Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Each time my heart in love to Christ says YES when my human nature says NO, there the cross is taken up. There I become a little more like my Master, there I live in Him, there I participate in His work of fulfilling the Father's will on earth."
                  - Elisabeth Elliot in The Path of Loneliness

Monday, February 20, 2017

When Dreams Must Die

 This world tells us to dream...and to dream big. I don't see anything wrong with doing so as goal-setting and aspiring to high things is a noble endeavor. So many historic and prolific achievements would never have come to pass had somebody not had a dream to begin with...
 If the founding fathers of our country never dreamt of liberty, the United States never would've become a nation.
 If William Wilberforce had never dreamt of a world where people of all colors could be treated equally, the abolition of the slave trade never would've taken place.
 If Thomas Edison had never dreamt of the lightbulb, we never would've had the gift of electricity.
 If Alexander Graham Bell had never dreamt of a device whereby people could hear one another's voice, we never would've gotten the telephone and means to span distance through conversation.
 In short, dreaming has changed our world in so many ways. In and of itself, dreaming big isn't a bad thing.
 But here's the thing...we don't know how to let dreams die. Because sometimes, God asks us to give up what we love most in order to receive His best.
 When I was younger, I had a dream. I had a certain field of volunteer effort and study that I was passionate about, and I had devoted nearly ten years already to it, starting in my teens. All of the paths seem to line up that I would walk through the right door at the right time and begin doing the thing I cared about so much. I loved it. I loved the people involved in it. I saw so much that could be done.
 But...God's plans intervened. And He asked me about two years ago, to put that dream to rest. It was by far the hardest thing I'd ever done. I never thought God would ask me to let go of what I'd been working so much toward for so long. It was death of sorts. And it hurt. Many tears were shed as I had to keep aligning my aching heart with God's will. Saying "yes" to Him when everything in me screamed out "no" was so difficult. I thought there was no way I could come to love anything else I did as much as I did my previous work.
 And yet...God eventually did something within me that I never would've expected. He replaced that dream with a new one. And I realized something profound: sometimes dreams have to die for new ones to come alive. Most likely, I never would've ended up with the job I have or the people I have met in the last couple of years had I held out hope that the dreams of the past would still come to be. If I hadn't been willing to give up my own plans in exchange for His, I would've missed out on blessings that have since changed my life.
 I still have dreams. Some of them haven't yet come to fruition, but God's delays in these matters don't necessarily mean they're His denials. And so I wait patiently and accept what He has given...not allowing His not-given at this point to spoil the amazing life I have.
 I don't know what your dreams are...maybe it's a job or a big promotion; maybe it's a future spouse; maybe it's having children; maybe it's a better place to live, or a better education for your kids. Whatever your dreams are, I want to encourage you to trust God with your future. Dream big, and dare greatly. But live life with an open hand and don't make the fulfillment of your goals and dreams the be-all end-all of your existence. Life is about so much more than getting places and accomplishing stuff.
 And realize too that, in some cases, the death of our dreams isn't the end of us but is actually the beginning of our true purpose. God may ask you to give up something or someone that is incredibly dear to you in order to receive a bigger and better blessing. In that moment, don't be afraid. Rather, let your faith in the goodness of His plans override your doubts, your questions, your heartaches. The end of one thing may, in reality, be the start of a heart-miracle you didn't even know you needed! 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Every morning as I walk with Jesus, I ask Him to open our eyes more and more each day.  Because when we see Jesus clearly, then we can follow Him. One of the scariest questions we have to ask ourselves is, what if we aren't seeing Jesus properly? What implication does that have for our lives? What if Jesus isn't who we think? I believe he's always catching us off guard, creatively challenging us, pursuing us, loving us."
                  - Jeff Bethke in It's Not What You Think

Friday, February 17, 2017

Prayer of the Day

"May I never give Thee rest until Christ is the pulse of my heart, the spokesman of my lips, the lamp of my feet."
                               - The Valley of Vision

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Quote of the Day

"As Christians, we should not enjoy just an ordinary level of cheerfulness, we should go way beyond those of the world both in quality and quantity. Our happiness should be sweeter, higher, and more constant than any carnal man." 
                           - Samuel Ward in Voices From The Past

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...The answer to our loneliness is love - not our finding someone to love us, but our surrender to the God who has always loved us with an everlasting love. Loving Him is then expressed in a happy and full-hearted pouring out of ourselves in love to others."
                            - Elisabeth Elliot The Path of Loneliness

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Word About Love

 Well...it's Valentine's Day. For those who have a special someone in their life (spouse, fiancee, boyfriend, girlfriend), it's a day to let that person know you care about them and want to show them your love. For the singles out there, it's a day to remind yourself that you don't have what others have...and the longing can set in. 
 Honestly, I feel like this day is rather silly. Because, we don't need just one day to be reminded to love those around us. We should be loving them fully and deeply every day of the year. And love isn't contained to merely a romantic relationship as this day suggests. I feel like Valentine's Day (while well-intended) just adds to the notion that you can only love or be loved if a "special someone" is in your life. And that only such a relationship can satisfy or fulfill you as a human being. 
 I want to take a moment to encourage us all...regardless of whether or not we are currently in a serious relationship that love isn't limited to who, where, or when. Of course, there are varying levels of love and certain depths of intimate affection that can only be reserved for our dearest and closest relations and family. But, just because we are or aren't in a relationship doesn't have to define how we love or whom we love. Or even if we feel loved at all. 
 In my younger years, I used to think that I could only be loved deeply if I had a guy in my life. (Even you male readers out there know what I'm talking about here.) We all struggle with this concept that our special someone is the solution to our happiness or lack thereof. We set expectations for the people around us to satisfy our deepest longings, our innermost needs. But the crazy thing is...even when such people are in our lives, we can still feel alone. We can have the best of human love available to us and still feel left out, lost, and distant. 
 Because here's the thing...human love is fickle. Even as deeply as we are given the capacity to care for one another, we fail often in our love toward each other. We fall short of how much we could be demonstrating that love in countless ways...because we're selfish; we're arrogant; we're in a rush; we're more concerned with being right and being heard than loving deeply. Thus, we have equally the same capacity to hurt and divide as we do to care and love. And we're successful in this far more than we'd like to admit. And there is only one cure for such a broken condition of the heart...
 God must teach us how to love. 
 Apart from the most perfect and divine Example of what true love looks like, we have no idea how to lay down our selfish aims for the good of another. We have no concept of how to love without limits, of how to forgive without reservations. He must show us the way. In like manner, we must have first experienced His love in order to feel valued in this one life we live. Otherwise, we cannot give what we have not known for ourselves. 
 Loving takes a lifetime...and often multiple failings in it...to understand and learn. This is why I feel that our culture takes loving too lightly. We treat it as a feeling instead of a way of life. We think that, as go our feelings, so can go our love. But God demonstrates to us that love outlasts feelings. Commitment to the people in our life who matter doesn't depend on how we feel that day...because there will be days that you don't feel so loving to those around you. It is in that moment that you must decide to continue in that love, regardless of how you feel. Love is demonstrated trust in action. Trust that outlasts the ever-changing winds of our emotions. 
 And only One truly gives this in the most true and honest way possible. People come and go in our lives and not everyone who is here today will be here tomorrow. Even though we may be blessed with an amazing circle of love in our lives, we will still face days where we feel let down by those people. Even times when they hurt us...deeply. We will face hours of intense loneliness when even their love is not a cure. 
 This is where God's love must be foremost. When all other loves are aligned with His, our worth doesn't have to change with the people and situations around us. We can know that we matter...every day of the year...because of Him. His love is not confined to one day or one place or one person. His love reaches greater, higher, deeper, fuller than anything any person can ever offer us on this earth...including ourselves. All human loves fall short in light of His limitless affection for us. 
 So...on this Valentine's Day...whether you're single, dating, engaged, married, or even widowed...take joy. Feel loved...because the King of Kings calls you so. Feel valued...because the God of the Universe cares for you. Feel satisfied...because your happiness is found in Him. So let the chocolate flow, the dinner dates happen, the romantic movies commence...but know this -  (and know it deeply) - you are always loved because He is always good. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Can we give up all for the love of God? When the surrender of ourselves seems too much to ask, it is first of all not because our thoughts about God Himself are paltry. We have not really seen Him, we have hardly tested Him at all and learned how good He is. In our blindness we approach Him with suspicious reserve. We ask how much of our fun He intends to spoil, how much He will demand from us, how high is the price we must pay before He is placated. If we had the least notion of His lovingkindness and tender mercy, His fatherly care for His poor children, His generosity, His beautiful plans for us; if we knew how patiently He waits for our turning to Him, how gently He means to lead us to green pastures and still waters, how ceaselessly He is ordering and ordaining and engineering His Master Plan for our good - if we had an inkling of all this, could we be reluctant to let go of...whatever we clutch so fiercely in our sweaty little hands?"
                        - Elisabeth Elliot in The Path of Loneliness

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...God will [not] always gives us what we want if we make him the priority in our lives. He's not a genie who's there to do our bidding if we simply say or do the right things. He may or he may not. He is God, and he is not obligated to do what we think he should. For some, coming to Christ might result in losing a job or important relationships. It might mean any number of difficulties or hardships. The Bible tells us that Christians will suffer for the sake of Christ, so don't expect life always to be easy if you're faithful in following the Lord. Yet he's faithful to us through our struggles, even if they never go away...
No matter what happens, God is a gracious, loving father who delights in doing good things for his people...the Lord is kind and is quick to pour out blessings on those who love him, even if they come in ways we do not expect...What an amazing God, who deserves our praise and our devotion. It's easy to say that when things go your way, but it's no less true when they don't. Even a defeat is an opportunity for me to say how good God is."
                            - David Boudia in Greater Than Gold

Friday, February 10, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The order of our desires is important...If your desires are crossed, it is not because he would put you off without hearing, but he desires to teach you a better way. He desires to teach you what is most important...Delays teach us to watch and pray with perseverance, waiting in hope until God hears us...Faith remains at the door until he comes...Let us not blame the Savior whose promise is firm without change." 
                        - Richard Sibbes in Voices From the Past

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Quote of the Day

"With what misgivings we turn over our lives to God, imagining somehow that we are about to lose everything that matters. Our hesitancy is like that of a tiny shell on the seashore, afraid to give up the teaspoonful of water it holds, lest there not be enough in the ocean to fill it again. Lose your life, said Jesus, and you will find it. Give up, and I will give you all."
                      - Elisabeth Elliot in The Path of Loneliness

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Quote of the Day

"We beg of God many times, but we think of ourselves; our hearts run upon our own name, and upon our own esteem. How often do we come to Him with a selfish aim, as if we would draw God into our own designs and purposes! 
...How badly they plan, who make plans without God!"
                             - Thomas Manton in Voices From The Past

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Many times in my life God has asked me to wait when I wanted to move forward. He has kept me in the dark when I asked for light. To my pleas for guidance His answer has often been Sit still... 
I like to see progress. I look for evidence that God is at least doing something. If the Shepherd leads us beside still waters when we were hoping for 'white water' excitement, it is hard to believe anything really vital is taking place. God is silent...The stillness is hard to bear - and God knows that. He knows our frame and remembers we are made of dust. He is very patient with us when we are trying to be patient with Him...
Waiting is an offering and a sacrifice. We may lift up our very waiting to Him as a daily oblation, in a spirit of expectancy...Waiting on God in this way is true faith - no agenda of one's own, no deadlines, no demands on what God must do. Simply an open heart and open hands ready to receive that which God shall choose, and a perfect confidence that what He chooses will be better than our best."
                      - Elisabeth Elliot in The Path of Loneliness

Monday, February 6, 2017

Anticipating Answers

 A viewer recently requested me to write a post on this topic, so I'm taking some time this week to discuss something that I've wrestled with over the course of my Christian journey...what to do with expectation. How should we anticipate answers from God? 
 For many years, I honestly couldn't have come up with a good explanation for how to handle this question. While I've always believed in praying for and petitioning God for things and I always expected Him to fulfill that prayer, my faith in His ability to hear and answer accordingly was shaken in the summer of 2007. As I've detailed before in previous posts, my father suffered a huge health crisis, and the whole thing plunged me into a deep cavern of depression. As my family walked through a year and half of endless doctors appointments, surgeries, hospitals stays, and more...I began to doubt even more that God actually heard our prayers. What if my father died? Did it mean that God's ears were closed to our pleadings? Did it mean that God didn't care? I started to think so...
 So often, in our humanness, we think that God's silence indicates that He doesn't hear us. No answer, we take it, means He doesn't care about us anymore. And so we stop waiting for an answer. Even though the Scriptures tell us that God's ear is never deaf to the cries of His loved ones, we begin to walk by our own discernment and conclude that because He has delayed His answer or given an answer different than expected, we have somehow been denied. 
 Over time, I've come to realize that the only way to come to such conclusions is if our view of God is too small. As soon as we begin to treat the sovereign, holy God as one of us, we begin to go desperately wrong. We start to think that God's judgement is faulty...like our own. That He changes plans...such as we do. That He chooses not to hear us...as we do toward others. God becomes too small. And therefore, we make Him out to be weak and unloving. By our doubts, we strip Him of His sovereignty and declare that He doesn't know what's best...because no answer (or no right answer in our minds) has arrived. 
 We fail to accept God's purposes because we fail to understand the concept of His overruling providence which has extended throughout human history. We forget the many times He has come to the aid of His people...not a moment too early, or too late. We neglect to call to mind the countless occasions He has turned pain into promise and brought hope out of desperation. We just see our problem...and we want it fixed...right now...in the manner we asked of Him. 
 See, this is the true problem...we're too focused on ourselves to see God for who He is. Instead of coming to Him in thankfulness, we come to Him with demands. Instead of seeking His will, we ask Him to do our own. Self-love consumes us. Thus, when beseeching God for answers to our petitions, we think we see no answer...because we're blind and our hearts are darkened. What we do not realize is that His answer may come about in an entirely different way...and may produce a far greater "weight of glory" and a miracle beyond our asking than we could hope for. But we may miss it due to our insistence on our own way. 
 This is what prevented me all those years ago from walking through my dad's health crisis with the right attitude. I fought God's answers because it didn't seem "fair" in my eyes. In hindsight, however, whoever said this world would be fair? Jesus Christ sure didn't. If anything, He promised sufferings and testings of many kinds...because He knows that such are the only means to producing the character of spirit in us that He desires. 
 In recent months, I've come to see that faith is the difference. Asking big things of God is actually well pleasing to Him. He delights in that we trust Him to accomplish what we cannot. But the test comes afterward...will we leave the request with Him? Will we allow ourselves to accept whatever answer comes with a surrendered heart? 
 I'm learning that faith believes God not just for what He does...for proof is often in front of me and I forget or miss it constantly...but faith believes God for who He is! Knowing that God "will not withhold any good thing from those whose walk is blameless" (Psalm 84:11), shouldn't this compel me to ask Him for even those things which are impossible and trust that from then it, the whole matter is at His disposal?! I'm learning to pray...to pray hard and deep. To pray through things and ask God to move big. But I'm also learning to accept the silence as opportunity to trust. To even accept the un-liked answer when it comes, and know that God has a better outcome in mind than the one I envisioned. 
 The times of waiting, the times of silence, the answers not-given, or the ones un-liked, are not evidences of God's lack of care. Rather, they show His care in a far greater way. His denials are proof that He knows what's best for us better than we do...and who are we to question Him?! 
 If you're wearing thin on your knees because you feel like your pleading isn't heard, let me encourage you with this: just maybe He's not after your comfort but rather your conversion. Maybe His goal isn't to change your circumstances but to change your heart. Perhaps He knows that you will gain greater faith if He keeps you under trial than if He were to remove your affliction swiftly as you ask. Do not let His silence or His delay deter you from trusting Him. He is too good a God to let His loved ones alone. His love and grace will be given to you in measure for each moment and, when His answer does arrive in time, may you choose to bless Him for His goodness...even if things don't turn out as you hoped. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Quote of the Day

"To learn strong faith is to endure great trials. I have learned my faith by standing firm amid severe testings."
                               - George Mueller 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Many fears like waves roll over us. He who sees himself folded in almighty arms, O how he mounts up before the wind with his sails filled with joy and peace! Let storms arise, this one may sing merrily with the sharpest thorn at his breast."
                      - William Gurnall in Voices From The Past

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Quote of the Day

"It was the love of God that brought us all into being - sun, stars, winds, men, women, and 'infants to sweeten the world' (to use a phrase from an old prayer which I love). To know God, or even to begin to know Him, is to know that we are not alone in the universe. Someone Else is out there. There is a hint that there may be a refuge for our loneliness. To stop our frantic getting, spending, and searching, and simple to look at the things God has made is to move one step away from despair. For God cares."
                         - Elisabeth Elliot in The Path of Loneliness

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Why Death Doesn't Scare Me Anymore

 It may come as a surprise to you that death used to scare me...and scare me deep. But perhaps that fear isn't as uncommon. I'm sure others fear it too. 
 That's what it was alright...a deep-seated fear of what the end would be like...would I die suddenly? Or would I die slow? Would it happen in dramatic fashion? Or would it be a gradual decline of body and mind? 
 I would hear the stories of those who went quickly in an accident and think, good gracious! What a horrible way to go! I don't want to go that fast! I'd have too many goodbyes to say! 
 I would hear stories of those who slowly died out like a flickering candle and I'd say, my goodness! What a terrible way to go too! Loved ones have to watch you slip away and you have all this time on your deathbed to think on your life...and your regrets! I'd fear greatly that my regrets would far out-weigh my successes. 
 I would even get superstitious about posting a quote to this blog about death or writing something regarding it in my journal....simply because of the stories of others' parting words. 
 How will I go? The question haunted me for years. As I've said goodbye to many souls who passed on, it has kept coming back to me time and again. Of course, I've always known that God only has the foreknowledge of my time of departure from this earth and yet, I was never at peace with when the end might come. I feared it greatly. 
 Until now...
The fact that I am posting about this topic indicates a conquering of this fear in a way. And I've come to a deeply comforting conclusion...
The reason I was afraid to die was this...I didn't know how to live. 
During those many years that I dreaded the ending to my story, I now see that I had no idea what my story was. I didn't understand my purpose in this world to begin with. All I could see was the time flying by...the years passing swift...and only endless questions about what to do with myself between now and the final end. I had not yet learned how to love deeply...how to gain the most from every caring connection in this short life and how to cherish the heart-felt exchange of human relationships. I had not yet learned how to let go...to realize that not every friendship, not every loved one, not every opportunity stays with you forever...and that sometimes, turning loose and moving on is the best thing. I had not yet learned how to see through to God...how to accept the mercy and grace of my Maker and how to see myself as His dear one. Life had no excitement in that it held no wonder. Thus, I didn't understand how to slow time down and savor the gifts along the journey that speak of His love. 
 All of these (and more) are what it means to live. But because I was a walking dead thing in the soul, that's all I could think of...the morbidness of it all. I just wanted to stop frantically searching for a purpose and hope I could find joy before this one life ended. 
 Years later, when God opened my eyes to the amazing bliss of taking in His countless blessings, I came to see that I was wasting time when I could've been savoring it. All my crazy searching had gotten me nowhere quickly when, all I really needed, was Him. And once I had that, I had everything. Once I began the journey to Grace, life took on a whole new pleasure. Things that I once took for granted became deeply special. Daily wonders abounded as the little things became messengers to me of His goodness. I came alive. 
 In time, I found it easy to discover my purpose and my path...because it led through Him. His direction somehow made it all alright. It didn't matter if my plans were changed...all I cared about what doing my one life well. And I discovered I couldn't do that without Him. 
 Now, as I throw myself into the daily duties of following Him and serving others, I find that it seems as if I'm gaining time. The years keep marching on, but I'm getting more out of every moment than ever before. I'm not afraid of dying anymore because I've learned how to live. And I bless God that He's kept me on this earth long enough to learn this valuable lesson. 
 Death doesn't scare me anymore. That fear has left. And what's been given it its place is delight. Honest-to-goodness delight that savors all as gift from His hand. I don't know when the end will be for me (or even you, for that matter)...but I do know this: if I have done my very best to make this one little life count, than my passing will only be an entrance into the fulfillment of all I've ever wanted or needed...to be forever with Him.