The Lies We Tell Ourselves

My wonderful husband took me out to dinner this week (he knows how much I love to eat out!). We went to a restaurant that neither of us had been to before and ordered the special. It was amazing! It was a fairly healthy meal (meat, rice, and veggies) and I ate as much as I could, but still couldn’t finish all that was on my plate. My tummy hurt I was so full. But then, the dessert tray came around. And there, calling my name, was a creme brulee cheesecake. Well, what did I do? I took the cheesecake, of course! There was no decision making to do. Why? Because I always take the cheesecake. It didn’t mater that there wasn’t another ounce of space in my stomach for it. It didn’t matter that I know that I need to be dairy free or I will pay later. It didn’t matter that the calories would go right to my butt. It doesn’t matter that my butt is already the shape and texture of a cheesecake! I always take the cheesecake. It is my practice. My tongue wins out over my health every time. I tell myself that next time I will resist. Or that next time I will really be dairy free. And then I have the gall to pray and ask God not to have it land on my hips!

I like to think that I am healthy. I know how to make healthy meals, I love salad, and I have been known to work out occasionally. But, if you actually watch me, or if I were to take accurate account of my meals and snacks and exercise (or lack thereof), it would not be difficult to come to the conclusion that I am anything but healthy. The occasional incidence of healthiness does not make my lifestyle healthy. And no matter how good I may have been this week or month, if the cheesecake shows up…. I am taking it!

Our pastor this past week was preaching about walking the talk. God call us to live out our faith, not simply to say we believe, but actually to live that way. I admired his boldness as he called the church to repentance. What is God pointing out in my life that I need to deal with in order to live for Him more appropriately?

1John 1:5-9 says:

“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

We are entering a season where there is no grey. There is only black and white. There is no more room for mediocre Christianity. You are either in Christ or you are not. John continues in 1 John 5:11-12: “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Christians around the world are being persecuted for their faith. We are also being persecuted here, only a little more covertly. But if it is our practice to be “Christians” only between 10 and noon on Sunday mornings, and the rest of the time live for ourselves, what will we choose when persecution comes our way? When it is our friendships, our jobs, our homes, our freedom or our very lives? If it is our practice to live for ourselves, we will choose ourselves over God. The cheesecake will win every time. Do not be deceived – we will do what we always do.

So where do we go from here? I believe we must start again with the fundamentals. First choose your god – as Joshua lays the choice before us (24:14-15): “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Then we need to make it our practice to stay away from the old gods and seek only after the real God. Joshua continues (24:23) “Now therefore, he said, put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord God of Isreal.” There will be some repenting required here and some resetting of priorities.

The writer of Deuteronomy presented the same decision before the people, the same one that we have before us today, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them” (30:19-20).

Choosing God is not a simply a declaration, but a lifestyle. I know that God has spoken to me about areas that need refining. And God is faithful. If I seek Him, I will find Him, and the abundant life that He promises. What will you choose?

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The Power of Praise

I was sitting outside this morning trying not to feel sick. I have been particularly ill this week and I was hoping to forget about it for a while so I sat outside watching the wind blowing the trees. It reminded me of the power of the wind to move the large trees around and how much like God it is. Unseen, yet powerful. I started to praise God for the wind, the trees and His power to move them all. As I praised, I started to feel better. God reminded me of the power of praise. I don’t simply have to be an observer of God’s power as I watch Him work. I can participate by tapping into His power. The gateway to God’s power is through praise. Jesus taught us that in the Lord’s Prayer. As we lift our hearts in praise we step into the presence of God. Here anything is possible. What do you need today? Healing? Comfort? Joy? Strength? Love? Encouragement? Lift your heart in praise. You will find everything you need. Here is my most favorite song to help you step into the presence of the Lord. He is all you need!

Critically Low Battery

Critically Low Battery – that’s what my laptop said as I pulled it out to write. And I thought… you know, that describes the way I am feeling right now very well! Isn’t it amazing that our mountaintop experiences are often followed by a walk through the valley? Or is that only me? The last couple weeks I have experienced more of God than any other time in my life, and this week I feel so completely disconnected. There have even been moments where I have felt smothered in a massive cloak of despair and sadness – but for no reason. I have realized that the person that I need to “speak life” to this week – is me. I needed reminding that God is still here. I am looking in the wrong direction. It is almost miraculous the way the burden lifts from my heart the moment I begin to praise the Lord. It is like the light turns on and casts out the darkness that has surrounded me. Suddenly there is joy and peace.

I am thankful that these moments are now more brief than they used to be. I find that I hear the voice of God more clearly – even through the fog, so that I can respond and begin walking in the light again. But I completely understand the way one can be overwhelmed by the darkness. i used to get that way. I always felt like I was drowning. The surface just out of reach. All of the worries and tasks seem to push out God’s voice, but now, I have been reminded to  “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt 6:33). When I am swallowed up in self pity, I can still make my way to the CD player and put on a praise song. Then as I worship, the cloud lifts and I find strength for the day. God is so faithful!

There is an old song I heard about being on the mountaintop and that if we stayed there then no one else would know that they could go there. We need to come down to tell them. I need to come down and walk through these valleys – the same ones that others walk – but walk them with hope and joy and peace, knowing that I do not walk them alone. It is this hope that I must communicate to others. It is this hope that will draw others to the Lord. As much as I might like to stay on the mountaintop with the Lord, I was created to show others the way. Lord, let me walk these valleys with purpose and find my way back to the mountaintop – with a whole group of friends!

Free to Love

Now that I have been filled with the Spirit, I am experiencing levels of freedom I have never known before. I am enjoying physical freedom in the wearing of scarves. For me, the scarf represents a final release from bondage that has lasted more than 25 years. But there are also other bonds that the Spirit is releasing me from – ones I didn’t realize I even had.

My first husband made it very clear that he didn’t love me – never loved me. And living in that reality day in and day out, I learned to build walls around my heart to survive. I told myself that I didn’t need love, I was fine without it. It didn’t matter. I was tough. I built the walls high and fortified them well. The problem is, as humans, we need love. Without it we may be alive, but we don’t live. We wither. Our hearts grow cold. What I didn’t realize was that in all my efforts to protect my heart, I built walls so thick that I made it difficult to express my own love. My emotions became stunted, my outlook – cynical, my humor – sarcastic and my first reactions to anything – defensive and angry. These walls ended up trapping me in a dungeon of my own making.

Since love is one of our basic human needs, is it any surprize that God is described as love? (1John 4:8). A relationship with Him is one of our basic human needs. Without it, we never fully live. We were designed to be loved by Him. That love becomes the rock that we cling to in the storms of life and the cornerstone that we build our lives on. Without it we are in a constant free fall. Ungrounded. Sinking into chaos. Being able to fully experience God’s love and express that love to others is part of the work of the Spirit. In order for that to happen in me, the walls need to come down. No matter how many gifts or fruit of the Spirit I may be given, without love, they are useless (1Cor 13:1).

The Word tells us that “who the Son sets free is free indeed” (John 8:36). I have already been freed from my self-made prison. The habits of cynicism, sarcasm, and anger are fading. But I find myself at a loss. While I am free to love, I am not sure I know how. How do I tell you that I care? How do I show you? I feel like a teenager at my first job – not knowing how to do anything. How awkward! The love I feel is genuine, but I am so inexperienced in the delivery of it. I have started though with the advise of James, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (1:19). As well, with the direction given to the Ephesians, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (4:29). That in itself with be a challenge! But I draw strength from the Lord each time I sit at His feet and am flooded with peace and experience the depth of His love for me. I am no longer withered, but blossoming. I am free to love and be loved!

I have been getting inspiration for this part of my journey from TobyMAC and his song, Speak Life. Have a listen: