Mountain tops, desserts and valleys…….

jesus-lover-of-my-soulI grew up in church, I can’t remember a time in my childhood when I wasn’t in church. We went three times a week, rain or shine. And it was a great church. I have such wonderful memories of this time. It was here that God began a work in me, a work He would be faithful to complete.

In college, like many teens, I drifted away from God. Beginning to do my own thing, and for the first time ever I wasn’t in church. I was living for me.

But God…

He wasn’t finished with me. He was not willing to let me go my own way. The Bible says that the one He loves, He disciplines. And God brought discipline into my life by taking from me people whom I loved, who meant the world to me.

And by doing this, He drew me back. He stirred the dying embers of my heart, and established in my heart, in my life an amazing love for Himself. Though alone, He was my best friend. My highlight of the day was my quiet time alone with Him. He was the lover of my soul.

Fast forward a few years and I was found in Seminary, training to serve the Lord overseas. Daily, I was able to sit in chapel, and hear God’s Word preached. Daily, I was able to sing praises to Him.

Then I graduated, got married,had a little boy, and off we went to serve our first church.

And life was not the same, not so easy.

The busyness of life seemed to interfere with my walk, with my passion for the Lord.

And through the years since this time, serving in other churches, living overseas. When I look back it seems my walk with the Lord, my passion for Him has been a roller coaster.

Sometimes, it has been high. When it seems the communion with the Lord is so close, so intimate. Then there have been times when it has been low, when the Lord has seemed so far removed, so far away. And there have certainly been times of plateau. Times when I was neither hot, nor cold, but lukewarm. Found to be doing what is expected, found to be going through the motions, and yet missing HIM.

This morning as I sat in church and sang, my heart was yearning for HIM. And I was reminded as I sat there of the times in my life when my walk with the Lord was closer, more intimate. And I longed for that now.

Having served the Lord full-time for about 17 years now, I know that there are mountain tops, there are desert times and there are valleys. I realize that we don’t live on the mountain tops, nor in the desert. But that most of that time we are in the valley.

Yet, I realize that even in the valley, no especially in the valley, God is still at work.

Though I’d love to experience the mountain tops more. I’m also aware of the fact that if I lived there, I would need Him less.  Though I’d rather avoid the desert, I know that without the desert I’d never learn to depend on Him. And I know that God uses the mountains and the dessert to prepare me to live daily in the valley.

Just as there are seasons in life, there are seasons in our walk with the Lord. Yet, that does not mean we must not seek Him. God puts that yearning in our hearts for those closer times, so that we will draw near to Him. He reminds us of the mountain tops, and invites us to come away with Him.

As I look back on my life, one thing is for certain, the work He began, He has been faithful to continue, and though He is not done with me yet,I know He will be faithful to complete what He started.

And the same is true of you…

Don’t let the business of life keep you from your true Love. Don’t let the rituals of worship keep you from the Lover of your Soul.

Seek Him, seek the things of Him, and watch as the things of this world become insignificant as you realize the significance of the One you serve. The One who loves you despite yourself, who died in your place, who paid your ransom, and who longs to be your greatest desire.

 

Advertisements

Living Holy, living forgiven!

living-holyAs I have been working my way through Leviticus, I’ve noticed a theme. God’s call for His people to be holy. He gives them rules to follow, so that they will be holy. Yet, as I read all these rules, I realize what an impossible thing He has asked of them. An impossible thing He has asked of all of us, since we also are told to be holy because He is holy. Or is it?

Today I was having a Bible study with a friend via Skype, and as we looked at Ephesians 1, I was reminded and exhilarated by the fact that we are holy because of Christ. In Christ, we are blameless, holy, redeemed and forgiven. Not because of us, but all because of Him.

God has not asked us to do the impossible, He has done the impossible for us, through Christ!

Yet, if your anything like me, you still try to make yourself holy. Oh you know what I mean. You seemingly think that God loves you more when you follow the rules and that He must not love you nearly as much when you have a bad day.

But we have it all wrong, because God’s love for us does not change!

The enemy would rather us believe the lie. He longs for us to believe we are not good enough, that God is angry with us, that we have failed way too many times for God to ever use us. He wants us to beat ourselves up, because what he really wants is for us to quit on the Lord. To just live for ourselves, rather than living for the Lord. If he can get us to do this, he has won. We are no longer his enemy, we have become his friend.

But, God has not called us to that. He has made us holy and blameless so that we will live for Him and His glory. He has redeemed us and forgiven us to glorify His name, and so that our lives may glorify His name.

We can not earn God’s love, because He freely gave us His love.

We can’t be good enough, we will always fall short. Yet, that’s why when we were enemies of God, Christ died in our place.

He doesn’t want us to perform, He wants us to surrender all to Him.

Before the foundation of the world, He chose you. He called you and set you apart for His purposes, for His good works which He had planned for you (Ephesians 1).

Why you might ask?

For His praise and for His glory. Everything God does, He does for His name sake. He does to make Himself known. He does for His honor and His glory. Because only He is worthy!

So today, I encourage you to be who God has called you to be. 

Live forgiven, live blameless, live holy!

Because everything that you are not.. Christ is!

The Levitical Laws and Today

bible studyBack in January, I began reading through my Chronological Bible again, which I love. Yet, there are certain times in the year when this reading gets a bit difficult. For instance now, reading through Leviticus. I diligently plow on through, but often wonder if or how it applies.

But then things like what I read today, leap from the page, and I realize, it does certainly apply.

Today I was reading along and came upon this verse,

You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.” Lev. 15:31

As I read this I realized how relevant to us as Christians this verse is. Now obviously we do not have to follow the same ceremonial cleansing periods they did in the OT times, and certainly the foods we eat, clothes we wear etc do not make us unclean. Yet, this isn’t the point God was speaking to my heart about.

In the OT times, these things did make them unclean, and so God is telling Moses to keep them separate from the things that would make them unclean, so they could enter into His presence.

And though the rules don’t apply to us, the concept certainly does. For just as they were to keep themselves from things that would make them unclean. So also, should we not keep ourselves from things that cause us to sin. For just as their uncleanliness kept them from the Lord’s presence, so sin keeps us from meeting with God.

Jesus even spoke on a related subject in the New Testament, when He said if your eyes causes you to sin, pluck it out. If your arm causes you to sin, cut it off. Pretty strong words, that depict the seriousness of sin.

As I thought on this, the Lord spoke to my heart telling me that I too must keep myself from things that lead me to sin. Be it the movies I watch, the music I listen to, the books I read, the people I hang out with etc.

If any of the above things, cause me to sin and make me unclean. I should have no part of them.

And I would venture to say that this same concept applies to all believers and not just me.

So, how serious are we about sin? Are we concerned that it keeps us from God’s presence or do we shrug it off, blame it on others or make excuses for it?

Thankfully we do live in the New Testament times, and no longer must follow all the laws given in Leviticus. Nevertheless, keeping ourselves from sin should be important to us. Necessary for us, so that we might enjoy living in His presence.

So yes, reading through some portions of Scripture are definitely more difficult than others.. they are still God’s Word. His Word which is still living and active and useful for our teaching, correcting and rebuking.

May we too throw off all sin that entangles us and may we run the race Christ has given to us to run.. for His glory!

Love for the refugee

refugeeI have been avoiding writing on the new hot topic of refugees, but as I came across a few verses in my Bible reading today, I felt the urge to share my heart.

For one as a Christian the Bible says, “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him (Exodus 22:21).” Again in verse 9 of chapter 23 it says it again, “Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.”

Now, building a wall to keep the illegal out (whether you agree or don’t agree with this) I don’t think violates this law, neither does doing a background check on those coming into the country to keep the country safe.

However, what does violate this law is mistreating and oppressing the refugee. And is seen in the discrimination and ill-treatment towards certain people. I get it really, there is a fear I see in the eyes of many today toward the Muslim. But we must understand that the stories we read online and see in the news represent only a few of these people. But certainly not all.

Today more than in any other time, the Muslim in areas of the world before unaccessible to the Gospel, have become accessible. And today these people who for years have been hardened towards the Gospel, are open.

We can not live in fear of the refugee. We must go to them, reach out to them, and include them in our lives. As we do I believe the Lord can and will draw them to Himself. See, we are not the only victims. They are victims too, loosing their homes, their businesses, their loved ones, their very lives at the hands of extremist, who are contrary to who they are.

I’m not saying we must let any and all refugees in. I’m not even saying that it is wrong to keep some out (those who are a sincere threat). But what I am saying is the time is now for us to reach out to the ones who are in our cities, our towns, and our country. The time is now for many of us to go to these once closed places and take the Gospel to those who are now open to hearing of Christ.

Living abroad has taught me much about what it is like to be the alien. What it is like to live as a foreigner. I’ve learned how badly one longs for the comforts of their home. I’ve learned that living in a place where you don’t fully understand the language is beyond difficult. I’ve also learned how lonely it can be at times, and how you desire good friends.

As Christians, we can not close our eyes to those the Lord has allowed into our cities, town, and countries.  When in seminary, a professor once made the statement that because so many have refused to go to “them”, He was bringing “them” to us. And this was well over 10 years ago. It is safe to say He has indeed done just that.

The oppressed, the alien, the refugee, they need the love that only we can give to them. The love found only in Christ. The One who left everything and came to us, so that we might have life eternal.

How can we not do the same?

So what is the answer to all the debatable issues in the news? I don’t know all the answers. Yet, I do know that as Christians we are called to love, to serve, to pray for, and to tell His marvelous story to all peoples.