Love

Love, such a noble and grand word. It was because of love we were given the greatest gift—eternal life. It was because of love that a father gave up his beloved son. It was because of love that a perfect man was tortured on the cross. All of this because of the amazing gift of love.

How many times have I said I love a good piece of chocolate. Or better yet I say I just love a good chick flick. Then I think I just love that black dress. Then it hits me my love is selfish, self-centered, and all about me. But God's love is sacrificial and all about us. What a contrast! God's love is authentic and caring. My love is superficial and self-seeking. He gives it all, and I hold back.

Once again I praise my God knowing only He is worthy of our love. God says, "If you love Me, you will obey Me." Can I give it all up for him, can I put others first, can I lay down the idols that consume me? The good news is that because Christ lives in me, my love can overflow. I no longer say the word love so flippantly, but now I can give it so freely. "For God loved the world so much that He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Our Hearts' Desire

Have you ever been singing a worship song, and wondered if you could actually mean what the lyrics were saying?

When I sing songs about God being more than enough for me, and all that I want, I struggle with the integrity of those statements. I know at moments it is true; there are moments when I taste that God is, in fact, enough for me. But there are also so many moments when He is not all that I want. There are a lot of things that crowd out my contentment in Christ.

This is all the more reason to embrace denying ourselves. There has to be a connection between our dissatisfaction in Christ alone, and our over-indulgence in stuff.

The more we have, the more we crave. The more we crave, the more we pursue. And whatever it is we are pursuing, that becomes our treasure—our hearts' desire.

So imagine how this applies spiritually: The more of Christ that we experience, the more of Him we crave. The more we crave that intimacy with Him, the more we pursue Him. And as we pursue Him, He becomes our treasure—our hearts' desire!

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21)

We need to make room in our hearts for God. And I really believe it will happen as we let go of some of our earthly pleasures and treasures. Pray for a heart of contentment today. Ask God to help you love Him more than any other thing. He really is more than enough for us... we just need to see it and believe it.

Tumbleweed

The messages of our culture and this world are so strong. They are so in your face. We are literally bombarded by lies every day. If we are not very careful, these messages will begin to creep into our thinking. Without even realizing it, we are no longer trusting the words of God. It makes me think of Jeremiah 17:5-8:

"Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.

That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes.

They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.

"But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.

They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." (emphasis added)

When we trust in man, our hearts are turned away from the Lord. The very life is taken out of us! It's the picture of a bush dried up in the desert.

But when we trust in the Lord, and our confidence is in Him, we are strong and steady and full of life. It's the picture of a gorgeous tree planted by the water—its source of life!

When I read these verses I ask myself, "Are you the bush or the tree?" And I think we all need to ask ourselves this question. One is cursed, and one is blessed. One will not see any fruit, and one will never fail to bear fruit.

The wind of this world will blow you around like a tumbleweed, until you're dried out in the desert. But the truth of God's Spirit will feed you and sustain you and cause you to be full of life.

Created for a Purpose

As I sit and watch my kids' basketball practice I am reminded once again of the beauty of innocence. There are so many different children: some tall, some short, some fair, some dark. You see some who are jocks, some who are quirky and some who are clueless. Then I see my boy Jed with his feet and arms all going in different directions as he is running. He has the biggest smile on his face; he has no idea he is different from the rest of the kids. There was a time my heart would ache as I watched my disabled children trying to fit in. But now I praise God for my special blessings.

Many might say a disabled child is God's mistake. But being a mother of many disabled kids I can share that they are truly God's blessings, not his mistakes. I know my children were perfectly created because I know the hands of their creator.

"I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;" (Psalm 139:14-15)

Many people will tell me how blessed my children are to be loved and cared by us. Oh what wrong thinking! God is constantly teaching me through my children. He has used them to knock my pride down and humble me. He has used them to teach me unconditional love. But most importantly He has used them to show me beauty is not on the outside but is found in a pure heart. Each one of my children, no matter how different, was created for a purpose and that purpose is to glorify our King. "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago." (Ephesians 2:10)

Joy

There is so much joy to be known in our walk with Christ. Joy is one of the most powerful emotions. It draws people in, it motivates the heart, it is contagious! Joy is something that can transcend circumstances, because it is wrapped around our hope in Christ.

I would hate for us to get so caught up in the pain of self-denial, that we lose our joy in the process. Of course it is difficult to go against our flesh- but we are never without hope. There is always a joy in obedience, because we are honoring God, and displaying that He is worth our sacrifice. Christ laid down his life for "the joy that was set before Him." And we too can lay our lives down willingly, because we are confident of the JOY we will experience. "Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory..." (1 Peter 1:8)

My prayer for today is that an inexpressible joy would well up in our hearts, that this joy would overshadow every struggle against our own desires and motivate us to keep dying to ourselves. And ultimately, this joy in us would draw people to Christ, the hope of glory.

The Benefits Outweigh the Difficulties

We can all agree that it's easy to get caught up in the difficulty of denying ourselves. Some can't even get past it, so they give up before they even begin to learn how to do it. So what if today was different? What if today you focused on the outcome of self denial; the benefits that far outweigh the difficulties.

For example: you commit to denying yourself of the time spent watching TV for the week. Which, amazingly, means you added a whole hour, or three, to your day. You have the ability to go through your Bible with care, and actually have time to really come before the Lord in prayer. It's concentrated prayer for your family and the ones you love. This, inevitably, makes you feel more intimacy with God and gives you peace you didn't even realize you were lacking.

Maybe one evening you engage your kids in a meaningful conversation that you never could have planned, but one that just happened, because all the noise in the background was gone.

Then one night as you're finishing mowing the lawn, you realize you have time to mow your neighbors' lawn. The one who just lost her husband, and you can't get over how amazing it feels to bless someone in the smallest of ways.

As you consider the dramatically different turn your week has taken, you realize this all started with a simple, difficult decision to deny yourself.

It's so worth it! You can't always see or know the blessings that will come to you on the front end of obedience and surrender. So dive in. Trust God to do immeasurably more than anything you could imagine. Let Him work in you and show you things you have never seen before.

Shame

As I woke up this morning, I asked God to give me a word to ponder on as I entered my day. Being the faithful God that He is He gave me a word. The word for me to think about today is "SHAME". Not exactly what I was hoping for. Why not creation, hope, or just simply his attributes? Why could I not just ponder on his goodness or his love? Then it occurred to me that as Christians we seem to talk more about love, rewards, and blessings than we do about shame or being ashamed.

Luke 9:26 says, "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." Oh how this passage pierces my heart. I ask myself: Do I bring shame to my precious King? Do I share his word to those around me, or am I too embarrassed? Do I answer kindly to my husband and speak soft words to my children? Am I patient with those who are trying to help me with a problem? Do I reach out to those who are downcast and unlovely, or do I ignore them? Do I visit the needy and take in his orphans? Or just simply, what do I put on when I walk out of the house?

We are called to live a life that honors the name of our Father. Yet it seems like Christians are letting the world influence them instead of them influencing the world. Ask yourself: if God was here right now, would you feel shame? The good news is today's a new day! We can get on our knees and ask God to forgive us for the stinky stench we send up to him. We can pray that our living sacrifice will be a sweet and soothing aroma that pleases our King. May our lives reflect who we are in Christ and bring delight to our Father in heaven...

"And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." (Romans 12:1-2)