Worship and Wait

Y’all know that feeling when life is going along just fine, everybody in your household is doing well, then suddenly one thing happens, creating a snowball effect, and before you know it it feels like someone’s pulled the rug out from under you? Well, welcome to the Thomas household lately. As with most seasons like this, we’re not facing anything life-threatening or catastrophic, but lately it just seems like it’s been one thing after another. Our routine has been disrupted (this Queen Of All Type A’s right here is NOT handling that so well) and our usual daily flow–and the peace it brings–has been disrupted right along with it. For me, when this happens, I feel like my insides begin to match my outsides: my thoughts are all over the place, my blood pressure is high, my ability to settle down internally has flown the coop. Often during times like this, I find myself crying out to God over and over, begging Him for deliverance from whatever issue I feel is most contributory. I ask Him repeatedly, God, what do You want me to do?! How can I fix this (or stop this or help my child)? And while I believe each difficult season of life bring its own lessons, in this current one, I’ve heard God whisper (VERY quietly), “Worship and wait.”

Friends, what a concept (and a terribly difficult one!) this is. When our lives seem crazy and hectic and it feels like everything is out of our control, what does God want us to do? Wait?! I’m sorry, but the mother in me, the Type A personality in me, the “fixer” in me is not thrilled with this response. Pardon me, Lord, all due respect, but You cannot be serious. I mean, internally it feels like I’m running around with my head on fire, and Your almighty response is to tell me to settle myself down and not do anything? Um, clearly there’s been a misunderstanding, so I’m going to pray that “Lord, please tell me what to do to fix this!!!!” prayer again…you know, see what I get this time.

Me: So once more, Lord, what do I do here? How do I make this stop?! I need answers right this very instant! (foot stomp)

God: Worship and wait. Focus on Me and let Me handle your life. I’ll give you what you need, I’ll share My wisdom and My methods for solving your problems–those small actions you can take on your end–as I see fit, but in the meantime, wait on Me. It’s where the greatest blessings are found.

You ’90’s children remember Alanis Morrisette and her album called Jagged Little Pill? Yeah well, that’s what this instruction was to my all-in-a-tizzy self, a VERY jagged little pill to swallow. However, I know that the Bible tells us that our obedience shows our faith, and it’s when we first step out in faith, BEFORE anything in our situation changes, that starts the ball rolling for God to work in our lives. So, I’ve been giving this a shot. Disclaimer: I’m failing (sometimes miserably) at it, but even though I’m taking one step forward and three (four?) steps back, I’m learning. Despite what Satan is telling me, I know that God isn’t expecting perfected faith from me; He is pleased that my goal is obedience to Him. He is blessed by my decision to believe His Word and to choose to shut down those negative thoughts even when it takes all the mental and emotional strength I’ve got some days. We don’t have to get it all just right, friends. We just have to decide in our hearts that Jesus gets more weight than our emotions, and we’ve just got to push through and work those faith muscles, if you will, until we find ourselves facing these rug-out-from-under-us seasons with less mental and emotional chaos.

As with anything, our strength to handle these trials in life comes from God, and more often than not, He provides clarity and peace, joy and contentment through His Word. It always astounds me how He speaks to me so intentionally through my daily devotion or even through the devotional we read with our daughter at night. If you seek God, friend, and you turn to His Word for your help, God will never not show up. Never. It’s impossible for Him to abandon us. So when the devil starts telling you that things will never change, that your situation won’t ever improve, that all of the good of your life is in the past, use the Truth that you find right there in the printed pages of the Bible to remind him (and yourself) that God is not absent. He is not late. He is not unfaithful. He is present; He is good; He is working on your/your family’s/your child’s behalf. Things are getting better and better, not worse and worse, and while you wait for those trials to pass, set your heart on worship mode. Choose to praise God, to celebrate Him, to thank Him for all He’s doing in your life BEFORE you ever even see it.

I have gathered together a few verses that I’ve been returning to lately to help remind myself that when it’s bleak, it won’t stay that way. I find great comfort in these promises from my loving, provisional God, and I pray that you do, too. I invite you to read through these carefully, letting God settle them into your spirit. If, right now, you aren’t facing times of challenge and trial, I encourage you to share these with someone who is, maybe even save them so that when you come up against something in the future that attempts to steal your peace, you have TRUTH with which you can fight back against the darkness. And as always, I hope that you’ll pray the closing prayer with me (out loud if you can) because we know that God works through our prayers. We also know that intercessory prayers are incredibly powerful, so offer that prayer and the ones that God lays on your heart for others you know or hear of who need some comfort and peace during a tough time. May the hand of God be so very obvious in the lives of every single one of us!

(PS. The Word of God is especially powerful and active when spoken out loud. It might feel kinda weird, but don’t be afraid to speak these verses out loud over yourself or your family!)

Micah 7:7–But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

Psalm 46:10–Be still and know that I am God

Exodus 14:14–The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Zephaniah 3:17–The Lord your God is with you….He will quiet you with His love

Isaiah 23: 2-3–Surely God is my salvation. I will trust and not be afraid.

Isaiah 23:4–Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name

Philippians 4:4-5–Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! The Lord is near

Philippians 4:6-7–Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God

Isaiah 40:31–But they who wait for the Lord will renew their strength…

Psalm 27:13-14–Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Lamentations 3:25–The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him

Proverbs 3:5-6–Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding

Psalm 130:5-6–I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning…

Psalm 33:20-22–Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in Him, because we trust His holy name

Dear Lord, thank You so much for Your Word, for its guidance and encouragement. Thank You, Father, that whether life is a fierce struggle or a wonderful celebration, or even just a contented daily grind, I am never alone because You walk through it all right beside me. During this tough time, Lord, I ask that You please make Your hand visible. Help me to see evidence that You are moving in my situation. And during those times when Your work isn’t clear, help me to trust You anyway. Lord, bring me closer to you through these challenges. Help me to learn what You’d have me learn while I go through this, and please, Father, as Your Word promises, use this season of life to bring good to me and my family. I choose to believe what Your Word says, not the nasty joy-stealing lies that Satan whispers in my ear. I rebuke him in the name of Jesus, and I praise You, God, even though I can’t quite see what You’re doing just yet. I trust You, Lord, and while I wait on Your deliverance, I will put my energy into praising You for Your constant goodness. Thank You, Father God, that I don’t have to know the “how” to believe that You are making a way for me. I love You, and I am so incredibly grateful to be Your child. Might that title, Child of God, be all I need to feel joyful through the storm. In Jesus’s name I pray and in Jesus’s name I believe and receive Your blessings. Amen.

From “Aw” to “Ugh”

A few weeks ago, a video went viral after a woman posted herself going out of her way to do a good deed. In this video, the “star,” who was an Uber driver, went out and bought her female client some clothes, after learning of her passenger’s need for clothes before dropping her off that morning at her fast-food job. The driver even delivered them to her right there in the drive-through, and she did all of this while running her phone’s camera. My initial reaction to this video was, “Aw, that’s so sweet,” but my feelings whip-lashed before I knew what was happening. My thoughts went from “Aw!” to “Ugh!” in a matter of seconds. And here’s why: I started thinking about the logistics of this scenario, about exactly what transpired in order for this woman to have her good deed recorded.

If we’re going to be the kind of people who sit and watch life happen on tiny screens in front of our faces, the least we can do is actually *think* about what we’re watching, and this video had me thinking about how desperate we can often be for acknowledgement and/or attention. Take this “videographer” if you will. Here is a lady who had a very, very kind and generous idea to provide her client with something the client was unable to provide for herself. Nothing wrong with helping a person in need! That’s taking a page out of Jesus’s own book for crying out loud. However, things took a turn the second she began setting up her camera so that she could record and then post her goodness. Granted, I’m guessing here because I don’t know her, but if you take video of yourself doing something good and kind and then post said video, the person you’re attempting to highlight and for whom you’re looking to gain notoriety is Y-O-U.

This lady did many nice things, some on-camera, some off. She listened to her passenger and engaged with her passenger enough to identify a need. She then went one step further by providing for that need, exactly as Jesus expects us to do. But. The moment that she began setting up that camera just right in her car so that she could capture her generosity on camera, things went south. And that’s what I was thinking about, the staging, the orchestrating, when I shifted so rapidly from aw to ugh.

The good thing to come out of this, though, was some time spent considering how often I want recognition for the good things I do for others (and it’s way more often than I’d like to admit). God knew that as humans we’d be largely tempted to take moments like these and soil them. At our core, we tend to be selfish and vain, but God’s not shocked by that, nor is He upset with us. He made us; He knows exactly what we’re like and what worldly challenges can, and do, trip us up. He also wants to make sure we understand the error of our ways and our thinking, and in an effort to do that, He’s tucked some lessons and guidance into His Word. (Psssst! There’s not a single issue you have faced, are facing, or ever will face that’s not addressed in the Bible. So there you go.)

I’d like for us to look at a few key verses on this topic, and I’d like start with Luke 14:7-11. In these verses Jesus is directly speaking and warning us against thinking too highly of ourselves. In verse 11 He cautions, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Excellent advice for many, many a situation.

Then, Proverbs 25:27 says this: “It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.” It is not glorious to seek one’s own glory. Let that sink in for a minute.

God doesn’t stop there, though. He offers us more wisdom on this topic of self-glorification later in Proverbs when He encourages us to “Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth” (27:2).

But the verses that really caught me, the ones that seemed to speak directly to the heart of my human need to brag on myself or seek recognition any time I do something that I think might exalt me in the eyes of others is from Matthew 6: 1-4. Read this carefully, friends. It’s packed full.

“1 Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven.

2 So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets…to be honored by others…3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Wow! In other words, your good deed should be so private between you and God alone that even your non-giving hand, the one not handing out provisions to the needy, has no idea what’s happening. Videoing our “righteousness” and posting it online for others to like, comment on, and share? Yeah, not so much.

In one of her publications, Joyce Meyer tells a story about this exact concept that is so practical and relevant it’s always stayed with me. (I’m going to do a pitiful paraphrasing of her story, but hopefully you can track with me enough to get the gist of it regardless.) In her story, Joyce (I call her by her first name because we’re BFF’s) goes into a salon to get her nails done, and on that particular day, she’s wearing a broach on her blouse (maybe it was coat? I don’t know.). A fellow nail-salon patron sitting next to her comments on this beautiful piece of jewelry, and Joyce says she feels the Lord urging her to take off the pin and give it to this lady. She starts to obey, but about the time she plans to hand it over to the woman, both of the nail technicians leave the room. Wanting to make sure they see her act of generosity, Joyce waits until they are both back in the room before giving this woman her broach. Of course, as expected and desired, everyone oohhs and aahhs over Joyce’s kindness. She feels good about herself, but for only half a second because as soon as exits the nail salon, she hears God say, “I hope you enjoyed that because that’s all the reward you’re going to get.” Think that wasn’t God speaking to her? Take a quick second to re-read Matthew 6:1 above. I’ll wait.

You see, our job as Christians is to glorify God and direct others to Him. That’s it…full stop. We have no other purpose that tops pointing unbelievers to Jesus Christ, and as soon as we turn something loving and kind and gracious and compassionate into something that’s all about us, we’ve damaged that. If we exalt ourselves, we get the glory that should’ve been used to shine a light directly on Jesus. We can’t glorify ourselves AND God simultaneously; it’s a one-or-the-other kinda deal. As followers of Christ, we are to use our lives to become more like Him, to behave more and more like He did, and Jesus never once glorified Himself. Not once. And look at what all He did.

Before I close, I want to share with you a quote from Dr. Tony Evans that I ran across while preparing for this post. I felt like it was both a simple and a very profound way of looking at our desire for self-glorification. I pray it’s one that sticks with you, too. I love you all, and I think you’re all REALLY great.

“If you want to lead the orchestra, you have to be willing to turn your back on the crowd.” -Dr. Tony Evans

Dear Lord, thank You so very much for continuously drawing to my attention the areas in my life that can use a little work. Father, I understand and recognize fully that my purpose here on this planet is to bring others to You and to glorify You in all I do, think, and say. I need help with that, though, Lord, because sometimes I want recognition and accolades for my good deeds. Please help me, God, to spend much more time focused on the honor and attention given to You than to myself. Help me to worry only about glorifying You so that You can be responsible for glorifying me. I know that life will be much better and my blessings much larger that way. Let others see You through me, Lord. I love You, Father, and I am so grateful for Your constant love. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

 

One Foot In Front Of The Other

I have been working very hard getting a blog post prepared. I’ve been thinking about my wording, which scriptures to include, how to get started, etc. This, however, is not that blog post. For whatever reason, I’ve felt a burden on my heart to say a few things that aren’t planned, that haven’t been prepped, but that I feel God truly wants me to share. Basically, God wants me to tell you this: YOU ARE DOING JUST FINE! We are so often so hard on ourselves, assuming everyone is doing life and all its parts perfectly while we’re over here drowning, wearing floaties in a tsunami and trying to survive it. You know what though? You’re doing a good job.

You are a good person.

You are a good parent.

You are a good spouse.

You are a good friend.

You are a good coworker.

You are a good neighbor.

You are a good son or daughter, niece or nephew, brother or sister.

You are good.

I know that we’re not all right in the midst of the greatest seasons of our lives. I know that some of us are struggling to get up each morning, to show up for work, to mentally tune in to what’s happening in front of our faces. But you know what, it’s a season. It’s ONLY a season. And the God of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE who holds galaxy upon galaxy in the palm of His hand is lovingly aware of you. He is working for you. He is moving and shaping in order to work ALL THINGS you are facing into good for you!

Hear me, please! He isn’t mad at you. He isn’t teaching you a lesson. He’s not punishing you because of some sin–whether real or imagined. He’s not letting you suffer. He’s not causing your pain.

As you face whatever’s on your plate, as you continue to put one foot in front of the other, Friends, God is proud of you. He sees your heart, He notes your progress, and He loves you with a love you cannot even possibly comprehend. So hang in there. Good days are coming. Answered prayers are coming. And in the meantime, God promises to be right there with you, to give you His strength, His courage, His power to get through the day.

And when you think you just can’t get through whatever you’re facing, when you feel beaten down or overwhelmed or just defeated by life, remind yourself that you don’t have to currently possess what it takes to make it through the trial. The Bible tells us that God provides us DAILY with the strength and grace we’ll need to get to the next day. So today, Friday, you’re absolutely right–you do not have what it takes to even make it through the weekend. You do, however, have exactly what you need to make it through Friday. And then, when you wake up on Saturday and seek the Lord, He’ll show right up and give you exactly what you need to make it through Saturday, too.

He loves you, Friend. He delights in you, and He looks forward to blessing you after this storm has passed and your faith has held strong. He looks forward to showing you just how much you grew in Him while your faith was being built through the waiting. You’ve got this, and God’s got you. Praise Him, thank Him, bless His holy and mighty name even when it seems you’ve nothing left, and watch what happens. First one foot, then the other. You’ve got this, and the best is yet to come!

Thrive

If you’re not familiar with the Christian band Casting Crowns, I highly recommend that you rectify this error immediately. Recently, while listening to KLOVE radio, I caught just a couple of the lines from their song “Thrive” and that was all it took to get me thinking deeper about the word thrive. Does this ever happen to you: you hear a word or phrase you’ve either never heard or maybe haven’t heard in long time, and suddenly, that word or phrase is everywhere? You’re hearing it constantly? That’s what happened as I began meditating on the word “thrive” after hearing those powerful lyrics. It stuck with me so much it even had me thinking back on times when I’d seen people put this concept into action.

One such recollection came in the form of an episode of Naked and Afraid. Calm down, kiddies, this is not porn. Naked and Afraid is a survivalist-style show where one man and one woman are dropped off into the worst outdoor environments with zero supplies and zero clothing. Their task is to survive for 21 days on their own and complete some sort of physical challenge to reach their “exit,” which is usually either a beat-up pick-up truck or a helicopter, depending upon where they were located.  Now, normally I refuse to watch “reality TV” of any kind. Truth be told, I’d rather sell every television in this house than watch anything involving a Kardashian, a housewife, or a rose ceremony. But for Naked and Afraid I make an exception. (Just to reiterate, don’t let that term “naked” fool you into thinking this is some racy, sexy show. It’s the exact opposite. Think hundreds of bug bites (per person!!), lots of vomiting, the eating of weird shouldn’t-be-eaten plants and animals–hence the vomiting, and horrifying, wild-animal noises in the dark.)

Okay, now back to my original point. One episode of Naked and Afraid featured a guy who was insanely resourceful. He had a long back-story of the many things in life he’d survived, and he came into this challenge with a determination not just to survive his 21 days in the wilderness, but to THRIVE during those days. I can’t remember all of the details, but I know that he spent a large number of those days alone (his female counterpart got hurt or sick or “tapped out” and left for the comforts of home). I also remember that he made a sign on which he carved the word “thrive,” and he hung this sign over his shelter. And, y’all, let me tell you what an enormous difference there was in his 21 days and the same 21 days of those whose goal was simply survival. It was unreal. I mean, at one point, Thrive-guy killed an alligator WITH THIS BARE HANDS and feasted like a king. Um, yes, I do believe that’s called thriving in the wilderness.

What I’m asking you to consider today is whether you’re going through life like this guy, determined to do what it takes to thrive, or whether you are just trying to survive your life?

Friends, our God is a God of thrival, not survival (guess who just invented a new word!). Our God wants to bless us and do so abundantly. He is so good, y’all, and if you were to ask Him which approach He desires for His children, simply surviving life or thriving at life, I’m pretty sure we all know what His answer would be (pssst, if you’re not sure, the answer is in the Bible).

You know those Casting Crowns lyrics I referenced earlier? I’d like to share those with you, and I’d like to spend a few minutes digging into what scripture says about this idea of thriving. This is the tiniest portion of their song, but it impacted my thoughts in such a powerful way; I’m praying it does the same for you, too.

We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives/ It’s time for us to more than just survive/ We were made to thrive.

Let that sink in: we were made to thrive. How many of you could take an honest look at your life (your marriage, your job, your season of life, your parenting, your church participation, your relationship with Jesus) and say, without a doubt, that you are thriving? Friends, that’s a tough order. I’d wager a guess that for most of us, while we might be excelling in an area or two, in many others we are simply trying to survive.

It’s important that we fully understand what is meant by the word thrive, so, despite the fact that all my English-teacher friends are sighing and eye-rolling, I’d like to present you with an actual definition:

thrive: 1. to prosper, fortunate, successful; 2. to grow or develop vigorously, to flourish

Whether you’re starting your college years or fully established in your career, whether you’re newlywed or have been married for years, are you flourishing, friends? Can you look at your choices and decisions, at the words you speak and the actions you take and say, without reservation, “I am thriving”? If you’re doing life and relationships without Jesus, without a personal, daily touchbase with Jesus, you are most certainly simply surviving. (Side note: if you go through the motions on Sunday only to move through the rest of your week without spending time with Jesus and in the Word, that is NOT doing life with Jesus. That’s called going to church. Those two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Watch out, toes, I’m comin’ for ya!)

But as Jesus instructs, take heart, my lovelies! There is hope. And like another great worship song says, “Hope has a name, His name is Jesus!” And all God’s people said AMEN!!

You know, we all go through seasons of survival, where we literally just have to take it a week or a day (or an hour) at a time. And you know what? That’s okay. But if you spend your every day of every week of every month of every year just slogging through so you can go home, go to bed, get up the next day and do it all over again, let me be the one to tell you, that’s not what Jesus died to give you. If what I just described fits you perfectly, I want you to do me a favor. Get yourself a Sharpie and about five notecards and write John 10:10 on them: I have come that they may have life and have it to the fullest. Put those notecards all around your house and your car and your office at work. Say those words out loud. Declare that promise from Jesus over your life, friend, because simply surviving, simply enduring life as though it’s a miserable affliction, is NOT why the blood of Jesus was spilled. You, through your belief in Jesus, get to experience so very much more.

Please take a minute to read and absorb these promises from your Heavenly Father:

The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of His bounty…to bless all the work of your hands (Deut. 28:12).

A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap (Luke 6:38).

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us (Eph. 3:20).

The key here, friends, is found there in the last verse, the one from Ephesians. Yes, y’all, God can do immeasurably more than ALL we would even ask of Him or imagine He could do. BUT. It’s all from the power of His Holy Spirit at work within us. You’re no dummy, friend–you know that you can’t keep running yourself ragged between home and work and eight different kids’ sporting activities a week and all your many other obligations and expect God to just make things happen for you. Sure, He can. He’s able to do anything He wants, but He’s not a wishing well and He’s certainly no genie. He’s a relationship, and it’s in the relationship with Him that you’ll go from merely surviving your life to thriving at your life. Wouldn’t it be so nice to look back at our lives one day and to feel like we really conquered life? Can you imagine? To be able to look back at the various seasons of our lives and see how God’s supernatural peace and joy was injected into each one? I don’t know about you, but I have zero interest in simply surviving my life here on Earth. When I walk through Heaven’s gates, I want to hear Jesus declare over me, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23), instead of simply saying, “Welp, you made it.” I want to thrive.

Dear Lord, thank You so very much that You have given me a life that includes a relationship with You so that I can thrive and not just survive the day-to-day. Help me, Father, cultivate a life that blossoms, a life that glorifies You and encourages others to want to know You for themselves. Forgive me, Lord, for squandering this time on Earth that You’ve given me by being so caught up in myself and my obligations that I haven’t even attempted to do more than survive. I want that to stop, Lord, and I want it to stop now so that I can THRIVE in all areas. It’s a big order, God, but I know You’re a big God who blesses those who come boldly before Your throne. I know that I don’t have to worry about doing or being anything because when I’m in a relationship with You, I can hand my life over to You. In Your all-powerful hands, Lord, it’s impossible for me not to thrive. I love You, Father, and I am so grateful to be Your child. It’s in Jesus’s powerful name that I pray. Amen.

Opposite Day

Who has two thumbs and actually managed to sit down and type a blog post? THIS GAL! I have had every intention of writing this for literal weeks now, but boy, does life interrupt my plans sometimes. I felt 110% confident I was going to get this written yesterday, but then I attempted to put some playroom furniture together and promptly lost my entire religion. Fear not–my attitude is better today and I no longer feel as though I might self-combust. Progress!!

Do y’all remember in school when kids would say and do things that were in complete contradiction with truth, only to declare “it’s opposite day!” and we’d all just act like that was real thing? For example, someone would say “I hate recess!” and after receiving dirty looks from his peers, he’d declare “It’s opposite day!” and we’d all laugh and laugh. Well as it turns out, opposite day kinda does exist after all. You see, God Himself operates on a very “opposite-day” system. Here, let me explain.

A few weeks ago, I was perusing Twitter and all its fussy discord (why do I do this to myself?!), and I ran across a post from a semi well-known evangelical figure’s feed. Her post really elevated my blood pressure; let me share it with you:

Today’s spiritual self-care looked like skipping church to drink an overpriced pour at a hip, L.A. cafe and stare existentially at the rain outside while attempting to finish a big project I’m working on (that I can’t wait to tell you about!)

Um, I’m sorry, what? Uh, come again? You’re telling me that you felt spiritually exhausted and overwhelmed, so much so that your soul was FED by being away from the house of Jesus? That your soul was healed to some degree by expensive coffee and working? I’m sorry but, like all the cool kids say, I just cannot with this. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Silly me, here I thought my Bible said things like 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

This tweet was just one in a long line I’ve noticed lately that push, push, push this agenda of “self-care,” of making sure I/ME is well taken care of. While making sure you’re not neglecting yourself is a valuable use of your time, it’s certainly not what our Bible tells us should be our focus. I began thinking about how socially we’re encouraged to think “Me! Me! Me!” and “First! First! First!” while never considering what God says about where we should place our focus.

So, I took a deeper look at God’s economy and compared it with what we, as a society, believe is important, and –spoiler alert!–things don’t line up. I would love to input a chart here so that this next part could be graphically displayed, but because my computer screen and your phone screen aren’t the same size, that just doesn’t work out. Instead, I’ll list these, one on top of the other and just apologize in advance for the lack of neatness in this presentation of information.

In the following groupings, the mentalities/concepts that we as human beings value are listed first, with the Biblically-supported, God-ordained mentalities/concepts listed immediately after. Left side: what we value and promote. Right side: what God values and promotes.

(Us) Strength/ (God) Weakness in our humanity (Is. 40:31, 2 Cor. 12: 9-10)

(Us) Being first/ (God) Being last (Matt. 20:16)

PrideHumility (1 Peter 5:5)

Being servedServing others (Mark 10:43-45)

Being rich/ Being poor in the things of this world (2 Cor. 8:9, Rev. 3:17)

Focus on the outer (appearance)/ Focus on the inner character (1 Sam. 16:7)

Busyness/ Stillness (Psalm 46:10, Exodus 14:14)

Self/ Others (Luke 9:23)

Give up…quit….move on/ Persist (Gal. 6:9, Col. 1:11-12)

Indifference/ Compassion (Col. 3:12)

Instant gratification/ Slow, deep, sincere progress (1 Sam. 13:8-14, Rom. 12:12)

Y’all, God declared “Opposite day!” on us a long, long time ago, and for some reason, we just move right on pretending like self-care and personal-progress and monetary success and “not my problem” attitudes are desirable. But today I want you to ask yourself what I’ve been asking myself lately as well: what about God’s economy? Am I living my life in a way that promotes God or promotes me? Am I intentionally finding ways to serve others, to put myself second, to do what I don’t want to do so that I can show God’s love to someone else, or am I buying what the Twitter-verse voices are saying and focusing on serving me, myself, and I?

There are so many, many things to say about each of these pairings. Some of these concepts I’ve discussed in previous posts; some I feel led to save so that I might focus more in depth on them in future posts. Overall, for our purposes today, I feel it best to remove myself and my words, allowing God to simply press upon you the one (or ones, plural, if you’re like me!) you can spend some time talking to Him about later. Therefore, instead of focusing on these individually, let’s consider them as a group. Let’s focus on what they, as a whole, show us about behaving more like Jesus.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: I assume if you’re reading a scripture-based blog, you’re likely interested in becoming as much like Jesus as possible. If that’s the case and you are, the God-breathed fundamentals from the Bible that are listed above, along with a few additional verses can help us learn more about the character of Jesus so as to switch off the self-serving sermons. There is no one who exemplifies “Not me but You, God” more than Jesus.

Let’s explore these teachings as they appear in order of the books of the New Testament, starting with Mark.

**Mark 10: 43-45 But among you, it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever want to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.

**Luke 9: 46-48 For he who is least and lowliest among you all, he is [the one who is truly] great.

**Luke 22:27 For who is greater, the one at the table or the one serving?…But I am among you as the one who serves.

**1 Corinthians 1: 27-28 God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.

**Philippians 2: 5-8 (MSG version) Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Let’s recap, shall we? According to these scriptures, which are obviously just a mere sampling of those that show our subservient, humble, selfless Jesus, God is most certainly in the “opposite day” business. God’s economy doesn’t operate like our self-centered one. We can’t gain one bit of joy or peace by catering to our own fleshly desires and excuses. The value of our own personal convenience seems to be completely missing from scripture. Friends, quite frankly, as Jesus showed us again and again and again, our time on this Earth just truly is not about us.

God is our portion. Jesus is our peace. Prayer is our true self-care, and a relationship with the God of the universe is our reward. Don’t buy into this internet mumbo-jumbo (and yes, that’s the technical term). Sure, you can get your toenails painted instead of cleaning your house; you can drink your wine with your friends instead of attending that “triggering” family gathering; you can even spend your down time reading self-help books in an overpriced coffee shop. And you know what, that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you’re looking for long-term renewal of your spirit or peace that surpasses the logical, you won’t find it there.

Friends, we were meant to be like Jesus. Not once have I run across a scripture where it says that when Jesus was tired and overwhelmed with the multitudes CONSTANTLY needing something from Him, He shut it all down so that He could do a little self-care. Instead, He said repeatedly to God, not My will but Yours. All I do for Your Kingdom. As a Christian, I so desperately want to get better at this. I want to set my goals on heavenly concepts; I want to learn to die to self daily, hourly, even by the minute if that’s what it takes. I want to serve others first and myself last. I want to learn to care for others in the name of Jesus and with the love He’s given me, relying on HIM to take care of me, to restore my soul. I want to be less worried about myself and more worried about what I’m doing on a daily basis to show Jesus to others, to serve others in His name. I want to say, Here I am Lord, send me, without worrying if it’ll be convenient. I just want to be able to live in a way that makes it obvious He who lives within me is FAR GREATER than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Dear Lord, I thank You so very much for the guidance provided in Your Word. I want to live my life, God, according to Your economy, not the world’s. I want to focus on what You say is important, on what You describe as being worth my effort. Lord, this world is confusing. Everywhere I turn there is new and different advice about how to be happy or at peace or more content or more joyful. I recognize, though, Father, that without You, none of those things is even possible. I fully understand that all peace, all joy, all relaxation, all contentment come from You, and I fully understand that unless I live my life more in line with how Jesus lived His, I cannot achieve anything for You. I want to be useful to You, Lord. I want You to use me to share Jesus with others, so I ask sincerely and earnestly, Father, that You help me recognize when I’m serving self so that I might immediately switch it off and serve others instead. Work with me, please, Lord, so that I can become still, compassionate, persistent, and more interested in making progress for You than instantly gratifying some human need I’ve conjured up. I love You, Lord, and I am so grateful that I don’t have to stay as I am. Rescue me from myself, Lord. In Jesus’s mighty and holy name I pray. Amen.

 

Whatever He Says

So is May just struggle-bus month or what? I’m not even in the classroom anymore, but May showed up and now I’m struggle-bus riding (driving, perhaps?) all the same. Here’s the deal: this blog is messing me up! Two years of blog posting, and suddenly I’m all up in my head about it. I have a notebook full of topic ideas, and relatively often, I’m still able to come up with new ones. However, when it comes to putting pen to paper–er, fingertips to keyboard–I get all convoluted in my noggin. My biggest problem is that I am so concerned with not repeating myself. But because it’s been long enough, I’ve written way too many posts for this old broken-down, mom-brain to remember what I have and have not said. So, struggle-bus. Then, just when I thought I was feeling better about it all, I read a well-meaning devotional about how important it is for any message you share to be God-breathed because if you share a message that’s not, you can ruin everyone forever. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t quite so severe, but you get my point: it did NOT help.

You’ve probably already noted what it seemed to take me a long time to understand: I’m focusing on myself, on my own abilities and power, not God’s. I’m not taking into consideration that God can make any message fruitful; He can breathe fresh new life into my words, even if I do repeat myself. With that truth in mind, let me step out from behind the struggle-bus steering wheel and turn your attention to the lessons and promises of God, brought to us today by Mary. Given the recent celebration of Mother’s Day, I thought learning a valuable lesson from the mom of our almighty Savior was a useful way to acknowledge motherhood.

Many of you likely know the story of Jesus’s first miracle, when, while attending a wedding, He turned water into wine after the bride’s parents miscalculated their party supplies. Maybe it’s a story with which you’re very familiar (maybe I’ve even written about it before. Who knows? Not I, said the brain-dead blogger). But even if Jesus’s actions are well-known to you, there’s much to be taken away from Mary’s words and actions in John 2:3-5.

Upon hearing that a near-catastrophic event was at hand (The hosts had prematurely run out of wine, and for some of you, this is a terrifying thought.), Mary knew exactly where to turn for help: Jesus. At this time, Jesus had performed zero miracles, and He even seems–dare I say–hesitant, telling His mom it’s not yet time. Does she listen to Him? Of course not. Like all good mothers, Mary recognizes that although Jesus is holy and a set-apart creation, He is still her son, she’s still His mom, and she’s asked Him to help. Guess what…Mary wins! Moms: 1; kids: 0.

Mary provides an additional example of excellent mothering. After taking her problem to Jesus, drawing His attention to the issue and asking for His help, Mary doesn’t hover and prod and provide possible solutions for Him to consider. Instead, she walks away, confident that He’ll figure it out and handle it. In fact, she’s so secure in her son’s ability, she goes to the servants and directs them, “Whatever He says, do it” (vs. 5). And there you have it folks, one of the greatest pieces of advice to be found in God’s Word. A life-altering piece of advice that you and I would be wise to take to heart and return to over and over and over again.

Whatever He says, do it. Sure, that sounds simple enough, but is it? Let me gently and kindly and without judgement ask you this question: If you’re not in a close relationship with Jesus (not talking to Him and not listening to Him) and you’re not spending time in the Word, how can you know what Jesus is telling you to do? How can you be obedient?

Within a personal relationship with Jesus, sometimes the instructions we receive are personal; they’re answers to prayers for guidance and direction regarding our own unique set of circumstances. As important as it is to hear God and do whatever He tells us to do in those moments (and we’ll come back to this), we also possess many direct instructions from the Creator of the Universe Himself throughout the Bible. It’s these expectations of true Christians I’d like to discuss first. And like all good little Type A’s, I now present you with a numbered list (woot! woot!) of the things we are called to do in obedience.

1. Repent–true, honest, never-intentionally-turning-back-to-that-behavior-again repentance (Matthew 4:17)

2. Follow Jesus (Matthew 4:19)

3. Be joyful/rejoice because of what God’s done for you–be the kind of person who’s so full of Jesus that others desire to be in your presence and to know Jesus for themselves (Psalm 126:3)

4. Glorify Jesus with your life–see number 3 above (Matthew 5:16)

5. Keep your mind like Jesus’s mind–think on the things He thinks on (Philippians 4:8)

6. Forgive EVERYONE always–no exceptions, no exclusions (Matthew 18:22)

7. Love EVERYONE always–no exceptions, no exclusions (Matthew 22:39-40)

8. Seek God, His will and His voice, above all else (Matthew 6:33)

9. Judge NO ONE ever–no exceptions, no exclusions (Matthew 7:1-3)

10. Do not fear (or worry)–this instruction is listed 365 times in the Bible, one for each day of the year. As a favor to you, I will not list them all here (you’re welcome) but if this is your area of struggle, please Google a few

11. Serve God and others (in that order) above self–Don’t neglect your own needs, but your own convenience and appeasement shouldn’t be a top-of-the-list concern. (Matthew 20:26-28)

12. Pray–Duh. (1 John 5:14; James 4:2)

13. Share the gospel! Share the message of Jesus with others and bring the unsaved into salvation–When was the last time you directly talked about Jesus with someone? What about the last time you did so with someone you knew wasn’t a Christian? As scary as it is, we will one day be held very accountable for those times we could have spoken up and shared Jesus but gave in to pressure and fear. (Matthew 28:19-20)

14. Tithe–Because every good and perfect gift is from above, and it’s our job to glorify God with EVERY part of our lives (Psalm 3:9)

Obviously it’s impossible and unfair to summarize what being in relationship with Jesus means by concocting a list of actions to complete, but as James 2 states, if we declare to be believers but our actions don’t support that, our faith doesn’t count. And God doesn’t want us to stop with just these “typical Christian behaviors;” He’s interested in our full obedience.

So back to that aforementioned comment about doing whatever Jesus says to do with regard to our own unique situations. What’s God been pressing upon you to do, my friend? Help a neighbor? Talk sincerely with your spouse about that issue you’ve both been avoiding for far too long? Or what about one of these: seeing a therapist, returning your grocery cart instead of leaving it for someone else to worry about, engaging someone in conversation, letting someone go in front of you in traffic or a checkout line, getting your spending under control, slowing down your life/schedule, taking that new opportunity, staying where you are and learning to fix yourself/your own attitude, eliminating the “victim” mentality you tend to readily adopt, making Jesus more of a priority, putting your phone down…and the list goes on and on. Y’all, there is not much in life that’s super easy. But we’re not here to do it all on our own. Let me give you a little advice that I once got from a pretty smart, godly lady: Whatever Jesus says, do it.

Dear Lord, thank You so very much for the life of Mary and all that I can learn from her. Help me to be like her when difficult, even seemingly impossible circumstances present themselves. Help me to turn to Jesus, to ask for His help, and to walk away from that encounter confident in His ability to provide and care for me. Father God, I ask for Your help with my obedience. I want to stop trying to figure it all out on my own, but more importantly I want to get my direction from You and to be immediately obedient instead of creating justifications and/or excuses for why I can’t possibly do what You’re asking. I love you, Lord, and I pray that I become more and more like Jesus so that my life, too, can glorify You in every way. May my own personal convenience be the last thing I worry about so that I might better care for those around me. It’s in Jesus’s name that I pray. Amen. 

Praise The LORD For Your Soul

Recently, for another blog post, I began researching the multitude of questions Jesus asks throughout His time in the New Testament. While so many are poignant (because that’s how Jesus rolls…loaded questions were His jam!), one really caused me to stop and seriously ponder what a truthful, heart-based, personal answer would sound like. I want to share this same question with you, and I ask that you genuinely pause and reflect upon your response as well. The question from Jesus comes from Matthew 16:15 (the emphasis is mine).

But who do you say that I am?

To me, not much else arrows straight to the root of our personal relationships with Jesus like this direct (and loaded!) question. And given the season that is upon us, the incredible celebration of Easter, I feel that it’s of utmost value (of necessity even!) that we truthfully, authentically, prayerfully answer this question for ourselves. Not to steal Christian comedian John Crist’s catchphrase, but let this question prompt us to check our hearts (and our lives and our thoughts and our words and our actions), to reorder our schedules /priorities/lives so that when our sacrificial Savior asks “But who do you say that I am?” we don’t have to answer back to Him things like “an obligation,” “unimportant,” “not worth my time,” or “someone I don’t ever talk about.”

I’d like to go ahead and warn you upfront (although maybe warn is a bit too strong) that for most of you, this particular post might not be for you. In fact, it might not apply to you much at all, especially if your relationship with Jesus is flourishing and mature. To be honest, it’s that fact that’s kept me from writing this post for several months now. Have y’all ever been there before? Have y’all ever sensed God lead you to do a certain thing, one about which your incredibly wise human brain said, “I don’t think that’s really all that necessary”? Yeah, well. That’s pretty much how I’ve reacted when God’s placed this blog post on my heart: Ya sure about that, God? I mean, like, fully certain? I’m sure You aren’t so I’ll just circle on back around some other time if that’s swell with You. The Holy Spirit did lead me in other (hopefully useful) directions with my writings, but this nudge never went away completely. And I don’t if it’s because God needs to use it right now or if it’s because it’s Easter or what, but apparently ’tis time.

You see, I pushed this idea to the side because I felt like it wouldn’t apply to many of you, as I mentioned before. However, after careful consideration of that biblical question from Jesus, I felt that it was too important to pass up. Besides, God works in ways that I can’t (hallelujah!), so I know that if only one person reads this post today, or in the coming days/weeks, and it touches his/her heart, it was so very worth the rest of us reading a message that may not apply to us.

Friends, while it’s my goal through this blog site to share Jesus in a real-world, relatable way, it’s all pointless if you don’t know Jesus on a personal level, as your very personal Savior. So let me very gently and in a very non-judgmental way ask you a critical question to go along with Jesus’s: Are you saved? Have you declared to God through your words that you believe Jesus is the Son of God, that He came to earth to save us from ourselves and our sinfulness and death by taking our shame and punishment up on that cross? Have you verbally declared that you believe Jesus died on the cross, was placed in the tomb only to defeat death (for good!) by raising from the dead three days later, eventually rising back up into Heaven to stay until He comes back for us one day? If not, if you’ve never made this life-changing declaration, how about today? Dear Beloved by God, how about right now?

Romans 10:9 promises this: If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

John 10:9 says it this way, from the very mouth of Jesus: Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved.

Acts 4:12 uses these words: There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.

And Ephesians 2:9 helps us understand that, Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done…[God] has created us anew in Christ Jesus.

So what’s the commonality here? Jesus Christ. We make it legalistic and complicated, but it’s really very simple. Do you believe Jesus is who He says He is, who the Bible says He is? If so and you feel led to follow the biblical guidelines to salvation, I ask that you just pray this prayer with me (out loud if you are comfortable with that).

Father God, thank You for Your Son–for Jesus Christ. Thank You for His death on the cross and His resurrection three days later. Thank You, Lord, for Your Word which I believe with my whole heart. I accept Jesus as my Savior, Father, and I thank You that all the goodness of Jesus and the guiding force of the Holy Spirit now reside within me. In Jesus’s holy name I prayer this prayer for salvation. Amen.

CONGRATULATIONS! Don’t you feel lighter already? You just signed a covenant with the Maker of the ENTIRE Universe, who loves you, desires you, and is so proud of you! (Be sure and check the bottom of this post for the “Now What?!” section to help you know where to go from here with your newly-accepted salvation.)

While I’m beyond excited and happy to potentially help someone make such an important, life-changing decision, I don’t want to skip past those of us who might be caught up somewhere in the middle. Maybe you prayed a similar prayer for salvation once upon a time and followed it with a relationship with Jesus. But maybe life has happened since then–maybe A LOT of life–and in an effort to keep your other relationships afloat, you’ve let yours with Jesus dissipate. First, before anything else, let me say this very seriously and sternly: GOD IS NOT MAD AT YOU. Zero upset on His part. He misses you. He loves you, and He anxiously awaits a renewing of that dedication to Him and a life full of Him that you once had. All it takes is for you to get tired enough of feeling Satan yank you around, speaking lies, that you change your course. My friend, you cannot do this on your own. It takes you in partnership with God, with Him at the reigns. How do you get there? The same way you get anywhere and everywhere: prayer. And I invite you to say this prayer with me to re-solidify your relationship with your Heavenly Father (again, out loud if you’re comfortable with that):

Dear Lord, I miss You, and I recognize that the distance between us isn’t because You moved away from me. Father, I recognize that I am not meant to do life without You, and I ask for Your help in returning to a right relationship with You. I desire for You to be at the forefront of my life, Lord, but I’m not even sure where to start. I ask today that You please move in my life; forgive me, please, for my choices and my distance. Help me to return to You. I rededicate my life to You, Father God, and I’m so grateful for the open arms with which You greet me today. Thank You for Your Son Jesus, whose death and resurrection make this possible. In His name I pray. Amen.

I trust that within at least one heart a small opening was created, one in which God has shown Himself. I pray that regardless of where your maturity falls with regard to your relationship with Jesus that you spend some intentional, prioritized time this Easter to study the precious Word of God for yourself, instead of letting someone spoon-feed it to you. I pray that during this time, you’ll be reminded of the incredible, unmatched love that He has for you. What a mighty God we serve indeed! Happy Easter, my friends! May you fully encounter Jesus this holiday weekend.

So…..now what?!

If you prayed that prayer with me earlier and accepted Jesus into your heart, you’re probably wondering where to go from here. Biblically, our acceptance of Jesus, our being saved, is a 2-parter. Part one, we have to pray and ask Him into our hearts…so check mark on that! Part one can be done publicly or privately; it counts no matter what. But part two is definitely for public consumption; part two is baptism. If you’ll reach out to a local church or a friend with a home church (or come go to church with me!), you’ll find it’s filled with fellow believers anxious to help you celebrate the private decision you made with public baptism. Trust me.

Afterward–or in the waiting while you’re building up your courage to get your face wet in public–get yourself a Bible, a highlighter, a notebook, and a pen. Set aside time on a DAILY basis to talk to God, to listen to God, and to read His Word. He’ll do the rest. I mean it–He will do ALL of the heavy lifting.

If at any point I can help you, pray for you, or encourage you, you can find me at lindseydt@gmail.com. Please reach out.

I mean, I am so excited! I hope you are, too. Praise the Lord for your soul; it is of UTMOST importance to Him. Now go celebrate Easter like never before. 🙂