Ready for change?

 

“. . . wash me and I will be whiter than snow.” – Psalm 51:7b

I remember beginning my prayer time that day with praise. Then I began confessing sins, naming ways in which I felt I was failing God: areas of self-control, worry, lack of compassion, not sharing his message with others. I was about to go on when he stopped me with something like this:

“You have one underlying problem: Not loving me with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Forget the list. Focus instead on knowing and loving me. All else will flow from that. Over time, the list of sins won’t be as important to you, but I will become most important. That’s what I want and what you need – for me to be your everything.”

We all have sins that need to be forgiven. The Bible does tell us to confess our sins. But on that day, God wanted me to take my eyes off my own failings and look at him instead. The ultimate goal, after all, is to become like Jesus. If we keep looking at ourselves, we’ll miss what he wants us to become. Over time, as I continue gazing at him, I begin to realize I am becoming calmer. I feel more concern for others. I am more self-controlled, and more likely to tell someone else about him and what he means to me.

It’s not that we don’t have to change – but God’s way of changing us is more effective than ours. And he does it by loving us, dirt and all, and inviting us into relationship with him. It seems our first step toward change is doing our best to love him with everything we’ve got!

“Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other needs.” – George MacDonald

 

What do you want?

“It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.” – 2 Samuel 22:33

Are you satisfied with your life? Too often, we live with general discontent without stopping identify what its cause may be. One day, two men began to follow Jesus, when he turned around and asked, “What do you want?” (John 1:38). He was challenging them to think about what they were doing!

If life is not all you want it to be right now, maybe Jesus’ question is for you today. What do you want?  What  is your deepest need? Maybe you, too, need to think about what you’re doing day by day.

In a quiet place, evaluate how you spend your time, then ask: What kind of activities, interactions, or thoughts make me feel

  • happy?
  • anxious?
  • secure?
  • stressed?
  • confident?
  • loved?
  • that my life is making a difference?

Do your answers to these questions give you some hints as to your true needs? If your greatest desires are for wealth, fame, or influence, Jesus is not your answer. But, if you want love, peace, security, joy, or purpose, you’ll find it all in him. God is love. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, the Holy Spirit brings joy and contentment, and following God’s path gives meaning and purpose we cannot find without him.

As you gain insight into the greatest needs or wants in your life,  ask God to show you how those desires can be fulfilled. By striving, working harder, looking for approval from others? Or by resting in the love and mercy of our Father in Heaven? By following the teachings and example of Jesus? Once you know what you really want, he makes the way clear.

“I’m learning the importance of pressing God for more. I want all he has to give.” – Margaret Feinberg

Shall we dance?

“Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” – Jeremiah 31:13

I have a dear friend who loves Jesus a lot. She shared something with me she had told no one else and now she’s given me permission to share it with you: She dances with Jesus.

“We slow dance (to the music of) certain songs or hymns we sing at church. I close my eyes and I can feel His shoulder, and His cheek against my hair, and we move to the music.  It’s so dear. And in those brief moments I feel He loves me so much.”

Her message awakened my soul! It spoke of slowing down, of giving Jesus my time and full attention, of feeling at my core how much he wants to be close to me.

Sometimes we use our sanctified imagination to be able to feel his nearness. Music enhances that sense. Movement makes it part of our very being. Dancing may be the God-ordained way to soothe our souls, energize our bodies, and connect our hearts with our heavenly Lover.

The Bible clearly endorses dancing as an expression of our heart toward God:

“Let them praise his name with dancing . . .” – Psalm 149:3a
“You turned my wailing into dancing . . .” – Psalm 30:11a

“Praise him with tambourine and dancing.” – Psalm 150:4a

Maybe for you it’s a joy that requires you to move in energetic expression. For others, it may be sensing God’s love, as shown in a slow, meditative movement. Don’t be afraid to dance your way into God’s presence. I think he loves it when we do that!

“Dance is meditation in movement, a walking into silence where every movement becomes prayer.” – Bernhard Wosien

 

#dancingwithjesus

Do you really know why Jesus came?

“. . . to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” – John 1:12

If I had lived when Jesus was here and if I knew he was God, I think I would have been afraid. If God is holy and all-knowing, he must surely be angry at humans. But no! The good news is he came to do away with sin, not us! His disciple John explains it this way: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8b).

John also tells us Jesus came, not to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17).  He knew the world was a mess and we humans are a mess, but he put the blame exactly where it belongs: on Satan! He came to free his children from Satan’s grasp, to invite us into relationship with himself, and to make us better people. He came to reveal the irrational love of the Father for all his children trapped in a world of evil. He came to love us, not to hurt us.

Every human since has had to decide how to respond.  At some point, we’ll be accountable for the choice we made: Did we choose to allow him to free us from sin’s stranglehold, or did we choose to continue on a hopeless path without him? We’re not responsible to untangle ourselves from all the trouble sin brings, but we are responsible for the choice we make about Jesus and his invitation to be his.

I hope you choose Jesus this Christmas. And if you already know him, choose to know him better!

“The loving mission of our Lord Jesus Christ was not to condemn but to forgive and reclaim.”A. W. Tozer

 

#Jesus

#Christmas

The Best Gift Giver

    “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:11

Don’t you love to get gifts? And to give them?

Both giving and receiving gifts seems to be pretty important to God. When the Tabernacle was being built, He asked people to bring gifts that could be used to make the structure and the furnishings. He referred to many of the animal and grain sacrifices as gifts to Him. The Magi brought gifts to honor Jesus’ coming to earth. Paul gathered gifts from churches to help the suffering Christians in Jerusalem. Cornelius was commended for his gifts to the poor.

We see that humans can give generously, but, by far, the greatest giver is God Himself. Let’s think about God’s some of amazing gifts to us:

Creation: We look at it, learn about it, enjoy it.

His Word: It’s our privilege to read and meditate on it.

Jesus: And, through Him, eternal life.

Forgiveness: Guilt, sins – gone, paid for, erased.

Life: We breathe, behave, and relate because of this great gift.

Second chances: This is a gift some of us open over and over again!

Prayer: Communion with our Creator, Savior, Friend. Don’t let this one get dusty!

Family, friends: The joy of community, a gift from the Trinity.

Holy Spirit: Joyfully responding in amazement to God living within us.

That’s quite a list, but God’s not done giving gifts yet – some of them are especially selected for you or me. Let’s look for them and, then, respond in thanksgiving always!

 “When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” –G.K. Chesterton

#thanksgiving #giftsfromgod

He’s listening.

“Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord.” – Psalm 139:4

Our words matter – whether delivered by mouth, text, or email. We’ve all experienced the power of words, haven’t we? They can hurt or heal, encourage or crush, amaze or bore. They can calm an argument or stir up trouble. Words matter to all of us, and, amazingly, they matter to God. Here’s an example:

The world seemed upside down in ancient Israel: Bad people were prospering and were not being held accountable. Malachi 3:13-16 tells us about it. We read that God was angry because people in Israel were criticizing Him. “You have said harsh things against me, says the Lord . . . you have said ‘it is futile to serve God . . .'”

But there were some who saw it differently. Who realized God was sovereign and worth serving just because He was God. They started talking to each other and Malachi says, “The Lord listened and heard.” He goes on to say that God took note that they “feared the Lord and honored His name.”

God takes note of our words. Kind of scary, isn’t it? But not surprising to know that He’s listening. I think the prayer below might be a good one for all of us to pray today:

“O, Word Made Flesh, stand guard at the gate of my mouth.

Be my voice this day that the words I speak will be healing, affirming, true, and gentle.

Give me wisdom to think before I speak.

Bless the words in me that are waiting to be spoken.

Live and abide in my words so others will feel safe in my presence.

Surprise me with words that come from You. . .

May my words become love in the lives of others.”  – Macrina Wiederkehr

 

#words

Love Songs

“I will sing a new song to you, O God.” – Psalm 144:9

I’ve been alone in the house a lot lately and find myself walking around singing to God. And the songs are not always hymns. Here was this morning’s melody, internally playing as I woke up:  “You make me so very happy. I’m so glad you came into my life.” (1)  I know it’s a secular love song, but for me, it applies to God, too. And I want Him to know how I feel.

Here’s another I like singing to Him:

You are so beautiful
To me
You are so beautiful
To me
Can’t you see?

You’re everything I hope for
You’re everything I need.
You are so beautiful to me
You are so beautiful to me (2)

He is everything I hope for and need and I want Him to know that I know it!

I’m not trivializing my relationship with God, but how do we show someone how much we love them? By giving, serving, listening, being faithful, and singing love songs. The longest book in the Bible is the book of Psalms – a hymnbook, really. So let’s sing. Maybe the more traditional songs are better, but I think God likes any sincere expression of love we give Him. And sometimes it’s just easier to sing our love than to say it.

Let’s make it a singing day today and, if this one is more your style, I think He’d like that, too:

I love you, Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship You
Oh, my soul, rejoice!

Take joy my King
In what You hear
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound
In Your ear (3)

“Those who wish to sing always find a song.” – Swedish Proverb

“God is still worthy of our highest, purest, strongest emotions. Singing helps express and ignite them.” – Bob Kauflin

 

  1. From You’ve Made Me so Very Happy by Brenda Holloway
  2. From You are so Beautiful by Joe Cocker
  3. From I Love You, Lord byPetra Lyrics