Relentless

bible-imageWhen my pastor introduced his message by holding up His Bible and saying that the collection of 66 books was the story of God’s desire for and pursuit of relationship with us, it wasn’t news to me. Intellectually, I already understood that the Lord desires fellowship with His children. But for some reason that particular Sunday morning, the pastor’s reminder of this truth made the long 18” journey from my head to my heart. The Bible is not about man’s desire for fellowship with God, but rather it’s the other way around. God’s Word is about His never-ending, unrelenting love for us and His longing for relationship with us. It struck me how incredibly amazing it is that the Creator of the Universe would do whatever it takes to be with little old me!

God demonstrates His relentless pursuit of relationship with His people all throughout the Bible. Early on, the Lord gives the law that will help His people stay faithful and blameless before Him, tabernacles with them and guides them to the Promised Land. Then He takes His people back over and over again even after they turn from Him, worship other gods and ignore the warnings of the prophets. Finally, the Father’s love for us culminates in sending His own son to die for us so that those of us who believe on Him will experience the joy of spending eternity with Him.

It’s hard to imagine that given mankind’s history of rejecting God, His laws, His prophets and even His own son, He readily forgives us. Rather than cursing and destroying those who beat, humiliated and murdered Him, Jesus said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34, ESV). Jesus not only forgave us but also loved us even as He was dying on a cross. As Scripture explains, ”God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Despite man’s stumbling and miserable failure, when we sin all God asks for is sincere repentance and His arms open wide to us once again:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9, NIV)

I praise God for the mercy, grace and long suffering He has shown me! During my years of drinking and partying when I turned my back on the Lord, I still sensed His Spirit upon me, convicting me and calling me to return to His loving arms until at last I relented. When I look back on my walk with God thus far, it is clear that He has never left me. Even when I wasn’t walking with Him but rather running in the opposite direction, He still protected me and gave me His grace.

I often pray that the Lord would never let me go back to being the person I once was. I pray for Him to never leave me and to always have His hand upon me because I don’t trust myself to stay on the straight and narrow on my own. The Lord is faithful in this, for as He promised “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). What’s interesting to me now is that there are times I wish His pull on my heart wouldn’t be so strong. When I don’t want to do something He wants me to do or when I’m considering doing something that requires a leap of faith and I want to forget about it, He still won’t let me go. Nevertheless, even when I drag my feet He is patient with me and gives me yet another chance to do what He’s calling me to do.

Beloved Warriors, we serve an awesome God who would do anything to be in relationship with you! Will you have Him? Maybe you’re in need of forgiveness, or you just need a reminder that despite any evidence to the contrary you have a Maker who loves you and who will never EVER stop loving you. If so, I pray that you’ll once again forgive me for borrowing my prayer for you from the Apostle Paul:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17b-19, NIV; emphasis mine).

Along with the band Big Daddy Weave, I’m Overwhelmed by Him!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6oxXwRWFTo

The Mind of Christ

Believe it or not, living with a chronic illness can in some ways be a blessing. A positive aspect of having Fibromyalgia, my particular ailment, is that it leaves me with limited energy which forces me to choose carefully how I will spend each day.

When I first got sick a few years ago, and I began the round of visits to various specialists to find out what was wrong with me, it pained me that I would no longer be able to maintain my previous busy lifestyle. I clearly remember the rheumatologist telling me, “You are going to have to learn to pace yourself”. Pacing myself was certainly not my standard method of operation! In fact, I was such a doer that one friend even called me the “Energizer Bunny” – I just kept going and going and going. But suddenly that all changed, and I had to make some tough decisions about which activities to give up so that I could take better care of myself.

To help me gain clarity on what is most important in my life, a friend suggested I write down my priorities and order them. Naturally, God was number one on the list. He is my highest priority because Jesus commands me to first and foremost “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (New International Version: Matthew 22:37). Loving God also takes precedence in my life because I need Him for the strength and the power to do everything I need and want to do. I can’t be a good wife, a good mother, a good friend or a good anything unless He is Lord of my life.

Remembering that seeking, serving and fellowshipping with God is my primary concern helped me see clearly how to more wisely manage the precious time the Lord gives me. However, putting God first also meant I would need to cut some activities and even some relationships out of my life.

The people, places and activities we involve ourselves with all have an influence on us. It is beneficial for everyone to take stock of what we allow into our hearts and minds to determine whether they are helping us to keep the commandment Jesus gave. If not, perhaps it’s best to discard those things. As the Apostle Paul explains, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1b-2).

In this day and age, more distractions than ever before are thrown at us to divert our attention away from God and challenge our integrity. Even when we are diligent in protecting our character, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the clamor of the “it’s all about me” consumer culture. The world continuously bombards us with promises that this thing or that activity is just what we need to fulfill us. Some gas stations even have televisions playing advertisements and entertainment “news”, i.e. gossip, at the pumps! We are continually engaged in a battle for our hearts and minds. For this reason, Paul cautions us to:

be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:10-13)

Avoiding sinful activities and thoughts and the people who draw us away from God is one thing. But what about the people and activities in our lives that aren’t necessarily bad or sinful? When the options for ways to spend our time appear infinite, how are we to know which things are God’s will for us and which are not? We must trust that when we received Christ, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in us (1 Corinthians 12:13, Romans 8:9, Ephesians 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit gives us insight into God’s will even if others think our decisions are foolish or don’t make sense:

What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:12-16; emphasis mine)

We have the mind of Christ! How amazing is that? Perhaps you can recall an experience when you had the unshakable feeling that something was right or wrong for you. Some folks call it intuition or a “gut feeling”, but for Christians it’s the leading of the Holy Spirit. As we grow closer to Jesus, this leading intensifies and deepens, enabling us to discern whether a particular course of action is right for us. If I pay attention, the Holy Spirit will often prompt me to do something or warn me against something or someone. I now try to obey the Spirit’s leading even if I can’t “put my finger on” why I feel compelled to do or not to do something. Every time I have ignored the Spirit’s leading, I have regretted it.

Last week I spoke with a woman I was considering asking to be my spiritual advisor. As I tried to explain to her where I was in my walk with God and how I wanted greater spiritual growth, I felt a strong sense of anxiety welling up in me. Something in my mind warned me to put an end to the conversation before I committed to something I didn’t feel confident about. Thank God this woman sensed my uncertainty and told me to pray about my decision until I felt 100% sure about it. A sense of relief immediately came over me, and I agreed that more prayer was definitely the appropriate course of action.

Warriors, when you are presented with difficult decisions to make, whether they involve spiritual dilemmas or what color to paint your house, I hope you will allow me to borrow a prayer from the Apostle Paul to the Philippians and plead with the Lord on your behalf:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.(Philippians 1:9-11)

Enjoy the song “Holiness” by Sonicflood!