He actually defeated death itself. And we are co-heirs with Christ. Talk about having everything we need!

So what’s the problem? Why is there still such lack in so many places? Why is there so much turmoil? Why is there so much sickness and disease? Why is there such depravity? Why is there so much darkness?

I think that maybe, just maybe, our collective long-term unbelief has a little bit of something to do with it?

Instead of accusing God by wringing our hands in hopelessness over the state of the earth and wondering how He could have possibly let this happen, maybe we should step back and ask some better questions:

What am I doing about it?

What are you doing about it?

What are we, the Church, doing about it?

What do we already know God wants? What has He promised? How can we partner with Him in what He’s already promised to do?

Everyone doesn’t know God’s goodness because we haven’t shown everyone His goodness. I can’t do that alone. You can’t do that alone. But we — the collective we, the Church — can and should.

We must.

I’ll be honest, I have no idea why God reveals Himself to certain people in certain ways and why He doesn’t reveal Himself to others in similar ways. I don’t know why some people seem to have endless opportunities to experience His love and others seem to have precious few, if any. But I do know His love is for ALL. I do know that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. And I do know that those who seek Him will find Him.

I don’t know how. I don’t know when. I don’t know where. I just know they will.

Because I know He wants to be found.

I also know that life on “this side” isn’t the end of the story. Not even close. And in the end, no one will accuse God of injustice. No one.

Righteousness and justice are the very foundation of His throne. My sense of justice will never, ever be higher than His. My goodness will never, ever be greater than His. My mercy will never, ever be deeper than His.

But when I abide in Him–it can be the same as His.

And that is what the world needs … a Church that abides in Jesus. A Church that looks like Jesus. A Church that acts like Jesus.

A Church that loves like Jesus.

Because He is good … all the time.

The things I KNOW to be true …

I think a lot of things. I have a lot of opinions about a lot of different things. Most people do. (Or at least I think they do!)

Thinking is a good thing. We weren’t created to be robots or automatons. We are unique, thinking, feeling creatures. We all ought to learn to think critically and we all ought to learn to think for ourselves. It is good to be a thinking person. At least it is until you start to confuse what you “think” …

With what you “know”.

There is a difference. We don’t actually know that everything we think is true–but sometimes we act as though we do! Never is this more evident than in areas of religion and spirituality.

A lot of people think a lot of things about God. A lot of people think a lot of things about the Bible. A lot of people think a lot of things about how we should interpret certain passages of scripture–and they also think a lot of things about how we should apply them. I think a lot of those things are good. I also think a lot of those things aren’t so good.

But that’s just what I think.

And, whether you realize it or not, a lot of your own dearly held beliefs are just that: your own beliefs and thoughts. They’re not always what you know–sometimes they’re just what you think.

But here’s the deal — when life gets hard — when life gets messy — when life seems to be spinning out of control — it’s not your opinions that matter…

It’s what you know.

What you think often changes with time, but once you know something — once you’ve experienced it — once you know that you know that you know — it endures.

Many years ago I latched onto a simple but profound spiritual truth that I’ve returned to again and again in times of doubt and confusion:

Hold fast to what you know to be true.

Holding on to what you think to be true doesn’t do much of anything for you when you’re being tossed to and fro in a sea of confusion, contradiction, disappointment, and doubt. But holding fast to what you know to be true pretty much changes everything. What you truly know–what you know that you know that you know—is the anchor that always holds firm.

Philippians 3 is one of my all time favorite chapters in the Bible. One of my very most favorite verses in that chapter is one of the simplest. After Paul lists all his (very impressive) religious and intellectual credentials, he tosses all that aside and summarizes his life’s goal in this one heartfelt cry:

That I may know Him …” (Phil 3:10).

That’s been my cry too. I don’t just want to know a bunch of stuff about God. And I don’t just want to think a bunch of things about Him–even if they’re good and true and amazing things.

I want to actually know Him.

The word Paul uses in Philippians 3:10 is the Greek word “gnosko” (which, by the way, is the same word he uses in Ephesians 3 when he prays that we might “know the love of God that passes knowledge”). Gnosko has very little to do with intellectual knowledge (thinking) and everything to do with revelation and intimate experience. Gnosko is knowing that you know that you know (that you know that you know that you know!).

Fortunately, God planned to answer my cry to know Him long before I ever uttered it. Here are a few of the ways He’s revealed Himself in my life — a few of the things I gnosko — a few of the thing things I know that I know …

  • I know that I once was lost but now I’m found–I looked to everyone and everything before I knew it was Jesus alone who saved me
  • I know that at the cross it was finished–I am forgiven, healed and delivered by the blood of Jesus–I’m perfect and complete in Him
  • I know that I am a child of God–fully accepted and delighted in by a loving Father
  • I know that He made a way for me to enter the most holy place and that I’m invited to boldly come before Him anytime, anywhere, and in any condition–I’m always welcomed with open arms–there is NO separation
  • I know the love of God that passes knowledge–and I know nothing will ever separate me from His love
  • I know the peace that passes understanding and that in His presence is fullness of joy
  • I know I will gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and dwell in His house–forever

These are some of my anchors.To me, they’re not fairly tales or wishful thinking. They’re not contingent upon what anyone else thinks or what anyone else says. I feel no need to prove or defend them to a single soul. I don’t care whether or not they make sense to anyone else and I don’t care who “thinks” they can challenge the intellectual integrity of any of these statements. That’s because they’re not just statements to me.They’re not just thoughts …

This is my enduring reality. This is what I know. And whenever the things I “think” are being shaken (which they often are) …

I’ll continue to hold fast to what I know to be true.

What about you? What are the things you know to be true?

Still Here … With You

Here I am, Abba
It seems I start so many prayers this way
Maybe because this is my one constant
I’m here with You
And even more amazing
You’re always here with me
There is such deep comfort in that knowledge
You are the God who is always present
You are the God who is always near
You are the God who made a way for me to come
… so I do

Here I am, Abba
I’m not sure about much of anything else
At least not today
Maybe not tomorrow either
But this one thing I do know
I’m here with You
And You’re here with me
Forever

Here I am, Abba
So help me to truly be here
Wherever here may be
Help me to be present
To be present in my now
Because that’s where You are
You are the I Am
You’re not dwelling in the past
I can’t find You yet in the future
You are always now
So I want to be here now with You
Quiet my thoughts
Renew my mind
Restore my soul
Cause the beating of my heart
And every breath I take
To be in perfect alignment with Yours
Right here, right now

Here I am, Abba
I don’t want to think about what isn’t
I don’t want to think about what was but is no more
I don’t even want to think about what should or could be
I just want to think about You
I just want to hide in Your embrace
I just want to rest in Your love
And from that place of perfect peace
I want to lose myself again in the beauty of what is
Because You are
Now, always, forever
You are
And forever You will be
… Everything I need

************

A week or so ago I had the opportunity to do something that, for a variety of very specific reasons, scared the heck out of me. I knew it was a door the Lord opened and He was asking me to walk through–it just didn’t make a lot of sense. Since I’m not in the habit of saying no to Him, I said yes. Although the decision itself was fairly easy, the time leading up to to the actual event wasn’t particularly easy because I was pretty convinced the whole thing was going to be one colossal  train wreck. However, just as I was about to give in to a place of fear, a thought occurred to me: No matter how things went–wonderful, terrible, or any variation–I was going to wake up the next morning and still be His. He would still be with me and I would still be with Him. We would have the very same relationship. I would be just as in love with Him and He would be just as in love with me.

That thought sustained and strengthened me. Even more it silenced the taunts of the enemy and gave me peace. And sure enough, once I got through it (and it wasn’t even such a train wreck, ha ha!) the next morning He was still right there with me.

Sometimes it is the simplest things that are the most precious and profound. For me, the constant knowledge of His faithful presence and acceptance is absolutely priceless. Since my relationship with Him is the most important thing in my life–and since nothing can ever separate me from His love–I can walk boldly through any door He opens knowing I can never, ever, lose.

Never. Ever.

So here I am, Abba. Still here with You … now and forever.

From His Heart to Yours: October 4, 2014

My grace is sufficient for you …

 –2 Corinthians 12:9

I love you, beloved. I love the unique you—the one-of-a-kind you that I created you to be.  You were made for love—and as you become more and more secure in My love, you will begin to see the unique and personal ways I work in YOUR life. I have purposes for your life that far exceed anything you’ve ever hoped or imagined. And My plans for you are always good! You are perfect and complete in Me—you lack nothing. Never compare your life to anyone elses—only you can be you. And I like you! It’s true that there are many, many differences in life circumstances from one person to the next, but always remember that only you have absolutely everything it takes to be you. You have everything you need to fulfill your part in My plans and purposes—a part no one else can ever fill. Even your unique challenges and heartbreaks are redeemed in My presence. Often those are the very things that allow you to display the goodness of My grace to the world around you in personally profound ways. Your life is sweet and pleasing aroma to Me, beloved—don’t despise what I love. Even your deepest places of weakness and failure are simply invitations to lean into My strength. Be you, My love–you’ll find that you’re very good at it. And in that place of truth and authenticity—you’ll  also find My grace to always be sufficient.

♥♥♥

You’re one of a kind. Really! We all know that in theory, but sometimes it’s hard to imagine that God really did create each of us individually and uniquely. When we fail to fully embrace who we are in Him—we deny the world the joy of seeing that specific glimpse of His heart and character. Because despite all our unique traits, we are all still created in His image. 

I long ago realized I will never be the “best” at anything … except being myself. When I let go of trying to meet other’s expectations—and especially when I let go of trying to meet my own expectations—I find tremendous peace and freedom in that place of authenticity. What’s more, there is always sufficient grace and strength to simply be who I am.

There’s grace for you too. So let go and live your life—you’re the best you there will ever be!

Father, thank You for creating me in such a way that I can uniquely reflect the beauty of Your face to those around me. Help me to fully embrace everything You’ve created me to be. May all the unique circumstances of my life—even the very hardest things—continuously point to your glorious redemptive nature. ~Amen.

******************

“Love Letters” are simple messages from His heart to yours, posted at the beginning of each month. To read others, click here

Before the Throne of God Above

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great high Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I AM
The King of glory and of grace
One in Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God!

I don’t consider myself to be much of a theologian, but I do love God’s Word. Even more, I love the God who is the Word. That’s why Bill Johnson’s frequent saying: “Jesus Christ is perfect theology” is such a profound anchor for my understanding of the character and nature of God. Because, theologian or not, I deeply appreciate the need for a proper grid through which to understand His many “great and precious promises.” I guess that’s why this particular hymn touches my heart so deeply–these lyrics are the grid.

Every time I hear the song, I’m struck by how beautifully and perfectly the words capture the essence of my perfect Savior’s, perfect sacrifice. Wherever I’m at, however I feel–I can always look up. So can you. We can look into the eyes of the One who made an end to ALL our sin–now and forever. Because our lives are hidden in Christ–now and forever.

What a beautiful, unchanging–and perfect–truth!

 

Sometimes …

Gazing on His Beauty (Fred Zaspel)

Sometimes …
I just need to gaze
I just need to gaze upon Your endless beauty

Sometimes …
I just need a moment
I just need a moment to soak in the fathomless depths of Your love

Sometimes …
I just need to be still
I just need to be still and know that You alone are God

Sometimes …
I just need to let go
I just need to let go of everyone and everything but You

Sometimes …
I just need to rest
I just need to rest in the intoxicating beauty of Your peace

Sometimes …
I just need a glimpse
I just need a glimpse of You

In His Timing (a tale of two women)

One was old.

One was young.

Both were faithful.

One waited so long she felt sure her moment had passed.

One was met with a surprising turn of events and didn’t feel ready.

Both were called to birth the miraculous.

And both fulfilled their call.

Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.

Mary, the mother of Jesus.

I’m captivated by their stories. The contrast. The similarities. Two women. Two very different paths …

One faithful God.

Elizabeth, blameless and righteous before God, yet barren. She endured not just years, but decades in the wilderness of waiting. Misunderstood. Ostracized by society. But set apart and chosen by God for a unique and special purpose.

Mary, blessed and highly favored, yet young and inexperienced. Suddenly thrust into circumstances far beyond her comprehension. Also misunderstood. Also ostracized by society. Also set apart and chosen by God for a unique and special purpose.

Their lives collided on the path of destiny …

In His timing.

I’m sure Elizabeth thought the wait was too long. Maybe she even gave up hoping at times. But it didn’t alter God’s plan.

I’m sure Mary was afraid and unsure. She pondered much in her heart because, after all, who would understand? But it didn’t alter God’s plan.

His plans prevailed …

In His timing.

The most important thing these women shared was their faithful trust in the Lord. Elizabeth didn’t wait because she did something wrong, she waited because she had been set apart for a specific and special assignment. Mary didn’t get thrown into the fire because God was testing her, she responded to His invitation to enter the awe-inspiring purpose He had created her to fulfill. The faithful hearts of both women were immediately exposed in their responses …

“The Lord has done this for me!” she (Elizabeth) said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people” (Luke 1:25 NIV).

I am the Lord’s servant!” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38 NIV).

What about you?

Are you Elizabeth? Have you been wandering in a wilderness of waiting where the months have turned into years, and the years into decades, without any sign of His promises being fulfilled?

Are you Mary? Have you suddenly been thrust into circumstances you never could have imagined, with open doors of opportunity you feel completely unprepared to navigate?

Maybe you find yourself in a little bit of both these stories?

Whatever circumstances you find yourself in, don’t lose heart. The God who was faithful to Elizabeth and Mary will also be faithful to you. Some things come quickly–sometimes too quickly–but the challenge can propel you into a place of dependence that requires a whole new level of faith. Some things seem to take forever–even when you wait faithfully and well–but waiting is the perfect opportunity to develop enduring faith and trust. However your story unfolds, God’s timing is always His own …

But His timing is perfect.

Just ask Elizabeth.

Or Mary.

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45).

And He will …

In His timing.

You Alone

In You
And You alone
I live
And move
And have my being

When I rise
When I fall
When I succeed
When I fail
I live unto You
And You alone

When the way is clear
When I’m confused and lost
When I’m filled with faith
When I’m paralyzed by fear
I trust in You
And You alone

When others agree
When they don’t understand
When I’m accepted and loved
When I’m rejected and scorned
I follow You
And You alone

When my joy overflows
When my heart is broken
When I’m in awe of Your presence
When I’m weary and worn
I bow before You
And You alone

In every season
In every situation
In every mood
In every moment

In You
And You alone
I live
And move
And have my being

Thank You, Lord, for the reality of my life in You. Thank You for the simple truth of my identity in You, and for the simple joy of being Yours–and Yours alone.

From His Heart to Yours: September 2, 2014

The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.
 –1 Sam.16:7

Beloved, hold your head high. You’ve done well. As always, you did what you could. You gave Me your best and you gave Me your all. The fragrance of your sacrifice is sweet and pleasing to Me. Don’t compare your best to anyone else’s best. Don’t compare your best to your own desires or expectations. You’re looking at the outside–I’m looking at your heart. Yes, there will always be minor exterior blemishes in even your very best efforts, but all of your imperfection and weakness is swallowed up in My perfection and strength. Your imperfection is made perfect in My presence. I never release the light of My presence to expose your imperfection, but rather to expose the areas of your heart that have not yet been made perfect in the knowledge of My love. It is My perfect love that covers your every imperfection. It is My perfect love that casts away all of your fears–even your fears of rejection and failure. Because My love never fails. Where you see failure and imperfection, I see the flawless beauty of a heart after my own. Rest secure in my acceptance. Rest secure in my love.

♥♥♥

I don’t think I will ever truly get used to the unfathomable kindness and absolute, unconditional acceptance of God. It shouldn’t surprise me anymore that He doesn’t look at things the way I do–but it still does! Often I’m incredibly disappointed with the results of even my very best efforts, but He never is. He never looks at the imperfection in anything I offer Him, but He does look with great delight upon the motive and intentions of my heart. And when it gets right down to it, my heart is really all He wants anyway. There is no way to offer extravagance to the One who is worthy of more than we can ever hope to give, so instead do what you can … give Him your heart. When you do, it  brings Him greater pleasure than you will likely ever fathom.

Thank You Lord for seeing beyond the imperfections of my outward efforts. Let me rest in the reality of Your delight in a heart that simply seeks after Your own.

************

NOTE: Part of this post was adapted from an earlier post: Imperfect!

“Love Letters” are simple messages from His heart to yours, posted at the beginning of each month. To read others, click here

Where I’m at …

X marks the spot

Have you ever …

Had so much to say that you feel like you have nothing to say?

Had so many emotions churning around in your soul that you’re not sure you’re really feeling anything at all?

Been unshakeably confident and woefully insecure all at the same time?

Been overwhelmed by pain yet joyfully hopeful?

Been righteously driven to do yet contentedly compelled to wait?

Been so fired up and passionate about something that you’re almost immobilized by the intensity of it?

Almost …

Only almost

Have you ever been not okay at all

and yet …

completely

totally

100 percent

amazingly

wonderfully

more than okay?

Or is it just me?

Becaust this is exactly where I’m at.

And I’m learning to be okay with it.

I’m learning to sit in the messiness of it …

In the unknowing

In the waiting

In the tension and perplexity that exists between urgency and the timing (the real timing not the made-up-making-excuses-for-laziness-and-unbelief-timing) of God.

The need is now.

The need is urgent.

The need is real.

But if He doesn’t go …

I’m not going.

And that’s all there is to it.

So I’ll wait.

I’m not giving up.

I’m not giving in.

When He moves …

I will move with Him

Until then …

I’ll rest

I’ll watch and pray

And I’ll do what I can

where I am …

Because this is where I’m at.

Holding Hands

Just like a child
Holding on to her daddy’s hand
I hold on to You
Knowing that really
It’s You holding on to me
Through the brightest of days
Through the darkest of nights
Through every season of life
We walk
Hand in hand
Of all the things I love about You
…the power of Your presence
…the patient persistence of Your love
…the goodness of Your grace
…even the greatness of Your glory
I think my very favorite
Is that always
You hold my hand

Seeking First His Kingdom

 

“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” –6:33

I might as well have it tattooed on my heart. These words. These simple but profound, and oh so precious, words of Jesus in Matthew chapter six. Seek first the kingdom of God and HIS righteousness. Do this one thing first and every other thing will fall into place. This is my life verse. This is one of the main principles by which I desire to live my life. And yet sometimes …

I forget.

I get frustrated.

I get confused.

Recently, I forgot again. And sure enough, I was beginning to get a little frustrated. A bit confused …

As I found myself seeking my own solutions rather than His Kingdom.

Not too long ago, He turned my heart inside-out over the issue of human trafficking. In some ways I’ve shared His heart in this most heinous of injustices for many years now. I’ve prayed regularly. I’ve given to organizations and individuals on the frontlines in this battle. At times, especially in recent months, I’ve attempted to raise awareness by writing about the issue. I’ve even been involved first-hand myself now and again. But it was always part of a bigger picture for me. It was never my sustained primary focus.

Until now.

Until I saw things I couldn’t ignore. Until I heard and felt things I’ll never forget. Until I realized this issue is so much deeper, so much broader, so much uglier, so much darker and more desperate than I ever could have imagined.

Until I looked deep into their eyes and “heard” their silent pleas for help.

Since then I’ve known that I MUST do more. The problem is I haven’t known exactly what “more” looked like. I’ve had ideas–lots of them. But I never want to react from a place of raw emotion–and believe me, I’ve had plenty of raw emotion to cope with–I want to respond to His voice.

But He hasn’t been saying what I thought He might be saying. He hasn’t been opening the doors I hoped He would open. He hasn’t been giving me the specific direction I thought I needed.

As a result, I’ve felt more than a little stuck. Since I’ve also been dealing with the very real sense of urgency that comes from having your eyes opened and heart broken over this rampant and pervasive injustice–stuck isn’t such a great place to be.

But one thing I’ve learned hanging out with Jesus over the years–He’s always in a good place. So if where I’m at isn’t good–chances are I’ve taken a step or two away from Him.

Thanks to His mercy, this week I turned around. This week I looked up. This week I joined Him sitting on His throne to view the issue (again) from His perspective.

This week I chose (again) to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.

This week I remembered (again)–that it’s not about me.

It’s not even about ending human trafficking. Freedom for the captives is incredibly important to His heart and I have gladly given Him the rest of my life to pour out as He chooses in this battle. But the real point, the real aim …

Is to see Jesus glorified on the earth.

It’s to see His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

When that happens, there will be no such thing as slavery. There will be no more oppression. There will be no more darkness. He is the truth. And where Truth is present, so is freedom.

I heard the most simple yet profound thing this week that put it all back into perspective: The greatest injustice on the earth right now isn’t human trafficking …

It’s that Jesus isn’t loved and worshiped by all the people of earth.

The One who gave all–for all to be free–is still waiting to receive the full reward of His suffering.

If He’s still waiting, then I’ll gladly wait with Him.

So does this mean I’m backing down or giving up in the battle to abolish modern-day slavery? Heavens no! If anything, I signed up all over again. It’s only my approach that has changed …

I’m seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness. I’m seeking for His Kingdom to come amongst the oppressed and for His righteousness to be revealed in some of the darkest places on the planet. Whatever role I do or do not play in how He accomplishes that is fairly irrelevant to the equation. I’m willing. He knows that. This is His dream, His desire–I’m simply joining Him. I’m focusing on what I do know and what I can do, rather than on what I don’t know and can’t do. And, as I seek first His Kingdom, I know that whatever I need to accomplish my part will be added.

By the grace of God, human trafficking will end. If I didn’t know and believe that in my heart, I couldn’t face this profound, yet profoundly temporary, darkness for even a moment. While there’s breath in me I’ll do everything I’m able to do to shine His light onto and into this hideous work of darkness. But even more than that, I’ll continue to seek first His Kingdom …

Because His Kingdom will never, ever, end.

From His Heart to Yours: August 4, 2014

Let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
–James 1:4

Beloved, please remember that My love is patient and My love is kind. My love is patient and kind toward you … always. When I ask you to allow patience to have its perfect work in you, I’m not asking you to try to squeeze patience out of yourself in areas and situations where it is clear you have none. What I am asking is that you allow My patient, kind love to have its perfect work in you. When My patient love overcomes your fears, you will find patience flowing from you in every situation as a naturally supernatural result of My life flowing through your own. You’ll never become more patient by trying harder—that hasn’t worked out so well for you so far, has it? Instead, remember and acknowledge the reality of your life hidden in Mine. Lean into My peace. Lean into My joy. And especially, lean into the patient, kind love that is there for you—always.

♥♥♥

Aren’t you glad God never asks you to “fake it til you make it”? He knows our abilities—and especially our inabilities—better than we know them ourselves. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to this thing called patience—especially patience with things in my life that need some, um, attention—I need a lot of help. Fortunately He doesn’t just help, He takes over! The things I can never do on my own are already accomplished in Him. And when I learn to lean into the joy and peace I have in Him in every situation, I’ve often found patience taking over without even thinking about it.

Thank You Jesus, for Your patient and kind love. Let patience have its perfect work in me!

************

“Love Letters” are simple messages from His heart to yours, posted at the beginning of each month. To read others, click here.

 

A few things I’ve learned, pt 3 – Running TO Him

“I’ve learned to run to Him in my brokenness, failures, frustrations and disappointments, rather than away from Him in shame, regret, confusion or anger.”

It goes all the way back to the beginning of man. Adam and Eve walked in unbroken fellowship with God. But then they sinned. After they sinned they did something that ought to sound really familiar …

They hid.

We’ve been hiding from God in various ways ever since.

But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” –Genesis 3:9

But God. Don’t you just love those words? One simple phrase that changes everything. But the LORD God called to the man….

And He’s continued to call out to us ever since.

Because He is always calling out to us, that should tell us something about His heart. It should tell us something about His desire. It should tell us something about how He feels about us.

When we mess up, nearly everything in us wants to run in the opposite direction of a holy, righteous God. The only problem is … that’s not what God wants.

It’s also not what we need.

God wants us to learn run to Him–even in the midst of all our brokenness and failures–and not away from Him. This was my second point on my recent list of things I’ve managed to learn along the way. When people have asked me how I’ve kept moving forward with God through the years (one of the few things I have managed to consistently do in my life), I’ve often mentioned this as one of the keys.

The reason I’ve learned to run to Him in all my raw and inglorious messiness is actually pretty simple … I’ve come to know and trust His heart toward me.

I think it helps to understand from God’s perspective. This was (and is) a big deal to Him. He enjoyed the open, unashamed communion He shared with Adam and Eve before the fall.

He still enjoys our company.

So when sin entered the picture and corrupted the purity of our relationship with Him, He went to the most extreme lengths imaginable to restore our unity with Him. At the cross, He broke the power of sin and death once and for all. As I mentioned in the second part of this series, there is no longer any separation from His perspective. None. Ever. Regardless of we have or have not done. He cleared the way (He actually became the way) for us to access His presence–and His heart–forever. Since He did–imagine this–He wants us to take Him up on it!

I’ve often heard believers talk about how our screw-ups break His heart. There is some truth to that in the sense that He never enjoys seeing us in pain. And a lot of our choices do ultimately cause pain–for ourselves and for others. But often we take it much further and believe we cannot find our way back to His arms until we get our act together and/or pay some sort of penance. Shame clouds our judgment and we begin to distance ourselves from the One who longs to love and restore us.

But if nothing we ever do is a surprise to Him–and “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us”–how can anything we do ever change His heart toward us?

Answer? It can’t.

So turn around. Don’t punish yourself–or Him–another minute. Run to Him, not away from Him. Leap into His arms–they’re open wide for you. He’s waiting. He’s longing. He’s even aching for you to run toward Him. He’ll catch you. He’ll receive you. I promise. Turn around and find rest and restoration in the arms of the One who loves you more than life. It’s not only the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself …

It’s also the greatest gift you can give Him

.

A few things I’ve learned, pt 2 – Intimacy with God

“Intimacy with God is never, ever, based on performance. Never. Ever.”

This was my first, and probably the most important, point on a list I posted earlier in the week of a few things I’ve managed to learn on my journey of faith.

I believe in the truth of this statement with all of my heart. If I didn’t–I probably would have given up a long time ago. Because, well, my “performance” isn’t always all that great.

Before going further, it would probably be good to define what I mean by “intimacy with God.” What is it? Is it something to be desired?

The dictionary defines intimacy as: close familiarity or friendship; closeness. One catchy definition I’ve often heard is “in-to-me-see.” Intimacy is a place of vulnerability and authenticity. It’s a place where there are no pretenses; a place where you know and are fully known—without shame. In a very real sense, intimacy with God is a return to the freedom and innocence of the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve walked with God (and each other) “naked and unashamed.”

Sadly today we’re a long way from the freedom and innocence of Eden. Our senses are continually assaulted with a million and one disctractions luring us away from the beauty and simplicity of intimate fellowship with our Creator–the very thing we were created to know.

Yet His desire has never changed. He still yearns for intimate communion with His children. He still longs to walk with us in the cool of the day. Although He already “knows” everything about us, He wants us to invite Him into the deepest places of our hearts–just as He wants to share His own heart with us. He longs for the present tense experience of our presence– just as He wants us to experience His.

He longs for intimacy.

He longs for us to be with Him where He is. So He invites us to come boldly to His throne of grace. He invites us to abide in Him and He promises to abide in us. He invites us to come to Him–even in our weariness and brokenness–to find rest. He promises that nothing will separate us from His love …

Nothing. Ever. Not here, not in ages to come. Because not one of these promises is based upon our “performance.” Not one.

But wait a minute! Didn’t Jesus Himself say “If you love Me, keep My commandments”?

Yep, He did. But which commandments did He refer to? How obedient is obedient enough? How many commandments do we have to keep before we can run into His arms? The Ten Commandments? The 613 laws of Moses?

How good is good enough?

How many commandments do you have to keep to …

~Lean your head on His chest like John did?

~Wash His feet with your tears like Mary did?

~Pour out your heart to Him like David did?

~See His glory like Moses did?

~Be His friend like Abraham was?

Want my answer?

None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

When Jesus said if you love Me keep my commandments, He’d been talking to His disciples about faith–about doing greater things than Him and challenging them to believe–to ask for anything in His name.

Given that context, and the subsequent verses about sending the Holy Spirit, I tend think Jesus’ words were more of an invitation. This is my own personal (completely un-authorized) paraphrase of John 14:15 “If you love Me, you’ll learn to love like Me and you’ll do the things I do. “

Remember that Jesus also said the greatest commandment was to love Him–and the second was to love others. He said all of the law was summarized in these two commandments. So from Jesus’ perspective, it seems like the main thing is the commandment to love. Which, in my mind, makes the most important question this …

How do we learn to love?

I think the answer is incredibly simple:

By being loved.

~By running into His arms, right here, right now–just as you are.

~By climbing up into His lap secure in the knowledge you are wanted and accepted–just as you are.

~By resting in the knowledge that He’s not frustrated or disappointed in you. He’s not impatiently waiting for you to get your act together. He already saw every fear, every failure, every broken promise, and even every time you’d push Him away, but He still chose you–just as you are.

Because intimacy with God is never, ever, based on performance. Never. Ever.

It’s not based on performance, but that doesn’t mean our choices don’t matter. They do matter–a lot. And in this area of intimacy there is one very important choice that matters more than anything …

We must choose to believe.

~To believe we love Him because He first loved us

~To believe it is finished–past, present and future–all our sin is covered. We are beloved and accepted before the throne of grace, always.

~To believe there is a door standing open in heaven–that no man can shut.

Through that open door, access has been granted. Now and forever. Period. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. He’s already there waiting. There is NO separation on His end. None. Because intimacy with God is never, ever, based on performance. Never. Ever.

I am so very very glad this is one of the things I have learned along the way.

***************

For a great post on understanding more of the scriptural basis for what I’m attempting to express in this post, check out Mel Wild’s post “What interpretive lens are you looking through?”

Also, a little over a year ago, I wrote this post with a different approach on the same subject.

Blessings and joy to you as you draw near to His heart with confidence!

A few things I’ve learned along the way …

Like anyone, I have my ups and downs. There are (a few) things I’m good at, and a lot of things I’m not-so-good at. Since I’m usually harder on myself than I am on anyone else, I’ve realized that I often focus on the many areas I feel I need improvement rather than on the areas where I’ve actually done well.

For a while now, Jesus has been trying to convince me to be a bit kinder to myself. As a result, I’ve been trying to identify and think about things that are good about me. When I consider the things I like best about me, the very, very, very best thing is the richness and ease of my relationship with the Lord.

There was a Christian country song (yes there is such a thing) some years back that had a line in it that profoundly resonated in my heart. I don’t remember the song itself, or even who sang, it but I do remember this one line:

“You’re the one thing I do right.”

The “one thing” the singer was referring to was his relationship with the Lord. It stuck because I’ve always felt the same way. I’ve often joked that I don’t “do life” particularly well, but through the years, somehow, I have managed to stay the course–to keep moving onward and upward spiritually. Somehow I’ve managed to fall more in love with Him year after year. Somehow–despite some huge discouragements, disappointments, and losses–I’ve come to believe more, not less, through the years. Somehow His grace has always been sufficient for me.

Somehow, no matter how often I fail–His love never fails.

His love never fails me. I know this in a way that goes so far beyond words that it makes them seem pretty much useless at times. And because I do know this, somehow, I’ve always been able to press deeper into Him no matter the circumstances or seasons of life.

It sounds weird to put it this way, but I guess you could say this is one of the main things I’m “good at” in life. I struggle with many things, but my relationship with the Lord has never been one of them.

We’re all wired differently and I realize that just because this is true for me, it’s not true for everyone. That’s why I feel like He’s been challenging me to share some of the things I can put into words. Some of the things that have made a difference. Some of the things I’ve gotten right along the way. Some of the things I’ve learned on the journey. Here are a few …

1.I’ve learned that intimacy with God is never, ever, based on performance. Never. Ever.

2. (Because of #1) I’ve learned to run to Him in my brokenness, failures, frustrations and disappointments, rather than away from Him in shame, regret, confusion or anger.

3. I’ve learned that my feelings are valid and very important to Him, but my feelings sometimes lie.

4. I’ve learned to let go (again and again and again).

5. I’ve learned to embrace mystery–I will never come close to understanding it all and I’m okay with that.

6. I’ve learned to be content in all things, but not to be content with all things.

7. I’ve learned that in this world we will have tribulation, but in the end … Love wins.

There are others, of course, but these are the things that come to mind as being the things that have made the biggest difference in my personal journey of faith. You could probably write a book on each of these concepts. I was going to at least fill in a bit of detail under each one, but I didn’t get very far before I realized this post could get really long, really quickly.

Instead, I think I’ve stumbled upon a bit of a series. Over the next several weeks, I’ll plan to write a short post elaborating–just a bit–on each of these seven principles. They’re all interrelated, but I’ll do my best to make some sense out of each one as a stand alone.

In the meantime I plan to keep pressing into His heart …incredibly grateful for what I have managed to learn along the way.

Because, thankfully, He’s still the one thing I do right.

In Secret

In secret
In the quiet stillness
Before the dawn of a new day
You work

Your hands
Those of a skilled Master Potter
Form
And transform
My heart

I couldn’t resist if I tried
Helpless without You
I surrender
To Your touch
And
To Your relentless love

I know You’re answering my prayers
I know Your work is always good
But I never expected it to look ~
Like this
Or to feel ~
Like this

So I let go
Of my expectations
My desires
My demands
Again and again
And again
I let go
Of everything …
Everything but You

And I rest
I rest in the stillness
I rest in the quiet
Most of all
I rest in You

In secret
I feel as though
I’m being born again …
Again
What was before
Will never be again
What was once clear and simple
Will never again make sense
But Your grace is sufficient
Always
Still
Forever
Your grace is sufficient
For me

I’ve often wondered how I came to this place
This place of uncertainty
This place of such pain
But then I remember …
I asked for this
I volunteered

I said yes

I asked You to open my eyes
And You did
To darkness beyond comprehension
To pain beyond imagination

I asked You to break my heart
With the things that break Your own
And You did
Into a million tiny pieces

So here I am
Here I am with You
You’ve hidden me
In the palm of Your hand
You’ve hidden me
Under the shadow of Your wings
And here
In secret
You’re putting me back together

It doesn’t look very pretty from the outside
I feel so weak
Yet somehow I’m stronger
My heart has been shattered
Yet somehow I’m more whole
I tremble before You
Sometimes immobilized by fear
Yet somehow braver than ever
And absolutely
Completely
Unflinchingly
Resolute in the knowledge
That darkness
Will never, ever
Win

So in secret
You work
My body is tired
My soul is weary
But my spirit is alive
Awake
Alert
And ready

Because I haven’t changed my mind
I won’t change my mind
And when You say it’s time
I’ll leave this cocoon
And once again …

I’ll go

Persevering … in rest

“Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you.” – Matt. 7:7 (Amp)

“…men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” –Luke 18:1 (NKJV)

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” –James 5:16 (NKJV)

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. ” –Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)

” So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” –Hebrews 10:36-36 (NLT)

Are you struggling to lay hold of the promises of God? Could it be that you’re focusing your energy on the wrong thing?

“This is the work of God, that you believe …” –John 6:29 (NKJV)

“For only those who believe can enter his rest.” –Hebrews 4:3 (NLT)

“For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world.  So let us do our best to enter that rest.” –Hebrews 4:10-11 (NLT)

In striving, we struggle and strain to lay hold of promises that are already ours. In rest, His promises lay hold of us.

And when that happens …

Quitting is never an option.

What If?

Note: I originally posted this about a year ago but a recent conversation with a friend brought it to mind. I think I needed to ask “What if?” again. Maybe you do too …


What if?

It’s a question we’ve all asked. It’s a question that taunts and torments many in the dark of night …

What if it doesn’t work out? What if the unthinkable happens? What if I don’t get that job? What if my marriage doesn’t survive? What if we lose the house? What if the test results confirm a bad diagnosis? What if the kids really aren’t okay? What if I never get through this overwhelming grief and disappointment? What if I end up alone? What if I never overcome this addiction?

What if things never change and this is as good as it gets?

And those are just a few of them. There are others. There are “what if’s” so deep — so dark — so scary — that we dare not give them words. We dare not speak them out. Haunting “what if’s” that lurk in the deep recesses of our hearts and minds, barely touching the surface of our consciousness.

But they’re there. They’re there waiting for the first sign of trouble to pop up and scream “I told you so!” They’re the hidden joy-killers. The silent peace-snatchers. The diabolical hope-destroyers.

What if … ?

The Lord has been confronting some of my “what if’s” lately. Some I didn’t know were there. Some I thought I’d dealt with. Or I thought I knew better than to think such things in the first place. But in the dark–in the quiet–the reality of a few lingering fears have surfaced. My heart has betrayed me–revealing secret places of unrest and bringing light to the very issue the One who sees all knew all along …

I still don’t trust him as completely as I’d like to think I do.

I still don’t trust him as much as I want to.

But he is eternally patient with me. He is unfathomably kind. And in his patience and kindness, he has been challenging my “what if’s” with a few of his own …

What if he really is as good as he says he is?

What if I’ve heard only the faintest whispers of his greatness and glimpsed only the tiniest glimmers of his glory?

What if my eyes have not seen, my ears have not heard, and my mind has not conceived what he has prepared for me–and for all those who love him?

What if his grace is sufficient and he wins with any hand?

What if he restores double for all my losses and brings something more beautiful than I can fathom out of the ashes of every disappointment and failure?

What if he opens the storehouses of heaven and pours out such blessing I really can’t contain it?

What if I really am as blessed and highly favored as he says I am?

What if the God of Angel Armies is always for me and with me–and nothing is too hard for him?

What if despite discouraging circumstances and apparent detours, all his promises are still yes and amen?

What if goodness and mercy really will follow me all the days of my life?

What if suddenly I see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living?

What if the “Master Potter” is fashioning me into a vessel of honor for the display of his glory?

What if the plans he has for me, and those I love, are always for good–to give us hope and a future?

What if he really will do immeasurably more than all I can hope or imagine?

What if his love really N.E.V.E.R (ever) fails?

What if … ?

Go ahead and ask. I dare you …

What if?

From His Heart to Yours: July 5, 2014

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. –Ps. 34:18

Come sit with Me, beloved. Crawl up into My lap and rest Your weary head on my chest. Let me hold your hand—and your heart—and let’s just be still, together, for a moment. Cry with Me for a while. I don’t mind at all. In fact, I love sharing the deep places of your heart. It especially moves Me that so much of your pain comes from sharing the deep places in Mine. The intimacy of our shared heartbreak and longing means so much more to Me than you will ever fathom. I know you’ve long understood that I draw near to you in your own heartbreak, but I also long for those who dare to draw near to Me in Mine. No, it’s not easyyou know I never promised it would bebut I did promise I would be with you. And I am. I’m here for you, beloved—now and always. Thank You for also being here with Me. Let’s weep together for just a moment. I know it often looks like the darkness is winning, but this isn’t the end of the story. Weeping endures for a night, butI promise—joy will come in the morning. 

♥♥♥

I’m so grateful for the tender loving heart of our Father. He really does draw near to the brokenhearted. He understands in a way no one else can. It is always so tempting to escape our sorrows in a myriad of unhealthy ways—but nothing beats crawling up into His lap and actually sharing them with Him. What’s even better—and often much harder—is sharing in His own sorrows. There is a deep intimacy that comes from the authentic fellowship of shared suffering—and it flows both ways. So wherever you’re at right now, and whatever is heavy on your heart, share your struggles with Him. He is nearer than you think. And after you’ve shared your heart with Him—take a moment to ask Him what He wants to share with you.

Lord, thank You for allowing me to share the deepest parts of my heart–and thank You for trusting me with the deep places in Yours.

************

“Love Letters” are simple messages from His heart to yours, posted at the beginning of each month. To read others, click here.