Wednesday, March 28, 2012

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” John 15:16

“I wonder if he’ll notice,” I thought, wondering if my husband would comment on the clean floors as I was yet again sweeping up massive amounts of dog hair while our pets shed their winter coats all over our house. Almost as quickly as the words formed in my mind, they were answered by a thought. “Why do you need so much approval when you already have mine?” God was speaking and I needed to listen.

For too many years, I was caught in a cycle of approval and rejection. Rejection had peppered so many of my close relationships that I began to doubt my own worth and value. Which then cycled into a need to seek approval. I think you get the picture.
Reading through a list of truths about our Heavenly Father, my eyes settled on one in particular. “He loves you completely and unconditionally and will never let you go. So submit to God. (Beth Moore’s James-Mercy Triumphs).”
I needed to let those words cover me and remind me that I don’t need the approval or acceptance of anyone to prove my worth. No one can fill the place in my heart that God can and does.
As I was reading through the list in the study, the hard question followed. Which point struck a chord with you the most and why? I don’t really have to answer that, do I? Yes, actually, I do. The pain of the past and rejection I’ve allowed myself to feel is something that needs to be dealt with and literally, given to God. Just as we learned in James 4:7, “Submit to God.” If we will truly and honestly do that, He will fill us with His grace.
Meditating on this, I remembered John 15:16. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit…” HE chose ME! Before I ever knew Him, He chose me to be His. I don’t know where you are in your walk, but for me, those words were like bright sunshine washing over me on a warm summer day.
The work I have been given to do on earth is to bear fruit for Him. Rejection and approval don’t factor into that equation because I already have the ultimate approval.

Friday, March 23, 2012

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:3

Twisted motivation. 

If you are like me, there is probably a laundry list of unmet desires in your life. I’ve reached that lovely term “middle age,” and with that comes the realization that some, in fact many, dreams of my youth will likely go unmet in this life.

For a long time, there have been a few of those unmet dreams that seem to be the “kickers.” The ones that the enemy uses to attack when I’m struggling with something related to them, or there’s something going on that wouldn’t be happening had a particular dream been met.

If you stopped and really thought about it (or maybe you don’t have to – you can list them off the top of your head), I’d bet you can list a few yourself. I suspect that because of our human nature, we all have a list somewhere.

In our study of the book of James, we are digging into some really uncomfortable places. At least for me we are. Talking about unmet desires is like ripping a band-aid off a gaping wound. I used to think that I had every reason to feel a bit unfulfilled because of them. That some of the lack was due to my own choices, and some were because they were not God’s plan for me.

In my head, I have a level of understanding. But, apparently, in my heart, there’s more.

In studying James 4:3, it seemed to hit like a ton of bricks. Studying this passage made me have to stop and consider the tough question of WHY? Really, why didn’t those desires come to fruition? And, even deeper, what was my motivation for wanting them in the first place?

These questions literally caused me to squirm in my seat. The undeniable truth is right there in the verse. “You have wrong motives.” Even further, “that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” He’s so spot on. My motivation was and is a critical component in why so many things didn’t and don’t happen.

Is that true for you? So, what do we do?

At the end of my time in this particular day of study, with its realizations and recalibration, I prayed. Lord, show me your way. He brought the words to familiar passages to mind. Psalm 139: 23-24, gives clear direction in how to move forward:
“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

“Moses also said, ‘You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.’” Exodus 16:8

I'm an emotional girl. If left unchecked, I have a tendency to jump in the front seat of the roller coaster and go for a spin at warp speed through the ups and downs of life.
Honestly, the past year has been a spectacular series of those ups and downs. Sometimes rather than dig in to Scripture and seek out the truth in the situation, I've chosen instead to dig my nails into the world and try to hang on for dear life. All the while, Jesus is standing there with His hands reached out, waiting for me to grab a hold of Him instead of all these other things I reach for. Things I think will bring comfort, security, peace. Things that wouldn't bring any of those, even if I could get my hands on them. 

It's the truth. And, I know it’s the truth. Yet somehow, in those moments when it seems like everything is slipping away, I hit panic mode and listen to the lies the enemy tells me. That without this or that, I won’t make it through. I know better. I really do. I need to learn to get my emotions in check so that I don’t knee-jerk react time after time. Check them so that instead of running to whatever that “thing” is, I fall to my knees and pray.

Through all of this, time and time again, the Lord has stepped in with an encourager. Friends reach out at just the right time. An email arrives with encouragement to get me through another day. Just last week, an anonymous letter arrived that truly stunned me with the generosity and kindness it contained.

The enemy knows what he’s doing though. Because even with the blessing of encouragement, the attacks come. Because the next pitfall is just around the corner. For me, it was yesterday. Another rejection came through. And, sure enough, I fell into the pit face first. Even though I prayed, my prayers were off kilter when they took a turn through the pit of pity. I know God can handle this, I truly do.

I’m reading about Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. I’ve often wondered how they could get to the place where they questioned God during this time – especially after everything He brought them through. It was so vividly apparent that God was all over the situation. And yet, when the going got tough, they complained.

This time, reading through the story, I thought, I’m just like them. He has been faithful and yet, when another bump appears in the road, I panic, complain or allow fear to take over. I pray for the strength to fend off my own emotional reactions. I pray to become more dependent on Him and less devoted to my emotions.