As the deer panteth for the water So my soul longeth after Thee

You alone are my heart’s desire And I long to worship Thee

You alone are my strength, my shield

To You alone may my spirit yield

You alone are my heart’s desire

And I long to worship Thee

-Martin J. Nystrom

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A Confession

Guys, I have something to say, a confession to make.  I shove things in closets.  And under the bed.

You know when you’re cleaning your room and you really just don’t want to deal with all the junk and finding a place for it all will take way too much time?  I don’t know what you guys do when you’re in such a situation, but I totally just throw that stuff in my closet or push it all under my bed.  Because I totally do not want to go through the struggle of finding a proper place to keep stuff.  So I hope you get where I’m coming from.  I mean, I can’t be the only one who does that?  I don’t know.  But yeah, I think that most people would agree that my tendency to throw things in closets, under beds, and any other places they don’t belong is a problem.

Well, this habit doesn’t only apply to my room cleaning strategy, but also to my relationship with Jesus.  Even when I know there is something, or many things holding me back from a close relationship with Him, I decide just to act like there’s nothing wrong.  I convince myself that me and Jesus are good, and there’s no cleaning to be done, no changes that need to be made.  And that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Instead of dealing with the problems and sin in my life, I toss those things aside and pretend like I can have a nice relationship with the Lord.  Well, newsflash Holly:  you cant be close to Jesus without dealing with the things keeping you from Him first.  You’d think that’d be common sense, but yeah, common sense and I aren’t always the best of friends.  So, instead of dealing with that sin, and those things keeping me from Him, I become too afraid of the pain it will cause and the time it will consume to deal with those things keeping me back from Jesus.  Even as I write this, I see that I have done this over and over again many times in life.  There are a few things I keep choosing to ignore, and they are damaging my relationship with Jesus.  And sometimes I just look and say, “Wow, Jesus how’d you get so far away?”  Silly me.  Jesus didn’t go anywhere.  I ran away.  And instead of dealing with the problems I said, “Yeah, me and Jesus, we’re great.  Doing just fine, thank you.  No problems today.”  And I have been so, so wrong.  I need to stop ignoring all the things stopping me from closeness with Jesus and really examine where I am.  Really take a look at those things keeping me from Him and deal with them.  It’s crazy how I just can’t get away from Jesus.  Every time I’m going through the day thinking He and I are just fine, but really paying no attention to Him whatsoever, He just shows up and gets all up in my thoughts and I can’t get away.  Like seriously, I keep running into Him, and that is no mistake.  So, no matter the pain, no matter the hurt and the work it takes to rid myself of these things that keep me from Him, I will do it.

In Luke, we see the story of the prodigal son, a boy who took his inheritance, ran away, and squandered it all.  But when he came to his senses, he wanted to return home.  But before he could do that, he thought he’d put together a nice speech for his father.  He wanted to have it all together before he came home.  But before he could say anything, the father came running and threw his arms around him.  He couldn’t finish his speech because his father stopped him and threw a party.  Because his son came home.  And the father did not need an attempt from his son to try to make things right or clean it up.  He saw him coming home, and he welcomed him with open arms.

So, if you’re dealing with a bunch of junk in your life that you keep throwing in the closet or under the bed, I promise you do not have to try to clean everything up before you come to the Father.  He just wants brokenness.  He wants you to come home and admit that you really suck at trying to get it all together yourself.  Because you do.  And so do I.  So don’t throw it in a closet or under a bed, but come to Him broken.  Dealing with sin and things in your life keeping you from Jesus will take time, and it won’t be easy, but it is far better than living away from Him and lying to yourself about your relationship with Him.

He also said: “A man had two sons.  The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.’ So he distributed the assetsto them.  Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living.  After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing.  Then he went to work forone of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.  He longed to eat his fill fromthe carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one would give him any.   When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight.  I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired hands.’  So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him.  The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’

 “But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:11-24

 

No Going Back

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand there is no going back.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Two years ago, I attended a Christian camp as a student leader.  It was the summer before my first trip to Africa, and I couldn’t have been more excited.  At this camp, we spent a lot of time outside, doing fun things and enjoying time spent with each other and Jesus.  But amidst all the fun and games, there was one night that I was changed, and things have never been the same since.  It was the night of a guided prayer, called the prayer labyrinth, in which everyone went through a series of small devotions or prompts of things to pray for.  I certainly don’t remember all, or even half of what these things said, but there was one that I will remember forever.  It was the last one, at the end of the labyrinth and it was talking about what we will leave behind when we leave earth.  It spoke of how we could choose to let God use us to reach the nations for His glory.  It spoke of us as burning lights.  I know you’re probably thinking yes I’ve heard this before, nothing new.  And having grown up in church my whole life, I had heard it too.  Many times.  But sometimes I think God shows us stuff in a special way, and we are never the same after that.  But anyway, after reading that, we were challenged to light a candle in significance that we would be God’s light in the world and spread His name for all to hear.  And this was the night I finally said yes.  Yes to His plans over mine.  Yes to taking His name to the nations, and following no matter the cost.  Yes to striving to be remembered, not for myself, but for the love of Jesus.  See, for a long time, God had been dealing with me to give up my plans and my life.  But I didn’t want to do that.  I loved what I did way too much.  But that night, I was absolutely convinced that I could do nothing less than give up everything.  So, I quit my life.  I quit my plans to become a bassoonist, I quit my MANY dreams that didn’t line up with His.  I quit planning out my whole life.  This was a long-needed night, one that could have happened before, had I not refused to give up everything.  This was the night I was changed, the night I knew that God had been calling me all along to go to the nations.  The night that it finally made sense why I was so drawn to missionaries and their pictures and stories of spreading Jesus to the world.  It all made sense, it all clicked together, and I looked back to see how all the things that seemed so small were actually things that God used to give me a burning passion to love the nations.

A few months later, I was on a plane, headed to Johannesburg, South Africa.  And I couldn’t have been more excited.  I got the opportunity to spend ten days loving beautiful people and sharing Jesus with them.  I was in love.  And again, I knew that there was no going back.  Yes, I would go back to the states, but that didn’t mean I could just pick up the threads of my old life and be the same.  No way.  I couldn’t and I wouldn’t.  I was forever changed and forever in love with Jesus, whose name and renown was the desire of my heart.

Fast forward to this past December, and once again I was on a plane, this time with the destination of Lesotho, a small landlocked country inside South Africa.  Once again, I couldn’t have been more excited.  Compared to South Africa, this place was completely different.  Here, we saw poverty that you cannot understand until you’ve witnessed it.   We saw people who hadn’t heard the Gospel more than once in their life.  We got to share Jesus with people who didn’t really know exactly who He was.  And once again, I knew that there was no going back.  Yes, I would go back to the states, but my heart was forever ruined and that’s exactly how it was supposed to be.  Ruined so it can bleed with compassion upon the people of the world and ruined so there’s none of me, but everything of Jesus.

I can’t just pick up my old life.  Yes, I sin, and yes, I struggle.  And no, I’m not as close to Jesus as I should be or would like to be.  I still do stupid things and I still forget about Jesus when I want to do what I want.  But, no matter how far I stray, I know I’ve been created to live a life for Him.  I know that I’ve been called to love the nations by going and giving them Jesus, whether that be only for one year or a few years or for my whole life.  I don’t know.  God has some pretty big plans for the nations, and I’m beyond thankful that He who could do it all Himself has chosen to use little people like me.  I’m thankful for His love and His constant pursuit of me, the prodigal, and that He would choose to call me out into the unknown, out into His will.  I’m scared, thankful, unworthy, excited, and many other things.  But most of all, I am changed.  I can’t just pick up my old life and forget about the lost world out there, in need of a Savior.  There is no going back.

Jesus said the …

Jesus said the kingdom was like a treasure hidden in a field, and once someone truly finds it, he will happily sell everything he owns to possess that field, a perfect description of the fasting and the feast. It will cost everything, but it is a treasure and an unfathomable joy. This is the balance of the kingdom; to live we must die, to be lifted we bow, to gain we must lose. There is no alternative definition, no path of least resistance, no treasure in the field without the sacrifice of everything else.

Jen Hatmaker, Seven

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You have made u…

You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.

Augustine of Hippo

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Jesus spent mos…

Jesus spent most of His life with the people we spend most of ours trying to avoid.

Bob Goff, Love Does

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Creation or Creator?

They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.
Romans 1:25

I think it’s a well-known fact that among the readers of this blog that all things were created by God.  The earth and everything in it was created by Him for His glory.  Recently, I’ve been contemplating why humans should enjoy life.  Life on earth isn’t an end in itself and that has caused me to question reasons for actually investing in life and enjoying how we live.  Pretty much anyone would say that yes, we need to enjoy life.  But why?  Is it possible to enjoy life without holding on too tightly to the things of this earth?  Should Christians enjoy life?

Yes!

God created us to live for His glory.  He created us with creativity and passion.  He gave us desires for relationship with people.  He’s given us so many gifts, so it’s an absurd statement to say that He does not want us to enjoy life.  However, the topic of enjoying life is one that I believe people take to extremes.  The first extreme is this:

1. You should not enjoy life on earth at all.

As I said above, this is not a logical thing to say.  God gave us a beautiful earth to live in and He has given us passions and dreams to live out for His glory.  He has given us gift after gift and it is a slap in the face to God to refuse these things and refuse to enjoy life at all.  But, enjoying life has limits.  Enjoying life does not mean we are to forget about God, but rather we are to live every moment in His presence, and there will be fullness of joy and perfect peace.  When we have the joy of Christ, it allows us to further enjoy life because even when things are rough, we know that earth isn’t our ultimate destination.  Enjoying life doesn’t mean that we worship the creation, but instead means that we are overflowing with thankfulness for the life He’s given us and the beautiful earth we live on.  We must allow creation to spur us on into a deeper place of worship.  Enjoying life isn’t about worshipping the creation as an end in itself, but rather it is about allowing creation to increase our worship of the eternal Creator.  So, even though the earth and the things we have won’t last forever, we are meant to enjoy life on earth while we are here and we are meant to have hearts overflowing with thankfulness for the beautiful things we’ve been given.

2. Enjoy life now and don’t worry about God until later.

This is the opposite of the first extreme.  All around us, we see people who are worshipping creation and worshipping the earth and all that’s in it.  That’s how our culture tells us to be.  God is quickly pushed to the backseat and His creation becomes the number one thing in our lives.  This is wrong as well.  In my life, I certainly have had times where I thought that I wouldn’t enjoy heaven, because I was too attached to the people and things of this world.  Looking at that, I see how truly absurd it is to think that.  Yes, creation is beautiful, but nothing on earth can compare to being in the presence of God.  Enjoying life should be living every moment in worship and serving God.  We should allow the beautiful earth and the wonderful gifts He’s given us increase the worship and thankfulness in our hearts.  nothing on earth is meant to truly satisfy us.  Food is a gift and a life necessity, but it’s not to be worshipped as an end in itself.  Marriage is a gift, but it’s not to be worshipped as an end in itself.  No person was made to bring our souls ultimate joy.  No thing was made to bring our souls ultimate joy.  Only Christ can do that.  So, as you take a bite of your favorite food, praise God.  Praise Him for giving you taste buds and for making the things and people that prepared your food.  As you’re talking with your loved ones, praise God.  Thank Him for the people in your life.

So, are you worshipping the Creator while enjoying creation?  Or are you worshipping creation and pushing the Creator to the side?  Enjoy life on earth, but don’t worship what you have as and end in itself.  Hold loosely to all that you’ve been given here, but hold tightly to the Creator, who is holding you as well.

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