The Ultimate Joy » A Journey in Intimacy with God

Not An Option

Piece of Chocolate Cake - larger pic

Four years ago I was diagnosed with food allergies. Even in trace-sized amounts, gluten and casein (a protein in dairy) were causing me significant discomfort. If I wanted to get better, they’d have to be removed from my diet. I was completely bummed with the diagnosis. I’d hoped my issues could be treated with medication. Not so. I’d have to change how I was eating. The thought of eliminating those two items out of my diet was overwhelming. Leaving the doctor’s office, all I could think about were the numerous foods I would never eat again.

Today, eating gluten and dairy-free is my new normal. Though at times I miss eating “real” pizza, cheesecake and a host of other foods, they are not a temptation to me at all. I feel radically better. The thought of eating them can make me feel sick. Recently, God brought this journey of dietary changes to my mind. He noted that approximately 70% of the items in a grocery store are not an option for me; not buying and eating them is an absolute no brainer. Why would I? The consequences of eating them FAR outweigh any momentary pleasure they might bring. Then God said: “Sin shouldn’t be an option either.”

In a new and fresh way, I got it! Sin shouldn’t be an option in the life of a child of God. It shouldn’t be, because the consequences of sin far outweigh any momentary pleasure. We can enjoy freedom from sin so much that the thought of sinning will make us feel sick!

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” 

(Romans 6:1-2,6).

I read those words – words I’ve read MANY times, words I’ve taught many times, and I ask myself: what about those words do I think is optional?

I believe God is calling for a new mindset among His children, for the battle against sin begins in our mind!

 

2 Cor. 5-17 blog pic

 

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When the Mountain is Steep and God Feels Far

Mt. Rainier, Blog pic

I’m writing this post on a day when two family members are climbing Mt. Rainier. It’s an undertaking they’ve been excited about. One I’m not thrilled with. Needless to say, I’ve been thinking about mountains more than usual.

A few days ago I woke with a phrase on my mind: When the mountain is steep, and God feels far. When phrases such as this one come to my mind I take note. Most often, God is about to teach me something, giving me something to teach or prompting me to write. Sometimes it’s all three. Foremost, He always has something to teach me. This time I think He’s giving me a deeper way to relate to Him. I think He might have a word for someone who reads this as well.

The circumstances in my life haven’t felt insurmountable, and God hasn’t felt far. Yet pondering the phrase has been just what I’ve needed for the gentle slope I’m on. And honestly, I don’t learn well in “steep” moments.

Let me say up front, this post is FAR from comprehensive. I’m still pondering many thoughts. I hope it will get you thinking as well.

What can we do when the circumstances of our lives feel treacherously steep, and God feels painfully far?

Quickly and repeatedly, we should recall God’s faithful provision on past “climbs.” The life of a Christian is a walk of faith. There are things in this life we will never understand. We are called to be “confident of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). The very nature of faith is to move forward, keep climbing, even when we don’t feel or see or understand. A mountain climber gains confidence to cross a difficult impasse by recalling the one’s they’ve successfully navigated in the past. We can be confident and certain about is the faithfulness of God.

It’s also wise to take a break, sit with God and ask: What’s frightening, overwhelming, frustrating, irritating…me about this part of the ‘climb’? Give God the opportunity to reveal what’s REALLY going on inside of you. This part is challenging for me. I’d rather deny the negative emotions, lunge forward and get the difficult impasse behind me. But in doing so, we miss the lessons we’re supposed to learn, ones that will equip us for future climbs. Lessons we might one day use to encourage someone else. And, as you’ll see below, we miss the point of the climb.

Recently I took some time and asked God to illuminate the nature of the emotions going on inside of me. I didn’t want this time to be excessively self-focused. There was a higher goal in mind. Whatever is going on inside of us needs to be considered alongside the truth of who God is and why we are here. As I undertook this exercise. I asked God to bring any hidden thoughts and feelings to the surface. He did. They started to flow, and I started to write. Out came dreams. Out came frustration. At the end of two pages, I was left with the most beautiful conclusion: God! He’s on the mountain, as well as the gentle slope. He’s not far. In fact, He’s as close and involved as we’ll invite Him to be.

I saw my fear in light of who God is. My frustrations paled in comparison to the opportunity they afforded to know Him better. I realized that the terrain I often seek to avoid or rush over is the exact route needed to grow closer to God. As a mountain climber experiences great exhilaration when a crevasse is crossed, we, too, have the thrill of knowing God in new, and often much deeper, ways as we climb the difficult terrain of life.

I’d like to make one more suggestion. When the mountain feels steep and God feels far lift your eyes off the trail and take a long look at the beauty and majesty of a literal mountain. The God who formed, placed and sustains that mountain also formed, placed and will sustain you. He sees you. He is with you.

God is Near, Blog pic

 

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What to do when you feel like a mess.

Stressed Out Woman - Blog Choice

Will I ever get “it” all together?

I’m not talking about the house, the laundry or anything on the ‘to do’ list – though that would be nice. I’m talking about the inner me, the thoughts that fill my mind, the emotions that flood my heart, and the control these two factors have on how I act. Will I ever get “that” all together?

While I refuse to concede, the first truth to note is that “I” never will. None of us will. God didn’t create us to be “I” centered or “I” controlled. In fact, when we focus on curtailing our sin we often sin more. The apostle Paul experienced it this way: “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart…(but I become) a slave to the sin that is still within me” (Romans 7:21-22). His solution: “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25).

As we seek Him, our great God — the One who has redeemed us and sees us in Christ as righteous and holy — will also align our behavior with who He has made us to be. A few days ago, writing in my journal, pouring out the mess, God led me to Hebrews 4:15-16:

 “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning.”

 That’s an amazing truth! Jesus understands! Jesus sympathizes!  No matter how petty, no matter how vile! In His personal knowledge, deep compassion and limitless power, He knows exactly what we need. He makes an amazing offer:

 “Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it].”

 As His children, we are welcomed into the holiest of all places. We are invited to pour out our hearts, present each need. In response, He will give us exactly what we need – His perfect provision, at His perfect time!

So what do we do when we feel like a mess? We go to God’s throne of grace. We pour out our heart, be who we really are. Then, we can expect to receive grace – abundant, always available, filled with power grace. And if the answer requires us to wait, let me suggest one more thing: Let’s praise Him — for all He is doing and for all He will do!

Grace - Blog Choice

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