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Jesus is Enough

Jesus is Enough

Today is the anniversary of my dad meeting Jesus face to face. What an impossibly glorious thought of what this past year must have been like for my dad as he worshipped his creator in his new and perfectly whole body, now living in paradise. My heart is overjoyed at the thought of my amazing earthly father residing with my all powerful and perfectly holy Heavenly Father. I find myself longing to be in such company, along with the angels and all those that have gone on before us to their eternal glory worshipping the one true Creator.

Life if full of ups and downs, highs and lows. It just is. Everyone will face moments of absolute joy, finding delight in beautiful moments gifted to us by God, but there will also be devastating set backs and heartache to endure.

I have experienced both. Joy and heartache, delight and devastation. Jesus is in them both. His presence should not be taken for granted, lost or forgotten in either circumstance, good or bad.

As I’ve wrestled with my faith the past couple of years I am profoundly strengthened and encouraged because of the wrestle. I’ve been embarrassed and felt ashamed when my reality was one of incredible doubt and endless questions. When I’ve wavered and asked God the tough questions, God was not mad at me. He did not get offended or flee from me. He showed me absolute mercy and grace when my foundation seemed to be crumbling.

In a purely miraculous way, my faith was being restored and strengthened, the struggle and wrestling forced me to deconstruct my faith and start the construction process back to my first love. Jesus has not changed, He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He’s not afraid of my struggle and insecurities, He’s right there…in life and in death.

I’ll never forget the moment I got the phone call about my dad’s passing. His death was expected and we had gathered with him for months just about everyday thinking it was the end. We actually joked about the fact that we had said our “good byes” numerous times, my poor dad was probably tired of hearing our “It’s ok to let go” speech. He had a fabulous sense of humor and I think that’s what I miss the most.

Those days we watched my dad slowly and painfully lose his battle with ALS were long and terrible, they were gut wrenching. But I have learned many lessons, I have grown in my relationship with my God and my family and the brave friends that stood beside our family when we could barely function. Most of all I learned that Jesus is enough.

My dad knew that Jesus was enough. He served him faithfully even to the end. I know it wasn’t easy for him, I know that he wanted to be strong for us. I also know that he chose God even when he may not have felt like it – the end of his life was heartbreaking. It just was. You can’t sugar coat the ugliness of disease and isolation of death. He wasn’t able to speak, but I know he would have proclaimed that Jesus is enough. I know this was not what he wanted the end of his life to look like, I’m sure he had disappointments. There were tears and there were times of uncertainty but… Jesus is enough.

If you are struggling with grief, if you are experiencing a terrible life altering circumstance please know that it’s ok. The struggle is ok. You will grow in the struggle. You will grow in the devastation. You will have questions and will struggle with your faith. Your faith will be strengthened. Please don’t feel guilty but know that God loves you and most importantly that Jesus is enough.

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ELOHIM

Elohim is a hebrew word for God, it means mighty one, creator of the universe.  As we have started a new year, I’ve been so focused on the holiness and power of God.  I love that just as we are starting a new year on our calendar, the Bible starts with Genesis and the story of the creation of the world.  Genesis 1 is a powerful account of God making our universe, our planet, our entire world.  That’s pretty amazing, I often take for granted the absolute power of Elohim, our Creator, the maker of the earth.  Elohim stands above all others, He’s the picture of perfect love, wrath, justice and complete sovereignty.  He has no equal.

Do we adequately fear God?  Our culture is consumed with love for ourselves and our comfort, acceptance of any philosophy and doing what makes us happy, trying to be constantly politically correct.  God is none of those things.

I love how C.S. Lewis illustrates God’s power through the character of Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  When Mr. Beaver tells Susan that Aslan is a great lion, she seems surprised and seemingly intimidated.  She expresses that she is nervous about meeting a lion and asks if Aslan is safe.  I love Mr. Beaver’s response: “Safe? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.  He’s the King.”

To be a just God, He must be good.  He must be a God of Love but He must also be a God of wrath.  Administration of perfect justice requires both.  It defines and separates right from wrong. I often find comfort in the goodness of God but probably don’t focus on the absolute holiness of God enough.  Our God, the maker of heaven and earth (Elohim) needs nothing from us, but because of His goodness and love for us, desires to have a relationship with us.

I am learning to respect the holiness of God, to have a healthy fear of Elohim and His power.  I am also falling more in love with my creator and desiring to be closer to Him in my day to day routine.

The fact that God, in His ultimate wisdom and compassion for His children, sent His Son to die for us so that we could experience eternal joy is absolutely mind blowing.  Cling to God and His love for you.  Respect the holiness and wrath of our sovereign maker, develop a healthy fear and reverence for Elohim.  Draw near to Him.  My prayer for this new year is that I would recognize God’s holiness and serve Him because He is perfect love.

…and because He is good.

Psalm 96:12-13

12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
    let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
    he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
    and the peoples in his faithfulness.

 

John 1:1-5

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Romans 2:3-5

So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Prayer and Repentance

2 Chronicles 7:14 English Standard Version (ESV) 
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.If my people would humble themselves and pray.

Sometimes God speaks to us in ways that are undeniable. Not in a spooky audible way, but through Scripture and by interrupting our daily “flow” by putting something on our hearts and mind during our usual routine or in times of prayer and intercession. Lately I feel like every scripture I read, every book I pick up, and every podcast I listen to leads me to desire a more simplistic and holy lifestyle or prayer and repentance.

If I’m honest with myself, I’m a mess constantly trying to solve my problems and difficult circumstances of life on my own, leaving me tired and insecure. I scheme and worry, I desire my own comfort over care for others and living the lifestyle Jesus calls us to in His Word. I’m thinking of my self most of time and neglect to focus on what matters most and what matters eternally.

I do desire a closer walk with God, but oftentimes I don’t desire it enough to actually put the work into it. As I read scripture and spend more time with God, I’m reminded that it’s really a simple solution. More time spent in PRAYER and STUDYING GOD’S WORD. I think we all know this, it’s no big surprise or mind blowing lightbulb moment.

If it’s so simple, why don’t we do it?

We heard a well known pastor and author speak last night and his message was a call for prayer and repentance. Not for unbelievers or people trapped in a terrible life of sin. This was a call for God’s people to pray and repent… church leaders, pastors and those that have put their faith in Christ and have been serving Him for years.

I think for those of us that have put our trust in God and have been serving Him for a long time, I think we get complacent in our faith. It’s easy to fall into the snares of this world and place all of our energy and time into things that don’t matter one bit or have eternal value. There are so many activities (even church activities), and distractions that are constantly coming at us from every direction. If we’re not careful, those things become our god and what’s even worse is that we don’t even realize it.

It’s hard to pray and read the Bible because sometimes God’s instruction through his Word can be hard to process and even more difficult to do!

Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Mark 8:35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Matthew 10:38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
Philippians 2:1-30 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, …
1 Corinthians 15:31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!

God calls us to die to sin and that’s just not always popular or fun, actually it’s probably never popular or fun. But it is essential to live the life that Christ has called us to live if we put our trust in Him.

Here are a few notes from last night’s speaker that are so valuable and timely as we try and live out our faith each day:

  • If we want to live as Christ, we must die to sin
  • Recognize the fact that we are prone to sin, but to hate that. We have to run from sin and not toy with it.
  • Our western church culture does not have a hatred for sin. We show up for church week after week just going through the motions.
  • We need a prayerful desperation for God
  • Prayer is death to self, lack of prayer is pride, thinking we can do it ourselves.

I know these are heavy concepts but God has set us up as Christians with all the tools we need to succeed in this life. Yes, we will fail and sin, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23. But for us, the good news is that Christ took on our sin and died for us, He’s already won the battle, we just have to stay focused on him. We have an eternal paradise with Him to look forward to. It’s a daily discipline to pray and stay in God’s Word, but it is so essential for our spiritual health and to stay focused, not wasting the time God has blessed us with here on this earth.

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Forgiveness

Do you find it hard to forgive? I do, especially when the transgression against me (in my opinion) justifies my unforgiveness. I’m not talking about petty infractions that are a nuisance in our relationships, but deep hurts that keep you up at night.

I recognize that my capacity to forgive with my own will or strength of character is severely limited. In fact, it may even be impossible in some situations. I find myself praying a lot about forgiveness, what it means, how to do it and desiring to be the person God has called me to be.

I know that being a Christian requires the act of forgiveness. We are called to forgive others because Christ first forgave us! I know I do not deserve God’s forgiveness, I didn’t deserve His sacrificial act of suffering and dying on the cross for my sins. Romans 5:8 tells me that, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Just understanding that should make it simple for me to extend that grace to someone else. Unfortunately I still struggle with it.

Recently I was praying and asking God to give me strength to forgive and just really digging in deep with God and asking Him to help me in this area. As I prayed I felt God ask me a very direct question. “But do you WANT to forgive?” Such an obvious question really, but as I let the question burrow deep down into my heart and soul, I knew the answer was no.

Have you ever battled with depression or times in your life, possibly because of negative circumstances, when you just feel like you will never break through to a better place emotionally? I’ve been there. Dark places that feel as if it will take too much emotional effort to escape, the feelings of complete emotional exhaustion.  I’ve felt that the pain and sadness start to feel normal, an unwanted companion that I can’t break free from, so I just let it settle in.

Forgiveness takes work. I don’t want to do the work. I don’t want the person that hurt me to have license to do it again, or to feel as if I’ve excused the hurtful act and I’m ok with it. I found myself in a deep cavern of unforgiveness with no desire to claw my way out, it was simply too much work. My immature view of forgiveness hinders my ability to put others before myself. It truly limits my effectiveness as a Christian.

So my prayer changed. My prayer turned to asking God to help me WANT to forgive. No matter how long the process will take or how difficult the journey will be, I desire to have grace and forgiveness for others. I WANT to see God restore relationships, to resolve division, and provide avenues of healing to begin in my heart as well as those I love. For me, I know that I NEED forgiveness. I am a terrible sinner that is only saved by God’s grace. My desire is to be the women God wants me to be and I know that is impossible if I cannot forgive.

The only way to achieve forgiveness is to ask Christ for His help, I need His strength. I want a heart that is full of love and a desire to serve others. To see people the way Christ sees them. I’m no better than anyone else, we all need the grace and forgiveness that Christ died on the cross to provide for us. My prayer today is that God will forgive me and work on MY heart so that I will WANT to forgive.

Matthew 6:14-15
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Ephesians 4:31-32
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

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We are Called to do Hard Things

This year as we have endured some very tragic and difficult circumstances, because of this God has been teaching me some very critical spiritual lessons. One of them is that we are called to do hard things.

I thought about so many larger than life examples in the Bible of people doing hard things.  The Bible is filled from cover to cover with inspirational stories of perseverance, faith and courage. But I’ve really been thinking a lot about young Esther. Esther was called to do something remarkably hard that required sheer bravery, skilled planning and ultimately displayed a deep love for her people. This young inexperienced girl found herself in a role she didn’t want as queen and in a situation that required exceptional bravery . So much so that an entire book of the Old Testament was named after her and her story.

I was reading through the book of Esther recently hoping to gain fresh insight on how she was able to face her problem head on with such strength, grace and wisdom. Esther was a Jewish orphan being raised by her Uncle Mordecai, she was thrown unwillingly into the role of queen because of her beauty after her predecessor was disobedient to the King’s orders and de throned. Esther was a Jew, the King was Persian and unaware of his new bride’s Jewish heritage. Because of some very bad advice from the Kings most powerful advisor, Haman, the King agreed to destroy the Jews in all the empire. Haman’s hate for the Jews was simply because of Mordecai’s love for God and refusal to bow down to Haman.

Mordecai asked Queen Esther to approach the King on behalf of all the Jews facing annihilation and ask for the King to revoke His decree. Unfortunately for Queen Esther it was a veritable death sentence to approach the King without being summoned. Many amazing circumstances happen throughout the rest of the story. Spoiler Alert…Esther lives and she and her uncle both find extraordinary favor with the King and the Jewish people are saved, while their persecutor, Haman is not. Please read the book of Esther, YOU WILL LOVE IT!

It’s a short but intense book in the Old Testament, one that has many twists and turns. There’s extreme irony in the conclusion and God uses a young naive and probably “scared out of her mind” Jewish girl to save her people. I came up with a couple of observations about this story of Esther and her calling to do hard things.

First, there was Preparation. Esther was orphaned and raised by her Uncle Mordecai who taught her to love God above all else. Once Esther was chosen to be presented to the King, she had to go through a long twelve month process of beauty preparations.  During this time she found favor with Haggai, the eunuch in charge of the concubines and the Bible tells us, “with everyone else who saw her”. She ultimately won the favor of the King and she was chosen to be his queen.

Mordecai finds out about the plot to kill the Jews and goes into a time of desperately seeking God’s help. Scripture tells us he goes through a period of fasting and prayer. I can’t think of a better way to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead.

Second, there was Obedience. Esther obeyed Mordecai when he asked her to approach the King on behalf of the Jewish people. She clearly was frightened at the thought but trusted Mordecai and ultimately obeyed God’s will for her in that moment of terror. I love the fact that she listened to Mordecai and had confidence in his wise counsel.

Esther knew her survival rested on her faith and in her God to save her, she understood the importance of being prepared for the challenge. It was crucial that she be obedient to God and to Mordecai who gave her sound advise and a divine call to action. Without the strategic timing of the events that unfolded, the King would not have accepted Esther into his courts and sadly thousands of Jewish men, women and children would have been slaughtered.

Esther wasn’t hasty in her reaction to the potential destruction of her people, but she was methodical and let the Lord guide her. She took each step of her interaction with he King and her adversary, Haman, very carefully, not wanting to get ahead of God’s plan. How many times do we find ourselves in a challenging situation and just want out? Oftentimes thinking we know better than God and don’t want to wait around for His perfect timing because it’s just too hard. The most well-known verse in the Book of Esther is found in chapter 4 verse 14, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

God has called us to do hard things. If we are followers of Christ we will be challenged in our faith, possibly even persecuted. We will face times of terrible suffering and pain. But have we gone through the process of preparation? I think that is the key…it’s not if trials come, it’s when. When hard times come, are we prepared to face them? Have we studied Scripture and know God’s Word in our heart? Are we active in our relationship with Christ and with those around us that can help us in our spiritual journey? There will be times we will need to fast and pray desperate prayers.

God placed Esther in a position of leadership to fulfill His plan of saving the Jews in peril. Esther was tasked with embarking on a journey that would most likely end her life. She was called to do something extraordinarily hard, choosing between possible death for herself and that of her people. She listened and obeyed those wiser and older than she, Mordecai spent time fasting and praying and they were both obedient to God and His perfect timing. Don’t be afraid to do hard things, be spiritually prepared for difficult circumstances and be obedient to God’s timing.